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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Father’s Heart for Europe

By Randy Hurst
Apr. 1, 2012

Probably none of the stories Jesus told is better known than the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32. Contrary to what many assume, a “prodigal” is not someone who runs away from home. A prodigal is a wasteful spender. And while it is true that the lost son wasted his inheritance, that is not the primary point of the story. Jesus was revealing the heart of the Father for the lost.

Unmistakably, Europe is lost. It has left its Christian heritage to waste its spiritual life on empty efforts to obtain peace and fulfillment.

The most revealing part of Jesus’ parable is the actions of the father toward the lost son who turns toward home. He first saw him while he was still a “long way off.” The father was watching for the son’s return. Then … he ran to him.

For more than 14 years, I have observed firsthand our missionaries in Europe as they tenaciously pursue their divine callings. They face two challenges.

The first is resistance and spiritual insensitivity in the people they are called to reach with the hope of the gospel. Surrounded by beautiful, historic Christian architecture decorated with the abundant imagery of Christian icons and statues, Europeans form a spiritually hard field. Being surrounded by Christian imagery is not an adequate witness of the Father’s love and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second troubling challenge for missionaries is communicating the need of Europe. They faithfully visit U.S. churches that support them financially. However, when sharing their passion for the spiritually needy continent, they are sometimes met with misunderstanding and apathy.

Several years ago, after writing an article on Europe’s lost generations, I received an email from a reader who said, “Why is the Assemblies of God wasting missionaries on Europe, the cradle of the Reformation? Europe has had its chance.”

The Reformation was hundreds of years ago — and many generations. Over time, if people fail to pass on the message of Jesus to their children, spiritual life dies. Each new generation is a potentially unreached people group. No continent has ever fully “had its chance” to hear about God’s salvation.

You can stand on just about any street in Europe and watch the crowds pass. Of every 100 people you see, about 97 of them are lost and on their way to an eternal destiny separated from the Father.

The issue is not what the historians or analysts think. What does God think — and feel — for Europe?

To many in the Christian world, Europe seems spiritually hopeless. But not to Paul Trementozzi.

I have heard many people in missions talk about Europe — its challenges and the seeming impossibilities. But when Paul talks about Europe, you can hear excitement in his voice as he expresses his belief that God will do the unexpected across the continent.

Having served 20 years as a church planter in Spain, and as area director for Southern Europe, Paul has seen the power of the gospel when it is sown in the good soil of hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit — and churches multiply. His vision for Europe is firmly rooted in the reality of what God has already done but sees in faith, like the tiny mustard seed, the kingdom of Jesus Christ growing beyond what we can imagine.

When I first met Paul and Angie in Madrid, Spain, I was immediately struck by their hope, faith and passion. As I talked with Paul about the spiritual prospects for Europe, it was he who likened the continent to the Prodigal Son. The analogy is appropriate — and inspiring.

When you read the following interview with Paul, you will hear his vision and his heart. But you can’t hear the tone of his voice and see the hope in his eyes as I did. In more than words, he reflects the heart of the Father for Europe — a lost son to whom the Father runs, embraces and welcomes back to His family.

RANDY HURST is communications director for Assemblies of God World Missions.

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