Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Serious Joy! (Part 3)

The following is Part 3 of my trip report from "Party with the Gypsies 2009," which I'm scheduling to post on 6/8, 6/15, 6/22 & 6/29 while I prepare to travel to Bulgaria, Greece & Turkey with Global Celebrations 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!

When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.
[I Corinthians 2:1-5]

I think there is something about knowing you have little or nothing to rely on in the natural realm that makes this kind of faith so simple - the reality of God is so near as we walk into village after village with nothing but love and joy and faith to be His hands extended to a sick, dirty, and impoverished world... this is the reality we forget when we have so many other things to rely on back home, but the truth is that God is just as real and miracles are just as possible, love and joy are just as desperately needed in North America or anywhere else in the world. I'm learning to take these little glimpses of God's heart and see with new eyes when I get back home - think less, drink more of His love and joy and truth, laugh often, enjoy His kind of life... be open to receive the miraculous things He wants to do in our lives every day... and I'm learning that just because we have nice clothes or a comfortable house doesn't mean we aren't desperately needy for God in lots of other ways! :)

One night in Varna, Bulgaria, I sense God wants me to just put away my camera and "dance with Me" - I know He means that dancing with the gypsy children is the same as dancing with Jesus Himself (“whatever you did for one of the least of these… you did for me.” Mt 25:40). That night, as the band plays gypsy worship music from a nearby rooftop and we all spin and jump and hug and smile, I realize that the JOY in this place is just as important as any material help - even healing! - we could possibly bring. as if to confirm that revelation, a local woman is weeping as we get on the bus to leave, gratefully telling one of the Bulgarian workers, "Thank you! Thank you!" - she lives in one of the ubiquitous concrete apartment buildings nearby, and she had been feeling heaviness and discouragement, like so many of those we have danced with this week. She says this has been like a "spiritual meal" to her - she had been so hungry for life and hope and joy until we came that day...

A few closing notes about photos and itinerary that follow - there is one photo from a restaurant in Burgas, with about half of our team in a tickling, laughing pile on the floor... all I can say about this is that I believe the overflow of laughter and joy that erupted during that dinner is also part of tapping into God's miraculous grace and love. It was a bit of shock for our servers, who knew full well we'd had nothing but bottled water to drink all evening! :) and joy like that affects people in different ways: one of our waitresses was so delighted to see such hilarity that she took pictures with her cell phone; the restaurant manager, on the other hand, whose focus was on keeping control of the atmosphere, looked intensely fearful. Georgian spoke about this on the bus the next day - what does it say about our world that abundant joy is so frightening? we'd been gracious and loving all evening - we weren't breaking anything, or dangerous to anyone - it's just so out of the ordinary to be so happy that you can't stop laughing!  I almost didn't include this photo, because I know it's hard to explain that kind of expression (which also happened at our farewell dinner in Turkey, to the amusement of some Muslim businessmen who were meeting on the terrace just outside our dining area)... I felt this photo needed to be included, because some people would like to have miraculous healings and spiritual results without being willing to give up "control" and fully yield to God's love and joy. I saw God do amazing things on this trip through people who aren't overly preoccupied with their reputation, and are really willing to enjoy Him :)

To be continued (on 6/29/11)...

This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. [I Corinthians 1:25-29]

"And as for the outsiders who now follow me,
working for me, loving my name,  
and wanting to be my servants—
All who keep Sabbath and don't defile it,
holding fast to my covenant—
I'll bring them to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
They'll be welcome to worship the same as the 'insiders,'
to bring burnt offerings and sacrifices to my altar.
Oh yes, my house of worship
will be known as a house of prayer for all people."
The Decree of the Master, God himself,
who gathers in the exiles of Israel:
"I will gather others also,
gather them in with those already gathered."
[Isaiah 56:6-8 MSG]

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