Fruitful Friendship

As I write I am sitting in the sun lounge of my new home with the sun streaming in and the window open so I can hear the red kites calling. It’s been a lovely day, gathering for worship, connecting with people I am enjoying getting to know, then lunch in the botanical gardens with a friend. I am currently in the midst of major transition both personally and at work, there are many unresolved situations, but as I sit here having made my first rent payment, I am very conscious of the generous faithfulness of God.

This week I have been pondering the theme of fruitfulness. What is the key to fruitfulness and, when we aren’t experiencing it what does that tell us? As you know I have just spent a couple of weeks with the Fusion team in Albania and true to say I have been impacted by this incredible bunch! I am learning so much as I reflect on my journey with them. They are fruitful. If they only have 60 young people on a Day Trip where Jesus is introduced and the opportunity to respond to him is given, they are disappointed. These Day Trips happen once every one to three months! They have the freedom of the city of Korce – they are able to run community festivals in the main square at any time with no notice. In fact the city authorities ask for their involvement with any community event; they know they will create a positive, wholesome culture. They have a growing national profile with the theatre productions they put on… and the list goes on with lives transformed at every turn.

They don’t have an office. They don’t have a PR plan. They don’t have a web site. They don’t write newsletters often. They don’t have financial structures and systems – partly because they don’t have any finances! They do spend most of their time in coffee shops, meeting, connecting! They thrive on each other’s company. They love to worship together. They have a church that loves them, commissions them, supports them, partners with them, and compliments their ministry.

In John 15 Jesus tells us that our purpose is to be fruitful and in so doing bring God glory. He then gives us some clues as to have we can make sure that happens. He says we need to remain in and with him, in his love; he nails it by describing our relationship with him as friendship. “Don’t act like my servants, franticly trying to please me, just be my friends, get to know me and live the way I do. An easy way to live the way I do is to do the things I ask, I don’t ask much, but the most important thing I ask is that you love one another like I have loved you.”  (my paraphrase!)

There is a little trick here that I haven’t spotted before: as you love me the way Jesus loves, I will experience his love… you are causing me to remain in his love. So in the context of fellowship that is fuelled by Christ’s love, together we obey both his command to love each other as he does and his command to remain in his love.

So the keys to fruitfulness that Jesus highlights are: loving God and getting to know him as a friend, authentic fellowship where we love each other as Christ would, and lastly asking God for stuff. That’s it. It doesn’t have to complicated, it doesn’t have to be frantic. It’s the way Jesus lived… which does mean that it could get messy and it will involve death, but it will be fruitful and give God much glory.

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Dont Touch!

I have just returned from a ministry trip to Albania. We were there to help run a week-long foundational course for life and mission – many of you will have heard of and seen me write about Foundations before. The Albanian courses are phenomenon in themselves. Speak to many outside Albania, who have done a Foundations course and they will tell you how equally great and grueling the week is. If they are looking for influence, they will then proceed to share how the content really should be cut down and the schedule spaced out, how unreasonable it is to expect people cope with the pace. Then come and ask any of young person connected with the Fusion team in Albania and you hear a very different story.

Foundations in Albania is a highlight in the year! It’s about vibrant, electric times of worship. It’s about discovering the God of the bible alive and in their midst. It’s about complete surrender at the cross. It’s about preparing to change the world together. It’s a time of refreshing, fun, volleyball and dancing past midnight. The chance to go is coveted by the teenagers – spaces are now limited to those who have never done it before as the campsite can only take 80 people!

In Australia we do what we call ‘Youth Foundations’ where the sessions are presented in a very youth friendly way with work books and craft activities to keep the young people’s focus during the sessions. Every minute of the day is structured with team activities so young people are on the go, learning, creating, the whole time. Not so in Albania, its straight, no frills, ‘adult’ foundations! Last week of the 60 Albanians doing the course the vast majority were in their teens and early twenties. So how does this work?

As I hung out with the team and the participants I think I might have stumbled on the key. The leaders have a passionate commitment to God and seeing their generation experience his love and life. For each of them Foundations has been a profound journey that equipped them to fulfill this passion and to know God more. Their passion is contagious and the young people they work with are direct beneficiaries. Together through the year they experience God’s life and love amongst them and overflowing. Foundations then becomes a gathering of celebration and empowering together to change the world. The intensity and the schedule are irrelevant as they discover God and his purpose for their lives.

The team in Albania are reaching a whole generation and Foundations is a key part of their strategy. No frills, it works. You were to ask them they’d say – don’t touch it! (apart from the movie ‘Cromwell’ that is!).

Back from my travels!

Hi there!

Sorry i have been so quiet for so long. I am back from 5 weeks of traveling – 3 weeks retreat/holiday and 2 weeks work.

Here are a few of my highlights from the Albanian Foundations course we helped run last week:

  • ·         Young people crowded around the candle at the front of the stage, watching as their pieces of paper symbolising things they wanted to put right, burnt away.
  • ·         Thundering round of applause as the movie Amazing Grace ended.
  • ·         Young people coming to faith!
  • ·         “I’m going to change the world, forget Ancient History, I’m doing political science at Uni now!”
  • ·         Cheering throughout the slide show during the festival debrief.
  • ·         Dancing till way past midnight on the last night.
  • ·         Young people on the edge of their seats drinking in God’s word.
  • ·         Seeing trainers take the plunge and deliver units with all their heart for the first time.

      i put together a photobook of the team in Albania if you would like to have a look, here is the link:

http://blur.by/184ylnU

Beyond the Horizon

Follow this link to find the latest edition of the bulletin that a team and i produce featuring the work of Fusion in the developing world. In it we take a closer look at Trenchtown, Jamaica, bringing communities together for peace in Nigeria and supporting mums in Athens. These are just some of the creative things teams are doing to sustain the work across the globe.

enjoy!

http://fusionyac.org/beyondthehorizon/BTHSpring2013Email.pdf

 

three things l love to do

 

During my recent trip abroad we covered three different countries and I got to connect significantly with four different teams. It was great! That time was almost a cameo of the things I love the most in life.

In South Africa we were a team of five with an impossible task to accomplish – the number of things to achieve and journeys to facilitate was almost ridiculous – but it was all for a huge, godly, kingdom dream… So we went for it and together we saw it all come together; we had mountains of fun, worked our butts off and in the process got to know and love God, the community and each other more.

In Greece, although sick and exhausted from the South African job, it was exhilarating and fascinating to help facilitate a process that helped us move forward as individuals, teams and as an international group. I really enjoy being part of that tie up between the big picture and the individual, the task and the life between us.

And from there I headed to Albania with Erion, Lysiena and Besi. It was a four hour road trip north-west from Thessaloniki through the hill country of northern Greece. Then across the boarder into Albania where the countryside feels like you have entered some bygone era when we got around on horses and donkeys, using carts to carry our loads to market. When we farmed small holdings of land in our families, together ploughing, planting and then harvesting in the heat of the day. It’s a different life and a different pace.

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

Besi, Lorena, Erion, Lino and Lysiena at another cafe!

That evening I was dropped off at Lorena’s home where I was to stay for the weekend, and I slept! The next 48 hours were so different to the previous 3 weeks. This part of the trip was centred around cafes and shared meals! It was about doing life together, hanging out, spending time sharing together. It is something I love but I don’t get to do that often, there was no great task to achieve, no burning agenda items to cover, it was just about being present. Not just physically present but fully present. I learnt so much about what life was like for these guys individually and as a team and I was nourished and energised in the process. Sometimes it was just me and one other person, other times it was a whole group of us, or just three.

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

Lysi, Lorena, Mattia and Myself

The café stops weren’t in my honour, its just how the team function, they simply enjoy each other’s company and ministry takes place as they do life together. In fact in between the café stops was a youth meeting, a Sunday service and a festival – there were other things that they did, those were just the three things I took part in.

Besi and Lino - beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

Besi and Lino – beards thanks to Fiddler on the Roof!

I remember many years ago when I first started traveling, reflecting on how God shows up in the person of a stranger, but we often miss out because we are so preoccupied with something busy. My time in Albania reminded me how I really love just being present with no particular agenda but to care and not be indifferent.

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what’s that in your hand?

Fusion Albania on stage

Today I want to celebrate a remarkable story. In one of the poorest countries in Europe, that freed itself from a communist regime less than two decades ago, a team of four are leading a gentle revolution. With a band of around 100 volunteers mainly in their teens and early twenties these guys have a dream to see their generation alive in all its God given potential, bringing hope to Europe and the world. By expressing Christ’s love through everyday life and living, they are setting out to change their world.

Reaching the young people who are desperate for wholesome role models has been tricky. But these guys have taken what they have and used it to have incredible impact. It would seem that the Devine design was to bring together in this team, the exact skill, gifts and passion that made putting on large scale, professional quality, musical theatrical productions an obvious, exciting, magnetic possibility. A few years ago they began working with the students in a couple of High Schools in their area, each year they take on a different group who become the cast and stage team for a major production. They have performed the likes of Hunch Back of Notre Dame and Les Miserables to packed out audiences in key cities across the country, including the capital, Tirane. In the process the young people get to experience values based living and see a different way of viewing themselves and others. Mayors, councillors, the national and local press all love what’s happening.

This week they performed Oliver to packed out audiences 3 nights in a row in the team’s home city of Korce. 1300 people saw the musical. Erion, the team leader describes what its been like for them over the last few days:

It seems like the whole city is talking about the show, everywhere we go people congratulate us :). The message during the drama was very strong and very good and the people responded very well.  The director of the theatre (she is a well known actor around Albania) and some other actors gave us very positive feedback. They were amazed with the level of professionalism.

At the end of next week the show goes to the capital Tirana and another city Elbasan. To make this happen the guys need to raise quite a few dollars! Tickets for the shows are sold at less than a dollar each so that people can afford to come, but this means they cannot generate enough income to pay for big expenses like transport of the troop of 50 and all the set.

I find what Erion and the team are doing simply inspirational! What has God placed in my hands that he wants me to use the way these guys have done? I get the impression that there are adventures to be had and treasure to be found and God’s just waiting for us to see what’s right in front of us. What has he placed in your hands?