My trip to Germany and our Thanksgiving celebration with family in Greenville, MS were both blessings from God. I am now back in Pensacola with my travelling days behind me (for now anyway) and plan to turn some of my attention back to this neglected blog. I do hope you are still checking in. Below is my report on the retreat.
Over 100 Christians from 12 countries gathered in the quaint and picturesque German town of Rothenburg during the dates of November 17-21. It was the forty-fourth such gathering of European missionaries and American military personnel. For me it was my very first time and it could not have been better.
Accompanying me was one of Gateway’s elders, Bud Myer, and our missionaries in Vilnius Lithuania- Ilia Amosov and his wife Daiva; and Juozas Puodžiukaitis and his wife Zveila and daughter Tija. Our hopes were to help Ilia and Juozas network among native European missionaries and make contacts with people there possibly interested in becoming involved in the Vilnius mission work. We were successful at both.
The retreat was a very practical and addressed the unique struggles and challenges of doing mission work in Europe. Most of the teachers were European nationals working in their cultures to spread the gospel or missionaries from America living and working in Europe.
The keynotes were Tony Coffey of Dublin, Ireland and Dale Hawley of Milwaukee Wisconsin. It was a blessing to meet both of these brothers. Tony was a delightfully engaging speaker who brought Exodus to life while making very practical applications to mission work. Spending one evening over hot chocolate and tea with him was a highlight of the trip. Dale is a family therapist who works in preparing missionaries for the field and brought wisdom and insight into the particular challenges such couples face.
Represented there was also mission ministries such as Let’s Start Talking, World English Institute, Global Christian University, Military OutReach and Encouragement (MORE), American Military Evangelizing Nations (AMEN), Mission Resource Network, and World Bible School. Interest was high from a couple of these organizations to become involved in the Vilnius mission. In the upcoming weeks I plan to follow-up with them to visit these possibilities.
For our Lithuanian missionaries and their families, it was apparent that this was a very positive and encouraging time. Unlike many other mission points in Europe, the Vilnius church is basically isolated and without much personal contact with Christians from other countries. Other than the summer youth camp groups, no other effort is now made to personally visit, encourage and assist the Vilnius church from outside of the country. Hopefully this retreat will serve as a catalyst to change that.
The time that Bud and I were able to spend with Ilia, Juozas and their families was also very valuable. We talked and prayed with them about their work. We encouraged them to not grow weary in sharing the gospel. We were excited to hear more about the recent surge in interest and attendance. Both Ilia and Juozas are diligently involved in kingdom work and not just in Vilnius. Through the camp ministry and their occasional follow-up visits to other cities they are working to spread the influence of the kingdom throughout that wonderful Baltic country.
It is just not easy. Obstacles abound. From the decline in overall interest in spiritual matters to the free-falling American dollar which funds their ministry, they are always fighting an uphill battle. But with the Lord on their side and the faithful support of Gateway and our ministry partners, they are not giving up. Ilia has set a personal goal of working to see fifty regularly in attendance for the Vilnius church. (He asks that we please join him in prayer for this goal.)
I thank the church at Gateway for thier continued support of the Vilnius Church of Christ. I thank the individuals in many places who contribute to this mission. And I thank God for giving us a worldwide brotherhood of believers.
Please continue to pray for Ilia and Juozas and their kingdom work in Vilnius. For more info on the retreat you can visit their website at www.euroretreat.org.