It’s been a wonderful and challenging year and I give thanks to God for making it possible. And a SPECIAL THANKS to those of you who supported us financially through our New Zealand supporters and SYRIOUS LOVE (Syrian Refugee Ministry).
Some highlights from 2015
We worked in these countries: Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Hungary, Poland, and Germany.
I taught at my favourite European Festivals. At SLOT Festival in Poland I taught for 4 days on “Church Different”, outlining the new reformation of church and tracing the history of how we got here. At Freakstock Festival in Poland I taught on the MainStage about God’s plan for families and raising children. At Meziproster Festival in Czech Republic my title was “Back to the Garden”. I looked at our relationship with creation, what was lost in the fall and how God’s people are repositioning themselves to live sustainably and in harmony with their environment and each other.
We fed the refugees at the borders and along railway tracks. And we did generally did not photograph them. When I saw representatives of one organisation drive up to a squat in Serbia, take photos and video and then drive off to do their fundraising, I decided that we would not abuse the vulnerable people who needed our help rather than their picture on a newsletter. It was a little crazy. We dumpster dived for food. We threw away our refrigerator - one of those crazy moments that symbolised our desperation in finding and storing food in the truck for the refugees at the borders.
We participated in three Rainbow Festivals, in Serbia, Slovakia and Egypt. It was hard for me and the kids eating vegan food for so long but we had so many rewarding conversations about God and the spiritual life. But they were great times and we were often the only followers of Jesus inside a much bigger world. Debbie did extremely well and found herself become a spiritual “mama” to hundreds of young hippies and spiritual seekers. Debbie also got bitten by a scorpion in the Sinai desert and ended up at a hospital in Cairo.
We traveled for six months with a LOT of young nomads. At one stage there were 20 of them in our truck. This wasn’t so bad when there were places we could put up tents but when it was raining, or if we were traveling through cities, we all had to sleep in the truck and it was quite cramped. You can imagine.
Debbie and I took an online language learning course through Wheaton College. It was very helpful and empowering.
I visited refugee camps and talked to leaders of ministries reaching out to the refugees. I also spoke to many Syrians about their needs and the best way for Westerners to offer help. In Germany I attended a special gathering of leaders involved in refugee ministry. We visited a few camps and discussed the needs around Europe. We also committed to provide resources for volunteers and start an informal network where we can share stories and advice.
A mission in USA set up a fundraiser called Syrious Love and raised almost $3000. This helped our team of 20 volunteers buy food, travel to where the refugees were bottlenecking at the various European borders, and show compassionate care to the refugees where the need was greatest. Others gave through other means and this has helped me travel to the camps and the leaders involved in the relocation and compassion initiatives. We want to raise more money to help create a network of key leaders in each country to coordinate efforts and provide training resources. Will you help me?
I took part in a gathering of veteran fresh expression/church leaders in Prague. We spent three days together talking and praying. A very valuable time that I now refer to as The Nicholas Sessions, named after the Nicholas Hotel where we stayed. I might host another one in the future.
In the Sinai desert of Egypt I enjoyed many discussions about God, Islam and the Sufis. I am learning a lot about Islam and find in the Sufi poetry many potential bridges and connection points for our talks about Isa al-Masih, Jesus the Messiah, and the way of following God.
On the negative side, all my Wordpress sites and blogs were brought down recently by “Muslim” hackers. I have yet to pinpoint who has been paying them to target me but the attacks started around the time I stated that ISIS were not true Muslims. The invasions happened daily, despite my efforts to keep the hackers out. My sites went down one by one. They even invaded my computer. And I am still getting threats that they will continue to [mess] with me in the near future. I have felt quite vulnerable these past few weeks, and bullied. But I will not stop speaking out. I have shifted for the time being to my old blog on Typepad.
We also lost our two churches that gave us much-needed funds for 2015. The senior pastors of both churches, who have been friends of mine for many years, either retired or moved on. This means we enter 2016 without a single church to back us financially. Would you pray that God would raise up two churches who believe in our mission and want to support us with prayer,
This was our first year representing and being cared for my friends in New Zealand. They have been wonderful support and have partnered with us gently and wisely. They understand us. They provide half our personal support and are helping us to raise the other half. When we joined them last year we asked to be placed on under the poverty level so that we could minister among the poor as one of them. They graciously allowed us to do so but watch carefully to make sure all our needs are met and we are ministering from a healthy base.
Thomas Merton has been my favourite author in 2015, especially his interactions with other religious leaders. His books have been inspirational. I need to read them with reading glasses which is a first for me.
Debbie has emerged as a spiritual leader in her own right, with an enormous amount of respect and authority in the world of Eastern religion, paganism and earth-based religions. She is often the first representative of Jesus and the Christian tradition that they have encountered who they admire and want to emulate.
Our daughters Quill (Hannah) and Bones (TJ) had an eventful year. Spending time in Prague with all the children at an emerging Christian community was a highlight for them. After six months of traveling Europe and the Middle East with hippies, they needed a break (who wouldn’t?) so we retreated to Prague for Christmas, leaving Debbie in Egypt at the Rainbow Festival. TJ is enjoying the company of kids her own age. Quill is volunteering at a hostel in Prague. We hope to catch up with Debbie in Africa soon.
Whats up for 2016?
- The Syrian Refugee Crisis is at the forefront of my mind and has been there since the summer. How the church responds to the Syrian refugees, and the other refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, etc, is one of the most crucial turning points of our current moment. Will we emerge from this new reformation as a church of generosity and compassionate understanding or will retreat back into fear, xenophobia, and insulation? My primary focus in 2016 will be to continue showing the love of Christ to refugees, feeding the hungry, guiding the homeless wanderers, resourcing the leaders, enabling the relocation efforts inside the various countries, and keeping the eyes of the church on this tragedy long enough to allow them to see it as the momentous opportunity that it really is.
- In 2016 we will continue to be a Christian presence inside the new spirituality and the related festivals, eco-communities, and events.
- If God allows, we will return for some time in North Africa.
- I have received a lot of requests to train young people in the summer of 2016 in Europe. Most likely I will select a small number of them and set up a one to two month training in June/July.
- Prague will be a base and launching pad for us again in 2106. We want to start a small monastery here. Perhaps we could start with the truck and then take over one of the buildings. There is an old barn that could potentially, and quite possibly, become the training centre we have always imagined. My theological and missiological books are already in the barn, waiting to become the library. Stay tuned.
We are enthusiastic and we are located exactly where we need to be but we are financially under-supported. Pray that God provides some people and some churches to join with us in our mission. Pray for safety in the Middle East and North Africa. I am no longer as anonymous as I intended. But I am not afraid. If God is for us, who can be against us?
Direct gifts to the Syrian refugee crisis can still be received at the Pure Charity campaign called SYRIOUS LOVE
Personal support? Send me an email at tallskinnykiwi at gmail dot com and lets talk about it.