Alongsiders serve in a diverse array of contexts and capacities. Some serve as pastors of European churches. Some are evangelists. Some support and encourage European pastors. Every one of them is passionate about serving the Lord; every one has a heart for the people in their culture of ministry who do not yet know Jesus. And every one pours into life and ministry, day after day, month after month.
Who pastors these pastors? Who encourages these encouragers?
Every two years, Alongside Ministries holds a member care Gathering for the Alongsiders. This year, Alongsiders in the Czech Republic hosted their partners in ministry from France, Estonia, Kosovo, Albania and the United States. Executive Director Dave Pierson was Pastor to the pastors. He poured love and encouragement into the Alongsiders, reminding them that God is with them, that what they do matters to the Kingdom, and that the suffering they inevitably experience in their ministry has a great purpose for the Kingdom. European Directors Ian and Terry Rutter also poured love into Alongsiders, offering wisdom from their years of missionary experience and listening deeply even when there was no ‘fix’.
Volunteer childcare workers Bekah Hanson, Maggie Schuster, Jessie Scott and Eleanore Schrumpf, ably assisted by Alongsider youths Abi and Jamie Stoscher, tirelessly and creatively played with and loved the 26 Alongsider ‘third culture’ children, whose common language was English even if their first language wasn’t (and any parent knows that loving my kids is loving me!).
The community of Alongsiders heard from each other, celebrating God’s work, delighting in stories of the movement of the Spirit, and sharing the human frustration when ‘progress’ feels slow. They prayed over and encouraged each other, as those who share experiences can perhaps do better than anyone else.
And they worshipped the God they all serve, who loves them each, loves the Europeans among whom they live, and loves every human child He has created and for whom He has died and been resurrected to redeem.
For fun? Andrew and Amy Funka and Micah Lembke were delighted to show off Prague, their adopted hometown. They introduced us to favorite restaurants and cuisine and to the wonderful public transit.
They led walking tours through the architecturally diverse New Town and the cobble-stoned Old Town, past the famed astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall, across the statue-lined Charles Bridge, and through the extensive Prague Castle complex. They arranged a field trip out to the charming hill-side village of Karlstejn and its impressive Castle, the former repository of the crown jewels.
Many of the families enjoyed visiting the extensive Prague Zoo. And Andrew, Amy and Micah invited us into their ministry contexts as we worshiped with them at Prague Christian Fellowship and then cheered on the Prague Lions to a come-from-behind victory in their American-style football game.
The Spirit works in the community of the Gathering restoring and re-energizing Alongsiders. We are so grateful for this time together, and look forward with renewed hope to two years of ministry until the next Gathering in 2017.
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