Me neither, until I was invited to go on my first missions trip. I was 37 at the time and had never been out of North America. But as I prayed about the opportunity, I sensed the Lord say “If you go, it will change your life.”
“We’re on a mission from God”
In my opinion, traveling internationally not as a tourist, but to serve, is the only way to see the world. You get in the God zone – “on a mission from God” and your paradigm of life radically changes. You have to walk the talk that “it’s not about me.” Your life gets transformed and you get “Wrecked” along the way.
This is not for everybody.
Missions travel requires patience, humility, flexibility and a teachable attitude. An iron stomach also helps!
Did I mention this is not for everybody?
But it’s the only way for me.
Soon I’ll embark on another journey to the Balkans (eastern Europe) to “go and make disciples”.
I invite you to join me. I’ll tell you how later in this article.
Why 11 Consecutive Years of Missions in Eastern Europe?
Worship changed my life and missions ruined me for the ordinary. Since that first trip I’ve been to many nations but there is a special place in my heart for the people of Eastern Europe.
I’ve gone for 11 years because I was asked to come. I said “yes” to God’s invitation. Simple, but not easy.
It’s a great honor and privilege to serve in Serbia, Romania, Hungary and other places. I’ve made a lot of international friends over the years. People who are real heroes, laying down their lives to serve the kingdom of God. People like Darijo and Genu and Pica and Cristi and Cristina – far too many to list here.
Throughout this blog I’ve shared stories of my missions work teaching and sharing the gospel.
There is a compelling need in this region, still to this day – for relevant biblical teaching and the proclamation of the gospel.
That’s basically the role I serve.
Every year I’m willing to lay this “calling” down. This was especially true last year. I laid my “Isaac” on the altar. Then in the valley of decision in the middle of last years mission, I had a very clear word from God – this is what I’m called to do. It was a strong confirmation.
And so I go by faith, as many missionaries do and have done.
It’s hard physically, financially and emotionally. Yes, there is a benefit to serving a cause bigger than you. Yes, it is a very worthwhile endeavor with eternal value. It is a blessing to be “Wrecked.”
But it would be the wrong motivation to go for what I get out of it. These trips are rewarding, but also very difficult. I’m frustrated and stressed out, honestly, by the cost and the work load to raise funds and awareness. By now I should be good at fundraising, but I’m not.
Good thing God has always provided everything needed at just the right time. He is good!
Here are the ministry areas I’ll be serving.
1. Ethnic & International Reconciliation
Did you understand anything about the war in Yugoslavia in the mid 1990’s?
Me neither, it was all a vague mystery in some far off part of the world I couldn’t comprehend.
Then I met real people from Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia at the SOZO Festival in Hungary. They were so cool.
And now SOZO will be in Serbia, a nation still working to recover from the causes and effects of that war. That is too cool!
SOZO has changed lives for many years by investing in the young people of Eastern Europe and creating a context for ethnic and international reconciliation.
“The main goal for SOZO is reconciliation. People who were enemies for many many years, forever really, they become pretty close friends. ” Andrei, Russia
The purpose of SOZO Festival is to inspire “unity in the Body of Christ across nations, generations, and denominations through worship and workshops that ignite a passion for God.”
You can learn more in this video:
SOZO is one event that changed my life. I went for the first time in 2001 to teach songwriting. I’ve been back every year.
Now at SOZO I serve as Director of Worship, leading and organizing the worship times.
It is a humbling and “stretching” experience to worship God together with musicians and singers from many nations, languages and skill levels.
We are so different, and desperate, and God meets us in amazing ways. It is invigorating, exhilarating and fills me with the fear of the Lord. Oh yea, I also teach workshops on worship theology and leadership.
Our worship experiences together have been transformational.
SOZO Festival empowers people to be ambassadors of hope through multiple seminars and workshops. Volunteer instructors come from all over the world. Everyone who serves here pays their own expenses.
People representing as many as 40 nations will come and receive training, equipping and encouragement.
Then they will be released to share Jesus with the city through nightly evangelistic outreach events.
Novi Sad, Serbia is a strategic city of about 500,000 with less than 1500 evangelical Christians.
In the words of a local pastor, “we need the gospel” .
Pray for this event, the delegates attending, and the community in Serbia we will be witnessing to.
July 23-29, 2012.
2. Raising A Generation That Will Change A Nation
Immediately after SOZO, I’ll travel about 3-4 hours northwest to Romania’s second largest city, Timisoara, where I am an instructor in the School of Worship. This will be my 7th year there!
The School of Worship in Romania (Scoala de Inchinara) is a one month long, intensive, residential school during the month of August. Along with musical training, there is a strong emphasis on character development and cultivating a heart for worship. Students ages 16- 30+ travel from the far reaches of the country to attend.
I remember back in ’05 drinking coffee in a gas station with my SOZO friend Genu Olariu and his pastor, Pica Mengher. They were sharing their dream for a school to train young musicians in Romania about worship. There was such a need for practical training as well as biblical understanding.
That dream came true one year later and their idea became a reality.
I’ve been blessed to be part of the school from that very first year. Now there are over 200 graduates serving the Lord throughout Romania and other countries. I’ve taught Practical Theology of Worship and songwriting to everyone of them.
It is a miracle to see the transformations in their lives.
These students are a gift (see the video below!) My assignment there is July 30- August 12, 2012.
3. Empowering The Local Church
Finally, I’ll lead a series of Worship Workshops for the local churches in Cluj and Ocna Moresh, Romania.
I’ll take a 6 hour train ride, probably overnight, from Timisoara north to Cluj, a thiving college town with a youthful, optimistic energy. I’ll be serving the ministry of my friends from SOZO, Nick and Carole Decean and other churches in the area.
The need for quality instruction here is great and I’ve been requested to come and teach.
I had a great experience there last year leading a night of intercession and preaching. I’m looking forward to going deeper with the musicians , singers and leaders this time. Investing in the local church is where it’s at!
Ocna Moresh is a small village where there is a thriving young church. This is a video of me speaking there last year. I’m looking forward to returning. August 12-15, 2012
How You Can Be Part of The Team
1. Stay updated! It’s easy. Be part of the adventure by signing up for my e-mail updates.
I’ll have stories, pics and videos of the people you are blessing. You’ll get the stories behind the story, a taste of the cultures visited, and my insights along the way. It will be a great primer if you’re thinking about doing a worship missions trip. And you will have a role in making disciples in the Balkans.