In the era of Harry Potter-esque incantations and Lord of the Rings mystique, the concept of spiritual warfare can conjure images of Dementor-like demons and Sauron inspired personages of Satan in a dark, creepy battle for the fate of a soul.
To be frank, such images creep me out a little. And I prefer not to think in such terms. But that does not mean I do not believe in the spiritual battle. As we prepared for last week's conference for teen girls both from the orphanage in Miskolc, Hungary and from our church's youth group, I was astounded by the series of obstacles that arose. Was it spiritual warfare? Following is a chronology of events. You decide.
Week before the conference:
Primary translator for the orphanage segment of conference must cancel due to ill family members.
Our church, which uses a small Christian conference center for church services is due to renew its contract. We are using the same facility for the girls conference. The renewed contract price is too much for our church, so the church moves with one week's notice. This means that while we will still have our conference there, we will not have ready access to the sound equipment and other church stuff we had been counting on. Moreover, it increases our costs as we could no longer "piggy back"on what the church is already renting.
Monday 4 February (3 days before conference begins)
We have one replacement translator scheduled to be at the orphanage for the opening night of the conference. Her father has what appears to be a heart attack and is rushed to Budapest for medical attention. We now have a team of 10 Americans coming and no one who can translate for them.
Tuesday 5 February (2 days before conference begins)
We learn that three sisters (out of the ten girls slated to come from the Miskolc orphanage) have just been contacted by a long lost sister who has decided to come THIS weekend to visit. The three will not come to the conference. Moreover two others who are close to these girls refuse to come without their friends.
Meanwhile two new translators agree to join us for opening night.
Wednesday 6 February (the day before the conference begins)
Hungarian train workers are on strike with no resolution in sight. Team of 10 from Ohio will arrive in 24 hours and there is no transportation available between the Budapest Airport and Miskolc -- about a 2 and a half hour drive. All transportation alternatives are booked due to train strike.
Snow begins falling in Chicago -- the hub that the team is scheduled to fly through. Large snowfalls predicted. Team's flight delayed and rerouted.
Orphanage agrees to send van to pick up team.
Thursday 7 February (the day the conference begins)
Team misses connection in London will not arrive until 3:30pm. Conference starts at 7:00pm -- but site is a good 2.5 hours from airport. I arrive at airport only to learn the expected flight actually will not arrive until 5:00pm. I wait with Hungarian orphanage van driver for the two hours and phone back to tell Russ to push back start time until 8:00pm.
Team arrives. I take a critical three people in my car and the van takes the rest and luggage. Jozsi, the van driver assures me he knows a fast way through Budapest that will get us on the highway to Miskolc in no time. I agree to follow him.
Jozsi gets us lost in the heart of Budapest. Frustrated by the man's inability to follow his own map, I take off without him and drive like a maniac toward Miskolc. We phone ahead to the translators and tell them to play some games with the girls until we get there.
8:35 pm -- we race into the rented conference room to face about 6 or 7 teenage girls, some of them laden with teen attitude. Gina shares a testimony about how she had been brutally rejected by her birth parents -- suddenly all attitudes change.
Friday 8 February (conference recommences in Debrecen)
We meet the girls at 4:00 (after school and work) to travel together to Debrecen -- about two hours away by bus. At 3:00pm one of the girls slated to leave with us calls saying she was vomiting and very ill -- ate some bad food at the mall. She has to cancel.
The conference that followed proved a time of love and healing for all the girls who attended. It was truly rich with relationship, care and concern. And it may prove to be the beginning of something really big in the way we operate and reach out to youth here in Hungary. I am thankful that God is bigger than all the obstacles and that he has the victory in the battle for the soul.