Monday, September 28, 2020

Beethoven in Ostrava

Despite restrictions due to coronavirus, an event still took place in Ostrava this evening that was delightful to share with these two.

Claire, Shelby (a JV teammate who lives in Ostrava) and I met up for dinner and then headed over to the beautiful cathedral just off the main Ostrava square.

Tonight was the final concert for the Svatováclavský hudební festival, a musical festival that takes place each year around the Ostrava area. Many of the concerts are in churches like this one. 

The performance tonight was Beethoven's "Missa solemnis D, op 123", a mass he composed over a period of four years, debuting in Russia in 1824. It is considered one of his supreme achievements, and after hearing it tonight, I could agree! 

Composed in five parts - the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei - it is a choral and orchestral masterpiece that left me teary at times as I read along with the text (translated from Latin to Czech). 

Lord have mercy, glory to God, I believe, Holy, and Lamb of God are the themes that comprised this composition played by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and sung by the Brno Philharmonic Choir. 

We all walked out of the cathedral, in awe of both the composer and those who brought it to life tonight. It is truly one of the finest performances I have ever heard!

This sticker was on a car beside the church...not this year's sticker, obviously! But what a way to end this year's festival with this particular performance. 

Whether or not everyone in the cathedral tonight soaked in the clear message, it is a hopeful one that is much needed! 

I can say for sure that the three of us deeply received it.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Youth Ministry Recharge

Today was an extraordinary day in the history of Josiah Venture! 

Six weeks ago leadership made the tough decision to cancel our fall training conference for the first time, which would have brought 400 people to Malenovice for a week of teaching, coaching, encouragement and fellowship. But due to the rising number of coronavirus cases, it was not safe to hold such a large gathering, and thus a new event was born.

That online Youth Ministry Recharge happened today, across thirteen different countries, with over 700 people gathered in small groups at churches, in youth meeting rooms, or private homes, just like we were. 

Over the past two weeks, everything has been pre-recorded and put on a hosting site where it could be accessed today by all the participants.

So Dave sat and listened to his own teaching!

I hardly took any pictures during the six hours we were together; that was because I was so busy enjoying the content of this day!

The four teaching blocks were just 15 minutes each, with a lot of time for discussion questions and sharing after each one. I was amazed at how quickly the time went by! Dave taught two of those sessions, and also led some of the interviews that were interspersed throughout the event. 

To spice up the day and give us all a thrill, there were also three brilliant "movie clips" with two of our JV staff starring in Star Wars and Avenger scenes.  

Wonder how that happened? It's called "editing magic"!!! These clips were absolutely fantastic and so fun to watch throughout the event! If we're ever able post them, I'll let you know! 

Every one of us had good take-aways for next steps after the Recharge event concluded, and I pray that was true across the region. 

There will be three more week-ends in October and November, where more Recharge gatherings will take place. There are already over 1000 who have registered in total, so this will definitely reach more youth workers than our normal fall conference would. 

This is God's good plan to get his transformational work done in the midst of a pandemic!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Cast Off

Mid-morning today I saw this photo posted by Tyler on Instagram!

Judah's broken foot has healed and the cast is off!

I'd made a plan with Tyler and Lara that if it happened, I'd come in to Ostrava and surprise the boys after školka, and take them for ice cream as a treat for this big event in Judah's life. 

Lara hadn't told them I was coming, only that there would be a treat after school. Judah melted my heart when he said to me, "Nonnie, YOU are the treat!!"

Together we meandered back to the main square in Ostrava, stopping for a little visit with Leoš Janáček (a Czech composer who hangs out there!). It will take a bit for Judah to walk well again, but considering that the cast had only come off a few hours earlier, I was amazed that he was up for the walk!

We did eventually get our ice cream to celebrate this big occasion!

And then we all got in the car together and rode back Frydlant where they dropped me off at home before heading up to Malenovice where they were having dinner for a KAM event this evening. 

Feeling so thankful this evening for God's mercy over Judah, and that the break in his foot has healed!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Back Together

Since our son, Caleb, and his wife, Haley live and serve with JV in Albania, along with their two kids, I don't often get to see them. But today I got a precious photo of the four of them that makes my heart so happy, on many levels!

They are back together after a week of being separated from Caleb, who had to go to the States for another injection at Cleveland Clinic, for the pain that he has suffered from since he was just nine years old. 

I wrote a blog post HERE about all of that back in 2012.  

It's been 28 months since he last needed the injection. This is the longest period of time yet in between injections We're praising the Lord for that! Eight years ago he was told that it could take 3-5 years for the damaged nerve to heal. We continue to pray for full healing; but are so glad for this provision of relief for him that is lasting longer and longer. 

Haley managed the kids by herself during the seven days he was gone. I am so proud of her! It's no small feat to do that, and she not only made it, but did it with grace and beauty, trusting the Lord for her and the kids, and for Caleb in Cleveland. 

I know they are all SO happy to be back together again! 

And I'm blessing the Lord for his kindness to care for our kids and grandkids!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Birthday in Ostrava

Since Dave was gone on his birthday, the 16th of this month, we had a late celebration for him last night in Ostrava!

Tyler and Lara told us about a restaurant there that we'd never heard of, Palouk, so that's where we met up with everyone!

What a cool restaurant, with really fantastic food; and even more so, amazing people to share it with!

Asher was so happy to sit next to Papa for Papa's birthday celebration!

And Judah was all smiles this evening too!

The food was excellent, conversation was sweet, and celebrating Dave/Dad/Papa was the best!

So thankful for this kind, loving, godly man who is so selfless in the way he lives and goes about life.

Happy Birthday again Dave!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Professions of Faith

How glorious to gather for church this morning, outside at the big amphitheater at Malenovice! 

It couldn't have been a more gorgeous fall day to have a special service up here.

After the youth lead in worship, four people stood before the church family and gave their testimonies about how they came to Christ. 

Two came from Christian families and have grown up in our church. It's always special to see them make a personal profession of faith. 

But it was equally as special to hear from the two who came from non-Christian families - one came to Christ at an English camp, and the other at a Christian outreach event for adults. All four love the Lord!

How beautiful to see each of them then take the step of baptism!

Each of them were baptized down near the cabins, in our new baptismal area that was recently completed. 

It couldn't have been a sweeter Sunday service, to witness these beautiful professions of faith!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

ForMission: Year 2

You can feel fall in the air today! Gray, misty clouds were low in the sky at the cabins up at Malenovice today, our JV training center.

I came up to hear Tyler teach at ForMission, the theological bachelor degree education program he leads for JV. 

But who did I see upon arrival?!

Aunt Claire came up to be with the boys while Lara came in to hear Tyler teach too!

Now in its second year of the program, they have a new class of students who have come from Slovenia, Germany, Poland and Czech to be here. There are three students from Hungary, as well as one from Macedonia, who are also in the program, but weren't able to come due to coronavirus restrictions in their country. So they are "Zoom-ed" in this whole week for classes. 

Claire also came up to be photographer - she's so great at using her gifts in all sorts of ways!

The school has grown this year, adding not only another first year class, but another couple to serve in the program! Sean and Sarah Smith arrived just two weeks ago (they are on the right side of the group, with Sarah holding their son in her arms) from the States where they've been waiting since April to be able to come! Their support was raised, but no visas were being given during the quarantine period. 

I know everyone is happy that they have finally arrived!

ForMission holds five separate weeks of classes in person, and the rest of their studies are online, with assignments, books to read, and online mentoring from the ForMission team. I know they're thankful to have been able to have the first week of classes in person, despite coronavirus. They're hopeful that they'll be able to continue having them throughout the rest of this school year. But if not, Zoom is always an option! 

I'm so proud of Tyler and Lara for pioneering this rich, biblical program that will give their students a foundation for life and ministry across this region.

It's a bonus getting to have these little guys nearby for the week! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Swiss Birthday Celebration

Today is Dave's 59th birthday!

These pictures were taken just yesterday in Switzerland, where he took Claire and a friend to hike in the Alps over the week-end.

It's been a dream of Claire's for several years to do a backpacking trip in the area above Lauterbrunnen, and after a year on the calendar, that dream came true, despite all the restrictions across Europe. Thankfully Switzerland's borders were still open so they were able to go.

I've only seen a few pictures so far, but from what I've seen, it was quite an epic hike!

They spent three nights in huts throughout this part of the Alps, soaking in God's magnificent design in this part of the world.

On this 59th birthday, three things come to mind that I love about Dave, represented in this hiking trip.

He loves his family and consistently invests time and energy into those relationships that mean so much to him.

He is an adventurer at heart and is always up for another one, especially if it involves being with people he loves!

And finally...Dave has deep faith in our big God, and being in Switzerland is one of his happiest places to be as it reminds him moment by moment while hiking, of just how great and awesome God is!

Happy Birthday dearest Dave!! I celebrate you with all my heart today! ❤️

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Here and Now

Although fall is right around the corner, I'm still thinking about the summer today.

It's been a month since I last posted, which is unusual for me. I do hope to go back and capture some of the days of this extraordinary season, but for now want to reflect a bit.

Why do I call it extraordinary?

I have experienced relationship with the Lord -- Father, Son and Spirit -- in the most tender, meaningful, and present kind of way. It's been rich, personal, joyful, as well as gut wrenching (as he's led me to confront my own sin), hard, but liberating! I feel so deeply cleansed having walked a road of obedience to whatever He has asked of me in the past six months.

This journey started in March, when I developed some pain in different areas of my body. After getting fully checked out medically and finding nothing, I went down the road of pressing in more than ever to listen and be with the Lord.

It took time; it took discipline. It's so much easier to just keep going, to keep busy. But the pain was relentless and in His grace for me, gave little choice but to stop. And in the stopping, I found stillness. With the Lord. In a way I'd never known before.

When I look back over these six months, and in particular the past month, as I've pressed in to being present in the here and now with Him more than I ever have, I am kind of at a loss for words about the preciousness of it. I have so deeply treasured and valued God's love for me as He relentlessly pursued me, taking us to new places in our relationship.

Being a person who enjoys productivity and results, it's been a humbling experience to be led to set those things aside and just "be".

Sometimes the being was with just Him; sometimes the being was with family and friends. Other times the being was just in quiet, with only the sounds of the surroundings next to me.

But in all of it, I found deep, deep peace and joy, rest and love in the "being". He likes being with me, and wants more of that (and I know for sure that He likes being with you too!)

To be honest though, it's a little hard to know where to go from here.

I am free of the pain now (for which I'm so grateful to the Lord) so can physically "get up and walk". But I don't want to just go back to walking (limping?!) in old ways. I want to walk in the kind of intimacy I've experienced with Him these past six months.

To be super honest, this new place He's led me to has some implications that make blogging a little difficult.  And I'm still trying to discern what His way forward is for me in this.

Being present in the here and now with Him, and with others, means that I have to set aside some of my "future" thinking which is where my blogging brain has been over the past 14 years. There has always been a part of me that is thinking forward to what I might write about, rather than just being in the present.

If you've read this far, you're probably one of my regular blog readers (or family!). Thank you for being patient with me, and going on this journey with me. I have loved blogging all these years, and I think there are still more posts ahead. But it might look different going forward. I really don't know.

I'm praying and listening for how to live present, in the here and now, and still blog!

I know I'll do a bit of "catch up", because there are special memories I want to capture of the past month. And then we'll see what comes next.

For now, Psalm 16:11 best captures my expectation and hope for the future: "You will make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forever."

This is my hope for here and now with the Lord, as I seek to walk more closely with Him in his presence.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Filming in Ostrava

This morning I was back in Ostrava to watch something special that's in the works for our JV team

Five weeks ago the decision was made to cancel our "in person" fall training conference due to an increase of COVID-19 cases across Europe. 

The leadership team and country leaders wrestled with what to do in light of that, and after much prayer and thought, pivoted radically and planned an entirely new event.

The team has created a one-day online event to equip youth leaders called "Youth Ministry Recharge".  this time. 

It will be a big/small event where people will gather with their youth ministry teams in homes, youth group meeting rooms, and churches, across the region, and watch together with hundreds of others, what is being filmed today.  

There will actually be just an hour and a half of content that will be watched; the rest of the six hour time period will be spent in discussion, fellowship and prayer. 

During the online section, they'll get teaching and hear testimonies from around the region of how people are living out the four charges of the day that will be given: Live by Faith, Navigate Difficulties, Maximize Opportunities, and Show the Way.

Dave, his brother, Josh, and Terry English recorded their teaching here in the studio yesterday.

And today they are recording all the interviews with various JV staff, sharing those testimonies of how God's been leading them during the past seven months.

It's an amazingly complex process to put all of this together, especially in such a short time. 

But our Communications Team is AWESOME, and they are working so hard at getting everything filmed in order to then do all the editing, which includes condensing down hours and hours of filming into just an hour and a half of content. 

This is somewhat of an experiment because we've never done anything like this before. But as they say, "Necessity is the mother of invention"!

We're praying that this "Recharge" of youth workers across Central and Eastern Europe will result in more fruit for God's Kingdom as they are built into and encouraged through this upcoming event. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Ice Cream after School

I've been visiting the main square of Ostrava since September 1993!  

I first visited the square with Dave when we came to look for a place to live in nearby Havířov. Who would have ever guessed I'd be coming to this square 27 years later, visiting my grandchildren who live right here, on the second floor of the white building?!

Somewhere in all of my photos, I have a picture of me standing in front of that very building. I really want to find it someday!

Lara was on the way home from školka with the boys when I caught up with them. 

I haven't gotten to see them since mid-August, and have missed a few weeks of Judah's broken foot and cast saga so wanted to come see them today for a catch up and some ice cream!

Judah was happy to give me his best grin to show as he modeled the cast on his left foot ("Did you like how I was smiling?" he impishly said to me after I took this picture!).

The boys dropped off their backpacks and then we headed back out into the square.

Judah was sure I needed to try the dragon fruit ice cream at their favorite stand nearby!

With ice cream in hand, I got a picture of the four of them. No wait...FIVE! Baby boy is growing inside Lara and will be here before we know it! (He's due December 17th).  

It sure is fun having them live nearby for these kinds of spontaneous visits!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fall Webinar

We had our first webinar of the fall with the whole JV team this morning! 

These times together as the team, even online, are so uplifting and encouraging! 

We heard updates from around the region of how camps went this summer despite coronavirus restrictions. Our team led 70 evangelistic events, 35 camps, 18 disciple-making events, and 19 different kinds of leadership trainings. 

We also got to hear from numerous staff who shared how God is moving in their countries during this unusual season. 

Stojce, who serves in Serbia, is one of our JV social media pioneers. 

During these season of quarantines and restrictions, he began been posting daily minute-long videos that focus on topics people are interested in, and Bible stories. In a country that claims to have 10 000 believers, they have over 21 000 YouTube subscribers watching their videos! He shared a story about a woman who found him online, trusted Christ, asked to get baptized, and joined a church near him. 

After updates, Dave taught from Hebrews 12 on the opportunities we have in this season. 

He talked about living by faith, lightening up our load (not carrying unnecessary weight), running with endurance, and looking to Jesus. 

In the point about running with endurance, he brought on our son, Caleb, who lives and serves in Albania, and had him share about a lesson he learned this summer while working with the youth there.

Caleb gave them the assignment to put up a tent, without any instructions, nor could they use any words among those they were working with! Some were frustrated, some gave up; but one of the youngest in the group kept doing "something". Caleb's point that he shared with the students afterward was, "With COVID it may seem harder, but we must do something."

We also heard from Josh, Dave's brother, who gave us the update on our upcoming one-day "Recharge" event, which is instead of our normal week-long ministry equipping fall conference.

The team is hard at work right now, taping all that will be used for a 6 hour event on Saturday, September 26th that will focus on four things: living by faith, navigating difficulties, maximizing opportunities, and showing the way. We hope to have 500 participants in small group settings, gathering across Central and Eastern Europe that day.

In fact, Josh was actually here from Slovenia for the webinar, and to spend a few nights with us as he is involved in the taping with Dave, and the rest of the team putting this event together!

I feel so proud of our team and how they're adapting, adjusting, and pivoting in order to make the most of these unusual times. We're praying that not just in spite of, but because of these unusual times, we will see much fruit for God's Kingdom in the coming weeks and months.