It has been a busy three weeks for us since we got back to Germany. On Sunday August 7th, our 3W Intern Gina moved in with us after having spent the first half of her internship under the care of The Philips. She arrived exhausted from German Teen Camp and we arrived exhausted from our summer in the USA and Costa Rica. After a couple of days, we headed down to visit the new Church of God in Arco, Italy.
We had a wonderful time encouraging this little church that has just started in the past year. And the pastors, the Lovaglios continue to report that there are other communities wanting to have a pastor. So the potential for growth is great, but we will need to mobilize for this is the future. The Lovaglios are working hard, still commuting 2 hours every week to go back and forth to the church in Arco--and sleeping on the floor of the little church. I think it was a great opportunity for Gina to see how challenging the European context is for churches, but also how there is great potential, but it always starts with small communities. We had a wonderful time not only sharing with the people, but listening to the Lovaglios share about their dreams, struggles, and burdens. They are doing an important work and Pastor Lovaglio is one of those guys who has a gift for finding open doors to begin new works. He has that St. Paul quality.
We then went to Andalusia, Spain to meet some of the Bolivians from the Bolivian Church of God who have immigrated to Spain and are now living in Vera. In 2009, I was in Bolivia and attended their annual Easter service. Now we were meeting people from the same community (and other Bolivian immigrants) who are continuing to worship in a house church. We met the Fernandez family who are Latin American missionaries in Europe. They are from Bolivia and Honduras and have been ministering in Spain for quite a long time. They are phenomenal leaders and Nicole, Aaron, Gina, and I were all enchanted by them. Like the Lovaglios in Italy, they are working very hard to minister to a number of communities that need a pastor and need assistance in a variety of ways.
Part of the purpose of this trip (and internship) was to expose Gina fully to the Three Worlds of Christianity. The Bolivians very much practice a faith that is non-Western. It is experiential, it is communal, they are not necessarily educated in Western systematic theology, and their Christianity is infused with many indigenous Bolivian traditions. This is quite different from the context Gina witnessed here in post-modern Berlin, or in the more traditional settings in Germany or Italy or Almeria, Spain.
For missionaries like the Fernandez in Almeria, they are having to engage all Three Worlds in order to do ministry in Europe. There are large, communities of elderly, retired German Evangelicals (and snowbirds) living on the coast of Andalusia are very traditional. But the university students that attend the church in Almeria are more post-modern, and of course the Bolivians are non-Western.
Our 3W Internship is designed to not only expose our interns to these Three Worlds, but to give them an opportunity to engage the Three Worlds, because they call for very different responses and methods of interaction. Our 2011 3W Intern, Gina, did a fantastic job navigating the Three Worlds. In every setting we put her in: working in ministry on the streets of post-Christendom Berlin, working with youth and the traditional church, or visiting with the non-Western Bolivians; in every setting, she did a fantastic job of not only appreciating the Three Worlds, but integrating into them.
We are so thankful to Gina for doing such a great job, being so flexible, and giving everything and everyone a chance. She gets an A+ from us, as she heads back to Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.
I'll comment more later on the trip and add some more photos. Gina got to see some gorgeous things here in Europe. This continent is the most beautiful in the world---period.