Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Here and There

After a precious time doing Bible study with a friend this morning, I hopped over the border to Poland for lunch with two other friends today.

Treasured moments, for sure.

In just a week I'll be gone to the States for nearly six weeks, traveling with Dave across the States for a variety of meetings, church services, time with friends, family and with our kids.

As well as the birth of our first grandchild! Hooray!!!

Oh how good life is, on this side of the ocean at home in Czech, as well as on the other side in the US where many beloved ones live.

On my heart today: appreciating all the dear ones He's put in my path, and that I get to enjoy them both here and there. I feel so rich and full in relationships.

"Thank you Lord for your kindness in surrounding me, no matter where I am, with people I love."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Where in the World is Dave

Through the years I've written various blog posts about Dave's whereabouts, since it does seem he gets around! And today it's time for a new installment in that series.

Bright and early yesterday morning, Dave flew out of Ostrava headed to a place he hasn't been to in 30 years. It's actually a place that he lived for two months "way back when", studying the language of that country.

It's also the country we started dating in! :) Know where that is??

Yes, Dave's in Spain...Madrid to be exact. He's not there to sightsee, or look up the family that he lived with during those two months of Spanish language school (something he did just because he could...he likes languages!). He's there for a European church planting conference.

With no responsibilities except as a participant, he's having a great time connecting with all sorts of different people. Like this fellow who, it turns out, was born in the very same hospital as Dave in Subic Bay, Philippines, albeit three years earlier! He doesn't meet someone very often (I would venture to say never, in fact!) who can make that claim.

Because one of Josiah Venture's key convictions is to do all we can to see the "bride of Christ prosper", he continues to learn about how to better do that. In the case of this conference, it's to learn how to better ignite multiplying church planting efforts throughout our region of Europe.

He said it's so inspiring listening to these Spanish pastors share about the evangelical churches that they know about and are pastoring throughout Spain.

He'll just be at the conference through tomorrow afternoon and then flies back in the evening. But he says it's already been refreshing, encouraging and enlightening to be among men who are passionate about planting and caring for churches so that more might hear the Gospel.

He says this will surely be good for an illustration somewhere! While it means "without barriers" it looks like it says "sin barriers"! That will turn into a sermon illustration at some point for sure.

And I think it's been fun for him to try out his Spanish after a thirty year pause! :)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Blue Skies

As fall weather begins its descent here in Czech, you can no longer take blue skies for granted.

We can go week upon week without seeing that color in the sky once fall fully settles in. And then there's winter where we see it even less!

Thus the crisp blue skies in Prague this week-end were a delight.

I rounded the corner onto Wenceslas Square on Sunday morning, completely taken aback by the ray of sunlight that danced off the clouds, highlighting the blue sky. I'd had my head down, thinking about something else as I walked. But as soon as I turned my head and saw that sight, I reached for my phone to capture it. Definitely a "wow" moment.

Standing in the same spot I turned around to face the other way and caught this pretty view.

Aw Prague! So lovely in any season, but especially in the fall when the blue is so brilliant.

Back at home in Frydlant, I took Kaylee out for a walk this afternoon and encountered the same blue sky.

Magnificent! I kept her out for a walk longer than I'd intended (which she didn't mind...more time to sniff every bush along the way!), just so I could soak up the beauty. I stayed out until the sunlight faded, then walked back home.

Gray skies are coming so I'm tucking away these blue sky pictures and memories for those colder, darker days.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Unstuck 2015: The Team

I stand in awe at this committed group of JV staff who are giving their lives for the sake of the Gospel. What a privilege to have shared life together this week, and to serve alongside them as we reach out to the young generation across Central and Eastern Europe.

If ONLY I could transport you here to listen to their stories, their hearts, their pleas to the Lord for a movement of God in the places where they live. These people love Jesus! And they love serving Him with their whole hearts.

We had a powerful conference this year, talking about how to get unstuck in our personal lives, and how to help those we work with to get unstuck too. What a ripple effect there will be throughout all our ministries as we put into practice what we heard.

Conference talks will be online soon and I'll post a link so you can go listen to practical, deep and impactful teaching from the Word of God on how to get unstuck.

Thank you for praying for us this week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Unstuck 2015: This Place


I hardly have words for what it means to so many people, including me. And especially during fall conference when the movement of God in Central and Eastern Europe is being advanced in this meaningful setting.

Every last bit of space is being used for meetings, seminars, mentoring, team challenges, sports competitions and prayer...and most importantly, life transformation. That's what we pray will happen during a week such as this one.

Today was another full day of soaking in God's Word, spending time with His people, and being challenged to get unstuck in areas of our lives. Many courageous ones are seeking mentoring throughout the week, including this precious girl from Slovakia. What a sweet time we shared today, talking about how to get unstuck.

While it's not the most important thing in life, our support team prayed for good weather because the weather reports said we would have rain all week long. And not just a little, but so much that they predicted flooding.

PRAISE THE LORD he heard our cries and answered! All of his work this week is being accomplished in beautiful, sunny, fall weather in the Beskydy mountains. It just makes a conference that much better when you can spill outside and enjoy the warmth and beauty of this area as you process what you're learning.

We're thankful.

We have one more full day tomorrow. I'm full of much anticipation for what's still to come!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Unstuck 2015: A Day in the Life

What's it like to be at a JV conference with 325 other people? Come along with me for a brief glimpse into today, from my perspective!

Bogdan and Sara are the MC's for this week. They make us smile and laugh, tell funny stories, lead games, give announcements and get the audience ready for whatever is next. And they do it in English, which is their second language. Bogdan is from Czech and Sara is from Poland. They're amazing!

After their warm up, we started off with an interview of Olya from Ukraine, telling about her experience of getting "unstuck" in a personal area of her life. She shared so openly from her heart as Aleisha asked questions. It was a great way to engage us in the topic of "Unstuck".

After great worship, we broke up into seminars, one of which was led by Dave. This summer he wrote two follow up Bible studies for new believers, so shared about what it means to care for them, as well as how to use this new resource.

After lunch, there was a volleyball tournament, which I never made it down to because I was having my first mentoring sessions, something new that we're offering this year. With fifteen mentors available, anyone at conference can ask for a session to talk about an area of their life they'd like help and input in.

It was my joy to meet with these two dear ones today, one from Slovenia and one from Latvia. I love mentoring!

The hotel was hopping all afternoon with many conversations and other mentoring sessions taking place. I love the hotel too! What a beautiful setting for God to work and speak to us in.

A quick cup of tea, and then it was time for more mentoring!

Following dinner, we all headed down into town for our evening program.

Two days ago I met Bethan from Scotland, who is working with our new JV UK office. Aside from the fact that it's just so cool that we have staff in the UK now who are working to launch missionaries to JV in Central and Eastern Europe, Bethan and I share something in common. Her last name is France, the same as my maiden name! So we think we're distant relatives of some sort!

Our evening got off to a fun start with Bogdan and Sara warming things up again. Here's Dave being interviewed by Bogdan about how it feels to see the growth of JV and fall conferences over the years. Dave shared how he remembers our early fall conferences when all the JV staff could sit in a small circle!

Aleisha led another interview with David from Slovenia, about how his youth group got unstuck this past year. Powerful testimony.

Excellent worship followed the interview, and then it was time for the main teaching. That's my brother-in-law, Josh, knocking it out of the park as he talked about the role of the Spirit in helping us get unstuck.

Dessert for a mere 326 people followed in the foyer, and then the day was done!

We'll do it all again tomorrow. I can't wait!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Unstuck 2015: JV Fall Conference Begins

What does it take to get unstuck in...personal matters, ministry situations or just life in general?

That's what we're about to uncover as we head into our annual JV fall conference!

This afternoon our support team welcomed 326 participants to Malenovice - the most we've ever had at a conference!

We'll spend the week together looking into God's word, meeting in large and small groups, attending seminars, having personal mentoring sessions, talking within our country teams, and getting lots of time for personal interaction with each other as we work on the question of "How to get unstuck".

While morning sessions will be held at Malenovice, our evening programs will be somewhere different.

The tent we bought last year is barely big enough to hold us all, and we've got a problem with the neighbors because we make so much noise! Hoping not to annoy them, we'll meet there during the day when we expect they're all at work and won't be bothered by us.

But in the evenings we'll head down into Frydlant, to our cultural house, where we can make as much noise as we want!

Because when you get a bunch of youth workers together, it's hard to stay quiet!

Tonight, with no pressure to keep the noise level down, we had such a good time being unrestrained in worship, led by a band from Latvia.

And we've actually got space to move around, though we even fill up quite a bit of room in this place too! What a blessed problem to have.

Rob Trenckmann started us off tonight with an excellent message from Matthew, talking about the life of Peter and how he too was stuck and unstuck in his life and faith. If I get a link to his message, I'll put it in here. It's worth a listen!

The tagline to our theme of "Unstuck" is "Keeping the move in movement" - because we all know that a movement doesn't happen when people are "stuck". So we're hoping this week as we learn from God's word and each other, that we ourselves will get unstuck, and in turn be able to help those in our ministries get unstuck and move into paths of freedom for impacting people with the Gospel.

May God's movement in Central and Eastern Europe be hindered by nothing, and have greater freedom to impact the lives of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands throughout this region of the world.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Will You Pray for the Moms?

This is an old photo, but since some of these faces are the ones I'm thinking about today, I'll put it in so you have a visual of who I'm talking about.

These are some of our JV ladies, at a women's retreat three and a half years ago. While a few have moved on to other things in their lives, many are still with us. And we're growing. If we took a JV ladies picture today, there would be a lot more faces!

Some of these dear ones will join us tomorrow as our JV Fall conference begins at Malenovice.

But most of them will stay at home.

Our fall conference is for training and equipping in ministry, designed for first and second culture JV missionaries.

JV is made up of four different categories of people. There is first culture, which is someone who lives and serves in their passport country (such as a Czech who lives and serves here). A second culture person is someone who is serving in a country other than their passport country (like me, as an American, who lives and serves here in Czech).

Then we have a third culture (TCK's is the official term), which are the children of second culture parents - like our kids, Tyler, Caleb and Claire. And finally we also have children of first culture missionaries.

Did you get all that?! I know it's kind of complicated. But it's who we are! And we design different conferences and retreats throughout the year to meet the needs of these different cultures.

Since fall conference is only designed for first and second culture, our JV Kids and national children don't come to it (unless they are teenagers who are actively involved in the ministry and want to be equipped).

This means that a lot of moms don't/can't come either as someone needs to stay home and keep life going for the kids. And they're the ones I'm thinking of today, the unsung heroes of JV!

This week while their husbands are here for training, many moms in fourteen different countries will be at home with their kids managing life. Without dad.

Will you pray for them?

It's a big job, especially for those second culture moms who are living cross-culturally. But for sure both first and second culture moms will encounter difficulties and opposition this week and need the Lord to carry them through a week of having dad gone.

I love these JV women a lot!! And it would mean the world to them, and to me, if you'd join me in praying for them this week: for strength, safety, courage, patience and a big dose of of trusting the Lord in the midst of whatever might happen this week while they're on their own.

PS. In the hour since posting this I've already heard from some of these moms about washing machines overflowing, dogs making an unusual messes, tears, loneliness, kids struggling and more. SO PRAY!! These moms need our support.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Saturday Morning Fun

What could be better than starting off Saturday morning with these three cuties?

Going to the farmer's market in Ostrava with them - pure delight!

Though it's just in the parking lot of the mall, I love that they started this market several years ago in Ostrava. There are always treasures to be found and it never fails to delight me being there.

So glad my friend, Lisa, asked if I wanted to go with her and the kids today.

Claire and I were here this summer and loved the market, as usual. But today there were some new stands to visit which made it even better!

How about some unfiltered olive oil, fresh from Andelusia in Spain? Yes please!

Then there are the stands that have been there from the start, like the lady with the yummy koláče. How I wish that she made them gluten free.

At least somebody got to enjoy them today!

That was the perfect way to start a Saturday!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Something New

With much going on these days, I feel like I'm always sandwiching in this and that in order to get everything done in a day.

But this afternoon I took a detour going home and let myself enjoy a few quiet moments before carrying on with my day.

First stop was an organic grocery store I'd never been to in Frydek, a town nearby.

I love discovering new stores with healthy food in them! And this one did not disappoint. It was full of new items I've never seen before, and made me want to come back when I've got more time to browse. But for now, I know it's there, and for sure, I'll be back.

Next stop: the park next door.

It sits alongside a road I've driven on countless times over the years. I've always wondered what it was like, but never stopped to see it.

That changed today!

Though a highway borders it on one side, and a busy road on the other, there were few people in the park and it was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. I loved strolling through, enjoying the early fall beauty.

Just those two stops were enough to perk me up and send me on my way for what the rest of the day held.

It only took a few minutes of doing something new to refresh me today. I need to do that more often.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Groceries with Claire

No, Claire is not here in the Czech Republic. She's at school in Chicago. But she went grocery shopping with me today!

Sometimes when I'm out I see things, such as these fresh figs, that remind me of her so take a picture.

She's not always available to write back and that's fine! I just know that at some point in her day she'll get it and smile because I was thinking of her.

Today though, she happened to be free when I sent the picture of the figs, taken at one of my grocery stores. And thus started our shopping trip "together" this afternoon.

"They have the most random things at Lidl," I wrote after encountering kinesiology tape there.

And you never know when you might need a cake pop maker! Or a vinegar and oil sprayer! To which she replied, "So random!"

"And then there are these," I wrote back. Truly, you never know what you might find at Lidl!

Speaking of what you never know might show up in the store, I sneakily took and sent the next picture.

To which she replied, "As Grandma would say, 'Oh dear'"!!! I wrote back, "This conversation is making me laugh as I walk around!!"

"Lidl is more adventurous and surprising than other stores," she wrote. "Aldi [in the States] is slightly similar but not as good. Their produce and meats aren't quite as interesting as Lidl."

This sent me on a search through the store for 'interesting' meat!

Pate in a jar or package anyone? How about meatloaf in plastic wrap? Or cottage pork? It's all interesting meat for sure!

I went on to find some nice sorbet.

And individually packaged slices of a famous cake here in Czech. I thought that was pretty clever since it's hard to eat a whole cake before it dries out.

As I stood in the checkout line I typed, "Thanks for chatting and shopping with me!" And she replied, "Wish I could've actually shopped with you!"

She and I used to grocery shop every day after school, for years. So it's a hobby of sorts, and an enjoyment for both of us.

One of her final messages: "I'm sooooo glad you taught me how to grocery shop. It's a lifesaver!"

"You're welcome Claire! I always enjoyed it while you lived here, am glad we occasionally shop by long distance messaging, and am happy you are a good shopper in the USA!"