[notice]Five young men training at OM South Africa and ready to serve the Lord. One crazy, creative idea: What if we get a train pass for Europe and travel to share the Gospel? This was the birth of the Rebirth Experience. This is their story of faith and faithfulness.[/notice]
The five young trainees of OM South Africa Mission Discipleship Course were ready to serve the Lord. A creative idea started to develop…. What if – the five of us get a train pass for Europe and travel to share the Gospel?! The next few months, skipping breakfast, the team met for prayer. It soon became clear that it should be a faith-trip, in the sense that they would make their needs known to God alone. Flights and train tickets would be purchased, but all other needs would have to be covered along the way.
Getting ready for departure, Christo (South Africa) met a lady who happened to visit his church. She thrust some euros into his hand with the words “It is tough being in Europe”. The first gift, from a stranger, and a great encouragement from the Lord.
The train journey took them through 14 countries, from the starting point in Modena, Italy, all the way to Finland in the north, to Belgium (and a day at the GO-conference in the Netherlands) in the West, East to Romania and down south to Greece. They slept on trains, in train stations, in alleys reeking with the smell of urine – to hospitable homes and even once, in a hotel. Stretching their meagre cash, the diet was often bread with beans and ketchup.
Shares Christo: “Yes, there were many hardships, but God was so faithful! The few times we were really feeling down, exhausted and needing encouragement, God provided something special – like towards the end when we received an sms from a friend saying he had booked (and paid for!) a hotel room in Greece! Or when in Finland we found a box of potatoes, vegetables and fish right next to the road. ”
Another time, sitting outside McDonald’s (hoping for internet connection) playing the guitar and praising God, we received an email saying: “Today I specifically prayed for good conversations, cheap food and a place for you to sleep.” At the time of receiving the email we already had the first two –cheap food and good conversation with a Rastafarian Muslim. The third one came as a lady with three young children walked past. “You must be traveling, would you like to sleep at my house?” she asked. It turned out she is a Mormon and felt prompted to invite the five young men. A great evening followed, of deep conversation with her and her husband.
Great conversations and God’s faithfulness sum up what the team experienced. People on trains normally have lots of time, and most welcomed a listening ear, a caring young man, and even hearing about God. Sometimes it was very hard, not everybody wanted to listen, other times they felt like God had sent them to fill a particular need.
God opening borders
Crossing the border from Hungary into Romania, they knew that without a visa it would be next to impossible to get through, something fellow passengers confirmed. However, the team felt compelled to go, and also knew that obtaining the visa before departure had been just as impossible since they had a full programme of studies and outreaches with the MDT. Nearing the border, the team prayed while the other passengers watched. The same passengers (with visas!) kept looking from the train windows as the five approached customs. They had prayed for an English speaking officer in order to explain the situation, but this was not to be. The customs officer looked at them, took their passports, called a guy with stamps in a little box, who spoke on his walkie-talkie for what seemed like forever….and took out a stamp. Forty five minutes later, the passports were returned – with the visa stamps inside! The train was still waiting and as the team returned the cheers went up from fellow passengers who had, maybe for the first time in their lives, witnessed God answer prayer.
People they met gave food and money, and most days the team had enough to eat. However, there was one day when they ran out of everything. In fact, they went without food for 28 hours and surprisingly did not feel hungry. Somehow all five felt a deep satisfaction with what they had, and knew that this too was from the Lord.
The five young men often sat down in the town square or train station, played the guitar and worshipped Jesus, a great way to connect with people and in some ways – doing what Jesus did – meeting people were they are. They were also able to give out bibles and new testaments, in book and audio-format, when they experienced an openness and interest in the Gospel.
Calling their team the RE-BIRTH experience, they have a web site and blog with the same name where you can read more about what God did in one month through five young men on European trains.