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Friday, February 19, 2010


Traveling by plane always gives me a captive audience and God places people near me for the purpose of reaching out. Warsaw to Vilnius on from one ice covered runway to the next was no exception.
Sitting next to me was a very nice Lithuanian lady named Mihola who now lives in Chicago. We began a casual conversation about ice conditions and flying. She was in great fear until I showed her the de-icers on the leading edge of the Turbo Prop aircraft. LOT was the first "Former Satellite" carrier to ditch the old Soviet SU series planes and begin to bring in Western equipment. This day we were in row 8 of an old Embrarer EJR 170 Turbo Prop i.e. sitting right next to the port prop. I think US Air did away with these a few years back. The high wing prop vibration will cause your dentures to fall out.
In any case we settled in and began to ask the reason for each of us visiting Lithuania. Mihola has family there and she is involved with the government and cultural exchange with UNESCO which the US sponsors via the UN.
My explanation of doing mission work here led to immediate skepticism.
"Are you going to ask for money?"
"You know the people are very poor here."
Then Mihola relayed her experiences with the Jehovah Witnesses who she said kept putting pressure on people for money.
Mihola revealed that she is Catholic, and so I had to be very careful. Catholics here feel you are intruding into their sacred territory, and that Protestants - Baptists- have no respect for Maria-- the Mother of God and Queen of all heaven.
I assured Mihola that I was not asking for money, and she was surprised and skeptical that I would take on a mission and pay for it personally. However, that point was what she focused on, and then wanted to know more about how I would meet people here.
I told her of my plans to engage students at places where they gather [Kaunas is a big college town with nearly 13 colleges, universities and technical schools] and to offer them ball caps as a token of friendship from the US. She thought that was a good idea. I brought up the fact that Lithuania has the highest suicide rate in all Europe and then she began to speak of the moral decline and of young people not attending church as they are supposed to do under penalty of mortal sin.
I did not wish to engage in the obvious negative issues that type of religion of fear has on young people. I focused on the positive aspects of each person having a personal relationship with God. I spoke of the simplicity of the message now and as Jesus preached it 2000 years ago. I emphasized how structure and rule led the Jewish :eaders in Christ's day to read too much "Law" into what he was doing. Thus, to condem Him for preaching to the poor, under privileged and sinners. Mihola was a life long confirmed Catholic, but she was nodding on some of these points.

As we were landing in Vilnius Mihola offered me her e-mail address and asked me for mine. I could feel His Spirit with me on that flight: leaving the icy runway in Warsaw; conversing for an hour like I was attached to a vibrator; and landing safely on the snow covered runway in Vilnius along with snow flurries swirling around us.

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