Jun 30, 2013

365 days later...

Hungary 8 - Kecskemét Baptist Church
by Teri Drake

This concert was done in a beautiful, modern Baptist church.  They had just finished holding a week of English Language Camp, where they had another team of Americans there teaching younger Hungarians how to speak English.

When Attila, the leader of OM Hungary approached them about out tour, they had at first informed him that there was already another band there to close out the week of camp with a concert.  But then the leader of that band, Dona, found out that it was Bill.  Dona immediately went to work to try to get us there, even sacrificing his own time on stage so we could get out the message of Broken & Complete to the youth there.  Dona is a "class act" for sure.

The original idea was that Dona and his band would open for Bill's band.  Problem was, we arrived just a tad late due to unforeseen circumstances, and by the time we got set up and sound-checked, there was no time to return all the setting for Dona's group.  We found out about 3 minutes before the starting that we would now be going first with our 1.5 hour concert, and Dona's band would close out with worship! 

The hall was packed with expectant youth, and their parents.  The concert itself was extremely well received, and the Pastor sat in the front pew and just beamed the entire time.  He was enjoying it so much, Bill and his band just kept looking at him to get encouragement and inspiration!  When it was over, he got up and just blessed us, and then heaped more blessing.  He said the concert was a perfect finish to the week, and thanked God for sending us as a special gift to their week.  We certainly didn't deserve all that accolade, but his heart shone through. 

After the concert, a woman we'll call Anna (pictured with Bill), came up to Bill and told him that she "went first" with her father after hearing Bill in concert at another church in town last year!  Bill vividly remembered her coming forward, distraught,  crying and wanting to repent about not talking to her dad for many years, but not knowing how to start. They had a totally broken relationship due to some past abuses. Now their relationship is loving and reconciled after she took Bill's challenge to "Go First" with him, and ask him to forgive her for any part in the brokenness she needed to own, including any hard feelings, unforgiveness, bitterness, etc.

This night, Bill shared the similar message and she was in the room!  Anna came up to Bill again, asking if Bill recognized her.  Bill said "Yes, of course!  We prayed for over 20 minutes, helping you to get to a place of some healing, so you could begin the forgiveness process with your father, and get set free from all kinds of bondages."  She related how things have been healed with her father - they actually have a relationship again, and she thanked us over and over again, retelling the story and saying now she is convicted to go to a work collegue because there are problems with that relationship that needs reconciliation.

It's so rewarding hearing of the fruits of last years labor!  What a huge blessing God gave us this night, actually getting to see the results of seeds sown and prayers prayed, even it is was one year later!

A Tour Shapshot

Hungary 6 - Påpa Catholic Church

A three hour journey from our base on a nice tourist type bus brought us to an agricultural center town called Påpa.   Kinda of a funny name for a town in the English language I will admit!  I found out it means "Pope", which made our time here even more interesting given that we were doing the concert in a Catholic Church - let me explain!

Upon talking with the Baptist Pastor, Zoltan, he told us that all the churches in this town get along and actually do activities together.  In our case, the Baptist, Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholic church were working together to promote our concert in their city.   This was awesome, because so much of the concert focuses on reconciliation, and the Christians in this town wanted to emulate that in the way they operate to the public.  

So much harm has been done in Hungary in the name of religion, and the local Catholic Church, being painfully aware of that, are trying hard to be the hands and feet of Jesus right alongside the other congregations.  The Catholic Church was new, very modern, and we held the concert outside on a nice patio-style veranda that opened out into a large grassy area, behind which there were many apartment buildings.  Many people heard the message not only by being there, but from their own balconies - listening to the concert while staying in their own homes!

Zoltan first met me in 1995 in Erd; a "Seasons and Souvenirs" Concert with just me and a piano.  He said it really ministered to him, and it was a privilege for him to host us.  His church building is literally falling down, and he is trying to raise the money to fix it.  Afterwards, he told us he was thrilled to have had us, and had been told by the mayor that next time we come, please do the concert in the city center!

Our Dance leader, Michelle McKirahan, has quite a testimony, and after the concert she was approached by a Hungarian lady who heads up a recovery program for women who have been abused, battered, sex trafficking, etc. Michelle is a beautiful dancer with an awesome heart, who is also a visual artist with silk scarves.  Michelle does a dance with some of the scarves she's made that depict God making beauty from ashes, and it leaves the audience breathless.  Michelle will go back and give her testimony to the woman's Recovery Ministry in two weeks time, as she will still be in Hungary, and had actually been praying before this trip that God would give her more opportunities to minister in this country.  

Jun 28, 2013

And The Truth Shall Set You Free

Hungary 4 - Halasztelek

The Preparation:

It was our first concert of the tour, we spent all day continuing to
rehearse, and then the venue changed from being outdoors in the city
center, to being at our accommodation place - a Reformed School, and
we were to play in the cafeteria!

We need to move from doing the "Broken and Complete" concert outside,
to inside due to very windy and cold weather. For our devotional time
we got into our prayer partner groups and just walked around the
grounds of the school praying for the concert and the people who will
be coming. It was a good exercise in getting ready for the concert

The Concert:

This was the first concert where 30% of the audience came to The Lord
for the first time! I must add, however, that there were only 10
people in the audience but it's still a great percentage nevertheless!

Here is the story of how it happened:

After the concert Calvin, one of the the teenage boys from Chino
Valley Community Church and the Grandson of the Church's Missions
Pastor, went up to three girls, ages 14 and 15, as he had sensed
something was going on with them during the event. He gave them some
tracts and he asked them to open it and through translation (The
tract was in Hungarian of course) asked them if they could answer the
main question, which was, "if you died tonight, do you know if you
would go to heaven?" None of the girls said they knew..

Then Calvin asked if they wanted to know the answer and they said
"yes"! So he told them they can't do anything to get there because
according to God, the best we can do is as filthy rags. Calvin went
to say that we are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of
God because none of us are perfect with Him. But God has made
provision in His Son Jesus, and the way we can get to God and heaven
is by accepting His free gift of eternal life. Therefore, as sinners,
if we accept we are sinners and accept God's gift of His Son, who died
for our sins and raised from the dead, we will be saved.

Two of the girls started to tear up - they had been yearning for the
answer during the entire concert, and appeared relieved that they had
finally found that answer. Calvin asked if they wanted to accept the
free gift. They wholeheartedly and enthusiastically said "Egan!"
(Yes, in Hungarian) So Calvin led them through a prayer of surrender
to the Lord Jesus, and all three surrendered their lives to Jesus, and
asked Him to please take up residence in their hearts.

Then he asked the question again and they answered that yes they will
go to heaven. They all had a group hug and he told them we would pray
for them and they exchanged emails so they can stay in touch. They
had gone to a church that seemed to be teaching that salvation was all
about works, so they were relieved to learn it was a free gift,
because they had never felt like they could measure up.

Their Christian friend who brought them was so happy to know her
friends will now have eternal life! She then turned around and
dedicated her life to mission! She was so blown away that God could
use her like this to help bring her friends to Christ, and now wants
to invest her life in doing this as a full-time career using Drama and
the Arts to spread the Gospel!

What an incredible night! Praise God!

Jun 27, 2013

93 Year-Old Grandmothers

Hungary 3 - Dunakeszi, Hungary

As we were saying good bye to to my new son-in-law's 93 year old Hungarian grandmother, an interesting thought struck me.  Here is a woman who was born in 1920, lived through two world wars, the communist era, three husbands, the death of one of her three children and only God knows what else, and her parting words were that the important thing in life is to have faith, hope and love, but mostly love.  For a believer in Jesus Christ, really, there isn't much else to be said.  For someone who has lived 93 years on this earth and to sum it up like that, well if it's good enough for her then it's probably good enough for me!

Earlier, we had spent time with his 96 year-old grandmother, who had birthed 11 kids, seen all the political upheaval mentioned above, plus, her husband left her when her youngest was 1 years-old, and she had raised all eleven children as a single mom.  As we spoke with her through translation, it was obvious that she was a beautiful follower of Christ, gracious, loving, and a true believer in the power of forgiveness.

In all seriousness I found myself contemplating what would be my advice at age 33, 53 and 93?  Would I have the same advice as they?  I must also add that both women are very sharp minded with not a hint of slowness to the brain at all.  I believe that if their bodies would have allowed it they would have cooked us a 5 course meal as well!  And obviously they must know something from the experience of living for more than 90 years!

To answer my question above,  I firmly believe the cares of my world today and the things that I think are so important right now, as well as the things that aren't eternal that always seem to weigh me down would not be the same cares if I were a 93 year old.  At 93, as a believer, I would have had a plethora of opportunities to witness many of God's miracles, provisions, answers to prayer and experience His unfailing love.  I would have the knowledge that yes, God keeps his promises and He is good all the time!  I would have seen the evidence of so much invested faith, felt the fulfillment of hope through such long-suffering, and experienced first hand that God's love never fails.

The experience left me with a longing to live today with the faith, hope, and love for God and others as if I had the experience of having lived, tasted and seen of the goodness of The Lord for 93 years. Some would say this is a platitude.  Others would say it's merely good practice for heaven.  What we as believers need to work out, is how to make that future reality as practical as we can for as many years as the Lord has planned for us to spend here.  

"Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love."  1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

Jun 25, 2013

The Language of the Cross

Hungary 2 - Dunakeszi House Church

From time to time I get a taste of what it must have been like.  Many people, packed into a small room, enduring great heat, sweat, no air-conditioning or antiperspirant, mainly because they are hungry for the Gospel, and to hear the Word of God, through which faith comes.  New Testament Church.  Underground Church.

Such was Friday, June 21st, the longest day of the year.  Teri and I, along with our daughter Sharayah and her husband, Bence, were packed like Sardines into the living room of a home for men on their way out of addiction - a perfect place for a church - especially for healing, renewal, and new-starts.

I had been asked to preach a message from the Word, and I strongly felt the Lord steering me to Mathew 4 - Jesus being tempted by the Devil in the Wilderness, to satisfy His appetite, to seek the approval of men, and to perform Satan worship to win His people and His creation back.

In the middle of it, I was drawn to share my personal testimony of recovery from being addicted to "self-pity", and from wearing the grave-clothes of victimhood for so many years.  How even though I was abused, I too was complicit in sin, in my bitterness, my hatred, and my violence.  People were literally on the edge of their seats, not because of me, but because of the demonstration of power in the Spirit - how God intersects us at our deepest levels of brokenness with His cross of brokenness.  

Most people I know who have gone through some pain, either accuse God and hang on to their bitterness like a trophy, or, they find the peace that passes understanding in repentance.  Unloading your burden at the feet of Him Who took universal responsibility for what He has allowed on this planet is the only way through it.  Otherwise, we drown in our own inability to properly deal with it, wallowing in the mire of our own ignorant understanding and vain attempts to climb out of that which we could never, since we have become part of the black hole we have fallen into.

What a joy to worship, pray, and hear from God in the company of fellow followers of Christ of whom we didn't even speak the same human language.  But the language of worship, the language of the cross, and the language of brokenness and healing are universal, and God met us there in the midst of it all.

Jun 23, 2013

The Awesome Power of a Simple Word

Hungary 1 - Amsterdam Airport

Our summer tour to Hungary and Serbia started with a long-haul flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam, and the added blessing of the purser of the plane giving us a complimentary bottle of champaign!  (Teri and I were flying on our 32nd Wedding Aniversary) After spending a few hours sleeping in the KLM lounge, we had to go through security and customs in order to get to our flight to Budapest.

The gracious "Dutchie" at the security screening informed us that the bottle of Champaign would have to go - not allowed, as it was not government sealed.  We didn't complain - we aren't big fans of Champaign, but had kept it to give it as a hospitality gift in Hungary somewhere!

As we were leaving the screening area, I spoke briefly with the man, saying "Hey, thank you for keeping us safe."  He looked as shocked as if I had just pulled out a weapon!  Then he said, "In my three years of doing this job,  NO ONE has ever thanked me for this."  My turn to be shocked.  "Thank you", he said, "I won't forget this!"  Wow.

Of course I know how inconvenient this screening stuff all is - our traveling-by-air experiences forever altered by UBL and his cohorts.  And inconvenient it is.  But so often I see "platinum" and "medallion" attitudes unleashed on these people whose job it is to keep us from getting harmed, and whilst some of them unfortunately display that timeless adage, "Tyranny of the Powerless", some of them are genuine in their attempts to keep us safe.

In this I was reminded once again of the Word:  "Words have the power of life and death…" Proverbs 18:21, and of course the provocative discourse on the dunamis of the tongue in James 3, and how as Christians we should use it for life, for edification, and for blessing.

Hows your tongue doing today?  Yesterday?  Tomorrow?  Need a transplant?!?  Maybe just a platinum attitude adjustment.  I know I do. And how I was reminded in such a powerful way how a soft answer not only turns away wrath, but an bring great blessing, and in the right moment, an opportunity for the gospel.

Jun 1, 2013

Being is the Doing

One of the most powerful moments in the Broken & Complete concert comes during the song, Psalm 91, danced above by Linda Wells and Anna King at the CD Release last September.  

This truth: that we are held in the Father's hands under the Shadow of His Wings, is not a platitude.  It is rather a critical key in our identity as Children of God - that nothing that happens to us escapes His notice, and that even the worst that can happen, it only happens if He allows it. IF we truly believe Who He Is, and His promises for us, and His character of Faithfulness, then to complain is to rail against the Sovereignty of God.  Not a good place to be, in light of who we really are!

No, we rather find the deepest peace, the finest solace, the cure to all anxiety - in embracing our identity, our calling, and our present/future in Him.  That we are His, that we already are citizens of heaven, and that He is in control of our lives and our destiny, means we do not need to strive - everything we should want and need is already provided in Him.  We must abide in this:  that 'being' who we are in Christ is the 'doing', and all 'doing' flows from the peace found in the 'being'.

Here are the lyrics:

Psalm 91

Dwelling in the secret place I'm wrapped in the salvation of Your wings

Almighty, Holy One

My Lord, My God, my habitation, Your truth is my deliverance and my shield

In You I put my trust

Breathe in me your words of grace and hold me in divine embraces

Shelter me in Your unfailing love . . . Forever I am yours

Abiding in Your heart of refuge, hidden in Your fortress I am safe

From evil's fear and terror

For You have set Your love upon me - You have known and 

You have called my name

You take me as your own

Breathe in me your words of grace and hold me in divine embraces

Shelter me in Your unfailing love . . . forever . . . Father

Pour into my deepest places, fill me with the Highest Praises

Draw me to your heart and hold me close . . . Forever I am yours

You are everything I want, and everything I need

You hold me in your hand, You crush the enemy

You are everything I want, and everything I need

You hold my heart's desire, in the shadow of Your wings