Slovenia was sweet! Great reunion with my friends Sarah and Ryan Pursley, who are now missionaries in Velenje, Slovenia, and also a great learning experience for us. We also were SURPRISED by our friend/GJ alum Shawnta who came to do the Slovenia stop with us!! Such great encouragement!
Here is a quick summary of our week:
-We assisted in kids and youth camps with the church planted by Sarah and Ryan’s mission teammates
-Helped make contacts for the long-term missionaries to follow up with and build relationships with
-Witnessed two baptisms of members of the church (big deal!)
-Met, fellowshipped with, and prayed for Christians in Sarah and Ryan’s church
Slovenia has a strong Catholic influence–most people would identify as Catholic, at least by tradition. From what we have learned, Slovenes unfortunately have one of the highest suicide rates per capita in the world. The country is breathtakingly beautiful, yet the attitude of its people tends to be sort of negative and hopeless. We, personally, heard a few different accounts of depression just from the few people we met during our time there. The message of Jesus obviously provides life-changing hope, but it takes most people a while to really trust evangelical Christians, and consider the message we bear.
During my time in Slovenia, I have reflected on my role as leader of this trip and how God works though that, and just in life in general. I’ve seen parallels in the truths these missionaries here trust in, and the truths I trust in as I lead. God has been reminding me that He works through obedience and faithfulness to His leadership. God has not been dependent on my perfect leadership in order to make this a successful trip…nor does He depend on missionaries’ perfection, tangible/”timely” results. In Slovenia, we don’t see people accepting the gospel every day. Some days could probably seem pointless to the missionaries there…one of the interns there this summer talked about “watering” the other day. She said that in gardening, we don’t always think about the process that takes place between planting something, and seeing the fruit. That process takes time, and consistent attention…faithfulness and commitment to our role as “waterers”. Work in Slovenia can seem slow at times, but without the consistency and faithfulness to love these people well– regardless of whether or not they instantly believe as we do– these people may not ever know the love and value God has for them. These missionaries demonstrate obedience and commitment so well.
So, transitioning into how this has taught me as a leader: The other day, Autumn shared some pretty huge things God has been doing in her heart this summer. This hasn’t had anything really to do with me, other than the fact that God allowed me to be a leader this summer so that I could facilitate this experience for her. I’ve just been a body to allow the trip to happen, so that GOD could work. All summer, I have had to stop myself from picking myself apart, wondering if I’m making the right decisions, hoping Autumn has an amazing experience like I did my first trip, etc. My attention has shifted to me and my performance, leaving no room for God and HIS work in my brain. But by His grace, He has been working all along!
I am rambling on on our long layover in Turkey (Aunt Susan, if you’re reading, I’ve been remembering our trip!). I haven’t slept much and am trying to finish this up before wifi time runs out. I know that my thoughts here are scattered…my main takeaways are these:
-God does not depend on us or our performance to work
-Our role in being obedient to God is to do whatever role He has given us right here, right now as faithfully as we know how, according to His word
-PRAY–persistently, without ceasing, about everything, for people we love, for people who need to know Christ. Don’t be afraid to ask God for things, or to actually trust Him with what we ask.
-Encourage one another. We (all believers) are in this walk of life together. In the midst of brokenness, loss, confusion, disappointment, excitement, celebration, rejoicing…God has given each of us His Spirit. We are connected as brothers and sisters…to be faithful to each other, we must first be faithful to our Father. And as we do that, He works!
So much rambling. I pray that this encourages at least someone. I know these truths (though scattered right now) have encouraged me as I’ve meditated on them.
Prayer Requests for Sarah and Ryan:
-Continued maturity of Christians in their church
-Practical way to train pastors there in sound theology and church leadership (looking at you seminary friends)
-Ability to fix their car or buy a new car (they have one now, and it’s a troublesome one)
-Trust from those whom they seek to serve, in order for them to eventually share the gospel
I miss everyone a lot and am excited for reunions when the time comes! Until then, please pray for our protection as we travel, and continued energy and strength to finish strong.
Much love for you all!