Thursday, May 31, 2018

Racing Through Bratislava

Morning dawned bright and beautiful in Bratislava for Day Two of the JV Amazing Race with 28 summer intern teams, and a lot of JV staff!

Claire and I took public transportation into the city from the hostel we spent the night in, finding our way into Old Town Bratislava.

The original plan was for everyone, summer interns and JV staff, to stay in the same hostel here. But two days before the race, the hostel contacted our team to say they had bed bugs and were shutting down. YIKES!

A different sort of amazing race was on for our JV staff women who arrange accommodations for events, to find new places for 150 people to stay in. No small task!

Praise the Lord, the day before we were due to arrive, they were able to secure rooms for everyone. However, they were in four separate locations all across the city.

Claire and I came from our hostel, a half hour away, to Old Town where we got some breakfast.

 And met up with some of our teammates!

Our location for the challenge that we were tasked to serve at today was up at the Bratislava castle.

What a location to spend our day at!

Another one of our JV teammates, Regina from Estonia, joined us to serve at this station where we would soon see all 28 intern teams.

Soon the first teams arrived. And do you know what their challenge was?

This challenge was to spend 45 minutes in prayer together!

I wish you could have seen their faces when we told them that's what they were to do. Relief, shock, joy and delight crossed their faces as they headed off to a quiet spot up here to talk together to the Lord.

Little did they know that this was the last challenge of the day! When they came back to get what they thought was their next clue, it was so fun to tell them they were finished, and that they had the rest of the day to spend with each other.

This team of European interns serving in Ukraine this summer finished first for the day, receiving a little reward of cash to go get ice cream!

More teams began to make their way here to pray, including one with our nephew, Blake, on it! He's serving with the Fusion International team, who will travel Europe this summer to serve with various Fusion music ministries.

Blake is second from the right, making the peace sign!

Team after team came in, refreshed after their time of prayer.

And happy to find out that they had some free time before another day of Amazing Race tomorrow!

Towards the end, Zuzi, the creator of this year's Amazing Race, and her husband came to visit.

What she created in this year's Amazing Race has, so far, been simply stunning! It has been so thoughtful and purposeful, with reason and meaning behind so many of the challenges. Her love, care and passion to see the teams bond as they work through the challenges is already occurring because of her careful work. And she's done all of this while pregnant! She's due in August, yet here she is with us, keeping track of so much and encouraging all of us.

The last team finally arrived, hours after the first one had finished. But is this epic or what?!

That's one of the intern teams, praying up next to the castle!

When they finished, I asked if I could take a picture to remember the joy of having watched 109 interns pray over the course of several hours today; surely their investment will reap a harvest as God answers their prayers for the summer.

What an absolutely delightful day, in every way! It couldn't have been a sweeter day, serving at the prayer challenge from this beautiful spot.

Alongside the wall on the right side, there were gorgeous roses in every little alcove. We wanted to remember them!

Claire is wearing the camp t-shirt for this year, and I'm a walking advertisement for JV! 😉

Claire, Regina and I wandered through the castle grounds, down through the old Jewish section, and then back to Old Town where we enjoyed dinner together at the end of a wonderful day.

Then it was back on our tram for the ride to our hostel. Ten stops and a half hour later, we made it.

It kind of felt like it was in the middle of nowhere!

Tomorrow we'll be up bright and early to head out on the last day of the JV Amazing Race.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Amazing Race, Day One

JV Amazing Race Day is here!!

All the interns and JV helpers for the race stayed here at the hostel tonight, somewhere around 150 of us.

With instructions to head to Schönbrunn Palace, twenty eight teams of interns started heading out for the day, having no idea of what kinds of challenges they would face.

Some of us didn't have to be at our stations for a couple of hours, so this bunch headed out in search of breakfast.

15 süße Minuten Café (Fifteen Sweet Minutes) definitely met our needs.

So glad we could introduce Terry to Eggs Benedict!

BIG shoutout to these two, our amazing X-team members who serve us in a bazillion and one ways!

Among many other responsibilities throughout the year, Martina and Denny serve as conference coordinators for JV. They do it cheerfully, selflessly, and with so much love for their teammates. I can't say enough about how I love these two, and how deeply I appreciate all their work to make sure the details are cared for. They are amazing!

After breakfast we said goodbye to them as they headed off to tend to more details, and we headed off to man our station for the Amazing Race.

Walking through the streets of Vienna, we knew we were close to our station when we saw the opera house.

Just behind it is a beautiful park, which is one of the locations the interns would have to find in order to complete their challenge with us.

Since our challenge has something to do with Mozart, we first sat down across from his statue since the clue the interns will receive tells them to find it somewhere in Vienna.

Last night we were given all our materials, but needed to sort it out and make sure everything was working. Can you tell the challenge has something to do with listening to music?

As we waited there, we began receiving messages from our other teammates, telling us where the interns were at in the race. After hearing that things were slower than expected, we headed across the park in search of coffee!

The famous Albertina Art Museum backs up to the park, with a beautiful cafe on the terrace overlooking it. Coffee with a view is always the best!

It was too long before we got news that the first teams had completed the challenges before us, so we hurried back over to our spot by the Mozart statue to await them.

Their challenge? Listen to five pieces of Mozart music on a little MP3 device, look at the six pieces of sheet music (yes, there was an extra one!), and decide which order the music was in!

If you're a music person, that might not sound too difficult. But it was definitely a challenge for some!

If they came to us with a guess and it was wrong, they had to wait five minutes before coming back to us with another guess. Those who got it on the first time were definitely celebrating as it meant they could go on to the next challenge somewhere else in the city!

Eventually all 28 teams made their way to us within a 3 hour time period.

That meant some teams were way ahead for the day, while others were behind.

And this is exactly what we hope for as it makes teams work through all the dynamics of success and disappointment, learning each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Terry, Claire and I got to do lots of encouraging along the way!

Once everyone had come through out station, Claire and I headed out to get lunch and more coffee before heading on to our next location.

What fun to be with Claire, experiencing Vienna in a whole different way than we ever have!

The intern teams didn't know the final location of the day until they finished all the challenges; but Claire and I, being part of the JV staff manning the race, knew which train to take.

An hour later we arrived in Bratislava, Slovakia where the next day of the race would take place!

With this being the first time I've served on our team for the Amazing Race, I ended the day overwhelmed with joy and pride at how well it was planned for and executed. Seriously! This is an absolutely amazing event, and I can already see how God is using it to build unity and depth into the teams.

I can't wait for a new day of the race tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Race Is About to Begin

This morning found me in Ostrava, getting on a three hour train bound for one of my favorite cities.

But I'm not here alone! Claire is with me...

...and 148 other people, most of whom just arrived from the States today to be JV summer interns!

She and I are here as helpers for our JV Amazing Race, the intern team building event that takes place over three days, in three cities, and in three countries at the beginning of summer camps season.

During the next three days, they will receive clues (just like the tv program!) for getting from one place to another. There they find stations that all of the JV helpers are manning, and must complete tasks before heading on to the next one.

The purpose of the race, which can be quite challenging, is to build community (often times they are meeting each other for the first time when they arrive!), and for teams to know each other before the summer begins. We hope they get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses before they are under the stress of camp season, so that they can work through those things together, and thus build a team who will be most effective at camps.

Claire and I headed to the underground metro, in order to head towards the youth hostel where we we're meeting up with everyone.

We had our own challenge in reading the directions for how to reach the hostel! Would you know where to go?

With rain threatening, we came out of the metro and wandered through an ordinary Vienna neighborhood, hoping we were in the right place.

Walking through a normal neighborhood, we saw a normal sight.

For Vienna. 😉

There are beautiful cathedrals everywhere here!

We made it and found many friends, JV staff and interns, there to give hugs to!

Two of Claire's dearest friends from the Chicago area are here as interns - one for the summer, and one extended for six months. They didn't know Claire would be on the Amazing Race so were completely surprised to find her here. That was a happy greeting!

We met together with our JV staff who are all running the race as helpers, led by Zuzi who put together the race this year. She and Adel, another one of our staff, have worked on this for months, looking for locations, making up challenges, contacting hostels, arranging transportation, writing all the materials we're using, having them printed...and on and on. It's a LOT OF WORK!

But they do it so cheerfully, with servant hearts, in order to give the interns the very best experience.

This is the first time I've ever helped at one of our Amazing Races and already I am so impressed with our team, and how well organized everything is.

I can't wait to start tomorrow!