Thursday, 7 August 2014

The normal, unforced rhythms of grace

After a long summer season of ministry it is so good to be getting back into “normal” life. We have joked that I get a “normal week” about 30% of the year so “normal weeks” are good whenever they happen, but after weeks and months of packing and unpacking and repacking? Normal feels so good.

What does normal mean?

Normal means waking up at a normal time and spending time in the Bible and praying.

Normal means answering emails, having a Skype meeting and getting work done. Normal means spending time learning Czech after a summer of not learning much.

Normal on the first Wednesday of the month means noon is noisy.

Normal means buying food at Tesco and baking muffins for friends. Normal means hanging out with those friends, new missionaries who moved here recently.

It also means other things.

Normal means hearing my doorbell ring and answering it to find two Jehovah’s Witnesses on my doorstep – they’re really active in my town, and I often see them handing out leaflets at the train station.

Normal means walking down my street by the Buddhist centre and the homeless guys who often sit on the benches during the day and sleep on them at night.

A year ago few of these things seemed normal. I didn’t have the keys to my flat yet. I had been here just over a month. Some of these things should not be normal, and I ache and pray for "on earth as it is in heaven".

I am so thankful for God’s grace in big adventures, long roadtrips, weeks at camp, and visits to camps in others parts of Europe. But I’m also incredibly thankful for God’s grace in the details of life, and in the normal, mundane days here. I'm thankful for how His grace breaks through, and brings life, and changes things.

Matthew 11 v 28-30 in the New International Version reads

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In the Message that same passage reads

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (emphasis mine)

I feel like I’m experiencing those unforced rhythms of grace in the everyday, mundane, normal of my life here in this little corner of the Czech Republic and am praying for this grace to continue to break in in this part of the world. I am so thankful for His incredible grace.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Camp begins!

[Written on Saturday but it has just appeared online now.]

English camp has begun! It has been a full day with lots needing to be prepared before the students arrived in the afternoon. 

And now we've had our first evening session and discussion group. The discussion group is the same as the English class. There are nine students in my group plus an American, a Brit, a Czech translator and myself. 

Please pray that we are able to bond well as a group and that as the week continues we would build good relationships so we can better share the Gospel. 

It is so good to be here at camp! It's a little funny for me to be at a camp where I am not the "foreigner" but that means I can build relationships that can continue throughout the year. It's also really fun that I can talk with the students in Czech!

The moon tonight over the mountain. 

A bonfire with sausages and marshmallows roasting. 

Our setup. This is the stage area for the songs, speaker etc. 

Upside Down!

Every year there is a particular theme for our camps - it helps us with the materials such as the t-shirts, printed books and flyers, etc. And the name of the theme is based on the evening programme talks.

Every night at Josiah Venture's camps there is an evening programme with games, songs and even a special camp song with motions (we pick a new song every year that fits the theme and create motions for it). But the most important part of evening programme is the talk.

This year the theme is Upside Down. And you can look at it a couple of ways. Clearly this world is upside down. Even the young person who is most opposed to God will generally easily admit that there is clearly something very wrong in the world. There are wars, famine, greed, pride, anger.. and I could keep going for a long time.

So during the week we will talk about a King who came as a baby. The Lord who came to serve. And that He invites us all to be a part of His Kingdom where things seem Upside Down as we love our enemies, forgive our debtors, lose our lives to save them. A kingdom where it's not about anything we've done or could do to earn His love but where that love is freely given by grace because it was bought with an incredible cost at the cross.

I'm excited about what God will do through these talks and the discussions that happen after them! 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Camp 1000!

Go click on this link and spend 90 seconds watching a very cool video put together by our communications team!

This Saturday is a very exciting milestone! We knew that this summer, somewhere in the midst of the 119 camps we're doing, would be Josiah Venture's 1000th camp. So I sat down with an excel spreadsheet of camps and dates and tried to figure it out.

The exciting things is that it can't be figured out - there are seventeen camps beginning this Saturday, 12th July, with JV in Latvia, Poland and the Czech Republic. One of them is Josiah Venture's 1000th camp!

I have been doing camps with JV since 2007 and now my role has me serving them year-round as I help equip and resource those serving in our camp teams across JV. 

I passionately believe in these camps as a valuable ministry pathway. Not only have thousands of young people had the opportunity to hear about a God who loves them, but because we only do camps when we partner with local churches, they are also an incredible leadership development tool.

It is so exciting to see God at work through camps. I'm thankful for His faithfulness and the knowledge that He will complete what He has started. 

Today marks the beginning of two camps near to my heart - the one with Dejvice church in Prague where my home church will be serving (the camp I was a part of for four years) and my own Czech church's camp. I'll be at my Czech church's camp all week and I'm so excited to see what God does!

You can read a blog post on this milestone from Josiah Venture's president here

Friday, 11 July 2014

Photo Friday - 11th July

I took the group photo for the camp in Latvia - this was just before they realised I was taking the photo. Such a great camp!

Enjoying fellowship on the Hargan's balcony in Latvia. They are the country leaders for Josiah Venture in Latvia and it was so beautiful to hear and see their excitement for what God is doing in this nation, and their passionate dreaming for what He will do!

Before short term teams leave they often have a debrief where they talk about the joys and challenges of their time and what they learnt. It was so good to hear from this team!

A whole lot of this on the way home. Poland is long! But the wee car made it!

And on Wednesday these guys left - left to right it is Jacob, Daniel and Amy. Daniel just moved to Czech as a full time missionary and will be using his great skill in filming to serve our teams here. Jacob grew up as a missionary kid with Josiah Venture in Poland, as did Amy, and they are both back to serve on our communications team as interns this summer. Excited to see what these three create in terms of films and writing!

On Thursday I helped unload the Thomasons container - this held all their possessions as their family of four move here to serve on the communications team. So excited to have more people moving here and joining what God is doing.

And today I came back to Malenovice where my Czech church's camp starts tomorrow! 

Today the teams arrived to start preparing - as well as the Czech church team and the US team there is a team from Wales, funnily enough from the church I called home for my four years of university there! 

So it was good to see some familiar faces. And it has been a good time of preparation. Our pastor came and gave a short message on living out of the Spirit of God. And it was good to be together, bond, prepare, worship and pray. 

Students arrive tomorrow afternoon so there will be more preparations in the morning. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The little car that made it home!

So, last you heard I was waiting in a McDonalds last Friday to hear the verdict on my car. Well, they cleaned a filter in Estonia and told me to drive at 3000rpm for thirty minutes to help the car clean itself. They told me it was fine to drive so drive I did - I drove five hours to a camp in Latvia.

Two hours in, on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, the "engine malfunction" warning appeared again.

But the car was driving fine so we continued to a tiny town and visited camp. On Sunday we drove the two and a half hours to Riga, with the car again driving fine.

On Monday another teammate helped me take my car in to a place in Riga. A few hours later we heard the news - I've a part that needs to be replaced apparently because it is full. It is a very expensive repair and it takes a while. They knew I wanted to drive back to Czech the next day so they made it so the car wouldn't realise there was a problem because it is safe to drive.

So, the little car drove fifteen hours perfectly fine (without even the engine light reappearing). Next week it will go to its regular mechanic here in Czech where I'm hoping the solution will be clear and will be less expensive than they quoted in Latvia!

Leaving Latvia

I wrote this but it just published now for some reason!

It has been so good to be up here, in Latvia and Estonia, visiting camps and seeing what God is doing up here. Our team is incredible and I have loved seeing them at work. I'm looking forward to blogging more stories soon. 

Today we hop in the car for 15+ hours to get home. I'm very excited to get home!

For those wondering, my car is still sick. The repair in Estonia lasted two hours. It went to a mechanic in Latvia and they have told me what needs to happen but that it is safe to drive home. I hope to take it into a Czech mechanic this week and leave it there before I head to camp on Friday. Prayers for the car - its safety while driving and an easy repair would be so wonderful.