Monday, September 19, 2011

FAITH, an acronym: Forsaking All I Trust Him The Re-birth Story (Part 1)


Robert F. Kennedy said that each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope . . . and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

That is what the Re-birth team set out to do when they got onto that first train. At 8am on the eighth day of the eighth month they started their journey in prayer before heading for the station in Modena, Italy. I marvel at the significance of the choice of their timing to set out on this month-long outreach across Europe – 888, the number of Jesus ( – and that is what their journey was all about … Jesus! Showing His love; sharing His hope; living with a faith reliant on Him alone. Their mantra for this faith outreach? – “There is no plan B.”

31 days later, having covered over 15,000 kilometres of Europe by rail, foot, ferry, bus and car carrying 12kg on their backs and only €100 each in their pockets, the Re-birth team have loads of amazing stories to tell of God’s miraculous provision for them.

Like a good book, where story threads culminate in a climactic ending and leave the reader saying “Ah, now I see why that happened in the story”, we look back on Re-birth’s journey and see how God plotted their path with divine purpose. But we shouldn’t be surprised . . . after all, He is the author of our lives – the master story teller – recording and planning every day of each of our lives with pure craftsmanship.

When the team set off on that warm Italian Monday morning, they were in good spirits and in agreement that God was telling them to head for Romania first. A good friend of mine joked: “At last, someone is going there!” It took me a few seconds to understand her humorous comment. In South Africa (and perhaps in your country too?), when asked where you are going on holiday during the annual holiday season, if one is staying at home you would often reply, “I’m going to Romania” (remain here). I think the team felt they could have remained in Romania – it was one of the most beautiful places they passed through on their journey with beautiful people, and a place they want to return to one day to do missions work.

At the end of Day 1, the team found themselves stuck in Italy in a town called Udine. The train they wanted to take was only on Saturday, and there were no trains out that evening. They knew they could not sit around for 5 days … they were on a mission! As they sat huddled on a pavement, discussing how they should move forward, strumming on their guitar and singing worship songs, a woman with two children came up to them. She said she felt led to invite them to her home for the night. When she told them that she did not normally take that route home, the team were reminded that even though the trains were unfaithful, God was faithful. The family they stayed with were Mormons and the guys learnt something of the Mormon religion. They were also able to share their own personal testimonies of their faith in Jesus Christ.

The next day they could still not find a way out of Udine – all the trains and buses were full. So they decided to split into two teams and hitchhike to Tarvisio on the border of Italy and Austria. They were reunited around 11pm at the train station where an overnight train took them through Austria to Vienna and then on to Budapest in Hungry heading for Romania. 

Davide and Samuel knew they would have no problem entering Romania on their European passports, but the team had no idea whether the three South Africans would be allowed to enter the country on their Schengen visas. Natheaneal, Christo and Kyle had tried to obtain a visa to visit Romania before leaving South Africa, but because the Romanian embassy wanted an original letter of invitation from their sponsor in Romania, they gave up on this quest as it would have been impossible to obtain this letter in time for their visa application date. This visa would have cost them €60 each.

Kyle and Nathaneal hitching rides for the team from Udine to Tarvisio

In Budapest they met Réka, a young lady their age. As they conversed with her on the journey to the border, they shared their faith and personal testimonies. They spoke of the faith they had that God would get them into Romania. Réka had her doubts. She was Catholic, but God was not personal to her.

After a huddled prayer on the station platform at Beharkeresztes, the team explained their situation to the border guards as they tried to gain entry into Romania. Réka saw the team praying outside the train, as did another guy who the team later met on the train. The train was delayed for 30 minutes while the border police made some phone calls to ascertain whether the South Africans could enter the country. Suddenly their passports were stamped. God had gotten them into Romania! And for free! And what made this event even more miraculous was the fact that the border police spoke not a word of English, and Re-birth not a word of Hungarian . . . and the team’s sign language was terrible.

When they got back on the train, happy and excited, they sat in their same seats beside Réka. She was amazed that they had managed to get into Romania, and Re-birth were excited that Réka got to see God at work right in front of her eyes.

On the train, a passport officer cautioned Re-birth that they could not exit back into Hungary as they had been allowed entry into Romania for transit purposes. If they did not exit Romania correctly, they would be deported and never allowed entry again into the country. She went on to tell them which countries they could exit to – Bulgaria or Moldova (which was not an option as their train tickets did not cover travel in Moldova).

The team were hosted in Cluj, Romania, by old friends of Samuel. They also had an opportunity to visit Dallas, an informal settlement beside a huge garbage dump where two thousand people live. The people collect things like plastic bottles, which they in turn sell to make a living. Missionaries have built houses that provide gypsies from the dump with better places to live, showing them an indescribable love and compassion.

It was an awakening, challenging experience for the Re-birth team, and a ministry they would like to get involved with in the future – helping to build more houses for the people to live in.

Christo with Romanian children
After three days in Cluj, having also done street ministry in the main square, they transited out of Romania through Bulgaria. They had to head for Greece.

Once in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city, they discovered the trains from the Greek border travelling into Greece had been cancelled - permanently! However, they had to head for Greece as this was their only option to exit Bulgaria. Perhaps they would hitchhike again once they reached the border.

Needing to find a place to sleep while waiting for the first morning train headed for Greece, they pray . . . and God answers in an amazing way as they find sleeping place on the floor of a quiet bus depot, watched over and protected by two station guards. The amazing part of this story is that they should not have been allowed to sleep there. Some guards initially walked past and told Kyle to put his camera away. Then another guard walked past and tried to chase them away, but because he couldn't speak English, he called his colleagues over. They looked at the team, talked between themselves, and then said, "Sleep!" before walking off.

That same night, Re-birth did a prayer walk through the city.

Crossing the border from Bulgaria into Greece, the guys found themselves once again needing to split into two groups to hitchhike to Thessaloniki. Within a half hour, both groups had found rides, and a few hours later, were reunited.

They took a stroll down to the port while waiting for the overnight train to Athens. It is here they met Jimmy, a homeless guy, and spent the rest of the evening showing Jimmy love and sharing their faith. The team blessed Jimmy with some items of clothing. Kyle gave Jimmy a pair of jeans, Christo gave him a pair of shorts, and Samuel gave a shirt and socks. If you read my previous blog titled “Mom, this is Jacob” (Part 1 and 2), you will remember that giving away his clothes is somewhat of a habit with my youngest son. But isn’t that what being Jesus to people is all about?

Kyle, Davide, Jimmy, Samuel & Christo

Day 9 of the journey was one of the toughest for the team. They had hoped to work with a refugee ministry in Greece, but this didn’t work out as the mission was preparing to close for the holidays. Athens was hot, and the team were tired and dirty. They were uncertain of what to do next. But the break, the day without ministry, was just what they needed as they spent time really talking and clearing up misunderstandings. 

However, they still faced a dilemma – how to move on from Greece. Going back north was not a great option due to the transit visa through Bulgaria (not to mention the absence of trains), and they couldn’t get to Patras to catch a ferry to Italy due to the train connection being suspended for maintenance. Deciding to find a cheap flight to any Schengen country, they headed for Athens airport. Not a single ticket could be found for under €200.

After being woken twice during the night and moved by airport security, the five weary travellers moved outside where they spent the night on hard concrete, stretched out in an alley between luggage trolleys and a glass building.

It was a night of learning for the team as they came to realise that they had been so caught up looking for a way out of Greece, that they had neglected their ministry and had not spent nearly enough time in the presence of Jesus. They knew this was the reason their motivation and spirits had gone on a downward spiral. They dedicated time to prayer and reading the Word, learning anew that they could not do this journey without God.
Awaking spiritually and mentally refreshed, they considered hitchhiking once again, but they would soon experience God providing a better way.
Travel on the Metro out of Athens airport was not an option as a ticket from there to anywhere cost €8 and they could not use their Global Passes. So the team decided to take the suburban train line (which didn’t go to Athens) to a nearby town as once out of the airport radius, they would be able to catch the Metro back to Athens for only €1.50. When the team got on this surburban train, they noticed the train indicated that it went to Patras. They got off at a main station and found an information office. It was here that an elderly woman working at info told them they could take the bus to Patras with their Eurail / Interail tickets because the train lines were closed due to maintenance. The team’s initial plan had been to get back to Athens and take the train back to the top of Greece, hitchhike once more to the Bulgarian border and then head back the way they had come through Bulgaria and Romania as they saw no other way out. Once again, however, God was faithful in guiding them, providing a way when there seemed no other way.
In hindsight we see the reason they had to go to Athens airport. What seemed like a wrong decision the night before turned out to be part of the Master’s plan. Like I said earlier in this blog . . . threads! And masterfully woven ones at that.
But, there was no guarantee there would be space available on the ferry once they got to Patras. Again they placed their hope in Jesus and got on the bus heading for the west coast of Greece.
When the team arrived in Patras, they not only found tickets at a reasonable price on the ferry leaving the next evening, they also discovered when one of the team’s supporters sent an SMS, that two rooms had been booked for them that night in a hotel in Patras.
After the valley . . . the mountain peak. God had blessed them with hot showers, soft beds with pillows and crisp white sheets. And the best . . . a hearty breakfast on the dining room balcony the following morning. Patras pamperings straight from the Father’s heart!

The following day, Re-birth had good ministry in Patras, especially with some Muslim refugees from northern Africa.

We’ve only travelled a third of the way on the Re-birth journey and there are so many more amazing stories to share with you, but for now I think I’ve more than used up my allotted word count.

Please visit the Re-birth website and check out their Europe documentary teaser on YouTube
If you look carefully, you will see the homeless man in Milan that I referred to in my last blog “Fashion, fashion everywhere ... but not a thread to spare!” How thankful he looks to have a needle and thread to fix his pants.

The full documentary will be released in November 2011.

Additional fun video clips that the team call “Splashes” can be found at:

MARION UECKERMANN’s writing passion was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then Marion has been honing her skills and has published some devotional articles in Winners at Work and The One Year Book of Joy and Laughter (published August 2011), as well as inspirational poetry online and in a poetry journal. She has written her first Christian Women’s novel (unpublished) and is currently working on the sequel as well as a Historical Romance novel. Marion now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and a crazy black ‘Scottie’. A member and moderator of the Christian Writers of South Africa, Marion can be contacted via email on marionu(at)telkomsa(dot)net.


  1. Wow! What an adventure these boys are having. "Please Lord protect them and use them to bring many souls to you."

  2. Marion, thanks for sharing the first part of their amazing journey. I'm looking forward to reading more and learning about the documentary :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this amazing journey, Marion. I look forward to the next installment.

  4. It sounds like they are being stretched. What an adventure, both physically and spiritually. God bless.

  5. What a wonderful journey for these five young men. And speaking from a mother's heart, how much trust you have in God to allow a son to do this kind of trekking all over the world. Kudos to you, my friend.

    Judith Robl