What an amazing and exciting weekend! For twenty years now Otto and Sharon Bixler have been pioneering the work of Ellel Ministries in Eastern Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union, but now the time has come for them to hand over the reins of responsibility to others, and return to the USA, as they enter into a new season of their already very fruitful lives.
When we first acquired the land at Ur Retje, on which our Hungarian Centre now stands, we all sensed the presence of God on the place. At the time we had no idea that this place, which God had set apart for the ministry, had already been dedicated to him for a work such as this over sixty years earlier!
Ur Retje has not only been the base for the work in Hungary, but from here teams have travelled through eight time zones – even to beyond Siberia – and have scattered the seed and brought the message of healing to peoples whose lives had long been devastated by the oppression of Communism. It was time, not only for the political walls to come down, but for the spiritual powers to crumble as God began to set His people free in these far-flung places.
I could tell you hundreds of stories of the things God has done – often through His miraculous intervention – transforming lives and bringing hope and healing. I will never forget our first Battle Belongs to the Lord conference in Budapest, where so many people’s lives were dramatically changed by the power and presence of God. That was the week when the last Russian tank left Hungary and the doors were flung open wide for the Kingdom of God. They were exciting and challenging days.
But back to Otto and Sharon — what an amazing ministry they have had. They first joined the work of Ellel Ministries from California and then became the pioneers who established the work in Eastern Europe. Right across the region they have left a well-worn trail of blessing.
Now they are entering into a new season as they return to the USA, from where they’ll still be supporting the work of Ellel Ministries at different centres around the world and looking to God for showing them the next steps of their life’s journey.
The farewell event at Ur Retje began with a wonderful thanksgiving banquet. People came from all over the region to share their appreciation of Otto and Sharon’s lives and ministry. It was a very emotional time as so many wanted to express their love and appreciation and say their thankyous. We all laughed and cried at the memories we heard and the pictures we all saw. Six of the Executive Leadership of Ellel Ministries also travelled to Hungary to share in the event.
Roger Pook who, with his wife Christine, has already served in Hungary for many years has taken up the reins of responsibility as the new Regional Director of the work. Christine will look after the work in the surrounding nations and Tomas and Angela Kovacs are well-established as national leaders of the work in Hungary.
The Hungarian team gave Otto and Sharon an amazing 3-D crystalline model of the Hungarian Centre as a permanent reminder of all their pioneering work. And the Russian and Ukrainian teams gave them a wonderful tablecloth embroidered with bunches of grapes – each one of which represented the fruit that that has been produced in all the many places they have travelled in two decades of serving God in the region.
As Fiona and I flew back home I couldn’t help but reflect on the extraordinary fruitfulness there can be in someone’e life, whenever they are in God’s place for them, in His timing, and doing the work He has prepared for them to do.
Thank you Otto and Sharon for being so obedient to God’s call on your lives and being ready for anything He asked you to do. Somehow or other I don’t think God’s finished yet in giving you Kingdom assignments!