Can’t Steal My Joy
Ten days in Eastern Europe…four countries where God is at work…choice servants doing God’s will no matter what. That was the agenda for these days in November as NRB’s International Strategies was joined by Wes Ward of Revive Our Hearts to see how we can serve our Christian brothers and sisters working in broadcasting and in related media areas. We knew it would be a bit of a challenge…10 days, 11 flights (12 flights for Wes), 12 or so airport stops…security and all.
When asked if I like the international travel, I have said before, “I like being in these places, meeting with God’s servants…but I don’t care for what it takes to get there. Those who travel a bit know that the “glamour” wears off quickly.
At each stop on this journey Wes Ward and I would feel like we had reached the high point of the trip. Great stories, great ministries, great people, great needs, great opportunities. Then at the next stop, a whole new facet of ministry would unfold. It made the two to three days spent in each location seem like a week or more.
A Thief Slips In
But at the end of the trip… a thief tried to steal my joy. I had an early flight from Tirana, Albania, from the airport named after Mother Teresa. As I walked into the airport at 5:00 a.m. I noticed a crowd at the Alitalia customer service area. A quick look at the monitors told me why. Our flight to Rome had been cancelled. I never found out why, for sure, though some were saying it was because of fog the night before. The crowd was trying to get to the one or two agents who were slowly rebooking all the passengers on the cancelled flight. Some were not happy at the start. It wouldn’t get any better as people jostled and angled to get to the counter. Lines? Order? None to be found.
After about an hour and a half, I got to the counter only to find there was no way to get me to Rome to catch any of the needed connecting flights to make it home. Rather than face the prospect of spending the night at the Rome airport, I opted to rebook for the next day. Back to Radio 7 to stay until Sunday morning early, trekking out to the airport again for the 6:05 a.m. flight.
Arriving once again at 5:00 a.m. I checked the monitors first. No flight showed “cancelled” on the boards. Great! However, as I looked closer I saw that our flight wasn’t even listed. And a quick glance around the airport revealed a crowd at the Alitalia desk again…many of whom I recognized from the day before. Same story…flight cancelled…rebooking…people more upset and unruly…and no easy way to get home.
The story could go on and on…and I am writing some of this in the Tirana airport, so I don’t know the conclusion yet…but it dawned on me that a thief was here. Satan was trying to get me to focus on the problem at hand and not the amazing stories, the joy in Christ and His power. It was almost working…until the text message arrived.
Reminded of the Joy
Our Albanian host has been Enkelejda (pronounced “ink-a-LAY-duh”)Kumaraku, the director of Radio 7. On Friday Wes Ward and I were on their morning program being interviewed about NRB and Revive Our Hearts. It gave us the opportunity to speak about God’s power and His love. After our time on the air we were meeting with Enkelejda when one of the Radio 7 staff stepped in with a message for Enkelejda. Soon we got the story. A listener had called in while Wes and I were on the air. She was blind, and very discouraged. In fact, as she talked to the Radio 7 staff, she spoke of suicide. Wes, Enkelejda, and I prayed for the young girl in her time of crisis. We continued to pray several times during the day.
The staff got the young lady’s address and phone number, with the idea of going to see her right away. They realized she lived about 2 ½ hours away. Someone was contacted in her village. It “happened” that Radio 7 was holding a women’s meeting in that area the next day.
So sitting in the airport for the second day, mulling over all it was taking to try to get home, my cell phone buzzed with a text message. It was from Enkelejda. The message was straight to the point.
Here was Christian radio in the hands of God bringing a young, blind, depressed girl from darkness to light…from spiritual death to spiritual life. Joy. Pure joy. Joy that overcomes minor inconveniences of international travel. Joy that lasts for eternity.
Blessings in the Balkans
Satan was trying to steal that joy. He was trying to get me to overlook the blessings we had experienced with Pavel and Klara Steiger in Czech Republic. Not only did we take the fastest nighttime walking tour of old Prague ever, we also visited another Radio 7, this one in Brno, Czech Republic. Since they haven’t been able to acquire a license in their country, they share a frequency with a Christian station in Slovakia. And this Radio 7 uses the Internet to get its programming to their audience. They need a station, and that is on our prayer list.
Our dear friend Lucian Despa hosted us in Romania. It was a blessing to be in worship at a major Baptist church in Bucharest on Sunday morning. Wes brought a greeting, and I was honored to bring the message from God’s Word. We also spoke at a Pentecostal church in the evening. And in between we squeezed in two radio interviews for Wes and me on Radio Voice of the Gospel. We even had time for a video interview with Lucian, as we talked about the need for additional stations for the ministry, and discussed the potential for regional training for Christian broadcasters in the Balkans.
We had an added treat when Tudor Petan, president of Alfa Omega TV in Timisoara, Romania, took the overnight train from Timasoara to Bucharest to visit with us over breakfast. This appears to be a critical time to impact these countries in Eastern Europe, and Tudor is working to expand the reach and the impact of Alfa Omega’s broadcast platform.
Our time in Serbia was an international treat. Let’s see…two of us from America, Sasko Bogeski from Macedonia, his wife Ira from Serbia, Ira’s mother from Indonesia, and the British couple who graciously let Wes and me stay with them in their apartment. Our time with Sasko and Ira gave us a wonderful look into the heart of this couple that God has called to media ministry for Serbia, Macedonia, and other surrounding countries. The fact that they have little resources does not discourage them. The know God has called them. And they know He will provide. In the meantime they plan for the ministry, dream for the Lord, and prepare themselves for His work.
And in Albania, we were amazed at the ministry of Radio 7 that goes above and beyond radio. They are active in work with the Roma people (gypsies), with women's groups, and with children. They are looking to bring Christ's impact to the Albanian speaking people living there with a station that will reach into Kosovo. And Radio 7 is exploring opportunities in television. God is opening doors. It is personally encouraging to see Him at work.
No…I won’t let Satan steal my joy. A blip in travel plans cannot compare with these amazing servants and the work they do as part of God’s plan to bring hope to the hearts of the people of Eastern Europe. I would encourage you to guard against Satan stealing your joy, too. He is out to discourage, diminish, and destroy. God is out to encourage, lift spirits, and give life and abundant joy for all eternity. Don’t let the temporal setbacks take your focus off the things of lasting value. As Paul said, “ Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable….think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Many of you prayed for our trip. Thank you. I don’t think we had a wasted moment during the entire time. While we may have encouraged these Christian broadcasters as we looked for ways to help them do what God has called them to, mostly we were the ones encouraged and strengthened in our faith.
In the coming weeks we will be seeking partners to work with these outstanding Christian broadcasters, and others, that God has strategically placed in important places to touch lives with the Words of Life. Financial resources, training teams, and mentors are all needed. Is God putting one of these areas on your heart? Let’s talk. You can be part of the joy God wants to bring to Eastern Europe.
P.S. We arrived home safely...and in possession of His joy. Have a great Thanksgiving!
Ronald L. Harris, DD
Senior Vice President for Strategic Partnership
National Religious Broadcasters
703-330-7000 ext. 400 (NRB HQ)
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