William Abroad

Pictures from my Prague conference

First Post in a While – Persecution

Hey everyone,

I sincerely apologize for the lengthy delay in me posting things on my blog. In between my last post and the one I’m writing now, I’ve been in Lithuania doing photographic work for several ministries, Prague in the Czech Republic to speak to ministries about security concerns and practices in the context of social media, and Austria for meetings. I even took a week-long break to go to my home-away-from-home in the Netherlands and be with some old friends.

So, seven countries later, well over 1,000 pictures taken, and countless tens of thousands of words edited and written, I’ve been a bit stretched and had my moments of being burned out.

I’ve been working on some really huge projects. One project in particular has been writing radio scripts in English, the plan being to use these scripts as a “vanilla” script to be accurately translated into the language of the audience. The intended audiences are persecuted Christians around the world. Pretty massive and beautifully relevant. It’s also pretty daunting. Who am I to try and say something meaningful to persecuted Christians? How am I to put any weight behind the very words that these people experience as realities every day?

Thankfully, I’m not writing every single script myself. The vast majority of my responsibility in this project is to proof and edit interviews conducted by and with people from areas where they were persecuted for their faith. This includes, but is certainly not limited to places in Northern, Eastern, and Western Africa as well as the Middle East and Central Asia.

Part of what I do is proof these interviews to make sure that names, locations, and any bits of detail that might create security concerns for these individuals are omitted. I am also responsible for creating grammatically correct, culturally understandable transcripts in basic English without changing any of the original speaker’s intent. Tricky and certainly a cause for paranoia, but I love it. For me, this is where my behind-the-scenes desk job has very real and life-threatening consequences. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but in some of these cases, I hold the identity of these people, their friends and family away from their very hostile countrymen and women.

All of my work on this has to be finished by the end of December, so I’ve been really pushing myself to get these interviews and radio scripts done quickly and correctly.

Today, I’ve been working on some interviews from some Africans. In one of the interviews with a man from Mali, where Isl_mic militants invaded the north and are imposing very strict religious law, a statement he made struck me.

The interviewer asks, “You’ve been driven from the north of Mali. Isn’t that persecution?”

This man responds, “Well actually, no, I wouldn’t call it persecution.  Honestly, we left the North because we were afraid of news we received about the Isl_mic camp and the sharia law which they want to impose.”

The interviewer is puzzled. “Isn’t that legitimate?  Isn’t it persecution when a religion is imposed on someone who does not belong to that religion?  The churches which have been sacked, pillaged, Bibles burned—isn’t that persecution?”

The man answers, “Yes, that is persecution.  I know that if I had stayed there, they would have beheaded me because of my faith.  That’s for sure.  But—I do agree with you—but when we were fleeing, they didn’t say specifically that they were after the Christians.  You must understand, even the M_slims fled this sharia.  We know they didn’t attack the mosques, but people just couldn’t bear the sharia law, especially the Christians.  It’s true, they attacked our churches; they attacked all the religious buildings that belonged to the Christians—they sacked all of them, you see.

I was struck by his calm reply. “I know if I had stayed there, they would have beheaded me because of my faith. That’s for sure.”

It sure is humbling to hear people say these things on such a regular basis. The reality for me is that, even though I read these kinds of testimonies and bold statements every day, this is nothing more than an extremely small fraction of the people who live, die, are kicked from their families, denied from marriage, beaten, humiliated, harassed, insulted, maimed, amputated, gored, marked, isolated, robbed, raped, and vandalized for their faith in Jesus Christ.

I’ve read stories of Christians who see their friends abandon their faith and others die for it.

Part of what we ask these people in their interview is how the global body of Christ can help.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single one of these Christians said the same two things: Pray & Get Involved

The need for the comfortable, peaceful Church to pray for their brothers and sisters is obvious and should be more involved in the daily existence of the Church. Especially in the West.

These Christians also said that they don’t just need spiritual nourishment through prayer. They need encouragement from their brothers and sisters around the world. They all testified how important it was to their congregations to know that other Christians were praying for them and were proud of them and wanted to see them succeed in living lives in testament to Christ.

A person has three needs: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual.

We can pray for them, but I also feel that the Church abroad needs to really think hard about how we can be intimately involved in offering physical and emotional encouragement to our brothers and sisters. They face a harder reality than many of us ever will, but that doesn’t mean that our faith shouldn’t be accompanied with works.

We live in an era where global communication is the easiest it’s ever been. There really is no excuse for the church abroad to withhold encouragement. Ignorance in the era of the global interconnectedness just doesn’t classify as acceptable anymore.

Just as Paul wrote letters to encourage, instruct, and chastise his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ abroad, the model still holds true for us.

When fellow Christians are in need of material goods, places to stay, or even vehicles to drive, how can we in the plentiful Church abroad not want to help?

 

This blog is not intended to insult the non-persecuted Church. These are just my thoughts and convictions on what I want to do with my own church and the churches I know.

Beautiful People with Beautiful Stories – pt. 2

So, about Jozef.

After the church trip was ending, our coordinator, Heather, indicated that Jozef was going to be traveling to the Czech Republic to represent Slovakia in a big Christian ministry conference and would need a place to stay in Bratislava for the night. Since my roommate was off working with one of TWR’s partner ministries out in Portugal for the month, I obviously agreed to host him.

The ride home was a bit tricky, since he spoke very, very little English. He still managed to communicate his testimony for those of us riding in the car. He has a very powerful testimony, one that details Christ’s victory over his life of sin, struggle with homosexuality, and many other things. When we were walking to go get dinner that evening, he told me of how God saved him from that lifestyle of sin and spent years cleaning and refining his heart. He showed me a picture of his fiancé, a beautiful blonde girl, and quickly informed me of the obvious: she was not a Roma. He told me how it was difficult being accepted by his fiancé’s family. For those of us from the US, think of it as something like interracial marriage many years ago. A lot of people still have some hard feelings regarding this kind of a relationship. But Jozef didn’t need to convince me. They were both waiting for marriage. He was passionate about Christ and serving to His glory on this earth. I didn’t need convincing, but Jozef made a strong case in his soft, loving words. I could tell in the way he said it, the way he smiled about it. God is good and was unfolding some beautiful blossom before them (and me).

We weren’t really able to communicate on too much of a deep level because of the language barrier, but I did what I could to try and make him feel welcome and safe for the night he’d spend with me. When we woke up the next morning, I asked if I could get a picture with him so I could ask people back home to remember to pray for him, his ministry, and the other Christians he serves with. So here I am, posting this picture:
After he left, I hugged him and wished him well. I wished I could have spoken with him more. He had a beautiful, tender spirit and I still wished I could have had the time to know him better.

So, that was in May. This evening, September 5th, Jozef and his now bride, Julia, made an appearance on Slovak national television. National television!

A fellow Christian in the village back where they served had written in to this television show that tries to help bless people and help them with whatever they are struggling with. It’s kind of like a Slovak Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, only without the home part. She and her village wanted to bless Jozef and Julia with a honeymoon somewhere nice, but had absolutely no way to afford something like that.

Whether it was by God’s grace, the compassion of the show producers, or the producers smelling good ratings with a controversial episode, they were blessed to be selected. This Slovak film crew came out to Cinobaňa to film them, get to know them, and show where they lived and worked. Essentially, this was the storytelling stuff for the tv show.

As all producers on a major network seem privy to do, they spent a lot of time focusing on Jozef’s past in homosexuality. This actually turned out to be huge, though, because their entire episode turned into them preaching the Gospel and testifying of how God had changed them. Sure, the whole show was in Slovak, but some friends were loosely translating as we went along. It was awesome! I couldn’t stop smiling, and I usually despise these kinds of shows. Jozef spoke about his past, how God found him and changed him, and Julia spoke of how they believe in purity before marriage. It was so awesome. The show host and some of the live audience were getting visibly and audibly uncomfortable.

The show came out and filmed the whole wedding for Jozef and Julia in August. My friend, Heather, went out to see them get married. I would have loved to go, but I was just that stranger that admires from afar.

I managed to snap some shots of them getting married. Strangely enough, they got married in this church in a nearby town that I played bass for back in May. Here are some poor cell phone pictures of the TV that a bunch of us were watching:

The film crew then followed them around and sent them to Turkey for a beautiful and expensive honeymoon. Even there, they had these long moments of only speaking about God and how Christ had changed their lives. Even though we were watching this show about two people getting married, virtually none of it was them talking about themselves. God bless those two.

After the wedding and honeymoon, they all came to Bratislava to shoot the actual show in the television studio. A bunch of the friends and family from Cinobaňa were in the audience. I recognized a lot of their faces. Here is a shot of Jozef and Julia with two of the Christians helping minister in Cinobaňa:

The show host and the producers spent a pretty inordinate amount of time focusing on Jozef’s dark past rather than expounding upon any other element of his life, work, and ministry. Quite frankly, it made me angry. This is the exact reason why I hate shows like this. Producers and show hosts are out for blood, trying to milk every bit of any controversial detail from something for the sake of ratings or sheer controversy. My already short temper for these kinds of things was getting awfully close to being set off. I think all of us watching the show were praying that the show wouldn’t try to use its slick editing to manipulate the testimonies of these Christians into something it was never intended to be.

When speaking in front of the audience, Jozef’s past in homosexuality was again brought up and, again, he and Julia spoke with authority and confidence that I can only assume was a blessing from the Holy Spirit. They handled the show host’s ignorance and willful refusal to understand or validate their claims as legitimate with grace and slight wit. The show host flagrantly disagreed with their beliefs about sin and homosexuality, going on his own rant that it was nature and such. Jozef and Julia gave a pretty good attempt at explaining what temptation was and how all sins are the same, regardless of what they are. They were giving the Gospel. The show host was quick to try and shut this down and went out into the crowd to ask for other people’s opinions. I was ready to explode. I saw the train coming off the tracks, as some idiot was unhappy with being confronted with a reality he didn’t agree with and was trying to turn the crowd against them. Keep in mind that this show was supposed to be about blessing them by giving them a nice wedding and a wonderful honeymoon. It was more of a debate about morality and sin. My skin was going hot with anger.

Thankfully, though, when going out to the crowd, the show host handed the mic to another one of the guys that works with Jozef in his ministry out in Cinobaňa. I met the guy. You may recognize him from the picture in part 1 of these blog posts.

I never knew his name, but he was a blessing. He affirmed Jozef’s grace and mercy towards him when he had nothing and nowhere to go. It was beautiful, even in the midst of a jumbled English translation of a Slovak television show. You could see the conviction on his heart. God bless that guy.

So, anyway, in all of this ridiculousness, there was such a glorious opportunity to be the Gospel on Slovak national television. Do you have any idea how huge that is? They just preached Christ. On national television. On a popular channel. Channel 3. I am beside myself with how amazing of an opportunity that was. And, to Jozef and Julia’s righteousness, they did not squander it one bit, even for their wedding, which they already said was preserved as a testimony to God’s glory.

Maybe I’m a sentimentalist, but I find this all so precious.

Here they are, singing together on national TV

I’m spitting proud. Who knew that the stranger I could barely communicate with in English would have such a massive opportunity to serve Christ and present the Gospel to the entirety of Slovakia?

Strange how God has a way of blessing you through the beautiful lives of other beautiful people.

Beautiful People with Beautiful Stories Pt. 1

A few weeks after I first came to Bratislava, I was given the opportunity by a coworker and some friends I met when I first visited Slovakia in 2010 to go on a church trip to South Central Slovakia. The church group was actually a combination of two churches. One, an international Baptist church from Vienna, Austria and the other, the international Baptist church in Bratislava, Slovakia.

Our purpose for going on this church trip was to help with some manual labor and do some community outreach in a place called Cinobaňa (See-no-bonn-ya). Cinobaňa is host to a large Roma community and my friend, Heather, has been really passionate about trying to support local Christians in their ministry to fellow Roma. They are particularly heavily involved in mentoring, tutoring, and living the Gospel to the younger kids in this village.

In order for me to try and explain to you the significance of their ministry and the reason why it’s so special that we got to be a part of this, you must know a little more about them. The Roma people are also known as gypsies, though this is a derogatory term and, unfortunately, the more common name for them. I won’t go too much into the history of this people group, but Roma is a subgroup of Romani people originating from northern India who are widely dispersed, with their largest concentrated populations in Central and Eastern Europe.

Behind the Jews, Hitler’s hatred for the Roma people earned them the horrific title of being the second most populous victims during the holocaust. Much like the Jews, their hatred and discrimination is nothing new. Persecution has carried on for quite some time. Common stigma associated with the Roma is that they are thieving, unclean, alcoholic, and conniving individuals looking to take advantage of the government’s socialist welfare systems. While I am here to try and give you as accurate depiction as I can, I also recognize that there are always truths in stereotypes. There are always bad eggs in the large batches. Being from the Southern US, I certainly get labeled with all kinds of rude, though sometimes true, stereotypes.

For a number of reasons, the Roma have been and still continue to be a popular center of controversy. Because of their migratory behavior and extremely unique culture, they are often singled out by hate groups as problems and a scourge upon Europe. Discrimination is quite normal in this region of Europe. A combination of generational poverty, cultural misleading, and political, economic, and educational prejudice has brought about very serious hardships on these people. In Slovakia, unemployment among the Roma was estimated at over 80%. I find that astounding and horrible. As a result, the poverty that results from unemployment feeds back into the cycle of raising another generation of people to be alienated from education, political status, and fair wages.

Thus, you can see why something so simple as tutoring kids with homework is such a huge deal. In this community, it’s quite common that the parents mock the child for trying to learn and do homework. They are ridiculed for getting an education. The Christians living and ministering in Cinobaňa were there to try and provide these kids with help so that they can break free from the chains of generational poverty and, hopefully, recognize the love of Christ while doing so. This small group of Christians in this community were so beautiful. They were there with clear, Godly purpose to live life with these people and be Christ to them. Beautiful.

One of the leaders in this ministry to Cinobaňa was a guy named Jozef. Jozef was a soft-spoken, respectful, and handsome man. Though quiet, he knew exactly how to interact with children. He had all the confidence he needed to lead these children around all day and night. I didn’t get to speak to him much while I was there, since I was helping some of the manual labor guys from the churches with rebuilding a playground for some kids. Here is a picture of Jozef:

We helped install a heavy duty steel swing set (the kind you used to see back when America made things to last), sand away rust on some playground obstacles and slides and paint them over again.

In the afternoon, we set up a bunch of inflatable slides and jumping houses for the kids to come play on. Those that didn’t want to jump on the inflatables had the opportunity to go get their faces painted or other arts and crafts-related things. As for the older guys, I joined with a few of the younger guys from the churches to play soccer and basketball with the older kids. It was awesome. Extremely hot. I ripped my jeans big time in the crotch while playing goalie. I guess I deserved it. It was my second pair of jeans to bite the dust since I came to Slovakia. It was so nice being energetic with the kids. They were so much more in shape than any of us, but there was so much joy in the exhaustion.

Here is a picture of one of the guys in that group of Christians living in Cinobaňa and ministering to the community. Note the tattoo on his left arm:

I know I say this a lot when I talk to people or write blog posts, but I cannot convey to you just how beautiful these people were. The kids were absolutely stunning. Every single person I encountered there had eyes to make your heart stop. Dark skin, dark hair, and the most gorgeous, colorful eyes. I cannot convey to you just how awe-inspiring it was. I’m a people watcher at heart, so I love to appreciate things about every person. Perhaps that plays a part in my enjoyment of photography.

I would have taken pictures during this time, but I did not feel it appropriate to haul out my camera gear to take pictures of them. Me, a complete stranger, and a Westerner at that, flourishing my expensive camera around to take pictures of them. I didn’t want to give them the idea that I was either flaunting my wealth or taking advantage of them by taking pictures of them. I really wish I could have taken pictures, though, because all I saw was truly unique beauty. The kind of unfettered beauty that so many people miss out on. Sure, there were tattoos, piercings, and all kinds of abnormal stuff, but it was so precious and unique.

I helped play bass for the community outreach program in the town later that evening. It was a time for drama skits, dances, music, and testimony to speak the very communal Roma village. In the back room, we had set up a giant banquet of food and drinks for the community to come and take. It was a gesture of love and sincerity. The kids swarmed it.

My time there was excellent.

The entire point of me writing this post was to actually talk about Jozef, but I felt that you needed to have some context before you would understand the gravity of what came next.

Pictures from John Coffey

Freakstock 2012: Pt. 3

In this blog post, I’ll be discussing my thoughts regarding Freakstock, the Jesus Freaks, and other things encountered at the festival.

Of all the things I encountered at the festival, the strangest thing of all happened to be the most normal thing there: beer. This was not just any beer, though. This was Freakstock Beer. Jesus Beer, as it were.

Freakstock was selling its own brand of beer. To make matters even more controversial, the bottles were labeled with an artist’s interpretation of Jesus with the words “Prost auf Jesus” printed clearly. For those of you who aren’t German scholars, this translates to “Toast to Jesus.”

Obviously, I was expecting to encounter strange things at Freakstock, but certainly not this. A Southern boy from an area where alcohol has its own negative stigma within the Christian community there, it certainly struck me in an odd place. Obviously, it wasn’t just different from the culture of the American Bible Belt, but it was something pretty interesting to ponder for a good while. Not only was a Christian festival selling beer, heretical back in the Southern states, but it was “Jesus beer,” prompting people to “toast to Jesus.” What did this mean? Blasphemy? Good-natured Christian humor? A serious statement?

Obviously, given my heritage, I was prone to assume the conservative route, that this was probably borderline blasphemy and an example of Europe’s liberalized Christianity. The more I thought, though, I started realizing the other angles. Who was I to be offended by this?

The more I thought, I started to recognize that, yes, this is an example of liberalized Christianity in Europe, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. While controversial, yes, it was a perfect example of what Freakstock and the Jesus Freak movement seeks to do. In order to understand that, let me try to give you a brief history of the Jesus Freaks movement as I understand it.

The Jesus Freaks movement was started in Germany in 1991 by a guy named Martin Dreyer. Eventually, it became an international non-profit organization in 1994 based out of Berlin. The Jesus Freaks movement is pretty interesting and unique to Europe, as they actively seek to minister to drug users, homeless people, as well as other people marginalized by the Christian Church. This is part of the reason why Freakstock is such a strange amalgam of subcultures, styles, and nationalities. Martin Dreyer is an interesting figure in German Christianity, as he also wrote his own version of the bible, called the “Volxbibel.” Much like the super controversial “The Message” Bible in America, Dreyer’s “Volxbibel,” which translates to “People’s Bible,” is written in a simple way that is easier to understand by someone who hasn’t experienced the Christian vocabulary. Essentially, by paraphrasing the Bible, Dreyer sought to contextualize scripture in a way that could be easily understood by unchurched peoples. Controversial, yes, but does it serve a purpose to spread the Gospel? Yes.
The Jesus Freaks have always been a fairly eclectic group of people, so it makes sense that they would find all kinds of scrutiny by the straight-laced Christian majority that didn’t understand their looks, behavior, or cultures. That being said, I see a genuine purpose in the Jesus Freaks. If no one else is reaching out to the former hippies, the goths, the punks, the drug addicted, the kids with broken lives, the just flat-out weird, then who in secularized Europe will? I don’t mean to sound condemning or judging when I say this, but it certainly doesn’t seem that the mainstream Christian Church has done a good job of evangelizing, discipling, and supporting these people.

So, taking all of that in context with the “Jesus Beer,” I could waste my time being offended as a result of my heritage, or I could accept it as the act of a very different group of Christians with a common goal: to see God glorified through the spreading of Christ’s gift of redemption through His death and resurrection to all peoples. That’s exactly what I did. Sure, the fact that there’s a beer that says “Toast to Jesus” on it is strange, hilarious, and otherworldly to me, but God is good and I’m in no place to judge.

That being said, all of my experiences at Freakstock did raise a few serious concerns. Is this the best way for reaching out to non-Christians and ministering to Christians? I don’t know; I’m in no position to answer that. Are there potential pitfalls to such an edgy event hosted by such edgy people? Definitely.

Because this festival and the youth movement that hosts it is accepting of all people, there were a lot of things that alarmed me.

The abundance of alcohol at the festival was obviously the biggest worry I had, as I absolutely believe that the Bible directly addresses drunkenness. Sure, not everyone was getting drunk. Many people were just enjoying some beer along with the sun and live music. But, there will always be people, Christians and non-Christians that seemed to be taking it a bit too far with the drinking. When you have a festival that sells its own brand beer, how do you navigate the deep, dark waters of determining if you are being a vessel for ministry or a stumbling block for others? By making your event accessible and appealing to non-Christians, at what point does it become more of a pitfall to people than an open door for ministry? I don’t really think there’s an easy way to answer that question or address this problem.

Here’s what conclusion I came to:

Just like this beer, God will be glorified through the actions, events, and people going to this event, whether they realize it or not. Are there better ways of treading this fine line? Maybe. But why should I bother trying to find that answer when, at the end of the day, I see a festival full of very different people, Christians and non-Christians alike, attending a festival designated specifically for glorifying God through their actions, performances, statements, hospitality, and, yes, even their beer.

Who am I to judge or presume to have better solutions for addressing an increasingly more rampant issue of preaching Christ to Europe’s exponentially diversifying youth?

May God be glorified in everything.

Freakstock 2012: Pt. 2

In this blog post, I’ll be talking about the things I experienced at Freakstock 2012.

Freakstock 2012 was an amalgam of all  kinds of crazy subcultures, musical genres, cultures, and nationalities.

After a few surveys of license plates in the field being used as a parking lot, we found people from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the Czech Republic. I also met a very talented man from Nashville, Tennessee, a girl from near Asheville, NC, and a girl from Valencia, Spain.

Freakstock is a bit of a hilarious explosion of strangeness.

As for the music, Freakstock is loaded with all kinds of eclectic music. In the morning, there would be praise and worship bands to start off the day, but the genres varied. One morning, we had “hardcore” worship, consisting of breakdowns, heavily chugging guitars, and pained yells, screams, and screeches. The festival was host to all kinds of punk bands, hardcore bands, all-out, hair-swinging metal, indie, instrumental rock (also known as post-rock), and even a string quartet.

The general theme of the festival, both with people and the music, seemed to be “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure.” Sure, I didn’t care for a lot of the music being played, but other people did. I certainly didn’t care for the “hardcore” worship, but other people did. People were still glorifying God with their experiences and it wasn’t my place to take offense or disgust at any particular thing there. Sure, I may disagree with some of the things going on there, be it musically or culturally, but other people found it conducive to their encounters with God. Who am I to get in the way of that? It was actually a beautiful thing to see such wild diversity and acceptance.

Sure, many of the people there weren’t Christian, but what better example than to be a massive congregation of strange and diverse people accepting others for who they are?

As for the things I did when I was there, I went and spent time hanging out with my Dutch friends and meeting a lot of other cool people. There were all kinds of tents and stages across the festival grounds; the places I frequented were the makeshift skate park to take pictures of the skaters in action and the Jesus Freaks International house, a building run by the Utrecht Jesus Freaks (Dutch). Most of the early afternoon, people hang out, talk, and attend various seminars and workshops related to Christianity in alternative cultures.

The bands would perform in the mid/late afternoons and on late into the evening. The final bands of the night would perform at midnight. After the midnight performances, all kinds of crazy events would happen. There was an underground room where DJ’s would play all kinds of wild electronic music. People could dance, goof off, and just have fun.

On the final night of Freakstock, according to tradition, a particular German would setup in the Jesus Freaks International house and perform a wild night of the very best of the worst 80’s hits. This guy was ridiculous. Dressed up like some 80’s hair metal rockstar, this guy came complete with the patched up denim, sleeveless vest, bleached, white-blonde mullet, and torn jeans. If there was ever a movement for 80’s revivalism, this guy was certainly the iconic leader. This guy performed for hours, well into the early morning, blasting the most impressively bad 80’s hits. People were packed in the house, belting out every line they knew to the various songs that continued. When asking my Dutch friend about this strange experience set before me, he just told me that this guy could go on for six hours easily and never repeat a song. Apparently, this guy was an 80’s aficionado and I believed him. I think the mullet was the decisive factor in this, but still. He looked the part. I wish I could find a picture of this guy. I really wish I had one.

As for the other bands performing, I got to see a lot of cool bands. Some of my Dutch friends were performing on the main stage as the headlining act of the night; their band is called John Coffey. They put on a very impressive performance. I’d go into detail on exactly what I loved about their performance, but I’ll just leave you with this: they played extremely well, they really got the crowd all riled up, and they just flat-out rocked. I was very impressed, and I have seen tons of bands. These guys are good. I’ve got a ton of photos of their performance. It’ll take a while for me to edit them due to my workload in the office. Here’s a funny shot of them performing while another one of my friends stage dived. My other shots are much better, but this one is just awesome:

All-in-all, I’d say it was an excellent time for seeing all kinds of people having all kinds of fun in all kinds of ways.

Pt. 3 will be continued in a separate blog post

Freakstock 2012: Pt. 1

On Wednesday, August 1st, my roommate, Paul, and I headed off in our rented Fiat Panda from Bratislava, Slovakia all the way to Borgentreich, Germany.
Our drive, at around nine hours long, was awesome. Windows down, driving with no set speed limit on the Autobahn, music blasting. The scenery was beautiful; there were seemingly endless fields of corn, sunflowers, and massive walls of forested areas. Beauty was as abundant as the ecstasy of driving with no speed limit.

Once our nine hour drive was up, we arrived at Freakstock and set up the tent some fellow missionaries lent us. At this, I failed miserably. I was rescued by two friendly German ladies living in Zurich, Switzerland. They were awesome. Paul and I quickly became friends with them. They also came to Freakstock far more prepared than we did. They had eating utensils, a stove, plates and cups. All around, those girls showed us up. To their credit, they saved us with their generosity. Sure, Paul and I brought groceries and water, but these girls fed us, gave us things to drink, and let us share their plates, silverware, and cups. They were such a blessing to us, even if it was embarrassing for me.

At the festival, I also met up with several of my old Dutch friends from years ago. It was extremely good to see them, catch up, and see what God is doing in their lives. It was so good for my heart to hear the Dutch language spoken, as I have a strange affection for it and the people that speak it.

Paul and I were sent there to gather video interviews from different people about the issue of reconciliation. What is reconciliation? What does it mean to you? Have you experienced reconciliation with God, yourself, or others? What is necessary in order for forgiveness to happen?

The purpose for these interviews is to create a video or series of videos that expound[s] upon the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation. This video is to be used next year for a massive partner’s conference in which a vast majority of our European partner ministries will attend to discuss the theme of reconciliation. Our part in this is to help give them a look into the differing views on reconciliation. This is a pretty huge task, but a very important one, one that I am so glad to be able to help with.

The video interviews were especially difficult to shoot for a number of reasons. We were at an alternative Christian festival in Germany, with the vast majority of attendees being German. Finding English speakers was difficult, let alone English speakers that would be able to understand and answer our questions in a coherent manner. This was a lot tougher than I had predicted.

After a few failed attempts to interview some Germans, sure enough, true to form, my Dutch friends came in to help. As the Dutch are well-known for being adept with understanding and adapting to other cultures, most of the Dutch people I know are very comfortable with the English language. From personal observation, the Dutch people I’ve encountered are fluent inasmuch as to start incorporating slang and accents into their English-speaking. They are an impressive group of people to be sure.

They quickly introduced me to other Dutchmen and women to help with the interviews. This made my job a lot easier, as they felt fairly comfortable expressing themselves. That being said, the nature of the question meant that every single person I interviewed would struggle for a while to find an appropriate, honest, and relevant answer to our questions. We were asking them questions about an abstract concept in English, a second, third, or fourth language, and asking them to give a genuine answer. Pretty tall order, I’d say. But, nonetheless, they did a fantastic job. We got some eclectic answers.

We were also massively helped out by our Swiss-Germans (or German-Swiss?). Sure enough, they were willing to help answer some questions for us. We obviously didn’t want to pressure them into answering in a foreign language, so German was their language of choice. We work with a fair amount of Germans, so someone speaking in German is not an issue. Subtitles are an easy solution. What was most important in this situation, though, was hearing their original thoughts in an original way. They really did such great jobs with answering our questions. It’s been a few years since I’ve used my German, but I could lightly follow along with what they were saying. I am so thankful to God for those two girls. They were such blessings to Paul and me. Here’s a picture of them with Paul:

Pt. 2 will be continued in a separate blog post

Freakstock 2012, Deutschland

 

Hi all, just a heads up:

I’m headed to central Germany for the next week or so to go to Freakstock 2012. It’s a festival started by a social movement in Germany called the Jesus Freaks. The Jesus Freaks are somewhat controversial, but they claim to reach out to the groups of people marginalized by the Christian Church. I’m off with my roommate and coworker, Paul, to interview people at the festival; we’re there to try and get some personal opinions about what reconciliation means, if it is important, and how to do it in this day and age.

Should be a very interesting project to work on, particularly since this style of festival draws non-Christians and Christians alike.

The First Months Abroad

Here are some clips of a few of the places I’ve traveled, people I’ve come to know, and things I’ve had the chance to be a part of.

More to come, for sure!

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