Europe or Bust

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Jenny and I are off to Switzerland for the annual Discerning the Times Conference in Yverdon, about an hour outside of Geneva. We’re excited to see dear friends again, and honored by yet another opportunity to pour into the nations. I recently told a close friend, “As long as God keeps asking us, we’ll keep saying yes.” From there we head to Malta.

Please keep our children and our travels in your prayers. Stay tuned for pics and updates.

ch:

Strength is Often a Who

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Jennifer and I had our final night of ministry here in Switzerland last night. I walked into it knowing my body was failing, and I’d have no voice by the end, so I asked Jenny to be prepared.

The band played amazingly well, and this was the most I’ve seen the Swiss dance yet! But sure enough, my fever, cough, and soar throat took their toll, so by the time I finished our 1.5-hour set, I could barely speak. I managed to squeak out a few lines for the expected message, and then passed the mic to Jennifer.

What followed was about 20-minutes of profound encouragement on the pursuit of intimacy with God and being more concerned with his heart than the condition of our own. You had to be dead not to be moved.

Like Paul, I’m slowly learning:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [2 Cor. 12:10]

Sometimes the strength we’re looking for is the gift found in other people afforded only when we step aside.

Continued prayers are greatly appreciated as we fly for Madrid, Spain this morning. This is the first trip in years that Jennifer is at 100%, and Levi is rocking Europe like a champ. I, however, am far from being on top of my game.

Thanks for all your encouragement and prayer. You are the best readers ever. ch:

Resisting Squishy Pot Syndrome

by Jennifer Hopper

[PHOTOS BY: JENNIFER HOPPER]

No, I’m not about to reveal the secrets of curing soggy marijuana leaves. (Hippies).

This week I had the joy of speaking for a YWAM School of Worship in Yverdon. Pictured here with my dear friend and translator Sylvain Freymond (also one of Switzerland’s most beloved worship leaders and songwriters), I shared on accessing God’s heart of creativity and principles of group leadership. Teaching in this format – a pair of two-hour classes each day – is something I look forward to, and something I’ve become good at.

But I wasn’t always good at it.

Ten years ago I was asked to teach eight-hours a day for five days straight in northern France. I was scared. Mortified would be a better word. I compiled the notes of every sermon I’d ever preached and scribbled countless reminders of sermons I’d heard preached growing up. I thought for sure that I’d share everything I’d ever learned in first two-hour block.

Back then I was a nervous wreck. Today I’m thrilled for the opportunity.

That’s because some of the greatest joys in my life have only recently been discovered.

That may not seem like a very meaningful statement, but given the fact that our culture largely broadcasts what you should be enjoying right now, waiting for things is hardly status quo, nor is the process of building long-term expectation.

Have sex now. Make lots of money now. Be popular now. Get what you want now. Don’t wait. And if you do wait, you’re missing out on everything. 

But acting prematurely has some serious side-affects.

A pot that decides it should be filled with water before it’s fired in a kiln becomes a pile of watery clay by the end of the day. No matter how ready it thinks it is, the potter knows the vessel is simply incapable of fulfilling its purpose without engaging in the process of development.

Sure, I should have been happy with the opportunity to preach for a week ten years ago – and to a certain extent I was – but it wasn’t enjoyable. I needed time, coaching, and experience before I was truly ready to look at the invitation and discover the joy of doing it.

Becoming a husband and father has been much the same process. Oh, how I argued with God countless times, telling him I was ready for marriage, pleading (and pushing) for my spouse to be revealed. But he knew the vessel needed to be fired. And to a certain extent, I’m still being fired.

God is never late and he’s rarely early. He knows what he’s doing, and he will not be held hostage by pop culture or our adolescent demands.

Just remember that some of the greatest, most enjoyable moments in your life have yet to arrive. Recognizing the process is just as much a part of the arrival helps steady our impatience and temper the steel of our expectations.

Plus, being a squishy heap of soggy clay is downright embarrassing. Get fired and be useful long-term. ch:

Marked

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I’m somewhat obsessed with taking pictures of random stuff. Particularly markings, stickers, and signs. I might as well have my iPhone glued to my eye ball and wear a sign that says:

Caution: this person makes unexpected stops in front of obscure items.

From fire extinguisher housings to dog pooping areas to office lobbies, I enjoy seeing how designers mark things. Some are simple and elegant, others are clunky and awkward. But they all serve a purpose.

A new tidbit I picked up while here in Switzerland was the astonishing fact that the Swiss record everything on their maps. Every building has its own number, even down to a small car port. Maps are updated every two years just to show the specific placement of trees! It was something started by the military years ago so they could better develop strategies and execute maneuvers.

Excessive? Probably.

But it’s part of what makes them unique. (And explains why a Swiss watch truly does run so well). And as all cultures reflect elements of God’s character, makes me wonder how God has branded my life and kept track of me.

If you were to wear an insignia, what would it be, what would it designate about you, and what time period would it represent? ch:

Amongst the Mountain People

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Traveling through Switzerland is quite an experience. Essentially, everywhere you go you’re surrounded by mountains. It’s spectacular.

To make it even more scenic, ancient ruins summit countless peaks and centuries old villages cling precariously to the sides of mountains – some reachable only by geared train cars.

It takes a certain type of person of a peculiar moral fortitude to live here. It’s not for the faint of heart. But the reward is constant breathtaking beauty, a kind of violent majesty. Up here, being cold is a way of life, and surviving amongst the hills requires discipline, determination, and the absence of a complaining nature.

But it’s these kinds of people that I love being around, and I find them not only here in Switzerland, but anywhere that people are willing to pay a price for the Gospel. They each have a story to share, a testimony to impart. They are the conquerors, the victorious, the noble.

I was sitting with Jennifer in the church cafe after teaching all day when one of the students asked me if I’d like to hear her testimony. I’ll admit, I was in the midst of catching up on some work and really didn’t want to be bothered. But I’m trying to be better about not seeing people as interruptions, but as the ministry itself.

Meet Regine. She was trained to be a medium at age 14, studying white magic and skilled in necromancy, séances, and ouija. While she was taught that white magic helped people, she always knew something was wrong.

Finally at age 30 she bumped into a strange man in a night club – strange because he was one of the only people she had ever met that she could not read his thoughts. The idea that he was a more powerful medium than she was seemed out of the question, so followed him only to ask him what was his secret.

“He started to laugh and laugh and laugh,” Regine said. “When he finally told me that he was a Christian, I was the one laughing. ‘How stupid,’ I thought. ‘People that believed in Jesus, how stupid.’”

But her inability to read his thoughts continued to plague her. So the Christian gave her his phone number and offered to speak more with her.

“He even gave me a Bible,” she explained to me. “But I found it impossible to read. It was in a completely different language to my eyes.”

Eventually the Christian invited her to a special event at his church – three nights of meetings with a guest minister.

“The first night I arrived, but couldn’t even go inside the church. There was a presence in there that was foreign to me. So I ran,” Regine said. “When the Christian called me to ask how the meeting was, I explained there was no place to sit so I had to go home. So he insisted that I try the second night.”

Regine went, but only got halfway down the isle before running out of the church.

Once again the Christian man called and asked how the meeting was; Regine explained she left early.

“He told me I must try again the third night. So I went, still curious where this man’s power to resist my magic was coming from.”

On the third night, Regine found a seat near the back.

“The guest minister, Ray Brooks, walked in and looked right at me with the big smile on his face.”

Little did Regine know, but sitting all around her were some of the most well-known names in francophone Christian ministry, including my friend Jean-Marc Bigler and his wife.

It was a total set up.

Eventually the guest minister asked people to come forward for prayer. Regine decided to go, but was determined not to close her eyes as the minister had asked: she wanted to confront this power head-on.

That’s when Ray laid hands on her to pray for her.

“Suddenly I felt this incredible love wash over me,” she explained. “I remember seeing my shoes, then everything went white. I have no memories of what happened next, but they said chairs went flying as I started to roll across the floor. I was talking with a different voice and my face was disfigured. I only remember waking up pinned to the floor and seeing Jean-Marc’s face with this big smile hovering over me saying, ‘Welcome to the family.’ It was the greatest moment of my life. I was free.”

Today Regine emanates the love of the Father in a way I can hardly describe. Because she knows just how destructive the power of the enemy is, she has a strong ministry reaching those involved in the occult and witchcraft, sharing the all-powerful love of Jesus with them and declaring the victory that Believers have in Jesus.

I asked if I could share her story on my blog with you and she wholeheartedly consented. “Please tell them, tell them all,” she said. “God is so good – beyond good. The enemy only desires to kill you, and manipulate people through until they’re dead. But Jesus only gives life.”

I love living among the mountain people, among those who weather the attacks of the enemy and live to see great victories.

Regardless of your physical geography, I encourage you to live amongst the mountain conquerors: the view is well worth the price. So is the company. ch:

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God Spaces

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Last night Jennifer and I had the privilege of taking this stage in the mountain-ensconced city of Martigny. Christians from all over the region gathered together for their monthly night of worship, and we were so honored to serve them with our team. Jennifer in particular had some powerful things to share with the people and was used mightily in song.

One thing that impressed me was the Swiss team’s ability to transform an ordinary hotel ballroom into a house of worship. They worked tirelessly, imported a truck-load of gear, and managed to create an atmosphere where not only did people feel welcome, but the Lord did too.

Creating God-spaces in our lives is extremely important. They help facilitate moments of encounter and inspire long-term memories. Whether it’s a prayer closet, a stage, a forest-nook, or a church sanctuary, creating a physical space where people can connect with the Holy Spirit is not only something I’m passionate about forming, but God is too.

Of course His greatest space is that of the human heart. He’s very intentional about turning it from a dark, cold rock into a warm and inviting home. But he was just as passionate about prescribing specific instructions to builders of the Tent of Meeting – the Tabernacle – and the Temple.

What’s your role in preparing God-spaces? Being intentional with your preparations is not only good for you, but benefits those who are effected by your service. Minimizing distractions helps eliminate disappointments. ch:

Fait du Bruit

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Our first three meetings here in Switzerland have been joy-filled and boisterous. Or maybe I’ve just been boisterous. Either way, as the Swiss say, I like to “Fait du bruit,” or make noise.

This shot, care of Fredo Bovigny, is from last night’s worship event in Escale. As expected I soaked through my shirt within the first two songs.

Right now I’m sitting on a couch tucked amongst some mountains in Sion recovering from an amazing post-church meal (merci Pastor Sandy and Laureline!) and hoping this espresso buzz kicks in soon. Tonight Jennifer and I will be playing with our band for a regional night of worship.

Thanks for all your prayers! ch:

Back In Europe. Back Online.

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You know you’re back in Europe when a high performance coupe is parked less than two inches from a cement wall.

They must have detachable side mirrors.

You also know a blogger’s website is back up when he’s posting again after a week’s absence. Many thanks to Kevin Zoll for his tireless effort in unhacking what a Russian underground ring managed to infect. Bad.

Jennifer and I are safely in Switzerland and had our first night of ministry only hours after landing. Par for the course. Levi is doing well, but we’re all suffering from head colds so your prayers would be appreciated.

Stay tuned. Daily updates are back in motion. Thanks for your patience. ch:

Almost Home

I’m writing this in Syracuse airport, having covered more than 5,000 miles in the last 12 hours, and less than 70 miles from home.

I’m full of wonderful tales for my children, chocolate for my wife, and an added inheritance for the legacy I’m leaving and the reward I’m headed to in eternity.

Thanks for all your prayers and kind comments. I consider you far more than readers: you’re wings to our ministry. ch:

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Geneva to Ambilly

Yesterday Joseph and I drove from Clarens into the historic and always beautiful city of Geneva, Switzerland. So much to see, so little time. Ancient walkways, famed monuments, and landmarks of religious and political highlights of history.

We were treated to a fabulous real-Italian meal at The Spaghetti Factory (merci Ben-J), followed by a walk down to see the fountain of Geneva – an impressive plume of water that spouts hundreds of feet into the air.

That night, I ministered before an amazing group of youth (and spoke a lot about my wife). It was a wonderful time of basking in God’s presence, experiencing His manifest love, and taking time to pray for one another. I was really blessed by the display of genuine affection the youth had in praying passionately for each other; God move on their behalf, and all of us were changed.

Today kicked off the youth conference in Ambilly, France – source of our original invitation for this trip. It’s been a fantastic time solid teaching, practical worship training, a Q&A session, and touching heaven together as the Bride of Christ.

I’ve also met an older twin brother, Mark Pugh, of England (original from Wales). I think they just invited us because of our striking similarities and good looks. But seriously, his messages have been remarkable, simple, and very much about communicating Biblical truth through the stories of his life.

Tonight GodTV (dieutv.com) is filming our concert and all of us are excited to worship together and rejoice in our King. I’m so blessed by the senior pastor and his wife here in Ambilly, Christophe & Sabine Saez, as well as my remarkable band for supporting me so humbly. I’m honored to serve with them all.

A demain! ch:

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The Bird Has Landed

UPDATE FROM SWITZERLAND:

After a quick round of sushi in Dulles’ A-Terminal, Joseph and I boarded our non-stop flight to Geneva.

Surprisingly (and refreshingly) empty, I was able to stretch out in the middle section and sleep for 5 hours – always a plus when traveling East and trying to catch up on the time change.

Upon arriving, we were picked up promptly by Stephan – a wonderful husband, father of 2, and musician. He weaved us through mountain tunnels and along stunning lake-vistas bathed in the glow of the rising sun.

We’re sitting tight at our host home, then playing at La Chapelle de Clarens this evening for what I expect to be a refreshing night of worship and teaching among these beautiful people. ch:

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Where the Sidewalk Begins

Where in the world is Christopher today?

For those who’ve been asking, and for those who haven’t, I’m headed to Yverdon, Switzerland once more. Jennifer has reluctantly decided to stay behind this trip, due to a few stressful travels situations and H4. It was a hard call, but the right call. But I feel very incomplete without her already.

I’ll be teaching at the YWAM School of Worship, as well has speaking and leading worship at numerous meetings during the week. Stay tuned for updates here; or follow me on Twitter for more moment-by-moment updates. And as always, thanks for the prayers.

ch: