Balkan Connect was a really good experience. One of the questions running through my mind was "What is God doing in the Balkans?" and I feel like I got a few answers. Here are some moments from the gathering you might appreciate.
On Sunday about 25 young people come over to our campground for crepes, coffee and splashing around in boats on Lake Ohrid. That big guy on the right was shunned by the churches because he was a martial arts trainer but found a place in a new church called Glasnost. He has made a huge impact in his social circle for Jesus. When it was my turn to speak, I shared about the late and great and EVER-FUNKY Brian Ollman and his church in Pomona where one of the pastors – John Jensen – was a martial arts instructor, cage fighter and the guy who taught on "Missional Jujitsu" at a recent missional church event. The Macedonians really liked that story. It was like hearing about a mirror image on the other side of the world – another church with a similar story.
Glasnost led the worship on Saturday night with hip hop, creative movement, poetry, singing and ancient prayers from Macedonia. Glasnost is one of the churches, or "monastic communities" as Scot Bower
refers to them, that is making a difference in their city of Skopje,
Macedonia and also in other cities where they are attempting to plant
churches. Its a really cool group of wonderful, poor, struggling, creative young people who are the first ones to break out of the mold and start something that makes sense to the new generation in Macedonia. One of their leaders [Alpin, who attended our roundtable in Poland last year] is a tattoo artist and others are starting up new businesses to sustain themselves. One of their most impressive ministries, in my opinion, is the Kindergarten they run for Romany [Gyspy] children, many of whom would be on the streets begging for money with their mothers if if wasn't for their intervention. Someone recently made a short video about Glasnost and another video about their ministry is here.
Alek and his son watch the splashing war that happened when the participants from the conference jumped on our boats. What is it about the Balkan people that makes them fight all the time? Honestly?
Who is Tommie Naumann?? You should really know this man. Not only did he pioneer much of what I have just talked about in Macedonia, but he has started a church in Thessoloniki, Greece, that even the Greeks refer to as a very Greek church, one in which newcomer can remain Greek AND orthodox AND still join in with what God is doing among the next generation. They have a coffee bar in Thessoloniki and you will be pleased to hear that Tommie and his wife BLOG. This guy is REALLY REALLY SPECIAL to the Kingdom.
When the Balkan Connect crowd came over on Sunday morning, we showed them a cave church from the 1400's (my estimate) that has some of the best preserved paintings out of any of the cave churches in this area. The monks who painted these caves and turned them into churches [or 24-7 prayer spaces] were the emerging church of their era. They were an ascetic bunch of young Christian mystics noted for their miracles, healings and prophetic words. We felt a strange connection to them.
So, God is doing stuff in the Balkans, yes, but it seems to be in its infant stage right now and could really use some prayer and encouragement.
More reflections on Balkan Connect coming soon. But in the meantime, if you want to understand the heart of this prayer movement, check out a post by the man behind the man behind the man behind the man BEHIND THE MAN who was at the conference but keeping a low profile. Talkin' bout the ever-present Ian Nicholson, who got quite emotional, and yet restrained at the same time as Englishmen are required to do, when England drew with USA in the World Cup two nights ago.