This summer Ivalene and I had an amazing 3 week experience serving the missions field of Serbia and Romania. It was a busy, intense, and highly productive mission. In this series of posts I’ll share the highlights. First up -  the SOZO Festival in Novi Sad, Serbia (July 22-29, 2013)

[By the way, sorry I’ve been a little tardy writing this, when we returned I was immediately immersed into my new job with many projects on deadline. My next missions trip to Africa is coming up very soon!]

These are flags of over 20 nations represented at SOZO 2013 in Novi Sad, Serbia

These are flags of over 20 nations represented at SOZO 2013 in Novi Sad, Serbia

This was my 13th consecutive year doing missions in  eastern Europe, and the fifth trip Ivy and I have done together. She’s been to SOZO Festival in Hungary and England, but this was her first time to go to Serbia and Romania.

SOZO FESTIVAL: Novia Sad, Serbia

SOZO Staff over 80 volunteers from 20+ nations!

SOZO Staff over 80 volunteers from 20+ nations![featured-image]

SOZO means “salvation, healing and deliverance”. The purpose of the SOZO Festival has been disciple-making, evangelism and ethnic reconcilliation through a music arts festival  and leadership conference serving the post communist and war-torn regions of the Balkans in southeastern Europe. These are among the poorer countries in the world.

I attended my first SOZO Festival in 2001 in Baja Hungary where I first taught songwriting. The following years I returned to help organize and lead the worship as Director and taught seminars on worship leading and theology.

This is the second year for SOZO to return to Novi Sad Serbia. It’s a beautiful city that has been steadily rebuilding from the NATO bombings of the 1990’s. This was my fifth trip to minister there.


Ivalene’s class teaching that children can be worship leaders today – not just tomorrow, has been one of the most popular and mission critical offerings of SOZO. She led a team teaching kids from 6 different nations (and languages!) including Russia, Albania, Romania, Canada, Croatia, USA, Hungary and of course, Serbia.

Ivy's team teaching CSW

Ivy’s team teaching CSW f


Although the kids were not fluent in English -  everyone understood the international language of love, joy and music.

Childrens School of Worship class

VIDEO: Children’s School of Worship sing at the SOZO Gospel Outreach at “The Strand”

At our concluding gospel concert, the children sang 4 songs and danced. This video features “A New Anointing / This Is The Day” in 6 different languages!

The performance by the kids was anointed and delightful. They came on right after a bunch of heavy metal bands and held the crowd spellbound. It was … awesome. I’m very proud of Ivy.

[vimeo id=”73267619″]


This year I had the good fortune to co-teach the worship leadership seminar with our good friend Cathy Heiser.

We loved teaching and dialoging with a very engaged group of very smart young people. I was particularly impressed that an entire church worship team from Albania made the 2 day journey, over 24 hours of travel, primarily to attend our seminar. People are hungry for knowledge, wisdom and inspiration.

Teaching Worship Seminar with Cathy Heiser

Teaching Worship Seminar with Cathy Heiser

There were several other seminars throughout the conference.


One of the highlights of SOZO was a gospel outreach to the Roma (or gypsy) people of Novi Sad. We featured the awesome Christian gypsy band Amaro Del, set-up face painting for the kids, had clowns, skits, Serbian worship and a clear presentation on the gospel.

This was the first ever Christian outreach in this part of the city for this people group. This was a breakthrough according to a local pastor I spoke with. Here’s a video of that evening.


[vimeo id=”73011945#”]


One of the highlights of SOZO is the worship experience.

There’s just nothing else like it.

Every day we gather with a different group of musicians and singers from the many nations represented, and we simply pour our hearts out to God.

SOZO Opening Night of Worship 2013

SOZO Opening Night of Worship 2013


Sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s musically “sloppy”, but God always reveals His great love in a fresh way when we make His presence and His Son the center of attention.

Sozo Worship: Every Tribe, Every Nation!

Sozo Worship: Every Tribe, Every Nation!


What truly makes SOZO special is the people. Young people, old people, children, all from diverse cultures -that are all very different from each other.

You have to learn to like people who are not like you.

We have the time of our lives. It is a little foretaste of heaven.

Sozo People Collage



In the evenings after the seminars, we held a Christian concert series at “The Strand”, a resort / park area along the Danube River frequented by thousands of visitors. This was only the second open-air presentation of gospel music in that city.


There are a couple of my songs that have become a SOZO tradition, among them is “The Jesus La La Song” and “This Is The Day / A New Anointing”.

Go figure.

[vimeo id=”74336104″]


[vimeo id=”73394063″]



  • If you’d like to go to SOZO for 2014, I highly recommend it. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail and I’ll get you the info.
  • Read about my next missions trip to Africa.


We could not go without the prayers and financial support of our friends, family and partners. Thank you for being part of our team!

Next in this series, “Our Epic Summer Missions Adventure, Part 2: Romania School of Worship”