Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Serious Joy! (Part 1)

The following is my trip report from "Party with the Gypsies 2009," which I am scheduling to post in 4 parts on 6/8, 6/15, 6/22 & 6/29 as I prepare to travel to Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey w/ Global Celebration again this year.  For 12 days, we'll be sharing God's Love, food, clothing, music & prayers as we reach out to poor gypsy neighborhoods in 3 countries; Georgian & Winnie Banov will also teach a "School of the Cross" missions internship while we travel "In the Steps of Paul" to historic sites of New Testament Christianity including Philippi, Thessaloniki, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus & Smyrna... Thank you for remembering us all in your prayers!

“Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”
[Luke 7:22]

Party with the Gypsies 2009 was honestly one of the most wonderful experiences of my life so far... I've been on some pretty good mission trips (Gautemala 2004 & 2007, Mozambique 2008, Nicaragua last January), but this felt like stepping into the gospel with a team of fun-loving, "wild & crazy" Jesus-lovers and heavy drinkers of Holy Spirit new wine joy!

A few months before leaving on this trip, I had become a little weary and wanted to know more clearly why I was going - as I prayed, I sensed that God wanted to show me more of His heart. Yes, we brought "practical help" in the form of food, money, medical attention, about a ton of donated goods in our extra suitcases, etc - but I think I saw & participated this time in how powerful and effective and important it is to move in the atmosphere-changing grace of real Love and be globally contagious with God's outrageous joy!

The team met in JFK airport on Friday afternoon June 12 - I was sitting in the food court with a slice of pizza when the first person to greet me was Patty, whom I'd met on the Africa trip last year - I love it when you're stepping into new territory and the first person you meet knows your name! :) feels like family... (because, well, it is). We catch up for a few minutes on what we've been doing since Africa (she's been to the Philippines, I've been to Nicaragua - clearly we're both missions addicts :)) before Kevin & Nancy roll in and introduce themselves with buckets of boisterous Georgia laughter and immense warmth - the export version of "southern hospitality" in a big way...
I learn quickly that this gypsy trip has many repeat missionaries who've been annually anywhere from 2 to 9 times, which is a very good sign (& yes, i'm probably hooked now, too). I meet first-timers, amazing Jill - originally from Taiwan, born-again in Aleutian Alaska 5 years ago, now lives in Seattle - and 22 yr old Christina, whose life was radically changed at a Fresh Wind youth conference in Toronto when she was 17; also 14 yr old Courtney, our youngest team member, who radiates purity & maturity beyond her years, accompanied by another Nancy (we have 3 of them on our team this year) who attends the same church as Courtney & has been on this trip several times before.

At the gate, we meet up with other first-timers, including four ladies from Texas who have come with their pastor's wife Jalaine (a repeater), each with a lock of hair dyed hot pink and tee shirts that say "Gypsy Roadies". These ladies come prepared! with endless bags of toys & plastic bead bracelets & stickers for the gypsy children. A couple of sisters from east Texas, Melli and Bobbi, have made great strides of faith to come on this trip (and God meets them at every step!)... Will from Austin, Jason from Chico, Misty, Melissa, my roommate Rose - about 36 of us in all?

Of course, I figured that anyone who signs up for a mission trip
across the slums of eastern Europe with Georgian & Winnie Banov is probably up for anything, especially huge outpourings of love, joy & laughter :) and of course I am not disappointed by any means with this group! from the very beginning, the unique gifts and beauty of individual personalities flow together in a harmonious team that moves quickly from place to place with lots of joy and almost seamless execution of practical details... aided tremendously by the presence of fabulous team leaders and local missionaries like pastors Zhoro & Mariana, Sandy, Angel, our bus driver Kircho (sp?) who has driven the "purple bus" (actually blue on the outside, with royal purple curtains inside - reminds me at first of some crazy hippie bus from the 60's, except the substance being poured out on this bus is genuine Holy Spirit fun) for all 9 years of the Party with the Gypsies tour through Bulgaria.
Somehow we manage to stay "drunk" with love & laughter and consume huge quantities of scripture (Georgian & Winnie teach daily devotions with a microphone at the front of the bus while we travel) and accomplish several outreaches each day, checking in & out of hotels, rest stops, meals, border crossings, etc.  Amazing! :)

To be continued (on 6/15/11)...

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
[Luke 4:18-19; words of Jesus, quoting Isaiah 6:1-2]

"You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
[Hebrews 1:9, quoting Psalm 45:7 in reference to Jesus]

spontaneous worship in Munich airport  :)

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