We had a wonderful Saturday today spending time with another missionary family in Poland. I believe the Carlsons have been in Poland for about 18 years now and have enjoyed their ministry there immensely. Back in July we visited them, but it was fun to reconnect again at their home and just talk about what’s going in each of our lives and share a Saturday together.
My biggest takeaway from today was just how important it is to have older families in your life. God has graciously allowed older families in to my family’s life over the years and I have learned much from them. Invaluable tools have been handed down to me in regards to parenting, my and Bethany’s relationship, ministry, leadership, etc. from older men and women. That’s part of discipleship and I really don’t care how old you are, there’s always something to learn and there’s always someone who has gone before you and would be able to speak in to your life. I tell myself all the time, “Never stop learning.” Maybe I’ve even written it on this blog, but when you stop learning, you stop growing. Growth is part of being a human, and it’s definitely part of being a Christian. We are constantly desiring to grow in Christ-likeness and to look more and more like Him every day. But if I sit still and don’t work at it, there won’t be any growth. It takes work.
All that to say, we were blessed just to chat with the Carlson family and learn from their time on the field and to hear their insights in to what helped them along the way. Topics like parenting, language, and friendship. The key now is to work through the things we discussed and make a game plan for how to implement change and grow in those areas. By God’s grace, we will do just that and even look more like Christ in the end.
This was Avery playing with a balloon at the Carlson’s house today. I know she just turned 3 a few weeks ago, but she really looks older to me here.
One of the joys of working with young people is seeing God change their lives. Whether it’s watching God transform their hearts in to new creations at salvation or watching them on the path of discipleship as they become more and more like Christ, it’s always a joy. The video below is a sampling of some of the ways God has worked in the lives of young people this summer. Even though I only had minimal involvement in the creation of this video, my team was responsible for creating this content at this year’s fall conference. What I love about this video is how these young people, many of which are brand new believers, respond when they are asked about Jesus. The freshness of their faith is real, exciting, and even a little contagious. It’s a joy to think about Jesus and I think this video will remind of you of that.
Tonight we had another “family night” dinner with our friends that live near us here in town. Kristin (who’s house we were at) made homemade chili and cornbread and Bethany brought a salad. It was a delicious meal, but more than anything, it was a great time together with the Yorman family and our mutual friend Rachael. The Yorman’s boys and our kids love to play together and that’s always fun to see them enjoy their friends. I was really thankful that they took the time to pray for our family and Kristin even shared that if we’re ever just in need of prayer that we shouldn’t hesitate to call or text. Isn’t that just a really practical way to minister to someone? I know Kristin read’s this blog and I just want to say thank you for your heart to serve our family in that way. We are blessed to call you friends.
Last night at the store we found a wooden sled for $5 and bought it. It was in the clearance section for 75% off. Why something for winter would be on sale right now is still a little strange to me, but I was just as excited as the kids were to buy it. Titus said, let’s go play with it and Avery (age 2) quickly replied to him, “It’s not snowing outside!” She’s right, and even though we’ve been enjoying nice weather of late, I’m sure the cold will be upon us sooner than we think. To be honest, I’m a tiny bit concerned about how cold it gets here but I guess we’ll just have to trust that to the Lord as well.
We had a bit of a different morning at church today as the children’s ministry started back up with Sunday school. As we walked into church our friend Casey told us we could take Titus to class, but that he wasn’t sure about Avery since she’s only two. I stayed with Avery and Bethany took Titus downstairs to the classroom. When they got in there it was pretty full and Titus went and sat by his friends, Beni and Caleb. You can see them all sitting next to Kristin in the middle against the back wall in the photo above. Bethany ended up staying down there with Titus for the whole service and she said he did pretty well, all things considered (new class, new language, etc.).
Meanwhile, back upstairs, Avery read books to herself and played with stickers while I tried to figure out what was going on in the service. I didn’t get a translation device today, but from what I could tell we were installing a pastor or thanking him, I’m not quite sure. There were a lot of different men speaking and I saw flowers being handed to the pastor and his wife a few times, but when you can’t speak the language all you’re doing is making observations.
I can count on one hand the number of times I remember actually working on a Sunday. Granted, I’m not counting the countless Sundays we have worked at church doing ministry or I have taught, or led music, or maybe been at a youth camp, but today was one of those ministry “working” days. It was necessary in order to finish the leadership training manual we’re creating for our upcoming conference. Myself and the team at JV have all been working very hard to finish this book which has been a bit of a battle with many people traveling during the summer months and us going through a few rounds of edits.
The blessing, however, is that our family went over to Dave and Connie Patty’s house and I worked with Dave on the book (photo above courtesy of Connie) while Bethany and the kids played outside. We had great weather today and the Patty’s have a trampoline and a little playground area that our kids just loved. Since it was taking Dave and a I a while to work through the edits to the book, Bethany ended up driving and exploring the town where she found a new toy store. Below are a few photos and some captions below.
This this store Bethany found that she said was great. She ended up getting the kids some $2 toys, a pinwheel for Avery and some tiny hand cymbals for Titus.
Bethany took the photo (above) because she said that toy was basically identical to something she grew up but hadn’t seen in a while.
There were some toys for the kids to ride on so they took advantage of them.
It’s almost midnight as I write this and I’m pretty tired. I’ve got the live Dodger game on in the background and they need at least two runs to get back in to it. Tomorrow I’ll meet with our communications team and hopefully get that book out to the printer once we do a final review. Dave reminded me today as we were leaving how thankful he was for all the time we’ve put into this and that he believes this will be a book that has the potential to affect many lives and many leaders. That’s a good reminder and not something I want to just overlook when I’m a little tired at the end of a long day.
P.S. Adrian Gonzalez just hit a three run home run to put the Dodgers in the lead. I’ll take it before I hit the hay.
Today was unexpectedly refreshing. Even though it was a pretty foggy, rainy, and physically darker day, the Lord reminded me of why we’re here.
It’s been a pretty full week at the JV office as we have a lot of new projects rolling and the new created team that I’m part of is just really starting to understand how to work in a new place with new people. I’ve been helping organize different projects, working on some graphic design for the training center/hotel and now I have my hand in a few other things as well. After leaving a meeting this afternoon I returned to the Creative Communications (cTeam) office where our video guys and Dave Patty were sitting, watching interviews of young people from this summer’s camp ministry. Although I had other things I was working on it was impossible to continue to work as I could hear the amazing stories of changed lives in the background. Finally, I stood up and began to watch them myself over the shoulders of the others guys.
My eyes began to tear up as I listened. “All I want to do is tell everyone about Jesus” said one young man. “Jesus changed my life. Now I have a Bible and I’m going to read it” said another student. One after another, story after story, of young people at camps who have come to grips with their sin, repented, and are seeing the Savior for the first time. Then I got a phone call.
Our Czech friend Katka called me because she is helping us with some details regarding our visas and when she was finished asking me a few questions she said, “Do you have a minute? I have to tell you about this guy who got saved at camp last night.” “Sure!” I replied. Katka began to share how she had been praying for this young man for three years but admitted that she thought he was pretty hard hearted and hung out with the wrong crowd. But last night, during the “gospel night” this young man bowed his knee to the Savior. Katka shared that he even woke up this morning and told his cabin leader that “I feel like a new man. I read the Bible you gave me and it talked about the Jesus that saved me!” Wow. “That’s amazing, Katka!” I said, trying to keep my emotions in check on the phone. If that doesn’t refresh your soul, I don’t know what will!
It’s stories like that young man that our team gets to communicate. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to share on the blog some of the amazing video our team captured and for you to see first hand how God is radically moving in this part of the world. Not everything about graphic design, videography, and media work is easy or even fun. But today in the office I think we all had a wonderful reminder of why we’re here and how God is using the ministry of JV alongside local churches to see young people come to Christ!
Tonight we had plans to hang out at a friend’s house but our plans changed late in the day and we ended up throwing together a dinner at home. I believe this was Divine because it gave us the opportunity to spend one more night with Lindsey and Kailey who have been staying with us the past few days. Tomorrow morning they leave on an early train for Prague and then on to Frankfurt to visit their family. They have blessed us greatly the past few days and have been such an encouragement to us. Our kids love “the girls” as we took the above photo tonight before the kids went to bed.
Lindsey has plans to return to Slovakia next year and continue ministry there. Kailey is definitely leaning that direction, but needs to finish college and see what the Lord would have. Please pray for them as they travel the next few days and definitely pray for their future. Our hope and prayer is that God would continue to use them and maybe one day they’ll both be back in this part of the world serving full-time!
Years of prayer went in to today. For over three years Josiah Venture has been praying and actively searching for a team of people who will help create materials and provide support in the area of communications for the entire JV family. Today, with the exception of one team member who will be back next week, that team was working away in the JV offices together for the first time (shown above). The Creative Communications team that I have the privilege of serving on is a group of highly talented people, all missionaries, who work to support all of the ministries of JV by providing high quality materials such as design work, video, photography, writing, and lots more. Let me give you an example of something we’re working on right now.
Above you’ll see me sitting in Dave Patty’s home office here in Czech (thanks to his wife and daughter for grabbing some photos for our blog!). Dave is the president of Josiah Venture, but he’s also a highly gifted leader and a wonderful person to spend time with. Dave and I met today to work through a few new projects. Right now Dave, along with one of the JV country leaders, is developing training material specifically designed to train young, Christian leaders. The project includes booklets for leadership trainers and trainees to use which include Biblical studies tools that help build mature disciples of Christ. Alongside the book is a Web site for the trainer as a support tool where Dave and other staff can provide additional information for leaders to be able to use so they can go out and train more leaders. All of these materials will be made available to the 13 different countries JV currently serves in. But who will create all of those books and materials? Who will build and maintain a Web site with multiple languages and updated content? The Creative Communications team or “cTeam.” And the best part is…we love doing it!
Dave said something today that just hit me. I don’t want to misquote him, but he said something to the effect of, “These materials will lead to more fruit.” He’s talking about spiritual fruit and he’s talking about more followers of Christ. Dave knows the power of God’s Word working through the Spirit of God in the hands of people, and these materials reflect much Biblical study and thought and focus. The cTeam gets to be part of helping create them alongside Dave and other leaders and we too can hope and pray for more fruit. That’s why we’re here…that’s why God called us to this place. And that’s where it gets fun, and that’s where it really gets exciting!
After my time with Dave, I head the pleasure of spending a few minutes with his wife Connie and daughter Claire. If you haven’t visited it, I would recommend checking out Connie’s blog that she regularly writes on. It was fun to chat and laugh with them a bit this afternoon. Lord willing our family will get a lot more time with them!
Back at home Bethany took the kids to the park that’s close to our place. It’s a really fun park and the kids have lots of things they can climb on (as you can see above). We just love the look of the buildings on our street…it’s still really surreal that we live here, and I think that’s why Bethany took that photo just to show the kinds of places we see every day. Apparently it started to rain a bit while they were playing at the park and everyone ran for shelter, but Bethany said Titus braved the rain to keep playing (shown below).
After I got home we enjoyed a little time playing basketball outside. Titus was so excited to get his basketball hoop setup and all the basketballs pumped up. I’ve been wanting to do that for him for a while now, but just found the time tonight.
Bethany made a wonderful dinner tonight. She told me tonight that she is really trying hard to write down all the meals she knows she can make here in Czech. I think it’s also getting a lot easier to manage all the new things at the grocery store! Bethany has been doing so awesome and I’m very thankful for her selfless attitude during this transition time.
Here’s a few more photos from our evening together: