For decades, Hoxha was a name associated with the dictator who ruled a hermetically-sealed communist Albania.
Actually it is quite a common Albanian name. Last week I was in correspondence with a young Albanian named Sokol Hoxha. Sokol became a believer soon after the country opened up early last decade. He is now the leader of the YWAM base in Schloss Hurlach, near Augsburg, Germany. That in itself is a remarkable sign of our times.
Another is that the last time I saw him was on a big screen here in Holland via satellite link with Stuttgart. That was during the closing session of the Together for Europe congress I wrote about recently. Sokol had been invited on stage with a number of the dignitaries including (former) Queen Fabiola of Belgium, various bishops and other leaders.
The day before, Sokol had been in a seminar I had addressed in Stuttgart before I drove back to Den Bosch that evening. Back in Holland, I photographed him on the big screen with my small digital camera and emailed the photo off to him. All this was only possible due to internet and other technology that has shrunken our world.
Sokol emailed back last week with impressions of the Stuttgart event, and then posed a question which I want to answer in this w e e k l y w o r d: “What does the message of your seminar mean for YWAM?”
I’m glad he asked. For the seminar in Stuttgart was based on my book called Living as people of hope, about faith, hope and vision in Europe for the twenty-first century. The Dutch version, Leven als volk van hoop, was published two months ago (see www.initiaal.nl) and the English will be available late this summer. Sokol’s question gives me the chance to explain what the message of the book could mean for YWAMers – or believers from any other background.
In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we read about the sons of Issachar who joined forces with David. They were men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. My hope then is that this book will help YWAMers, and disciples in general, to understand our times and know what we should do.
Challenge and response
The book has two sections. Part One sketches the challenging situation of Europe at the start of the new millennium. Part Two responds to the question: how can we recover faith, hope and vision for the future?
Living as people of hope is a book of grand themes with practical and local application. While addressing the European situation in the first place, it presents insights and proposes responses relevant to much of the western world. I write from personal experience in many countries of Europe, but also against the background of daily life in two rural Dutch towns, Heerde and Epe, where I live. I attempt to link the spiritual and philosophical ideas which have made Europe Europe, and everyday developments and changes happening under our noses, echoed in many other parts of the world. But primarily I attempt to offer reasons for hope for the future of Europe, our lands, our towns and cities.
Each chapter has discussion points and questions for use in groups. I hope the book will be used profitably by student groups, in YWAM schools and in cell groups. Here in Centrum ‘s Heerenhof, for example, we have had some lively discussions on the second Sunday evening of each month when each time we have been looking at a further two chapters. With the expansion of the EU and the upcoming European parliament elections, some of the issues addressed in the book have taken on fresh immediacy.
If we as YWAM are serious about ‘discipling nations’ here in Europe, then we need to understand Europe’s present spiritual crisis. I explain why, failing a biblical revival, Europe is likely to revert to her pagan roots. I also explain reasons for my hope that God has a different future for Europe in mind. But that will not be reached if God’s people allow themselves to be distracted from the task at hand by endtime speculations about Europe and the Beast, and so on. The popularity of books on rapture themes that promote – in my view – an irresponsible escapist attitude towards the future is a frightening commentary on the state of evangelicalism, particularly in the English-speaking world.
For me the last chapter is perhaps the most practical and important for YWAMers and local churches alike. Here I spell out a vision of the body of Christ in each town, city and country of Europe working together with vision and synergy towards the goal of seeing God’s kingdom come in greater measure. Next week I’ll share about one such model emerging in Berln, a city that until 1989 was a global symbol for division.
My prayer is therefore that YWAMers – among others – would be used to serve the Church to catalyse such ‘body life’ not only within but also between congregations, fellowships and denominations; that effective networks would grow between those working within the various lifespheres, like business, arts, education, refugee work, government, healthcare, and so on; and that God’s people would recover faith, hope and vision for the future of Europe.
The book ends with the following challenges:
Dare we now begin dreaming boldly about God’s will for our town, our country, our continent of Europe?
Dare we be honest about the sins and mistakes in the church past and present, rejecting the Wormtongues of pessimism and despair?
Dare we remember what God has done in the past, and look to see what God is up to today?
Dare we allow the fullness of the gospel of the Kingdom to radically change our lifestyle?
Dare we embrace and accept our responsibility for the future of our communities?
Dare we be open for changes in the church that are at the same time biblical yet relevant to twenty-first century culture?
Dare we we begin working together – locally, nationally and over the borders – so that the church of Jesus Christ will be as ‘an arrow sent out into the world to point the way to the future’?
If so, then we will become known as people of hope.
And he who offers hope, leads.
May that become reality in Sokol’s land of birth, Albania, his adopted country of Germany, my adopted homeland Holland, and your country, whatever that may be.
Till next week,