Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I just wanted to take this opportunity to be real about an aspect of what it's like to live as a missionary in a foreign country for those that haven't yet or may someday.  If you know me very well, then this post probably doesn't apply to you, but given that I use this blog to communicate to a diverse audience, specifically through writing, I will take the time to speak this.  I also want to speak especially to every young person that believes God has called them to do great and wondrous things with Him on the earth.  If you know Jesus, then that's true for you, whether you realize it yet or not.

Maybe you don't think at all like me, but if you do, you may have once or twice, pined after the glorious dream of life on the mission field.  No longer working the nine-to-five grind, sustained by the giving of others, leaving the troubles of every-day life, and wholly devoting yourself to the glorious work of the ministry.  Praying without ceasing, ministering the word of truth to the hurting and broken, and receiving the tender affections of Jesus as He pats you on the head after a full day of feeding orphans and healing the sick, you curl up in bed to dream sweet revelations delivered by the ministry of His angels.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't or haven't experienced those things, and if my life is off course for not experiencing that 24/7, then I receive the prayers you are about to pray.  Also do not be afraid that I have slipped into deep gloom and depression.  On the contrary, the Lord is meeting me in powerful ways and He is doing incredible works my midst.

However, I do happen to be aware that, especially young people, who desire to follow the Lord in a genuine way can become disillusioned by reading the accounts of people in ministry if they are written or communicated in a particular light.  I don't want to paint a rose-colored picture of what's happening here or what it's like to be in missions, especially for those the Lord may call or be calling, to missions or any other new sphere of ministry.

Things can get really tough sometimes and I think it's important for young people to know that a) so that they don't disqualify themselves from responding to the call of God due to their own perceived weakness, and b) so that they don't condemn themselves or give up in ministry due to a false perception or standard.  Weakness doesn't make you any less called or any less adequate to fulfill the call of God.  It makes you a prime candidate for the power of God.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves... For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison - 2 Cor. 4:7-17


It's been too long since I've written.  Forgive me!

On the 16th, Annika, Kim and I had the opportunity to travel to the island of Thassos to continue building relationship with another church that was hosting an evangelistic outreach.  Dimitris is the pastor, aided by Kenneth and Leona, another missionary couple from Sweden.

One of their church's short-term worship leaders, Mattias Ristholm, together with another Swedish folk musician, Anders Peev, form the traditional folk duo, Anda.  They performed several Swedish folk ballads in a historic stone and wood-beamed event hall in downtown Thassos.  Surpisingly, many of them were nothing short of worship songs.  I felt the presence of God and various impressions from the Holy Spirit throughout the night.  Kenneth shared his testimony at the conclusion of the concert and gave an invitation for others to consider the surrender of their lives to Jesus.

Kim and I befriended to two young, American-born Greek guys, Augi and Theo.  They run the island's premier tourist website, www.Go-Thassos.gr.  It was great making contact with young people from outside the church.  We exchanged numbers and were encouraged to touch base with them on our next return to Thassos.  These were great guys to talk to and have a lot of connections on and around the island.

Pray for these guys; that the Lord would soften their hearts, that they would have a revelation of Jesus Christ, that the kingdom of God would come upon them, and they be saved.  As Tommie encourages us, these connections with young people are like gold.  Even as I write this, I'm reminded to not despise the day of small beginnings - remembering these two in prayer specifically, stewarding-well what has been entrusted to me so far.  I think, I can get lost in dreaming of fantastic outpouring and sweeping revival - which is awesome, but speaks something else if I'm not actively, intentionally pursuing the one or two God-ideas and relationships that He has given me to start with. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.

left to right: Kenneth, Annika, Mattias' wife and child, Anders, Kim

This trip to Thassos was also a step in following through with past talk between our churches of developing further partnership.  I really enjoyed staying with Kenneth and Leona; as well as, hanging out with Dimitris, Mattias, and Anders after the event.  God knows where He will take these relationships, but they have to start somewhere!

I also instigated a snowball fight with two little kids on the street.  It was awesome.

Monday, December 13, 2010

1 Corinthians 12

'Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.
There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.'

Argiris breaks

Crack!  The cue ball strikes the apex of the pyramid in one of downtown Peraia's pool halls.  Argiris and Stefan, two of the men on the servant leadership team
 at Network Community, took me out for a little 'guy-time' following Friday's home group meeting in the neighboring town of Michaniona.  I would learn that 'solids and stripes' to an American are 'one color and two colors' to a Greek and 'full and half' to a German.  A variety of names, but the same game.

I had asked Argiris to give me some advice on how to improve my pool game.  He proceeded to explain to me the elementary rules of play.  Realizing that something seemed to have been lost in translation, I began to nod dismissively, thinking, 'Yes, yes, I know that already.'  No sooner had that thought crossed my mind, than when he told me a very simple rule that I didn't know.  Humbled, I realized that I have a lot to learn from these brothers of mine.

After a handful of games (I won't bother disclosing the winner here.  Hint: It wasn't me...), we retired to Annika's apartment where we enjoyed one another's company with their respective wives, Peggy and Tanya.  Later in the evening, Peggy began to share her heart about what she felt like the Lord was speaking to her and Argi, given their present living situation.  As a result of the economic crisis in Greece, many that do find work often go unpaid for quite some time.  Consequently, Argi and Peggy have had to make some tough choices - one of which, is moving into Argi's unfinished workshop beneath his father's home.  As things are presently, time appears to be waning before other decisions must be made.  Regardless, they are determined to seek the Lord and yield themselves to His word, despite their circumstances.

Tanya began sharing a testimony of how the Lord had given her supernatural peace in the midst of a physical trial that she walked through some time ago.  As she and Annika shared the treasures of wisdom from their own hearts, it was as if the Lord was pouring the solidity of His wisdom and truth into the foundations of my inner man.  It felt so good to receive of such a familiar spirit of wisdom and revelation, in an otherwise foreign land, with otherwise foreign people.

It's funny how you think you can know a person or a people group based on a handful of surface-level interactions or stereotypical worldly judgments.  However, when these brothers and sisters begin to share their lives with you, you realize they have an entire history in the Lord - a rich history - that you know very little about.  And not just the Lord, but the same Lord.

Who is the missionary again?

'Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh'
'For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  For the body is not one member, but many.'

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Romans 8:28

It's Tuesday night and we have just returned home to Perea from intercessory prayer at church in Thessaloniki.  It seemed for me personally, a very peaceful, simple, yet powerful time of worship and prayer.  Through the battles of the mind that have raged at various points during my transition here, I've found very simple prayers to be the most liberating and effective.  He doesn't need my flowery language.  He hears the cries of the heart from His sons and daughters.

Yesterday, Tommie and I played tennis at a park not far from our house.  It felt very good to exercise and have fun doing something I enjoy.  After sharing this with Tommie, he agreed and said that he didn't subscribe to a 'martyr mentality' in missions.  'You should do things you enjoy,' he said.  This is a healthy reminder for someone like me.  This time spent playing tennis also happened to be a bit of a turning point for me.  I was reminded that from now on, it has to be His words that define me.  Duh, right?  Strange how subtly I can drift from that.  'Sanctify them in truth; Your word is truth' - John 17:17.
Kim, Danielle (Belgrade), and I

I forgot to mention my time in Skopje last week.  Let's just say that spending time, not only with famliar faces, but with true friends, was a welcome gift.  It was so much fun - so peaceful and relaxing - to just sit in Bethany's home and just... be ... with one another.  There were many times where conversation, prayer, games, or worship would end and we would just sit in silence, in the peace of God with each other.  It was really refreshing.  It was sad to leave Jon, Danielle, and Bethany because I've come to love them so much, but it was clear that we had been renewed during that time for a purpose.  I look forward to seeing them all again soon.

Jen, Bethany (Macedonia), and John (Belgrade)

Old Stone Bridge over the river Vardar in Skopje, Macedonia

To be honest, Skopje was incredibly intimidating to me at first.  It felt entirely different from Thessaloniki, although I came to feel much more comfortable after being there for a day or so.  I traveled with Bethany, Jen, and John to a relatively small town outside the city, called Veles.  I met Ane and his family, one of the leaders in a 'Glasnost' church plant from Skopje.  Ane, a skilled martial artist with a violent history before coming to know the Lord, now helps disciple young people in a town where the most prolific work is trafficking hard drugs.  Despite the apparent darkness, it's clear God is moving in the hearts of people there.  You could see hope and the light of God on the face of a woman in their fellowship who is conquering brain cancer.  Jesus prevails, praise God.

Stadium in Veles, Macedonia

I feel more and more grounded as time passes here.  Thank the Lord, I believe He is really knitting our body together here as one soul, in Him.  Fellowship is a beautiful thing that I am really grateful for.  I am most thankful for the peace that He is solidifying within me.

Tommie, the girls, and I, met up with Femi, a member of our church, who is finishing his doctorate at the university.  He gave us a brief tour of the campus, as we observed and surveyed the landscape.  Let me tell you, American college students, be grateful for the facilities that you enjoy.  All college campuses are not created equal.  A history of student protests, at times violent, has led to legislation that prohibits police from entering the campus.  Drug abuse and anarchism leave a distinct impression.  We are praying that the Lord will apprehend those wild at heart to be radical for Jesus and His kingdom.

As I was walking on campus, I felt overwhelmed at times, thinking, 'How in the world are we going to impact the people on this campus?'  I was reminded that it is by faith, we understand the worlds were made; therefore, anything we do on that campus must be by faith in Him and His working.  We prayed for a few minutes, left Femi to his obligations, and went on our way into the city.

Starbucks near the church of Panagias Dexias in Kamara, Thessaloniki

I stopped to withdraw money from a particularly hungry ATM that decided my debit card tasted really good.  Upon turning around and informing the rest of my party that my card had been consumed, a young Cretian student named Philip, waiting in line behind me, testified to the fate of my card and offered some information.  This brief commentary lead to an introduction that turned into a meeting for coffee with his friend and the rest of our crew later that evening.  Coffee went well and we agreed to meet again for a meal sometime in the future.  I hope we all gain another friend.

Roman arch of Galerius in Kamara, Thessaloniki

Tommie read Philippians 1:12 this morning, 'Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,' and prayed that we would have this attitude also.  It was so cool to see the Lord's hand at work, immediately giving us such a divine appointment with two young university students - something that has been prayed for continually - that we would probably have never met, had my card not been eaten and destroyed.  'How are we going to make an impact on the people on this campus?'  Pray and watch Him work.

He reminded me of His own jealous love for me when He saved me on a college campus, some five years ago.  He sent a persistent 'Andrew' to my 'Peter,' leading me to Jesus (John 1:42).  Now I have the opportunity to be an Andrew to, hopefully many, 'Peters.'  I imagined Peter meeting Jesus for the first time.  Peter knew nothing about Jesus, but Jesus knew everything about Peter.  Jesus chose him and that's all that mattered.  If Peter only knew the work that God would do in His life.

'Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.' - 1 Thess. 5:24

Thank you for your continued prayer and support.  Your prayers are making a powerful impact - please continue in them!
- Pray for Daki, that the peace of God would guard her heart and mind in Christ Jesus, and that she would be completely healed from cancer.
- Pray for Philip and his friend Satiris, that the will of God would be done in their lives.
- Pray that our body would continue to be knit together in the love and grace of God, and that the fellowship of our faith would become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in us for Christ's sake.

Thank you for your grace and mercy as I learn how to manage my time here and communicate effectively.  I look forward to hearing from you!  Let me know how you are doing!

In His love,


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I just wanted to write a 'quick' update before leaving for Skopje tomorrow evening.

Today ended up being a fantastic day.

Tommie took me to get a SIM card for the cell phone he is letting me use while I am here.  I didn't realize the degree to which I had relied on my cell, as my watch, alarm clock, planner and means of local communication, until it was gone for 72 hours.  Needless to say, it's nice to have those luxuries back.

(clockwise left to right: Kenneth, Tommie, Kim, Jen)

Tommie left for the Middle East for a few days, leaving his vehicle at my/our disposal.  I have to admit, I was quite nervous about driving Tommie's car on these streets, and though it was definitely a baptism by fire when he left me at the airport to navigate my way through downtown Thessaloniki, it ended up being a huge confidence booster.  Praise God Almighty, He lead me directly to Aristotelos Square, where I was to meet up with Kim and Jen, without having any real idea how to get there; even providing a parking space just feet from the main road across the street from the Square.

After meeting up with the girls, I had my first gyro platter at the intern-famous restaurant, Spata.  Having not really eaten dinner the night before, it made my first gyro in Greece, exceptionally delicious.

With intercessory prayer in town at the church at 7:00pm, the girls and I spent most of the day exploring some of the town around the Square.  It was great to finally get my feet on the ground and really get in to the city.  I think there's something about all the people interacting that energizes me in a way.  Worship and intercession seems to happen almost naturally, walking through the city.  They've been some of my favorite moments here.

After I ate at Spata, we decided to get coffee and just relax for a bit, as we waited for the cell phone store to re-open.  Most businesses close roughly between 2:30pm and 5:30pm for 'siesta' time.  It was good for the three of us to spend some time just talking, laughing, and enjoying hanging out with one another, as we adjust to life here.

I've realized there are fewer things on this earth that I enjoy more than interceding with brothers and sisters in prayer.  I think one of the reasons that I love it so much is because you can see the unity and fellowship of the Spirit of God in action right before your eyes.  You pray what people are thinking without knowing it.  You see what people are praying before they pray it.  Though people pray in a language you do not know, you can feel the power of God on their prayers.  It was great to meet a handful of new friends and have the opportunity to 'do the stuff' - the fun stuff! - alongside them.

Femi and his son, BJ

Afterwards, Jen, Kim, and I came back to Tommie's, had a really profitable time sharing what was on our hearts and spent the remainder of the night laughing about things that will likely not soon be forgotten.  "Tom Foolery?  Who is that?"

I picked-up Amy from the Airport a couple of hours ago.  It's good to see her and have her back here from Sweden.  I'm looking forward to getting into the swing of things with everyone, although much of the team will soon be leaving for Christmas.

Jen, Kim, and I will be headed to Skopje tomorrow to spend time with Bethany, Jon, and Danielle, through Friday.  I'm really excited to have the chance to spend some time and just enjoy them.

Please pray for the three of us as we travel to Skopje.  Pray that we would have favor and traveling mercies as we cross the border to and from Skopje.  Pray that our time together is all that the Lord would have it be.

Pray for Tommie as he travels to the Middle East through Sunday.  Pray for those in authority within the church that they would be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of His will, and that they would not grow weary in doing good.  Pray that we would fervently love one another from the heart and be unified.

Please also pray specifically for me, Jen and Kim - that we would rest in His grace and trust Him, simply loving God and others as we adjust to life here.

God bless you.  I love you all.  Please tell me how you are doing!


Thessaloniki Bay

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Psalm 84:10

"For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside."

Wow.  I am in awe of God's faithfulness.

Kim and I made is to Thessaloniki without any hitch.  Tommie (the pastor), Annika (one of the missionary worship leaders), and Jen (one of the Dwelling Place missionaries) were there to pick us up from the airport right on time.

They drove us straight to their little 'missionary community' in the town of Perea; which can't be more than 15 minutes from the airport.  Tommie, Annika, and the DP missionaries (Amy, Jen, and Kim) all have separate apartments within close walking distance of each other in this little town.

While Kim got settled in at her place, Tommie took me for hot chocolate at Joy Bar - a little seaside restaurant just down the street.  It was a good time to sit, relax, and talk for a bit before heading to church in downtown Thessaloniki at 7:00pm.

It was great to see many of the familiar faces that I had met during my visit with the interns in 2008 - Eva and Costas, Argy and Peggy, Dimitra, and Stravoula; as well as, many new faces.  I was encouraged at how much more confident they were in their faith and identities in the Lord.  They were noticeably more confident as they functioned with courage and purpose in their roles, serving within the body.

At first, I found it difficult to press-in and connect with the Lord during worship.  The songs were familiar worship songs; however, when everyone is singing in Greek, it can be a little difficult to worship with my mind, singing in English.  So, I stopped trying to do that for a bit and decided to sing in the Spirit.  I don't remember exactly what happened... I believe a slightly potent mixture of humility, spontaneous praise, declaration, and adoration of the person of Jesus, released just a touch of His presence that comforted my heart in such a powerful way.  What an unfathomable gift, that God would give us Himself, to live within us and walk among us, so that no matter where on earth we might be, Christiansburg, Virginia or Thessaloniki, Greece - He is there.

Dimitri, a guest speaker and pastor from the island of Thassos, shared an encouraging, insightful word on Elijah's character, as man with a nature like ours, full of weakness; however, zealous in his obedience to the word of the Lord, in the midst of intensely oppressive circumstances.  I really appreciated Dimitri's own honesty and candidness about his difficulties this year, as the apostle Paul unreservedly admitted to being, "afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within."  It releases such a burden from those that look up to people in leadership when they realize that individuals and families in 'ministry' are not without their own real struggles.

I was reminded tonight that there is nothing better than Jesus and being in the presence of God.  He is beautiful and glorious, and He's what this life is all about.  Every relationship and every purpose of God comes together when you have Him.  Every need is met.  Apart from Him we can do nothing, but in Him, all things hold together and we bear much fruit.

I'm looking forward to meeting with Tommie and the rest of the missionaries tomorrow for a time of strategy, instruction, vision-casting, etc.

I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of what God is doing here.  Thank you so much for your continued prayer and support.

I wish you Jesus.

Love, Ben.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How amazing are your thoughts concerning me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!' (Psalm 139:16-17)

I will be enjoying the rest of the week at my parents' home in Fredericksburg, VA for Thanksgiving before meeting up with my friend and fellow missionary, Kim Bonner at Dulles International Airport, Saturday, November 27th.  Our flight is scheduled to depart at 5:50pm, ultimately arriving at our destination in Thessaloniki around 2:45pm Sunday, November 28th, following a brief layover in Frankfurt.

I'm really looking forward to a time of fruitful fellowship with family; as well as, time to rest in the Lord and spend time with Him in the word, as I prepare my heart for what lies ahead.  I'm tremendously excited about what the Lord has in store in Greece and in the time leading up to our departure.  What He is doing is always good.  I'm excited about seeing the other DP missionaries; as well as, reconnecting with Tommie and the church in Thessaloniki.  I'm looking forward to being in community with my brothers and sisters there as we pursue the Lord together.

I'm incredibly grateful for the overwhelming emotional, prayerful, and financial support that I have received.  Praise God, I have already met my prospective budget for my time in Thessaloniki! Thank you so much for your love and faithful giving.  May the Lord bless you and cause you to abundantly increase in all that He would do together with you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

clank, clank, clank...

... as the roller coaster cars slowly yet confidently ascend the hill before the first big drop.  As my departure date for Thessaloniki draws closer, I'm realizing that much of what has been on my heart and mind resembles such a familiar childhood experience.

A majority of the time passed before taking your seat and getting safely buckled into any great amusement park thrill ride is spent in line... waiting.  Though it's not the most appreciated aspect of theme parks, it's necessary if you ever want to experience any of the best rides worth waiting for.  So you wait, because you've heard about the ride, you can see the ride before you, and though it can sometimes feel like an eternity (as the line twists, turns, and snakes down hallways and open rooms you didn't think could have possibly existed), you do eventually arrive at the platform gate.

After being secured safely into your seat, a flurry of thoughts can flood your mind as it slowly and deliberately pulls away from the platform.  'Oh man, what have I gotten myself into?' 'Why did I get on this ride?' 'This is really happening' 'There's no turning back now.'  As the train of cars slowly ascend to the first big drop, following the initial stage of panic and confession of sin, things start to come into perspective.

As the train of cars makes it way higher and higher, you begin to see the surrounding land in a way you couldn't have before.  You're eyes are opened to other rides, games, and entire sections of the park that you didn't know existed, all ordered in a way that you couldn't have seen from the ground.

Then you turn and notice the person in the seat next to you.  You realize they're secured in the car right beside you.  They've been with you the entire time that you've been waiting in line.  They were with you in the car on the way to the park.  They were even there when you decided to make the trip together.  They were with you as the train left its platform through all your fear, doubting and second-guessing.  They'll be with you in the drop.  And they'll be with you when you walk off the ride together, with high-fives and excitement to share.  What's really important and what really matters becomes much simpler.

You're not alone.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:19-20

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Welcome to Prepare The Way, my blogsite for all things life and missions while partnering with the Network Connection church in Thessaloniki, Greece.  My hope for this site is to keep it updated with current events, thoughts, photos and happenings relevant to life and the Lord's working in the Balkans.  This site is constantly changing and evolving, so please bear with me as we grow together.  Feel free to leave comments or suggestions.

Grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure,