July 10th, 2017
Quick summary: Since last time, I’ve gone to Bratislava, Slovakia; Budapest, Hungary; Zagreb, Croatia; Ljubljana, Slovenia. It’s been a very fast paced, amazing week.
More in depth: This last week has been strange on so many different levels. Constantly moving and not staying in a place for more than a day is strange. Each place I go to has a different language, different foods, different religions, and a completely different culture and atmosphere about them. I grew up in a state where you could drive for 10 hours in a direction and still be in the state. Here, we drive for two hours and we are in a totally different country. It’s strange. It’s fun and interesting, but strange.
In Bratislava, I quickly realized English was not a language they learn commonly. Up until this point, basically everywhere I had gone at least some people spoke English to some degree, especially the young people. In Bratislava, that wasn’t the case at all. I went for about a 6 hour walk and tried to have a conversation with someone, I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English, except for one McDonalds cashier. That was probably the hardest day for me in my excursion so far.
Budapest was fantastic, it is such a beautiful city. I stayed at their YWAM base, so the local staff took me out on the town the one night I was there, then the next day we all went prayer walking. That was special, I got to talk with some random local about Jesus and his beliefs. He continued the trend I have seen so far of many people in this area believing in energies or a higher power, but not God in a personal sense.
Zagreb was one of my favorites, I was exhausted by the end of the day, but my day was made by a wheel chair bound, one legged, homeless man named Marko. Marko could speak only very little English. It was enough to have a very basic conversation. I discovered it was his birthday, and that his favorite dessert is ice cream. I went and got him Ice cream and sang Happy Birthday to him. I think I got more joy out of it than he did. Oh well. He knows God and I later found him parked in front of the local cathedral door, making sure that girls in “little shorts” didn’t enter in. It was funny. I went on a free walking tour and I met this guy from Finland, whom I ended up hanging out with most of the rest of the day. It is always nice to have company.
In Ljubljana, God was really speaking to me about finding the calm in the storm. I found myself sitting in the shade of the neighboring castle on the hill, overlooking the city for a few hours. Before I began walking around in the heat of the day. Not my best plan, I will have to flip the order of walking and resting. It’s very easy to not rest much when you’re only at a place for one day. However, it is easier now, since I’ve seen enough things that a lot of things are looking very similar.
On this excursion, I have had the pleasure of seeing way more tourists than I care to admit (including myself, whenever I look in the mirror). I’ve noticed a few things in my excessive amount of time people watching. We suck. Or at least, what we do sucks. We are all still loved by God, so we don’t suck. We do stuff that does suck, though. For instance: I believe we might as well rename touring into instagramming and wifi hopping. Genuinely. What I see continually is a bunch of people from my generation, who come out, smile in front of something, take some photos, then when they’ve collected enough for a post, they hop on some wifi and upload. I’ve heard in English on multiple times things like “wow, that will be a good photo op.” “I’m bound to get likes with this one” and the ever present “oh, take another photo it doesn’t look good enough.” Is this not the saddest thing ever? The wonders of the world have been degraded to “photo ops.” Cathedrals who many people before us gave up their whole lives to build, are now the background to profile pictures. War monuments and parliament buildings, where people are giving their lives or have given their lives for peace in the nations are now just cover photos. Our technology that was made to make our lives easier, is now replacing our lives. Something I realized, if you are looking at things through your cell phone’s camera, or the view finder of your real camera, you are seeing something that is no different than the photos people look at on facebook and Instagram. If you never stop to just take in the view for yourself, you really aren’t seeing much more than someone sitting at home on their computer. You might think it sounds crazy that people wouldn’t put down their phone or camera and just look at something with their senses, but I’m telling you, it is happening constantly, all over the world. It is terrible. I’m not saying don’t take pictures, I think you should, I mean, I think I should be taking more pictures, my Dad especially thinks I should be taking more photos. Also, the smiles you see in these photos all over facebook and Instagram are fake. We smile for the photo, then go right back to being stone-faced. We only show the world the good parts of ourselves, so we don’t ever fully feel connected, to feel a real connection with someone, they must know the bad as well as the good. Anyway, I am not really going anywhere with this, I just wanted to say that my generation and future generations really need to watch ourselves to make sure we don’t let our technology take over our lives. I think as Christians, we need to model this, making sure we are not being addicted to our phones and technology and help others to do the same.
Something that hit me today when I was chilling at the castle that genuinely horrified me was: no laughter. People weren’t really having much fun. There was an agenda of pictures that needed to be taken in that day, and they had to be very strict to get the list done in time. The vacation being degraded to a photo-op agenda. Then on the night life, people begin laughing once they can barely walk. Why can’t we seem to laugh when we are with our friends and family in some amazing places in the world, and we may get even more angry, frustrated and anxious than normal? Because the real world has become a mere secondary world to the “social” world on our phones. It’s to the point where you will have a group of people who are having dinner together, and everyone is sporadically checking their phones. Not fully engaging with each other. We are too interested in what might be happening somewhere else that we don’t focus on what’s in front of us. We are losing our ability to be in the present moment. It used to be that we had no other option than to focus on what was in front of us. There used to be a time, a time before mine when there was reality and your imagination. Often the two would mix, you might imagine something that could become reality. Whether it was just imaging games to play with sticks and mud, or imaging things that might change the world. Now, we have reality and imagined. We have access to millions of imagined things at our thumb tips. We don’t need to have imagination anymore, because it has already been imagined and we can access it. In the free time that used to be filled with imagination, we now spend time looking at other people’s imaginations that have become realities. This is sad. We are becoming the piggy-back generation. No longer thinking for ourselves or coming up with new ideas, just jumping on old ideas or concepts, instead of using our own imagination to come up with new things. Anyway, I need to stop, I really don’t have any point in this small rant, it’s just something on my mind in this moment.
This area I am in is so interesting when it comes to God. Some think of God more as religion himself, like the structure of the catholic church. Almost as though God and religion are the same. Not many around here really think of God as being a personal being. I will say I have dealt with a level of being overwhelmed this week. How there is so many people who need to hear about God, and me only being one man in a bunch of strange lands. I have the eternal God on my side, so I am still the majority. In practical application, it can still be a struggle. I can talk myself out of talking with random people, telling myself excuses like “they probably don’t even speak English.” It is annoying, because somedays I feel as though I am getting a handle on sharing the gospel as a normal part of life, but then other days I am not at all. I will say, I think I have figured out the difference. It is so simple. It is selfishness. When I am thinking about myself and what I want, how hot I am feeling, how tired I am, how annoying the tourists around me are, how it won’t even make a difference, etc, I barely even think about the many people around me, or the many opportunities I have on a normal basis. When I look outside of myself to the people around me, suddenly, I am far more likely to share with them. The important thing I realized though: I can’t wait to feel unselfish. If I waited to completely feel unselfish, before I did or said something unselfish, I would probably never say or do anything unselfish. Because it requires action to get rid of unselfishness. It requires going outside of your own thoughts, and thinking about what you can do or say to the people around you. Not just sitting there thinking to yourself or about the concept of being unselfish. We must do it, it is an action, not just a concept. That’s what I’ve discovered, in a day, once I do or say something unselfish, it is considerably easier to do it again. Then the next morning, while I still have a natural tendency to be selfish, it is just a tiny bit easier that day, if the day before I did some unselfish things. It is such a process though. Such a journey. One worth embarking on. While doing some random, unselfish thing might seem completely unrelated to sharing the gospel, it ca be a catalyst for getting you to be outward focused, which is what is required to share the gospel. The number one way to start sharing the gospel, is to start thinking about others.
Anyway, I think that is all for this week. I’m sure there is more I could say, but I am half asleep and would probably just continually repeat myself without adding anything new.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time!
God bless you!
Jesus loves you!
- Julius Trotter (AKA AJP)