Saturday, November 10, 2018

Party Day for Judah

It's somebody's three year old birthday party today!!

While we celebrated Judah's birthday with family earlier, today it was time to celebrate with his friends!

He'd just arrived to the party, so happy to see everyone who was already there!
He's been talking about, and waiting for, this exciting day for months!

What a happy celebration it was!

So many friends -- from their church in Ostrava, from Frydlant, from JV, and from Judah's preschool -- came to Tyler and Lara's church for the celebration this morning.

It touched my heart to see so many who took time on a Saturday morning to be here for Judah's first birthday that he's celebrating here in Czech.

Since this was a "dinosaur" birthday, Tyler drew a dino and they played "Pin the Tail on the Dino!"

Judah seemed to soak up every minute of his party.

Look at the joy on his face as everyone sang happy birthday to him!

His friends were so generous to him, excited to give their thoughtful gifts!

I loved watching him respond with joy to each one!

Sometimes he'd just stop and get down on the floor to really check out what it was!

And occasionally gave hugs to say thanks for the cute!

There is just something so wonderful about a kid's birthday party with friends. I love that the Lord has already given him these friends who are important to him, and who he enjoys being with.

And of course, it's always good to have your brother there too!

Three hours of partying went by so quickly today.

But I know that Judah loved every minute of it, and will be talking about it for days, if not weeks, to come, remembering the people who came, and the feeling of being loved and cared about by so many.

What a good life the Lord has already given to Judah in these first three years of life! And how special that he is surrounded by such a loving community of family and friends, who will help to shape him into the boy, and then man, that God made him to be.

We all sure love you Judah!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Marriage Coaching at Malenovice

Many years ago, on a trip to the States to visit one of our supporting churches in Vancouver, Washington, we met a couple who had just started attending the church. That "chance" meeting led to a friendship that has not only lasted for many years, but has brought our whole Josiah Venture team great blessing.

This whole week at Malenovice, Al and Autumn Ray, with Marriage Team, have been with 12 of our JV couples, teaching them and giving them lots of practice on how to be marriage coaches.

They first started coming years ago when we began having our JV marriage conferences. They served our team as counselors at three different conferences, using their wisdom, expertise and godly counsel in helping our couples tune up their marriages.

But then they came three years ago to lead the first group of our JV couples in how to do marriage coaching. And have been coming every year since then!

We know that it's important to give good attention and make deep investments in our marriages no matter where you live. But when you're on the mission field, there are even greater pressures that press against a married couple. So over the past years we've given more attention to our own marriage, and to helping our JV couples stay healthy.

And Al and Autumn have been a huge resource to us in this pursuit of healthy marriages!

Today, they graduated another group of marriage coaches up at Malenovice. Those couples will now be able to come alongside others (both JV missionary couples and couples in their churches and ministries) to coach them in how they can have healthy, vibrant, and happy marriages!

We are so thankful for this resource that helps us healthily stay on the mission field to do what God has called us to do. Thanks Al and Autumn!!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Breakfast in the Garden

I walked out the door this morning to a meeting, turning my head towards our front yard as I headed out. 

If you're not looking closely, you might just think I'm capturing yet another pretty fall morning here.

But look closer!

There is not just one, but two (look close!) deer having breakfast in our garden. 🤣

They don't like the peppers that are still hanging on the vine. But they DO like the leaves. And in fact, have been stripping them off for the past few weeks.

I guess it's their version of the "drive through", like at McDonalds!

He, or she, wasn't too concerned about me and just went right back to breakfast after a quick glance at me.

I'm glad I had my phone in hand to capture that. We'd known that something was stripping the pepper plants, but hadn't caught them red-handed until now!

For years we've always said, "We live in a zoo", because of all the different animals that make their way through our yard at different times of the year. And today is no exception!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Cookies and Friends

Oh the joy of being home for a few days!

Fall is always a busy season of travel for Dave and I, and honestly I really do enjoy it. But then I come home and remember how good it is to get to do normal things here.

Like bake!

We have friends from Norway visiting so it gave me a reason to find a new recipe to try out (yes, one of my favorite things to do with guests...go figure!).

This time it was these 'oh so delicious' chewy molasses spelt cookies from "Oh She Glows".

Spelt is an ancient grain that, while related to wheat, settles on some people's gluten-intolerant tummies ... like mine!

It's easy to find here in stores (I've never looked for it in the States so don't know how readily available, or not, it is). And while I don't use it regularly, it's a good substitute for me in baking when I do decide to use it. Finding a specific recipe that even calls for it is a bonus!

I loved being in my kitchen on this beautiful fall afternoon trying it out and preparing for our guests.

We had such a wonderful evening with our friends, Oivind and Linda, who head up a European church planting movement. Our hearts beat for the same kinds of things, like a movement of God across this whole region! 

What an amazing privilege to link together with so many like-hearted people to see God's Kingdom advanced during our lifetimes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Great Celebration

There are celebrations that you make time for in your life.

And then there are CELEBRATIONS that you MAKE TIME FOR!!

Tonight was the latter.  😄

Tonight the four of us who arrived in November 1993 to begin Josiah Venture, Dave and I, Dan and Laura Hash, celebrated 25 years of God's faithfulness and all He has done across Central and Eastern Europe to reach young people with the Gospel.

When we drove from Germany, where we had all previously served as missionaries, into the Czech Republic on that dark November night, we didn't know what life was going to be like in a day, a week, a month or a year! It was all a big unknown, but one that we knew God had called us to.

Little did we know the four of us would still be here twenty five years later!

Our sweet Claire stopped by the restaurant where we were celebrating tonight, to take some pictures to commemorate this significant moment.

She recreated our first team picture, minus Caleb, who was in the following picture, and three year old Tyler who was taking it!

That was our first team picture, taken amidst boxes yet unpacked at our house in Havirov, and amidst lives yet un-lived in the places God had called us to: Hash's to Poland, Patty's to the Czech Republic.

While we had a vision and a hope-filled plan, we really didn't know how it was going to unfold.

But God did!

The four of us were joined by Ken and Andrea Pitcher a few months later, and many more in the months and twenty five years after.

We all served in local churches, building model youth ministries, and praying like crazy that God would fulfill the vision He'd given: A movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe, that finds it home in the local church and transforms society.

And slowly momentum began to build.

We saw teenagers trust Christ. We had the privilege of baptizing them. We had one camp, then three, then seven...and then 1566 as of today!

We started training leaders.

We kept praying.

God did miracles.

And here we are twenty five years later.

Dave and I still serving the Lord in Czech.

Dan and Laura in Poland.

It has been the most amazing privilege for the four of us to be part of something so big, something that only God could do: raise up a whole team of people, 350 as of today, serving in 14 countries to evangelize, disciple and train the next generation to bring the Gospel to the youth of Central and Eastern Europe.

All we did was say "Yes" and go when He said, "Go". The rest of the story is HIS, and His alone.

Tonight we reminisced, told stories, laughed, and remembered the hard and the good, giving God glory for it all.

We also talked about what we still dream of in the future. Yes, we still have dreams, hopes and prayers for what's to come, and hope the Lord lets us see some of those miracles that are still in the making!

But for tonight, we soaked in the kindness, faithfulness and mercy of God, who has let us see what we've seen, and be part of what we've been part of. He is good, oh so good, and it's the greatest joy to walk with him through it all.

**Thank you Claire for stopping by tonight to take those photos for us! 
You were just an 'twinkle in our eye' when we moved here twenty five years ago, 
and yet now you're here too, serving alongside us in JV!! 
What joy that brings to our hearts, that all of our children, 
you, Tyler, Caleb and Jacob, 
are walking with the Lord 
and serving here now too.** 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Bardejov, Slovakia

What a wonderful week-end in Slovakia!

Dave spoke at KPM 25+, a conference organized by our JV Slovakia team. It's amazing how much God can do in just 48 hours together with people. It's a week-end we won't soon forget.

After lunch with our friend and JV teammate, Katerina, we all headed to Bardejov.

We were near here four years ago for a wedding, but didn't get to come downtown. Now I know what we missed back then!

As a World UNESCO site, its beginnings were first written of in 1240, though settlers have been there since the Stone Age!

It's authentic old town square has such charm, especially in the glowing sunshine of a beautiful fall afternoon.

But the real reason we came was to see friends who serve with JV in this church in Bardejov.

Daniel and Maruska, whose wedding we came to four years ago, live just across the street, in view of their church where they serve.

We had the nicest afternoon, visiting them in their home, along with others who had also been at the conference with us. We love all of these dear ones and wished we could have stayed longer.

But with a four hour drive ahead of us, and happily tired from a full week-end, we said our goodbyes and headed for home.

Driving west towards Czech, we had a beautiful sunset that seemed to last longer than usual, with such pretty views until dark.

When we got home, our friend who's been caring for our dog during this past month, dropped her off. I always love being back here with her!

This has been a full fall of travels...and we're not finished yet! But for now we're home and that feels great!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Week-end in Slovakia

This week-end Dave and I are on the far eastern side of Slovakia for a conference.

We're not staying in that building, but it's one of many beautiful places in this spa town where Austrian royalty used to visit, and where many from around the region come today for its curative benefits.

However we're not here for the spa, though it's a famous one and lovely to walk around!

We're here for a conference with 170 Slovak believers, who are digging in to God's word with Dave.

Studying in Colossians, chapters one and two, we're spending this week-end asking the question of what it means to be in Christ, and have Christ in us, and how that works out practically.

After the first session this morning people were given time to walk and talk with God, to ask Him what changes He wants to make in their lives to lead fresh lives of faith.

There was also time for mentoring, which was how I had the privilege of spending the rest of my morning and afternoon, talking, praying and seeking God with several women. Oh how God "showed up"! It was a very precious time.

I also led a seminar in the later afternoon.

A few years ago as I assessed who God made me to be, I realized that teaching is not in my gifting. I was doing it, but feeling no power of God flow through me as I taught. And yet, there are things of Him that I am passionate about and love to speak of. So how to reconcile those two things?

Have an interview conversation about those topics!

It was actually my Slovak friends in JV who opened up that option for me and I love it! My dear friend, Katerina interviewed me and translated, doing a fantastic job of helping me communicate my love for prayer.

I had a wonderful group with me this afternoon (more than you can see in the picture...sorry I missed some of you, and that this picture is blurry!) to talk about prayer and why I'm passionate about it.

My love for God has been infinitely deepened through hours of prayer over the years, and I've seen the power of God move as a result of prayer.

It was a joy to pass on some of my thoughts from God's word and from my experiences with it. I know I left more encouraged to press on in prayer after being with this dear group!

Friday, November 2, 2018

KPM 25+

This afternoon Dave and I headed out from home, passing the High Tatra mountains of Slovakia as we drove four and a half hours towards our destination.

Though not as high, it reminded me of driving by the Rockies of Colorado or the Tetons of Wyoming!

Without taking my eyes off the road (I promise) I held up my phone to see if I could take a few pictures while I drove, while Dave was finishing his preparations for the week-end.

And why are we passing the High Tatras? To come here!

This week-end is KPM 25+.

That might look like we're celebrating a 25 year anniversary. Or that there have been more KPM conferences than 25.

But the truth is, this is a conference for people 25 years and older!

And Dave's teaching at it.

KPM is a youth leader training conference in Slovakia that's actually been going for 25+ years. But this is not that conference.

This one is for those who have been to it in years past, but who are no longer in youth group or working with young people, but want to continue to grow.

Sometimes people are on fire for God as young people, but begin to stagnate in their middle years. So Dave is speaking from Colossians 1-2 about the difference it can make in our lives when we are in Christ, and when Christ is in us, and how knowing and living this out can keep us fresh for many years.

I love the KPM team putting on this event! We've known them for years, and are so encouraged by their faith, creativity and care of people. I'm sure this is going to be a very meaningful week-end in Bardejovské Kúpele!

**Special thanks to the young woman who personally made hundreds of beautiful 
cupcakes for us all to enjoy this evening!**