Hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Ethnically, I am a mutt: 1/16th of this, 1/8th of that, a pinch of this, a splash of that. It is amazing that a combo like that turned out so good (note the sarcasm). However, in this beautiful mess I have the deepest connection to my Hungarian roots. I was blessed to know my great grandmother, Ethel Hines Enydi. She was a strong woman who led her family well. She took risks and loved her family. I have many memories of her with her cute house slippers and apron on. We remember her often when my aunt makes Hungarian cakes, stuffed cabbage, and chicken paprikash. Food is a lasting connection to who you are and where your family comes from. And don’t we all praise God for good food.

When planning our documentary outline, I was excited that Budapest was on the list. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with not only the country, but also the city in which my family came from. Between the bumps in the noses, large blue puppy dog eyes, and round bellies, I knew that these were my people. I am a rather sentimental person and had to fight back the tears several times in our 5 days here.

In our short stay we were able to explore the ins and outs of the beautifully open city. Unlike other European cities, Budapest has wide streets and broad views. It gives you a chance to breath. While taking in the beautiful scenery and detailed architecture, you better believe we found Chicken paprikash and stuffed cabbage to feast on. But I think I prefer Ethel’s recipe.

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Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

We had high hopes coming into the Czech. Many of our friends and connections spoke very highly of the country, especially of the esteemed Prague. And let me say, it did not disappoint. It makes sense in light of the 100,000 artists hired by King Charles IV to beautify his empire during the 14th century. Even Hitler, as crazy as he was, said that he would have no bombs dropped on the city of Prague to protect its beauty. Given that, Prague has a great number of ancient, beautiful buildings protected from devastation of war.

This trip has been a huge learning experience for us all. The deep history of Europe no-doubt affects the way these cultures interact, but we as Americans have been almost completely ignorant of what that history involves. For example, the Czech has been a region completely dominated by other nations since the 1600s. Since then, there have only been two short periods amounting to about 40 years that the Czechs have been independently governed. These influences have profound implications for how the people engage socially, politically, religiously, etc. Through our 5 interviews here in Czech, we learned about the deep skepticism many of the people hold toward any kind of institution, including the church. There is a sense that any new idea presented for the people to accept is only a ploy to dominate them and oppress them.

After the time of communism in the Czech, when all religion was nearly stomped out, the soil for the gospel is very hard. There is a huge need for Christians to be building relationships and living out their faith in a vibrant way here. We are encouraged for the work being done through the various churches and ministries active here, but the need is great. Dave Patty, president and founder of Josiah Venture, is confident that a time of harvest is coming for the Czech. Too many missionaries and pastors have been burnt out and thrown in the towel. It is a long-term commitment to be ministers of the gospel in this country. Please pray for the perseverance needed for the gospel to penetrate the hearts of people here.

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Germany

After a few train rides we were picked up in a small town in the South East of Germany called Kaiserslautern. The kind gentlemen who picked us up happened to be half American and filled us in on a lot of local history as we made our way to meet with the pastor he interns with, Michael Landoll.

We spent two days with the Landoll family in their home in Kusel. It was so green and beautiful with an old castle near by. The whole family was so kind to us and it was great to see how they have their home so open as many friends would come by to visit and eat. In addition to our interview of Michael, it was so interesting to learn how much German history affects the people’s perception of God and what hindrances to the Gospel are present from that.

Michael then took us to meet a pastor of a larger church in a near by city and then on to another pastor in the old capitol of West Germany, Bonn. After that, we interviewed a few locals in Dortmund who work with university students there. Germany was definitely a wake up call to how important it is to redefine concepts. For example, in Germany, “Protestantism” is known as being stagnant, old and overly traditional – definitely different from what we’d think of in America. Also, conversations with Germans about American politics are quite interesting…

Then we headed to Berlin. It was kind of a last minute choice to go to Berlin, but it was definitely an amazing experience. Personally, I am very fascinated with World War II history and so the museum at the remnant of the wall, “Topography of Terror,” was incredibly interesting. It helps us understand some of what we had been learning and documenting earlier – how certain parts of German history have a dramatic affect on the people.

Next, we’re off to the Czech Republic…

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

When we put Amsterdam on the itinerary, we really didn’t know much about the city (that is becoming a reoccurring theme in our planning). We only knew the headliners: legalized drugs, open prostitution, and, of course, windmills. What a combo, right? Aside from those aspects, Amsterdam was such a beautiful and complex city. If you ever get a chance to visit, go!

We only had a day and a half here but we tired to make the most of it. We were able to utilize all of the canals by taking an hour boat tour through the historic city. The architecture and culture of Amsterdam is enchanting. From the bike filled streets to the singing in pubs, we truly wished we had more time to delve in here.

Although there was no contact or person in Christian ministry here for us to interview, I think the number of churches repurposed as cafes, skate parks, and business offices can speak to the declining influence of the church. It is clear that Amsterdam is a community that prides itself in extreme liberal freedoms and open culture. I wonder, though, how long can a culture be left to their own vices before they long for a deeper satisfaction?

 

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Ede, Netherlands

Ede, Netherlands

Believing that there are no coincidences with God, we rejoice looking back on our time spent in Santiago, Chile just over a year ago now. That said, we found ourselves traveling here to the small, rural town of Ede to stay with those same people we had met a year ago in Chile. They had recently transitioned into new ministry opportunities here in the Netherlands and became an enthusiastic contact for our documentary. Though they themselves hadn’t been here long enough to speak to the intricate details concerning the state of Christianity, they were able to connect us with wonderful people who could do so. We were able to interview Marco, a leader in Youth for Christ, and Henk, a teacher, a pastor, writer, and Chair of Baptist History, Identity, and Theology at VU University Amsterdam. We received great insights from both of these men.

Outside of filming and shooting photos, we found ourselves casually riding bicycles around town, visiting 16th century windmills, eating strange Dutch foods, and enjoying time spent with old friends. We even found the time here to begin the first teaser video for the documentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below!

Another successful stop on our journey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNFB2XiKJ_Y

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Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva was a last minute decision, but well worth the detour in our trip! After a tearful goodbye to the Theziers in France we geared up and took a train west to Switzerland. I had no idea what to expect…

We were all pleasantly surprised by the beautiful architecture and the peaceful atmosphere of Geneva. After settling in our flat we ventured out with excitement to begin our exploration of this place that was the beginnings of John Calvin and the Reformation.

We decided the first thing was to find a place to eat dinner (leaving Mike’s family was a bit rough in this regard since we were provided with 5 course meals!), but we headed out in to the city with excitement. The first restaurant we came to had a sign out front with the specials… 40 Euros a person! This had to be a mistake, so we traveled further to find the more budget friendly places to eat. A pizza restaurant – this was it… what?! 45 Euros for a small pizza!! All I can hear now is Mike’s voice, “Something has to be wrong! The decimal is in the wrong place? Right guys? Something’s wrong here!”. Mike was only voicing what we were all thinking. Then came the low point on our trip where every traveler comes to at some point when they have given up… McDonalds (where we still spent 50 Euros!). It was rice and bread for the next 3 days :)

Our plans for this stop in our journey were to visit the places and film where the reformation began, which by the way was an amazing thing to stand in the church where John Calvin preached and try to picture this gathering of people hungry for the truth of God’s word. The first cathedral we entered we all assumed was where Calvin preached. It was a beautiful church and quite large with two towers overlooking the city. I think Austin had a smile on his face the entire time we explored the cathedral and Calvin’s museum!

After a day of filming we returned to the flat. We weren’t able to find a pastor in Switzerland to interview because it was such short notice. But I decided to give google a shot… I googled “Christian churches in Geneva” and up came The Scotland Church of Geneva. I emailed the pastor and ten minutes later he emailed me back excited about our project and willing to be interviewed. Only in Geneva for two days, we were able to meet with him on our second day. The church he preached in was right next to the large cathedral we had visited the previous day and it was called, get this, Calvin’s Church! This was the real church Calvin preached in. It was small and simplistic in design with no stained glass windows. It made sense though seeing what was the true church of where the reformation started. The pastor explained Calvin wanted it this way so as not to distract from the truth and beauty of the Gospel. Amazing.

The interview was a blessing to our project. The pastor from Scotland, Ian Manson, was passionate about the work being done in the people of his congregation and gave us great insight of what this modern church looks like coming out of such strong roots in the reformation. He even gave us a book to read on the topic, Calvin in Context. You will have to wait for the documentary though to hear what he had to say :)

I think I can speak for all of us when I say that, although a shockingly expensive place to live, we were so happy we made the trek to Geneva and met with Ian as well as getting to see where the reformation began – something which has so deeply impacted each of our lives.

Next, airplane to The Netherlands!!

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St. Vallier sur Rhône, France

It was great to be able to visit my family –  a refreshing break from interviews and filming. We had the pleasure of long conversations over food with my wonderfully kind and giving aunt and uncle.  Janna actually was officially banned from the kitchen by my aunt. She would not let us help with dishes or cooking. One time I tried to offer to make eggs and she proceeded to ask if I thought I could make eggs better than her – so I sat down. They are some of the most giving people I know. My aunt insisted on making gourmet meals for us the entire time we were there!

We also got to spend time with my Grandpa (as Emily touched on in our last post) and, because of getting to practice my French in Paris before, I was able to converse a bit with him. It is quite an amazing thing to have family in another country, but it’s always hard to say goodbye.

Small towns in the South of France are beautiful… mostly countryside and the towns are developed along the Rhone River. Although raining the majority of the time, we were able to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of this small town life. Overall, the visit with my family was a good rest stop before pushing on to more interviews and filming!

 

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Paris, France

Paris, oh Paris (sigh)
“I have 3 words for you: wine, cheese, and bread,” Mike’s grandfather told us today at lunch. These are the only 3 words you need to know to get by in France, as he poured us another glass of wine. Grandpa and me could be good friends.

We took the 5am high-speed train from London to Paris. It is rather impressive that you can take a train under the English Channel, but don’t think about it too much or you might not want to get on the train. We made it, nonetheless, and in an exhausted stupor we started our day off right: with fresh chocolate croissants and espresso.

Paris is truly a lovely city with friendly people (contrary to what you might hear), brilliant history, and amazing side streets full of old buildings which are all equipped with a small terrace and shutters. I dare you not to fall in love.

When we travel we like to live as close to the culture as we can, and when in Paris, I was squeezing the life out of it. We had the opportunity to stay in a breathtaking flat located around the corner from quaint cafes, trendy bars, and bakeries that lured you in. Staying in a flat allowed us to get a full Parisian experience. Nothing so enchanting as climbing a wood spiral stair case 4 flights to your door.

In Paris, nothing seemed over rated. Even the most traditional tourist attractions were impressive. Fight your fear of heights and climb to the top of the Eiffel tower. I promise it’s worth it.

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London, England

Here in London, we met with 2 of the 5 elders who started a church in south London (for our Chicago friends, it’s nothing like the south side of Chicago). It was not what I was expecting… It was much better! Call me ignorant, but I did not realize the vast diversity in London. In recent decades, London has become a minority-majority city, meaning that there are more foreigners living in the city than those of true British descent. This church plant speaks well to what ministry in an ethnically diverse community would look like, being culturally present, while never compromising the gospel or biblical preaching. These two men pastor a strong church to the Afro-Caribbean community. They are educated men, not only in their theology, but also their culture. They have strategy, insights and awareness of what their flock is up against. We were encouraged by their pastoral hearts and their desire to be relevant in their communities.

Just as in Norwich, these pastors face similar obstacles in their ministries. But because of the vast immigration into the London area, they are also up against the powerful influence of Islam and other religions that are taking root in a country that has a profound Christian history—talk about culture shift.

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Norwich, England

After about 15 hours of travel from LAX to Vancouver to London, we arrived in the beautiful town of Norwich, England. We spent several days staying in local’s homes with families from the church we were working with. We were blessed to get to know two pastors and their families who intently share the gospel in their communities and build up leaders who in turn do the same. Though we were so encouraged by these two men and their ministries, it is clear that they are a remnant of God’s people in Great Brittan. The church is up against a culture that has been jaded by a profound history of corrupt religious rule that has left belief in the true God and Christianity at bay. The message of Jesus and his salvation by grace through faith has been muddled by a heavy presence of the prosperity gospel.

Though the ground is hard and the fruit is sparse, we left Norwich encouraged that there is are healthy churches, building strong leaders, making disciples and preaching the true word of God. On top of all this goodness, we shared a pint in a pub called Adam and Eve that poured its first beer in AD 1249… not too shabby, don’t you think?

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© 2012 Operation Europe Documentary