Ginnie Daniel wrote a new post, Who Pastors the Pastors? Who Encourages the Encouragers? 4 years ago
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 […]
A congregation in Aberdeen, Scotland, seeks a Parish Assistant to help them facilitate their outreach to be “Jesus’ church in, for and with their local community.” To see the type or SHAPE of a person who makes a […]
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As we left Estonia, and headed for Geneva we were transitioning from strangers to a team, into a family. At the heart of that transformation was the Spirit of God, who miraculously cultivated a bond of trust between us. That bond, cemented in travel, learning, and service together allowed us, as a family would, to share the hard parts of our stories with one another.
I was amazed by God’s work within our AD family.
They loved each other so well. They cherished each other’s testimonies, they stewarded the hearts of their friends, and they prayed into each other’s lives boldly. It was powerfully palpable. You could almost touch the Spirit. Grab hold of it, even.
Some people call these Thin Places; where the distance between Heaven and Earth gets blurry. The poet Kathleen Raine captures the mystery in her poem The Wilderness,
“Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the mountain,
Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries red,
Drunk water cold and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.”
There, in Geneva, amidst the history of the Protestant Reformation and at the crossroads of our globalized landscape, I believe we experienced something akin to a Thin Place. Souls were restored, past hurts and insecurities were laid bare for healing and redemption, and God opened our eyes to His work in the world in a new way.
You see, the whole globe comes to Geneva. Because of Switzerland’s neutral history and its geography – and perhaps due to God’s providence – Geneva is an international city through and through. It’s not Swiss and it’s not French. It’s Other. Because of that, it is home to most of the world’s major NGO’s and aide organizations. This allowed us access to guest speakers working at the highest levels of international government, as well as those working on the front lines of aide work. Geneva also provided us a unique opportunity to see first-hand the work of cultivating intentionally international church congregations. We worshiped with believers from Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania.
I’ll carry two distinct lessons with me from Geneva: first, the grandeur of God. He’s bigger than our global problems and our institutions. Second, the intimacy of God. He cares so deeply about us. We experienced His love and grace profoundly.
Really and truly, we saw the “mountain behind the mountain.”
I think the first time I realized God was doing something special, something unique, in our team was during the National Song Festival in Estonia.
We’d spent the week prior learning about Estonia’s remarkable history as a conquered people. We spent a lot of time digging into the Soviet Era. In the early 90’s Estonia used folk songs and nonviolent protest to break away from Russian rule. We heard first hand testimony from people who’d lived through the independence times. They told stories of God’s deliverance. Not only from political oppression, but more profoundly of a concurrent spiritual revolution taking place in the midst of the atheist Soviet Union. Their stories of courage and faithfulness were deeply inspiring.
So imagine our last night in Estonia. With tens of thousands of Estonians at a special venue designed for this festival that happens once every five years. Right on the Baltic Sea. Where they sing songs about every era in their culture’s history. We could feel the history. But late into the mid summer’s night, the choir of 5,000-7,000 singers started singing songs from the 90’s. Songs of freedom. Songs of revolution.
The crowd morphed from nostalgic to fully present. Grandpas put their grandsons on their shoulders. Friends linked arm-in-arm. Parents made sure their little ones were awake. Our team of Americans, who didn’t know the words to a single song, was fully taken into the scene. It was the first of many transcendent moments of our summer. We took it in with arms wide open.
More than anything, I think what we learned that night in Tallinn is that God is present in our midst, even if we don’t acknowledge him. Just by the numbers, there were likely very few Christians in the crowd that night. As we stood at the top of the slope, though, it was hard to ignore God’s hand in the history of Estonia. In turn, it became impossible to deny God’s direct involvement in the lives of our teammates.
Up to that point we had been making healthy strides from a group of strangers to a community of friends. We became a family listening to Estonian freedom songs.
Andrea grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and graduated from the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta with degrees in Kinesiology and Secondary Education. She has been working in Ersekë, Albania […]