March 30, 2013

project thessalonica: what we learned, part 1

I finally have a chance to sit down and finish writing about Project Thessalonica.
There isn't much left to tell. Just a few random things, and then some stuff our group learned while over there.

The few things:
1. I loved the new friends we made. Angelo, the Logans, and Kayode. And I love how being a part of God's family means that you can go across the world and stay with people you've never met before, and be at home. God's family has bond. I hated to leave.
2. I really miss Greek food. It's the only food I want to eat now. Top Ramen just doesn't compare. I could really do with some of that fried cheese right about now.
3. Tim and Karen, Dan and Brandi came home a week before Rachel and I, and it took them 58 hrs. And their luggage was delayed for almost a week. Holy smokes.
4. Rachel and I went to Rome for a week after being in Greece. It was spectacular. I'll write about that later.
5. It looks like they've found someone to take over the work in Thessaloniki when the Logans and Angelo leave! Praise God!
6. You have to read this: March 22. Oh my word. I wouldn't have been laughing like I was the day everyone got taken. I would've been furious. And probably crying. Poor Angelo. But I'm so glad about the people who were able to hear the Gospel past all the chaos!
7. It was hard to write about Project Thessalonica without Bro. Lowell being here. He was such a part of it. We had his memorial service last week. I'm so glad they waited for Rachel and I to get back from Italy before having it. Thank you for that, Toni. It meant so much to us to be able to be there. What a privilege to have known such a praying man.
8. I loved Greece, really, really loved it, and was only disappointed in one thing: the unfriendliness of the people. I guess I've just taken American friendliness for granted. I don't think I've ever even realized just how friendly we are until I went for two weeks without it. And when we reached Italy and some random stranger smiled at me (the people in Italy were way more friendly), I nearly cried. A friendly! I wanted to follow that person home and hang out. But other than that, Greece was amazing, and I want to go back.

What we learned, part 1:
I asked everyone what they learned on this mission's trip. Didn't matter how simple a thing it was, I just wanted to hear what they learned and noticed.
I took notes. Here they are.

Tim: There's no easy mission field. The harvest truly is great- huge. Laborers are few. Time is shorter. Must pray more. Must plant and water. Opposition is fierce.

Karen: I love Rachel's laugh. I never noticed her laugh before. Dan serves Brandi. I like watching him do things for her because he loves her. 

Greece is a lot bigger than I expected, and there are way more people than I thought there would be. The people sit down and talk face to face a lot, like at the coffee shops and restaurants. You don't see that as much in America. 
We ate a lot of good food. Wow. The food! 
Angelo loves the Lord a lot and he's really crazy. You could see how much he loves God. 
It's easier to pass out tracts to people when I don't know what they're saying back to me. 
Another thing I learned, was how the missionary wife seems so in the background, but makes such a huge sacrifice for her husband to do the ministry. Mrs. Logan gave up her husband almost every day just for us. If you see a need to fulfill, go and do it. That's what Angelo did. He's not "called" to Greece but he saw a need and said "Lord, I'll go." And he went. 
Foreign mission's trips are a huge eye opener when it comes to getting down to the day to day hard work of sowing. It really broke my heart to see all those tracts on the ground and in the garbage. But since I've been home, I've been thinking of the seeds that fall on stony ground. The people of Greece seem so stony and hardened by the Orthodox Church. Kinda like the tracts on the ground were a picture of their lives rejecting God's word. I want to pass out tracts more, and am praying for God to make my heart burn to witness. And to teach my girls to witness by my example. But I want it to be most of all because I love God. Not a duty. 

Me: The last several months, I've felt like there was some struggle going on between me and God, and I haven't been able to quite put my finger on the cause. I asked God about it.
What? Is it my frizzy hair? Do I need to shower? Is it the past that gets lugged around in big Samsonite suitcases? Is it because I'm always complaining about being skinny and cold? Do I need to be more active in church? Am I lazy?
Probably if I had just shut up and given God a chance to get a word in edgewise, He would've cleared things up a lot faster. But God keeps a small voice and I'm really loud when I'm complaining.
Anyway, I ever so slowly hit upon a thing that I figured was the root of my struggle. I'm severely lacking when it comes to witnessing. And I would watch other people who witness, those people who just talk about God and salvation in all their conversation, and it seems so easy for them, but here I am... pretty much tongue tied when it comes to telling people about Christ. And then I would watch Bro. Lowell so burdened for missions and well... I wasn't! I'm sorry to say it. But it's true. I didn't even know Bro. Lowell very well, but this one thing I knew for certain about him: he spent countless hours in prayer and service for the unsaved. But not me. And I wondered, how exactly does one get to be like Bro. Lowell?
So anyway, before we left for Greece, I prayed God would use this missions trip to give me a heart for missions, and for unsaved people. Make witnessing easy as pie for me, God.
And when we arrived in Greece, my first impression of Angelo was this, He speaks Australian. Also, he's one of those people who witnesses like it's easy.
And there were the Logans and Kayode, making it look so easy too. I mean, they spoke so boldly without being pushy. They were all giving up their lives, jobs, families, friends, and (the biggie) their home churches just to come to a strange land across the ocean where they don't know anyone... so that they can witness. 
So I was like, Alrighty, God. Here I am in Greece. With missionaries. Still waiting on that burden to fill up my heart and stuff.
And then one night we went out for pizza with Angelo, and while Angelo sat there eating an entire large pizza all by himself, he said that witnessing was hard for him. I was like, Whaaaat??? I would've never guessed that. And he was like, It's never easy and I get scared and nervous every time we go out, but you know, I figure God has done so much for me... I need to do for Him too. Because I love Him. 
And there it was. Because he loves Him. And with every tract, every witness, it's a way of saying, I love You back.
So I'll see if I can make this make sense.
I thought I needed to love people more, to have a burden for them. But that wasn't it. That comes later.
What I need is to love God more. That comes first. How can I ask God to spread my heart out over people I don't even know, when I can barely spread my heart out to love God the way He should be loved?
Because love isn't a thing that stands still. Love is a moving, living thing. When water stands still, it grows stagnant, green scum on the top of a pond. And I've grown so happy with the life and things God has blessed me with that I've become content with my love for Him the way it was. And I've basically been loving God standing still, green scum on a pond. 
But what I want, is to love God moving and blooming. Like a cherry tree in the spring. It blooms, and brings forth fruit in the summer. And the fruit gives life. And that right there is love, it gives life. Not green scum.
And when you love Someone so much, you'll be ready and willing to run around telling everyone about Him. For one, because He wants you to, and for another, because you can't help it. Because isn't that what you do when you love someone? You talk about them all the time. 
My heart felt all crumpled up and squashed to realize how little I love God when here I thought I loved Him a lot. It's an awful thing to turn around and look at God, and say, Thank You for loving me so much, and so wonderfully beyond all understanding. I love You a little bit.
But here's the nicest thing about God. He's always up for helping me out. He always takes my hand right in His, and is like, Little chick, I'll help you every day to love Me more. It's my favorite thing to do. And His face gets all sunshiny and smile wrinkly. 

So anyway, I got it wrong about having a burden and wanting witnessing to be easy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not belittling having a burden. But loving God with all you have has to come first. After the living love, comes the burden and the willingness to just give up anything for Him.
Didn't Christ ask Peter, Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep. I read a book called The 5 Love Languages one time. It was a good book. I liked it. It was all about how people express love and want love to be expressed back to them. People want quality time, touch, affection, words of affirmation, gifts, service, etc. Well God wants something too... Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep.  That's the only time that I know of in the Bible when God flat out, point blank, says, This is how I want you to express your love for Me.
I can't just keep standing still.
And that's the first part of what I learned on this mission's trip. Part 2 is coming later.