Thursday, October 4, 2007

Timisoara, Romania


We arrived in Romania around 9:00 PM, had a late dinner, and got a reasonably early night. This morning we laid the foundation teaching in the main square, and did an open air at the local university. It was wonderful. A crowd of 100-150 people gathered around and listened to EZ and my preaching, while Mark once again stood there wearing the straight jacket. We even had a couple of good hecklers, which brought some life to it. We broke for lunch, dropped wallets and filmed people picking them up, and then lying to us about taking it. I always let them keep the wallet, because it not only contained some money, it also had tracts inside.

We did some one-to-one interviews, and came back to our hotel, where we did the final filming for the Fourth Season. I looked at the camera and with great enthusiasm, said, “Thirteen countries in thirteen days! They said we couldn’t do it! But we did it, didn’t we guys?!” The camera panned to show the team lying all over the floor, with messed up hair, etc. Duane answered, “Yeah Ray. Good idea.” The rest of the team mumble, “Yeah…right.” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Well I feel good,” and walked out wearing a backpack as though I was going on another trip. The irony was, the rest of the team was feeling good, and I was sick. I caught a head cold and I feel pretty bad. The consolation was that it hit me on the last day.

I had a concern before we left that I didn’t share with anyone. They say that if you want to get to know someone, travel with them. Many a friendship has been ruined by traveling together. We have been together under the stress and strain of visiting thirteen countries in thirteen days. I was concerned that it would put a strain on friendships. But the opposite has happened. The trip has done nothing but strengthen friendships.

We have had a lot of pressure but thanks to all the hard planning work of Trish and Val we have been on time for every train. Each hotel has been an oasis. In every country there were Christian brothers and sisters who met us, transported us and did nothing but encourage us with their kindness. To each one I am very grateful. I also am grateful to Kirk for letting me run after this crazy idea (he’s nowhere near as crazy as I am and it did take a while to persuade him it would work). He will top and tail each show. I am appreciative of the teams (EZ and his, and Todd with his), to their wives and family, and to those of you who upheld us in prayer. Also, I would like to give a very special thank you to our dear friend Dan Arnold who helped to make this trip possible. But most of all I want thank God for making this trip a reality, and for trusting us with the everlasting Gospel. May His name be glorified, His Kingdom be extended and may He use this series to cause Christians around the world to reach out to the lost while there is still time.

Budapest, Hungary

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Austria & Hungary

We arrived in beautiful Vienna (Austria) at 10:00 PM last night. After meeting our contacts we went out for pizza. It was good pizza. I’m not deeply into music but I have to say that I love Johan Strauss’ “Blue Danube.” Over pizza Tony whistled the first 3-4 minutes of the amazing waltz, and made Vienna very special for me.

This morning we laid the foundational teaching (about total surrender) in the main Square with a huge ornate, intricate, detailed church building behind us.

Then we went to an area in the subway where we dropped wallets and used hidden cameras to watch what people would do. Most were honest and immediately returned it, but one man picked it up and ran with it. I ran after him wearing the spy-camera and filmed him putting it into his pocket. I then approached him and asked if he had found a wallet. He said that he hadn’t. He came back about 30 minutes later and said that he had found it. Then returned it to me, probably because he realized he was on camera. Another man kicked the wallet, picked it up, and wrapped it in his newspaper. Then he turned around and walked briskly in the direction from which he had just come. He also denied finding it. I let him keep it, because it was packed with tracts as well as having money inside.

EZ and I then preached open air in the main square to about 200 people, while Trish stood beside us in the straight jacket. Trish preached for the third time in her life, and did a wonderful job.

I then did something I have been planning to do since the trip began. I rigged it so that it looked like a knife was sticking out of my back. I approached people with a cameraman, asked for an interview, and when I get permission I said, “I have three minutes to live. I have a knife in my back (I would let them see my back). I will be dead very soon. I’m scared. Please, tell me what I should do to get to Heaven.” The reactions were great when they saw the knife, as it added a dimension of reality to what was being said.

By the time we finished this adventure we would have spent more than sixty hours on trains. Traveling this way has been such a blessing. The fellowship has been very rich. We will arrive in Hungary around 7:30 PM, so we have decided to film and preach tonight. It should be interesting. Thanks again for your prayers and for you interest in what we are doing.

It’s now the next day, and we are not on a train; and we’re not eating chocolate. The twelve of us are split into two vans on the auto band, heading for Timisoara in Romania, singing worship and (legally) going more than 100 MPH.

We arrived in Budapest, Hungary last night and did four late night interviews. They were outstanding. The first was with a woman holding a Chihuahua who was very open to the Gospel. Then we interviewed a very colorful slightly drunk Frenchman, eight Russians, and a local girl on a bike.

The next morning we split into two crews, and were able to get another twelve interviews. Scotty interviewed a Jewish woman in her mid-twenties. Afterwards our Hungarian interpreter burst into tears, and told us that she was the interviewee’s workmate. She had been praying for her for two years. Of the four million people in Budapest, Scotty had shared the gospel with her.

We then did an open air during the lunch hour for about 20 minutes before the police stopped us. They wanted my passport, took down some details and let me go.

We broke for lunch and shot the main teaching on a hill overlooking the city. As we were leaving, Mark saw a couple of con men playing “Three Shell Game.” They heard Mark warning us as to what they were doing, and one large and angry man walked towards him and threatened to beat him. Fortunately he backed down when he caught a glimpse of my biceps. One day to go.

Please keep praying.

God bless, Ray

P.S. We were stopped by border guards at the border of Romania and Hungary. They took our passports and told us that we would have to wait for about ten minutes. Thirty minutes later we were still waiting. We were informed that it was because we were Americans. We had come so close to making it to thirteen countries. We were right on the border, and then this had happened. Suddenly two large guards approached us with their guns drawn, and told us to immediately line up against our vans. Just kidding. A very sweet lady guard approached us with all of our passports in her hand and said that she needed to see our faces. She called “Tony Smiles.” Tony stepped forward and took hold of his passport. It was kind of like the academy awards. When she called “Carol Scott,” we applauded as she stepped forward. The guard began to smile at our antics. That’s all we needed for encouragement. When my name was called, I stepped forward and there was instant applause. I turned around and said, “I would like to thank my director and producer, Duane Barnhart.” When Duane received his passport, he held it to his heart and quoted Sally Field saying, “You like me…you really like me.” It was so much fun. By now the guard was laughing. Mark did a quick light show. Scotty gave her a million dollar tract. How things have changed since the cold war.