Sunday, April 23, 2017

Ten Years of 'Catch It'

Ten years ago, a retreat began at BMA, one of the high schools here in Frýdlant, our home town.

Our oldest son and a friend had been at a conference earlier in the school year, and were challenged to make a difference for Christ in their school. That challenge blossomed into "Catch It".

"Catch It" is a student led retreat, with peers reaching peers through sharing their own faith. They plan for and provide an environment for their friends to ask questions, discuss spiritual topics, see faith in action, as well as just have a lot of fun together!

Each year they ask a speaker to come in and share on a topic that the student leaders have prayed about. This year, they asked Dave and I to come and talk about what's beneath the surface in all of our lives, the hidden things that no one sees.

The event was held at Malenovice, with 50 students from BMA. That's almost half the school population! This is really a testimony to these kids who want to share Christ with their friends.

On Saturday morning, after Dave spoke to the group, he took the guys to another cabin to have time with them, and I stayed with the girls. Aren't they a beautiful group?!

I got to share my story of coming to Christ, and then answered their questions for an hour.

The next section of the day was just fun!

Everyone was involved in some kind of, art.

Drama, in preparation for the talent show later on in the evening!

An incredibly talented group of singers, preparing a few songs for the talent show as well.

And then...there was the sport's group.

Given that the weather was a little less than ideal, to say the least (we'd had a snowstorm earlier in the week), they didn't get to have their annual baseball game, so stayed in shape by playing a game where you had to drop and do pushups if you said a certain word! So clever!

Despite the cold, damp, icy weather outside, the attitudes of these kids was really something special!

Not a word of complaint, and in fact, perhaps an even sweeter atmosphere since they were all collected together much of the time in the big cabin at Malenovice.

This dear one was a graduate of BMA several years ago, and has been working for them ever since in administration, creating family among the BMA students, and providing spiritual oversight for the many girls in the school.

Terka is a dear friend of our daughter's, and goes to our church, so I get the joy of seeing her often. But it was really special to join her here this week-end in reaching out to the students with the love of Jesus.

We know of at least two students who put their faith in Christ during the week-end! Our prayer had been that there would be some who would hear the Shepherd's voice calling to his sheep, and he answered that prayer!

Over the past ten years, we know that many decisions for Christ by BMA students have come as a result of their time at the Catch It retreats. So we continue to pray that God will work in their hearts, and that they will respond to the call of the Shepherd who loves them and wants to lead them.

What a privilege to have been part of this very special week-end.

Friday, April 21, 2017

KAM's 20th Anniversary

It may have been snowy and cold up at Malenovice, our training center here in the Czech Republic...

But the atmosphere inside was nothing but warm, cheerful and inviting!

What was the occasion for this gathering??

The 20th anniversary of KAM, our Czech JV organization! (an acronym for "Křesťanská akademie mladých", or in English, "Christian Academy of Youth").

I remember the celebration at our home in Havířov, twenty years ago with just a handful of people, when the organization was formally started. We'd already been living and doing ministry in Czech for four years at that time, but that April 1997 saw the beginning of KAM as an organization.

Today, there are nearly 70 full time workers in KAM, all serving young people here in the Czech Republic.

The evening was full of stories and reports about what God is doing through them across the country.

As well as hearing the five priorities of KAM from our current director, as the team continues to work towards bringing the Gospel to young people: Building more partnerships with churches, providing personal mentoring to youth leaders, training in core values, bringing young people into the church, and greater spiritual faith for the building of God's church here.

We rejoiced in the resources that God continues to be so generous at providing.

And we heard personal testimonies from young leaders who are continuing the vision that KAM established twenty years ago.

Dave shared the story of JV's beginnings, and of our early days in Czech as we prayed for and worked towards a movement of God among youth in this country.

The picture is Dave and Caleb, on our first day in country, November 1993! 

We worshipped under the leadership of Cory, who leads Divine Attraction, the band that tours with the EXIT ministry here in Czech.

And we laughed and celebrated over many things, including awards that were given during the evening together.

My heart was utterly full of praises to the Lord for what he has established in this country.

We came all those years ago with hopes, dreams and prayers, believing that God had led us here to be part of what he wanted to do among the youth.

Being at this celebration confirmed that he indeed had a plan! What amazing things he's already done. And he is STILL at work here to accomplish his will of drawing young people to himself.

We pray that KAM's work will continue to thrive and grow for many, many more years!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Blessing times Three

Our Caleb and Haley are coming up on their three year wedding anniversary next month.

It's been so beautiful these past three years, watching them grow in their love for each other, in their walks with God, and in living out their faith in Fort Collins where they serve the Lord in many capacities in their local church and in their jobs.

But do you know what is coming their way soon???

Yes, it's true!! They are expecting at the end of August!

And they know it's a BOY!!!!

That means by the end of August we will have not just one grandson, but THREE!!! Tyler and Lara are also expecting a boy in June.

Our joy is more than we can recount!! How grateful we are to the Lord for the blessing of our grandson,  Judah, and now for the other two precious bundles headed our way!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Remembering Sunshine

We are back home after spending a really lovely Easter on Hvar in Croatia.

Quite a contrast from what we woke up to today.

Yes, it started snowing last night as I was on my way home from an event at Malenovice. Wearing boots, coat, and scarf last night, I trudged through snow to my car. My mind didn't want to believe that it was really snowing!

Last week Kaylee was loving our walks on dry paths.

But today's venture outside was a tad bit different. OH MY!

Down south, the vineyards are coming alive.

While here at home, well, you get the gist of it!

Because I've been having problems with my computer, I didn't get to blog while we were there and record the beauty at this time of year down south.

One morning I went out early for a walk with Kaylee and just soaked in springtime.

She and I walked through empty streets of the village that morning, listening to only the sounds of the roosters crowing!

Later in the afternoon, Dave and I took a walk down to the edge of the harbor - a favorite spot for many years!

It's always reminiscent of years gone by when our family camped nearby, and brought the kids here to jump off the wall into the deep, clear blue water.

But that day, it was quiet, except for birds chirping, and the sound of the waves lapping at the edge of the pier.

With snow, gray, cold and ice outside here at home, it's nice to have these photos to remember that spring will soon be on its way, just like it already is in Croatia!

I think the sudden change in weather affected me as I've spent the entire day in bed with flu-like symptoms. I'll be glad when those go away.

But until then, I'll remember the warmth of sunshine, yet enjoy the feeling of being snuggled under the covers here at home, trying to stay warm and get well.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday in the Village

After three days of not being able to get onto my computer or blog, it's finally working again today! And what a good day to be able to post.

This morning at 7 AM, this happened on the dirt road behind our house in Croatia.

We got up early so that we could join people from the village in their Good Friday procession of carrying the cross in remembrance of what Jesus did for us on this day more than two thousand years ago.

Nearly everyone from the village (around 100 people) left their homes in the dark at 4 AM and walked a three hour procession together, in quiet, with just a few men singing laments over the death of Christ.

As the sun came up, and they finished their procession throughout the village and nearby vineyards, they brought the cross back to the church.

Each year, a man from the village is chosen for the task of carrying it. You can see him below, in the tan robe, the cross shrouded in black, a somber reminder of the ultimate price Jesus paid for us.

The cross was placed inside the church and everyone returned to their homes.

One of our friends here in the village told us that her father and this man, pictured below, are the oldest ones who walked the procession today. In all likelihood, he has walked it since childhood as it's a long tradition of the village, and even on the island, where something similar takes place in other locations.

This evening we all returned to the church.

We weren't exactly positive about what would be happening, but at the invitation of our friend, we went!

As it turned out, there was a service in the church, then a break for a half hour where everyone returned to their houses. We were kindly invited by friends in the village to come in for cake.

Afterward we all returned to the church for another service, followed by a procession through the village lit by candles all along the way.

All crosses in the church were taken out at this procession, and won't be returned until Easter morning.

While I don't know if the tradition of this procession is just was a very moving way for me to remember the day that Jesus went to the cross to make the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

How thankful I am that Jesus conquered sin and death, and that on Sunday we will celebrate the greatest gift of all time: his resurrection!

Jesus descended into darkness all those years ago, obedient to his Father and death on the cross. This ultimate and perfect sacrifice on our behalf created the path of redemption and restoration, that we might have a way to the Father, and one day, to everlasting life.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!! I am utterly grateful to Jesus for his willingness to sacrifice so that I might be found and forgiven by him one day!