29th May – 4th June
This week one of our students got baptised! We went down to the coast for the day and enjoyed the beach and the beautiful Slovene coastal city of Koper, and then headed to a more secluded beach where she and her church and a whole lot of her friends were gathered. Four people got baptised, including one impromptu baptism and we all celebrated with more swims and a picnic afterwards. It was such an incredible blessed afternoon. Everyone was joyous and excited, we sang in Slovene with a guitar by the beach and prayed and praised the Lord for His amazing grace
Baptisms are such an incredible sign! I am so thankful that God put them in place to remind us of Jesus’ death and life, and the way we are caught up in it. As she came up from the water and gasped at the air again, opened her eyes again to the sunlight and shook off the water from her face, she was a picture of new life. It is such a powerful pointer to the way we have put off our old selves in Christ’s death, and such a beautiful and fun reminder of the way we are now soaked and cleansed by Christ. Praise God for His mercy and grace and praise God for the life we have in Him. Praise God for the joys of baptism and I pray Slovenia sees so many more!
Colossians 2:9-12 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
5th – 11th June
This week we had our IFES Debriefing Conference. This is when the staff and volunteers who work for IFES across Europe come together to debrief on the year and prep those who are leaving for going home. Even though we’ve essentially only known most of these people for two weeks, it feels so much like family and it was such a wonderful week. We celebrated all of the blessings and triumphs in the year, but also cried out to God together and grieved the brokenness and struggles of the year. Europe is currently the continent where the church is growing the slowest and we looked at Habakkuk and explored how we can cry out ‘How long, O Lord’ and did so together in reflection of the battle of the year personally, nationally and across the continent.
Throughout the week we mourned what often feels like God’s distance from Europe, but also all of the injustices and tragedies that happen around the world. We were encouraged that it is ok and good to cry out to God rather than letting the frustration build up so that we turn away from Him. Instead we let Him answer, and He is an incredible comfort. It turns our hearts and our eyes again towards Jesus and that the LORD alone is the just but merciful judge, and we hope in Him. We found again that there is so much comfort and peace in the Lord. In the words of Habakkuk 2:20 – all the earth is still before Him.
Habakkuk 1:2-3 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
12th – 18th June
We bid farewell to another precious student this week. The exodus has begun again, and it just fills me with thanks because God has blessed us so abundantly this semester. It’s sad when everyone leaves, but it’s encouraging to think that we only had them because God gave them to us in the first place. And that’s especially comforting as they all go back to different countries and contexts. We’ve prayed for them and put all this hard work into them, but it’s God who is growing and shaping and challenging them, and He will continue to grow and shape them as they leave and go home. It’s really reminding me to trust Him and depend on Him in my ministry. I don’t know what will happen when they go home, but I pray that one day I’ll get to celebrate with the in Heaven and I trust God is faithful.
1 Thessalonians 5:24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
19th – 25th June
This week we had a few days away for team training. We had down a strengths assessment at the beginning of the year and we spent most of the time looking at that and understanding it within the ‘one body many parts’ framework. It was a very useful few days as it helped us grapple with some of the team dynamics and see how we had contributed to the team over the year. It would have been good to do at the beginning of our time here rather than the end, but it was useful nonetheless.
I think one of the key things that I was reminded of this week was just how important each person in a team or a church is – God has given us the people we have for a specific purpose and we each play a different role. No one is more or less valuable than the next, but we find it so easy to often over value someone or compare ourselves to them, or even over value ourselves. A mouth may seem more important because of the power of speech, but the mouth can’t go anywhere and tell anyone if it has no feet to take it there. It also takes the pressure off, we don’t have to even try and do everything – that’s why God gave us other people. But we all work together, encouraging and building each other up, towards Christ – all for His glory. Thank you Lord for my team and all my brother and sisters that form your church and let us work for your glory!
1 Corinthians 12:12-20 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
26th June – 2nd July
We had our farewell party this week. We hugged our students goodbye knowing that we’ll hardly see any of them before they go home. We’re trusting them into God’s hands – not that they were really ever anywhere else. But it was also Liv’s farewell – so sad! Just in case I haven’t talked about her enough, she’s my flatmate and workmate and general do-everything-together-mate. She’s been the biggest tangible blessing this year and keeps me sane, sometimes keeps me on task, but more often is a distraction.
People often don’t believe us when we say we’ve only known each other since August last year. We’ve basically laughed, eaten and cycled our way through the past ten months, and done it all arm in arm. We’ve had mornings of laying on the couch reflecting on the endless rain and fog. We’ve had afternoons of exploring Ljubljana and drinking coffee with students while talking about Jesus. We’ve had evenings sitting around the dinner table and discussing the theology of hospitality and women in ministry. We’ve had nights of entertaining far more people than our little flat can handle and staying up well past-midnight as we chat and wash-up. We’ve gone on adventures all around Slovenia and had forays into Italy and Croatia as we simultaneously console each other and rejoice in life in another country and culture.
There’s the constant tension that comes in any female relationship of loving each other and being able to laugh at anything together, but always being subtly competitive. By God’s grace that has never flared up into any real arguments or issues but has instead shaped both of us to strive together for greater humility and godliness. She has been one of my life’s most wonderful triggers for growth in my faith – whether through encouragement or rebuke. We have mourned many family tragedies together over the past year and had evenings of collapsing into tears and crying out to God together, but we have also mourned the brokenness of the world and even the brokenness of ourselves together. And time and time again God has provided comfort in her. Whether through prayer, head-strokes, hugs, a telling glance, or some well-timed wit she has been the answer to umpteen prayers this year. I’m so thankful for her and I pray she is just as much of a blessing as she goes home as she is to me here.
Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.