Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Seeing Dunkirk in Český Těšín


I'm not sure if I've told you about the little cinema in my town, but it may be one of my favourite places here. You see, it's run by an older couple and has these old wooden chairs. I've been to showings that have had just two other people there before and I think the biggest audience I've ever been a part of there was around twenty, and there were at least ten of us as we went to see the new hero movie that had somehow been shown in Český Těšín before anywhere else.

And that is the strange dichotomy of this little cinema - sometimes they'll have the latest movies, although only for a day or two, and other times they'll show movies that came out twenty years ago. There's no arranged seating, which is unusual for Czech, and there's no concession stand either. So you should absolutely bring your own snacks and drinks to enjoy. And I love that I live just a couple of minutes' walk away, rather than needing to drive thirty minutes or so (in Czech or across to Poland) to see a movie.

But my favourite thing about the cinema is definitely the couple that run it. You see, you also get their opinion about your movie choice when you go. I went to see the children's movie Brave there with Kristin and her boys, and afterwards the man wanted to know if we'd understood any of the Czech movie (children's movies are often dubbed, whereas other movies usually have the English with Czech subtitles).

When I went to see Dunkirk I went alone, because I'm an introvert who was enjoying a quiet evening when a lot of people were out of town. And the lady wasn't sure this was a movie I should see on my own, warning me that "It's a war movie, you know? A big war movie." I reassured her that I knew that, and thirty seconds later, her husband asked me a similar question as he checked and perforated my ticket and collected the stub, even though I was less than three metres from where he saw me purchase it.

We chatted as he escorted me to the only screen, and he told me I wouldn't like this movie but that I could sit wherever I wanted - especially as I was the third member of the audience that evening. In our conversation my accent definitely came through and he asked where I was from - when I told him he exclaimed "Aha! Držím palce." That literally means, "I hold my thumbs" but more accurately translates as "I'll keep my fingers crossed" in English. After the movie was over, and the audience of five people filtered out, he wanted to know what I thought, and why I lived in this little border town. 

Dunkirk itself? It was incredible - how the story involves without much dialogue, but so much of the feeling is conveyed so beautifully by the music. I also really enjoyed some of the actors involved - especially Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Kenneth Branagh. But more than all of those elements it was incredible because of the story it told. When they couldn't get home, home came to rescue them. And in that good story we hear beautiful echoes of the greatest story ever told. 


Monday, 14 August 2017

Camps happening this week - 14th August

These posts are happening each Monday this summer to invite you to pray with us for the camps happening this week! 

This week the camps that are happening are:



  • one in Germany
  • one in Romania
If you'd like to get a feel for our camps check out this video:



This summer we will have a total of one hundred and twenty two camps across our thirteen countries! We have one hundred and five interns serving with us for three months, and over one thousand people serving on short term teams. For each camp, we'll be partnering with a local church to put on an English, sports, European, or music camp. And young people from the town, city, or area will be invited to come along, to learn English or grow in their football skills, or perform in a rock-pop choir, and they'll hear the Gospel and be invited to respond. 

The theme for our camps this year is SEEN and we'll spend the week looking at how people are seen by Jesus. Each night we will look at a different encounter Jesus has with someone in the Bible and what that tells us about him, and about us. We're praying boldly that eight hundred and fifty young people will put their faith in Jesus this year. And we're praying that they, and the others at camp, will get plugged into the local church where they'll be discipled to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples. 

Please pray with us for the camps that are happening this week - 


  • for the local church: that they will build relationships with young people from their community and share the Gospel, and that they'll be able to follow up with these students well
  • for the interns and short term teams: that God will use them powerfully as they serve the local churches here, and that God would call some of them to this ministry full time!
  • for students: that God would powerfully draw many to themselves, and that when they go home they would be excited about growing in Christ.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Camp in Bulgaria!



This summer I got to visit Bulgaria to see and cheer on our team down there! I sometimes feel like I have more culture shock visiting some of our southern countries, than I had when I moved to Czech. The culture is just different - a little louder, a little warmer, than I've become used to in Czech. This was true of Bulgaria too - and it was fun to get to know the culture a little better, and to see a little of the beautiful country.




I travelled down on Thursday, a few days before the short term team arrived to help prepare for their arrival. This was our first short term team headed to Bulgaria so it was great to be there to support our staff. It was a little strange to be a country with the Cyrillic alphabet. So many of our countries speak Slavic languages so, even if I don't speak that specific language, there are usually words I recognise. This was not the case in Bulgaria due to the alphabet - although, sometimes when people were talking I caught words or phrases I recognised.

It was great to have a few days of preparation and to be able to get a feel for the town of Velingrad where some of our missionaries are based. I went along with our country leader there, Gabe, as he had a meeting with the town officials who allowed us to use the town stadium for free for camp, and as he stopped by the children's home to say hi.




The team from Northern Ireland, America, and Canada, arrived in on Saturday and we were very thankful that we made the bus for the two hour journey to Velingrad. Some of the team were able to go in our van but with not enough seats I took most of the Northern Irish team on the bus - thankfully I had help getting them on the correct bus as three days is not quite long enough to learn a new alphabet.

With their arrival training began - we spent time over the next couple of days talking about the mission and vision of Josiah Venture and the Bulgaria team, culture, how to build relationships well, how to share the gospel, and all the practical things we needed to cover for a sports' camp! We were also able to go to the local church on Sunday morning.




On Monday afternoon camp began! There were forty-seven students there who were connected to the local church or our missionaries in Velingrad, or connected to other local churches across Bulgaria through various outreach ministries. There were also seven students from the children's home we'd stopped by on Friday. This was a big camp! And it was so fun to see the short term team members, and interns and staff, serving all these students. Our interns in Bulgaria probably get the prize for doing the most camps in the summer - I think this was the sixth camp for most of them!




Our mornings started with the camp dance and some stretching altogether, followed by a short testimony from a team member. Then students were in three groups (girls, older boys, and younger boys) which each went through skill time in three sports. The sports during the week were football, volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, and fitness! After each skill time there were more short testimonies from team members.

In the afternoons there was movie or pool time, followed by the main talk for the day. After the talk time there were discussion groups to help students process what they'd been hearing about Jesus and how he sees them. After discussion groups ended, usually around six, there was more sport time - this time we were in our six discussion group teams and we played three games (usually football and Frisbee, plus another from that day). And then there was "shower hour" for everyone to get clean after a full day of lots of sports, followed by some chill time of playing board games or ping pong before bedtime.



This is Cvete, who I got to know during camp! I'm so thankful for how relationships can be built across languages and cultures, and for the time I got to spend with this lovely lady, and others, during camp.




The town's stadium was a great place to host camp - and it's incredible that not only were we able to use it, but that we were able to use it for free. With Bulgaria's strong Orthodox tradition, evangelical Christianity is definitely seen as a cult. Like many of our countries, this is a big challenge especially when young people go home from camp or other outreach events, talking about this Jesus they've just heard about, who may have changed their lives. Unfortunately, this often leads to parents banning their children from attending church and youth group.




I left midway through camp to head home to Czech. It was definitely hard to leave camp and the people I had gotten to know there. But it was such a joy to hear that seven young people gave their lives to Christ that week! Bulgaria doesn't have a lot of youth ministry happening, and churches are small and cannot afford to have youth workers full time. So if anything is happening for young people, it is often led by young students who are often busy or not always around. Also, there aren't always a lot of opportunities for work in Bulgaria so people move away, or work in another European country much of the year. There are definitely a lot of challenges to raising up a new generation of committed disciples in this country, but God is most definitely at work.




As I flew out of Bulgaria early on Thursday morning my heart was full - from connecting with our incredible staff and interns in that country, from getting to speak Northern Irish and meeting the short term team, from getting to know students, and from seeing little glimpses of what God is doing in that country. I'm praying that we'll see Him move in even mightier ways in this place in the years to come.


Monday, 7 August 2017

How to pray for camps this week - 7th August

This week there are not any camps happening! We're not quite done with camps for the summer though. And, actually, as camp ends in many ways the real work begins so this week would you please join me in praying for all the local churches who have done camp this year? Please pray for them as they follow up with students and start to disciple them. 

By the end of this week most of our interns will have also left. We're praising God for all these wonderful people who joined his work here this summer. Please be praying for them also as they head home - in America or Europe - that they will remember how God changed their lives and lives around them this year. 

It's been incredible to see little glimpses of what God has been up to this summer - and I know that they are only little glimpses. 

Monday, 31 July 2017

Camps happening this week - 31st July

These posts are happening each Monday this summer to invite you to pray with us for the camps happening this week! 

This week the camps that are happening are:



  • two in Estonia
  • ten in Czech
  • two in Slovakia
  • four in Ukraine
  • one in Hungary
  • one in Romania
If you'd like to get a feel for our camps check out this video:



This summer we will have a total of one hundred and twenty two camps across our thirteen countries! We have one hundred and five interns serving with us for three months, and over one thousand people serving on short term teams. For each camp, we'll be partnering with a local church to put on an English, sports, European, or music camp. And young people from the town, city, or area will be invited to come along, to learn English or grow in their football skills, or perform in a rock-pop choir, and they'll hear the Gospel and be invited to respond. 

The theme for our camps this year is SEEN and we'll spend the week looking at how people are seen by Jesus. Each night we will look at a different encounter Jesus has with someone in the Bible and what that tells us about him, and about us. We're praying boldly that eight hundred and fifty young people will put their faith in Jesus this year. And we're praying that they, and the others at camp, will get plugged into the local church where they'll be discipled to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples. 

Please pray with us for the camps that are happening this week - 


  • for the local church: that they will build relationships with young people from their community and share the Gospel, and that they'll be able to follow up with these students well
  • for the interns and short term teams: that God will use them powerfully as they serve the local churches here, and that God would call some of them to this ministry full time!
  • for students: that God would powerfully draw many to themselves, and that when they go home they would be excited about growing in Christ.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Camps happening this week - 24th July

These posts are happening each Monday this summer to invite you to pray with us for the camps happening this week! 

This week the camps that are happening are:



  • three in Latvia
  • five in Poland
  • one in Bulgaria
If you'd like to get a feel for our camps check out this video:



This summer we will have a total of one hundred and twenty two camps across our thirteen countries! We have one hundred and five interns serving with us for three months, and over one thousand people serving on short term teams. For each camp, we'll be partnering with a local church to put on an English, sports, European, or music camp. And young people from the town, city, or area will be invited to come along, to learn English or grow in their football skills, or perform in a rock-pop choir, and they'll hear the Gospel and be invited to respond. 

The theme for our camps this year is SEEN and we'll spend the week looking at how people are seen by Jesus. Each night we will look at a different encounter Jesus has with someone in the Bible and what that tells us about him, and about us. We're praying boldly that eight hundred and fifty young people will put their faith in Jesus this year. And we're praying that they, and the others at camp, will get plugged into the local church where they'll be discipled to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples. 

Please pray with us for the camps that are happening this week - 


  • for the local church: that they will build relationships with young people from their community and share the Gospel, and that they'll be able to follow up with these students well
  • for the interns and short term teams: that God will use them powerfully as they serve the local churches here, and that God would call some of them to this ministry full time!
  • for students: that God would powerfully draw many to themselves, and that when they go home they would be excited about growing in Christ.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Short Term Team Training in Slovakia!



Last Friday I went to Žilina in Slovakia to see their training for short term teams. This year Slovakia will do thirteen camps across the country, partnering with local churches, interns, and short term teams. This was one of the shortest journeys I've ever had for ministry - it was just fifty minutes on the train from my town to Žilina. 



It was so good to be there for the day of training, and to reconnect with our team and interns there. I got to hear how the summer had been going so far before the teams arrived. Like all short term team trainings, they covered who we are as an organisation and why we're here doing what we're doing. There were sessions on culture, teaching English, and the roles of the short term team. 


But my favourite part was hearing this guy's story. He was there to lead worship on Saturday morning and he was asked to share his testimony. At an English camp he saw the short term team and how they loved one another and the students, and he saw that they were different. He started to seek after the truth and after camp he accepted Christ. And not only was his life changed but now his mum and sister are also believers! 


As I waited for the train home I stood on the platform and realised that some things just don't get old - even after ten years. I can remember waiting for trains that first year and still, somehow, trains feel like a fun way to travel (most of the time, anyway). And hearing how God is changing lives and eternities through camps? It's still amazing in a deep, gives-me-goosebumps, way. I'm so grateful for the glimpses God gives us of how He's working!


Monday, 17 July 2017

Camps happening this week - 17th July

These posts are happening each Monday this summer to invite you to pray with us for the camps happening this week! 

This week the camps that are happening are:



  • three in Estonia
  • one in Germany
  • twelve in Czech
  • five in Slovakia
  • three in Ukraine
  • two in Romania
  • one in Bulgaria
  • two in Serbia
If you'd like to get a feel for our camps check out this video:



This summer we will have a total of one hundred and twenty two camps across our thirteen countries! We have one hundred and five interns serving with us for three months, and over one thousand people serving on short term teams. For each camp, we'll be partnering with a local church to put on an English, sports, European, or music camp. And young people from the town, city, or area will be invited to come along, to learn English or grow in their football skills, or perform in a rock-pop choir, and they'll hear the Gospel and be invited to respond. 

The theme for our camps this year is SEEN and we'll spend the week looking at how people are seen by Jesus. Each night we will look at a different encounter Jesus has with someone in the Bible and what that tells us about him, and about us. We're praying boldly that eight hundred and fifty young people will put their faith in Jesus this year. And we're praying that they, and the others at camp, will get plugged into the local church where they'll be discipled to be disciples who make disciples who make disciples. 

Please pray with us for the camps that are happening this week - 


  • for the local church: that they will build relationships with young people from their community and share the Gospel, and that they'll be able to follow up with these students well
  • for the interns and short term teams: that God will use them powerfully as they serve the local churches here, and that God would call some of them to this ministry full time!
  • for students: that God would powerfully draw many to themselves, and that when they go home they would be excited about growing in Christ.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Intern Training 2017




After the joys and challenges of the Amazing Race we begin four full days of Intern Training at Malenovice. This is the group of people who were there - one hundred and five interns plus staff. 


Our conference centre at Malenovice is bursting at capacity - a very good problem to have! That means that during the day we met in our big marquee/tent for our sessions, and at night we squeezed into the meeting room inside the hotel.


One of our biggest goals for Intern Training was that interns would understand the five challenges Christ gives on the disciplemaking pathway (to come and see, repent and believe, follow me, follow me and fish for men, and I am sending you). As a ministry we want all we do to be based on the life and ministry of Christ and so we follow His model. And knowing this pathway well enables us to see where we are and how we can grow, and where others are and what they need in those spots to move to the next chair. So here is Aleisha interviewing Katka who is sharing what the process was like in her life.


As well as a lot of training on disciplemaking, personal growth, and team, we also train interns in all the practical parts of their internship - everything from teaching English, to working with translation, to the camp dance. I'm really thankful for the incredible people who taught and shared - in all we had over forty people involved in the conference! And some of those people were nationals sharing about their country in their second language! 


Each night the evening talks were on idols. Aleisha spoke on the first night, and then our president Dave spoke on the other three nights. Idols might seem like a funny topic to dive into but Aleisha shared the following quote from Chris Wright:

"Idolatry.. is the biggest obstacle to world mission" 

God is King and should be Lord over all my life - but sometimes we get caught up in worshipping other things. And we'd never say that we're worshipping other things but the truth is anything we're looking to for comfort, or security, or identity, that isn't Jesus is an idol. So some of the things that can become idols might be very good things! But we make them ultimate things, and that's where the problem is. 

So each night we looked at Jeremiah 17 and the symptoms of idols, and then we looked at idols were learn about the bible and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal anything in our lives we were worshipping that were not Him. Our hope was that in seeking freedom from all these idols we all would be freed up to serve Christ fully and bear much fruit for Him this summer.



It was a great privilege for me to speak a couple of times during Intern Training also. I facilitated a session on the gospel in Europe where everybody heard quick little talks, mostly from nationals, about different JV countries, what it looks like to follow Christ there, and what challenges there are to the gospel in that place. During that session I got to reveal our camp theme for the year, talk about the camp talks, and explain why they were written - to meet the exact needs and challenges people had just been sharing about.

I also got to lead a session on culture - with one hundred and five people, from eleven different countries, serving in thirteen countries for the summer, we had a lot different cultures in the room! And when we serve God with our culture, and cross-culturally, it can be a really beautiful picture of the gospel. But we need to learn to do those things well. So we did a fun, interactive task and then debriefed it and I gave some tips for serving well across cultures.


Speaking at and helping to lead this event was definitely challenging at times - and there were moments where we definitely experienced spiritual warfare. We went to deep and hard places, knowing that Christ wants us to be completely free. It was a battle but so rewarding to stand in faith with these interns for all that God has for them - both personally and as they serve Him in these nations this summer.


On the last night we commissioned each group of interns to their country by praying over them, and then they had communion in their teams. The next morning many got up early to head to their mission fields for the summer and it was a joy to send them out! And that's why we dug our heels in and stood in faith - because sending out one hundred and five interns (plus staff) to serve for three months in complete freedom in Christ? That could really change these nations as they reach out to, disciple, and equip this next generation.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Amazing Race 2017!



Each year our summer internship kicks off with a three day Amazing Race, based on the TV show by the same name. Teams are put in teams, generally the teams they'll be serving in all summer, and are given clues that take them all over the place to complete challenges. The race is a lot of work to organise (there are people who work on it all year, alongside other responsibilities) and run but it is so rewarding. 

And it's rewarding because it accomplishes what we need and want it to - we bring together people who are usually total strangers and we need them to bond and come together as teams really quickly. The Amazing Race gives them the opportunity to do that as they create shared memories and learn how to celebrate each others' strengths and protect weaknesses. People learn how to push themselves and each other - through hard tasks, and conflict. And they learn to celebrate one another as they conquer tasks.

We debrief the Amazing Race at Intern Training, after it's all finished and people have showered and slept. Teams get to talk through what they learnt about themselves and each other and what they want to be true of their summers in light of that. The Amazing Race is just the start of a summer spent serving local churches throughout central and eastern Europe, so it's wonderful to see teams loving one another well and bonded because of the race.

This year we had one hundred and five interns running, plus staff who led a lot of the teams. You can see all the photos below of most of the tasks to get a sense of the race - we landed and finished in Prague, with a little day trip on the second day.


The teams reading their first clue - it told them to go to a statue of a famous reformer, Jan Hus!


Pretty much that entire line is our interns (one per team) queuing to get transport tickets.


The statue they were looking for - on Old Town Square.


The task here was a scavenger hunt - teams were given a lot of photos of details on buildings which they had to find, plus some tasks to complete and record.


The next clue told them to go to the statue of the dead horse - easier said than done (I struggled to find it even thought I knew where it was) and there they had to memorise a bible verse in Czech and find a stranger to translate it for them.


At the next spot they had to locate the bible verse that had just been translated for them - "I have come that they may have life and life to the full". Some teams knew it right away, and others had to search a little.


One of the tasks during the scavenger hunt was to find someone to tell you one of three Czech fairytales. The last task of the night was to reenact the fairytale you were told, as a musical with costumes. It was pretty funny! And sadly some strangers hadn't given enough information for teams to tell the full story, so they had to find another person to give them more details.


It was a beautiful spot to watch a lot of teams perform musicals!


The next morning teams had to recite the JV core values, with each core value earning them one puzzle piece to a photo not unlike the one below. Teams had to figure out where the castle, Karlštejn, was and head there. On the train teams were given a mini devotion and an outline for praying for one another.


It was quite the hike to the castle! But absolutely beautiful.


After a task at the castle (to find our "Wally/Waldo" in the village - yes, we had a helper dressed up in a red and white striped shirt) teams entered the forest where most of the rest of the tasks for the day were. The theme for the day was that they were in the resistance during the Second World War - a secondary aim of the Race was to expose teams to some religious, cultural and historical elements of Czech, as that would help them understand central and eastern Europe more.


First they had to create some team war paint and then one member had to run along a path with two paintball-gun-wielding helpers standing guard to retrieve a clue. For every hit they received, teams had to wait five minutes before continuing.


After hiking through more of the forest teams had to construct a tent, although only one of team members could see and talk. The rest were blindfolded and were obeying the speaker's instructions. An excellent task in learning communication! 


After more hiking through the forest there was a physical challenge as teams had to carry a teammate around a big circular area, one time for the number of teammates they had.


A sudoku held the clue for the village they were heading for.


A beautiful location to do a sudoku in!


And a beautiful walk to the village (as you can see - I walked/ran the entire route the interns did that day - I think I did more than 22,000 steps! And I had the benefit that I knew where I was going, and could speak Czech to ask for help if I needed to.)


From the village interns caught a bus to Prague where there was just one more station - and the most dreaded of them all. Teams got to spin the wheel of doom and that revealed what delight they had to eat. 


Team Bulgaria enjoying their choice.. with some bags in case they threw up.


On the last day teams had a lot of challenges around Prague Castle - here they are memorising facts about a different JV missionary from each of our thirteen countries. Later they would have to match missionaries to their country and say one fact per person.


Teams also had to paint a communist poster that focused on teamwork. Also that day they had to complete a physical challenge involving a lot of squats, burpees and pushups, and creating a team pyramid. Teams also had another time of prayer overlooking the city.


On the last day I was mostly sitting at the finish line at the top of Wenceslas Square. Teams arrived at the bottom and had to carry an egg on a spoon to me at the top and that was them finished! The winners were the International Edge Sports team - they won each day (which has never happened before) and are the first all guy team to win! It was a lot of fun to watch them tackle each challenge with determination before running to the next one!


Second place went to the Czech Edge Sports team! Another team that ran a lot!


And third place was Czech BenBarr. 


It was so fun to celebrate each team as they crossed the finish line! Then I just had the small task of co-ordinating getting over one hundred and fifty people on the correct train, when the platform wasn't even called ten minutes before the departure time. 

Thankfully we made it! The conductor was lovely, and thought the sight of one hundred and fifty very tired people getting on a train was hilarious. It was good to get everyone on the train and begin our four hour journey to Ostrava, and then our conference centre at Malenovice to shower and sleep (and we definitely needed both of those things - you could smell us on the train!) before Intern Training began the next day.