From Croatia to Hungary

Tuesday, July 15

Conference is over. I now head to Budapest with my brother-in-law for a few days of down time before I head back to the States. The last 8 days have been hectic, insightful, and humbling. And I’ve got an 8 hour van ride in front of me to chew on these things.

Interesting experience here – you have to pay to go to the bathroom in MOST places. There’s either a person in front of them collecting coins or a little vending machine thing. So when we stop at a gas station – the boys and I have an aversion to pay to pee. I mean – we can pee standing up and pretty much anywhere. Girls – not so much. Put another notch in the column of why being a boy is better than being a girl.

Back to the story – so we stop at this gas station somewhere in the middle of Croatia and the boys and I go pee in the field while the girls go in to pay to pee. It was a moment full of pride and accomplishment until Valerie came out and told us that this was the one gas station in the country that had free bathrooms. Oh well.

Some deeper thoughts about the conference…(I hope.)

Teens Everywhere Struggle
I hung out with a group of teens for 8 straight days. The first few days I was painfully reminded about how guarded teens can be. I was the new guy. I was on their turf. I was the oddball. I was the one looking for a way to fit in.

What’s odd about that is this – they were going through the same thing. Not just with me but on multiple levels. With their friends, their culture, the missionary culture, their future just to name a few.

Come to learn that these teens were/are not all that different than teens in the US. They are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit. Throwing Jesus in the mix only makes things harder – not easier. It’s easier for them to look at our American culture and pinpoint what is bad about it. Just like it was easier for me to look at their Eastern Europe culture and pinpoint what was bad about it. It’s harder to see the soup you’re swimming in.

Number 1 Obstacle To Ministry
I got a chance to listen to some of the issues these missionaries wrestle with. I had in my mind what I thought would be the biggest obstacles for them – money and governments that are set are getting them out of the country.

Those are problems. I don’t want to minimize them at all. But overwhelmingly the number 1 obstacle that they talked about was the lack of authenticity. The lack of vulnerability by BOTH missionaries and who they are trying to reach has put a ceiling on the work. National pride plays a part in this but the larger issue is – if you really knew who I was, would you still love me? Would I still be accepted?

I wasn’t ready for this to be the number one obstacle. I guess I’d fallen trap to exactly what people do to pastors in the states – “you’re a pastor? Oh, then you must have it all together and are super close to God and have no struggles.” I know that’s not true…why would it be different anywhere else? People are people. (Wasn’t that a Tears for Fears song? Songs From The Big Chair…85? 86?) It’s true – the level of spiritual transformation is directly correlated to the level of vulnerability. It’s the lynchpin of everything.

You don’t have to have it all figured out.
In a time of strategic plans and mission statements, there is something to be said for ‘just doing it.’ Just tell people about Jesus. Just disciple them. Just serve them. I love that most about missionaries – the mindset of – we’ll start it and figure it out as we go.

Again this insight was convicting to me…humbling. I think I’ve fallen into that trap this past year or two – having to have it figured out before I pull the trigger. Is it because I’m getting older? Is it because I’m afraid of failure? Tired? Don’t know. Just know it’s a habit I don’t like and I really need to break. Just do it…then figure it out later.

I’ve got a few days more in Budapest to chew on these things.


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