It was the first evening of The Gathering Wave Conference in Durres, Albania and we were, of all things, doing a talent show! What a great way to get to know each other! We had enjoyed singing and instrumental music from many countries, magic tricks, story telling and hobby presentations. Then Melody Wachsmuth, USA missionary, seminary professor, writer and researcher on Roma issues stood up and told us about her former life. She had been a US park ranger for 8 years and loved the great outdoors. For her talent, she explained that she was going to give us the 5 rules for hiking the wilderness with a guide. She would then apply these rules to our Christian walk.
“The first rule,” she stated, “is stay together.” She proceeded to warn us of the dangers of wandering off alone on the trail: getting lost, getting hurt and possibly dying. In the same way, she explained, we need to stay together in our Christian walk to accomplish God’s plan for our lives.
“The second rule is,” she hesitated for just a moment, “stay together.”
“And the third rule is,” she continued with deliberate emphasis, “stay together.”
Melody’s important words proved to be prophetic during the Gathering Wave Conference.
April 16 to 18, God gathered together close to 100 invited delegates, who lead work with the impoverished and Roma/Gypsies, from 20 nations (16 in the Balkans and Central Europe) to the Harmonia Hotel on the shore of the Adriatic Sea for a week of learning about wholistic community outreach and development. As we watched the waves role in each day, we saw how they would gather into one bigger wave. We were praying for that bigger gathering wave.
Terry Dalrymple, Executive Director of the CHE Global Network, reported to us about how the wholistic missions movement was sweeping across our world and was now entering Europe.
Hal Jones, Director of Global Hope Network International and leader of the Transform World Poverty Challenge, presented the vision of reaching 1 million new unreached poor villages globally by 2020. He exhorted us to take up our own part of this challenge for Central Europe and the Balkans.
Agron Aga, head of the Fida team in Tirana, Albania and Ron spoke of the 9 challenges we will need to overcome to achieve this vision: We have to get out of our box of man-made rules and assumptions about working with the poor, and follow Biblical principles more closely.
John Warton, head of economic development for Transform World, spoke of the unseen but very real economic opportunities facing us if we adopt wholistic principles.
David Briggs, from The Jesus Film Project, shared the new opportunities that advancements in media and technology has given us for doing community evangelism and discipleship.
Cor Sneider, leader of a Dutch Team specializing in CHE for Urban settings, gave an introduction to Urban CHE methods and strategies.
Through it all, we sensed that God was bringing all of us together as that Gathering Wave, and the message was “stay together” to get this new thing done.
Participants attended 6 breakout sessions that presented to them CHE’s theology, philosophy, basic principles, strategies and methods of wholistic community outreach and development.
One important highlight was that every attendee had the opportunity to visit one of three CHE community projects in the Durres/Tirana region for a first-hand look at wholistic mission in action. They listened to CHE workers, talked to village leaders and volunteers and saw physical evidences of transformation. It was powerful testimony as they heard from many villagers how they had come to Christ and how their lives and their communities were now being transformed.
By now, many delegates were gathered, united and ready to consider what next steps they could possibly take concerning CHE. We laid out several concrete options:
- Connect with the CHE Europe Net network that we have recently organized to provide useful resources to those considering starting CHE projects. Stay together with us!
- Host a CHE Vision Seminar for leaders in their agency, denomination, churches our nation.
- Organize a CHE Training of Trainers Conference for those who want to begin wholistic community development in their country or region.
- Set up a CHE Foundation or Team in their country to nurture and encourage CHE works.
- Start a CHE community project.
The delegates, many of whom did not know each other before the conference, went into 2-hour country meetings to discuss next steps and to make plans.
We closed with a plenary session in which countries could report on the next steps they were committing to take. The following countries reported that they would be hosting a CHE Vision Seminar and/or a Training Conference before the end of 2015: Albania, Macedonia, southern Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine. Other delegates said they would be reporting back to their agencies with the goal of beginning CHE projects! What an incredible answer to our prayers!
We had come together now as a Gathered Wave. We agreed that we would “stay together” as a network to assist each other in seeing these plans through to the development of model CHE projects in each nation by 2020.
As the delegate left on Friday morning, we watched the wave flow out to the nations of the Balkans and Central Europe. More to come!