Final Leg...

It was so great to have four nights in Croatia connecting with old friends and meeting new. After a whirlwind tour of the first four countries, it was nice to have time in one place for a change. I picked up some sinus stuff along the way so it was good to be on the mend without major travel and adapting to new places/food/bed/etc.

Our other three team members returned to the states on Friday morning. We had a good debriefing time on Thursday night sharing highlights, insights, and needs of each field. Dennis did training for the Bosnian and Croatian teams Friday night and Saturday morning... something he does so well. Good stuff and good connecting.

Today we made the flights to the Czech Republic, arriving here in Brno in the evening. The next two days we'll get acquainted with the team and learn of the work. Then Wednesday we're homeward bound.


The Journey continues...

The days are blurring as we continue on this journey. It was an all-day drive from Albania to Bosnia. Yesterday we arrived in Croatia. A lot to take in and process. I've been taking lots of notes, but I think the reflection will happen in flight on the trip home - much journaling to do.

We're truly seeing incarnational living in each country. Our visit to Albania took us to the Kenet near the Adriatic coastline in the city of Duress. Kenet in Albanian means "swamp" which literally describes where 55,000 of Duress' population live - many of them village people who hoped for jobs in the city. Free plots of land draw these people to build homes in the swampy area where the sewage system is atrocious and water is undrinkable. It's amazing what these M's are doing in this poor community where the city doesn't even recognize the people as resident's. And, they have chosen to live among them!

Posting some random pictures below of our travels and the culture.

Traveling through Kosovo

On our way to Albania we passed an old Roman bridge
from the Ignatia Road. Paul probably crossed this
bridge going into Illyria as in Romans 15:17-18.

We attended an Orthodox Easter service in Durres, Albania
which began at 11:00 p.m and went to 2:00 a.m.

Our team having lunch with the M's in Albania.

Just some fun culture stuff in Albania.

Dbrovnik, Croatia

Our team.

A Roman amphitheater in Albania where
Titus was believed to be martyred.

Albanian culture


Kosovo and Albania...

Sorry for the delay in posting, but we've been on the go the past three days heading on to Kosovo from Macedonia for an overnight stay and then arriving in Albania last evening. We have had great connections in each country. In fact, I am more than amazed at the quick rapport we have built in such a short time with each visit. This is definitely an answer to prayer as we ask many of you to pray for God's favor in that way. Thank you!

God continues to confirm this call to Europe. At each place my heart says "yes." Even though we haven't officially begun this role, we feel we are already engaging in so many ways. It feels so right! There's a quote that Dennis and I came across years ago and I have thought of it so often since we made this decision.

Until I am committed, there is a hesitancy, a chance to draw back. But the moment I definitely commit myself, then God moves also, and a whole stream of events erupt. All manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, persons, and material assistance which I could never have dreamed would come my way begin to flow toward me – the moment I make a commitment.

God is and will be faithful!!

(Forgot to bring my camera with me to this internet site, so I'll post some pics from the last few days next time.)


Another day in Macedonia

We had the opportunity this morning to spend time with the teachers of a local English school. They have close to 50 students... all adults in their 20's or 30's. It was great to hear about their work and investment in young Macedonians.

Skopje is where Mother Theresa was born. This afternoon we took time to visit a museum of her life and also the location where the house where she was born would have once stood. Even though Mother Theresa didn't live much of her life here (she later moved to Albania), the Macedonians are proud of the fact that their country is her place of birth. We walked around the city, visiting the Turkish markets and an old Orthodox Church.

Tonight we met at the English school where several of the English students gave us a presentation on their Easter traditions. They did a great job! The Orthodox Church celebrates their Easter this Sunday. We hung out with them for over three hours just getting to know them while they practiced their English. They even taught us one of their traditional dances.

Well, we close up our day at the hostel we've been staying at while here. Tomorrow morning we make our way to Kosovo. Pictures below of the ruins at Philippi during our time in Greece.



A good night's rest, a great bkft, and even a Starbucks (only one we'll probably see in our travels :) and we were ready to go for a full day making our way to Skopje, Macedonia.

Plenty of time to get more acquainted with our team on the two-hour drive to Philippi and then a five-hour drive to Skopje. I love our team... great conversation and some hearty laughter, which is pretty much guaranteed with our teammates Peter and Jim. We have gelled well and each of us have come with a desire to catch the vision for Eastern Europe. Today also gave us a chance to get to know J & R's hearts and vision for their work here in Macedonia. Tomorrow we will spend the whole day here connecting in various ways.

One of the highlights of the day was walking through the ruins of Philippi. At one point our team member, Peter, stopped all of us to share how he felt such a sense of significance for Dennis and I as we walked among the ruins. We were walking in the very place where the Church was first born in Europe as told in Acts 16:11-40. What a special moment when our team laid hands on us to pray and commit for our new role in Europe. God continues to confirm in so many ways this decision.

Thanks for your prayers! Pictures tomorrow!



Our team of five was greeted by Josh and Rachelle in Thessaloniki, Greece this evening (Tues.) after a day of smooth flights. Once we settled in at our downtown hotel, we walked to the city center for dinner. We chose a local Greek restaurant where we literally felt like we were sitting in the middle of the movie My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding. Live music set the tone for some wonderful Greek cuisine and culture. A lively birthday celebration added singing, traditional Greek dance, and lots of "op-ahs" to the scene. Of course, we had to find some ice cream and then a walk down to the port by the Aegean Sea passing a statue of Aristotle. It all was a good way to keep us awake until bedtime :).

We're eager to lay our bodies down and get some sound rest after little sleep on flights. Off to Philippi in the morning and then on to Macedonia.



On our way to Europe...

Today we leave for Europe. This is a trip that has been in the making since last June, long before we made the decision to accept the European Director position. Dennis, as Mission Director in our district, was invited to join GP Director of Operations Peter Moore, and other District GP Directors in the states on a Taste and SEE tour of our work in South Eastern Europe.

It's timely that I was given the privilege of joining this team of five now that Dennis and I have accepted the appointment of European Director.

This 17-day trip begins in Thessaloniki, Greece, where we will begin our journey spending some time seeing the biblical city of Philippi while we catch up on time change. From there we will make our way north to Macedonia, then onto Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, and eventually the Czech Republic.

I plan to post updates and pictures whenever possible along the way.


Life Changes...

Many of you have read the following news of life changes for Dennis and I. I just thought I would post what Dennis sent out via email this week as a beginning point as we begin looking forward to a new journey.

Over the past year we have had the joy of serving the West Michigan District. We have loved the opportunity to invest in the lives of pastors and the ministry of churches. It has been a huge gift to us to serve in this way. With the new economic realities, it appeared that our position would undergo significant adjustments after July 31 - potentially bringing a change to our role.

As we processed the anticipated changes, we sensed that we were to look at wider options for His place. We checked into several opportunities: local churches, other district leadership, unique combos and global leadership.

After praying through these options, it will be announced today, April 6 that we have accepted the appointment as European Directors for Global Partners the missions ministry of The Wesleyan Church. This was an option we had considered a year ago and has been growing in our hearts over the past year.

In this role, we will give leadership to Mission Directors and Missionaries in Europe where over 40% of our mission force serves. We plan to complete our service with the West Michigan District and hope to raise the support needed that we might be relocated to Europe by January 2010.

Obviously we are excited about this new venture and can’t wait to communicate more of the details as they unfold. In the meantime, we covet your prayers.

Thanks again for being such vital prayer connections for us. We love you.


Shame Lifter...

Marilyn Hontz – friend, fellow pastor’s wife, mom to five grown children, grandma to six, speaker, and author – recently published her second book, Shame Lifter. I was looking forward to getting a copy when I discovered it at a friend's house when we were staying with their kids while they were on a cruise. I debated what book to take with me for reading material, but never really settled on anything. As soon as I saw Marilyn's book, I knew that was the book to read. I finished it in three days and found it to be thought provoking and insightful. Anyone who reads this book will find themselves reflecting on their own life. Shame-givers come in a variety of forms... for me it was two grade-school teachers who instilled a shamed based sense of inadequacy in me.

I plan to get my own copy of Shame Lifter so I can go back over the questions at the end of each chapter. Plus I have a lot of highlighting to do! Marilyn writes with transparency of her growing up years living in an environment that produced within her a sense of shame, leaving her with nagging thoughts that imposed on her life. These shame-based feelings held her in a prison of self-condemning thoughts that tormented her whenever she would receive a compliment, especially after speaking in public.

One loving, but honest comment made to Marilyn after a speaking engagement began a journey to finding freedom from the shame-based thoughts that plagued Marilyn for years. Anyone who struggles with anything along these same lines will find themselves absorbed in Marilyn's story. But she doesn't leave you hanging in defeat or wallowing in hopelessness. At the end of each chapter Marilyn gives questions for reflection, then gives positive and encouraging tips that she calls "Shame Lifters," and offers an insightful and meaningful prayer of commitment and renewal.

Whenever I am with Marilyn she always draws me to Jesus. That's what I love about her! Her writing does the same. She draws her readers to the ultimate Shame Lifter and shares how she found victory and freedom in the love and truth of her heavenly Father. She writes, "no longer do I want my past circumstances, lies, or shame to shape me. I long to be shaped by the Lord Jesus."

The Lord Jesus has been shaping me over the years so that I no longer see myself as inadequate. Marilyn's book affirmed His good work in my life and gave me new levels of understanding in my walk in freedom. Thank you, Marilyn, for sharing your story!

"Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
no shadow of shame will darken their faces."
Psalm 34:5