Sunday, July 15, 2007

Operation Bucharest -- A Tipping Point


I begin by answering a few questions that have come up on the blog comments. You have no idea how much the blog comments are helping me to stay up and write all about what is going on here. So I need it for two more days. . . . please!

By the way, we are much weary in body at this point and it will be a marathon all day on Sunday. In fact, this whole trip has been a marathon. But as one of the old black ladies was quoted during the civil rights movements, “My feets is tired but my soul is at rest!” That is the way that I feel! We are supposed to have much of Sunday afternoon free but some of our gang will be trying to wash clothes and do some preliminary packing. We shall see how all of it turns out.

  • Sister Patterson -- Amazingly they took your advice without me having to tell them to go to bed. All went to bed last night and the night before very quickly after we got in.
  • Stephanie Harrelson -- I told some that you said “hi” but not all. . . I will when I get a chance. Keep praying for us.
  • Mark Harrelson -- I intend on bringing you and Stephanie and Mom and Pop with us on the next Romanian missions trip. . .
  • My Mother -- Next missions trip to Romania we are taking the whole Harrelson (Mark, Stephanie, their wild youngun’s, and you and Dad along with Teresa and our wild youngun’s) clan. You and Mark can sample the “whiskey wagon” to bolster your confidence. Me and Dad will watch the show.
  • Brendi, Kayla, Rebekah, and Renee -- Have church in your house!!!! That is the power of these video clips. I wish the whole church was here. . .
  • Rebekah -- Sister Rhonda said that she has not lost you and that you are still with her. As for the texting to Stacy, most of us don’t have phone service over here. You can try texting her on Tuesday around 4:30-5:00 PM and we should be able to get service then. But don’t count on Stacy being real diligent about getting back to you she has some old boy from Texas that she appears extremely interested in!
  • Brother Mullen -- I understand that Annette McCoy was caught in a digital picture holding not just one but two cups of coffee. So yes she has indeed found the coffee pot. I am unsure if it is a Romanian brand but she is drinking.
  • Sister Mullen -- I am glad that you have found out how to post comments! Husbands are periodically good for something (like helping their wives post comments).
  • Sister Chumney -- I think I have conquered my fear of flying. It wasn’t too bad except for the excitement at 36,000 feet Monday night over the Atlantic. The other bad part was when the pilot brought us down too quickly in Romania. It was very tough on our ears but we all have gotten over that.
  • Erick Blakey -- Your feigned interest in the crusade is curious to me. Are you interested in the crusade or one of the Dothan team members??????? Stacy said she is going to start texting you with her cell phone as soon as the plane lands in Atlanta. I think you might appreciate this video clip of Stacy explaining her expertise at the Romanian language.

Saturday morning started very early for me. I got up before a lot of our gang and went out on the patio out front and spent some very good and profitable time in prayer and thought. Last night I mentioned to Brother Charlie and Brother John Cureton that for the Romanians coming to this conference it was like us going to Because of the Times. I told them that the folks who were coming here wanted to hear from God and have a life-changing event just as we did when we went off to such events as BOTT and other things. Therefore it was crucial for God to be allowed to work through us to help others.

My hat is off to the Dothan gang. They have sang, prayed, testified, shouted, walked the streets, passed out flyers, ran errands, manned tables, greeted people as they came in, and been like all the folks that Paul saluted when he concluded Romans 16. We aren’t too well known to the world but we are very well known to the Kingdom.

A few days after Sister Rodenbush came to visit our church to help us get ready for this missions trip, I really started putting some spiritual and mental steam into what the Lord was placing in my heart to preach to the Bucharest conference. In fact I can specifically remember where I was when it began to gel. I was riding my bike up West Cook Road toward Taylor. The Lord and I have had many conversations in that little 16 mile ride over the last several years. I felt the Lord begin to drop into my spirit some thoughts about Elijah.

I have preached about Elijah several times in the last several weeks in Dothan and the thought of what he did when it was not raining has really been close to me. I suppose that God laid that thought on my heart for a reason because there are some incredible missionaries who have been pouring their souls into Europe for a number of years. Brother and Sister George Craft have been in the European region since 1972. Brother and Sister William Turner have been in missions for almost the same amount of time in Russia. Brother and Sister Alan Demos have been long term missionaries to this region for a long time also. In addition to all of these great men and women, the Rodenbushes and the Bucklands have spent many years of faithful service to God. Of course, Mike and Jill Patterson have been working in the European region since 1990.

The difficulty with this area is that they have not seen the same type of revival as Ethiopia, El Salvador, Papa New Guinea, and other places where thousands have received the Holy Ghost. Sometimes the enemy will do his very best to intimidate and discourage you to give up and quit when you are not seeing the results that you would so desire. Frustration mounts up and the devil gets his little band to playing at the party. It is sort of like Dothan hearing of the great revival reports elsewhere and the question becomes, “When shall it happen here, God?”

So this morning, I preached “The Blessing of the Dry Season.” I was a little nervous going into it because I had never worked with a translator before. But you need to know that Mike Patterson is a very brilliant man. I have been totally caught up in the translation of Brother Willoughby’s night messages. In fact when Brother Willoughby was preaching tonight, I thought how incredible that the Lord had put these two men together in this situation.

So Mike Patterson, the Lord, and me all took off about the same time and landed the same time. I like to think of myself (sometimes) as verbose and intelligent in the way that I preach. My wife tells me that the verbosity and intelligence equates more to a lot of hot air and that God often works despite my efforts. She did give me a little instruction this morning before I left which I took to heart. She told me to get the southern colloquialisms out and not to wear the folks out. I did!!!! I didn’t mention cornbread and branch water; fleas on yard dogs; hogwash; or ‘mater samiches. In fact, I only preached for about 25 minutes but I felt a powerful anointing!

After this there was good time of praise and worship around the altars as we prepared to move on to the next part of the service. By the way, there is no air conditioning in the sanctuary!!!!!! The temperature in the last couple of days has been in the mid-upper 80’s and it is very hot!

Brother Salvatori Archidiocanes who is the General Superintendent of the UPCI in Italy was the next preacher for the morning service. He preached about being able to trust God from Proverbs 3:4-7. After he finished preaching, the altars were opened up and 8 people received the Holy Ghost! One of the most terribly frustrating things with praying with these folks in the altar is the language barrier. It is difficult to encourage and instruct them to pray during the altar service. But God can work beyond our limitations and advance His Kingdom.

One of the things that the missionaries here are trying to do in Europe is bring about a sense of unity, purpose, and brotherhood among the ministers and churches. I gather that events like this occur only every other year and there is very limited fellowship among pastors and ministers. Fellowship can be a very powerful ally to a minister especially if it is the right kind. With this thought in mind, Jill Patterson had organized a banquet for all of these ministers and their wives in an effort to bring them together for a time of encouragement and fellowship. She even determined the menu and it had quite a southern flair to it.

It started with a large bowl of shredded cabbage and although I did not eat any of it all at my table said that it was good. Then I looked up and there was a huge platter of mashed potatoes making its way around the table. After this that most famous southern delicacy of all was being passed around. In fact when President Reagan came to Dothan in 1985 this is what they fed him too! Amazingly, Jill had secured some chicken and it was southern fried. I have a feeling that fried chicken and mashed potatoes can assist with furthering the Gospel and facilitating revival in Europe. It is not nearly as important as prayer and fasting but fried chicken and mashed potatoes is the caviar of preachers! I couldn’t understand all that was being said at these tables but it sounded like it was going pretty well.

Dothan needs to receive another salute again. For all the non-Dothan folks reading this blog you can disregard this section as I tell them how important that they are. Last September in Columbus, Ohio our church gave $5000 for the Bucharest Crusade. That money was used to help defray the costs of this conference. So not only have you helped us who were on the missions trip to Romania you also helped host a banquet to encourage a lot of ministers from other countries. As they introduced them, I wrote down the countries and/or states that are represented here: Serbia, Belarus, Russia, Romania, Armenia, Germany, Jordan, Ukraine, Greece, Croatia, Slovakia, Albania, Italy, Scotland, Portugal, and Czechoslovakia. If you could see the expressions of gratitude on the faces of these folks, I have a feeling that you would receive an incredible reward just from seeing them. It is difficult not to weep when you are watching it all take place. But if you never make it over to Europe to see this portion of the Kingdom of God, if you will just continue your faithfulness to God, your reward will be so very powerful. At the judgment seat of Christ you will be so very thankful that you were a part of a blue-collar, working church.

At the banquet Brother Patterson was asked to speak and he talked about Nehemiah and how important that it was for us to pick up a burden and to rebuild the walls. The walls had laid in ruin for many years before Nehemiah came along and rebuilt them. Challenges will come but we must continue to work diligently with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. Revival will come when we are willing to build and battle at the same time.

While this banquet was going on some of our crew decided to go to the mall and eat. Monica, Stacy, Justin, Nathan, Chad, and a Serbian named Daniel went with them. So when we get out of the banquet and started looking for them we find out that one of them (which I will leave unnamed) was the “guide.” What is scary about the “guide” is that he/she gets lost between Dothan and Cottonwood and now the “guide” is going to navigate them around Bucharest. They had to walk a few miles and make a Metro connection going and returning from the mall.

My wife was not a happy camper with this development. When they finally got back, Teresa had a little “meeting” with Justin and Nathan and I am certain that Brother John also had a little “meeting” with Monica and Stacy.

Earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the gentlemen who runs the complex where we are having the conference. Dr. Ioan Ceuta (pronounced “Cheeuta”) met Brother Mike Patterson several years ago (around 1997) and introduced him to the gypsy “king.” He is a very kind gentleman and offered to allow me to use his office to work on my blog when he saw me propped up on a couple of chairs in the hallway. I was nearly finished with the blog and I declined. He and his staff have been very helpful to all of us this week.

While I was working on my blog, a fellow came up and introduced himself to me. He told me his name and I did not get it. He told me again and I still didn’t get it but I acted like I did. Later when he gave me his card and I read his name I knew why I did not get it. It was Brother Bagrat Hayrapetyan. When I get home some of our educators in our church can help me pronounce it. Anyway he whips out a flash drive and the first thing I think is notes; this fellow wants some of my notes. I will be happy to give him some notes. In fact, I love to pass out notes to preachers. However, I was crestfallen when he asked if I had any music on my computer. Then came the shocker. . . .He wanted to know if I had any “Jesus Is My Boyfriend” stuff. Wow! I have flown over 4000 miles to get here and when I get here, those 7-11 choruses (you know 7 words, 11 times). Needless to say, I did have a few on my hard-drive and so I shared those with him.

Just out of spite, I tried to get him to take some of the Southern Gospel stuff off the computer that I had. He hurt my feelings and said he wasn’t interested. I wanted to ask him if the fried chicken and mashed potatoes were good but I didn’t. What he doesn’t know is that fried chicken, mashed potatoes and Southern Gospel music goes together and that if he liked the chicken he probably would like the SG music too!

The prevailing dilemma for me is to have this two GB flash drive attached to my computer and it is about to disappear without a bit of my notes. So I asked him if he taught mid-week Bible studies and he said that he did. So I told him about the doctrinal series I did a couple of years ago and he said he wanted it. In addition to that I gave him a number of over Bible studies and sermon notes that hopefully will be beneficial to him and his church.

The pre-service began and Brother Charlie and Sister Annette were asked to speak. Brother Charlie gave a brief personal testimony and then encouraged our faith from Hebrews 11. It is still pretty amazing to me all that God has accomplished with Charlie and Patty Joyner. Sister Annette McCoy also gave an encouraging testimony with an exhortation toward reaching those who are around us and having a constant desire for revival.

During this whole service we began to sense a tipping point. There was a lot of liberty in the worship and feeling in the singing. Not just from the Dothan group but also from the other groups that sang in the evening service. Another group from Slovakia also sang. There was group of Russian sisters who sang. Another group from Romania sang and then the preaching began.

Brother Willoughby preached a very good message about David and the need to be a worshiper. As I have previously mentioned, Mike Patterson has done an excellent job with the translation. As the days have progressed it appears that Brother Willoughby has gotten very comfortable with Mike. There were parts in the message where Brother Willoughby seemed to have a running dialogue with Mike throughout the message. There were actually aspects of the message that provoked great hilarity among the Dothan crowd. Brother Mike Patterson has appeared to convey almost verbatim the same emotions and body language that Brother Willoughby has presented during the preaching.

Toward the end of the message, Brother Willoughby began to press home the point and importance of an outward expression of worship. As he begin to reach toward the conclusion, many of us from Dothan had come toward the front and 90% of the crowd (Nathan and Jeremy counted 225) were on their feet with Brother Willoughby. Then he decides to take off down the far isle. Brother Mike Patterson is directly behind him working the translation and suddenly Brother Joe Patterson who was all the way on their side (we were across the building from them) suddenly sees the need to get in behind them running. So when I saw that I just glanced over my shoulder and told the Dothan gang “Let’s go!” So off we went across the front and caught them about midway down the isle. Sort of felt like one of those victory marches in Dothan except a bit accelerated! I have always believed that expressed worship heightens what God is trying to do. As we went by the crowd, I noticed that some were entirely caught off guard by this activity but there were a few of the men that I have recognized as ministers as the conference has progressed and they got in with us too!

Shortly thereafter the altar service took off! Before the day would be completed in Bucharest, twenty-eight people would have received the Holy Ghost. It was very interesting watching the order of the altar service before it began. Brother Willoughby asked Brother Roger Buckland (FMD – Czech Republic) to come and organize the groups by language. So to the far left were the Slovakian people. In the middle were all the Romanian people and to the far right were the Russian speaking people. They were instructed to keep their headphones on so that they could understand what Brother Willoughby was asking them to do.

After they were all in place, Brother Willoughby instructed them to repent and then he spoke a word of faith over them and then asked them to lift their hands and begin to worship. Within a very short period of time those who were really reaching in worship would begin with stammering lips and the tongues followed shortly after that. You could tell when it hit because the national ministers and missionaries who could understand the language began to also sense the tipping point of momentum.

At one point when I waded off down into the mass of seekers, I had an overwhelming sense of helplessness as I looked at their poverty and very limited resources. But literally like a lightning bolt, the Lord prompted my thoughts as to what Paul told the Romans, “The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink but rather it is peace, righteousness, and joy in the Holy Ghost!” I have preached numerous times about not living for time but instead living for eternity and that is crucial to remember in these situations. Many of these people, especially the gypsies, have nothing and yet they have the most important thing. Far too many in America have all the ‘meat and drink’ that this world has to offer but beyond that little else.

There is a lady who has been very kind to our older ladies during this trip and they have noticed that several times that she has been in tears as she has listened and watched all that is going on in the conference. Last night, this lady was in the altars and although she did not get the Holy Ghost, she got quite a blessing. We hope that this is a start for her. Furthermore, I trust that the move of the Spirit is a beginning of great revival that will sweep through this region. This Bulgarian girl received the Holy Ghost.

After service we were hustled onto the bus and had the great privilege of being with the UPCI missionaries. The younger portion of our gang was quite wound up and I hope that we did not terrorize these poor folks with all the antics. Our bus took us to Pizza Hut and in route to eat, Stacy Cureton turned around and told me that I needed to preach a sermon on people “janking” others. I had to explain to Brother Craft what this meant as he was not familiar with this term.

I had the great privilege to sit on the bus with Brother George Craft of Austria. He has been a career missionary there since 1972 and he expressed to me some of the challenges that he has personally faced over the years. Later after we got back in, I spent a lot of time mulling over the thoughts that Brother Craft had left with me. Nothing great ever occurs without sacrifice.

On our way back to the conference center our bus driver drove like Jehu. He not only was driving rapidly but a couple of times, I heard him blaring on the horn. It was close to midnight and we probably had him out much later than what he wanted to be. Despite the fast and bumpy ride we made it back in one piece and have one more day to go.

8 comments:

Kayla Lewis said...

hello gang hurry home.

kayla
p.s.matt said hey!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Terry said...

Awesome and encouraging as always Bro. Phillip. It is so encouraging to see, hear and read about everything you guys are experiencing. Our service this morning was very good. Bro. David Goodwin preached a very good sermon titled "Underestimating God". He even stopped preaching at exactly 12:00 (Miracles have not ceased :-).

It is a blessing to see all of the young people in the pictures and video clips, ours and others, worshiping and praising God.

God Bless,
Bro. Mullen

Renee Butler said...

Hey you guys! It is Sunday at 3:00 P.M. It is wonderful to hear about those who are receiving the Holyghost! I can't wait until you get home and hear all of the stories!!! I continue to pray for you, night and day! Tell Stacy and the "younger" crowd to behave! And "he or she bites?" Tell Sis. Rhonda and Bro. Jay that Kayla and Matthew are great kids and they can come over anytime. Oh, by the way, she is leaning over me as I type this. Hahahaha. Gotta run so that I can get ready for church tonight and Rebekah and Kayla are wanting to get on the computer so they are rushing me. We will miss you guys tonight especially my buddy that sits behind me!

Love and prayers,
Renee Butler

P.S. "Jesus is my boyfriend!"

Anonymous said...

Philip,

Great news from the country of Romania! It is wonderful to know that the Spirit of God is being poured out all over the world, seems like it might have been like on the day of Pentecost for you guys. I suspect Peter had a few of the same thoughts and impressions as you had looking out on the crowd and not understanding a word of what was being said.

As an aside to this post, I betcha that if byeer is being served on thet plane, Wavene will tell em to "set it afar, Minnie Lee," and get us there in a hurry. :-)

And secondly if sacrifice figures into it all, this world is about to be set on fire by Stephanie. . . :-)

Really, it is wonderful to have extensions that are very real in the world of missions. There is no way to have set on the pews of the Dothan church and heard Bishop Patterson and not have a compelling sense of the world outside of ours.

Perhaps of all things that I have been given is the knowledge that my life does not begin and end with me, but that there is something that is much greater than myself in this world. There is a world that may seem foreign to me, but is just as precious to God as Mobile. I am proud to be part of something greater than myself.

Give my regards to Bro. Michael Patterson, and remind him of our agreement. God bless you all.

Watch out for stumps.

If you need anything, call me.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Howdy from L.A.! Just wanted to write a quick note to let you all know that YOU WERE MISSED today at church! It has been great reading about what God is doing in Romania. You all have been in my prayers and thoughts this last week and I look forward to everyone coming home safe and sound. God Bless And God speed! Barbara Butler

Anonymous said...

I have never been as "jealous" as I am right now, reading of the wonderous works that the Lord is doing over there. I wish that I could be there. However, we are with you in spirit and praying for you daily. Last night at church Bro. David told us of one of the greatest miracles done(Bro. Philip preaching for only 25 minutes) :) Continue to spread the Gospel. Miss you all!!!!
Emily

Mary Vardamaskos said...

Hey everyboby. You will be leaving soon and we pray that your trip home will again be a good one. the children are fine. They can't hardly wait to see Jay & Rhonda and their friends too. we are praying for the whole crew.May God bless you all. We love you.... Mary, John, Kayla & Matthew..

Renee Butler said...

Haven't heard from you guys today. Have a safe trip home. We will continue to pray for you and your flight home. We will see you when you get to the church.
We love all of you and missed you so much!!!

Love and Prayers,
John, Renee, Rebekah, Jonathan and Sarah