Wednesday, December 12, 2018

No Electricity

One of the crazy things about coming to this side of the island in the winter is that you are guaranteed to experience electricity outages. And no, we don't really understand why!

Sometimes they are for just a few minutes; sometimes they are for the whole day.

Good thing it's beautiful to look outside even if the electricity is off.

Today's outage turned out to be five hours long. By mid afternoon it was getting cold so Dave made a fire to warm us up as we worked!

I'm enjoying these days, even if there isn't electricity, as I write Christmas letters to all of our supporters who stand with us in ministry.

We are incredibly thankful to this group of people (you know who you are!), many of whom have been with us for even longer than we've been here in Czech (during our years of ministry in Germany).

But this is an especially significant year to send words of appreciation to them since we're celebrating twenty five years of Josiah Venture. I hope they like what's in those envelopes! 😉 Most of all I hope they know the joy of what God is doing through their prayers and gifts that keep us going.

The electricity finally came back on at 4 this afternoon, just as the sun was setting under those dark clouds.

Heavy rains are forecasted over the next few days so we'll have extra reasons to stay cozied up inside, working on our various projects.

Even if the electricity goes off again (which it probably will!), we've got all the "light" we need to keep us warm!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Man After God's Heart

Few people get to have the view that I do, of this man who pours his life out for the sake of the Gospel.

He continually speaks, leads, writes, travels, counsels, and prays on behalf of the young people of Central and Eastern Europe, and our JV team who minister to them.

Right now his pouring out comes in the form of writing eight lessons that will be part of two more four-week studies in the "Gro" series for following up new believers here.

He has no idea I'm taking pictures of him, or writing about him!

He wrote the first four week study this summer, and now is in the middle of writing these other two which will form the final product of twelve studies, grouped into three 4-week studies, to help our new believers grow in their young faith.

They'll eventually be translated into all the languages in the countries we work in.

He let me read the studies he finished today and they are so good! He has four of the eight finished, so will continue on in the coming days with the other four.

Pray for him will you? These studies are hard to write! They take an incredible amount of concentration, biblical study and heart. But they are such a needed element in our follow up of new believers.

How thankful I am for this man who is after God's own heart -- "who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:4

Monday, December 10, 2018

Mondays with Charlie

On most Mondays I get a little visit with our grandson Charlie!

He lives in Albania with his parents who are JV missionaries there, and Mondays are their day off so that's why we get in our Monday visits!

It's amazing to be able to watch him grow week by week, hearing his new words and seeing him toddle around in their home there. I wish I could video it each time to remember all the little details that make him "Charlie" these days!

Today it was his new word of "doctor" and him patting his chest with his hand when you say his full name of Charles Salem...oh my, he couldn't have been any cuter than when he does that!

Oh and he danced when I sang to him! Today it was "Baby Shark" in honor of his very cool sweatshirt. 🦈

He and his parents will be with us in just 13 days. It will be their first Christmas in Europe as missionaries here (no jet lag when they come!), and the first with us since they married four and a half years ago. I can hardly wait to see them, and Charlie, in person soon!

I sat out on the porch as I talked, wrapped in my coat, (because Dave was in Skype meetings all day and I didn't want to disturb him), watching the ever changing view here. It's chilly today since we had the storm last night.

But pretty as always!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sabbath Refreshment

While we don't have a church to go to here on Hvar, we still took today as our Sabbath, a day of rest, and "went to church" through You Tube!

At our JV fall conference this past September we had a wonderful man, Dr Michael Reeves, come to speak.

Not only is he a brilliant theologian, but he is one of the most gifted and winsome speakers that I've ever heard. I said back then, and said again today, that listening to him is like what I imagine it was to sit under the great CS Lewis!

We listened to him speak on the "Return of Christ". Oh how rich and delightful to have our attention turned completely to Jesus today as we listened to Michael.


More Sabbath continued this afternoon as I spent it curled up in the chair reading a good book.

"Uncluttered" was written by Courtney Ellis, the daughter of one of our JV A-Team couples (A stands for ambassadors and accelerators for JV!).

Her mom asked if I'd be willing to be on the release team, which means reading it early and writing a review. I didn't have to think twice about that!

What a well written book this is! Motivating, stirring, convicting, and practical. I'm ready to 'unclutter' after reading it today...and I'm not even finished yet!

At the end of this Sabbath, as we sat by the fire and talked, a huge rainstorm blew in. Like HUGE!!!! It was raining harder than I think I've ever seen it here before!

But better yet...there was spectacular thunder and lightening!!

This was taken just seconds after the above photo.

I guess I'm a bit of a storm chaser, as I chose to stand outside as the wind howled and rain poured (at least I was under a solid roof!), holding my phone as still as possible, in hopes of catching a lightening picture. That was the best one I got! Keep in mind that it was 8:30 PM and completely pitch black outside...until the lightening lit of the sky.

All of these things were so refreshing on this Sabbath day! I feel ready to get back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Shafts of Light

It started off cloudy but warm today, so taking a break from our projects, we went out to do yard work here on Hvar.

But by 1:30, the sky was looking ominous as a storm blew in from the north.

It's the craziest thing to literally watch it move across the sky, bringing raindrops that soon turned to what felt like a slow running water faucet!

And yet in the midst of it, out at the horizon, were these shafts of light shining through.

The clouds would swirl and shift at a moment's notice, while the shaft of light stayed the same.

We've often said that it actually feels like there is a "hole" in the sky above this village. Sometimes it's close to shore, and sometimes it's way out to sea like it was today.

While I ran in to get my coat on, the wind picked up, and the sky let loose with rain. I didn't want to miss a good storm from the protection of our terrace!

As the storm rolled through, the shaft of light stayed the same out on the horizon.

Right now I'm reading through Exodus, and am just at the part where God sends a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead the Israelites in their escape from Egypt.

Seeing this sight today, both the clouds and the "pillar of light", I could more clearly imagine what that might have been like for them.

Finally the storm passed, with sunshine and blue sky replacing the rain clouds.

And then, within just a few minutes, this sight appeared on the horizon!

Again, the "hole" that let the light shine through!

Suddenly one of my favorite songs came to my mind...

"He's coming on the clouds, kings and kingdoms will bow down..."

"...and every chain will break, as broken hearts declare his praise. Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Our God is the Lion, the lion of Judah, he's roaring with power and fighting our battles, every knee will bow before You..."

YES!! Indeed every knee will bow.

And this is what compels and motivates us to continue sharing the Gospel and discipling young people across Central and Eastern Europe! We want SO many to bow their knee as believers in our GREAT GOD!!!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Answering the Why of the Prayer Room

On Tuesday night this week I got an email from one of our missionaries in Ukraine.

"Hi, Connie - could you elevate the country request about Ukraine Edge Floorball to "high alert" for the next 36 hours? (His meeting is at 9pm on the 5th). Appreciate it! May God intervene..."

One of my greatest joys is being behind the scenes of our JV Prayer Room, working on it every day as an editor, and getting requests like this to bring to the forefront for everyone who "comes in" to pray. 

In the past two years of our online prayer room there have been over 15,000 hours of prayer for the needs of our JV missionaries and their ministries. In just this year alone, there have been 870 prayer requests and over 600 answers to those! 

If you haven't tried it, can I encourage you to? We've made it as easy, and hopefully as enjoyable as possible!

If you click on the picture above, it will take you to the Prayer Room, and there you can simply register your email and then either book an hour sometime when it's convenient for you, or you can just click "Pray Now". I guarantee you'll learn a lot about JV, and have a wonderful time with the Lord as you pray!

And about that request from Tuesday night? I did elevate it to "high alert" so that it showed up first in our country requests section of the Prayer Room.

I also sent out an email to our entire team of missionaries and asked them to boldly pray, and to send messages of encouragement to our JV missionary in need of prayer covering.

For what? Read on for both the request and the answer. You will be glad you did!!

Half of the EDGE floorball league in Ukraine

"We are familiar with the miraculous story of Ezra, who appeals boldly before the kings of Persia and by God's incredible favor gets captives freed, gets permission to do ministry back in Israel and even gets the kings of Persia to fund the rebuilding of the temple (ch. 7). Right now, prayers are needed for our brother in Christ, Andriy, the JV Ukraine, leader of EDGE floorball, who is experiencing his own Ezra moment.

Currently there is a threat against floorball ministry in Ukraine. The new president of the Ukrainian Floorball Federation, TH, is looking to take control over all use of floorball in Ukraine, at both the professional and amateur levels. He wants Edge to fall under the management of the federation, paying taxes to the federation on every player and every team taking part in the Edge league, which right now is around 350-400 Edge players and coaches.

On Wednesday, December 5th, 9pm Eastern European Standard Time (GMT +2), Andriy has a face-to-face meeting with Mr. H at a cafe in Lviv. Andriy needs prayers for wisdom to clearly communicate that our floorball use is a ministry platform for church, and that our vision is that every teenager involved in floorball would hear the good news of Jesus Christ, having nothing to do with financial gain.

Then pray as Andriy plans to clearly share the gospel with Mr. H, a professed muslim, and challenge him to repentance and faith. (Andriy has been studying in a missions program in seminary and has even been reading the Koran and sees the divine intervention of this meeting.) This is not just a need for Edge protection, but also a need for the salvation of Mr. H and the hundreds of teens involved in the sport.

The chapter in Ezra (7) ends with King Artaxerxes praising God and with Ezra's prayer: "Praise the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who made the king want to beautify the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem! And praise him for demonstrating such unfailing love to me by honoring me before the king, his council, and all his mighty nobles! I felt encouraged because the gracious hand of the Lord my God was on me".

May God grant the same favor on Andriy, the EDGE league, Mr. H, and the future of floorball in Ukraine.
THE ANSWER that came from Andriy 36 hours later!

Thank you so much for praying for me, for TH (president of the Floorball Federation of Ukraine), and for our meeting. There are many answers to prayer in the "Ezra-7-type-of-way" that we were asking for. I am especially thankful for the messages and notes; I got one about every 15 min. throughout the whole day. This was a source of God's protection and immense courage, which I felt going into this.

The meeting happened. It was from 9-11pm; TH came in from out-of-town just for this meeting. He had been hearing so many great things about EDGE Floorball that he wanted to meet me in person.

I shared for a long time about the strategy and history of EDGE, emphasizing the Christ-centered, disciple-making ministry that it is.

Mr. H repeatedly claimed "What you do I really, really, really like", and "What you are doing is useful both for God and for the culture of sports in Ukraine; the physical, emotional and spiritual development of the next generation is essential for this nation".

Mr. H said that he now fully understands EDGE and accepts the model. He will not ask for any fees from the EDGE league, at least not for the next five years, when he may revisit the idea.

Mr. H said, "Your league can do what I can't - I will support you in whatever I can." He has already asked me to present EDGE at the national level, before the federation associated with the Ukrainian Ministry of Sports. He wants me to share everything about the league, particularly the Christian side of it, because it is changing young peoples' lives. People are noticing.

Lastly, my wife, Yulia, and I are heading to Prague this weekend to attend the world championship for floorball. TH will also be there, so we've made plans for lunch together in Czech

Thank you again, and we appreciate continued prayers for the EDGE league.

**We give GLORY TO GOD for his answer to our prayers!!**

This is a great example of why we created the JV Prayer Room! Come join us in praying for other needs in the life and ministry of our JV missionaries.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Quiet in Winter

Dave and I are tucked away on Hvar right now, working on various projects for the next few weeks.

Being on the south side of the island in December means a drive for all but the most basic of things that are available at a little mini market in town.

While Dave kept working, I set off towards Hvar Town, a 30 minute drive, in hope's of doing a week's worth of grocery shopping there so I can stay tucked away for a week once I'm done.

Because it's shorter to go on the "dirt road", a road that was literally dug out on the side of the mountain a few years ago, I got to see some incredible views along the way...with no guardrails to stop me from those views!

Some day this road is going to be finished to European Union standards and I'll remember the day when you could drive along here and have such unobstructed views as this!

While I'm really here in Hvar Town to get groceries, I can't resist taking a walk to see what's happening here right now.

As you can see...not much!

It was SOOOOO quiet here, except for the construction work going on at the Park Hotel - see the crane? - which they've completely stripped except for the front face of it. It should be spectacular when it's finished!

There are only a handful of stores open...and I mean maybe two, not including the pharmacy which is always open and has such a lovely nativity in its front window.

One cafe at the water's edge is open too, with a handful of men sipping their coffee outside on this blustery day. I didn't stop for coffee, but did stop to admire the view.

I wandered down to the riva, the place that is absolutely bustling with mega yachts in the summer, but is oh so quiet with fishing boats in winter.

And I took a stroll through the back streets which are full in summer too, but completely empty now.

Not one shop was open along any of those streets, except for a hair salon! This place is QUIET in the winter months.

Except for a grandma playing kickball in the square with her grandson. Sweet grandma!

The grocery store was nearly empty as well. I think I walked past three customers the whole time I was in there! There were definitely more people working than people shopping.

But there is definitely rest in this quiet. It's good for us to be in quiet for these weeks.

And surely it is good for the inhabitants too. While tourism is their bread and butter, they must, at times, feel overwhelmed and overrun with people all summer. This is their chance to rest and recuperate in the winter.

I quietly and politely made my way through the store, wanting to give them that rest, and went home feeling oddly restful too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Sunshine and Sunset

There is something so nourishing about sunshine in December on Hvar!

Dave and I took our computers out on the porch all afternoon and worked in the sunshine, soaking up the good Vitamin D.

I'm glad Dave brought an extra hat since I forgot mine!

The air was cool after a storm came through last night and blew out all the clouds. But with warm sunshine, it made for a perfect working spot while it was shining.

As the day came to a close, the air turned chilly and we made our way back into the house.

Only to hurry out again to catch photos of the spectacular sunset!

In all of my life I've never seen more beautiful sunsets than here on Hvar in December. If I was a meteorologist I could probably explain why that's true! But since I'm not, I get to just enjoy every turn of color as the sun sets deeper over the horizon to bring this day to a close.

Good Night Hvar!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Prayers for Victory

It's been a cloudy, rainy, windy first day here on Hvar.

We arrived last night to be here for a couple weeks of study and refueling. Dave has a lot of teaching coming in the next six months, so will begin to work on the study for it during these weeks.

Honestly, I don't know how he does it year after year, continuing to teach with such insight and excellence. He would be the first to tell you that the Lord meets him as he studies and gives him these insights into His Word; and that translates out to teaching that transforms for those who hear it!

Pray for Dave in these coming weeks, that God will again sustain him and give him His heart for all the teaching that's ahead.

I've got several projects to work on as well, and am thankful for space and time to spend on them. Pray for perseverance and insight as I work on these things.

Praise the Lord for beautiful views here that inspire me while I work!

There are a lot of demanding situations that we and our JV team our facing right now. So we'll also spend concentrated time in prayer for these things while we're here.

I sent out a letter for prayer to our JV team tonight about one of those situations happening in Ukraine tomorrow evening.

Our Edge Sports floorball program, that is reaching hundreds of young people each week, is being threatened. Pray with us for God's supernatural intervention as our Edge leader goes to meet with the man responsible for this threat. It is our JV missionary's heart's desire to not only share with this man what Edge Sports is about, but to share the Gospel as well with this Muslim man.

It is always fascinating to me when we're here on Hvar in December, that we see the best sunsets.

And that's because of the threatening clouds.

Oh how I'm praying that we'll see God's glory go forth in Ukraine through the threat that's there right now.

If you're reading this today, December 4th 2018, pray for God's victory there through this meeting!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Rest and Refuel

Every December for the past four years, Dave and I have come down to Croatia for a two week time of study and replenishment.

We arrived into Split last night after our drive from Slovenia where Dave finished the last of his teaching for the fall.

I think it's pretty accurate to say that Dave has spent well over 100 hours teaching since the beginning of September. He's been in Sweden, at home in Czech, all across the States, in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia; and that's not to mention coaching, discipleship, mentoring, counseling, and leadership that happens in many places too.

He loves all of those things; and most of all loves doing them as unto the Lord! But in order to continue having something to give, he's got to fill his tank again. So we're here to do that these next few weeks!

Croatia in December is much different than Croatia in the summer. But we love it, even with its rain and clouds.

The Christmas market is open here in Split so before heading over to Hvar, we stopped by to warm up a little bit.

I'm finally starting to feel better after being sick for the past week and a half

And enjoy some of their famous "fritule"!

These Croatian treats, mini doughnuts, are made at Christmas and Easter. Hot out of the fryer, they are something special!

After doing some Christmas shopping in Split, we headed for the ferry.

Arriving just 10 minutes before departure, we didn't have to worry about getting a place on the ferry today! are beautiful in all sorts of weather!