I'm coming towards the end of my first time in both Serbia and Macedonia, travelling with Ken Bothamley who has been here many times before. You can read a bit about our itinerary here.
It's always hard to know what to write in a blog like this. Do you go for a full blown account of the trip with photos and stories (Ken does a great job of that so I'll post a link to his blog when he does it!). Do you write something saying how hard it's all been so people don't just think you've been on holiday! Or do you write nothing at all and see if anyone notices you were away :) I thought instead of those things I'd briefly reflect on how we can all be involved in the nations.
Part of our call as a church is to be involved in reaching nations. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations, and much as we want to make a huge impact in our local community there is also a call for us to think internationally. We can do that in lots of ways but I thought I'd reflect on a few.
We can visit nations, helping build and encourage the churches in those places. I feel part of my call is not to travel very often, but instead to focus on building a local church which will send others who are much better equipped to help them than I am to help churches in the nations we're involved in. I'm thrilled that again this year a bunch of our youngsters will be going to Albania to run a youth camp there. That 10 women from our community (plus the very brave but totally outnumbered Ken Bothamley) will be helping run a women's conference in Albania in May. That last year a team of builders went out to Estonia to help renovate a building there. In 2016 I want us to plan a load more trips so that many of us will have the opportunity to help make disciples in another nation - why not plan to be on one of those trips.
We can have nations visit us. This happens when we host leaders and teams from other churches throughout the year, most especially at the Global Leadership Summit and the REAL women's conference. But it also happens evey Sunday as we host people from other nations who have come to live in our local area. We need to make sure we are friendly and welcoming to all those different groups of people.
We can pray for the nations. Jesus said that his house would be a house of prayer for all nations. I've been thrilled through February to see our prayer room booked out so much, and particularly excited that a number of prayer meetings have been organised to pray for specific nations and the people involved there. Let's keep praying for nations, both individually and as a community.
We can give financially to the nations. If you give on a Sunday a chunk of that giving goes to reaching nations. That might be through helping fund teams either going out or visiting us, sponsoring overseas Academy students or meeting financial needs in other nations. This year that comes to around £50,000, but in future years we're keen to see that increase.
Tonight Ken and I are in a place called Kragujevac, the fourth largest city in Serbia. It is a city of around 150,000 people but only has one evangelical church and around 20 evangelical believers. I'm going to be speaking at a meeting where a Christian here, Ivan, has invited a whole load of his neighbours to come and hear the gospel. Please be praying for courage for me, and that in time we might all be involved in seeing much fruit in places like this.