In the final leg of our trip we would be heading to Croatia to spend time with Ben and Emily Spector, a young couple who are currently serving in Cakovec, Croatia. What made the five hour journey all the more enjoyable was that we would be taking Alex Lindsay, the pastor of City Chapel in Klagenfurt, Austria to his home in Milstatt, Austria. It was on our way.
first met Alex and his beautiful family in the summer of 2012 when I was speaking at a couple of conferences at what is known as “The Castle” in Milstatt, Austria. Alex has been in charge of the summer intern program at the conference center for the past six years. My wife Jenny and I noticed how seriously he took his responsibility of discipling the young men who were there for summer service. I spent some time getting to know him during that trip and asked if he would like to stay connected. He said yes and it has been awesome getting to know him, especially these last few days at the Austria Pastor’s day conference. When he accepted our offer to take him home, which would give us more time to get to know one another, he gladly agreed.
What ensued over the next couple of hours was a time of great conversation, getting to know Alex better, and hearing his heart for serving the Lord, not only at the castle, but even more so at the new church plant in Klagenfurt. Few things get me more excited than hearing a person’s testimony of how Jesus has transformed their lives. Hearing how the Lord rescued Alex out of a life of being an English punk rocker with a temper (he and his wife are from England) and an affinity for drugs was thrilling. I never grow tired of the truth that faith in Jesus makes us into brand new creations. One of the pastors at our church, Phil Spagnolo once said, “Our testimony is a tool that reaches into the hearts of people.” As I listened to the power of God’s word to transform a life, his testimony definitely reached deep into my heart. It encouraged me to fulfill my calling as a pastor more than ever.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
The Lord has really given me a heart for these young pastors and missionaries who have such a heart for the Lord that they are willing to leave the comforts of their own homes, go to a foreign country where they don’t speak the language, with the desire to spread the Gospel, the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross. Currently, I am making myself available to four men and their families: Ivan Ibbotson in Salzburg, Austria; Kurt Ibbotson in Leipzig, Germany; Ben Spector in Croatia; Luis Vargas in Mexico; and now it seems that the Lord has opened the door for a fifth with Alex and the church in Klagenfurt. How exciting it is to think about our church being a part of this new church plant. At this time we don’t fully know all that it will entail, but you can bet that it will be quite the adventure. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.
We had a great visit with Alex’s family. It was short but so good. I loved hearing their children with their British accents. Not only did we get to visit with Laura (Alex’s wife) and the kids, but we got to see Becky (Alex’ sister) who also works at the conference center, and Robin and Allison Turner (the directors of the conference center). Robin also pastors the Calvary Chapel in Spittal.
What a joy it was to see Ben and Emily again. We arrived at their small apartment around 6:30 in the evening, and Emily fixed us a great dinner (like mother like daughter). One of the things about great friends within the body of Christ, is that no matter how long you have been apart, it is as though you were never gone and you pick up right where you left off the last time you were together. It was great to hear about all the ministry they are doing. They are really plugged in at Calvary Chapel Cakovec, under the leadership of Pastor Damir Srnc.
Alan and I were shocked at their command of the language already. You can tell that they have worked very hard at it. From my limited perspective they seem to be practically fluent. They have a lot to learn, but to think that they can communicate at the level they are is hard to believe. As I sat in the service on Sunday morning, Emily was translating what Pastor Damir was saying while Ben was translating for Alan.
There worship team was absolutely glorious. It is always moving to hear people worship in their native tongue, especially when they are singing the same songs that we sing, simply in a different language. Ben and Emily are very gifted in worship and they looked quite natural up there leading the Croatian congregation.
Damir had asked if I would bring the message to the congregation on Sunday, which I was happy to do. Phillip, his nephew, translated for me. He was the same young man who had translated for me when I taught through the book of James at the Croatian Conference two summers ago. He is an excellent translator and I find it very easy to teach with him translating. One of the highlights of the Sunday morning was meeting Claire and Alex, two sisters, whose mother works for the American government in Zagreb, Croatia. They don’t speak the language and we were mutually pleased to be able to converse with one another…in English. It was a pleasure to meet them.
One of the highlights of visiting Damir and Bo, is the four to five hour lunch that follows the church service. They are such gracious hosts. They want you to eat a lot, there is always tons of food, and we had a great time just enjoying one another…talking about everything from the Lord to music and culture. It is surprising how quickly four hours can go by when you are enjoying such sweet Christian fellowship.
By around 6:00 or so, we were on our way to Zagreb, Croatia where we would spend the next day and a half touring this massive city. It is a city of 1,500,000 people many of whom are young students attending any one of the several colleges and universities which are located in Zagreb. Ben told us that most young people, at one time or another, will end up spending time in Zagreb. Ben and Emily have had a real burden for the city for a long time and wanted to give us a tour and share some of the ministry opportunities that are there.
The only full day we had to tour the city was incredibly windy and rainy. In fact at one point as I was running for shelter, a gust of wind came up with such force that it literally almost knocked me off my feet. We laughed every time we went by a garbage container as it would be stuffed with umbrellas that literally blew apart. While it was disappointing that the weather couldn’t have been nicer, it was fun running around in the cold rain. Ben and Emily are extremely adventurous (Emily surprisingly so) and they are a real joy to travel with. We love them a lot.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
The next morning (Tuesday) Alan and I got up fairly early and started our nine hour trip back to Frankfurt where we would catch our flight back home on Wednesday morning. Originally, we were dreading the long trip home, but as we were driving we realized that it was good to be just sitting in the car and unwinding for several hours. It turned out to be a good way decompress and consider all the Lord had done the previous week. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity.
After getting packed and a good night’s sleep we were up early and headed to the airport, looking forward to being home again with family and friends.
One unexpected treat, was to find a Tumi (luggage store) at the airport. Oh what joy it brought my heart to actually watch Alan comment on the various bags and actually check some of them out. I think he is on the search for a nice sized European shoulder bag. My wife asked me if Alan was a good traveling partner, to which I responded, “Absolutely!” But, when I saw him going through the pockets of that Tumi bag, it took our relationship to a whole different level.