Saturday, 18 June 2016
After over 1000km (or over 600km) of driving, over ten hours of driving split over two days, I safely arrived in beautiful Croatia yesterday! The short term team from America landed last night and today has been full of orientation and training.
We started the day by walking around the palace here in Split and hearing the deep and rich history of this place. And then we heard about the vision for Croatia from our JV team down here, before heading into the practical pieces of camp life and responsibilities.
In this city of almost 200,000 people when they have joint youth group here, with the three churches that have youth ministries, they have twenty young people. This place has a rich, rich history of Christianity but things look different today.
Would you please join us in praying as camp starts tomorrow? That God would be drawing many to Himself and that, years from now, the fruit from this week would be uncountable. Please pray for deep unity across the different teams and that students would see Christ in us.
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
With the Amazing Race over it was time to start Intern Training! This is our four days conference that equips our interns for the summer ahead. This year the theme throughout our time together was the path of a growing disciple and the five challenges we see Christ give to people along that pathway - to come and see, to repent and believe, to follow me, to follow me and fish for men, and "I am sending you."
In the Bible we see Jesus give these five challenges to people - He sees and loves people exactly where they are and calls them to follow Him in a deeper way. And everyone we meet is somewhere on that pathway, and we are somewhere on that pathway too. We had five chairs (and, at times, five people in those chairs) on stage as visual reminders of the pathway.
We spent time talking about these five different stages and how each stage has different needs and challenges. In the evenings Dave Patty, the president of Josiah Venture, taught on the Father heart of God and led us in examining where are the places where we need God to bring us into deeper relationship with Him.
As well as those sessions, we shared about the mission and vision of JV - who we are and why we do what we do. Interns also receive teaching on how to serve in a team, how to share the Gospel and their story, their role for the summer, and many other things. There are also a lot practical skills they need to know for their summer - including teaching English or music, and the camp dance, which 2 year old Stella J is joining in on this photo.
It was really fun for me to teach about serving cross-culturally with Rob! And with 92 North Americans and 41 Europeans, even if you're serving in your own country, everyone is serving cross-culturally.
As well as all the teaching sessions there is also plenty of space in the schedule for interns to get to know one another and process what they've been learning (both in their teams and individually). We also had afternoon sports games.
And on the last night each country stood in turn and were prayed over by a JV staff member. We are so excited to see how God works in and through these wonderful people - this summer and beyond! It was such a joy and honour to spend a week with them and I am looking forward to seeing some of them throughout the summer, and hearing some of what they've been up to!
You can see some photos and read some of their stories if you go to this link of the #jvinterns on instagram.
And if you want to read our president's letter about our interns you can do so here.
Monday, 13 June 2016
|The welcome crew in Budapest airport!|
Every year when our interns arrive they do an "Amazing Race" - a three day team building exercise that has them travelling around different places and doing various challenges. This year we started in Budapest (Hungary) but were mainly in Slovakia. This marks the start of the internship for most of them and it's the first time they're meeting their teammates! The Amazing Race allows everyone to get to know each other, see what their team is like under pressure, and is an incredible bonding experience.
The first day there were a couple of challenges in the centre of Budapest before we got buses to Slovakia. There was an unintended late night challenge - filling out all your information for the foreign police for the night at the hotel! Normally it isn't necessary to give all the information but with the recent refugee crisis, things have become a lot more strict. We got the first person checked in at 11.40pm and the last person at 1.20. It was a long process!
The next day was chock-full of challenges - including, but in no way limited to... Getting your team across the square using pieces of cardboard, with one less piece than team members.
The infamous food challenge! This year it was Slovakia's halusky (potato dumplings with bacon) which is actually pretty good, there was just a lot of it. The lukewarm, soured sheep's milk, though? Yeah, not good. And a lot of it.
After the food challenge teams were off to the absolutely stunning High Tatra mountains. Here teams had to climb one of the mountains, complete logic questions, build a shelter, answer questions about Josiah Venture, and other things! I was quite happy to have this view for a few hours as I waited to ask people about Josiah Venture.
The next day, Friday, we woke up in the high Tatras but quickly left. Interns travelled to an old castle and completed all kinds of crazy tasks. The theme running through the Amazing Race was that the princess had been kidnapped and the interns had to get clues, go through training, etc to get her back.
I was at the second last station of the day - and that black plastic fob is literally the key to the castle (or, one of the many castles in Slovakia!). Teams had to go in, listen to a guide's spiel (which was in Slovak!) and hear the name of the famous person within the presentation.
When teams had successfully completed that challenge they were running to the finish line! They found a princess and had to pick her up and carry her to the finish line (don't worry, we had princesses there, they weren't lifting random women).
And this is what all twenty-eight teams were running for - the Josiah Venture Amazing Race trophy! This year the first and second team were literally only ten seconds apart but, for the first time in JV history, a country won it for the second year in a row! Way to go Estonia!
And here is our group shot from the end of the race! I am so proud of these teams and how they jumped into their summer, getting to know one another and being stretched. With the Amazing Race finished it was time to go to Intern Training!
Monday, 23 May 2016
May 4th-8th was JV's Spring Conference! This is our conference for our second culture staff, those who serve God outside of their first culture. We also call this family conference - as it's for our families! There are a lot of wonderful JV kids and they even have their own programme at conference.
The theme for this year was Milk and Honey and how not to get lost on the way to the Promised Land. We talked about all the different ways the Israelites got lost on the way to the Promised Land and how we can face the same things.
Our topics were: self doubt, windy paths and dead ends, grumbling and complaining, bad attitudes towards leadership, faith failure, and forgetting the Lord. Can you spot the road signs designed for each one of these topics?
This was my favourite Spring Conference so far, and it was just so good to sit under such good teaching throughout the week. I was really challenged about putting my faith in God, and only in Him, and that He is a good, good Father who has good things for us!
And, of course, the other great thing about this conference is these people - dear friends, family, who are serving God across these nations.
This year we said a lot of goodbyes - to dear ones who have faithfully served here and who are faithfully following where God is leading them next. We have missionaries who are leaving after serving their two year commitment, and ones leaving after five years, fifteen years, and even twenty years! It was sad but also good - we spent time sharing stories and thanking them for their faithfulness. And it's exciting to think how God will use them next!
Once again, I am so thankful to serve with an organisation that so beautifully cares for its staff, and that we feel like a family serving together and joining what God is up to in these nations!
Monday, 2 May 2016
Fusion is one of the ministries of JV that uses music to reach young people in central and eastern Europe! These young people meet weekly to practice and then perform in pop/rock choirs. And at those weekly meetings there is a devotion where young people are hearing about God.
Each of these choirs is based in a local church to reach their town or city's young people. Currently we have Fusions in Czech, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, and Estonia, and we've a couple of countries lined up to launch this ministry soon!
And at the end of April we hosted, in the little town where our JV office is located, and near the hotel and conference centre we own in Czech, an international Fusion festival called Fusiondary! So the town was joyfully invaded by 650 people for a weekend!
Each choir performed on stage and it was fun to see young people who are sometimes shy and reserved become rockstars on stage! On the Saturday we even took over the town square, and had a welcome by the town mayor, with a festival - complete with choir performances, and a stall organised by each Fusion.
The stalls were to highlight some of that places culture - so we even had Slovene dancing!
During the weekend I had the opportunity to lead two workshops on support raising - which was an absolute joy! I really enjoyed sharing with people about this topic, and encouraging them as they seek to support raise for the ministry God has called them to.
It was a great joy to see these young people perform, and give an opportunity to do that in front of a big crowd. But that was not the sole purpose of this event - the Gospel was clearly preached throughout the weekend, and people were clearly challenged to respond.
And the beauty of this ministry is that these young people, over half of whom are not believers, have heard this before and will continue to hear it through those devotion times and their relationships with those who serve in this ministry.
It's exciting to think of the fruit that can come from an event like this!
Wednesday, 20 April 2016
One Sunday in April I hopped into my car and drove a few hours north to Wroclaw (which, I promise, is not pronounced how you'd think... welcome to Poland, everybody). I was, weirdly, headed to an online retreat!
The online retreat was organised by an online website and community for missionary women. And, being a website for missionaries, naturally the readers are literally all over the world! So they planned an online retreat - there were video teaching sessions and testimonies, and notes for the talks you could download to use.
The theme of the teaching and testimony times was fear. One of the key texts we looked at was Psalm 23 - I had never noticed how many verbs in that Psalm are things that God does, and how we "act" is we lack nothing, lie down, walk through the valley, fear no evil and dwell in His house.
But they had thought through even more details than that - there were colouring in pages, playlists of music, suggested recipes (with ingredients that are easy to source, wherever you may be)... and even a "yoga" session (throughout which we were meditating on Scripture).
Kelly, my friend and a JV missionary alongside her husband in Poland, invited me to do the retreat with her and it was such a great time! I'm so grateful for our friendship and how we were able to process what we were learning together and apply it to our lives.
It also meant I was able to meet and hang out with their adorable puppy.
I even enjoyed the extended time driving (although this trip is a lot smaller than any of my summer drives will be) - it was good for time to process, and listen to music, sermons and podcasts.
I'm really grateful for people who creatively use technology for God's kingdom and to serve others! And for my time in the beautiful Wroclaw, with my friends and doing this retreat.
Sunday, 17 April 2016
|My guest room all ready for its visitor!|
In April I had a visitor from Northern Ireland! I'm so glad that Czech and Northern Ireland aren't so far apart and I'm so grateful for the many visitors I've had over the past three years.
It was a joy to have Rachel here for a couple of days, as part of her trip to Czech. We spent time at Malenovice (in the rain!), where our story in the Czech Republic began. There were a few other coffee shops on our agenda, as well as time wandering through the town I call home. And Rachel brought some wonderful NI treats, from herself and others, which were a really beautiful taste of home!
I am so grateful for this friendship and the time we got to spend together. Thanks for coming to visit, Rachel!