Forgive me! This blog article is much longer than any I have ever written. The reason is that some incredible things happened in the last month as Jeannie and I traveled through the Balkan countries, ministering in Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia. We were too busy to write blogs as events happened. So, I thought it best just to tell the story in chronological order, meaning the most recent events are reported last. I’ve tried to include lots of pictures to break up the reading. Please hang on until the last article. It may be the most exciting of all.
One of Community Health Evangelism’s and CHE EuroNet’s chief goals is to change the paradigm Evangelical Christian churches, denominations and mission agencies use in ministering to the poor and marginalized to a more Biblical, wholistic and fruit-bearing approach.
A key way to do this is by engaging young and future Christian leaders with CHE strategy and methodology before they fall into the rut of aid-driven and spiritual-focus-only ministries.
Ron and Jeannie had a rich opportunity to do this September 23 to 27 when they taught an introductory CHE course at the International School for Theology and Leadership (ISTL) in Tirana, Albania. Along with Agron Aga, Director of CHE Albania, they led 35 Christian college students through fifteen hours of Community Health Evangelism’s Biblical basis, principles, strategies and methods.
In the process the three instructors eschewed the common college practice of lecturing in favor of using CHE’s village teaching methods
of problem-posing dramas, Q and A, discussion, small group discovery Bible study, role-play, art work and story telling. The participation was often lively and enthusiastic.
After the training course the students went home to introduce their new CHE concepts to their churches and leaders throughout Albania. After three weeks they will return to Tirana and the ISTL to take a final exam on this crucial subject. CHE Albania will follow up on the students and their churches, hoping to mobilize some of them for further training next spring in how to begin their own CHE community programs. Pray for fruit to come through these newly- trained, future Christian leaders in Albania.
Wow! That Was Quite a Change! The 2019 CHE EuroNet Gathering. Learning to “Abound.”
Each fall CHE Teams from Central Europe and the Balkans that make up the CHE EuroNet have a Gathering of workers and board members. We meet together for in-service training, networking, fellowshipping, inspiration and sharing of best practices.
It is my absolute favorite meeting of the year! And I enjoy my part as CHE EuroNet Coordinator in planning it. This October people from Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, the US and the Roma nation who have given their lives to serve Jesus by serving the poor lived and interacted as God’s family for 5 days.
The last two years we held our Gathering at rustic camp facilities in Serbia and Bosnia. This year was CHE Albania’s turn to play host and
they came through with a resort on the Adriatic Sea at super-low, off-season rates! Paul once wrote the Philippians that he had learned how to live humbly most of the time and how to live abundantly some of the time. This was our turn to live abundantly. The resort rooms were super, our meeting room was first-rate with a view of the sea-side, the water was very swimmable for October and the food was tasty and abundant.
On top of that we were treated to a challenging and vision-stimulating two-day training on the Disciple Making Movement and Discovery Bible Study Methods by Eno Demiral of Global Nomads. Keith Holloway, World Challenge’s CHE Director, gave three
encouraging messages designed for CHE workers. Jon and Tanya Parks from Slovakia facilitated an evening of worship and renewal and Ron led a closing Communion service. Randy Schmor, Director of Gateway Teams, was also on hand to help CHE Teams plan for summer mission teams.
Close to 75 persons attended all or part of this year’s Gathering. We are growing as a network!
Eno, Keith, Jon and Tanya and music team and CHE Albania, especially Blerta Kamberi, thank you all for making this a fantastic and memorable Gathering.
The Third Roma Network Conference Was Held in Sarajevo, October 9-12
After the CHE EuroNet Gathering, Ron and Jeannie drove to Sarajevo, Bosnia to attend the third Roma Network Conference. Held every three years, this conference brings together leaders who work in various Roma ministries throughout Central Europe and the Balkans.
The Conference theme was Partnering and morning sessions involved trainings on how to form effective partnerships within the region. Ron and Jeannie had the joyful opportunity to participate in Hungarian, Bulgarian and Macedonian regional networking, partnering and planning sessions. They were encouraged to see throughout the conference that wholistic mission
concepts akin to CHE’s are beginning to gain a foothold in the thinking of a number of leaders.
Some of them openly acknowledged the failures of old aid-driven, top-down approach to poverty and Roma work
Networking is a key purpose of these meetings and Ron and Jeannie were able to make and renew some important contacts, particularly with workers in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. We are praying that these will lead to some significant meetings and partnership discussions in the near future.
Come Over to Macedonia! A New Door of Ministry Opening in North Macedonia
Our last stop on this four-week road trip was North Macedonia and on-site visits with new and potential CHE project sites with our new CHE partner there.
This Macedonian band of trained evangelists, church planters, disciple makers and church leaders has established churches of various sizes in some 35+ communities in North Macedonia. Now they want to use Community Health Evangelism to go deeper into many of these communities to transform lives and whole communities in Jesus’ name. They began their first two CHE village programs last fall.
Our primary purpose was to visit two Roma Muslim communities numbering over 1000 people that could be their next program site. Both communities are struggling with lack of water in this very dry year. The little water they have is contaminated and making them sick. The sewage runs down their dirt streets and garbage is not collected. Men work for bare, minimal wages and few children attend school.
It was reported that the new Imam is telling them they must now come to the new mosque regularly if they want to be buried in the cemetery. The local CHE-trained pastor is visiting homes in the 2 communities, sharing Jesus and the vision of community development. The village leaders we met with said they were ready to work together with us and the Lord to solve their communities’ desperate needs.
In November, CHE trainers from Albania will lead Macedonian workers in intensive training to begin this development project. These trained workers will then begin the village entry process.
In May 2020 we plan to bring a team from the US to help CHE workers and these two villages build temporary container-style community centers for use during their development process. Randy Schmor of Gateway Teams (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Erv VanVeldhuizen will be organizing this build team. If you are interested in details, contact Randy.