Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Learning about other faiths

One of the most intriguing ventures of our recent Wayland Baptist University Balkan Mission Tour occurred at the central teqe (Sufi Muslim worship space) in Gjakova, Kosova. A very good friend of mine, Baba Rexhepi Mumin Lama is the cleric of this teqe. In the past he helped me extensively with my dissertation research. Baba Lama helped our students understood the basic beliefs of Sufism, especially of the Bektashis. With me in the front row are Denise Hopper, Khrystyne Eckerd, Flamur Gojani, and Duane Gray. Behind me is Taylor Phillips, Melanie Vasquez, Baba Lama, David Enegren, and Micah Evans. Standing behind Taylor is Amber "Desiree" Hamilton, Dot Taylor (mainly hidden), Mary Ethel Wade, Rev. Kevin Burrow, and Doris Ramsay.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Between Macedonia and Kenya, in Chicago

I write this sitting at the annual meeting of the American Society of Missiology in Chicago, Illinois, listening to missionaries and missiologists discuss the mission of God in the world today. Caught between the mission experiences just enjoyed in Macedonia, Kosova, and Greece, with 18 (now seasoned) mission volunteers, and anticipated mission in Kenya, beginning July 5, I reflect on what God is actively doing in the vast and vigorous world in which we live.

God is not "finished" with the mission work in Macedonia and Kosova, as at least one has said. On the contrary, God (despite the the contentions of some) continues on, moving actively and robustly in Albanians, Macedonians, Bosnians, Serbs, Turks, and Roma. As the 18 Balkan mission volunteers have experienced first-hand, Muslim peoples are responding to the salvation good news found singularly in Jesus Christ. The hope and forgiveness assured through the cross is being enjoyed by some in the Balkans. But God's desire is not completely fulfilled. Rather, God desires that all people share in the intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

I have read my students' reports about their mission ventures in the Balkans. A common theme permeating the reports is the love and hospitality and authenticity and transparency of the people whom they have met. Believing that all love begins with God, can we not assert that this love and embrace and warmth and truth (little "t") began with the work of God? Furthermore, the absence of such values and qualities demonstrates not the failure of God to work, but rather the cultural disobedience and self-absorption we experience in the West.

We look forward to Kenya, and seek your prayers for our mission there. The LORD has blessed us richly with indigenous Kenyan students, and eight of them are potential graduates. I wish to thank many, many persons who have contributed to the financial needs and prayer needs of our missionaries. Always, I am thankful to our home church, the First Baptist Church of Plainview, for consistent and abundant support.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pastor Eliza with Mary Ethel Wade

Pastor Eliza D, Kosovar Albanian Baptist leader, with Monroe, North Carolina, volunteers Mary Ethel Wade and Dot Taylor.

Kosovar Albanians Believers worshipping

Kosovar believers worshipping the Lord Jesus

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wayland Balkan Mission Team

Wayland Mission Team in Kosova

The Wayland Balkan Mission Team has arrived in Kosova, after a blessed nine days in Macedonia. The cold weather of this mountainous new country has surprised our students, prepared for a sunny, sultry climate. I ask you to pray for Taylor Phillips, who has been ill today.

Our work in a Macedonian village has ended. This work included teaching English as a Foreign Language (Melanie Vasquez, Micah Evans, Taylor Phillips, and Amber "Desiree" Hamilton), sports camp (Kevin Burrow), and art class (Khrystyne Eckerd). Our young men also dug the foundation of the English Language Library. The director of the primary school (K-8) in the village was especially delighted to see such well-behaved young men and women care so deeply about forgotten, abandoned children and youth in a Muslim context. As I sat with this Albanian woman, engaged in conversation about these six young people, and their callings from God, I realized that this middle-aged principal was attempting to communicate something to me. While our conversation continued, the woman told me, "Une jam njohur me krejt ata qe punojne neper kisha evangjeliste ne shkup" (I know all of those people that work in evangelical churches in Skopje.) She listed their names, and I realized that all of the evangelical pastors and church leaders were well-known by this woman. We were having a conversation in a room with other people listening, and the woman was hesitant to go into great detail about her knowledge and relationships. However, she continued to give hints about her faith and her connections to the churches.