“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). 

I met Vlada on an airplane. He was reading “The Purpose Driven Life” so I asked him if he found the book helpful.  “It’s my second reading”, he stated in clear English but a definite accent. Later we enjoyed food and fellowship at the airport as we endured a long layover – he was heading to Switzerland, his homeland, and I was off to London and Paris for a vacation. He is a resident of the world and I’m a resident of Nashville, Tennessee. He spoke 5 or 6 different languages (“depending on how you count them”, he stated) and I barely speak one (unless you count Southern as a language). Our backgrounds could not have been more disparate yet we shared the strongest of common bonds – Jesus. 

Vlada was born in Serbia, raised in Switzerland and lived now in various locations –all over Europe, England, New York, City, Los Angeles and Nashville. I had rarely left the boundaries of the contiguous 48 states of America. Yet we both were, in reality, citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). His speech gave that fact away. He spoke of Jesus continuously (please note that I didn’t say “God”) and did so with great passion and a sense of intimacy. That was a language that I was familiar with no matter the differences in our backgrounds. His primary medium for proclaiming Jesus was music (another subject that I have little knowledge of despite living in Music City, USA) but his speech made me exited to collect the gracious offer of one of his CDs (check out vladamusic.com). One of his musical goals was to reintroduce Jesus to his native country. 

Switzerland needs a missionary like Vlada. Yes, the same Switzerland that produced the influential church reformer Ulrich Zwingli. Now it is almost devoid of the gospel. Vlada warned me about the dearth of evangelicalism in the places that I would visit – Reformation hotbeds such as England and France. I listened but found it so difficult to believe that the seeds of the Protestant Reformation that had been planted in these lands were now virtually extinct. But his words were true – I searched, with very little success, to find an evangelical bookstore among the masses of cathedrals, shops, and cafes. I don’t know if George Barna’s surveys would agree but Vlada claimed that in both England and France no more than 4% of the population was actively evangelical. Other European countries have even less Christian influence. And yet, amazingly, the myriad of protestant churches we see in America were birthed from this now very dark continent.

The concierges at both hotels I slept in knew every tourist landmark and restaurant but, in London, were stumped when I asked the location of The Metropolitan Tabernacle (Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s church) and were completely ignorant of Spurgeon himself. I dared not ask about reformers John Wycliffe and John Calvin. In London, after nearly 50 miles of walking the streets, I finally encountered one reformed protestant bookstore. The owner admitted that they got very little traffic and survived off of the purchases of small evangelical house churches and Bible study groups. Her description of the English culture was an emphatic, “Godless”. The only Christian oriented bookstore I found in Paris was a commercial hodge-podge of popular American and French writers that primarily represented the most shallow and charismatic versions of evangelical ideology. 

In other words, in the 2 countries that I visited the influence of the church and the proclamation of the true gospel were essentially non-existent. Such a tragic scenario compelled Vlada to take his talent for music and make it a missionary endeavor back to the societies he was raised in. He wanted so desperately to reach these areas that had grown so cold to the things of God. Even more chilling was his refection that, “What you are about to see in Europe is what you will see in America in 50 years”. What motivated him is something that we often forget:  “[Jesus] told them, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2). Yes, the fields are ripe to harvest. May we devote ourselves to praying for and supporting those like Vlada and be open to God’s calling for us to go with him. And that means that we, too, must have a passion for the gospel in our native land.