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.

Monday, October 1, 2007


They say that when you run a marathon, at a certain point through the run, you “hit the wall.” That’s when the runner wants to give up. Today we “hit the wall.” I heard that Sue wasn’t well last night, and that really upset me. Duane wasn’t able to contact his family yesterday and this morning we got together and talked about how down we both felt. We also talked about how unspeakably terrible it must have been to be separated from your family by the Nazis, herded into a cattle-car and starved to death in a concentration camp. That put our separation into perspective. We prayed, thanked God, and joyfully started the day in our tenth country.

Prague, in the Czech Republic is beautiful. There are buildings that look like something from a scene in a Harry Potter movie (evil-looking) and others that look like parts of Disneyland, where you would expect Pinocchio to appear at any moment.

Once again, the locals were nothing but servants to us. They not only met us when we arrived but carried our bags throughout the day.

We began by dropping wallets, but soon decided that the best use of our times was to do an open air in the local Square. In the middle of the Square was a large statue of Jon Hus, who was martyred for the same Gospel that we were preaching. He made the Scriptures available in the language of the common people, and for that was burned to death. His last words were “O holy simplicity.”

I then preached the simplicity of the Gospel four or five times. EZ and Mark also preached. Mark did the straight jacket despite his bruised arm. But it became too painful for him, so Trish put on the jacket and did a wonderful job. She even stopped struggling now and then to say a sweet “Thank you,” each time the crowd applauded to encourage her. It’s such a good visual illustration, to say that Jesus broke the chains of death through the resurrection.

When a singing group walked passed, we asked them to do a number for the cameras. They gladly complied, and when a crowd gathered I slipped them five dollars and asked them to sing another song after I preached, which they did. They helped pull in a fresh crowd. EZ and Mark preached also.

We then broke for a wonderful lunch. Scotty and Carol ordered a wonderful dessert. We may have to change the Europe promo: “Thirteen countries, thirteen days, thirteen desserts, and thirteen pounds.”

EZ and Duane decided that I should preach to the crowd that formed in front of a famous clock in the town square. It was a perfect springboard for the gospel. At the top of each hour a door opens and moving carved wooden figures of the Apostles appear. About twenty feet below that, there was moving skeleton that rung a bell. At five minutes to three a crowd of up to two thousand people formed. I asked God for help, told them who I was and why we were in their beautiful city. Then I talked about the skeleton holding a bell being symbolic of death. One day their bell would ring, but God had made a way for them to be saved from its grip.

Three of us hopped onto a horse and carriage and I shared on camera an anecdote about love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage, and how there is another marriage bound together by love. It’s the marriage of sin and death, and how there must be a divorce between the two, if the sinner wants to live.

Time was quickly going, so we ran to the main bridge over a huge river that runs through the city. On each side of the bridge there were huge stone carvings of the apostles, Mary, etc. We needed some one-to-one witnessing on camera, and we got a delightful interview with an English couple.

In the middle of the Bridge was a huge statue of Jesus on the cross. I did a quick word in front of the camera, saying that so many people passed by without understanding the meaning of the cross. I looked up and saw that a crowd had formed, so I jumped up on the statue and preached the gospel. EZ followed, and then I preached again.

What a full day we had! I preached more times in Prague than anywhere else in Europe. We broke through the wall. That’s ten countries. We are in a train, heading for Vienna, in Austria. Please keep praying; especially for my wife, Sue. Thank you.

God bless, Ray

P.S. We had been on the train for about two hours when it stopped at a station, and to our surprise, four of the helpers that we had left back in Prague came on board. They lived in the area we had just entered, and had purchased some chocolate for us. I was so moved by their act of love I felt that eating it there and then would be the right thing to do. So I broke some off for myself and as I ate it I looked at a very large lady across the aisle. I tried not to be cruel in my thoughts about her, but I remember thinking that her protruding bottom lip that made her look like the world’s grumpiest woman. She looked very much like General Berkhelter in Hogan’s Hero’s.

I decided that I had better share the blessing of the gift of chocolate with the crew, and as I slid passed EZ, my leg clipped a clip from a walkie-talkie radio that he had in the seat pocket in front of him, and went under Mrs. Grumpy’s seat.

I was horrified as I bent down and reached under it hoping that I didn’t blindly grab her big toe and upset her.

Suddenly I found it and with great joy lifted my head, and bumped it on the tray table that was connected to her seat. That’s when she looked around at me. I could hear Trish choking with laughter at what she was watching (a typical day in my life).

I stood up and offered her a piece of chocolate. Surely she lived on it and would love me for giving her some. She just stared at me as though I was a nut. As I held the chocolate out for her to take a piece I thought that I had better say something to let her know that I wanted to be friends, so I said, “Would you like a piece?” She looked back at me and said, “Nine.” Wow. I remember thinking, “No way. You’re only getting one piece.”

P.S.S She’s just left our carriage, for some reason.

Trish getting out of the straight jacket

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Germany & Oktoberfest

I was told today that some dear brother kindly sent the ministry a large financial gift when he heard about the theft of our sound gear. We were so encouraged to hear that.

We arrived in Munich, Germany, and I hit the sack at midnight and got just under seven hours sleep.

The next day we went to the famous “Oktoberfest.” This is a beer festival where millions of people drink beer for a two week period. They down millions of gallons of during this time.

On the way there, we stopped at a fast-moving river in the heart of the town and watched of all things, surfing. Duane and I (both ex-surfers) surmised that someone had put a huge board under the fast-moving river and this caused a 3-4 foot wave to form. We filmed them, and then laid the foundational teaching for the episode right in front of the main entrance of the Fest, with thousands of people pouring in behind us.

After that we went in and I got some good interviews, while EZ and Mark were able to get a couple of outstanding witnessing sessions on camera. We were also able to get some incredible B-roll.

We drove a few miles into the center of Munich and had a wonderful German lunch—dumplings, duck, venison, and apple strudel and custard. That gave us the energy to do something I had wanted to do for about a week. I had gathered a dozen old leather wallets, put in tracts and real money, with a cell phone number on the inside. I put on the spy-glasses (sunglasses with a tiny camera in them) and set up three hidden cameras. We then dropped wallets one at a time in a busy square and filmed people’s reactions. Most were honest and made an effort to find the owner. One man pretended to drop his cigarettes, bent down to pick them up and swooped up the wallet at the same time. He then walked away really quickly. I walked quicker, curved around, confronted him and asked him if he had found the wallet. He said that he hadn’t. So I let him keep it.

We are going to use the footage for a program in the Third season, which is on how a lie detector works. It’s not actually a “lie” detector. It’s a “conscience” detector. It measures the heart-rate, sweat on the palms of the hands, etc., looking for guilt.

One man actually fell down on top of a wallet, grabbed it, and then ran like a gazelle, weaving in and out of the crowd. I chased him for about 50 yards. So did Chris with the shoulder camera. The man suddenly stopped and burst out laughing. He had seen our cameras and was kidding. He handed the wallet back to me. It was funny.

We then preached open air. This time I held onto Mark as he stood beside me, wearing the straight jacket and the chain. I said that if we had sinned we were held in chains by death. The crowd stayed for the entire Gospel without Mark hardly doing anything. I handed over to EZ, and he preached while Mark struggled to get out of the jacket. I whispered to members of the local team that he could actually get out in about 30 seconds. It made me laugh to watch him thrash back and forth, make his face turn red and groan as though he was in pain. Mark had done this about ten times, and he was getting really good. I found out later that his arm had gone weak from doing the escape so many times, and this time he couldn’t get out of the jacket! He eventually did escape but at one point he was almost having a panic attack. He’s a real trooper.

We then started another open air and tried something different. We asked trivia questions, and when people got the answer wrong we applauded them, and gave them a Million Dollar Euro tract for at least tying. It was a great way to get tracts into people’s hands. Scotty then preached and did a great job.

On the way to the train station a very kind couple gave a large bag filled with all sorts of healthy food (they had been reading our blog and I suspect that they read that we were pigging out on chocolate). How kind people are. It’s such and encouragement to step off a train late at night and immediately be greeted by brethren who are not only kind, but who are extremely enthusiastic about our ministry.

Valentino bought another 12 cakes of chocolate at the railway station and said that it’s for the special chocolate club. EZ keeps raving about it being the best chocolate he’s ever had in his life. The couple also gave me a box of Weetabix and milk. I was particularly encouraged, because I met a New Zealand couple the previous day. They were living in Switzerland, and I asked the woman if she had had any Weetbix (a very similar cereal). She didn’t and looked disappointed, so I gave her mine (joyfully). Now I had more.

Thanks for all your prayer and support. We are heading for Prague, and we are excited to do more wallet drops. God bless, Ray

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tired Ray



Switzerland is beautiful

On the way to Zurich we walked through the train, Mark doing the light show and Trish and I giving out tracts to anyone who smiled. Half way through the train we met a couple who were traveling through Europe. Things hadn’t gone the way they had planned and they were pleased to meet some fellow Americans. We did the light show, sleight of hand, made them laugh a lot, and then we witnessed to them. They were a little short on cash so we got them some food, and brought them back to our hotel. Mark stayed up talking and witnessing to them until 3:00 AM. Please pray for them. Their names are Gabriel and Alison.

The city of Zurich (Switzerland) is beautiful. We arrived around midnight and I literally fell onto my bed, mumbling heart-felt thanks to God for clean sheets and a comfortable bed.

The next morning (Saturday) we filmed the program’s theme on a bridge, with a beautiful backdrop, and then we did an open air. It was very difficult to draw a crowd until Mark got out the straight jacket. Then he began stretching and messing with the chain, and by the time we strapped him in, we had a good size crowd. EZ preached and then handed over to me. After that we split crews and did one-to-one interviews.

Duane found about 15 German-speaking, chanting Hare Kristina’s and pushed me into the middle of them with the cameras rolling. It went well and sure will bring variety to the program.

Mark did some interviews. Trish was interviewing five girls when one began crying. That upset the others and they suddenly began cussing at Trish in English. She must have said something that touched a raw nerve.

When EZ arrived last night he put the card in his hotel room door five times. It wouldn’t open. He finally gave up and went all the way down stairs. He told the attendant, who then accompanied him upstairs. He put the card in and pulled at the door for a sixth time. The man said, in a deep Swiss accent, “Haf you tried pooshing ze door?” We are all in the same zombie state by that time of the night. We are now on our way by rail to Munich, Germany. We have a whole carriage to ourselves and loads of chocolate. Five countries to go. Thanks for your prayers.


Pictures of Milan, Italy (Scotty and Carol Scott)