SERVEurope Catalyst Team | Navigating Complexity. Envisioning Kingdom Opportunities. Maximizing Gospel Impact.
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Europe Conference 2017 theme
Next week we’ll be in Portoroz, Slovenia for our biannual ReachGlobal Europe Family Conference. Please pray that God would bless our team’s efforts to facilitate a gathering where we’ll experience refreshment, community and unity “in the name of Jesus.” Pray for us to engage wisely this marvelous opportunity to connect, network and inspire.

We’re also pleased that our friends from The Good Story will be there with us. They’ve been invited to provide resources for our staff (like prayer card photos), training on photography and media, and seminars on creative storytelling. (Full disclosure: Jim serves on The Good Story’s board.) It’s wonderful working together to equip God’s people to use all the resources at our disposal (like imagination!)… with friends that we’ve made here in central Virginia!
Ryan and Kelly Portnoy are dear friends of ours. When getting to know each other a few years back, they shared a sense of unease; they felt a desire to participate in global mission, but didn’t see how, they didn’t seem to “fit the profile.” (If you know us at all, you know that words like “I feel called to mission, but I couldn’t be a missionary because I’m a _____” sound to us like the start of a great missionary story!) In their case, they weren’t clear, practically speaking, how young professional “creatives” – photographers, writers, storytellers – could work out as missionaries. But they wanted to try.

Asked if their idea was “crazy,” we responded, “You don’t know how NOT crazy it is.” Pursuing their vision resulted in an invitation to ReachGlobal’s 2015 Europe Conference… shortly after which they formed The Good Story. “TGS” now involves over two dozen “ambassadors” who volunteer their expertise in diverse fields, time and effort to help missionaries “tell their stories.” This “crazy” idea is now blessing scores of mission workers around the world.
Catalyst Team and Roma Networks, Oct. 2015... starting to dream big. And we haven't stopped yet.
The plot thickens: Our Catalyst Team has been involved in the amazing spiritual adventure of the Roma Christian movement in Europe. (If you want a great get-acquainted resource, I strongly recommend the current issue of Mission Frontiers, devoted in its entirety to the Roma “writing a new chapter in mission”.) As we interacted with Roma leaders, hearing an abundance of miraculous stories of God’s call upon Roma, God’s equipping and sending of them, it felt like the book of Acts all over again.
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As more Roma began to speak not just of a burden for other Roma, but of a call to take the Gospel to mainstream Europe, it captivated us. So, what do Roma see as the biggest obstacle to this movement reaching its full potential? The answer is typically “prejudice,” “negative (created) images,” “stereotypes.” “The world thinks they know us before they ever meet us.

How can pernicious labels, firmly attached for centuries, be peeled away? They need to be replaced with stories: the sharing of real-life Roma experience. Many Roma are born storytellers, but how to get their stories to the “mainstream?”

A-HA! How about this new ministry our friends have started? These Roma are missionaries, right? And they need to tell their stories… Would The Good Story possibly be interested in telling the story of the Roma? When first asked about it, our friends responded, “Who in the world are the Roma?”

This is where being a “catalyst” gets fun. In the context of our existing friendship, we gave vent to our natural enthusiasm, liberally seasoned with the stories we already knew… and it captured them as well.
Hungary, Sept. 2016. The Good Story and Roma Networks get together... Brace for impact!
As a result, this past year, I surprised many of our Roma friends by NOT attending a long-planned ministry conference… and arranged for The Good Story to go in my place. They documented the conference, conducted trainings for Roma leaders on using available media to tell their stories… and they began filming and producing a documentary film that might be the first-ever comprehensive look at Roma Christianity in Europe: as told by the Roma themselves.

We can scarcely imagine the impact this project could have – God only knows. Now The Good Story and Roma Networks are full-blown ministry partners… and close friends. You won’t see the Catalyst Team mentioned much, if at all, as their relationship goes forward – and that’s how we like it.
That’s how catalysts work: we saw a marvelous opportunity for two parts of the Body to work together – but they didn’t even know each other existed. Building on strong personal relationships in both “communities,” we showed them how much they could bless each other, got them together… and then got out of the way.

We’re not going to tell this story again, because it’s no longer ours to tell. But, as we make our way to Slovenia to work hard at connecting with people to see God get glory as the gospel goes forward in Europe, we thought that you’d enjoy this behind the scenes look at what it means for us to be “catalysts” for the Kingdom.

In Christ,
Jim and Liz
PS: The photos in the Mission Frontiers issue were actually taken by TGS at the Roma Networks conference… even though their names aren’t referenced. The catalyst in me finds that deliciously ironic.
Coming soon! "We Are Here: The Unseen Roma," from The Good Story
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