Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Countdown Begins

My travels around the States with Dave for the past weeks have finally come to an end. Leaving Orlando this morning, I headed to Chicago to begin the countdown toward the birth of our first grandson.

As if the airline knew that the days ahead are important, they put Dave and I in first class today - row 1!

I can only remember one other time I got bumped up like this. I forgot that you get real glasses when you're in first class!

And coffee before the flight even begins!

We left sunny and warm Florida ...

...and landed in rainy, bleak Chicago at noon today. What a contrast in weather!

While I'm going to unpack my bags for a bit here in Chicago, I had to say goodbye to Dave soon after we arrived from Orlando as he heads to England to speak at a pastor's conference this coming week.

I'll miss him! What wonderful days we've shared together this month.

But the joy is I get to spend nearly two weeks here expectantly awaiting the birth of our dear grandson, Judah.

Some very kind friends of Tyler and Lara have graciously given us their home to stay in during these next weeks. Through pouring rain, I drove there from the airport this afternoon.

And happily met up with the mom and dad to be!

Lara's mom, and one of her sisters, are here now too, and as soon as it looks like Judah's on the way, her dad and sister will come from Tennessee to join us. My mom and dad fly in on Wednesday this week to join the party, and we're all hoping that he'll make his appearance soon so we can meet him!

Though great with child, the darling expectant parents lovingly made dinner for us moms and sister tonight here at the house where we're staying.

Lara's sister can only be here until Tuesday so she had "words" with her nephew tonight about making an appearance sooner rather than later! We're all rooting for him to come soon.

As Tyler and Lara left for home tonight (just minutes away from where we're all staying), I took a quick photo "just in case". You never know when it might be the last one before a baby comes and changes the look of this little family!

I'm so grateful to the Lord for the gift of being able to be here with them during these significant days of their lives. While we're all anxious to meet this precious little man, it's also nice to have some family days together and just soak up the joy of life right now.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Orlando Magic

Friday night found Dave and I at an Orlando Magic basketball game!

There with our friends, we watched all the fanfare introducing the players, and heard our National Anthem, something I don't hear much of while living in Czech! Still makes me well up with tears when I hear it.

Maybe it's the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat (anybody else grow up watching "Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoons??!!), but I definitely get giddy going to sporting events here in the States, and am thankful our friends take us when we're visiting!

Playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder (a team I'd honestly never heard of!), it was quite an exciting game, and at the end of the fourth quarter, it looked like the home team had it in the bag.

And then suddenly, it was tied and went into overtime.

And not just one overtime, but two.

We did a lot of cheering in those last minutes!

Sad to say, the home team lost the game by just three points after those two overtimes. I felt bad that there had to be a loser as they both played a very good game. But that's the way it goes in sports.

However, I won something in the last two minutes of the game!

During a time out, some guys came onto the court and fired t-shirts into the audience with some sort of special gun that wings them way up into the seats. Unbelievably one of them literally came straight at me so now I've got my very own Orlando Magic t-shirt!

What a great fun in America, and what a great evening with our friends!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Land of Diversity

This morning we woke up to bright sunshine, blue skies and palm trees in Pensacola, FL.

Our flight from Pensacola took us to dark skies, autumn leaves and cool temperatures in Charlotte, North Carolina.

And then our routing took us back to Florida (Orlando this time) where we walked out of the airport to high humidity, signs of Mickey Mouse, and mossy trees!

What a diverse nation we come from!

And how much I enjoy its diversity: people, landscape, culture and regional accents!

I love this land of diversity and am thankful for these weeks to travel across it and spend time with God's people everywhere.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My Traveling Buddy

What do Dave and Connie look like after getting up at 4 AM to catch a flight out of Chicago?

Yep, that's us, still smiling even after such an early morning!

In order to make it to today's destination in time, we made the best of it as we caught our flight to Dallas at 6:30 AM, and then on to Pensacola, Florida.

Some have asked me how it's been to travel so much with Dave, now that I'm able to. I can honestly say that except for those early morning flights (which really aren't all that bad), I'm enjoying it a lot! It's great to be a support and encouragement to Dave as he travels, and of course I love being with all the people along the way.

Now if I could just remember to make all the reservations on time.

We made it to Pensacola, FL, only to find out I'd forgotten to rent a car for us! Enterprise came to the rescue.

Once we picked up our car we headed off to Mobile, Alabama where Dave had a meeting with a foundation to share about the ministry of Josiah Venture.

If you're wondering why we didn't just fly into Mobile, since of course they have an airport, it's because it was twice the price as flying into Pensacola, Florida! 

Dave and I love a road trip. In fact, I'd say we fell in love way back in the day while we were traveling around Europe with Malachi Singers! So another day on the road is another day of enjoying each other. I mean, who can resist hanging out with this guy?!

I've only been to Alabama one other time in my life, but never been to the Gulf Coast. So I was feeling extra giddy about being on the road with Dave today.

We arrived into Fairhope, Alabama this afternoon for Dave's meeting. While he met with the foundation, I poked around this cute little town to see what I could find.

My first impression was that I'd gone back in time. It didn't even shock me when I came across this old car parked next to the sidewalk! It seemed so right.

There was an air about the town that told you it'd been there for a long time.

It's hard to put my finger on it, but aside from the architecture being different than any other place I've been, it felt a little as though time stood still here. And I liked that as I strolled through town on a warm, lazy, fall afternoon.

There was one thing that DID stand out. All the golf carts being used as vehicles on the road. They even have license plates! I guess it must be a "thing" here, though I'm not sure why.

After Dave's meeting, at the recommendation of one of the men he'd just met with, we headed over the causeway (I didn't know what that was's a bridge that stretches over a huge body of Gulf water coming inland) toward Mobile to a restaurant for dinner.

The Gulf water is SO close to the highway! I wonder what it's like here in hurricane season??

We found the restaurant and headed in, only to be surprised by this sign: "Warning. Alligators."

Then I knew for sure I wasn't in Wyoming, Chicago, Denver or Eugene - some of the places I've already been on this trip! This is a whole other land down here!

We enjoyed a "Gulf Coast" meal of shrimp and fish at Felix's, and then drove back to Pensacola where we're spending the night before another flight in the morning.

Loving sharing these adventures with my dear husband and traveling buddy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wheaton Grad School

After a number of meetings in the morning and afternoon while still out in the Wheaton area, we met up with Tyler before our last engagement of the day.

Dave, a firstborn son, with Tyler, his firstborn son, who is expecting Judah, HIS firstborn son any day now! How proud he is of his son who is about to be a dad!

Notice any difference from yesterday's blog post? A downgraded version of the hurricane from Mexico blew into Chicago last night sending rain and strong wind, completely changing the landscape from yesterday's beautiful fall colors!

After saying goodbye to Tyler, we made our way to the BGC - the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

This is the place where Dave did his master's work in the graduate school two decades ago! And it was during that year he made a very good friend who studied in the same educational ministries program as him.

Dave Sveen has played a very significant role in the development of Josiah Venture as it was he and his partners who took on Josiah Venture as their first client at Cedarstone Partners, an organization who handles back-office needs for the non-profit community, both in the States and internationally. We are so incredibly grateful to them for truly seeing us as partners and friends, not just clients. They keep the work of Josiah Venture happening for us on this side of the ocean!

Not only is Dave Sveen involved in Cedarstone, but he also happens to be a professor at Wheaton College Grad School.

And tonight he gave Dave an hour and a half to teach his class!

Oh was Dave ever in his element as he taught on leadership principles he's learned over the years!

If you've ever met, talked with or been with Dave, you know that leadership is the air he breathes! So you can imagine what fun it was for him to teach tonight.

As I said yesterday, Wheaton College was a pivotal, transformational time in our lives, and we are so grateful for their vision to prepare students to make a difference for Christ wherever they go in the world.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Marathon Day

No, it wasn't a 26 mile marathon today.

But rather a Josiah Venture Marathon with students on the campus of Wheaton College!

Dave and I arrived this morning to their beautiful tree lined campus in all its fall glory.

And headed over to Edman Chapel for Dave to get ready to speak to the student body during their Monday morning chapel.

Dave IS actually an ordained reverend, but no one ever calls him that! Was funny to see it up on the screen!

This is a special privilege as Dave is an alumni from Wheaton, and it's the first time that he's been invited to speak for chapel.

While Dave did a sound check, our team, who are here to share in this JV day on campus, hung out together. So fun!!

L-R - Justin Hall, me, Mike Sullivan, Denisa and Daniel Harcar (Slovakia)

We all headed back stage to pray with the chapel team, which really blessed me. Their prayers were so dear for Dave, the students, for all of us there in support, and for the work of JV.

We headed back out into Edman just as 2400 students began to make their way inside. It was a very happy reunion with many people we love!

One of our precious JV kids, Laurel Jackson, who grew up in Slovenia with her family who served there

Lucy Till, one of my adopted "niece's, and daughter of dear friends who minister at BMA in the town we live in. Lucy grew up there and went to school with Claire, one of her closest friends

Anna Leston, who I first met as a baby when her parents came out to do an English camp in Czech years ago! Most recently she served on a short term team this summer with our Grace Church family from Wheaton.

When it was time to begin, Dr. Timothy Blackmon, the new Wheaton undergraduate chaplain introduced Dave saying, "This may feel like an ordinary Monday morning chapel. But what if today was the day God speaks to you about your future, where you might hear God's call on your life? That's what happened to Dave Patty in 1991 when he was a student sitting where you are."

It was in a Wheaton chapel back then that Dave heard Anita Dyneka, from Slavic Gospel, talk about the "hinge of history" occurring in the Soviet Union at that time, which broke apart the 50+ year grip of Communism. It was that talk that led us to where we are today.

With that intro, Dave came to the podium and began to speak on how to discern the will God for your life.

He asked the students, "Have you ever been asked either of these two questions: what are you going to do with your life, and who are you going to do it with?"

As you can imagine, waves of laughter rippled through the audience. What college student hasn't been asked those questions?! Dave spoke powerfully to their minds and hearts as he shared from God's word and personal experience about discerning God's will.

I know I'm biased so I'll tell you what many students told us afterward.

"That was the best chapel of the year so far", "I needed that practical help for discerning God's will", "You didn't just bring a big idea of yours, but keyed into us as students and brought something that meets us where we are."

With only twenty minutes to speak, he moved quickly, but effectively, sharing his five fingered approach to discerning God's will: Word of God, Spirit of God, mind of God, people of God, and sovereignty of God.

While he was not primarily speaking about Josiah Venture, he ended with a challenge to the students to surrender and seek, knowing that God's will for them is always the best.

"Some of you may be called to be Senators, some teachers, others of you will go into business and make lots of money and of course, give very generously to God's work [smile!]. But I'm praying that some of you are called into missions and remember what Charles Spurgeon said, 'If God called you to be a missionary, don't stoop to be a king.'"

Then he shared our newest video on young people from Central and Eastern Europe whose lives have been changed by Jesus.

Finishing right on the minute he was supposed to be done (you don't want to go overtime when it's your first time speaking there!), we then happily connected with more students who are dear to us.

Christy Spader, grad student and daughter of Dann Spader who wrote the SonLife training material based on the life of Christ that we started using years ago, and still use today

My nephew, Blake Patty, who grew up in JV, serving with his family in Slovenia - he's a freshman here at Wheaton

I've known Eden's parents since before she was born! We were in a small group with her parents at the church we attended when Dave was a student here.

Sam Bertram, who served alongside our Caleb and Haley in Bulgaria this past summer as JV summer interns. I was just with his mom at Bethany Church in Denver on Saturday morning and told her I'd find him and deliver a hug from her, which I did! :)

On campus to talk with students about our summer internship possibilities, several of our JV staff, including Daniel and Denisa Harcar, a Slovak couple serving with our team in Slovakia, met with students throughout the day. Daniel and Denisa both came to Christ at JV English camps, and are now a powerful team serving in the ministry in their country.

L-R - Mike Sullivan, Dave, Daniel and Denisa, in front of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

We had the privilege of being in a class, taught by a long time friend and professor at Wheaton, Jerry Root. He gave us the first part of his class to share about JV and our summer internship possibilities.

As a side note, Jerry was at the very first conference in the newly renovated Malenovice, back in 2001!

This school was such a significant place to Dave when he studied here.

Not only important because of what he received from exceptional professors who taught on how to educate for transformation, but also for how it shaped us as people. What an honor to be back on campus today telling about the ministry that had its spark of inspiration here.

In the evening, Justin and Gretchen Hall hosted a bonfire at their home near the Wheaton campus, for an informal time of sharing more with students about the ministry of JV. Justin and Gretchen served on our team in Albania for many years, and are now at our home office in Wheaton.

And look who showed up for the bonfire!

Laurel and Claire - dear friends and fellow JV Kids!

On a perfect fall evening, around the warmth of the fire, with plenty of snacks for hungry college students, Dave shared more of the vision and ministry of JV.

Mike, who serves in our home office today, shared about his ten years in Slovakia on the JV team, and about how he met Daniel and Denisa as high schoolers at a camp. Later, Daniel and Denisa shared their story of coming to faith, the first ones to trust Christ in their extended families.

Our JV marathon day began to wind down as we said our goodbyes to the students later in the evening.

Meagan Jackson, from Slovenia, another one of our dear JV Kids, who is now a senior at Wheaton.

Blake, Meagan, Laurel and Claire - JV Kids unite!

And a goodbye to this little fellow, Sully, who reminds me of our Kaylee back home in Czech!

Finally it was time to say goodbye to Claire, at least for Dave, who won't see her again until Christmas break in six weeks. I'm sticking around for another two weeks so I'll see her in a few days after I'm back from the last of our travels.

I drove Claire, and her Moody friends who'd come out for the bonfire, back into the city, enjoying talking with those three who've had significant life and summer experiences with JV!

After dropping off her friends at the dorm, I drove Claire over to her apartment building, chatted a bit, then said goodbye and watched her walk back into her life at Moody Bible Institute. Glad I'll see her again soon as I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to her, or our other kids, yet!

Twenty four years ago when we stepped foot on Wheaton's campus, I never envisioned where our lives would end up all these years later.

We arrived in 1991 with just one baby and ended up with three.

We thought we'd return to our ministry in Germany, but instead moved to the Czech Republic.

We assumed our time at Wheaton College would only be for that short season. Yet we've returned countless times over the years since then because of:
  • a church that became our sending church
  • an office building that became headquarters for Josiah Venture
  • countless friends we made over the course of years
  • a college downtown Chicago that all three of our children would attend
Dave ended his talk in chapel this morning saying, "As you listen to God and discern his will, a decision you make today could impact the rest of your life."

Which has certainly been the truth of what happened in our lives years ago when we said "Yes" to going into Central and Eastern Europe to evangelize, disciple and train up leaders there.