Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not in Kansas Anymore

Over this recent Thanksgiving weekend I had the chance to watch a little bit of an old movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” During the movie Dorothy finds herself in the strange Land of Oz and comments to her dog Toto, “I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.” This comment took me back to a time and place when I was working overseas and I found myself with a team of people in a strange but beautiful land called Slovakia.

It was shortly after the Soviet system crashed and Czech and Slovak Republics had a peaceful separation. During this time one of my roles was to lead churches into significant relationships overseas creating a win, win, win for the US church, and in this case the Pentecostal church of Slovakia, and missionaries Jerry and Faith McCullough. Within this relationship we identified ways to move the national Pentecostal church forward in its desired goal to establish churches throughout the country reaching their people at every level. One of these ways was to establish and build regional churches that would have the capacity to train new leaders who would in turn establish new churches.

As I sat across the table from Daniel in this once soviet stronghold we were working beside people whose experience of church meant ducking and running, secret meetings and routine interrogations by soviet police I realized all that I had taken for granted back in “my Kansas.” Just a few years ago one of this movement’s strategies was never to entrust all the knowledge of the church to one person. In fact many people didn’t know what was happening in the city next to them for fear that if someone was arrested they would be tortured and spill this knowledge. No knowledge meant nothing to spill and nothing to spill meant nothing to lose!

One day Daniel, a plumber who is also a pastor, recounted a story of his youth.

BANG! BANG! BANG! The hard and loud knocks at the door could only mean one thing… we were in trouble. Taking a quick peek out the window mother yelled to father, POLICE! Without hesitation father immediately runs and grabs the records of the church and takes them to the kitchen throwing them into a cabinet. Father tells me and mother, “get in the kitchen and hide the records.” We hurry off as father answers the door. Without any provocation the two police grab father throwing him to the floor. I can hear them immediately begin to yell questions and insults at him. My mother rushes me outside and tells me to dig a hole below the kitchen window. Instinctively I begin to claw at the dirt with all my might. I hear the police begin to hit father and yell more insults.

Mother opens the window and begins to hand the records out and as I grab them I hurriedly throw them into the hole I just dug. Quick, quick, mother yells. Soon the papers and small books are in the hole and covered up. I wipe my hands on my pants and go back into the house where I am met by one of the policemen. What are you doing he yells? I told him I just came in from outside and I quickly lower my eyes.

Mother tells the policemen that I am a good boy and not to hurt me. He grunts and turns. The voices grow louder in the next room. I want to go in and help but mother told me to be still and pray. God will help us. I feel my faith begin to be tested as anger rises in me. I know mother is right but I want to do something, anything. A few minutes later I hear the door open and slam shut. We run into the living room and father is bruised but okay. This is not the first or last time this type of punishment will be dished out. I realize my faith is all I have. I can’t control anything life brings but I can control my choice to believe. Today in Topoľčany there is a flourishing church which has planted other churches and Daniel is more than a pastor, he is a leader’s leader.

If you don’t want to be in your Kansas anymore I can help. Today I work to develop partnerships around the world so tap your heals together three time s and let’s see where God can take you.

This is your investment. This is your joy.

Mark Szymanski

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