A wider selection of photos from my time in Europe can be seen here: Bratislava/Vienna 2011
Where to begin? First of all, a huge "Thank you!" to Frank (German-American) and Alenka (Serbian-Slovak) Stephenson, Branko Bjelajac, everyone at TWR Europe, and my supporters for making this incredible experience possible! My time in Slovakia for TWR Europe's Annual Partnership Conference was eye-opening, worldview-broadening, encouraging, and motivating! I am more sure than ever that this is the direction I should be pursuing, and the firsthand experience reinvigorated me to return to Europe as soon as possible!
My flight itinerary was Denver-Toronto-Frankfurt-Vienna. I arrived in Vienna at 10 AM (2 AM Colorado time, and I hadn't slept yet), and thankfully, Frank was waiting with a Red Bull energy drink (founded locally in Austria) that would help me stay awake the rest of the day. It was about a 45 minute drive to Bratislava. We arrived in time for the message at a small international church. The interim pastor and his wife were from Mississippi. As if divinely planned, I arrived on potluck Sunday. :) This allowed me to fellowship with people from Slovakia, America, UK, Israel, India, Northern Ireland, and other countries while I enjoyed the food from their part of the world.
After a much needed shower and teeth brushing, Frank, Alenka, and I visited Devín Castle. This castle was constructed in the 9th century! With my new camera in hand, I started taking pictures and didn't stop until I flew home a week later.
The next couple days involved meeting people in the TWR MarCom departments in Bratislava and Vienna and helping prepare for the conference. I didn't help much due to me being too busy drinking coffee, eating local food (Austrian schnitzel and Slovak halušky), and being overwhelmed by the architecture everywhere I looked. This was my first time out of the Americas, so I enjoyed soaking up the surroundings and culture!
TWR Europe includes a region of 71 countries from Europe, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. People came from 30 countries to a central location in Bratislava, Slovakia. It was such a privilege to meet people involved in incredible ministries and hear their stories firsthand. There were a number of people I couldn't even photograph because if they were somehow affiliated with TWR, their lives could be in danger. TWR's slogan is "Speaking Hope to the World," and many are doing this very thing while sacrificing everything. However, spreading this Hope is worth more than anything else we could offer a needy world. I made a friend from Bosnia, and he is one of an estimated 800 believers in the entire country!
This is what TWR is all about. The need is clear, their message is Hope, and their means is media. They spread this message of Hope into 225 countries and 160 languages with over a million weekly listeners in their heart language. They are constantly strategizing about how to most effectively spread the hope found in Christ to as many people as possible.
Do you ever look at what's going on all around you and just feel insignificant? "Other people are more intelligent, more gifted, more loving, etc. etc. I honestly don't have much to offer anyone." That's kind of how I felt when I got a better understanding of what the needs are and what people within TWR and other ministries are doing. It's overwhelming. However, I was made to feel so welcome and accepted as part of the TWR team. They were excited to have more youth joining the mission. I never felt undeserving of being there due to my age or lack of qualifications. I look forward to being used to speak Hope with the assistance of those generously investing in the ministry!
The conference lasted from Wednesday to Saturday. I got to meet and hear from people ministering in Slovakia, Austria, Germany, Norway, Holland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, Switzerland, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and many other countries. Along with the many things I learned in regards to TWR, I received a better understanding of European culture as a whole and see some differences between the Eastern European and Western European environment. I picked up a few Slovak words and phrases with the most important being "káva" (coffee). For the time being, some online courses at LiveMocha will have to suffice.
I had the opportunity to spend my last day in Europe in Vienna. The palaces, cathedrals, and elaborate interiors of churches were breathtaking! You can see my pictures on Facebook, but they, in no way, do it justice. When I get to Europe, please plan on visiting me so you can see some of these places for yourself. :) After an incredible dinner in downtown Vienna and a short night's rest, I boarded my return flight. It was so encouraging to have people back home excited for me and interested in the details of the trip!
If you'd like to hear more, shoot me an email or give me a call. I'd love to catch up with you! My desire is to be Slovakia-bound within this year. It seems impossible, but we will see! I just got my latest financial report which announced the completion of my outgoing fund of $10,000! Now, the completion of my monthly pledges is all that separates me from commencing my term in Slovakia (around $2,500). If you would like to join my support team with a monthly, quarterly, or yearly donation, the simplest method is here. I definitely need guidance on what steps to take at this point and am considering doing some traveling this summer. Keep me in your prayers! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this!