Sunday, March 31, 2013

White As Snow

HAPPY EASTER from snowy Frydlant!

Never was it truer than this morning to remember:

"Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe, sin had left a crimson stain...He washed me white as snow"!

Yes, snow greeted us early this morning as we headed up to Malenovice for our celebration of Jesus' resurrection on this absolutely magnificent Easter morning.

When you're greeted in the parking lot by the tractor plowing snow, you know it's not just a little snowfall.

Even though we had a hike up this hill this morning, catching a glimpse of this view as we came through the trees was worth it!

The "velky sal" was prepared so beautifully this morning for the service.

And despite the snow, Claire and I wore dresses because it just doesn't seem right to go to Easter service in anything but a dress! :)

She and I had the privilege of joining our dear friend, Jonny, in leading worship this morning. Many times I was choked up singing the Czech worship songs I love so much.

Dave had the honor of preaching this morning, and brought such a powerful Easter message. Wish you could've been there to hear it!

Afterward we gathered in the restaurant, enjoying time with our church family, as well as those who came from out of town to celebrate Easter here.

One of those was our dear Nina, who we've known for 18 years - ever since she was in our youth group in Havirov! She was Claire's first babysitter when she was just three months old!

I didn't get a picture (which I'm so sorry about Nina!), but SHE now has a sweet three month old baby boy. Wow...full circle!!

As always, sweet to get time with my friend, Sharon Till!

By the time we left three hours later, it had dumped about 8 inches of snow...and was STILL snowing!

The walk back down the hill was MAGICAL!!!! It reminded me of the days when we lived in the hotel and often couldn't drive up or down the hill. We made this walk MANY times back then.

I'm still singing that can you help but not think of it on a day like this??!!!

"...He washed me white as snow."

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Experimenting Mode

I am in experiment mode with my blog.

You know how it is, right? Maybe it's arranging furniture for the tenth time in your living room, or maybe it's getting that cake recipe "just right". Most likely, we all have something we're "working on", and it takes a few (perhaps a lot) of tries before it feels right.

For me, it's my blog that I'm trying to figure out.

I'm in the midst of a remodel on it and I hope you'll hang with me through it! Writing is an important part of life for me - something that I really enjoy doing. But creating the right "home" for it is also important so I'm trying to do something about it.

These past four weeks I've been taking an on-line class about blogging through Holly Becker at Decor8. Wow, have I ever learned a whole lot in this class! It's been very inspiring and helpful.

But it's a bit like taking an interior decorating class, where suddenly the things you thought looked great in your house seem to need some sprucing up. And rightfully so! There is nothing wrong with looking at things with different eyes to see where improvements can be made...and then making them!

So that's what I'm in the midst of - working on it until it feels "just right".

Just don't want you to be too surprised if you see something new coming and going for the next little while!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Twenty Six Blessings

Twenty six years ago in Speyer, Germany, I said, "I DO" to the love of my life.

Still saying it, every blessed day and year that passes!

Happy Anniversary to us!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Take 9 - Exit Tour

In September 2006, God opened an unusual door of opportunity to reach out to young people here in the Czech Republic.

Dave and an amazingly creative team produced 83 episodes of a television program called "Exit 316" that aired on Czech national television for two years. Its purpose was to show today's generation what life looks like when you take the way of faith. I wrote about the premier episode here (it was one of my first ever blog posts!).

During the time those episodes were airing, Exit Bible studies were led by young people in locations all over the country, discussing the show each week, and giving opportunity to talk about God and his relevance in their lives. (Those Bible studies still continue seven years later!)

From there, we began "Exit Tours" into high schools across the country, using the television show as a jumping off point for day long assemblies to build relationships, give concerts and lectures on various topics, and most importantly, share the Gospel. (Great explanation HERE of what Exit Tour is about, written by our Slovak team when Exit Tour came to their country)

Four and a half years later, Exit Tour is now on it's NINTH tour here in the Czech Republic!

A Christian band from southern California named, "Matter" are touring with the Exit team and will be in six cities over the next six weeks, sharing their music, testimonies and lives with over 5000 students. You can follow them on their Facebook page here.

Last week they were Cesky Tešin, and this week are in Opava, preparing the way for a larger Exit Tour there in the fall.

We praise God for how effective and fruitful this part of the ministry has been these past seven years. To be able to go directly into the schools to build relationships with young people is just amazing!

We're praying for more fruit in the coming weeks as they come face to face with thousands more young people and share the Good News of Jesus with them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Keeping It Real

Talking about the everyday stuff of life today...

There are two chocolate lovers in this house.

I am not one of them. I've always preferred salty things...give me a bag of salted almonds or ruffled Lay's potato chips any day.


This finds its way into my grocery basket!

Oh my! A Daim bar, from Sweden, embedded in a Swiss Milka chocolate bar?? It's hard to resist! I'll take that any day.

Just keeping it real here!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Single Ladies

I know I've written a lot about JV happenings recently...but it's the "stuff of life" right now - and what brings me great joy to write about!

This morning I was with these lovely ladies in Ostrava...Esther, Katka and Zuzi.

A half hour later they were joined by Alice and Susan, took a quick picture and then left in a car together. Going where??

To JV Single Ladies retreat in Austria!

This is the first JV ladies retreat in twenty years that I'm not leading, or even going to. One of our other JV ladies, Lori, is leading the retreat.

While I'll miss being with these ladies, it truly delights me that they are being loved on and cared for by one of our other JV ladies!

These dear ones, who serve so sacrificially and deserve to be loved on well, will be gone until Thursday.

Praying they get replenished, refueled, and refreshed during these days away!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Casting a Vision

Another historic event in the life Josiah Venture's ministry across Central and Eastern Europe is taking place this week-end.

But this time, it's at another location because our own hotel/training center at Malenovice is full! Nice problem to have (see here for the other historic event that took place this week).

JV team members from Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Slovenia are gathered for the week-end to dream, cast vision for and chart the course on a brand new ministry highway: SPORTS!

This group of people are passionate about reaching young people with the Gospel in their countries, and across the whole region, through any and all means of sports.

While JV currently has outreach ministry to young people through the means of English, music and media (our Exit Tours), we recognize that sports is an untapped means for reaching out to youth. We want to do something about that!

There's lots of excitement and discussion happening in this room as they dream about making this highway of evangelism a reality in each of our twelve JV countries.

With no sport's programs in the schools, there is a lot of potential for opening up this area to kids who love sports and want to be involved at a recreational level. In most towns and cities, the only options to be involved in something is through local clubs, and usually those are only for kids who have skills. For the young person who wants to learn, or just have fun, there are few options.

We'd love to see something like intramurals and after-school clubs that anyone could come be a part of, no matter their level of skill.

And most of all we'd love to see these young people have the opportunity to hear the Gospel and put their faith in Christ...ones who wouldn't go to an English or music camp, but who'd love to play on a team after school, or go to a sport's camp.

So a new vision is being cast today. It's exciting!

And while of less importance, sunshine and blue sky is pretty high on the "exciting" scale today too!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cooking and Styling

Claire and I have a great system going on in our kitchen.

I cook the main meals. She bakes the gluten free goodies.

And if we want to take pictures of anything we're making, she styles and takes the photos. It's quite an art, one that she's doing a great job at learning!

So if you see food photos on my blog, it's most likely that they're taken by Claire. "Thanks sweetie!"

On the main meal menu today is something new.: a vegan quinoa ("keen-wah") and sweet potato chili! It's perfect for another wintry evening at our house.

 Glad we can be inside where it's warm and enjoy a yummy meal this evening!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

About His Work

An historic event is taking place up at the lodge at Malenovice this week, led by these two beautiful women from our JV Bteam, Aleisha Stephens and Katka Vlnova.

They are in the midst of leading our first ever JV orientation for new team members who are from the countries they are serving in here in Central and Eastern Europe.

While we've had nationals serving with JV for years, this is the first time we've done an orientation for them "on the field".

Seventeen committed men and women (you'll see a picture with guys in it in just a sec!) from Slovakia, Czech, Poland, Ukraine, Serbia, Slovenia and Latvia are here this week, in a step of faith towards serving the Lord full time with JV in their own countries.

They are learning how to share their vision for ministry, how to effectively communicate to believers and non-believers about what God has called them to, as well as learning practical skills like writing a prayer letter and raising support.

Throughout the week they've been sharing their lives and stories with each other, joining together in their vision to reach the young people in their home countries of Central and Eastern Europe with the Gospel.

The faith of these dear ones touches me so much, as I've listened to some of their stories. Some are walking away from successful jobs in response to God's calling on their lives. They are explaining to family and friends, many who are not believers, why they're doing what they're doing.

And they're stepping out in faith that God will provide for them. Not an easy task! It's not easy for anyone who senses God's call to the mission field. But in most of these countries there is not a history of giving so they are truly taking God at His word when the Bible says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

As Dave shared our story with them, along with the mission and vision of JV, it brought tears to my eyes, knowing that God was calling these dear ones, just as He called us twenty years ago.

He's always been about His work, and continues it to this day! What joy to our hearts to see them responding to the Lord with trust and faith.

Please do pray for these faithful ones, even right now as you read this, who are responding to God's commission to "Go and make disciples of all nations...", who are willing to do that in their own home countries, among their own people.

May God use them to be part of a revival of faith in Christ among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Moody Students

In 2002, Bob MacRae, a professor from Moody Bible Institute came to visit us here in the Czech Republic. 

Interested in putting together a spring break opportunity for his students who were youth ministry majors, he wondered if coming to see what JV was doing, and serving in some way for two weeks, would be an option.

Fast forward eleven years later, and here he is (towards the back of the photo, sitting on the right, behind Dave) with the ninth group of Moody students who have come over to Czech for spring break because of his initiative!

He brought the first group of students in 2005, and a new group has been coming every year since!

Bob and the ten students in this year's group, traveled around the Czech Republic these past two weeks, seeing what God is doing here as well as joining in at various youth events.

Before heading back to Prague to fly out, they ended their time here at Malenovice, where we joined them this morning so Dave could share the JV story, vision and mission. It was a treat to be with all of them!

In front, and on the left side of the picture are two former Moody students, who came out on one of these spring break trips a few years ago, and who are now serving with JV! Behind them is Martina, (hi Martina!), who serves on the English camp team here in Czech. She, along with Jon and Josh, have traveled with the Moody students these past two weeks.

One fun side note: When Bob came back in 2002, he happened to land on Tyler's 12th birthday. He joined in the party that day to celebrate, even though he'd just met us.

Who would've ever guessed that eleven years later, Tyler would be a youth ministry major at Moody, with Bob as his teacher and adviser?!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tyler and Lara

It's not very often that I get to do a blog post on Tyler and Lara!

In case you don't know, this is our oldest son and his beautiful bride of nine months and they live in downtown Chicago while they're finishing up their degrees at Moody Bible Institute this year.

Oh there are so many things I could say about them! Just looking at their picture here makes my heart so tender...he's my firstborn, and she's my first daughter-in-lawlove!

But what really makes my heart tender is why I'm featuring them on my blog today.

This is a "teaser" from their new blog:

"As we have prayed and sought godly counsel, we have felt a stirring in our hearts to return to the Czech Republic to disciple and equip young leaders in the local church."

There is NOTHING that gives us greater joy than knowing that our children are walking with the Lord and following His plans for their lives! I have literally prayed for this since my kids were born so you can imagine how grateful I am to the Lord for HIS work that has led Tyler and Lara to this point.

They will be coming to Czech this summer to serve as intern leaders with Josiah Venture, and are sharing their journey about that on their blog: We Are Patty's Too.

(The title of their blog just cracks me up!!)

Many of you, at some point over the past 23 years, have prayed for our kids.

Simply said, but with much heart, THANK YOU. This is part of the fruit of those prayers!

Pray for Tyler and Lara, that the Lord will raise up those who will stand with them in joining us here in the ministry this summer.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Special Room

If you've just happened onto my blog, you probably want to look HERE and HERE to see a bit of the background on what's happening at Malenovice, our Josiah Venture training center in the Beskydy Mountains here in the Czech Republic.

However, if you've followed my blog for a while, you most likely know about it and can jump in with me on the latest happenings up there.

Dave, Petr and I were there this morning, doing a walk through of the latest project - the old farmhouse which is being completely reconstructed.

While this may look like an ordinary pile of rocks, it's anything but that.

The construction firm is in the basement this week (while it's snowing and freezing up above!), working on one of the coolest parts of the whole building.

I only had my 35 mm lens so couldn't get a full view of the room, but they're lining an entire room with these rocks, in what used to be the wine cellar of the old farmhouse.

The entire ceiling will be lined as well, in an arch, along with some "windows" to give the room atmosphere. It's going to be SO cool, I can hardly stand it!

The work crew is down there mixing cement and putting those rocks in "just so" this week to make a special room, with a very special purpose.

One that I can't spoil the surprise on!

But you'll definitely want to see photos of it when it's finished. Or better yet, come and visit it!

It may well be the best part of our whole conference center. So stay tuned for more news about it in the coming months.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Looking for Green

It's been a week of off and on internet, mostly off. That makes blogging pretty hard.

Our provider finally got it fixed and turned back on yesterday evening, so here I am blogging on a Sunday.

But the real reason for a post today? It's St Patrick's Day! The day we like to say is our family holiday.

St. Patty's...get it?! Okay...lame, I know, but it makes for a good post today!

(Read HERE for a fascinating perspective on the real St. Patrick.)

I went looking for green inside and outside of our house today in honor of the holiday.

Spring green leaves on tulips...

Ever-green trees in our yard...(and take a look at that blue sky - definitely not an everyday occurrence around here. We'll take it today!)

 The neighbor's green fence next door (hey, I'm looking for anything green!)

Green grass...literally the only patch of grass visible in our yard right now.

Azalea bush green leaves that are begging the sun to release them from their snow cave.

You definitely can't pinch me today because I have green flowers on the best winter boots I've ever had!

 Ever-green, supporting a lonely icicle.

A very cute girl I found walking on our road wearing a beautiful spring green sweater.

More evergreen trees, providing the backdrop for a flying dog.

And last...yes, this is truly a last ditch effort to find green! The recipe for what's in my crockpot today.

There's zucchini in the the stew, the only thing in there that's green. Other than that, it's just the green ink on the pages of the cookbook that qualify it as a holiday recipe. I'm making it count!

 Happy St. Patrick's Day!