Saturday, August 1, 2015

Chasing Sunsets

This has been the prettiest summer in Czech that I can remember in twenty two years of living here. Maybe I have a bad memory...or maybe it's just been "one of those summers"! In either case, it's been delightful.

I haven't minded the hot days, or the rainstorms when they've come. But it's been the sunsets that have consistently been so lovely. Claire and I set off last night to see if we could find a spot to fully take it in.

With nothing more than a general direction to head in, we drove out through the countryside in search of a hill with a view. Going farther than I expected we'd have to, dusk began to settle and we wondered if we'd ever find just the right spot.

I actually thought we'd miss it, so followed signs to a castle nearby where I thought we could at least take some good shadowy "post-sunset" pictures.

But happened! I saw a left turn on a tiny country road and took it to find this.

And this!!

With a mutual joy in capturing the moment, we took pictures to our heart's content as the sun set on another summer's day.

I so enjoy these kinds of moments together with Claire, or other family members if they're nearby! It wouldn't be the same if I was by myself with no one to share in the delight of God's beauty.

We thought we were done taking pictures as the sun set in the west.

Then we turned around to the east.

You could've heard our squeals of delight a long way's off! The rising of a blue moon, the second full moon in the month of July, happened as we were in that field! To say it was spectacular doesn't even begin to capture the sheer beauty of the moment.

Neither did our cameras, but we tried!

Three hundred photos later...ha!...the sun had set, the moon had risen and darkness descended. It was time to head home.

But oh what a glorious hour it was up on the hills near Hukvaldy, the castle we were headed for, but never made it to!

"Thanks for suggesting we go chase the sunset Claire!"

Friday, July 31, 2015

In Search of Coffee

Nearly twelve hours have passed and this is still giving me the giggles.

Random pony, tied up to a garbage can, in a section of Ostrava this afternoon...this is what has me giggling.

And not just one pony, but two!

I honestly have no idea whatsoever as to the reason for their presence at an outdoor shopping area Claire and I visited today. But it sure did tickle some funny bone of mine seeing them!

We were actually in search of a coffee shop I'd heard about from some of our teammates. GPS took me to a back parking lot that honestly looked quite un-promising. And even a stop into a drugstore to ask about it left us no closer to finding it.

But we persevered and finally found it upstairs in a very quiet section of the shopping mall.

I first learned of Laura Coffee this winter while at the train station in Ostrava where they have an outdoor cart. But today Claire and I got to experience the actual cafe and roasting center!

While the entrance was cute, the view out of the window left a little to be desired.

But the atmosphere inside was charming, and the coffee (a Chemex brew!) was delightful!

It's hard to imagine that the cutest coffee shop I now know of in Ostrava is located in such a crazy area of town! I would never have expected it to be here, nor to be so darling. But there it is. I'm sure I'll be back.

Claire and I enjoyed a sweet hour together and left feeling filled up with a good memory of fun conversation and yummy coffee from this part of Ostrava!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Evening Drive

A few weeks ago Dave and I took an evening drive up into the mountains. As we drove I had a realization: If you blindfolded me, dropped me in by helicopter and walked me down into this area, I'd know exactly where I was!

These iconic images of the Beskydy Mountains (where we live) are happily seared into my memory. Things like those tall fir trees, with Czech cottages nestled below.

And red roofs, window boxes full of red geraniums, and hand-crafted gates where no two are alike.

Those doors, that railing, the white lattice and the unpainted plaster on the house - these are images that capture this area.

It's also winding driveways up to cottages, and grass growing down the middle of said driveways. Even the red and white striped road sign is iconic to me!

The wooden siding and white windows, the barn next door with stacks of wood nearby, and even the telephone lines feel so familiar and comforting to me.

As are the small personal "chaty" (cottages) scattered across the hillside.

And last, but not least, the garden paraphernalia that perhaps is not iconic to the Beskydy's, but certainly present! It never ceases to make me giggle a little when I see one of those silly gnomes peeking out from somewhere!

These are not touristy places, or anything really special. But it's comforting signs of "home" to me.

I wonder what you would show me about where YOU live if you were writing this blog post!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Well Done Susan!

Today, on the beautiful square of Cieszyn, Poland, I said goodbye to a very dear friend.

Susan Ellis has served with us in Josiah Venture for twenty years, giving her life and sharing the Gospel with young people in Poland.

An extraordinary discipler of women, a gifted leader, an invaluable team player, a passionate woman of God...Susan faithfully, diligently and joyfully made an incredible impact on the country of Poland for the sake of Christ throughout her years of service.

Every goodbye is hard, but this one is even harder due to the fact that we've been sharing life for more than just her twenty years in JV. We've actually been friends for thirty years.

Recognize those faces? Susan, Laura (Larrabee) Hash and I attended Multnomah School of the Bible together as single women. You can probably tell by our hairstyles that this was in the mid 80's!

We stayed in touch over the next several years, seeing her here and there while she lived in California and we lived in Germany.

In 1992 she visited us in Wheaton and we shared our dream and vision to move somewhere into Central and Eastern Europe and begin working with young people to share the Gospel, disciple and train leaders. God was stirring something in her heart at the time and it would be just months later when he began to reveal his plan for her life.

The following year she made the decision to join JV, a very small team at the time (just three couples, two living in Czech, one living in Poland) and began the process of raising support.

While in Chicago for missionary training in January '95, she celebrated Caleb's 2nd birthday with us as we were back in the States to update our supporting churches on the early days of Josiah Venture.

Eight months later, in August 1995, she arrived in Poland and moved to Krakow to begin serving with us. She was there to celebrate another birthday, Claire's first, at Pizza Hut there!

During the next twenty years, Susan moved throughout Poland to numerous cities, wherever the need was, and faithfully served in too many way to even recount.  She also survived two separate rounds of cancer which she battled in the States, then returned to Poland as soon as she was able. Knowing God had still called her there, cancer didn't stop her from coming back!

Susan is persistent, committed, loyal, dedicated, sacrificial and oh so much fun to be around! We're infinitely thankful for the Lord's miraculous saving of her life, and that we had the privilege of living life with her these past twenty years.

But the time has now come to send her on a new missionary journey, this time back to the U.S..

I say it this way because wherever Susan is, she is engaged in living out her faith in a most vibrant way. So although she won't be serving in Poland with JV, she will STILL be serving the Lord! It's just the way Susan lives her life and I deeply admire her and love her for that.

"Susan, you are an amazing servant of God who has laid down her life for the sake of the Gospel time and time again through the years. The fruit of your labor is so abundant, and I can only imagine how many lives are different and transformed because of you and your service in Poland. Thank you and BLESS YOU for the thousands of ways you've touched people's lives, including mine, these past twenty years. Oh how we'll all miss you. But this isn't the end! We're all still on our missionary journey and I fully expect our paths to cross many times again over the next thirty years! LOVE YOU SO MUCH and praying for the next leg of your journey. Well done good and faithful servant!"

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On the Vltava

After spending time with the Grace church team from Chicago yesterday, we made our way back across the Charles Bridge to meet up with another team here from Alaska, who also served at an English camp last week.

We met that team here, on the Maria Croon City Sightseeing boat where they were taking a dinner cruise on the Vltava for their last night in country.

Few know the story of Dave's first evangelism outreach that fueled his desire and calling to work with youth.

It happened on an American military base in Hanau, Germany when he was just 18 years old, at the invite and encouragement of this woman, Pat Pennell (who was here for her seventh year of English camps with her husband, the pastor of the church in Alaska, and the team that accompanied them).

At that time she was a single missionary with Cadence International, the organization Dave's dad helped found many years earlier.

When Dave was 18, his dad accepted the position of European field director and moved his family to Germany. Thinking it would be a great adventure and opportunity, Dave delayed his start in college and moved with them to spend a year there. That proved to be a pivotal point in his life that eventually led to the beginning of Malachi Ministries which he led for seven years, and the beginning of Josiah Venture which began twenty two years ago.

While discipling a group of high schoolers that year (with Dave only a year or two older than them!) it was Pat who made it possible for him to bring them to Hanau to lead his first evangelistic outreach event.

As we traveled down the Vltava River enjoying a beautiful summer evening together, we reminisced over those early days of ministry and how significant they were to what God's big plan and will was for Dave's life. 

With a boatload of 60 people including their team, some JV interns, as well as students and parents from the camp they'd just come from, Dave got to tell the JV story going all the way back to that week of ministry in Hanau at Pat's invitation, and how that set the course for JV's ministry today.

It truly could not have been a more beautiful evening, giving God glory for what HE has done over the past thirty five years since that first outreach event.

Who would've ever known it would lead us to the Czech Republic years later, and to thousands of young people hearing the Gospel in these Central and Eastern European countries.

It reminds me that we never know what a word spoken here or there can mean in the big scheme of life. I'm sure Pat had no idea what her encouragement to Dave would bring about many years later.

But how special it was to travel on a boat down the river in the country we've lived in for twenty two years, with the woman who gave Dave that invitation to share the Gospel all those years ago. And who has now come here to serve with JV for so many years doing the same thing that she made possible for him years ago!

We all gave glory to God that evening, to our mighty, powerful and creative God who could set all that in motion to accomplish his will!

"Bless you Pat for following the Lord's leading years ago! And thank you for yours and Grady's years of investment here in the Czech Republic and your support and encouragement in our lives!"