It begins where many of us would simply not dare to live.
It begins with centuries of violence and disputes over political lines and ancient religious differences and deep-seated ethnic divisions. It begins with death on both sides of a border. And a breakaway republic that bravely declares itself its own, regardless of who may believe otherwise. It begins with a border crossing gone wrong when a van of 5 volunteer Nazarene missionaries try to make a 9 hour trip across 3 countries because their passports may give them grace while the ones belonging to this nation fly, for it is their sole travel option.
And THAT, is how it began.
11 nations. 8 languages. 126 souls. Coming together for 4 days of worship, and discussion, and learning, and laughter, covered in prayer over places and people and issues that would keep most of us up all night.
Facing the issues of human trafficking, addictions, abuse, organized crime, post-modern cultures, war-torn countries, marginalized people, and a Church that is pioneering growth in a place on the planet where some say God is dead.
We broke our piggy banks open, we pulled our kids out of school, we took unpaid leave from our jobs, we drove double digit hours in cars and busses to cross borders. And we came together in the presence of one powerful Lord for the 2014 Central Europe Field Conference.
This is our story.
Two hours into their journey, they approached the first border. The most difficult one. The questionable one. They shushed their 3 year old. Found their documents. Said a prayer. And waited for the border guard of the entry country.
A silent flipping through the pages of the passport.
Flipping again. Silence.
Flipping again. Silence.
Another turn through the passports.
‘Denied.’ he handed back the books and turned his back in dismissal.
‘Sir?’ called the driver, hesitantly, politely. ‘Sir?’ Carefully. Trying to find that foggy, indefinite line that allows you to ask a question without causing a quick spike in uniformed anger. ‘Could you tell us why? – – – – ‘Please?’
“Wrong stamps.’ He shook his head in the direction that they had just come. ‘We don’t recognize that stamp as a country.’ Waving his hand in final dismissal, he put distance between himself and the van. The conversation was done. To ask for more clarification would risk direct anger.
So, the van of 5 drove four more hours to a second border with a different country. They entertained the 3-year old. They had now driven for six hours and were still within the border of their origin country. The toddler was patient. They tried to be hopeful.
The passports were checked.
The stamp was given. Entry.
But, the customs guards halted their progress.
‘License Plate’ he grunted with a nod. ‘No good. No admittance. No vehicle with the plates of that nation can drive in our country. We do not recognize that country.’
“Yes,’ answered the driver. ‘But, we can buy a temporary license plate, correct?’
‘Yes,’ replied the guard, offering no more information.
‘Where?’ again, the driver attempted to find that foggy land that allows a polite question without bringing wrath.
A deep sigh. This will be the last question entertained. ‘The other border. 4 hours away. There. You can buy temporary license plates there. Not here.’ Spitting on the ground, he turned and walked away.
The border four hours away. The first border they tried to cross.
Defeated. Tired already. Hungry. Discouraged.
Their journey had ended before it barely began.
Sitting down in a tiny restaurant to eat, and to think, and to pray, the mother suggested that she and the children go home. How much more could they take? Maybe the men in the van could continue alone.
They sent a text to us.
‘Turned down at 2 borders. May try a third but not hopeful. We probably won’t make it.’
We could nothing. They could do nothing. Borders are by definition impenetrable. We prayed.
We prayed that the Lord of the universe would put the right border guard in the right place at the right time for this crossing.
And then we waited.
As the waiter served the weary travelers their food, someone dared to ask him,’Do you know how we can buy temporary license plates for the border?’
‘No.’ The waiter shook his head. ‘But he might.’
And sitting at the next table was a border guard. Kindness. Fluent English. Helpful. The right border guard at the right time at the right place.
The guard made phone calls. Asked his friends for help. Went out of his way.
And when the van pulled up to the nearby border, the guards were expecting them. Waved them forward. Waved them through.
19 hours after they began, they arrived in Vajta.
This is how it began.
On the same day, during the same time, a bus of Albanians was well into their 22 hour journey to Vajta. Four vans of Romanians were midway into their 16 hours of travel.
This is our story – the story of a Field on a continent where experts say that God is dead.
Check back over the next few days. Hear our stories. See our God at work in the lives and the hearts and the prayers of His people in Central Europe.