Sunday, June 10, 2018

Albania: What God did in and through us...

(In case you missed it, here's the fun backstory on this post.)
Because of our flights, I am happy to report that I had coffee in three different countries—France, Italy, and Albania—and it was fabulous coffee in each country. Mostly, coffee was just expresso in small cups (see center and right above) or a cappuccino (left). Yes, I purposely avoided Turkish Coffee. Been there. Done that. Got the coffee grounds in my teeth to prove it.

Here's WHO we invested our lives in—and received so much love and encouragement from—while we were in Albania. It's a beautiful mix of Albanians and Americans who aspire to love God, love people, and make disciplemakers.

As soon as we got settled, we started disciplemaking training with Albanian ministry leaders. Thanks to all who $upported this disciplemaking adventureYour support helped to send me, encourage missionaries, AND cover the cost of training materials! We are so thankful for your partnership in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the first several days, we did two different Cadre disciplemaking training experiences: 1. From Disciples to Disciplemakers and 2. Ministry Is Relationships.

After developing and doing training across the USA for many years, it was a dream come true to do Cadre training in another country and culture. I was told by people who had experienced our training that it would be perfect for this occasion in Albania. I think it was. To God be the glory!

One of my greatest joys on this Albanian adventure was watching my dear disciplemaking friend, Crazy Pastor Steve (CPS), do Cadre's disciplemaking training. Why? Because it's disciplemaking multiplication. What's better than doing disciplemaking training yourself? Helping someone else live it and share with others.

We even baptized one of our team members in the Ionian Sea!

That moment when what you're eating is looking at you. In case you're wondering, our meals were very Mediterranean. And yes, I ate it (except the head). It was delish.

The rest of our time was about living out a Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life—with each other as a team—and in the various villages in the mountains of Albania.

For example. these kids live in a village where there is no Gospel witness. Every week the ministry we partnered with travels to these kids up in the mountains of another village. The kids were waiting for us to arrive. The woman center-right in the pic above became a disciple through the ministry we worked with—and now she's leading the ministry in this village. Exactly. That's disciplemaking.

Ministry/missions isn't something we do TO or FOR people. It's loving God and loving people and making disciplemakers. It's not a program

Yes, we worked with orphans. One of the beauties of the Gospel is how God places us in spiritual families. We saw God's people living out God's heart for these kids and it was inspiring.

We invested a lot of our time living and sharing the Gospel and disciplemaking on the soccer field. Our dear disciplemaking friend, Cole Espenschied, of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, led the way for us! 

We've been friends with Cole and his family from the beginning of his time in Peoria. Cole has participated in the Peoria Area Leadership Community (PALC). Another of my greatest joys on this mission trip was seeing Cole take Jesus-like disciplemaking and translate it into a hands-on training experience called Doing Sports God's Way. If you love Jesus and sports and want to see how these two can fly together, contact Cole!

Where you find Jesus-like disciplemaking, you'll find churches being planted—like this one above. I know. It's a crazy idea.

We experienced disciplemaking friendships in homes. We did multiple home visits. Yeah, I know. Not very Western, is it? But that's just one reason I love Eastern culture. Hospitality. How important is hospitality when it comes to the Gospel and disciplemaking? In the Bible, one of the requirements for being a church leader is hospitality.

Not going to lie. We drank a lot of coffee. I'd say 3-5 times a day we engaged coffee. And coffee engaged us. Interesting. I never saw a single "to-go" cup anywhere. In Albania, coffee isn't really about just coffee. It's about slowing down for community and friendship. Living and sharing a Jesus-like disciplemaking way of life can happen over coffee if we dare to slow down a little.

This just may be the best mission trip I've been a part of. Why? 
1. We did Cadre training that came out of disciplemaking friendships in the USA.
2. I didn't do all the training. (That's multiplication.) 
3. We aspired to live the training all day long wherever we went. 
4. Consequently, we were a loving community on a disciplemaking mission. This community included wonderful disciplemaking missionaries on the ground in Albania and many nationals.
5. Did I mention the coffee?

Thank you for reading all the way to the end—and praying for us! You are God's wind in our sails and we thank God for you.

"...Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I've commanded you." 
—Jesus, Matthew 28:19

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