Saturday, November 30, 2019

World's Most Beloved Tenor

Dave and I came to Prague this afternoon because of a Christmas gift I gave Dave last year!

It was concert tickets that we've now waited on for eleven months since he first opened the gift. And now it was finally time to head there.

The underground metro here in Prague goes directly to the O2 arena where large events are held.

After just five stops and twelve minutes, we'd arrived at our destination!

The anticipation was definitely building for us!!

Having never been to an event here, we didn't know what to expect in terms of how long it would take to get in. And by the looks of the crowd, it felt like it might take forever!

But within a half hour, we were in and on our way to see the world's most beloved tenor!

Yes, we're here to listen to Andrea Bocelli in concert.

I don't remember when I first heard him sing, but it's been pure joy ever since discovering him, any time I listen.

But I can tell you...there is NOTHING like hearing him in person!!!

His concert was full of so much rich creativity and musical beauty. The Czech national philharmonic orchestra accompanied him, and several soloists joined him on stage.

There were beautiful visuals on the big screens behind him, that added a layer of depth and meaning to the concert. Sometimes it looked like you were in an old concert hall, and other times you were seeing clips from his own family. So precious!

By intermission we were simply breath-taken at the stunning beauty of it all...and mostly, by the gift of his voice that he shares with the world.

The first half of the concert was all classical, in Italian, and the second half included some of his most beloved songs, and new ones from his most recent album.

Somewhere along the way, tears started falling down my face as I took in the voice that some say is what God might sound like if we heard him sing. After hearing him in person, I'm inclined to agree.

I marvel at anyone's ability to stand on stage night after night and deliver to an audience waiting for your best. How can you keep delivering that night after night?

But Andrea Bocelli just stands and sings, never moving far from the microphone (as he is blind), radiating a presence that looks like he's marveling himself at this gift God has given to him. I don't know how else to explain it...but there is such humbleness in him at his offering to us all.

It was truly a concert of a lifetime!

There were three standing ovations and he sang one more song after each of them to the crowd of 16,000 people who'd come to hear him. I think none of us wanted it to end!

But end it did, and soon we were back on the metro, squished like sardines in a way I've never experienced!

But since we didn't have far to go, it wasn't long before we were back to our hotel.

I can safely say that my gift to Dave last year for Christmas was one of the best I've ever given him!

Our hearts soared to heaven as Andrea Bocelli blessed our ears and souls with music that feels like it truly did just come down from God!

Christmas Experience

Last Christmas the gift I gave Dave was tickets to a concert in Prague...that was happening eleven months later.

So he's had to wait until this week-end to experience his gift!

We arrived by train this afternoon, and headed immediately to the first place I wanted to take him, to start off his Christmas experience!

I was here earlier this fall with my friend, Martina, and loved it so much that I wanted to bring Dave to experience the atmosphere, food and let's be honest...mostly the desserts. I let him pick two!

When you choose the lemon (it's like nothing I've ever experienced), because it's their signature dessert item, you get a sticker and a gold pen to write on it with, and then you get to place it on their windows to commemorate the moment!

There's now a sticker that says, "Dave loves Connie!" Awwww!!! 💗💗💗

The "If Cafe" is a must if you're ever in Prague!

When I bought the concert tickets a year ago, I also booked a hotel for us using points that we'd acquired last year from Expedia (which is where I book everything for our travels). Little did I know what that would result in!

When we arrived to check in, the woman at the desk told us we'd been upgraded to their suite. I have no idea why (except that God was expressing kindness to us!) But it turned out to be a beautiful room, one of just three in the hotel with a balcony that overlooks one of the squares of Prague. So fun to look down on the Christmas market there!

We went down to grab a bite to eat there, deciding on the charcoal fire grill hut with some good bratwurst and chicken skewers!

Christmas in Prague is so enchanting! And I'm glad we got a little glimpse before heading to the concert.

(The concert is a blog post all of its own, due to its specialness!)

Friday, November 29, 2019

What's Next for Prayer Room

This afternoon Pavel and I met at the KAM/JV office in Frýdlant n.O. to talk about what's next for JV's Prayer Room.

We began building this virtual prayer room website in February 2016, and launched it on January 1, 2017. So we're almost at the end of three years of dedicated prayer to the movement of God that we long to see across Central and Eastern Europe. We've already logged over 26,000 hours of prayer.

But we know that this is just the beginning of what we believe God wants to do through the prayers of many. So we're praying, thinking and dreaming about how to further expand and develop the Prayer Room.

This is an app for another ministry that is inspiring to us

One of the things we're dreaming about is how to make it into an app for an Apple or Android phone. We want the Prayer Room to be not only as accessible as possible, but a beautiful and enjoyable experience.

Our goal is to roll out the app sometime in 2020.

The Bible often says "When you pray..." not "If you pray..."! So if prayer isn't an option, when are we to pray? God tells us in his word to pray in the Spirit on all occasions, pray continuously, to pray when you're in trouble, pray when you're anxious, and to be faithful in prayer (and a whole lot of other times!).

Jesus prayed; the disciples prayed; David prayed; Daniel prayed; Abraham prayed. The importance and example of prayer is throughout the Bible!

It's not just a big vending machine where we come with our asks. But it's our most intimate way of developing and nurturing our relationship with God...not only as we talk to Him, but as we listen.

One of our board members told me earlier this fall that he feels that the Prayer Room is discipling a new generation of believers. Oh may that be true! I want to be a woman of prayer, and I want our JV team to be a missionary team of prayer....where our walks with God are deep because of it, and where the fruit of our prayers is huge!

Pray with us for God's leading forward in what's next for the Prayer Room!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

With very mild November weather, Thanksgiving Day 2019 is beautiful!

One hundred and fifty of our JV family are here in Czech to celebrate this American holiday tradition that started when Dave and I, Dan and Laura Hash first moved to Czech and Poland, respectively, in 1993. This is my 27th year of Thanksgivings in the Czech Republic!

And now I get to spend it with my grandsons too!

We all gather in the restaurant of Malenovice to start our celebration with a word from Dave, some time of sharing (in pairs or groups...too many people to share out loud altogether!), and then a song. This year Dave had a little helper with him. 😊

In the past, I've sometimes been the photographer so have the picture to share of the whole group. But this year, I'm in the crowd, watching one of our C-team members take the picture of us all!

Judah asked me about ten times, "Will you come and eat with me??" So I sat down with him, while Tyler was getting his food (and while Lara was putting Asher down for a nap...he fell asleep while Papa was talking! 😂

Once he was settled, and had some of his little friends join him at the table, I headed downstairs to be with this group of friends.

L-R: me, Dave, Dan Hash, Laura Hash, Amy Ellenwood, Mel Ellenwood

I've sat at a lot of Thanksgivings with these dear people! And have many pictures through the years with Laura and Amy on this day. Love you girls!!

After the meal, it was just hang around time all afternoon. So different than the pace of our conference!

Eventually I wandered down to our playroom at Malenovice and found these cuties.

Judah and I played our first real game together down here...a version of Parcheesi! Amazingly, the game lasted for twenty five minutes...that's a long time of concentration for a 4 year old. I think it's time to start looking for some games to have at our house so we can play together!

We went upstairs for a meal of leftovers (because who doesn't love leftovers at Thanksgiving??!!)

And this time I sat for the whole meal with Judah, which brought out all the smiles! 😂

A ride down the elevator with Nonnie to our big meeting room brought out the smiles too!

There we gathered for our annual JV Kid's talent show, an event that's been happening for so many years!

The older JVK are the MC's for the night, as they both perform, but also bring up all the other JVK who have signed up for their talents!

What I love is that talent among our JVK is not just singing or playing an instrument...but it's poetry recitation, flower stick juggling, videos prepared ahead of time that show outdoor talent...and even one "how to roll up into a hammock" demonstration!

We did hear some lovely voices singing...

...and finished the night with worship led by our older JVK's.

How I love all the traditions at our JV Thanksgivings, but especially this one!

It's so special to celebrate our JV kids, who brave going to national schools and who live away from their grandparents and relatives. This is a place for all of us to be aunts and uncles as we cheer them on in the ways God has gifted them.

It's been such a sweet day, being family as we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

"Home" for Thanksgiving

For the past twenty one years, we've been celebrating Thanksgiving up at Malenovice! I've only missed one in all those years, which is good because it's something I look forward to all year!

After we purchased Malenovice in 1998, we began celebrating there, only taking a break the year that we renovated in 2000/01. It's become home to all of us for many different kinds of events, but Thanksgiving is the one that most feels like "coming home"!

I didn't take any pictures tonight, except for that one, because I was too busy catching up with some of the 150 people who are here until Friday! Yes, it's like one huge family reunion to have everyone gather here...and we're actually just one of four different JV Thanksgivings that will take place around Europe!

Thankful for JV family at this time of year, as we celebrate the goodness, kindness and faithfulness of God together. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

KAM Living Room

Dave and I drove up to Malenovice today, our training center here in Czech, for a "Living Room" with KAM, our Czech organization of Josiah Venture.

Four times a year, they bring all of their staff from around the country together for a day of fellowship, updates and training.

Sometimes, they invite our iTeam to these events (which they literally call Obývák, or Living Room as they want it to feel like home) so that we can hear more of what's going on in the country we all serve in (though we're serving JV internationally, we all still live here and work in the same offices as KAM in Frydlant n.O.).

It was so good to hear about all that's going on across the country. A new Edge sport's ministry has begun this year, and regional coaches are coaching 300 youth leaders!

Exit Tour, one of our ministries into schools, is also continuing to see God's hand of favor as they get into schools to do their prevention programs for a day, which allows them to share their faith right in the schools (though the Gospel is presented at a concert that all students are invited to).

Fusion music ministry continues to grow as well, as they train more leaders how to reach students using the Gospel-rock choir model that began in JV ten years ago.

We also heard about the renovations that will take place at Malenovice next year. We'll be enclosing our outdoor terrace in order to make more eating spaces in the restaurant, as well as completely updating the kitchen, and renovating bathrooms. The hotel will close at the end of September and open up again in mid-January.

I left feeling so proud of this team, for all the different ways they are pressing into sharing the Gospel! They definitely have bold faith, one of JV's core values.

Earthquake in Albania

This morning, I woke up to a text from Caleb saying they'd experienced an earthquake in the middle of the night in Albania, where they live and serve with Josiah Venture.

He sent this, to show me how big it had been.

I didn't grow up in a place that had earthquakes so always experienced them as something on the news.

But now, it's a different story when my kids and grandson are there.

The epicenter, and concentration of the quakes (there were multiple ones) was one hour, by car, to the north of them in Vlore, in a city named Durres.

There are a number of people who have lost their lives, others are buried in rubble, and there are over 600 in the hospitals with injuries as many buildings collapsed or were significantly damaged in the quakes.

Caleb, Haley and Charlie are fine, though definitely felt the quake and the shock of it happening just "down the road" from them (the first time we visited them, we had lunch in Durres).

Pray for the people of Albania as they process this, and look for reasons to explain it. Pray that the Christians there will step in to care for people, both physically as well as spiritually, and that God will use this for the good, to bring people to Himself.