Traveling Mercies

Ohrid balconyThis is the view from my balcony!

Greetings from Ohrid, Macedonia!

Yesterday I had what could have been an extremely stressful day of travel.  But it wasn’t stressful because I made the decision not to worry about anything.  And through this experience, I learned what real traveling mercies look like.

I had arrived home at about 7:30 in the evening from a two day visit with missionaries in Tuscany.  That gave me exactly ten hours in which to unpack, do two loads of laundry, pack for this trip (just over two weeks, traveling and ministering in the Balkans), catch up on computer work (bookkeeping, emailing, etc.), and get some sleep.

I got up at 3:30 yesterday morning and did some last minute stuff before leaving the house—later than I had intended!—to get the bus to the train station.  The electronic bus arrival sign indicated that the bus would be there in twenty minutes.  Thus started my day of travel with the first thing that could have stressed me out.  But I decided not to let it stress me.  Often the bus arrives sooner than predicted, which was what I prayed for.  But no!  The bus took every bit of twenty minutes to get there.

When the bus came it was packed with early morning foreign workers and homeless people who use the bus as a place to sleep.  At the first stop another woman with a suitcase boarded.  The train station is where you catch a bus to the airport.  As we approached the train station, the woman became agitated because I was between her and the door.  And when the door opened, she shot past me, running to an airport bus.  When I got there, I saw that she was on the same bus I was taking, but the bus didn’t leave until immediately after my bag was loaded and I got onto the bus.

On the bus ride, I started praying that I wouldn’t miss the flight because of being late.  But, having prayed, I decided to leave the issue with God, who could fix things in any number of ways, including stopping time at the airport, if He decided to do so.

When we got to the airport, my bag, being last loaded was first unloaded, and I went in, looking at the board for my flight’s check in area.  I had to do that because my stay in the Balkans is over two weeks, so I couldn’t travel with only carry on.  The bus had parked in front of a different door, which happened to be the door right in front of my flight’s check in area.  There was no line, and no problem getting checked in.  I also went through security with hardly a line at all.

Seeing that I had some time, I got some breakfast and a bottle of water to take onto the plane.  Since my flight was with Austrian Airlines, we changed in Vienna.  One strange thing that I noticed on this plane was that the information screens all deployed just fine except for one at about row seventeen on the left, as you looked from the back of the plane.  That screen opened and shut and opened and shut continuously for the whole duration of the flight, which was odd.  Otherwise it was an uneventful flight, and we arrived in Vienna a little ahead of schedule.  The plane was parked way out on the tarmac, and we had to take a bus to the terminal.

At the terminal, I had about an hour and a half to make my connection, but as it was in a different terminal, I had to actually exit the security area and walk for at least half an hour before I got to my terminal.  Then I had to go through security again, and I was a little annoyed at having to throw out half a bottle of water, which meant that if I had time I would have to buy another.  And because I was traveling to a non-Schengen country (Macedonia), I had to also go through passport control.  As flight time ticked away, I could have gotten stressed out over all this, but again, I prayed and gave the situation to God.

Once through security and passport control, and buying a new bottle of water, I saw that our gate was one where a bus takes you out to the plane.  Usually in this situation, with assigned seats, I prefer to wait until most of the rest of the passengers are already on the bus.  Why hurry, just to stand on a bus as people slowly trickle on?  As often happens, being last on, I was first off and onto the plane.

I found my seat at the back of the plane, and just before takeoff, I noticed something strange: the information screen several rows in front of me was opening and shutting, opening and shutting.  I was on the very same aircraft!  At that realization, I laughed out loud, startling the people around me.  Just think of the 30 minute walk, out of security, across the whole airport, back through security and passport control, just to wind up back on the very same airplane—and only a few seats away from my original seat.  I knew that God had a hand in all this just to make me laugh.  If I had been stressed and worrying, I might not ever have noticed the information screen, or might not have noticed it a second time.  But my relaxed mood had me calmly looking around and noticing strange things like that.

In Skopje, I got my bag and pulled out the information paper that told us where to meet.  We were supposed to meet for the bus to Ohrid at 1:00 PM, sharp.  So I read, and it said to meet at the Post Office under the train station—in downtown Skopje!  I had only 40 minutes to get there from the airport, and I still needed to change money because although you can change all sorts of money in Italy, you can’t buy Macedonian Dinar there.

I found a taxi stand, and it said that a ride to Skopje costs €20.  I asked if I could pay with a credit card.  The driver said no, but he would accept Euros.  So I got in, praying that we would make it on time.  When I told him where to go, he said, “There is a Post Office just inside the airport.”  I said, “No, I need to go to the one at the train station.”  He kept arguing with me, insisting that I didn’t have to go to that Post Office when there is one just inside the airport.  Really?  Was he trying to argue himself out of a fare?  Anyway, I finally was able to convince him to take me to the train station.  Again, I prayed on the drive that we would get there in time, and didn’t stress or worry about it.  I had done my best, and now it was up to God.

We actually got there with a few minutes to spare.  Right away I found others who were waiting for the bus.  Waiting turned out to be some pretty good networking time.  The bus ride to Ohrid took about two hours, and on the way, I slept—at least until we got to the winding mountain roads.

The conference got off to a great start, and I look for more good things today.  But the most important thing is that I arrived relaxed and feeling good.  I hadn’t had a chance to get lunch, but skipping lunch is not the worst thing that could happen to a person, especially in light of all the good things that happened on the journey.  God turned what could have been a very stressful day of travel into a good day of travel, even enjoyable.  God is good!

God’s Sadness

This morning as I prayed, I felt God’s great sadness for the fact that many Christians believe this lie of the enemy: that God has some higher purpose for their suffering and/or death.  And God said to me: “Which do you think brings Me more glory in the eyes of unbelievers: the suffering and death of My saints or the healing and victory over the enemy that will likewise bring healing and salvation to them?”

Then I remembered something that I had heard in a sermon recently: that the Bride of Christ (the Church) is not coming home bruised, bleeding, and battle-weary, but glorious and victorious.

So why is it that we all know Christians who suffer or who have suffered and died despite having great faith?  And the Lord showed me the reasons:

  1. Unconfessed Sin – Any unconfessed sin in our lives opens us up to attacks from the enemy.  Most often it is idolatry that most people don’t even realize is idolatry: food, money (and often jobs), technology (specifically computer games and movies or TV), their family, children, spouse, or parent.  Anything that becomes more important—even briefly—than God is idolatry.  He showed me that even a person’s ministry can become idolatry.  We must soberly judge ourselves before God, asking His Holy Spirit to reveal any unconfessed sin in our lives.

The unconfessed sin can also be in our ancestry.  If any ancestor has ever been involved in witchcraft, tarot card reading or fortune-telling, freemasonry, or any other occult activity, we must repent and break that curse off our family tree.  If you don’t know of any such activity, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you, repent on behalf of your ancestors, and break that curse in the Name of Jesus.

  1. Unforgiveness or Bitterness – Hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, and unresolved anger all run through the veins like a poison.  And when poison runs continually through the veins, it will eventually have some kind of physical effect upon the body.  I believe this is why Paul urged us not to let anger continue to rage overnight (Ephesians 4:26).
  2. Fear and Stress – Fear, dread, and stress are likewise poisons that run through the veins.  Fear is not just an emotion.  There is a spirit of fear (named in 2 Timothy 1:7).  And if left to run through the veins, it will also have a physical effect upon the body.  Since fear may be caused by a spirit (this takes discernment!), it can be cast out of the person’s life.
  3. The Desire to Die – The honest truth is that some people, for whatever reason, just want to die.  If they are believers, the idea of Heaven and resting forever in the arms of Jesus may be much more attractive than staying and continuing to fight earth’s battles.  Even Elijah felt this way, so there is no shame in having these thoughts.  But we must always turn to God, who is the Lord of Life, as our Source.

It’s true that earth is a battlefield.  There is an enemy army here that want nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy us.  One becomes tired of constantly fighting, fighting, fighting.  But here’s hope: there is another army that outnumbers the enemy by at least two-to-one.  If we remain plugged into the power of the Holy Spirit, He will reveal to us how to fight.  Often our weapons of warfare don’t make sense to our tiny human brains.  They are the Sword of the Spirit, which is the spoken Word of God.  That is how Jesus fought the devil while on earth.  This is also how we can fight.  But sometimes the Holy Spirit will indicate other things like praying in tongues, worship in song and/or dance, a Jericho March and Shout, or even simple declarations based on the Word of God.  If Spiritual Warfare is taking too much energy, then your flesh is probably more involved than it should be.  Let God and His Armies fight your battle for you.  Ask for Heaven’s help, and you will get it.

  1. Failure to Discern (or Mishandling) the Lord’s Supper – Paul told the Corinthian church that this is why many believers had gotten sick and died, (1 Corinthians 11:28-30).
  2. Lack of Faith – I’m sorry!  I know that many of you may have lost good Christian friends and family members to heart attack or cancer.  This is not meant to make you feel like your faith (or that of your loved one) wasn’t up to snuff.  But sometimes the word cancer pronounced by a doctor can be so intimidating and so devastating that we simply can’t believe for healing.  Believers in Brazil, or in Africa have seen such miraculous healings that they have actually seen missing limbs grow back, missing eyes appear, the dead raised, etc.  Why haven’t we seen such things in America and other parts of the Western world?  Probably because in our modern culture, we’ve always put too much faith in doctors, medicine, and medical science.  So that when a doctor says, “You have Stage Four Cancer,” and predicts only a year or less to live, it’s very hard for us to go against that culture.  This is where praying in tongues can be very valuable.  Praying the healing scriptures is also very valuable.
  3. Wrong Prayers – Wrong prayers go along with a lack of faith and a wrong belief about God’s will.  Going back to the example of a grave diagnosis of cancer: we take the news to our cell group or prayer group.  Everyone expresses sorrow over the diagnosis, and often believers will pray for a release from pain rather than healing and a full restoration of health.  Or sometimes half the group prays for healing while the other half pray for release.  Prayers at cross-purposes are not going to work.

Sometimes, believers will pray for “God’s will,” without ever asking Him for healing.  We’ve got to ask specifically for what we want from God—that is a hallmark of faith: that we ask for complete healing and restoration of full health for a person, in the belief that God hears our prayers and will answer accordingly.  If you want your son to bring you a glass of iced tea with sugar, you don’t say, “Bring me something to drink.”  Unless he’s a mind-reader, he’s just as likely to bring a glass of water, a glass of coke, or maybe orange juice.  Yes, God knows what you want before the words are formed on your tongue or in your mind, but He acts only upon what we specifically ask in faith.  “Ask and you will receive,” said Jesus, (Matthew 7:7).

I have heard believers actually pray, “Lord, we know that sometimes You choose not to heal. . .”  When did God ever refuse to heal anyone?  Jesus healed everyone who came to Him, asking for healing.  Often people will point out God’s Sovereignty.  But God is not insecure about His Sovereignty—He knows very well that He is Sovereign.  But that’s the amazing thing about Grace: that Sovereign God chooses to be generous with us!  To believe otherwise because of the results we’ve seen of prayer is to walk by sight.  But we are called to walk by faith and not by sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7).

And sometimes people will point out Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” which he calls a “messenger of satan,” (2 Corinthians 12:7).  There are ranks of angels called messengers.  Messengers in the Bible are always persons.  And Paul admits in this passage to a problem with pride.  It is Paul’s pride that opened a crack to let that enemy into his life.  And although Paul prayed three times, God did not take it away.  Why?  Because apparently the pride had not been overcome.  So instead, God told Paul: “My Grace is sufficient for you.”  Thus Paul’s pride was addressed, and he was able to continue being used mightily for the Kingdom of God.

So after God showed me these things, He told me to go to Deuteronomy 12:24-25:

You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.  Do not eat it, so that it may go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord. (emphasis mine).

Not that we are bound now by the Old Testament food restrictions, but the point is obedience.  When we live a life of obedient respect toward God, then He will not permit the enemy to touch us.

Friends, we are going to have to learn and discern if we want God to be able to use us to reach people with the Gospel message, which is the message of hope and healing and salvation.  God is good!

Canine Evangelism, Dreadlocked Drummer, and My Big, Open Mouth

Greetings from Jersey, in the Channel Islands of the UK!

I was invited here for a 36 hour continuous worship event called Lovesong for Jesus, a Pentecost celebration.  The friends who invited me here are Jenny and Julius, natives of Jersey who I met at the Feast of Tabernacles in Kalisz, Poland.  Jenny and Julius are musicians who also sing.  I do not play an instrument, and, well, let’s put it this way: I’m not known for my singing.  Jenny and Julius know this, so I didn’t hesitate when invited, and I saw that my calendar was open for this weekend.  Then I was surprised to find that my name was on the list of worship leaders.  I protested, and Jenny just laughed it off, saying that I’m a worshiper, even if I’m not musical.

I didn’t want to back out and not come, and didn’t even seriously consider doing so.  But what in the world was I going to do for a whole hour—or at least what would I do that anybody other than God would want to hear or participate in?

As the time came closer to my session, I realized that I would probably get little sleep anyway, so I decided to spend all night in the church before my session, which was set for seven on Sunday morning.  With the front doors wide open, the chilly night air rendered the church freezing cold.  I had brought a poncho, but wished for a blanket.  I looked a warm corner in which to snooze, but found nothing that worked that wasn’t already occupied.  So I passed the night listening to the worship, dozing and jerking awake.

At the three AM session, something wonderful happened.  My friends, Bill and Natalie were playing, and I was feeling grateful to be there to hear them.  Then the bars closed, and suddenly the church was full of people.  One young man was so enamored of the music that he clapped at the end of the song.  Despite his long dreadlocks, he didn’t seem to feel out of place, as some of his friends clearly did.  As the next song started, he asked if he could play the drums (since they had no drummer).  Bill and Natalie enthusiastically welcomed his musical contribution, which was actually pretty good.  The whole time his face beamed with the most beautiful smile.  When that song was over, he said goodbye, since his friends had already left.  He quietly confided to Natalie that he had been drinking, but she just responded with a smile because she knew that—we all knew that.  I was suddenly very glad that the church had left the doors open all night.  It was worth a little discomfort to have seen such a meaningful connection with people who might otherwise never have entered a church.  Well, at least one of them!

Then as my hour approached, my prayers got all the more fervent, begging the Holy Spirit to be there with me.  I had an idea of what to do: to worship God by naming His many Names and attributes.  So I went to a table in the foyer, pulled out a pen and paper, and began to write.  But soon I was interrupted by a new friend who wanted to talk.

I stopped writing, and talked with him.  He was there with his sister, who had a dog with her.  The dog was a friendly and well-behaved Australian Shepherd.  He saw that the dog and I had been drawn to one another (most dogs know who loves them).  So he started to tell me about Canine Evangelism, which is something he heard about in Cardiff, Wales.  He said that there is a neighborhood in Cardiff where unemployment has lasted for three generations.  He said that along with the hopelessness that such long-standing unemployment brings, there is also the alcoholism and drug abuse that frequently goes along with it.  Then one day a Christian woman was walking her dog, and a child was drawn to the dog (much as I had been to his sister’s dog).  The little girl was with her unemployed dad and grandfather.  As child and dog bonded, a friendship formed between dog owner and the adults.  Friendship led to a shared coffee, and that led to sharing the Gospel message.  What had seemed a coincidence turned out to be a “Godincidence.”  I love God’s many creative ways of reaching out to people to give them hope.

Now, I had just an hour before my set.  In desperation, I asked, “Do You have a word for me?”  And the Lord responded by speaking very slowly and clearly in my mind: “Psalm 81, verse 10.”  I grabbed my Bible and found the verse, which says: “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.”  That was just what I had wanted to hear!

When I went forward to do my session, I took the papers that I had written on, and began praising God by His Names.  The worshipers from the previous session stayed and played and joined me, with singing and music.  Sometimes we sang, sometimes we riffed, sometimes we prayed, but it had all been led by the Holy Spirit.  And too soon it was over, and the next people entered and began.

As I left the church, I felt so happy that I wasn’t even tired.  I shared all this with Angie, my hostess.  She caught my joyful enthusiasm, and the two of us, together with her twin sister, had church in her living room, first century style.  It wasn’t until after lunch that the fatigue of a night without sleep overtook me.  I had a long nap before we returned to the church for the closing session.

This has been an amazing weekend!  God is good!



Greetings from Trieste!

Yesterday I visited Koper, Slovenia with my son, Kevin.  We had neither one ever been to Trieste, which was the motive for coming, and from Trieste we made a day trip to Slovenia.  Koper is on the Adriatic, it’s very pretty and close to Trieste, being only 45 minutes by bus.

Trieste is in an interesting corner of Italy, being closer to Slovenia and Croatia than to most of the rest of Italy.  Kevin was interested in coming here because of the history.  I was more interested in coming here because of the culture.  I’ve always loved the places where cultures and languages intersect and overlap.  And Europe has many such places.

So we enjoyed a pleasant day in Koper, and while waiting for the bus back to Trieste, I found myself alone in the waiting area with a woman.  After a moment she got up to go throw out some trash.  She limped to the trash container and back to her seat.  I was about to ask if I could pray for her leg when I suddenly thought: She probably doesn’t speak either Italian or English.  So I didn’t.  And I’ve been wrestling with myself ever since.

Finally this morning, when I just couldn’t take it anymore, I asked the Lord about it.

Me:  Why did you put that lady there, knowing that I would be too intimidated to pray for her?  You know the end from the beginning, so why?  Was it to test me?

God:  No, it was to show you what is stopping you.

Me:  What did stop me?

As soon as I asked that, I remembered an encounter with a demonized boy who started manifesting at the sight of me.

God:  The demons know who you are, so they did everything they could to intimidate you.  They reminded you of rejection and abandonment, and it worked.  Next time, remember this, and be bold.

I will!  And to my readers: perhaps there have been times when you’ve been intimidated into silence.  But remember this: the only way that the enemy can possibly win a battle is if we back down.  The enemy is defeated, and the end of the book has already been written.  So winning these temporary little battles is all he can hope for.  Let’s don’t give him even the smallest victory.  Let’s be bold!  God is good!

Granny’s Eyes and the Little Lost Bird

I returned from the Budapest, Bratislava, and Vienna trip feeling very tired and ready for a rest from traveling.  We had stayed in hostels the whole 2 weeks, so having a bedroom all to myself with a door feels like unbelievable luxury.  Of course, my hostel roommates were all very considerate—even those who were strangers—and I had no trouble sleeping.  But still, there is something about having space all to yourself.

When my plane landed at Milan Malpensa Airport and I turned on my phone, I received a voicemail message from a cousin that I had never met.  His mother had contacted me some weeks ago, asking if he could come stay with me.  He arrived in Milan the very same day that I did: Sunday.

My cousin is a big, sweet guy from Texas who goes by BC.  That’s very Texan to go by initials instead of a name.  This is his first trip to Italy, and he travels very light.  BC is 28 years old, very adventurous and open-minded.  When we wandered around a bit, looking for the tram stop in an unfamiliar area, it didn’t faze him one bit.  BC just takes things as they come.  He’s also a kindred spirit, with a big wanderlust and love for Europe.

He started out in Portugal, where he has friends.  After a few days there, he made his way down the coast to Spain, saw the Rock of Gibraltar, and back up the Mediterranean coast to France, then Turin, Italy where he spent the night Saturday night before coming to see his missionary cousin in Milan.  He showed me pictures of his trip, and they included some pictures of his mom, my dad’s cousin.  I saw a resemblance to my great-grandmother.  She looked like I would imagine that Granny had looked as a younger woman.  Her eyes were especially like Granny’s.  BC might look like his dad, who I never knew, but the family resemblance in his mom is unmistakable.

I took BC around the center and showed him the castle, the cathedral, the galleria, and La Scala opera house.  It’s amazing to be with someone who isn’t tired of seeing churches and castles.  It’s almost like seeing these things for the first time again.

Milan’s cathedral, the Duomo, is beautiful and a real wonder.  It is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world, after St. Peter’s in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris.  It was under construction for over 500 years, and has over 3000 life-sized statues built into its façade.  Although we didn’t go up there, it is possible to go explore the roof of the cathedral.  From the roof of the cathedral, you can really grasp just how enormous it is.  And from there, a whole lot more of the cathedral is still far over your head—all of it very intricately carved.

Inside the cathedral, BC and I went into the crypt that is behind and under the altar.  There lay the mummified remains of San Carlo (St. Charles), who had been bishop of Milan a few hundred years ago.  I had seen it before, and it still creeps me out.  BC was also creeped-out.  I also pointed out the statue of St. Bartholomew.  I had seen pictures of it, but had never spotted it before.  The saints are always depicted in the way that they were martyred.  According to legend, Bartholomew was skinned alive.  So the statue (which stands inside the cathedral near the side exit) shows him standing skinless with his skin draped over his shoulders—also very creepy.  Creepy religious art seems to be an Italian thing because I can’t remember even once seeing anything like this in any church in any other country.

When BC had spent 2 nights here, he declared himself to be rested and restless.  He said that he wanted to go by train to Como and on into Switzerland from there.  So I took him to the train station, helped him buy his ticket from the machine, and we said our goodbyes.  Yes, he is kin and a kindred spirit!

Today as I was finishing writing about BC’s visit a bird hit my window.  I was surprised to see that it was a parakeet.  It wasn’t afraid of me, and let me pick it up.  I took it downstairs to the custodian.  “Does anyone in our building keep birds?” I asked.  She said no, but advised me to ask the custodian of the building across the street.

I carried my little friend across the street and asked the custodian there.  She keeps birds, but both of her parakeets were still in their cage, which is enormous.  I asked if anyone in her building keeps birds, but she said no.  She opened the cage and told me to put it in.  At first the bird was reluctant to let go of my finger, but finally went into the cage.  It proceeded to investigate its new surroundings, while the other birds came closer for a good look at the newcomer.  There was a moment of tension while one of the birds fluttered at the newcomer, but soon they seemed to settle into a posture of guardedly watching each other.

“Thank you for taking the bird,” I said.  “Of course,” she chuckled.  “The cage is big enough for all 3, and I think they will get along.  I’m glad you brought it.  Left outside, he would surely starve to death.”

As I crossed back to my apartment building I felt grateful that I had been home when the bird hit the window.  Otherwise the poor thing would have died sooner or later.  I realized that it feels really good to have helped the little bird, and also to help the people who pass through my apartment.  Not that the people are in danger, but it’s good to help them on their way.  This is what I do.  God is good!

A Planned Meeting and a Surprise Meeting

I returned to Bratislava to meet with a missionary here.  However I had gotten in touch with her late, and her village is 6 hours away by bus, so that meeting didn’t happen.  But I did manage to meet with one of our new Slovak friends, Zuzana (see Kebap Shop Breakfast (part 2 of the double post, titled Sweet Slovakia) and Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem).  Zuzana came with us to Budapest and also to Vienna to pray in those capitals.  When she returned from Budapest, her boss told her that she was fired, no explanation given.  Of course she was very upset at first, but Pastor Ivan’s daughter had already offered her a housecleaning job, so she decided not to let it get her down.  Ministry carries a price tag.  Jesus told us repeatedly that we will have to leave our homes, our families, and that we must count the cost.  For someone so young (20), Zuzana is surprisingly mature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASlovakian Presidential Palace

So I met with Zuzana, and she took me for a walk in the park behind the Presidential Palace.  It is a lovely park with flowers and wide paths.  She said that Pastor Ivan’s daughter is from his first marriage, and she is not saved.  She said that Pastor Ivan wants her to share her faith with his daughter.  She admitted that she feels some pressure about this.  I told her about my 3-point method of sharing my faith:

  1. I was . . .
    1. Everybody has their own unique story of their life B.C. (before Christ)
  2. Then Jesus changed my life
    1. Usually the smile on your face is enough to convince people of the change inside
  3. Would you like to know Jesus?

Simple and easy, you don’t have to be an expert in theology or to know the Bible inside and out.  People don’t care about those things.  All they want to know is that Jesus is real.  They want to know what Jesus can do for them.  And nobody can argue with you about your experience because it happened to you.  They might not respond the way you hope, but sometimes the seed planted today will begin to grow next year.

Then I told her about my conversion and re-conversion (see Gotcha! and Gotcha! Part 2), and the suicidal depression I had endured.  Zuzana then told me her story.  She had also been suicidally depressed, with demonic apparitions.  To look at the 2 of us, you would never imagine that either of us were so down.  So I said, just tell her what Jesus has done for you.  God will give you the right time to talk with her about it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUniformed Guards at the Presidential Palace

Then we walked back to town, to her favorite coffee shop.  Zuzana told me about one time when she had been reading her Bible there and God showed her that the woman next to her was crying. The Holy Spirit told Zuzana: “Tell her that I love her, and that she is precious to Me.”  So she did.  The woman was startled and resistant at first, but then listened as Zuzana told her about the wonderful love of Jesus.  As we found our seats in the coffee shop, she said, “And she was sitting right there.”  I turned and looked where she pointed, and said, “Right there?  Where Anushka is sitting?”  And we began laughing like maniacs because we had not expected to meet her there in the coffee shop.  Anushka (see double post Sweet Slovakia and Kebap Shop Breakfast) was sitting there writing on her laptop.  She looked up when she heard the laughter, so we told her about Zuzana’s story and how she had pointed right there without realizing that Anushka was there.

So I got another chance to say goodbye to Anushka, and I had a lovely visit with Zuzana, and was able to encourage her.  Zuzana will probably be joining us on our next trip, to Ukraine and Belarus.  She will be useful in both of those places as a translator.  God is good!

Austria’s Identity


Yesterday we went to the balcony where Hitler addressed Austria as the leader of Germany and the Nazis.  There we prayed and proclaimed that no more lies would come from that place, but only words of righteousness and truth.  I was standing by a very evil-looking sculpture that had a beak like a bird.  In Budapest one of the locals had given me a rubber bracelet that I have been wearing ever since.  I put the bracelet around its beak as a symbolic/prophetic act to shut the mouth of lies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI shut his lying mouth!

Next we went to the Austrian Parliament building, but we had no connections, so we were not able to get in past the lobby unless we entered as part of a tour group.  If we did that, then we would not be able to stop and pray, so we went outside the building and prayed from there.  Our hosts told us that there is no Christian in the Austrian Parliament at all—perhaps in name only.  It was a difficult place to pray from.  The Hitler balcony had been prayed over many, many times, but the Parliament had obviously been neglected in prayer.  It was the most difficult prayer session since that first evening in Vienna (see God is Doing a New Thing).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Austrian Parliament Building

After lunch we had our debriefing, and all of us had felt the same difficulty praying at the Parliament building.  I had 2 impressions about Austria.  The first one I noted in my blog yesterday (An Emotional Day), about how in prayer my emotions had been up and down and up again—but only in prayer.  And I noted, as on the first day (God is Doing a New Thing), that I believe Austria has a female identity—and may I add, that she seems hormonal.

My second impression about Austria is that it seems to me very strange that there was no indigenous Austrian who went to pray with us.  They did pray with us in the church, but not out in the city.  To my knowledge, this was the first time that only foreigners prayed in the capital.  However, I have not been on all the prayer trips, and I was told that it was also this way in Luxembourg. 

The thing is that Operation Capitals of Europe (OCE) does not come in to do our own thing.  Rather, we want very much to come alongside the indigenous believers to support them in what (we hope) they are already doing.  Otherwise nothing lasting will result from our prayers because we cannot possibly return and return and return to pray for their capital—there are something like 50 capitals in Europe (not all are recognized, like Cardiff, which comes under the UK, but is in fact the capital of Wales).  Anyway, we did our best, and the local believers did seem encouraged by our visit and our efforts.  Much remains to be done in Austria, but we did what we could to help things along. 

Last night the team said their goodbyes to the local church, and today we said our goodbyes to each other.  I have returned to Bratislava to meet with a missionary here, then I will go to Budapest tomorrow, and fly early Sunday morning back to Milan.  It has been an interesting time, and there is still so much to pray about.  If you would like to pray for us, here are a few prayer points:

  • One teammate was unable to come on either this trip or the last one (Sofia & Skopje) because of illness.  This is obviously a spiritual attack because she was healed of this illness, so it should not have returned.
  • Others might likewise be attacked in the area of their health, especially due to the exhausting nature of these trips (see below).
  • Several of us on the team are over 45, and these trips are physically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting.  Because of exhaustion, tempers sometimes wear thin.  We need to give each other a lot of grace and compassion.
  • Team unity has been gravely threatened by rebelliousness.  Nevertheless, we were able to remain united and to stay focused.  I suspect that the enemy will continue to try this tactic to divide the team.

All in all, I feel like this has been a very good trip—a challenging trip, but very good.  God is good!

God is Doing a New Thing!

Greetings from Austria!

Actually I am on the train from Bratislava to Vienna, and we just crossed the river.  There are lovely yellow fields of flowers.  It is a beautiful, sunny day, and my mood is equally sunny.  I just feel very hopeful after having such powerful and successful prayer in 2 capitals: Budapest and Bratislava.  It’s funny, I don’t know what to expect in Vienna because I’ve only passed through on the train.  But I feel a kind of breathless expectation.  This trip is pregnant with possibilities.  More later!

—Several hours later—

The mood swung dramatically when we entered the church.  Our hosts started right into a slide show about the history of Vienna, with emphasis on the spiritual realities here.  For me, the most impacting was the final slide: a map of Vienna 1913-1914, showing that Hitler, Stalin, Trotsky, Tito, and  Freud were all living in Vienna within a few miles of each other.  It occurred to me that Vienna is a spiritual womb (see my comment above, written on the train: pregnant with possibilities!).  At that time she birthed some pretty horrible things, but through prayer and worship, Vienna can birth great things for the Kingdom of God.

However, before receiving that revelation, we tried to worship, and it was a disaster at first.  The worship was weak, and only the English-speakers were worshiping.  One of our teammates pointed out that our hosts were not singing.  An Austrian host told us that what they need is not worship, but prayer, and prayer warriors for Vienna who will seek God’s face and pray these things through.

We tried to explain that prayer and spiritual warfare is exactly what we had come to do, but that we enter into prayer first with worship, like the priests of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20).  At that, a missionary who has lived here for 26 years put on a worship song in German, and we all worshiped together—some in English, and some in German.  That was an important turning point.  After that prayer began to breakout among our hosts, and that depressive atmosphere lifted.

Afterward, we enjoyed a lovely meal prepared for us by our hosts.  Friendship and fellowship developed, and there was lots of laughter and love.  God is good!

Kings and Castles and UFO’s

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Slovakian Parliament Building

Yesterday we all met at the Slovakian Parliament building.  There are 2 Members of Parliament that are born again, and another 8 who are Christians, but perhaps unsure about the whole “born again” thing.  We met with 1 of the born again MPs, Boris.  He seemed very discouraged and hopeless.  I think he feels very alone.  Boris started a prayer meeting with the other Christian MPs, and he said that usually only 4 show up.  He said that the meeting lasts about 30 minutes.  The meeting starts by Boris reading a Bible verse about righteousness, they meditate on it for about 5 minutes, then they pray about it together.

Whenever there is an important vote, Boris calls a prayer breakfast for his supporters who are believers, and they pray together about the issue.  However, we were told later that he’s not very organized about getting the word out, so the prayer breakfasts are only about 10 people.  In reality, Boris has many more supporters who would come and pray if they knew about the prayer breakfast.  So we prayed for Boris and for the Slovakian Parliament.  It was powerful.  At one point I felt very strongly the urge to kneel as I prayed.  When I opened my eyes, everyone around me was also on their knees, including Boris and his translator.

After lunch we took a trip out to Devin Castle.  At the foot of the castle was a monument to the victims of Communist terror.  This was where the iron curtain separated east from west, at the Danube River.  From that spot in Slovakia, you could see Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria.  There more than 400 people were killed trying to escape Communism.  A few members of the team said that they couldn’t pray there because it felt so heavy.  So before praying we decided to do a prophetic act and worship.  So we marched through the gateway of the memorial singing a worship song.  Then we went to the riverside and poured wine and salt into the water (another prophetic act).  Then we sang more worship songs.  The songs started out weak, but became strong.  Then someone noticed that a couple of snakes swam across the water and the frogs began singing louder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABullet-riddled monument to the victims of Communist terror

Then we climbed up to the castle.  Up there we heard a strange buzzing noise.  I laughed and said that it was a UFO.  Well it was unidentified and it was a flying object.  It was a photographic drone, which after the place of so many Communist murders gave me the creeps.  There was a big team up there, taking pictures with equally sophisticated equipment.


It was a good day, with wonderful prayers and lots of hugs goodbye.  Today we travel to Vienna.  A couple of teammates are going by riverboat in order to pray and worship on the river.  God is good!


Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Yesterday I went to Pastor Ivan’s church in the kindergarten.  Some of the newer team members were surprised and a bit dismayed to hear that I was going to a different church than the team.  But the head of OCE (Operation Capitals of Europe – was not dismayed.  I have joined the team often enough that he knows I don’t go off on my own without a very good reason.  I had already told him about the visit Wednesday to Pastor Ivan’s church and praying for the pastor, so I think he wasn’t surprised to hear that I wanted to return to encourage the pastor some more.

It encouraged Pastor Ivan very much to see me there, and he asked me to speak briefly to the church about my ministry.  One surprise was the musical talent in that little church.  I don’t often hear music that good in much bigger churches.  I suggested to Zuzana that they should cut a CD.  Books and CD’s make good fundraisers, and I believe that this little church is going to grow.  They will need to be ready for growth.

Zuzana told me that my visit encouraged the whole church.  Afterwards we caught up with the rest of the team for lunch and then we went to the castle.  At the castle we broke up into prayer teams for various concerns: business, families & children, art & culture, Israel, and an intercessory team that remained in the castle and prayed for all the prayer teams.

I chose Israel, so we took a walk to the site of the biggest synagogue in Bratislava.  It had been right beside the largest cathedral—St. Marten’s also known as the Dome of St. Marten.  There was only one other synagogue right beside a cathedral in all of Europe, the one by Notre Dame.  The Communists tore down the synagogue to build a bridge, but also to send a message about religion.

It was a very good time of prayer, and the anointing was so strong that at one point a blind man’s guide dog led him right into the middle of our prayer circle.  At another point a man with a German Shepherd walked past us.  The dog barked and barked, but interestingly, he was muzzled in a wire muzzle.  Since one of the Slovaks was praying at the time, I didn’t want to interrupt to point this out, but I think it is significant—prophetically showing that the Nazi spirit would never again threaten the Slovakian Jews.

One woman prophesied over me, saying that I have been called to be a blessing to the Slovakian believers, and to the unbelievers as well.  I confirmed that my calling is to support the Body of Christ here in Slovakia and throughout Europe, and through them to reach the lost.  So it was very cool to be confirmed by this prophetic word.  And I have a Slovakian word for how it made me feel:  FEE-ha!  I don’t know how it’s spelled, but that’s it phonetically.  It means WOW!  It’s my new favorite foreign word.

Afterward we joined the team of intercessors that had prayed for all the teams.  They went to Slavin, the World War II monument and cemetery, atop the other hill in Bratislava.  There we found 5 young skaters (for those over 30, that’s skateboarders).  One woman (not one of our group) had just finished hollering at the skaters, telling them that it was disrespectful to be skating in a cemetery.  Instead of leaving, they simply sat and waited for her to leave, and that is how we found them.

Upon arriving there, I felt an almost overwhelming desire to dance.  Someone pointed out the woman and said that dancing in a cemetery would probably offend her, too.  But, since others also felt moved to dance, we decided that the thing to do was to dance in a quiet and subdued way.  As we worshiped and prayed, we danced mostly with our hands and swaying, but the desire to dance became stronger and stronger for all of us, until it broke out in a joyous dance.  I think it is perfectly acceptable to dance in a Nazi cemetery.  Dance is a sign of victory, and the Kingdom of God is indeed victorious over the Nazi spirit.  Hallelujah!

When we finished, we turned our attention to the skaters, who had remained just a few feet from our group.  They had seen and heard all of our worship and prayers.  One man, who I call Dancing Joe, approached them and began to tell them about Jesus.  One woman told me that he has such a funny, friendly style that it completely disarms people, and they love to listen to Dancing Joe.  The skaters laughed together with him, and although they just shrugged when he asked if he could pray for them, DJ took their shrugs to mean OK, so he prayed for them.  And we left with them all smiling and waving goodbye to us.  The crabby woman had left, so they began to skate again.

One member of the team had brought a shofar with him, and he was stopped by an American Jew, who asked what our group was doing.  So he told the man about finding his Messiah, Yeshua (he’s a Messianic Jew).

It was a lovely day!  I feel such hope for Slovakia.  God is good!