Kosovo

I still have no idea what to say, even now as I write this. The two months I spent in the forlorn-to-the-world country of Kosova were the longest 2 months of my life, but I say this in the highest regard. I knew, going into it, God was going to move in mighty ways. I knew I would see lives changed, and hearts softened. I knew I would see my own self touched by the love of God. I had been praying for The Lord to humble me and crucify my flesh for a long time. I just had never expected Him to do both of these things in such full force.

Pertaining to the work God did in me, He started on week one, before our training week even came to an end. To be honest, my Church, my heart needed to be checked, and a now dear friend of mine came up to me in the middle of that week and gently rebuked me for it. I will forever remember and be grateful for that moment when The Lord spoke through one of my brothers in Christ, to gently rebuke me and show me where I was at fault. He told me how I was quick to turn the conversation back to me, and how I was often trying to take control of it, and he was right. I wasn’t upset with him though, I rejoiced because God had finally answered my prayer. God wasn’t done though. For the rest of the summer God used all 51 of my team members, the 6 to 10 leaders throughout the summer, and countless locals to teach me humility and what it means to love others.

By no means was this easy. I recall many times I was simply angry and frustrated, but God would use that to continue and draw me closer to Him. I stand here now, knowing God has changed me and opened my eyes to things I had yet to see. I am no greater for this, nor will I ever be. I am just a man, a man who loves his God and savior, and those around him.

This summer I was privileged to see many relationships formed and be used by God to bear the fruit of evangelism. This summer my team saw over 7 people saved by our Lord Christ, and countless others ever changed through what he did through us. God used miracles
to bring us into contact with others in order to share His gospel. In our first week of ministry we found ourselves serving the public in a small city known as Kaçanik. We had a small festival set up for kids, a team picking up trash around the city, a team painting murals that represent hope(we were not allowed to publicly show Christianity due to local laws, so we showed Christian themes instead), a team planting a tree in the city square, and a team focused on building relationships with the locals by asking them questions, holding conversations with them, and getting coffee with them. The weather forecast told us it would rain the whole week, all day long every day, so we prayed.

I remember praying in the morning before we left for the city, that God would hold off the rain so we could do this work. We asked Him to bless this work and allow us to build relationships with the people. After praying, we made way for the city via bus. It rained all the way there, and when we got there, it stopped. When we were finished at the end of the day, it started raining again and we packed up and went home. Each day that entire week God would stop the rain right as we got to the city and start it again when it was time to go. On several occasions The Lord even started the rain again when the Mosques called for prayer. All around the city as we worked, there were dark storm clouds, pouring out their rain all over the land, but above us the light of God shone down brightly into the darkest of dark cities, a place where there were no believers, a place where ISIS had once tried to train its terrorists to launch into europe.

It was a privilege and a blessing to see God move mightily every single day. If I were to write down everything He had done this summer I would have a large book to read. It was a blessing to have amazing teammates who I now miss and wish them strength, wisdom, and endurance in their good fight and long race for The Heavenly Kingdom. I understand now the importance of relationships, and I value them heavily. My view on what we regard as blessing has been shifted, and I now see that true blessings are a fruit found within, born of The Holy Spirit, and gifted unto us by God to cherish and use for His kingdom. As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:7-8 “7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” I am now left regarding all that is worldly as simply this: garbage. I am not saying God will not use that garbage to further his kingdom(He used $7,000 of that garbage to get me to Kosova), but on its own, I regard it simply as that, and I am grateful to say this, because God has changed my heart for His ministry and His people for the better.

With a changed heart, I know now even as I write this where I am called. 2 years ago, you could have asked me if I was called to missions, and I would say “probably not.” 3 months ago, I would have said “Not really, but I’m going on this mission trip just as a short term thing.” That was my flesh speaking. I was not for the idea of going anywhere crazy and doing The Lord’s work. Even now writing this I can still feel the rebellion of my flesh against the will of God, but I’m not here for my flesh, I serve God, not it.

God has called me to go back and serve Him, not necessarily Kosova, but Europe for certain, and wherever else he takes me. He has called me to become a full time missionary. I don’t know where exactly this road will take me, but I know God is at my side leading me, using me, and working in me. If any of you would like to support me, I would appreciate your support in prayer first. The Lord used prayer this summer to display his power in beautiful ways, and though I do not understand prayer itself, I understand how important it is in comparison to all else. That being said, please pray for me and the mission field. As for finances, the details for financial support will be announced soon.

To the church I have called home and have dearly loved for the past half a decade, God bless you, and may you rise to the occasion in order to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins.

-Declan Thiele

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