Saturday, February 28, 2009


This past week I found myself in another city in Europe. I know I say that about most cities I visit here but Europe is full of fascinating cities, full of history and tradition yet with a common element: needing the gospel in a personal and relevant way. Prague was no different for me.

I was able to see the famous Charles Bridge. This is where the important historical event of Mission Impossible was filmed with Tom Cruise. Okay maybe not “historical” but there are plenty of people crossing that bridge and thinking of Tom Cruise at the same time.

It is also a city where communism fell as a result of the Velvet Revolution.
As a result it seems that capitalism and tourism came sweeping into Prague.
People tell me it is a city where Atheism is high. The culture leaped into post modernity. I read this article about religion in Prague. Interesting read and sparked my interest when it discusses a Spanish Jewish migration into the city in 1492.

The city is also famous for John Huss who was the famous reformer from Prague. You can see his statue in the Old Town. You can read a short article about him here.

There are people here who are trying to make a difference. They are living in Prague in an incarnational way. They are being salt and light in a city of need. Pray for these workers and if you have an interest in helping out here shoot me an email?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Strasbourg, France - Valentine's Day 09

This weekend my wife Susan and I celebrated 22 years of marriage. Yes, that is right. I am a helpless romantic. We were married on Valentines Day. Someone told us that roses would be cheaper on that day. They were lying. Smile. We were able to take an overnight trip to a city that we have always wanted to visit; Strasbourg, France. It sits on the border of Germany and France. It is about 1.5 hours from our house.

It is a really cool city. I know I say that about most cities here but I mean it this time. Grin. We like to take urban plunges since we live in a small village now. I found a hotel in the area called Petit France. We ate at an awesome restaurant called Chez Yvonne We were told that many of the French presidents have eaten there. We did not see any but it was a great place to have our Valentines dinner. Probably the best steak that I have had in Europe with the exception of an Argentine Steakhouse in Madrid. It would take a lot to beat that steakhouse but this one was excellent.

I really tried hard to just be a tourist this weekend. I did not twitter, facebook, blog or do email all weekend. Not that I am addicted or anything. But even as a couple on holiday we could not help but to observe some aspects of the city.

As we crossed the Rhine river and entered into the metro area we noticed 100’s of tour buses and a mass of people walking to a park. Traffic was a mess. See Why?

It was a peaceful demonstration from the view of our car but it was a reminder of the magnitude of immigrants who live in Europe.

Some Fast Facts about the city:
• There are about 700,000 people who live in the metro area of Strasbourg.
• Home of the European Parliament (EP)
• The European Court of Human Rights seats there.
• In 1647 the Cathedral became the world’s tallest building for over 200 years.
• The inventor and printer Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg lived there for some time. You may remember his work called the Gutenburg Bible.

But beyond famous people and buildings Strasbourg like all cities in Europe are in desperate need of the Gospel. Interestingly enough a friend of mine sent this to me this past week. Check out this link on Strasbourg for a really cool way to map the city and pray for the people there.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Intangible Mission Journey

I am convinced that our ministry in Europe can sometimes be "intangible". I am not meaning by this that it is not needed or is unimportant compared to countries for example that are in the 10/40 window for I believe there is an extreme need in Europe and it is strategically very important. For one example of this check out reconsider europe.

I am saying it can look different than what people often think of as expressions of traditional missionary efforts. This is sometimes hard for churches and for missionaries to grasp. I know it has been some of my story of the last 8 years. Ministry in Europe takes place at meals, in cafes, playing sports but one thing connects it all: it is highly relational. I was much more comfortable with designing a cool mail out or event and having people come to our church plant.

A few weeks ago a new friend of mine Daniel who has connected with us at The Upstream Collective sent me the following email. He gave me permission to print this post. This describes a part of his journey in what we affectionately call “The Intangible Mission Trip”.

"I was trying to think of a few highlights from N. Ireland that I thought worthy of sharing with you, and I am a bit troubled because I can't think of many specific events as I am processing what I learned from this relational trip. Even though I've gone as part of the leadership taking teams of high school students over there twice before, going on this advance trip with 2 of my other leaders was a learning experience.

The main thing that's always hard for me to wrap my mind around is the value of the relational ministry. Even though I've taken students over there for the purpose of relational ministry, it feels weird to go by myself with the purpose of sharing experiences and conversations with people, getting coffee/tea with local believers, praying with them, and encouraging them. Though it is a trip filled with long days that are tiring, it feels much like a vacation because it energizes me to see how God is working in the lives of people all around the world. It's not a ministry where you see instant conversion type fruit all the time, or a project you can quickly look back on and say "I helped do that". A lot of times it's spreading the seed, and praying for God to send workers into the harvest when they are ready.

There was a particularly cool God appointment we had during our time there. We usually work in a small town, but we do have some friends up in Belfast that we wanted to meet up with some time during the week. The only time we could both get together was on Thursday. It just so happened that on Thursday evening this family was entertaining the new youth worker in their church, who had just 2 days earlier moved back to N.I. after four years of ministry in North America. I won't go into the details of the conversation, but it was one of those conversations where we just dreamed together about what God might want to do in Belfast, offered our support and service if needed, and all left mutually encouraged. Those friends may come to stay with us and intern in our church, or we may have an opportunity to go stay with them. Some might say experiences like this make the world seem smaller, but I'm convinced they just make God look bigger."

Thanks Daniel for writing out some of your story. Thanks for your passion to see the peoples of Europe come to know Christ and encouraging churches here.

You can find out more about Daniel by following him on Twitter at norniron.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

a new type of missionary

Paris. Athens. Budapest. Frankfurt. Rome. Madrid. Vienna. Stockholm. Basel.

The urban centers of Europe are the new frontier of missions.

Stockbroker. Artist. Lawyer. Electrician. Professor. Programmer.

And these are its missionaries.

While Europe doesn’t often spring to Americans’ minds when they hear the word “missions,” the spiritual need in the region is overwhelming. Less than 2 percent of the population of most European countries is known to follow Christ.

In societies so numbed to the institutional church, cultural rituals and historical Christendom, being a “missionary” often calls for something totally different than the traditional face of North American missions.

What if the most effective missions meant simply living life with purpose among the peoples of Europe, working in a normal job, building friendships with co-workers and neighbors?

What if churches in the United States actively participated in sending out their best church members, not as missionaries, but simply as themselves? What if churches prayed and dreamed with those workers about how to live their lives as salt and light in their new European hometowns? What if churches took back – and took full advantage of – their role in the Great Commission?

Isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about anyway?

check out -

The above post was written by a member of the Skybridge Community and currently lives in Europe.

Monday, February 2, 2009

language learning

Last week I was sitting in one of our meetings where we talk with people who have lived overseas for less than a year. It is a time for refreshment as well as some training opportunities.

Being a language student myself (notice I did not say a good one) I went to one of the seminars where a linguistic coordinator for our organization spoke. I had heard this some time back when we moved to Spain in 2001 and while I was learning Spanish. Now that I am learning German it was a great reminder and it really is transferable to a lot of things that we learn.

I also know that many people in the states are now trying to learn a second language.

Consider this about Europeans

26% of Europeans speak three languages or more.
53% of Europeans speak 2 languages
71% of all Europeans believe that one should speak atleast two languages
72% of Europeans believe that other languages are useful and important
93% believe that children should learn other languages.

GLUE helps me in language learning. I hope it can help you if you are learning a new language.
It helped me in just writing some things down for my own goals. I am definitely not the expert in language learning.

Get what you need
Learn what you get
Use what you learn
Evaluate what you learn

So as I am learning language I determine what I need and find ways to get it: ability to greet, order food at a restaurant, banking, talking on the telephone, reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, conversations about everyday stuff, conversation about heartfelt topics

I then try to learn these things by learning vocabulary and grammar. I love making notecards and i have been known to write post it notes on our furniture to label the pieces. I prefer using a language teacher or being in a class and then augmenting that with extra reading and listening excerises. For instance today my language teacher gave me a book to read that is German and English with a listening CD. I can use various mediums to pick up the German in this children’s book. I have used Berlitz and Rosetta Stone before and really like those resources. You can also get a lot of language by watching and listening to television or music in that language.

I then go on the street and try it out. I talk to anyone who may talk to me. I try to ask questions and try to get people to ask me questions. I have not done this so far here but in Spain I would have intercambios where I would ask for someone to speak to me for 30 minutes in Spanish in exchange for me speaking 30 minutes of English. I have also done this at Mexican restaurants in the states where I can practice my Spanish. So if you are trying to learn a language while living in the states (I highly recommend that) then with a little work you can find language partners in the states. Many times these people would love a chance to improve their English. Not to mention the obvious opportunities for ministry.

Then you need to evaluate what you are learning. Obvisously if you are taking formal classes tests or quizzes help you do this. You can also ask a native speaker how you are doing. You can find some online resources that will help measure your success in learning a language.

Good luck on your journey of language learning. It is well worth the effort.