Month: November 2005

Airsoft War 1

Airsoft Platoon

Airsoft Platoon

Today we put the plastic weapon arsenal to use and had a great time! The field across the street from our house was a perfect place to play, and after we finished there we continued up on the hill behind our village. The seven of us shot about 5,000 plastic BB’s at each other, and after four hours everyone was exhausted. Cathy then made us a feast of chili dogs over which we exaggerated stories of our own combat glory and compared welts.

My single shot rifle inflicted the most pain in close range, pleasing me immensely, but its lack of accuracy made this infrequent. The automatic rifle toters marked more kills because they could simply spray their target, but their ammunition was harmless. Andrew’s pump action single-shot “shotgun” was the best combination of sting, rapid firing, and accuracy. The mix of guns made things interesting.

Having played both paintball and airsoft, I found paintball more fun and more realistic to a shooting experience, but in a dollar for dollar fun-value comparison, airsoft wins. Either way, the father-son value of the day was off the charts!

Thanksgiving Haircut

Jerry's haircut

Jerry’s Thanksgiving Haircut

Today I am thankful for many things, not the least of which is the fact that there is still enough hair on top my head to render a buzz cut looking like a buzz cut and not a shave! But barely. I couldn’t resist the urge to do a before-after picture and then annoy you with the looping results.

The haircut was only one of today’s fun diversions. The other was a hand waxer.

This crock-pot looking thing was full of melted paraffin, and when you dipped your hand into the warm wax it formed a hot glove around your hand. After removing the little glove several minutes later your hand was soft, warm, and exfoliated. The women took this fairly seriously, although with a bit of amusement. Everyone else was strictly entertained. This was the ultimate toy! If there is one thing universal about the mixture of candles and children, it’s that the fingers end up in the melted wax. Our friend’s device simply took this pleasure to its logical conclusion.

There are many other things I am thankful about today. Were I to list them all, your recently consumed turkey would certainly put you to sleep if my list didn’t.

But there are three other significant things, now in my possession, for which I am thankful; my travel bags. The rest of my family was equally thankful to see the delivery truck arrive this morning, as they received fun stuff from America. Several of our friends were thankful, as well, stopping by a short time later to receive their U.S.-made purchases. The plastic arsenal and everything else made it here just fine, too.

Back Home Again

JFK Airport

JFK Airport Terminal 1

After another 24 hours of travel, I am back home again, albeit without my bags. As is often the case, the travel gods at Charles de Gaulle Airport took them as a temporary sacrifice for trying to pass too quickly through their space in the world. I had a 50 minute window to transfer flights there, not enough time unless everything goes perfectly, so my 80 minute departure delay from New York meant I missed my original flight and was on the next available flight from Paris to Budapest. My bags, on the other hand, didn’t make the flight and didn’t meet me in Budapest. Alone in the world somewhere, they are now left to defend themselves from thieving baggage handlers who would pilfer their Christmas treasures. (And I suppose the plastic weapons arsenal didn’t help speed them along their way, either.) Hopefully we will be reunited tomorrow morning with all their contents!

It sure is good being back with my family!

Calling home from Target

One of the interesting nuances of our communication setup is my ability to call Cathy in Budapest from anywhere here in the U.S. very cheaply, including Target. Last summer we got a U.S. mobile phone (that would be a “cell” phone in the local language here) with nation-wide long distance service. Since our Internet phone in Budapest is just another U.S. phone number, I can call Cathy easily. This helped immensely yesterday as I did some of our Christmas shopping and kept having to ask her questions about what to get!

On Becoming A Small Arms Dealer

Today the third shipment arrived from my Chinese supplier, and now the arsenal is complete. I’ll fly next Tuesday to meet my contacts in Budapest and deliver the goods; 2 shotguns, 2 M4 rifles, 2 pistols, 1 Uzi, and 15,000 plastic BB’s. Sure, they’re plastic toy guns, Airsoft, but I hope airport security sees it that way and doesn’t mistake me for a small arms dealer.

The chances of getting these full scale replica toy weapons smoothly through security at the three airports I traverse on the way to Budapest is slim to none, but I have to try. Half these are for my friends, and half are for our sons. I anticipate some great Saturday morning airsoft wars this winter!

[…..]

Oh yeah – US Ministry Partner Development Trip Update #8: Another day of good appointments!

Voice back

A long night sleep and a good dose of cold medicine supplemented your prayers to result in the return of my voice. Thanks for praying!

Today has been another one of those “I could do this all the time” days. I’m glad I didn’t miss it because of my voice.

Voice gone

US Ministry Partner Development Trip Update #6:

Today, shortly after my breakfast appointment, I lost my voice. This made my lunch appointment more difficult and calls into question the three appointments I have scheduled for tomorrow.

While it is true that God does not need my voice to raise our support, He has frequently used my voice in the past to explain our needs. If it doesn’t return by tomorrow it will increase my curious anticipation to see what God will do with the situation! I’d appreciate your prayers for the return of my voice.

Cancellation was a pleasure

U.S. Ministry Partner Development Trip Day #5:

Invariably a week full of appointments yields one or two appointments cancelled. Today was the first cancellation, but it was a pleasure because I got to visit with a friend and not worry about getting to the key questions: “Would you consider joining our Ministry Team?” and “Who are some people you know that might like to hear about our ministry?”

It was also nice because it was at the University Club in Brentwood with a great view of downtown St. Louis from its 22nd floor window.

Tonight I then talked to the AWANA club kids at Brentwood Bible Church. 30 years ago I was in those same seats in the same room going through the same program.

Lots of Eastern Europe outreach from St. Louis

Many of the people I have met here in St. Louis during the last three days have been involved in church outreach trips to Romania. 1st Baptist of Ellisville and 1st Evangelical Free Church, where they attend, have sent teams to do various helpful things there. Consequently those I met have also been through Budapest.

It is rare, but nice, to meet people who can distinguish Bucharest from Budapest!

Déja vu

Today wrapped up my second day on this trip of meeting new people who might join our ministry team. Tonight I had déja vu. I met someone again whom I met 7 years ago in this process! We had connected but then lost touch with each other, so it was nice seeing him again and meeting his wife.

English, Privacy, and Huge Cars

Charles de Gaulle Airport

Inside Charles de Gaulle

U.S. Ministry Partner Development Trip Day #1:

None of these should surprise me, but they do. It always seems like such a novel thing when I come back to the U.S. to hear English all the time. Yet with ubiquitous English comes a loss of privacy; everyone else within earshot can now understand me, too.

And I’m sure it’s because of all the old, small cars on Budapest roads that makes the number of HUGE, new cars on American roads jump out at me.

Either way, all three of these changes contrasts what didn’t change much yesterday; my scenery. I spent 23 hours looking at the inside of an airport or the inside of an airplane. It really wasn’t bad, but I’m glad to be at my destination.

Audrey, The Guard


Audrey the Guard

Audrey, The Guard

Audrey was a guard in this year’s ICSB Middle School production of Aladdin. She did a great job and had fun doing it. You can catch the final performance tomorrow night if you hurry and get tickets now.


Over 50 responses at GodLovesRussia.com

In early October I wrote a letter to our Ministry Team in which I erroneously stated that 7 people had indicated a decision to trust Christ at GodLovesRussia.com in response to ads we had run on Google.ru. A week later what I had stated had still not become a reality, so I sent an email to most of our Ministry Team explaining the error.

Now about six weeks later it appears that there have been over 50 responses at GodLovesRussia.com! This is encouraging.

The most interesting thing about this is that GodLovesRussia.com defies logic. It is the most basic site with only one option; “Yes.” It has no cultural context (other than language) and no background information. It is just an outline of the gospel, presented in typical “4 Spiritual Laws” Campus Crusade for Christ fashion. I think the reason it works is because it’s the Internet. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. If we tried to get people to like it, they would still go somewhere else if they weren’t interested in the gospel. Indeed, we have demonstrated that creating a rich site with a plethora of culturally appropriate pre-evangelistic information yields virtually no direct response to the gospel. Who would have thunk?

Next week looks good

Earlier I mentioned how I was trying something new to find more people to join our ministry. Asking a friend to invite another friend to lunch seems to have worked well. Next week there are 11 appointments where I will both see a friend again and meet a new one. I am really looking forward to this. Scheduling appointments is the part I have trouble with, but meeting people is the part I love. Several times over the last 17 years with Campus Crusade after weeks such as next one, I have told myself, “I could do this all the time.”

Meeting in Ozoir La Ferrière

It was good seeing my friend, Eric Célérier, again today at www.Connaitredieu.com‘s* ministry office in Ozoir La Ferrière (south east of Paris and well away from the current riots going on at night in the area further north). For the last six months this ministry has seen about 40 people a day indicate they placed their faith in Jesus while reading the site AND give the ministry their name and email address. Ninety others indicate the same decision but don’t give their contact information. ConnaitreDieu’s 300 volunteers follow up these new believers and work toward helping them grow in their faith and integrate to a local church.

Our initial hopes were to partner with them to produce a similar ministry in the Russian language, but as we discussed today, the cost of doing this exceeds our currently available funds. We hoped there would be some flexibility in this, but it looks like ConnaitreDieu isn’t in a position for this right now.

God knows how He will reach Russian speakers on the Internet, and we will keep trying to figure it out. For now we know a few ways that don’t seem to be how He plans to do it.

*Connaitre Dieu means “to know God.”

A Walk in Paris

2005-11-06 Paris

Paris Street at Dusk

Museums are normally like the first quarter of a meaningless football game on a Sunday afternoon; they put you to sleep. Today’s museum, Musée D’Orsay, was not this at all. It was a fascinating collection of the Impressionists and Art Nouveau in one spot. There was even an entire Van Gogh room. “Worth the price of admission” had new meaning as well; it was free today!

We loitered around various other interesting places the rest of the day and met up with the Spears in the evening after their church dismissed.

Tomorrow we meet with www.ConnaitreDieu.com.

Perthes en Gatinais

Harvey in France

Harvey letting me out his kitchen window

Our friends, the Spears, hosted us for the weekend and took us for a walk in the pastoral fields near their home, Perthes en Gatinais, France.

This is Harvey, just after he let me out their front window to catch up with their son, Charles, who had run down the street to the bakery to get some “pain au chocolate’s” (croissants with chocolate) for breakfast.

Planned meetings on Monday and Tuesday with www.ConnaitreDieu.com brought us here to France even though, to our disappointment, those meetings have been scaled back greatly. Unexpected changes in the life of our Russian language evangelistic website ministry coordinator, Alex, prevented him from making this trip, but we had already purchased non-refundable tickets. So here we are, happy to be seeing our friends from Orlando again.

In the afternoon we walked around Fountainebleu, an old chateau built before the French Revolution, just a few kilometers from their house. The chateau and surrounding grounds give ample evidence why the French Revolution occurred; the rich ruling class deserved it. Fountainebleu was a country “hunting lodge,” an amazingly opulent building that would have consumed a significant percentage of the country’s gross domestic output at the time.

More on Tomas

Tomas

Tomas

God wants Christians to be involved in his work; that is clear. Christians frequently confuse their role in this process and mistakenly conclude God needs them to do His work. Occasionally someone comes along that illustrates how much God does not need us to do His work. Tomas is that person.

After posting about him yesterday I asked him to tell me more about his background. His story is below, but here is the highlight:

After a year or so I came to the conclusion that it was very well possible God exists, and that he is personal, almighty, omnipresent and righteous. I also had the feeling he would be kind of friendly. At that time I didn’t have a Bible or any kind of religious literature nor did I have any Christians around me whom I knew of.

Here is the rest of the story:

I grew up in an atheistic family during the rule of Communists in our country. For that reason, I had no information about God and I was 100% sure he didn’t exist. Once, in high school, a very interesting discussion took place after a class on “Scientific Atheism.” It was of course without the teacher and we were challenging the idea that science could prove God’s nonexistence. This question provoked long lasting thinking on my own about God, his existence, his attributes and character.

After a year or so I came to the conclusion that it was very well possible God exists, and that he is personal, almighty, omnipresent and righteous. I also had the feeling he would be kind of friendly. At that time I didn’t have a Bible or any kind of religious literature nor did I have any Christians around me whom I knew of.

When I came to the university, I bought a Bible. It was shortly after the fall of Communism and you could buy Bibles everywhere – I bought one at a newspaper stand. The reason for that wasn’t my spiritual interest; rather it was my interest in Old Testament stories. But when I started to read, I was disappointed and put the book back on my bookshelf. But someone told me to try the New Testament. And that was a different case. The gospels spoke to me very vividly. I was surprised that the same idea of God which was in my mind was presented here. What was new was that God would judge us one day according to our lives. And I knew that would be something very unpleasant for me, even though I considered my life to be pretty good.

The most important news for me was about Jesus Christ. The only thing I knew about him at that time was that he lived sometime between B.C. and A.D. in Israel and was crucified. Then I realized he was and is the Son of God who lived on this earth and who paid the penalty for our sins. I knew I was on the right track, but it took another year for the final decision.

At the beginning of the third year at the university I went to a student meeting of Campus Crusade. It was in fact almost my first contact with Christians. I didn’t enjoy the meeting. I thought the people there were somehow strange. I wanted to run away. But at the end of the lecture, which was good, the speaker gave an opportunity to invite Christ into one’s life. That was the first time I had heard about the need to make this decision. So I gave my life to Christ as the speaker prayed and ran away from there.

But they were well-trained, these staff of Campus Crusade. They found me in a couple days and made me join a Bible study group. There I went through the basics in my relationship with the Lord. I learned a lot there about daily living with Christ and also how to share my faith. I started to share Christ with other students. One of the first was my schoolmate Vitek. He also became a Christian and serves full-time now to reach other students for Christ.

Tomas and Vitek are both staff members of Campus Crusade for Christ now.

Thanks, Tomas!

Tomas leads www.znateho.cz

Tomas, leader of www.znateho.cz

Tomas

In our last prayer letter (contact us if you want a copy) we mentioned how God brought Milan to know Jesus through the Czech online ministry, www.znateho.cz. I thought I’d show you who leads that ministry; Tomas.

When Tom Seely and I met Tomas he was directing the Jesus Film ministry for CCCI in Czech Republic. His team would go city by city through the country hosting film showing weekends so that everyone in Czech Republic would have the chance to see Jesus. Recently he became the Director of Operations for the Czech ministry, and he leads www.znateho.cz as well.

“Ahoy, Matey!” is a greeting I only hear in SpongeBob cartoons and B-rate pirate movies. Yet “Ahoy” is a common Czech greeting, taken quite seriously. Furthermore, Czech grammar requires modifying the object of that greeting by adding a “y” at the end. My daily greeting to Tomas is therefore, “Ahoy, Tomashy!” This always gives me a chuckle.

Tomas is married and has three children.

All Saints Day

November 1 is a holiday in Hungary, All Saints Day. Everything is closed, and when the holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday it becomes a 4-day weekend for everyone. As much as I like candy, celebrating All Saints Day has a better feel to it than Halloween.