Monday, 30 June 2014

One Year!

Today, 30th June, a year ago I landed in Prague without a return ticket! So it seems fitting that I spent today travelling around Estonia and visiting camps where young people are hearing about a God who loves them and sent His Son to die for them. 

I am so incredibly thankful for God's incredible grace and overwhelming faithfulness in my first year here. 

And I am so excited to continue to be a part of what God is doing here as He draws young people from these nations to Himself. 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Nations Sing

At Intern Training we re-created one of the highlights of my year. On the last night we sang How Great is our God in all the languages represented at Intern Training - Romanian, Polish, Latvian, Slovene, Slovak, Estonian, Czech, Ukrainian, Finnish, Spanish and English!

There’s something so wonderful about being reminded that God is the God of all nations, that He is worshipped in those eleven languages and so many more.

As camps begin across JV would you pray that many in these nations would join us in this song this summer?

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Short Term Team Training in Estonia

Today I was at Short Term Team Training in Estonia! There are four camps happening this term - three English camps and one football camp. It started with Innar welcoming everyone to training. In addition to the American teams and the interns there was also a group of people from Czech to serve at camp so I got to see some friends.

Märt is the country leader for Estonia and it was such a joy to hear him share the vision for JV in Estonia. Estonia is one of our smallest countries with a population of 1.4 million. Less than 1% of the population are evangelical believers.

Due to communism the church is missing a lot of the older generation. This means a lot of the leaders in the church are young and have such passion and vision for their nation. But it also means, as Märt shared this morning, that there are approximately twenty healthy churches in the country. They believe that in order to transform the country and reach this nation they need two hundred healthy churches, ten times the number they have!

It was wonderful to hear Riina share her story of coming to Christ, and an English camp five years ago was a huge part of that. Riina is one of our amazing summer interns and it is such a joy to see her joy in Jesus. One of my favourite things about travelling around is that I get to reconnect with our interns, ask how their summer is going and encourage them.

The training in Estonia lasts for a day so this afternoon we prayed for each team individually and commissioned them. They set off to their camp facilities tonight and the campers will arrive tomorrow.

I am very excited to see what God continues to do in this nation!

Friday, 27 June 2014

Short Term Team Training in Latvia

When short term teams arrive to do a camp with Josiah Venture there is typically a day or two of training for them. The majority of our teams come from America and this also gives them a couple of days to get over jet lag before camp starts. 

But, more importantly, it gives us time to talk about the culture of the country, what will happen at camp, and how to share the Gospel and testimonies. There is also time for worship and devotions. 

This is David and he leads the camp ministry in Latvia. He started the day with a devotion and then shared the story of Josiah Venture, our mission and vision and the values of our camp ministry.  

One of the things that has given me the most joy is to see our wonderful interns, both Americans and Latvians, being part of the training as they talked about roles at camp, the history of Latvia, the discipleship continuum and about the culture. 

These are five of the six interns serving in Latvia this summer. They had some free time and so I was able to take them out for some really good doughnuts and coffee. 

It was so good to catch up with them, find out how their summer is going, and how to be praying for them as they go into camp. 

I'll be at short term team training until it ends around 3 today and then I'll be driving alone to Tartu in Estonia because their short term team training is tomorrow. 

This week Latvia has two camps - one is a Fusion camp which the American team is serving at, and the other is a day camp where the interns will be serving. I'm hoping to visit the day camp next week. 

I'm so excited to see what God does in Latvia this summer! 

Driving to Latvia

After a couple of hours of sleep Katka and I got into my car a little after 2am..

I drove for the first five hours so I don't have any photos of the beautiful sunrise and the ribbons of fog that lay on the fields. It was so beautiful. 

In Poland there was a lot of this. 

And a lot of storks. 

And a lot of this. 

Poland is long!

We started to see signs for the Belarus border but we were actually heading to Lithuania. 

Lithuania seemed so empty. Just lots of heavy goods lorries and not a lot of space to overtake. 

We got into Latvia and arrived in Riga at 6pm, in perfect time for dinner. There is a one hour time difference so, including breaks, the drive took us 15 hours. 

Although the drive was long but it was good! Getting to Warsaw by 7 meant we missed a lot of traffic. 

Very thankful we got here safely! 

Photo Friday - 27th June

Flowers on the town square near sunset. 

A new missionary family arrived in Cesky Tesin and they stayed at my flat while I was gone in Latvia and Estonia, as their container with their possessions arrived a couple of weeks after they did. It was fun to prepare my flat for them. 

The road to Latvia is long. This is what it looks like for miles and miles in Poland. We got up at 2am to leave and got to Latvia in time for dinner - 15 hours on the road. We made really good time and there really weren't any incidents.

It was so great to be up in Latvia for their short term team training

I also got to take five of their six summer interns out for some doughnuts. It was so good to hear how their summer is going, how God is working in and through them. 

Another snap of Short Term Team training - it was great to see the interns leading so many of the sessions!

A quick snap of Katka and I - she was such a great travel partner! 

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Many Updates!

So, I finally took some time to sit in front of my computer and write a lot of what has been happening over the last month or more! Because I published seven posts I thought I'd highlight them here so you can find them easily.

Spring Conference

The Amazing Race

Intern Training

Photo Friday 30th May (includes Amazing Race photos)

Photo Friday 6th June (includes Intern Training photos)

Photo Friday 13th June

Photo Friday 20th June


Intern Training

This was my third Intern Training and I think it’s my favourite conference in JV. It’s the one that holds the most responsibility for me as it is organised by Casey and I but it is such a joy to do.

Intern Training is four full days of training and teaching for our summer interns, to equip them for their summer of service. Josh Nelson shared a devotion every morning and Ben Williams taught about the mission of God each evening.

Our other morning teaching topics were: personality types, conflict, spiritual gifts, prayer, rest, spiritual warfare, how to share the Gospel, how to share your story, discipleship, how to speak with translation, about this year’s talks, and purpose and posture. We also had times to train the interns in teaching English, leading Fusion or in how to lead their teams. And there were national testimonies and a panel of Europeans who shared what Christianity and culture looks like in Europe. Each country also had two hours together each day to apply what they’d learnt to their team.

Nationals share about the Gospel in Europe
We changed some things up this year that were definitely worth it – we added the conflict talk, we produced booklets with all the material in them, we had nametags for everyone to wear all week, and we organised childcare so our wonderful missionaries with children could be fully involved in morning and afternoon sessions.

In between tracking down lost luggage, dealing with a shower leaking through the ceiling onto a bed below it, and lots of other little details I was really grateful for how God led me in conversations. I am a huge introvert so I was worried that the other details would prevent me from really engaging with people but God was so gracious in providing the energy I needed.

It felt crazy, although it shouldn’t surprise me any more, the way God led in conversations. There were times when I had no idea why I was saying what I was only to have the person in the conversation share that they were facing something similar. Casey summed it up by saying there are times when it feels like we are “channelling God” – it’s nothing about us but we witness Him working through us. That’s how it felt. It was such an honour to listen to, pray with and talk and laugh over cake with so many of our wonderful interns.

And our interns are wonderful. Even in the midst of hiccups during the conference they were so thankful and encouraging. They were a joy to be around and a joy to serve.

On our last night at Intern Training each team has communion together and a couple of us were there to pray for people who wanted prayer. Then we had a time of commissioning – each country takes it in turn to get in the middle and one JV staff member prays over them.

Even now as I sit and write about this it gives me goosebumps – it is so exciting to think about these one hundred 19-25 year olds who are serving God this summer in these nations.

Would you join me in praying for them – that God would be leading them, that they would serve well, that they would love students, that God protects them and He works powerfully in them as well as through them?

The Amazing Race

Every year when our summer interns arrive in Europe they step off the plane or out of the car to start the Amazing Race for the first three days of their internship. It is modelled on the Amazing Race TV show where teams do crazy challenges and receive clues that lead them to their next challenge.

The year I led an intern team in Czech the Race was mainly in Poland and a little in Czech. Last year we raced in Ukraine. This year the Race was entirely in Slovenia.

So, on Tuesday morning twenty-five people left Cesky Tesin for Slovenia – people from Czech, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine had travelled to Cesky Tesin the night before and stayed at my flat and the Yormans’ house. On Tuesday night we had a leaders’ meeting that outlined the next three days.

On Wednesday morning a couple of us got up really early to drive to Munich to pick up the interns and get them on the bus to Slovenia. Thankfully we don’t lose anyone… although that might have been a real fear at one point until we found out the bus actually had fifty-two seats, not fifty like we’d been told.

I’ll pause here to say that I have now driven in Germany, Austria and Slovenia. And Austria is stunning to drive through – the Alps were filled with fog and there are lots of tunnels, including a 7km long one that connects Austria and Slovenia.

The race started at Lake Bled. Our nineteen teams started with a challenge that involved one person swimming to retrieve a key to open a lock. They then had to row, as a team, over to the island in Lake Bled where several other challenges awaited them.

My station on that first day was to wait at the local train station for the teams and to ensure they all got on trains to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. The first team showed up forty minutes before the train did and they were super excited to be the only team there. So of course two minutes before the train showed up a bus holding the other eighteen teams arrived. Watching nineteen teams, primarily composed of Americans, get on one tiny train at a quiet train station was quite the sight, and the locals laughed a lot.

There were more challenges waiting for them that night in Ljubljana. One was learning the Slovene national anthem! They had to find a local to teach it to them and then the team sang it on the main square.

The next day we were in Ljubljana the whole day. It is a beautiful city. It doesn’t feel like a capital city at all and there are lots of cute little shops and many beautiful bicycles.

My first station that day was at the castle, which is on the top of a hill in the city. Teams were given a little Lego model and the pieces necessary to make it. Only one person in the team could see the model and only they could speak. They had to describe it to the rest of their team. I did this challenge in Krakow and it is really good at making you think about communication.

Other highlights from day two: there is a bridge in Ljubljana where people jump off into the river and one person from every team had to do that. Teams had thirty minutes to find items that started with every letter of the Slovene alphabet.. in Slovene. This was a very fun station to be at!

The teams also had to eat horseburger. The place is actually a really popular little place but the burgers were quite big and a lot of teams struggled here. There was some throw-up. I did try horseburger and, honestly, it doesn’t taste anything different from a hamburger.

One of my favourites from this day was something that was set up to be a culture challenge – teams were sent to Slovene homes and were told to ask questions and learn about the culture. Every year there is a food challenge and, having eaten the horseburger, teams thought they were in the clear. But while they were in homes they were served the Czech speciality of tlačenka… It is horrible. But they were in homes so they had to be polite. I loved this challenge because this is what a summer, and life, in Europe involves – being in homes with people who don’t speak a lot of English and who serve you something that you have to eat, regardless of how you feel about it.

On the last day we got up early to head to Maribor – the interns were on the train and some of us were driving. It was fun to be back in Maribor, where I’d been last December for a meeting.

The only station I was responsible for that morning was at the top of a very large hill, called Calvary Hill. There were four hundred or so very steep stairs. It was funny when some of the interns arrived up there, rather frustrated at having climbed all those stairs, and I explained that we’d had to climb them too.

Some intern teams received poor directions from locals – although the clue specifically directed them up the many stairs, a lot of locals sent them up the other side of the hill. This meant it took teams a while to find us and some climbed the mountain more than once.

When they got to us they were very thankful to learn they had to spend ten minutes at the top of the hill and they were given a short devotion to reflect on where they get their energy from, and they were given the opportunity to have communion.

The rest of the day for them involved learning a traditional Slovene dance, interviewing young people about what they think about God, identifying all fourteen of the JV countries and their languages.

The first team to cross the finish line was Romania!

Crossing the finish line!

The reason we do the Amazing Race is to give these multicultural teams an opportunity to meet and bond. There’s something about throwing up horseburger together or rowing across a lake that gives you a shared experience that really helps unite the teams. It also gives the teams, and especially their leaders, the chance to see the strengths and weaknesses of their teams. And there are also times of conflict on the team that give the teams the chance to work through things.

Our interns did so well on the Amazing Race, it was a joy to serve them in it. And from Maribor we all hopped into cars and a bus to head north to Czech, to Malenovice, to Intern Training!

Spring Conference

From 30th April until 4th June Josiah Venture had our Spring Conference. Josiah Venture has two big conferences every year – “Fall Conference” in September which is a training and equipping conference and “Spring Conference”. Spring conference is a family conference for our second culture missionaries – people who serve in a culture that is not where they were born.

This was my very first Spring Conference, which a lot of people questioned. It seems it’s not just me that felt like I’d been here a lot longer than the ten months I had been until that point.

If you had asked me honestly how I was feeling headed into conference I would have replied that I was excited… but also nervous. One of the things I love most about JV is our community and how it feels like a big family. But it is a big family – I think Spring Conference had 250 adults and children at it! And so I was nervous about feeling overwhelmed or, you know, if I had the right, cool enough, backpack. It felt like it was my first day at a new school.

But, I really shouldn’t have worried. It feels weird to say I felt welcomed into the JV family because I’d already been to Fall Conference, the Academy and the Ladies’ Retreat and met most of the people… but there was something about being at Spring Conference that really made me feel part of JV. It was my final first in the yearly JV calendar.

I am so grateful for the people, the family, I serve with and alongside. One of the core values of Josiah Venture is “dynamic community” and it is so wonderful to live that out. We celebrate each other’s strengths and show grace in weaknesses. Over cake and in late night conversations we laugh and listen. Even though we’re from different cultures and countries we all know what it means to be far from loved ones and learning languages and cultures.

Our speaker for the week was Bryan Chapell, who flew over from America with his wife. The theme was Relentless, and it was all about how the grace of God is the relentless theme of the Bible. It is grace that gives us hope for whatever we are facing. And everything we say and do should be centred on grace.

It was such a refreshing week – to be reminded of God’s incredible grace in the midst of a community that show such grace.