Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heading to Prague

Tyler left on a train at 10 this morning, heading to Prague.

Sixty nine others are making their way to Prague tomorrow. Some (like our nephew Justin from Denver!) are flying in from the States. Others have already arrived in Europe so are coming by cars and trains to meet up in Prague.

What's in Prague?

JV's version of the Amazing Race!

Our staff have been hard at work planning JV intern training, which starts off with this team bonding experience.

Last year the interns were in Vienna, Bratislava and Brno over the course of three days, as they were racing towards Malenovice.

Who knows where they'll be for this year's Amazing Race? Or what kinds of crazy, challenging or outrageous courageous activities they'll be involved in?!

What we do know is that they'll eventually all end up at our training center on Friday for five days of training in teaching English, leading small groups, sharing their faith, being culturally sensitive, answering questions, playing games, having spiritual conversations...and a lot of other things!

Dave will be teaching out of Ephesians each evening, focusing on our identity in Christ.

It's going to be a rich week for the interns...and we're praying it will be an awesome summer of ministry for them afterward!

Monday, May 30, 2011


....for protecting the boys last night when they were on their way home from a hiking trip in Slovakia and nearly slammed into a deer in the middle of the road. Caleb had the quick sense NOT to swerve, rather put on the brakes and actually bumped into the deer before he lumbered off. Whew! So thankful!

...for Claire and Caleb's class trips that started this morning at 6 and 6:30 AM! We were up at 5:30 around here, finishing up with packing. I took them to their respective bus and train and they made it off okay, and to their destinations with no problems...Caleb to Slovakia for white water rafting, and Claire to Prague for sight-seeing.

...for a sweet morning and afternoon at the Stephen's house, getting to help with feeding their precious twin boys. Babies are always amazing...but what a miracle these two are! It's a delight to hold, feed, burp, snuggle, change and swaddle them!

...for a great time with Tyler today before he leaves for his JV internship tomorrow. We had lunch together, did some shopping and talking...and I soaked it all in! Though we may see him here and there, he'll be busy the rest of the summer and we won't have these kinds of times again until Christmas!

...for loads of SUNSHINE!! After a somewhat rainy week-end, it was delightful to wake up to blue sky and sun this morning. I don't take that for granted here!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Yesterday and today were spent in a "new to me" place here in Czech. Oh how I love discovering new places...especially with Dave!

We were given a sweet gift from some friends for an overnight get-away, so decided to head to Luhacovice, a spa town about two hours away. I can't believe we've never been there before...what a beautiful town!

After more than two hours of looking at ten places to stay (I am NOT kidding! Yes...we were picky about how to spend our gift), we ended up at a lovely hotel that was just about as perfect as it gets in my book. (Not pictured below...but that one looks pretty doesn't it?! I actually think that's someone's home!)

We fully expected to walk the town. I had my camera all ready for some great photos since this is one of those really cool old spa towns...but it started raining just after we arrived.

So not many photos...except in my mind where I will remember this gift for a long time.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Out in the Morning

Do you have a quiet place you go to when you need to talk to the Lord?

I have a few, but my favorite place requires just one thing...

...my running shoes.

I headed out this morning, with so much on my heart to talk to the Lord about.

I'd been meaning to take my camera on a run for several weeks now, and finally remembered this morning...wanted to capture His incredible creation as I spent time with Him.

Headed out to the little airfield near us...it leads to my favorite spot to just sit, pray, and be quiet.


After running hard, even some sprints (helps clear my head), I sat down in my favorite spot...some old cement blocks at the end of the airfield.

That view never gets old!!! I stayed for quite a while today - releasing all that was on my heart. Even sang out loud since no on was around to hear me!

Except for this deer I encountered just a few minutes later as I left to head for home! He was literally standing five feet from me, staring me in the eyes on the side of the road...it startled me!

I grabbed my camera but was too late to get him right in front of me as he bounded off. I don't know who was more startled...him or me!

Literally took some time to stop and smell the roses lilacs on the way home. One of my favorite scents of all time.

One last stretch of road...

Before home.

So thankful for that sweet, quiet time with the Lord today. Been a good day ever since.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What's Really on my Heart

I've written two other blog posts today...that I'm not posting.

Why? It's not what's on my heart today. The things that are really on my heart are things I can't write about...

Friends in crisis that I'm praying for.

Situations that seem impossible that I'm talking to the Lord about.

Needs that I'm bringing just to the Lord.

It's that kind of a day. I feel the weight of these things, though they are not my burden to carry and I'm entrusting them to the Lord. Yet my heart is heavy. I can't pretend to be emotionally engaged in something else when these things are on my mind.

So...I'm putting faith into practice, praying and trusting God for what's really on my heart today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Spent the morning at the office in our Bteam meeting (that's our care team for JV), evaluating conference last week, and catching up on things with each other. Always love Tuesdays with our team!

When I arrived home, Tyler and Claire were already back from their brother-sister lunch together (love that they do that!). I was getting a bite to eat when Tyler called out to me, "Mom...can you come here?"

If you're a parent, you know there are different tones of voice for different types of situations. Most of the time I can read the tone of my kids' voices well...but this time I couldn't! I actually said, "Is something wrong?"

Much to my delight and amusement, it was anything but wrong!

While Tyler and Claire were out for lunch, they saw a flower shop so stopped in to see what they had...

...and bought flowers to plant for me!!

Just last night I'd stayed out until after dark, weeding my flower garden, which had been sorely neglected for several weeks...so much so that I had to pull up some flowers I'd planted earlier (they died when it snowed in early May) and fill three baskets full of weeds for the compost pile!

It looked much better this morning, but was looking empty too. I don't know when I would've gotten around to buying new flowers though. What a good surprise that Tyler and Claire did for me!

Tyler planted the first flowers he bought, but then decided to go back for more, even adding in some herbs to plant as well. Then came back and finished putting it all in for me.

I did some more weeding...

 And we got it looking quite pretty in the warm, afternoon sun!

Tyler made my day!

Monday, May 23, 2011

On the Lighter Side...

There are days when we see the power of God at work. Those are AWESOME DAYS!!

Then, there are days that are...well, just frustrating normal!

In one area of our lives, I've been experiencing a frustration that's lasted a while.

Back in early March, before my parents left to come visit us, my mom mailed a package of very random items, worth almost nothing, in order to save space in her suitcase for her more important things. The only thing of real value was a small quilt top that my grandma had made before she died.

Normally packages take between 10-14 days to arrive from the US. But two weeks went by and no package.

A week after my parents arrived (so this is now three weeks after she'd mailed the package) I got a registered letter in the mail saying that the package was in customs in Prague. I could either go to the office in Prague (a mere 3 hour train ride away) or send in multiple forms, along with the receipts, for everything that was in the package.


If it wasn't for the fact that the package was from my mom, I wouldn't even KNOW what was in the package! And they want receipts???

I wrote to them to say that the package was from my mom, that she was here visiting, and that it was going to be very difficult to get those receipts.

This set off six weeks of back and forth with a man in the Prague post office. He and I were almost pen pals by the end!

Finally, after 9 weeks from the time my mom mailed the package, and many forms filled out and sent to him, it arrived at our post office.

Of course my mom was long gone by then, so the vitamins she'd sent for herself were no longer needed, and the sewing project she was going to do with Claire was past the point of possibility.

But at least all the items in the package were accounted for...and I didn't have to pay any customs to get the package (which was what the whole process had been about...they wanted me to pay to get the package, though never told me how much).

We have lived here 17 years and only once have I had to pay customs for a package. However, after receiving this package, and reading the enclosed papers, I could see that times have changed.

Due to some new EU postal regulations (since March 13th), packages are subject to customs searches, and you can be charged a tax to receive the packages.

I have searched, and searched and searched, on the internet to try and find and/or understand what the regulations are...to no avail! (And the post office ladies don't know either!)

A padded envelope with some things in it arrived with no problem a few days ago. My mom's package was in a box. Are there different regulations for envelopes vs. boxes? I don't know!

I do know that I had to sign over power of attorney for that package so that my "pen pal" could go to bat for me and get it out of customs! How weird is that!

In the end, the day I finally received the package, I found out how much the customs charge was supposed to be.

$5.30! If I'd known that in the beginning, I would've just paid it.

Such is normal life around here sometimes!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Family Nights

Ever since our kids were young, we've had a family night once a week.

Our dear friend, Theresa, suggested it to us when Claire was just 2, and we've been doing it ever since!

We have listened to dad tell Bible stories.

We've made creatures out of vegetables (wish I could find that photo...it's a great one!).

Pulled all the mattresses off our beds and made a place in the living room to tumble on.

Built rockets out of huge boxes.

Drawn life size versions of ourselves on big rolls of paper.

Created silly decorations for Christmas.

Decorated gingerbread.

Learned to sing harmony.

Gone on hikes.

Had speech class with dad.

Been out for ice cream.

And prayed for each other, our friends, and for the ministry.

For the past years, once the kids became teenagers, we've had Bible study together too.

Every week is different. No two weeks have ever been the same except...

It's always the highlight of the week!

We had family night last night...with Tyler home! It made this mama very happy!

It was Bible study while eating dinner at a restaurant last night...we talked about faith and what we'd learned at conference last week. Then it was off to see a movie together!

I love family nights!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Summer in Ministry

Yesterday I shared about our JV missionary kids, but today I get to talk about one specific JVK...

Tyler! He returned to Czech last Saturday, during our spring conference.

Tyler just finished his sophomore year at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. This may not be the phrase he would use to describe how much he loves Moody, but when I talk about it with others I always say he's a "pig in mud" there! :)

He has learned so much, grown so much, and been so deeply impacted by the faculty and students there, as well as at our home church in the Chicago area, Grace Church of DuPage, where he does his student ministry. It's been a perfect fit for him all the way around!

After spending last summer as a JV intern in Croatia, he felt led to come back to his roots and intern here in Czech this summer.

We're thrilled!

He'll be co-leading a team with Ryan Rayburn, a Moody grad who's been here to Czech many times to serve, who also happens to be a friend of Tyler's. Again...a perfect fit!

The internship starts next Thursday with a team leader retreat, and then a few days later the interns will arrive to do JV's version of the "Amazing Race" for three days to kick things off. They'll begin in Prague and have to make their way to Malenovice by facing numerous challenges in who-knows-how-many-cities along the way! It's a great team building time!

Once they've arrived, intern training will commence, including evening sessions led by one of the interns' dads...ha ha! It's Dave! He'll be teaching through the book of Ephesians for them.

After nearly a week of training, the teams will disperse to their various countries and begin preparation for camps which start around the first of July.

When I asked him what his heart and vision is for this summer these were his thoughts, as written by him:

"Could we expect anything less from our great God than a harvest? When the Gospel is proclaimed and lived out in a visible way, it impacts hearts. We're praying for tangible fruit that impacts this country for generations and generations to come. You could say I'm fully on board with the vision of Josiah Venture! That's where my heart is as well - to see a generation rising up in the strength of the Gospel to bring an entire nation back to Jesus."

Please pray for Tyler, as well as the 70+ interns who are headed this way to share and live out the Gospel this summer!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

JV Kids and Faith

When we brought our two little boys here to Czech almost 18 years ago, it really never crossed my mind that we would have more than a few other missionary kids in our lives.

Was I ever wrong, as you saw in the photo I posted the other day!

I count 60 kids in this photo, there are another 16 or so who are in the support raising process with their families, and I can count at least 36 more JV Kids who have been out here on the field with us sometime in the past 17 years! That's a lot of missionary kids.

There are many blessings about the missionary life, but one of them is definitely our JV Kids. They are an absolutely amazing group of people.

A team from Scottsdale Bible in Arizona came for at least the tenth year in a row (they've been so many times we've lost count!) under the leadership of our dear friend, Rae Larson, to care for our little ones. Their hands were FULL that week with all the JV Babies and Toddlers!

Tanya and Korban Miller came for our older kids. Korban is a worship pastor in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and both he and Tanya are crazy gifted and talented in music. We were so excited about what they would bring to our older kids this year.

And that they did! The kids put on an outstanding "Glee" type of choir/drama performance that was very moving to us all. In the above photo they're singing a song that ends with "We bring glory, we bring honor, we bring praises forever, amen...to the King, to the King". Not a dry eye in sight on that one!

However, this is against the backdrop of what was happening in their lives before they came. Two weeks before they were to fly, Tanya and Korban received some devastating news. Six months into their fourth child's pregnancy, they were given the news that this precious little girl had no brain and will only live a few hours after birth.

After grieving and much prayer, they made the agonizing decision to proceed forth with the pregnancy until birth, and to come to serve our JV Kids in spite of what was happening in their lives.

And by doing so, they came as a live example of people who are living out the theme of our conference that was chosen months ago - "Faith That Amazes".

They shared openly with the JV Kids, about what was going on in their lives, which had tremendous impact on them...they will never forget this precious couple who have placed themselves so trustingly into the hands of the Lord in the midst of true sorrow.

On Saturday night, after finishing their last full rehearsal for the performance that was coming the next morning, Caleb and Noah gathered the older JV kids together and said they felt led by God to give a song to Korban and Tanya. They wanted to express their hearts to them, and already had the words off of the internet to do so, but no music that they could find.

They sent the JVK out of the room so they could write the music, and within five amazing, Spirit-filled minutes, the boys had finished the majority of the song. They called the rest of the kids in to teach it to them, taking just a little more than an hour to do it.

At the end of the performance on Sunday morning, they called Korban and Tanya to the front and had them sit down so they could sing "Everything is in Your Hands" for them...freshly written and sung with much heart by those JV Kids.

You want to talk about not a dry eye!!!!!! Oh...I can't even begin to express how beautiful that song was...how tender, how faith-filled, how personal.

At the end, they encircled Tanya and Korban and prayed for them, from the depths of their faith-filled hearts.

It was a perfect end to our JV conference.

We pray for ourselves, and for our children, that we too would be living examples of people who are full of the kind of faith that amazes Jesus!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Faith that Amazes

A year ago today, I was at the hospital with Dave. He was there for heart surgery - repair on his damaged mitral valve.

We were, and still are, so grateful that the Lord, in his mercy, gave Dave a successful surgery and recovery.

Facing that crisis was faith stretching, and faith building for us all. It allowed for a deeper dependence on the Lord that I think (hope!) has resulted in greater faith and trust in Him.

With the theme of our JV conference being "Faith that Amazes", Dr. Lutzer spoke on a different angle of that theme each session last week.

I was particularly blessed by one of his talks entitled, "A Faith for Personal Storms", based on the passage in Matthew 14.

Though it would be great if you had been there to hear the whole message (he is such a good speaker, and even more so, a godly man who practices what he preaches), I want to share his seven lessons from that passage as it relates to what we were facing a year ago on this day.

  1. Storms are often encountered in obedience to Christ (Jesus had sent them into the boat)
  2. Storms remind us of the promises of God
  3. Even when we cannot see Jesus, he can see us (Jesus was on the shore and knew where they were the whole time)
  4. Jesus comes to us at the right time
  5. Our fears (of what we are facing) might be Jesus in disguise (this was such an interesting point - the disciples were filled with fear at the ghost they thought was walking on water...and it turned out to be Jesus!)
  6. The water that threatens to be over our head is under his feet (Jesus was walking ON what the disciples were fearing would drown them)
  7. Our ability to walk (on water) depends on the focus of our eyes
He finished up by saying, "Count on Jesus to be there in the midst of your storms, when you are desperate."

I found this so meaningful, especially in light of the many trials the Lord has entrusted to us over the past 13 years (that's when our health trials began with Claire in the summer of 1997, and continued on for many years, even into this past March when I had the migraine that put me into the hospital).

For a long time I wrestled with God, wanting to know WHY we had to endure those things.

But at one particular point along the way eight years ago, I made a decision and commitment to stop asking why and began saying, "I trust you" and "Thank you".

That was a life changing decision and I am in a completely different place today in my walk with the Lord, and in my faith and trust in Him, because of it.

I don't know if I have the kind of faith yet that amazes Jesus, but I sure want to be growing in that direction!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We are Growing!

It might take me all week to post about our JV Spring Conference...it was that amazing of a week together with our team!

For now, I want to share some pictures of our JV family.


Dave told us all at conference that JV now has 204 staff members in 11 countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe. This photo doesn't show everyone in our JV family since this spring conference is for our North American missionaries, national country leaders, and both their families.

If we were to bring together everyone at one conference, it would be...a lot! I don't even know how many! But at this conference we had 207 people, which included the above mentioned people, as well as child care workers, guests checking out JV, a JV board member, and some of our JV staff who are in the States.

Now...take a look at THIS!

In this pictures are all of our JV Kids, with the exception of one dad sitting with his girl down in front, and Ashley Ross (top, middle, next to Caleb), our new JVK care person who just came to the field in April! Otherwise, the rest are all our missionary kids!

We have had a significant increase in children over the past couple of years...we love that! There are many young families who have joined JV in the past two years...and recently there has been a baby boom in JV! Take a look at this!


In the past fourteen months, thirteen new JV babies have been born! That is great multiplication for the Kingdom right there!

On the left side, you'll notice Brian and Aleisha Stephens holding their twin boys, Gabe and Alex! While Aleisha wasn't at the conference (the boys and Aleisha came home from the hospital on Monday, a little more than two weeks after they were born, and conference started Wednesday...a little too soon to have them at conference!), they did bring their boys up for our baby recognition one evening. It was SO fantastic to have them join all the other JV babies and to pray over them all!

You'd have to be at a JV conference to feel the joy of being together with this family...there really is nothing quite like it! We are so proud of our team and love them dearly!

** All photos courtesy of Greg Carlson, our Poland country leader. THANKS Greg!!**