We had an awesome party in the tent, celebrating Josiah Venture's twentieth anniversary!!
It was big, beautiful, and God-honoring from start to finish. I just know the Father was smiling and so delighted with His children as we gave Him praise and honor for what He's done here over the past twenty years.
Dave started off by sharing the beginning of the JV story. How God called us to this region of the world to fulfill the vision given to him:
A movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe, that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.
With baskets of shiny apples in front of him, he shared how he hoped the night would be a taste of the fruit God has given us the privilege to share in sowing, planting, watering, toiling for, and harvesting as we have given ourselves to that vision.
Then he began to call people to the front to acknowledge their part in the process of fulfilling it.
I had no idea that I, along with Dan and Laura Hash, would be the first ones to be called up front. But OH!!! How amazing to stand there as the original four who first moved into Czech and Poland in November 1993, and look out over the crowd of almost 300 who are now on staff with us!
After each of us was given a chance to say a word of encouragement to the team, Dave handed us a bright, shiny apple with the JV Prayer bracelet wrapped around, as well as a card made JUST THAT DAY (by our amazing new Communications Team!), with the picture taken the day before and signed by him as a thank you to us.
From that point on, the tears flowed freely from my eyes for the rest of the evening! I sat full of emotion and gratefulness to the Lord for the PRIVILEGE of serving Him in this part of the world, alongside such an amazing team.
In my word of encouragement I shared about how I didn't want to say yes when Dave first shared God's vision with me. The reason was fear that we would go alone.
Oh how short-sighted I was! We have NEVER been alone!
Of course the Lord was always with us and that is no small thing! But there have been untold numbers of people who have stood with us, and hundreds of staff (and thousands if you count our short term summer teams and interns) who have come since the beginning to join us in the vision.
There are people like our dear friends the Pierre's, who came all the way from Florida to celebrate with us last night! They have prayed, given, believed God and stood with us from the beginning.
Then there are our four original JV board members, all of whom are still serving on the board! What an amazing group of godly, faithful and faith-filled men!
As are the two other board members who serve us today.
I can't say enough about how much we appreciate these men and their team. They allow Dave and I to be on the field, rather than running a home office back in the States.
After those introductions Dave began to tell the timeline of JV's development, and some of the miraculous stories along the way.
Like the purchase of a training facility in Poland, known as H20 today.
He brought to the front dear Lucka Zagorova, the first JV missionary to be sent from her country (the Czech Republic) to another country (Slovenia). He shared how he hopes there will be many more of these national missionaries to be raised up from within and sent to other countries.
He brought up the country leaders of the 13 countries we are currently serving in, showing on the timeline the year that each country began their ministry, standing them from oldest to newest.
The most recent country to be staffed by JV missionaries is Bulgaria, with Gabe serving as the country leader. His word of encouragement was one of my favorites:
"I dream of the day when I'm in the middle of this group, and there are another 13 countries on the other side of me on this platform."
What a vision for the future! We hope and pray for that too.
Among others, Dave thanked Terry, the founder and leader of our Fusion ministry that is making disciples who make disciples through our evangelistic gospel choirs in five different countries with JV staff.
Throughout the evening we worshipped numerous times, singing and giving praise to God for the miracles He has done these twenty years. I was literally hoarse from singing so loud. It was awesome to praise Him with all our hearts.
As the celebration came to a close, Dave had us pray in groups for each other, for our countries, for the region, and for the lost who need to hear about Jesus.
As we finished singing, "I'll never be the same, forever I am changed" I thought to myself: that's what it's all about. It's not about programs, systems, theories or principles.
It's about Jesus changing lives, one at a time, transforming each of us into His image.
With tears streaming down my face as we sang, I begged Him for more lives to be changed in this region of the world, by the saving power of Jesus Christ.
It was one of those nights that you just don't want to end. You want to go on praising God forever.
That's what we have to look forward to in heaven!
This was just a taste of that. Oh what a glorious and happy day it will be when we stand before the throne and worship Him FOREVER!!
With no instructions except to walk on the path up to the hotel, Dave asked everyone to quickly go outside.
Little did they know there was a surprise waiting for them!
I had barely stepped outside of the tent when the gigantic display of fireworks was set off!
All 300 of us stood outside in the cool, crisp, fall night air, enjoying an amazing show to finish off our night of celebration.
It was a night to remember as we celebrated and gave glory to God for the great things HE has done!
Happy Anniversary Josiah Venture Family!!!!