Sunday, December 31, 2017

Selah for the New Year

I honestly can't remember when this tradition started. Maybe in 2006? This is why I blog, so I remember these things! đŸ˜‚

We are up at Selah tonight, our JV retreat house, to celebrate the new year with these dear ones!

L-R top row: Austin, Mel, Amy, Noah, Connie, Dave; L-R bottom row: Hayley, Hannah, Jill & Claire

Each year there are a few different faces in the picture, including this year with a fiancé, Austin, and a new wife, Jill! (who belong, respectively, to Hayley and Noah Ellenwood).

It's tradition to take these photos in the same spot every year we're up here: the normal ones and the silly ones!

There have been years when we haven't been all together on New Years, but when we do, it's a sweet and enjoyable time with this bunch of fun-loving people.

As always, the tradition of a spectacular fireworks display in the valley dazzled us!

PC on all photos: Claire - so glad she had her camera to capture this!

This spectacular display goes on across the whole region for at least a half hour!

We had nearly a full moon and clear sky, with the view across the valley to LysĂĄ hora positively magical. They were setting off fireworks from the top too, which made it all the more beautiful (there is no public road to the top, so unless the fireworks were brought up in a service vehicle, they were most likely carried up by hikers!).

This is one of those European traditions that I've loved for many years: have been watching a fireworks display somewhere across this region since 1987 when I first saw it in Germany.

But before the fireworks, we spent an hour in the JV Prayer Room together, finishing up the year as we'd started it: praying for a movement of God across this region of the world.

Tomorrow I'll write more about the Prayer Room, and if we met our goal of 8760 hours in 2017 or not.

But this couldn't have been a sweeter hour of prayer as we finished up the new year asking God to do his work to save people and transform their lives so that they proclaim Christ in their countries, and beyond.

I loved doing it with these people, who all share a heart and have a vision to see God move across this continent.

Praying that this year of concentrated prayer will have only been the tip of the iceberg, and that we will see God continue to move even more in 2018!!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Headed to Albania

As 2017 comes to a close, our family has some wonderful news about the coming year.

Caleb, Haley and Charlie are headed to pioneer a new ministry for Josiah Venture in VlorĂ«, Albania, alongside two Albanian couples!

A month ago Caleb and Haley were here in Czech with us after having been in Albania to confirm this decision. Just a half hour before they left our house, they received an important phone call.

As the director of the southern region for JV, Josh Patty (Dave's brother, Caleb's uncle!) called to tell them that they had been officially accepted with JV!

What a special moment to share with them as they begin their missionary journey, first of support raising, and then off to the southern region of Europe to share the Gospel with young people in Albania!

While we were in Peoria, IL earlier this month for a wedding, Claire had the joy and honor of taking Caleb, Haley and Charlie's pictures for their first prayer card, and for the JV website.

Perhaps God will lead you to stand with this family in prayer and financial support!

Click HERE to read their story, and then join all of us in praying for the road ahead of them, that God will richly bless their decision to follow his lead to share their lives and the Gospel in VlorĂ«!

Friday, December 29, 2017

We've Got Snow!

Every morning I go to our bedroom window to look outside and see what the new day looks like. I couldn't have been more surprised by this morning's view!

Claire and I had hair appointments over in Poland this morning (been driving there for years to our dear Evalina!) and there wasn't as much over here.

But on the drive back home...WOW!

It was almost "other-worldly"!

Just before dusk, we took a walk with Kaylee around the farmlands where we live.

And this time we said it looked like a fairy tale!

I can't remember the last time we had this much snowfall in a day, but it sure was a special treat as we near the end of the year.

All is well. đŸ˜Š

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sacred at Selah

This is Selah, a very special home to our Josiah Venture team.

God, through the generosity of his people, gave this dear place to us a number of years ago as a retreat house to be used for family vacations, personal times with the Lord, short breaks from ministry, and small retreats for team members. It's become a holy place, a sanctuary to be refreshed in by the Lord.

But today, something else happened there for the first time.

A young man proposed to a young woman!

And Claire, a best friend since childhood of the bride-to-be, had the privilege of being their photographer today.

I had the joy of being a witness to this sacred event for a young woman I love like a niece.

Claire and I came up early as she wanted to determine the best angles and places to stand in order to record this precious event. Our delight to be here was beyond imagination!!!

One car drove up first, carrying a sister, brother and sister-in-law of the young woman getting engaged. They hurried in the door to take their places.

And then the next car arrived, with the young woman's parents, and the couple about to be engaged.

The bride-to-be thinks that they're coming up for family photos.

But with a wondering glance back at her mom, she is led onto the porch at Selah, about to experience one of the sweetest events of her life!

Can you see her sister, Hannah, beaming in the reflection of the window?!

This is our dear Hayley Ellenwood and her soon to be fiancé, Austin Henckel!

They had come to spend Christmas with the family, but all along Austin had planned to propose to her!

They met at Moody Bible Institute over a year ago when they were both students there, and have been dating since last fall. Today is the culmination of their love as he leads her through a canopy of letters he's written to her over the past year (and sneakily brought with him for this event!).

Hayley's brother, Noah, capturing the moment

And finally, in a circle of lights, Austin read his last letter to her, asking for her hand in marriage. We couldn't hear, but we could see the delight on Hayley's face.

This was just before he knelt down to ask her to be his wife!

It was one of the dearest, sweetest and most emotional moments I've ever witnessed. What a privilege to get to be there with her family for this sacred event.

Claire and Hayley's dad, Mel, were outside on the porch, recording the event in photos and video while we stood inside witnessing Austin's proposal to Hayley.

To which she, of course, said a very happy YES!!!!

Moments after her answer, we all streamed out to give our congratulations!!!

I didn't cry until this moment. But when Hannah hugged Hayley, and Amy hugged Austin ... oh my!! SO sweet!

To see each member of the family embrace Hayley and Austin with love and joy after the proposal was truly a beautiful moment.

I could hardly see through tears as Amy held Hayley's face. Pure happiness right there!

Newly married to Noah, Hayley's new sister-in-law, Jill, gazed at Hayley's ring with such tenderness and joy, entering in to the joy of her new family. That touched me as well.

And then ... these two best friends since they were three years old ... embracing too. AAGGHH!!! So much LOVE and emotion here!!!

Finally, a hug from dad, Mel, for his girl, Hayley, who he will walk down the aisle this summer.

Just. So. Precious.

These two are SO right for each other!

After all those congratulatory words and hugs, Claire had them pose for some engagement shots.

All day it had been rainy and cloudy, but for this hour, the air cleared and provided such perfect lighting to highlight these two dear ones!

Claire's shots of the day are magnificent (if you are a FB friend of Hayley or Austin, you'll see some of them on their pages!), and I know it was such a privilege for her to be there for this time.

And then ... it was finally time to get to those family photos!!

You could see the joy in the Ellenwood family written across their faces as Claire captured this moment in their family history.

How kind of the Lord to work out all the details to make it possible for all of them to share in this special moment.

After family photos were finished, we gathered inside Selah and prayed over Austin and Hayley.

And after all of us had prayed and said, "Amen", Austin said, "Can I pray too?" And he proceeded to pray the sweetest prayer of all!

Oh what a good man he is, and how perfectly God designed he and Hayley for each other. There's nothing sweeter than knowing that two people are SO right for each other.

Thank you Lord, and thank you Ellenwood family, for letting me stand with you as a witness to this sacred event!