A chemist. A retired engineer. And a PR guy / writer.
Our assignment: An eight-day trip to Eastern Europe, with a whirlwind itinerary: Budapest, Prague, Dresden, Brno, and back to Budapest. We were to interview missionaries, to help with their support-raising efforts; film the world of the mission underway across cities in Eastern Europe; do a short film to help with fundraising to buy a permanent building for the mission in Budapest. And prepare a series of reports that could be used by the mission agency back in the United States.
None of us had been to Eastern Europe before.
The retired engineer – Jack – manned the video camera. I was the writer and interviewer. The chemist – Steve – was the gaffer, trip manager, equipment manager, and general factotum.
We trained for months – studied, planned, discussed, and met. We practiced interviewing missionaries. We pored over maps and some of the history and background of the places we would be visiting and the people we would be meeting. We also spent time getting to know each other. And somewhere in that time the team became a small community.
Once we landed in Budapest, we would have a fourth member of the team – Gary, one of the permanent missionaries. He would be our guide, chauffeur, teacher, answerer of questions, hotel finder, translator, and church and mission office locator (a sort of human MapQuest).
The mission in Budapest was enthusiastic, we were enthusiastic, and our home church coordinator was enthusiastic. The national mission agency and our own church missions committee were less enthusiastic. We were different. They had never heard of such a team before. Was this more of a vacation than a “real mission trip?” A communications team? Really?
Still, we flew to Budapest. We were waiting for our baggage at the Budapest airport when we learned our overscheduled itinerary had just been thrown out the window. Erfurt in Germany had been added as an itinerary stop, about three to four hours from Dresden (and we drove like Americans, not Germans).
Gary, our driver, slipped right into our little community as if he’d been there all along. He explained what we might see along the roadsides and near border crossings in the two countries with legalized prostitution (he was right). He got us through back streets in the dark of night to find our hotels. As we approached one border crossing, he told us to remove our jackets and throw them across the camera equipment, to discourage confiscation by the border guards.
Four countries, eight days. On our way to Dresden, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant in the Sudeten Mountains, where no one spoke English and all conversation stopped when we walked in. (The menu was, fortunately, in Czech and German; my college German was sufficient to figure out what we could eat.)
We were in cities and suburbs, large towns and small. We filmed interviews with almost 20 missionaries. We filmed the building in Budapest the mission hoped to buy. I wrote story and after story. We ate tomatoes together for breakfast, and had a lunch at the McDonalds in Chemnitz, Germany. We walked down Wenceslas Square together in Prague, and across the Charles Bridge.
Our little community worked. We carried each other’s bags and equipment. We became something of a cohesive news crew, especially when we found ourselves right in the middle of the biggest news story in Europe – the murder of 16 people at a high school in Erfurt. It was at that school and the small church nearby whose pastor was ministering to the bereaved families where we met the Holy Spirit.
Most of the writing and film editing work happened after we were home. Did our community succeed at its task?
Missionaries were helped with support, and their video reports sent to their home churches and supporters. The video for the hoped-for mission building in Budapest succeeded in helping raise the needed funds. The people working in the mission were encouraged.
And we, our little band of three plus one, were changed. Forever.
Over at The High Calling, a community linkup has been posted for the theme of the power of community. If you have a story about community, or even just want to read what others have to say, please visit The High Calling.
Photograph of Budapest traffic by Mick Lissone via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.