"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21 NIV
The theme for this year's EEMN English Bible Camps was FAITH. Specifically, the importance of having faith that God has a plan for each of us, and that His plans are always better than ours! This was evident over and over again this summer, and although Pr. David and I are no longer surprised by how God can take a seemingly impossible situation and use it to His Glory, we always delight in His good works!
Here are a few highlights from the 2017 EEMN missions season...
ALBANIA ENGLISH BIBLE CAMP
In so many ways, this was a summer of "firsts." We began our season mid-June in the small rural mountain village of Peshkopi, Albania. The village is about a 4 hour drive from the capital city of Tirana, and can only be reached by driving through a series of harrowing switchbacks, narrow roads with oncoming traffic, and no guard rails to keep vehicles from plummeting several hundred meters off the side of the mountain. Our team definitely used their fair share of Dramamine, but the views were dramatic and a reminder that we serve a God that gave us the gift of His breathtaking creation.
Upon our arrival, we learned that EEMN was the first missions organization to ever seek partnership with the local church (not just come "do our program" and then leave). This is sad because Pr. Ermal is a gifted leader with a heart for the kids of Peshkopi and surrounding villages, and the students really respond to his teaching and his friendship. In addition, EEMN Missionaries, Dan and Dawn Hall (along with their two youngest children Isaac and Elizabeth) have formed many relationships with the local people. It was fun to walk down the street with them, and it is not uncommon for a ten minute trip to the grocery store to take several hours. This is due to the social nature of Albanians. They love to stop and chat! In all, we found the people of Albania to be very friendly and incredibly gracious.
Because Albania is a culturally Muslim country, we were asked to be sensitive about sharing Jesus right away. It is important to know that children in Albania rarely receive any positive affirmation. It is a culture that relies heavily on shame in order to achieve order and control. This means that when students give an incorrect answer in school, they often hear that they are stupid and will not amount to anything. However, we found quite the contrary to be true! In our 11 years teaching English Bible Camps, these students were some of the smartest we've encountered, and they definitely had fantastic English skills. Our team really had to work hard to find ways to challenge them. For many of these kids, this was the first time they heard that they were good at something. So, even though we needed to be careful about speaking of Jesus, we were bold to show His great love in abundance!
Our theme this year was Faith - Lessons from the Life of Joseph, with day four focusing on forgiveness. This is typically the day that we present the Gospel, and because we had been able to show the Love of Jesus, they were very open to the idea that there is a God that loves them so much that He would send His son to die for their sins. There is really no adjective that can properly describe the feeling of watching these kids convey the Joy of the Lord with their voices and actions. This year we were able to host 50 kids. We have been asked to come back next summer, and hope to be able to provide two weeks of camps. So, perhaps 100 or more in 2018!?!
From Albania, we stopped briefly in Turkey to begin debriefing discussions with Paul and Lea who returned the the United States after serving in the Antalya region for over 12 years. It was a privilege to be with them for a few days as they said their goodbyes to those who will forever be in their hearts and prayers. THANK YOU Paul and Lea for your dedicated service to the Lord!
LATVIA ENGLISH BIBLE CAMP
Pr. Mark and Julia Wilhelm lead the team to Latvia, and we are so thankful for their leadership and their friendship!
For the first time in many years, Pr. David and I were able to serve on a team as teachers in the English Bible Camp, and what fun!
Angela had the joy of teaching the 8 to 9 year olds. Typically, this age group is just beginning to learn some English and the curriculum is pretty basic. So, imagine my surprise when ALL of my students spoke English really well (some of them were even fluent). I quickly realized this when, one of my students told me that learning English was "nerve wracking!" For the students that were less fluent, I had the honor of working with the daughter of EEMN "Musicianary" to Latvia, Pr. David Michael Carrillo. Liga is an amazing young woman of 15, but has the wisdom and faith of someone much older. She was a joy and a blessing!
Pr. David had the rather overwhelming responsibility of working with 16 Belorussian students and 5 Belorussian adults that were invited to attend the Bible camp at Striki school. This was another first for EEMN! Because we are unable to do Bible camps in Belarus, we hit upon the idea of bringing Belarus to Latvia. The students ranged in age from 10 to 19 with vastly different English skills. Some of these kids were Believers, but the majority were not. Most had never seen, much less read, a Bible. However, we know that this is exactly the kind of situation through which God reveals Himself, and we certainly were not disappointed. At the end of the week, we were already hearing "when we do this next year..." What a blessing!
SLOVAKIA ENGLISH BIBLE CAMP AND TEENAGE LIFE AND ADVENTURE CAMP
WOW! What an amazing time we had in Slovakia this summer.
Under the faithful and well-oiled leadership of brother and sister team leaders, Phil Schmidt and Erika Mechsher, Pr. David and I were again able to serve as team members and teachers. This was our first time in Vranov where we were blessed to spend time with our dear sister in Christ, Lydia Melusova. Lydia is a busy woman, who in addition to her full time job with EVS Ministries, coordinates lodging, food, transportation and excursions for the teams. We could not do what we do without her, and we are so grateful for her heart for the Lord and the people of Slovakia! We even had a chance to visit the summer cottage of her parents and enjoy some Kofola (a Slovak soft drink that is kind of a cross between coke and root beer) together.
After the camp in Vranov, we met up with the rest of the team for our first ever Life and Adventure camp for teenagers. This camp was initially the brain-child of our Slovak partner in ministry, Miro Mudrak, who felt that many of the Bible camp students had "aged out" of our traditional VBS style model. Then, last fall, he surprised us by telling us that he had invited a group of Germans to join us. Initially, the Americans weren't quite sure how the Germans were going to fit into our idea of a teenage Bible camp, nor were the Germans sure how the Americans were going to fit into their idea of a teenage Bible camp (this came out during the debriefing at the end of the week). However, we all quickly discovered that when you put a group of Believers together, language barriers, cultures and customs don't matter. When Children of God are all focused on Him and His will, the Word of God is the only language that we need. Pr. David and I have honestly never had more fun, nor been more exhausted (might have had something to do with the 25 kilometer hike) than we were at the end of the week. To God be the Glory!
BULGARIA LIFE AND ADVENTURE CAMP (AND GREECE TOO)
This will forever be known as the camp that almost didn't happen. Otherwise known as the camp that God always knew would happen, but in His own way and in His own timing.
After a quick excursion into Greece (just over the Bulgarian border) to visit the Biblical site of Philippi and the baptismal site of Lydia (read Acts 16), the EEMN Teenage Life and Adventure Camp team arrived in Bulgaria fully prepared for "take two, light." Meaning, the same curriculum, but over three days instead of five. So, you can imagine our surprise when we were told "what you've planned won't work." Due to lack of proper promotion, on the Bulgarian end, the twenty or so teenagers that we were told would be attending the camp, never materialized. Instead, we were told that we would be ministering to adults that were coming expecting English as a second language (ESL) classes!?! After calling the team together and spending time in prayer, we decided to re-tool and move ahead. Our camp consisted of (amongst other things): a Hindu couple struggling with spirituality, a brand new believer struggling with the alcoholism and the aftermath of divorce, an 18 year old girl dating a 35 year old man (both were in attendance), and several couples from our partner church in Sophia. Oh, and one teenager. During the course of the camp, we presented real life topics and the opportunity to either engage in an ESL session or a discussion session. To our surprise, most participants elected the discussion session. Needless to say, Pr. David, Pr. David Michael and the team were exhausted, but at the end of our time together, we all agreed that it might have been the BEST CAMP OF THE SUMMER.
This was some much needed down time for us. Admittedly, we spent the first afternoon...no not shopping...SLEEPING in our rental apartment with the air-conditioning going full blast!
The second day was spent walking around Milan looking at the incredible sites and eating amazing food, and yes, our final day in Milan we visited the Duomo and the archeological site underneath where we discovered St. Augustine had been baptized. This was fun for us because our grandson is his namesake. Additionally, and definitely one of the most incredible things we've ever done, we visited the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. What is that you ask? Only the church where Leonardo da Vinci painted the Last Supper. Just WOW!
ESTONIA ENGLISH BIBLE CAMP
And last, but certainly not least, we stopped in Estonia to support and observe this unique camp. English Bible Camps in Estonia are different because they are generally held in the evenings and they cater mostly to adults rather than children.
We were SO blessed by our time with this team and their leaders, Pr. Bob and Patti Nordvall. If any of you have ever met this precious couple, you will know that our time together was prayerful and joyful. Pr. Bob and Patti incorporate a lot of time for prayer and team lead devotions into the daily schedule, and we really enjoyed watching how God is working through these faithful servants. This really came to light after meeting with the partnering church leaders. The partnering pastor and lay leaders agreed that there was not enough commitment to the camps from their congregation and elected to suspend the EEMN language camp, on the island of Saaremaa in Estonia, for a year while they looked for people to coordinate for the 2019 season. We were saddened by this, but because EEMN feels strongly that our relationships must be a true partnership, we agreed that this was the best course of action. Imagine our surprise, when three days later (that's not lost on us), Pr. Bob and Patti were contacted by those same leaders announcing that they had four people from the congregation step up to coordinate for the 2018 season!
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTED THE 2017 EEMN MISSIONS SEASON THROUGH FINANCIAL GIFTS AND PRAYER. A SPECIAL THANK YOU FOR OUR TEAM LEADERS AND TEAM MEMBERS WHO WERE WILLING TO STEP OUT IN FAITH TO SHARE THE LOVE OF CHRIST WITH THE PEOPLE OF ALBANIA, LATVIA, SLOVAKIA AND ESTONIA!
We landed in Tirana, Albania on Monday and are preparing to welcome the rest of the first-ever EEMN Albania English Bible Camp team, on Thursday! Please also check the ALBANIA '17 blog page for updates and photos of the camp.
We've just returned from a month long tour to the land of Sweet Tea and BBQ (South and Southeastern United States), and are excited to share what the Lord has been doing through EEMN! Here are just a few highlights of our trip...
Marietta, GA - CultureLink Training Seminar
We were honored to participate in a three day Culture Link training seminar. This is the curriculum that EEMN is currently using to train short term team leaders and members. This unique curriculum is designed to take emphasis off of simply performing the task at hand, and to understand that, at the core of all we do, we are disciples who are to GO and make disciples. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. As Larry so succinctly put it, "Task development is easy. People development is messy!"
Larry is a dynamic speaker whose love for missions is evident, and David and I look forward to implementing much of what we learned. In fact, we will be using a great deal of this training during our board retreat this coming fall, as well a during the training of our own teams to Albania, Slovakia and Bulgaria; which we will personally be leading this summer!
Greensville, SC - ECO Conference
Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO) is a new Presbyterian body born out of the Fellowship of Presbyterians movement (much like the Word Alone movement within the Lutheran church giving rise to LCMC and NALC). Since a world focus on discipleship is central to ECO, we felt called to participate in this exciting gathering, and are looking forward to growing the relationships that were made over the months and years to come.
Wilksboro, NC - EEMN North Carolina Event
A HUGE THANK YOU to Jim and Judy Campbell for hosting an EEMN Event introducing the work of EEMN to their friends and family!
Jim and Judy are former members of Faith Lutheran Church in Albuquerque (our home church) who recently moved to North Carolina to be closer to family and friends. After learning that we would be in their area, they hosted TWO events on our behalf. We enjoyed sharing what the Lord is doing through EEMN and pray that those whom we encountered might be moved to support EEMN through prayer, participation on one of our short term teams, and financial gifts.
Destin, FL is on the emerald coast and is truly beautiful - beaches the color and consistency of finely milled flour and emerald green water!
Although we did spend a total of 30 minutes walking barefoot on the beach and dipping our toes into the water, the majority of our time was spent with Mike Wind, Adult Education Missionary, planning our next steps in reaching and discipling adults living in Eastern Europe.
This partnership is a result of listening to the needs and wants of our ministry partners in each of the areas where EEMN currently serves. We are looking forward to developing this new branch of EEMN ministries, and to additional opportunities for expanding our already growing network of North American congregations and East European congregations. To God be the glory!
Doug and Mary are whom David and I aspire to be when we grow up! This amazing couple is approaching 90, and just moved to AL from FL where they are preaching the Gospel with passion and energy to the residents of the assisted living community where they live.
Doug is the primary author of the disciple making curriculum being used by Mike Wind, and both Doug and Mary have a particular heart for the people of Estonia. We know many of the same people, and this is how God used our connections to put us together. As Mary puts it, "God's people find God's people."
In fact, during our time with Doug and Mary, they felt moved to share "The Singing Revolution" with us. This is a documentary detailing how the people of Estonia began a peaceful revolution which ultimately resulted in their freedom from Soviet rule (we HIGHLY recommend it)! During the movie, Doug received a phone call, but because we were involved in the film, he let it go to voice mail. A few moments later, David received a phone call from the same number. Thinking it might be something important, Doug returned the call, only to connect with Timo, a young seminarian in Estonia, who was calling to share the news of his upcoming graduation with Doug and David. The catch is that Timo had no idea that we were in AL visiting Doug and Mary and watching a movie about the revolution in Estonia! God is amazing all of the time, but it is always a delight when he does something like this!
Brenham, TX - "Chance" preaching and teaching opportunity
Our final stop, on the way home, was to have been to Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, TX, preaching church of Max Lucado. However, through one obstacle after another, David and I felt that perhaps it wasn't in God's perfect timing. This lead Angela to contact, Gary Crocker, amongst her favorite customers from her mortgage days. Gary lives in Brenham, TX which is located halfway between San Antonio and Houston, and is home to Blue Bell Ice Cream. The initial contact was to simply ask if we could worship with he and his family at their new LCMC/NALC church plant, Abiding Word.
BUT GOD, had another plan!
Martin Moore, pastor at Abiding Word, had been praying for a world missions focus for his church, when he was contacted by Gary about our visit. Feeling that it was an answer to prayer, Pr Moore asked David to deliver the message and had us speak during the Sunday School hour following the service. This precious congregation is truly committed to Kingdom work, and we believe that the Lord will continue to bless all of their outreach efforts; including those that might involve EEMN.
Albuquerque, NM - Home for awhile!
It's always good to come home. After putting over 5,000 miles on a rental car, and lacking our beloved green chile, we arrived back in Albuquerque on February 13th.
We are humbly asking for prayers for the following:
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A BLESSED NEW YEAR!
As we celebrate the greatest gift ever given in the blessed birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, David and I want to take the time to give thanks to all who support EEMN through their unceasing prayers, countless volunteer hours and financial support. You cannot begin to know how much each one of you is appreciated. We wish you and your friends and families a most blessed Christmas!
THE GIFT OF PARTNERSHIP
THE GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP - “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
True friendship is a rare a precious gift, and friendship that stands the test of time is rarer still. Such are our friends, Tom and Vicki Crow. Indeed, we have known Tom since high school (he and Angela actually attended the same middle school; although they didn't know it at the time), and have known Tom and Vicki since 1992, shortly after we were married. In fact, they are such an integral part of our faith journey that we cannot think of the things of God without being reminded of this precious couple!
So, perhaps it was no surprise that during a lovely dinner late this summer, when we mentioned that we were in search of a new office, that Tom and Vicki offered to let EEMN use the vacant space in their office - Crow Financial in Albuquerque, NM. This is saving a significant amount of money and time (our commute is about 15 minutes as opposed to 35 or 40), and these resources can now be dedicated to Kingdom work!
We vacated our old office space in Rio Rancho on December 15th. As the last piece of furniture was put into place on the 16th, Tom welcomed us home! As you can see from the slideshow below we are beyond blessed by their incredible generosity. We truly love Tom and Vicki and give thanks to God for them and their servant hearts!
PLEASE NOTE OUR NEW ADDRESS IS:
8210 LOUISIANA BLVD., NE, SUITE B,
ALBUQUERQUE, NM, 87113
THE GIFT OF A NEW YEAR...
We will begin our new year visiting congregations in Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Please pray for safe travel, fruitful meetings and joyous fellowship with old and new EEMN partners. Stay posted for updates!
LATVIA - ADDITIONAL BLESSINGS
The disciple-making conference in Saldus, Latvia brought so many unexpected blessings! Pr David and Angela were invited to dinner by Indra Rassa, the Mayor of Saldus, and our dear friend Daina Zandberga, Director of Striki School. During the course of our conversation, the mayor expressed the desire for Saldus to become the Christian learning hub of Latvia, with St Gregors Christian Mission Center at the center. Indra was very excited to have so many nationalities represented in her small town and hopes that our conference was the first of many such events. We used this opportunity to make a request to have students from Belarus in attendance at our 2017 English Bible Camps. Due to restrictive laws governing evangelism (or lack thereof), EEMN has been unable to host English Bible Camps in that country. Indra was very receptive to the idea!
We have already shared this with Valery Hryhoryk, our partner in ministry from Belarus. His response? How many students can I bring?!!
Pr David was also interviewed on the Christian radio station in Saldus. We invite you to listed to the interview below. Note: It takes a minute for the interview to start. It is in English., but in the mean time, you can hear what advertisements sound like on Latvian radio!
Pr. Oleg and Viktoria Schewtschenko from Ukraine were one of the participants in the conference. We were able to have some time in fellowship with them, and they have asked EEMN to resume English Bible Camps in Ukraine. This time through the Brethren Lutheran Church. We are looking forward to bringing camps to Ukraine beginning summer 2018! This is definitely an answer to several prayers for many who have grown to love the people of Ukraine; ourselves included!
As Missionaries, we count it among our greatest joys to be able to bless others, and certainly in so doing, we always find ourselves filled in a way that only serving others can provide. In Austria, the tables were turned! Tea, coffee and strudel abounded! Our host, Gerald Wakolbinger - Director of Department of Evangelism and Outreach for Lutheran Church Austria - drove us all over Upper Austria. We visited churches in Klosterneuburg, Attersee, Gmunden, Windischgarsten, Steyer, and Schloss Klaus - home of Austrian Torchbearers International, which is housed in a restored 800 year old castle/fortress.
Pastor David preached in Windischgarsten on the last day of our trip where the congregation blessed us with their free will offering of 300 euros! We look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for a possible partnership with Lutheran Church Austria.
Our flights home were uneventful (save for the mad dash to make our final flight from New York to New Mexico). We are beginning our adventure of working together full-time for the first time, and know that our different work styles will be both a challenge and a blessing. To God be the Glory!
Some of you might be wondering, "We know you have a missions ministry, but what do you do exactly?"
We are so glad you asked!
Please watch the YouTube video, embedded below, for a complete overview of our ministry: