Thursday, July 7, 2011

Final Update?

Hello friends,

Once again, I find myself asking for your forgiveness for taking so long to update.  I was hoping to have a handle on the next step before posting, but as it is, that part of the journey has yet to be revealed, so I will tarry no longer.

Before leaving Greece, I had the opportunity to help disseminate the shoes for the Roma children brought from the States.  The children were very excited to receive these shoes and some of the boys who were wearing women's slip-on's were definitely in need of more appropriate shoes.  It was such a blessing to see that initiative come to pass from inception to fruition.  My friend Nikola's compassionate thought, lead to a comment, that led to a posting on the web, that would bring a duffle bag full of shoes across the ocean to children in need.  To those that made financial contributions, here is Yana's note to me:

"[I] bought some things for classes, medicines for some kids and there are still some left which I will use in time of need. It is so great when you don't need to think about the money.  
You just have it and use it. I like it. God bless those people who give and you for your heart."

Again, thank you so much to those that helped make that possible.  I wish I could put these kids right in front of you, so that you could see and touch their smiling faces.  Words and photos will have to suffice until the age to come.

The team of interns from Dwelling Place in Virginia did a fantastic job.  They didn't back down from loving people and preaching Jesus on the university campus and in downtown Peraia.  One of the young girls they talked to admitted to being "afraid" of them because they were "so close to God."  Amanda shared a word with her and she responded, "God sent you all the way over here to tell me that, didn't He?"  The gospel is certainly constantly bearing fruit and increasing in all the world (Col 1:6).

I returned with the team on June 2nd.  I've returned to work at the UPS Store, as I prayerfully consider the next step.  I have presently decided not to return to Greece in the fall.  I am taking steps to secure housing and roommates in the Christiansburg area, as I explore opportunities to integrate my desire to do the work of missions in a more financially sustainable way, perhaps vocationally.  I am researching graduate school in my spare time.  We shall see where the Lord leads.  I love the mission field!

Lastly, I would just like to thank everyone that has supported me prayerfully, financially, and emotionally, in both word and deed.  I could not have done it without your support.  My time in Greece remains as an everlasting testimony of the Lord's faithfulness.  I am so abundantly blessed to have had this opportunity to see the Lord work miracles before my very eyes over the past six months.  Know that through your partnership, you have released the kingdom of God throughout the nations.

Although this chapter of Ben In The Balkans appears to be closing, I don't doubt that I will return to the Balkans again in the future.  Until then, check back periodically, as I may continue to update this blog with news and thoughts, as they develop in the future.

As always, much love.

Thankfully His,


Feel free to contact me with thoughts, comments, questions, or hello's!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Hey friends,

I know it's been a while since I've posted an update.  I last wrote before returning to the States for a few days to see my brother graduate and commission, and since then I have been busy with the team of interns from my home church in VA, Dwelling Place.

Mihaniona Homegroup

It has been great having this team of four here who have come to add fuel to fire as part of their year-end short-term mission trip.  We first travelled once again to the island of Thasos, where we have continued to strengthen our relationship with the body of Christ there.

Me and Nikola
My friend Nikola, who moved there a little over a month ago, is now working full-time with a group of Russian artisan/construction workers.  It's a much better environment for him than the Pizzeria and he has the opportunity to master masonry skills, giving him the potential for entrepreneurship in the future.  He typically works 12-14 hour days; however, it rained one morning while we were there and he texted me saying, "My God arange the rain for today" (no work!).  Needless to say, he was really encouraged by seeing everyone from Thessaloniki again.  It was great to see him enduring and persevering both in work and faith.  I'm really proud of him.

The team of interns collaborated with a team of Swedish Bible students who were on mission in Thasos with the church there.  They performed the famous Lifehouse Everything Skit together one night on the boardwalk.  Alex, one of the interns, shared his testimony and Tommie shared a short, sweet, and simple, gospel message.  Two 12-year old girls that we talked to afterward prayed to accept Jesus.  They sincerely said, "We want that."

Swedish & USA Mission Teams performing Lifehouse Everything Skit

Fresh fruit for all the kids
 Last Tuesday we had the opportunity to travel to the local Roma (Gypsy) village once again.  It can be challenging with the language barrier at times; however, I truly believe our presence and our prayers change the atmosphere of that place.  The kids may not always do what I say, but they will certainly imitate what I do.  The way that our team interacts with each other and the way we emphasize fairness, respect, sharing, and kindness in our interaction with them in games, lessons, and provision, speak loudly to them.

Next Tuesday the team will bring the shoes donated and supplied from the States and additional financial donations will go towards meeting the childrens' most immediate needs.  I'm looking forward to seeing their smiling faces.  Photos to come!
Worship and Lesson in the Gypsy village church

Since then, we have been back in Thessaloniki pressing the university campus almost every day with our coffee outreach, maximizing our manpower, and fellowshipping with many of the young people we have developed a relationship with so far.  Tonight we go for an outreach locally at the waterfront in Peraia.  Tomorrow we will target the same area with an open-air drama and an illustration of the gospel through our friend Eva's sketchboard.

Thank you for praying for us.  Continue to pray that God will continue to draw all men unto Himself.  Pray that God would pour out His Spirit on this nation.  Pray for the salvation of our unbelieving friends.  Pray that young believers would grow into mature sons and daughters of God.

I will be returning to the States on June 2nd.  Prayers concerning the next step for me are much appreciated.  I hope to have the opportunity to visit with you in person when I return!

May grace and love abound,


Monday, May 9, 2011

'He and All His Household'

Hey friends,

God continues to move and demonstrate his faithfulness to answer our prayers here in Greece.

A couple weeks ago, I spent a few days on the island of Thasos, helping my Serbian friend look for a job.  I found out last week that he secured work at a pizzeria/cafe/bar restaurant on the island.  This is a huge victory for everyone, especially Nikola, and a major answer to prayer.  Thank you, Jesus!  Initially, the owner was only going to pay him 35 Euros per day for 12 hours of work, which is very little and hardly enough to survive on.  However, we prayed and believed that God would increase his pay and He has!  The owner agreed to pay him 25+ Euros for only a few hours of work in the evening.  This frees Nikola's morning to do part-time painting, construction, handyman work with a crew of guys, one of whom is a brother in the church.  Thank you, Jesus!

He is also in good fellowship with the church of Dimitris Peledis and our Swedish missionary friends, with whom we continue to grow closer.  While I was there, we all believed that Nikola wasn't there just for work.  That's just a part of the package.  Nikola is really there for that island.  God continues to work alongside him, giving him great grace to love those around him.  He encourages everyone with his giftings and testimony.  God is so good.

Continue to pray for Nikola that he would be protected by the power of God; that he would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that God would supply him with ample provision for every need.

An entire family of six recently got saved - Acts 16:34 style!  A man that Tommie and Gunilla have maintained a friendship with for some years (who was even miraculously healed several years ago) had been experiencing the darker side of the supernatural.  From what I understand, the father invited Tommie to his home and together with their family, they asked questions, conversed, and sincerely wanted to become Christians.  They told Tommie, "That's why you're here."  So, we have been thanking God for their salvation and continue to pray for wisdom and opportunities to come alongside them in their walk with the Lord.

I will be returning to the States on Wednesday, May 11 to see my brother graduate from VMI and commission into the US Air Force - go Chaz!  I will return with a team of four interns from Dwelling Place for their short-term mission trip on Monday, May 16 and then head back to the States June 2nd.

Pray that we would be made of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  Pray that the team's time here would be powerful, effective, and full of good fruit.

I'm looking forward to seeing family and being back in the States for a few days; as well as, the privilege of joining the DP team on their journey to and from Thessaloniki.

See you soon.  May great grace be upon you all!  Love,


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lebanon, Macedonia, Greece

Hey friends,

It's been a whirlwind tour over the last week and a half.  As stated in my previous post, our beloved Rick Sizemore was with us in Lebanon.  After we returned, I traveled with him to Macedonia for several days where he preached and counseled in Veles and Skopje.  It was great to be with Rick and run around with him, observing how he preaches, teaches, and counsels.  I've been around him for a few years now, but the Lord always teaches me something new.  He's a great brother and a great example.  I had several opportunities to pray for and speak with people throughout the trip.  I even got to mow grass!

On Thursday night a group of young people met for prayer at Phil and Anna Evan's home where we were staying (Congrats on the birth of their son, Oscar!).  Igor shared that a friend of his had been in the hospital for some time with fluid in her lungs; drain-tube and all.  We prayed for her that night and when we saw Igor the following day, he said the fluid had almost completely dried up.  Praise God!  Jesus heals!  It was great to spend time fellowshipping, encouraging, praying for and alongside one another in Macedonia.  One girl gave her life to Jesus in a home we stopped in briefly, while another three gave their lives to Jesus Sunday afternoon.  God is saving people!  He is transferring them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son.

After returning from Macedonia we rested for a day.  Then a group of 15 from the Network Community, together with Rick, and Danielle from Serbia, traveled to the island of Thasos to spend time with our brothers and sisters there.  Dimitris and his wife Mario, along with Swedish missionaries, Kenneth and Lena are doing a fantastic, persevering work there.  It was a great time of bonding and relationship building amongst ourselves; as well as, with the church in Thasos.  Rick preached on the heart of the Holy Spirit and I believe many were touched by the power and word of God through prayer and the ministry of the Spirit.  You can't begin to talk about that Guy without things happening.

It's good to be back in Thessaloniki.  Rick and Danielle returned to their respective nations today.  Victor, Tommie's son is here for spring break and Tommie's wife Gunilla will visit for a week next Thursday.

We're believing for a job for our friend, Nikola, potentially on the island of Thasos; as well as, for God to break in on the hearts of many of the others he has given us relationships with - For those that don't know Him, to have a revelation of Jesus and for those that do, to continue to have life-changing encounters with His love.

The motherlands of the gospel will give birth again.

I've been sick for the past several days and I would appreciate your prayers.  I want to be back full swing, meeting guys on the basketball court and campus.

Below are some photos from Lebanon - Click on this link to see more.

Love you all,


Emil (Syria), Craig Westhoff, Myself, Christine Westhoff, Hassan (Syria)

Tommie Naumann, George (Syria), and Joseph Zorob (Lebanon)

Mazin (Lebanon) and Rick Sizemore

Monday, April 11, 2011

1 Chronicles 14:11

"God has broken through my enemies by my hand, like the breakthrough of waters."

Lebanon was amazing.  The power of God was so strong.  Tommie hosted a conference on spiritual breakthrough among some of the local churches that he has developed a relationship with in Beirut.  Craig and Christine Westoff, Nancy Devito, Hans Joachim, Rick Sizemore and many others shared the word of God and ministered over the course of five days.

Sunday morning, the majority of us attended a church comprised almost entirely of Philippino women.  These women have left their homes in the Philippines in order to support their families back home.  You must understand that these women are like slaves.  They work all week, all day, for very little pay.  Many are mistreated and abused on multiple levels by their employers.  There must have been close to 70 women that packed out Joseph's church building, a relatively small two-room flat on the seventh floor of a downtown apartment building.  This Sunday morning service is their only breathing hole.  It's the only time during the week they are free from their employers.  After Chris preached about acknowledging and surrendering our pain to the Lord, we began to pray for people.  God displayed so much grace and healing power as He touched people through us.  I had the great pleasure of finding myself between a powerful, loving, jealous God and the beautiful people He wanted to encounter and heal.  Many wept and experienced freedom through the power of the Holy Spirit.

They were a truly inspiring group of women.  They worshiped God fervently in spite of their circumstances.  It was a testimony to me that He is most certainly, always good.

If there is one thing the Lord has been teaching me, especially on this trip, it's about being bold and taking steps of faith to express the impression He gives me - to speak out the words, thoughts, or questions He puts in my mind and on my heart.  Whether it be for my Syrian brother George, Pastor Joseph, our Greek taxi driver, or the Lebanese grad student in the airplane seat next to me.

"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?" (1 Cor. 2:11)

These thoughts and impressions come for a reason and I'm learning to act on them; to give what I receive.  I don't know what step 2, 3, 4, and 5 are.  I can't take 5 steps at once anyway...  so, why do I try?!  He puts one step before me at a time.  Speak it, say it, do it.  We don't know where God will take us and lead us.  The end-harvest of salvation decisions, healing, deliverances, all begin with the planting of a seed - a decision to take a step, speak a word, extend a hand.

David asked the Lord if he should go up against the Philistines, and the Lord responds, promising David the victory.  Afterward, David declares that God broke through his enemies by his (David's) hand!  
God could breakthrough our enemies in a thousand different ways; but He has chosen to do it through our hands - alongside of us.  Thankful to be a part of it in Beirut last week!

Photos to come soon!

Oh, and watch this video.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

John 11:41-42

"Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me;"

Hello friends,

I just got back from our Thursday night home group in the city.  I'm so thankful for people like Elainie that worship God freely with their whole bodies, giving expression in dance and prophetic movement.  They spread a freedom and liberty that is infectious and permeates the spiritual atmosphere.  As a team, we felt like the Lord wanted us to facilitate an environment for the things God has placed within everyone to come out and be released.  With that said, we had a lively discussion of Philippians 3 - one of my favorite chapters.  It's cool to see people freely expressing what's on their heart and others responding with truth and honest, sincere testimonies.  The body loving the body is a beautiful thing. Grace comes in to fill, strengthen, saturate, and raise up places of weakness.   I need a strong brother and sister out there in the world doing damage in the kingdom of light. We all benefit from that. Not to mention we're family and we're here for one another, right?

Praise Report!  A precious member of our body, has been battling intestinal inflammation and recurring abdominal pain for nearly ten years.  Within the past ten days the pain was so severe that she was hospitalized.  After various tests she was scheduled for a surgical procedure that would remove a portion of her intestine, with a potentially complicated, lengthy recovery.  On Tuesday, a group of us fasted and anointed her with oil, agreeing once again with the many prayers that had been prayed, for the kingdom of God to come in power upon her body (And just so you know how holy I am, I had forgotten about the fast and ate a pizza for lunch, haha.  However, I repented and continued fasting ;).  When the doctors went to do the surgery today, they couldn't find anything to remove!  They just enlarged a slightly narrow passage and that was it.  Believing this good report is an answer to prayer - THANK YOU, JESUS!

The Breakthrough Conference in Lebanon is fast approaching. On Tuesday a handful of us from the Network Community will be depart, together with Rick Sizemore and others friends from the United States.  Things in southern Syria are a bit dicey in the world, but we're believing for God to make a way for our friends in the Damascus area to secure safe passage to Beruit.  Prayer is much appreciated.  Pray for protection and the peace of God in Syria.  Pray for the wisdom and revelation of God, for those leading and attending the conference. Let the Lord's will be done.  We depart Thessaloniki at 9:35pm April 5th and return at 8:45pm on Aptil 11th.  Here are just a few names of those participating for the purpose of prayer: Myself, Annika, Jen, Amy, Tommie, Yanna, Rick, Chris, Nancy, Emil, Rana, Hassan, and Joseph.

Much love.  See you soon,


Sunday, March 20, 2011

1 Corinthians 1:9

Hey friends,

Man, where to begin?  A lot has been happening..

First of all, it's awesome to see how God has pursued this Serbian guy that I met on the basketball court.  You can certainly run from God, but you can't hide, haha.  His lovingkindness is forever in hot pursuit (Psalm 23:6).  This guy met the Lord when he was 17, but fell back into the world and long-story-short, ended up in Thessaloniki.  He has dived right into fellowship and is loving on everyone.  It just wrecks me whenever I hear him pray - to hear this brother of mine that was lost and now is found.  I just want to weep and worship God.  It makes it all worth it.

He has joined Jen and Yanna on Tuesdays as they minister to the Roma (Gypsy) people.  He was really moved by the children that lacked shoes and clothing, so I went with them last Tuesday.  The first little girl, no more than two years old, that walked up to me didn't have shoes or pants.  There are shards of glass and busted pieces of metal everywhere.  I posted about it on Facebook and had a good response so far.  Praise God, I received some financial contributions for shoes and clothing; as well as, interest in sending some via mail or with the short-term missions team from Dwelling Place in May.  The kids are so hungry for love, attention, and discipline.  It's tough not being able to speak their language, though many of them can't even read, write, or speak Greek.  I just sat there and scatched little Andrea's (below in blue) back while Yanna was teaching them.  He just looked at me and smiled.  I intend to go there every Tuesday.

I've become part of the leadership team for the Thursday night homegroup in the city.  Really pray that Femi, Annika, Natalie and I would lead the group well.  Pray that we would take the group where the Lord wants us to take it and full of His heart.  Pray that people would really be released, free to express themselves, to grow, to love and to really get to know one another.  We need wisdom and unity!

Next Friday we are having 24 hours of prayer at the church from 7:00pm Friday to 7:00pm Saturday.  Some of our friends from the churches in Macedonia will be coming down.  I'm really looking forward to an awesome time of worship, prayer, and fellowship with our brothers to the north.  Last year this event was a point of significant breakthrough in the church.

Speaking of breakthrough, this is the theme of the upcoming conference Tommie is planning together with fellow churches in Beirut, Lebanon.  It's not in my budget, but I believe it's God so I'm going anyway! Haha.  I just heard a sermon by Tim Keller in which he recounted a story about Alexander the Great.  Alexander was of course extremely wealthy due to his vast conquests.  He told his generals that if they needed anything, to just ask him.  So, one day, a general came to him and asked Alexander's treasurer for the funds for his daughter's wedding.  However, he asked for ten or twenty times above any reasonable amount needed for even the most extravagant wedding.  When the treasurer went to Alexander and told him the general's request, he expected Alexander to be shocked and to dismiss or even rebuke him.  But instead Alexander told the treasurer that this was excellent.  He said, 'This general of mine must believe that I am extremely wealthy and generous,' so he gave it to him!  Beloved, have we begun to believe the depth of God's abundance and generosity?  'How much more will He give what is good to those who ask Him' (Matt 7:11)!

I digress!  We are still reaching out to students on campus twice weekly.  I was reminded today that God has been faithful to answer our prayers.  When I got here in late November, there was little to none of the promises that He had spoken to me previously.  But He told me to prophesy to this city, to the valley of dry bones, that the motherlands of the gospel will give birth again.  And this brother sitting next to me in church tonight was a fulfillment of those promises - the fruit of those prayers and pioneering steps.  He is faithful!

With that said, pray that the Lord would give me grace, wisdom and vision to continue to reach outward as opportunities to serve the body have increased.  Pray also that I would see and hear where the Lord is leading me this summer and fall, so that I would prepare and order my way towards that end.

God bless - Love you all!