I know a couple of days ago I posted some frustration about how I came to Europe to tell people about Jesus--- but everyone I met already seemed to know Him.
I think God has a sense of humor. I was a bit overwhelmed by 3 fantastic conversations in the same evening.
The next day, (two days ago now) I was leading the bible discussion that is held nightly at the hostel. After time in preparation, I chose to look at 1 John 4:7-12, discussing love-- what love is, where it comes from and how we can show love.
During the next hour and a half I had two extraordinarily meaningful converstaions.
First I'll talk about Madeline, this gorgeous 26 yr old Swedish, Christian opera singer. Madeline had come to Amsterdam to meet a friend and the situation turned extremely sour. I won't betray her trust here on my blog, but really she went through hell. She had spent a couple of days at the house of this "friend" before she was able to get away. She then found the Shelter Jordan in a tourist book and checked herself in. She told me that this place really was a Shelter from what she had just seen and been through.
Being from Scandinavia, she says that she is almost totally isolated from Christians her age. The official state church of Sweden either alienates the younger generation by being rigid and detached or compromises on core principles to seem appealing and unoffensive. She was so happy to pull apart the passages of scripture in the bible discussions in the past two nights she came. I gave Madeline my copy of Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. The book is a memoir about a guy trying to live counterculturally but presently in Portland.
Madeline's gone back to Sweden now-- pray for her as she recovers from her trauma but also rests in the refreshment she found in Amsterdam.
Also, in the same conversation I met Mark, a 40something retired NASA aerospace engineer about to embark on a change of careers and change of location (to Minnesota to work in medical engineering). Something was up with Mark that eh didn't open up about. He was very quiet, only mentioning a couple of times that he didn't feel love at home and has been longing for a deep, unconditional love. Mark's about to embark on a 6 month backpacking journey through Europe "to find himself and something real". After our conversation,Mark asked me for a New Testament to take with him on his trip. He left me saying that he's glad that he started on his Europe-wide search at the Shelter. Pray for Mark and that he find the deep acceptance that he's looking for in the pocket sized New Testament he's now carrying with him.
Finally, as part of the shift that I was on that night, I was expected to lead evening prayer at 11.30 pm. Really this is a time set aside for guests to share whatever they're thinking about life....
Ivan, a fifty something year old Northern Irish professor of media/communication came because he was curious. Ivan is deeply spirtual. But also deeply hurt by "religion". Northern Ireland's recent history is full of Christians killing other Christians in the name of having the right Christianity. Screwed up stuff. Ivan and I actually agree on a lot of principles. He loves everything that Jesus says and believes it's true. The point shwere we differ though is that Ivan doesn't really belive in sin/evil/bad. I asked him that if he doesn't want to adhere to any moral code (his words) because it puts him into a box, what "good"means to him. He says that Good is letting love proceed from you. Naturally, I followed by asking effectively if he thought that anythign could be negative (careful to avoid the good/bad dichotomy that he mentioned he hates).
Ivan told me he believes in darkness. If love is good, love is light. Therfore, darkness is where there is no light and there is no good. However, he believes that darkness is part of a perfect plan. It can''t be called bad because it all works for an eventual demonstration of love.
Deep stuff, man!
When I asked Ivan if theres anything I could pray for him about, he said that he wants more moments when he feels a touch from the divine. He has had a few moments in his life when he feels deeply in contact with this source of light/love/good. He yearns for moments when he feels this connection with this light. Pray for this.
Glory to God!