Saturday 31 December 2016


These nine photos are my most liked photos from 2016 on instagram. And they do capture a decent portion of my life - photos of interns, camp in Croatia, dear friends, travels for work or rest, and craftiness.

There are four countries represented in these photos (Czech, Poland, Slovakia and Croatia) - but 2016 actually saw me visit fifteen countries. Those fifteen are, in order, Czech, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Israel, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatian, Germany, Italy, France, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. I live in one of those countries, am from a second, and of the thirteen remaining all but two were on ministry trips!

There's also a lot about this year that the "best nine" don't capture. One of the highlights of my year was definitely the study tour of Israel I did. And, although it can sometimes be hard to be away from home so much, I adore the variety of the travel I do in my ministry - from conferences in Latvia and Estonia, to camps in Germany and Croatia, it has been an incredible year of seeing up close what God is doing in these nations.

I continue to be in awe of the wonderful people in my life, and I am so grateful for the hours spent with dear friends and family. Whether those hours are spent over meals or late night cups of tea, or through emails and FaceTime. 

I also spent a lot of the year reading - I finished 29 books, and started or am a little way through a few more. The books I finished, averaged over the year, add up to 25 pages a day which feels pretty good! I did finish fewer books than last year but that is largely because I decided to read through the Bible this year and it has been a lot of my reading. I'm not quite finished it - I hope to be done by the end of February, but it has been incredible!

I'm looking at my list of resolutions for 2016 as I write this and I definitely didn't accomplish all that I listed on the paper. But there has been a lot of growth. A year ago, when I sat down to think about the resolutions I thought about who I wanted to be when I'm 90 and wrote out goals that would allow me to grow closer to that. And as I wrote each goal I attached the "why" of it, because I needed to be reminded of the purpose.

I want to be an old woman who sparkles with joy because of her Saviour - and so I set out to read through the entire Bible, I listed things I'm thankful for each night (and wrote out well over one thousand in a year), and I used some great tools to help my prayer life. I am more in love with Jesus now than I was at the beginning of this year, and that is such grace from God.

There were some things that happened this year that I really didn't expect - good and bad, and some things that I had hoped would happen that didn't. But through it all God was ever faithful, and oh so good. And, whatever 2017 holds, I am grateful that that will continue to be true! 

Tuesday 20 December 2016

the stories things tell

There are only a couple of things in life I collect. I have enough books to have started my third bookshelf. I have one Starbucks' mug for each place I've lived. I'm trying to get magnets of the JV countries I visit - but that one proves quite hard when I'm not necessarily in touristy, sells magnets, kind of places when I travel for work.

But as I pulled out my Christmas decorations I realised I may be collecting nativities. And the five I own tell some interesting stories. 

This is the first one I bought. It was a hot, sunny day and a strange one to be buying a magnetic nativity scene. But it was summer 2007, I was in Prague having done my very first English camp, and I was wandering around the market looking for gifts and something for myself. It was my first time in the Czech Republic and, had you asked me, I wouldn't have been able to say with certainty that I'd come back again, let alone live here.

And know that it vaguely bothers me that the wise men face east so they cannot be making some grand entrance from the geographically correct direction.

The next set I bought came a couple of years later - maybe in 2008 or 2009 when I lived in Cardiff. I bought this little set (that also has wise men, a shepherd, a donkey and camel) in Paperchase in the Welsh capital when I was at university there. And now the cast of the Christmas story find themselves dotted around my Christmas tree.

This set is Northern Irish and started off with Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. The shepherds were added the next year. The characters are made out of clay and made by my very talented best friend, given as Christmas presents a few years ago.

I found this Russian doll nativity set in the John Lewis in Heathrow airport last year when I was on home assignment. It's fun and bright and buying it at the airport meant I didn't pay tax on it. The wise men doll actually has three faces as you rotate it round. I should probably have the wise men standing on the other side of the dresser as that would actually have them coming in from the east (as Poland is just a few hundred metres to the left of this photo).

This one is the most recent addition to the collection. It's made from olive wood and was bought in Nazareth when I was in Israel earlier this year. 

Five different nativity sets, from five different countries, over the last nine years. It's fun to pull them out of the box and decide where and how to display them each year. And they tell beautiful tales of God's faithfulness - in the places I've lived, the relationships I have, and the stories I've gathered.

And they allow me to enter the greatest story. The story that I've heard since before I can remember. The story in which five-year-old me played Mary. The story that each year finds me older and different, and ever in need of it. The story that ever works its way deeper into my bones. 

Sunday 18 December 2016

Snapshots of a Week

It has been a good, and a full, week and I thought it would be fun to post some photos so you can see some snapshots of what I've been up to.

Last Saturday a friend asked me to pick them up from the airport and I decided to make a day of it. I didn't need to be at the airport until 5.30pm so I enjoyed a whole day in Krakow - I explored the Christmas markets, and wandered around the city and castle, doing some Christmas shopping and reading. I loved hearing different English-speaking accents throughout the city - including at least one that was distinctly Northern Irish. I'm thankful that I can have a sabbath day enjoying a city that is just a couple of hours driving away.

On Sunday I had church in the morning and then a concert in the afternoon - the above picture shows us ready for the concert to start. Some of my co-workers launched an outreach event where people come together and form a choir for a couple of months and finish with a Christmas concert! I think this was the fourth year of it and it has become a big deal - there were three concerts this year, and tickets sold out quickly. Two of my co-workers were interviewed on a Czech morning TV show, and the livestream of the concert has been watched by over 6000 people. 

The choir was made up of a lot of non-Christians and the gospel was clearly communicated throughout their practices and at each concert so many people heard the gospel and were invited to respond. There is even an article about the event each year in a local newspaper and in reporting the event it says that there was a message during the concert and clearly outlines what that message was! 

It was a really fun performance and the audience are asked to singalong with different songs. My favourite performance was, of course, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, by U2. 

Most of my working week was spent on our new camps website! This is an internal website that will serve our staff, interns, short term teams, and local church teams. On Monday I recorded the tutorials to help our staff learn how to use it and made it live! It's been a lot of work but it's so fun to see it out there. I really believe this will lead to increased fruit as everything gets funnelled through one place - increasing our team's capacity and, prayerfully, as teams come better prepared for camp it will help them communicate the gospel even more clearly to even more students. 

After so much sitting and a big project released I needed to celebrate - and I did so by making mince pies. It's funny what you realise are things specific to only your country when you move abroad and mince pies are one those things. Thankfully I was able to get a jar of the filling at Marks and Spencers and the mince pies were enjoyed at our team meeting on Tuesday morning.

Tuesdays are always full days of meetings - we had our international team meeting, in which we studied Acts. Next up was our S-Team meeting, with those of us serving the special ministries of JV. In the afternoon I had a meeting with our communication's team to talk about the resources and materials they are creating for camps this year. 

After all that I sat down to read through the camp talks for next year. This was my first time reading them and the people who wrote them did an incredible job introducing young people to Jesus and His gospel. In a week that was full of meetings, releasing the website, discovering bugs and getting them fixed, it was so good to sit and be reminded. And not just reminded of the gospel that changed my life - but reminded why I care about websites and resources, because it's all about Him and young people hearing this good, good news.

On Tuesday nights we have our missionary women's bible study and I am so grateful for this community! We just finished Beth Moore's Believing God study - I think it took us over seven months to do the ten week study but it was so good, and so worth the work. 

While I was there I realised what I'd scrawled on my hand earlier that day. I was on the phone with my mechanic asking when I could bring my car in (just for a service, thankfully). We agreed on Monday (or pondělí in Czech) and I'd written that on my hand. It's such a small thing but I was so thankful that I realised hours later that my brain had stayed in Czech. It didn't translate every single word and thought, and I made a note to myself in Czech. 

An Englishman, Scotsman, Welshman and NorthernIrishwoman were in a meeting, not a joke, on Thursday. We were later joined by a couple of others. This was an exciting meeting, discussing JVUK getting charity status and all that that means.

On Fridays this month my little town has little Christmas markets and it was fun to explore them as I crossed the square running errands.

On Friday evening the Yormans and I celebrated Christmas! I introduced the Yorman clan to crackers (who knew this was a UK/Ireland thing?!) - which was quite the challenge as they're technically classed as fireworks so there are all kinds of rules about flying with them. When I was back in NI in November for just a couple of days I had room to bring back a full, unopened, box of crackers (obeying the law of how to fly with them). 

And we blended cultures as we made gingerbread houses and decorated them with a lot of icing.

And I gave the boys their Christmas gift - the Dobble or Spot It game with Star Wars. I definitively lost because my spaceship/character knowledge leaves a lot to be desired but it was a lot of fun!

Saturday was a day of errands and trying to restore some order/cleanliness to my little flat. It was also our youth group Christmas party! It was 80s themed but I'll spare you any selfies (you can see my turned up jeans and fluorescent shoes if you look closely). 

At the end of the programme we were each given this wafer and went around to different people, giving them Christmas/new year wishes/blessings. When each person had spoken you offered your wafer to the other person who broke a piece off, and you found someone new. It was a beautiful thing to do, and so good to speak words of God's blessing over one another and the next year. And it was a fun blend of cultures - I communicated in Czech and English, depending on who I was speaking to, and the wafers have Polish on them.

And today was church - we had a testimony from the man in the photo. And our sermon was on how Jesus didn't just come to be a cute little baby who brings us gifts at Christmas (baby Jesus is the deliverer of Christmas presents in Czech). Our sermon was on Revelation 12 and how Jesus ultimately came to defeat evil. In a week that has felt so dominated by pictures of war, this was a good and timely reminder.

On Sunday afternoon this was my view as we had small group. Cups of tea and plates Christmas cukrovi (amazing Christmas biscuits/cookies), and time spent talking with dear girls about God's Word and how we can grow closer to Him. 

So there are the snapshots of my week. I am so thankful for the life I've been called to live and the good works God has prepared for me. I'm thankful for the full weeks and the crazy blends of cultures and languages - and that it's all about Him and the beautiful gospel. 

Monday 21 November 2016

Edge Sports {video}

Josiah Venture - EDGE Sports Ministry from Josiah Venture on Vimeo.

I first posted about Edge over three years ago, right when it was beginning. Today between three and four hundred young people are involved with Edge! They are meeting regularly to practice their sport (mainly football or floorball) and play in tournaments against other teams. And these teams are all based in local churches, with the goal of them being half believers and half unbelievers. As young people meet to practice or play they are hearing the gospel and how the truth of God's word can and should change their lives.

I hope you enjoy seeing glimpses of this ministry in the video above - and would you join me in praying that God does amazing things as Edge Sports continues to grow? 

Monday 14 November 2016

Camps {video}

Josiah Venture - Camps Ministry from Josiah Venture on Vimeo.

I did my first camp with Josiah Venture in 2007, when I was eighteen years old. I had no idea what that two week trip would lead to. After four short term trips and an internship, I became a full-time missionary, with the role of serving our international camps ministry full time. 

I have seen camps have a lasting impact on individuals, youth groups, churches, and countries as young people hear the gospel, respond to it, get discipled by the local church and become leaders in their contexts and countries. 

This summer we did over one hundred camps, in thirteen countries, and we're praying that we're just seeing the beginning of God moving through this region.

I love how this video captures camps - I get excited each time I watch it! I hope you enjoy it too.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Celebrating the seasons (with cake)

I'm a big believer in celebrating things with cakes. In late March each year, when I've successfully gone to three offices in two towns to file my taxes, and successfully navigated all those conversations in Czech, I celebrate with cake. I celebrated three years of living in the Czech Republic in June with cake. And last night I celebrated my twenty-eighth birthday with cake - cake with a picture of a cat on top, no less.

There's just something about celebrating the different seasons of life and the good things they hold. 

Each year in late April or early May there comes a day when I go outside and things feel different. It smells like summer. I first came to the Czech Republic in 2007 to serve at an English camp, and I spent at least two weeks here for five summers, but it wasn't until I moved in 2013 that I experienced any Czech season other than summer. 

And so I joke that summer is when I fell in love with the Czech Republic. It's also one of the busier seasons in my work-life, filled with travelling to different countries and camps. It's the season when I see the fruit of the rest of the year up close - camps happen, students hear the gospel, and interns are serving alongside us. So, summer is when I remember the Czech that was my first love. 

But then September starts and something lovely happens. Life ceases to be about an unpacking-laundry-packing loop and instead I settle into some autumnal rhythms. This year when I returned to my gym after all the summer travelling the women asked me where I'd been and said that they'd missed me. And it's so good to return to regular church attendance and sing worship songs in Czech, Slovak and Polish. 

Now it's November, I have winter tyres on my car and most mornings are frosty. The dark nights arrive early and I find myself drinking more tea and reading more books. We're still waiting for the first proper snowfall and I'm wondering if my fourth winter here maybe means it's time to buy a snow shovel.

At the end of this month I'll put on some Christmas music as a soundtrack for decorating my little flat for the season and sometime after January 6th it'll all get packed away again. Although, I might leave some fairy lights up because January just feels long, and spring will be far off for another couple of months.

I am so thankful for all the ways the rhythms of this life here have become normal. I know when my winter tyres need to go on, when they can come off, and where to get that done. I've learnt that minus fifteen degrees in Czech doesn't seem as cold as minus five in Northern Ireland (a combination of a better coat and less wind). Going to the post office no longer scares me because I can communicate there now.

I was chatting to my next door neighbour last month as she did my eyebrows (she's a beautician so that's a less weird sentence than you'd think). She only speaks Czech and we were chatting about what plans we had for the week. I talked about a wedding I was going to and she said "I'm so glad you have friends here." 

The meaning gets a little lost in English because there are different words for friends in Czech - she wasn't talking about friends you say hi to on the street, or Facebook friends, but close friends. And it reminded me to be grateful for the fact that that is true. I know people here and am known by them - across languages and cultures. 

I am so grateful for forty months of calling this place home. I am so grateful for the many, many good gifts from God - friends, learning to communicate in another language, walks by the river... And I am so grateful that I can reflect on these good gifts and sweet seasons with cake. 

Friday 28 October 2016

Church weekend

At the beginning of October we had our church family weekend. The theme for our time was God's family.

Throughout the weekend various people from our church were interviewed so everyone could get to know them better. We had lots of free time which also allowed us to spend time together, and get to know people more. 

We had a guest speaker for the weekend who leads a children's ministry called Awana for the Czech Republic. One member of the church translated for Casey, Kristin and I - which we were very grateful for because some of the topics were quite complex, and sometimes it was Polish being spoken from the front rather than Czech. 

For example, we sing a lot in Polish. I'm really thankful for the various people who led us in worship during the weekend! And I'm thankful that, despite not studying Polish, I can usually follow the songs well enough to sing along.

I am so thankful for my church family here in Czech! I'm thankful that I am now at a point where I can build relationships in the Czech language - that even with my terrible grammar, people are willing to figure out what I'm trying to communicate, and to repeat themselves when I don't understand. 

And I'm thankful for the glimpses of heaven when people unite across languages and cultures, love each other, and worship God. 

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Fall Conference 2016 - Inspire

At Fall Conference this year the theme was “Inspire” and it was about movements that change the world. Our two big questions for the week were: what is a movement? And how can I join it? 

There were three movements of God we looked at throughout the week - the movement we see in Acts, the movement of the Moravians, and the movement today. And there were three significant points that we looked at in each of the movements - at the beginning, at the end of the first generation, and 100 years later. 

With the Moravians the beginning was in 1727, when revival broke out in the community of 400 at Hernhutt. By the end of that first generation John Wesley (who preached 40000 sermons) and George Whitfield (who was heard by 10 million people) had been converted, and the Moravians had translated the Bible into fifteen languages (before them the Bible was only in 35 languages). They started in the little corner of the Czech Republic that I call home and sent missionaries around the world, to unknown places.

And the truth is we are just at the beginning of seeing a new movement of God in central and eastern Europe. So we spent time sharing about what God is currently doing - and asking and praying about what we’ll see at the end of our generation, and what we’ll see one hundred years from now.

On the Tuesday of the conference we went, all 350 of us, on a field trip! We toured around three places in our region that were significant in the Moravian movement. It was incredible to listen to Dave sharing stories (via an audio tour app) about what God did in those places and with the people from those places! And one of the places was the Jesus Church on the Polish side of my town so it was good to learn more about it too! You can listen to the audio of the tour here.

Throughout the week we looked at how we can burn bright for God, through: 
  • unexpected obedience - listening to God and being quick to obey
  • staying clean - pursuing holiness, being quick to repent, sacrifice 
  • standing against darkness
  • going public with bold proclamations of faith
  • singing in suffering
  • radical evangelism

And we looked at what is necessary for us to burn long:
  • solve problems and deal with sickness and threats 
  • have healthy rhythms and healthy structures
  • leaders staying close to Jesus

We also had a lot of processing time built into the conference, to look at areas in our own lives and ministries that need to be brought under Christ again, and what God is asking us to do. And it was incredible to hear beautiful stories of how God is at work throughout this part of the world. 

If you would like to listen to the audio or see more photos from the week you can do so here.

In the last talk of the conference we were encouraged that we already know what we need to do - but we need to have courage to consistently do what we know we should do. And we were encouraged to not look for next steps that cost nothing - it’s going to cost something, but it will be worth it.

Please pray for all 350 people who were at the conference - pray that we would have the courage to listen to God, and quickly obey, and that we would burn bright and burn long for Jesus in central and eastern Europe.  

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Fall Camp Meeting 2016

Before Fall Conference each year we gather as a camp team to look back and rejoice at how God has been at work through camps in the last year, and look forward and plan and dream for the year and years ahead. 

This year the group was intentionally smaller, with primarily just the camp directors and intern directors from each country. So it felt a little like the United Nations, with us all sitting around a big table. 

It was beautiful to hear stories about how God has been at work in these nations through camps - local churches we partner with being strengthened, young people hearing the gospel and responding to it, and then growing in Christ and becoming leaders! This year we also had a lot more interns and short term team members serving in this movement. 

We also spent time planning for the year ahead, releasing and talking through new tools and praying. These are some of my favourite people, so it was also good to spend time together and catch up with what is going on in our lives. 

We are praying that God continues to use camps as a way to strengthen His church in central and eastern Europe, and it is such a joy to serve this ministry! 

Monday 19 September 2016

Fall Conference Begins!

Tonight Fall Conference began! The above photo shows the sound check and thirty minutes later the seats were filled with 350 leaders from across central and eastern Europe! 

The theme of the conference is Inspire and we're going to be spending the week looking at three movements of God - in Acts, in the Moravian movement, and today. 

As we study these movements we'll be asking two questions - what is a movement of God and how can I join it?

I'm so excited to be here this week, and even worshipping alongside these brothers and sisters who are serving in these nations. 

Would you please join us in prayer this week - that we would be filled with faith as we look to the harvest fields around us and so excited to see God move in a mighty way? 

If you are a Facebook user you can also join us as we're live streaming the evening sessions each night. So, 7-9pm Czech time you can join us by going to the Josiah Venture Facebook page and catching the live stream. 

Friday 5 August 2016

The summer in one photo!

I feel like this photo sums up my summer in so many ways. It was taken in Dresden train station as I waited for the third of four trains as I travelled from camp in Germany home to Český Těšín. 

Chacos are definitely my footwear of choice in the summer. That white tote bag on my shoulder was bought at an Old Navy store in 2008 when I was in Colorado. And, of course, there's often a cup of coffee in my hand with long days spent at camp or travelling.

This summer from travelling to the Amazing Race to the end of my trip to Germany I was gone from home thirty-three of fifty-seven days. I was in eight countries (Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany), completed an intensive Czech course, and was at our first camps in Croatia and Germany.

It still blows my mind that this is what I get to do - to travel to countries and serve what God is doing in these nations. I receive a lot of the prayer updates from our European interns and it's been a delight to read them this summer and to get little glimpses of how God is at work in this part of the world.

It's not all glamorous or exciting - during the train journey I was waiting for I shared a compartment with a girl who coughed and sneezed the entire time, and I got sick afterwards. There are long days where things start at 7am and continue until midnight. 

But it is such a privilege to see God at work - and that doesn't begin or end in the summer, and I'm excited to continue to hear what He is doing in these nations as camps finish for the year, and the work of discipling new believers and getting them plugged into local churches begins!

Monday 25 July 2016

Our First Camp in Germany!

In the third week of July there were fifteen camps happening around JV - including this one, our first camp in Germany! 

I travelled to Germany as part of my role is to serve our new countries as they begin camps, and it was a deep joy to be at camp during the week. It was so good to catch up with our two interns there, and serve alongside our dear missionaries. 

Germany has some unique challenges compared to our other countries - we're learning how to navigate different levels of wealth, inconsistent school holiday dates, and much shorter summer breaks for students.

But there is a lot that is the same for camps in Germany - we're still partnering with a local church, building relationships with students, and inviting them to hear the gospel and respond to it with their whole lives. We still play lots of games, and teach English or music workshops or a sport, and spend meals talking and laughing. 

It is such a privilege to be with students as they process what they hear during the week - whether they are non-Christians, hearing and wrestling with these topics for the very first time, or believers, who are being drawn deeper into God's movement, and closer to Christ, and to a greater understanding of their responsibility to be witnesses to what God has done for us.

I am so glad I could be in Germany for their first camp! I'm praying that God would go before us in a mighty way in this country and that many would come to know Jesus as their Saviour.

Monday 18 July 2016

Czech Class!

This summer I spent the first two weeks of July doing a Czech intensive in Prague. I definitely felt like I've hit a bit of a plateau in my language learning, which is completely normal at this stage. But I also have a really irregular schedule and with travelling so much this year I hadn't spent as much time learning Czech as normal. 

So it was really good to be able to take two weeks to focus on language learning! I was in a class with just four others and we all tested to the same level. All of us came from different native languages so we each had unique weaker points in the language - for example, the Russian lady found the declination of the cases a lot easier because she understands how those work, whereas I generally just feel a little lost with them. However, my vocabulary felt a lot stronger because, unlike everyone else in the class, I do not live in Prague and so I'm forced to use Czech in my everyday life (which I see as a very good thing!)

This was my view, minus my teacher, most days for the three hours of classes. 

Language school is always really tiring and although I was in Prague the classes and homework and added tiredness meant I didn't see many people I know there, and I didn't even make it up to the castle. But it was nice to enjoy eating Mexican food, and other little luxuries that haven't made it out to where I live just yet. 

As the course ended I left feeling more confident in my Czech and I also found that I am finally starting to understand some of the cases! I long for the day when I am fluent in Czech - when I can share my heart with my neighbour, and be funny in conversations. But for now I'm really encouraged by my progress and excited to continue to see glimpses of progress as I'm faithful to study and speak this language! 

Thursday 30 June 2016

Camp in Croatia!

In the third week of June I went down to Croatia! After a few years of not having missionaries there, we were re-launching camps this year. It was a long drive, broken up with an overnight with some missionary friends in Slovenia. But within ten minutes of arriving in Split I was walking along this little beach - which was a great reward for the drive! 

I was in Split to see where our missionaries live and serve, and to see their short term team orientation. When the short term team arrived we spent some time touring Split, and hearing the history of this place, which was fascinating and gave us insights into the culture that really impacts how we share the Gospel. 

The rest of the day was spent in the little church building in Split - I'm taking the photo from the back of the church - I think there are 20-30 seats in the church. I loved hearing John and Mladen share their heart and vision for the country of Croatia. It often happens when I travel, but I was definitely ready to stay! (And, after my car got towed away from camp, staying was definitely looking like a possibility!)

We also spent time in training on the various aspects of camp like leading small groups, sharing the Gospel, and I gave some tips on how to teach English. 

The theme for camps this year was "Did you get my message?" And the talks looked at stories from creation to the cross that showed the redemptive arc of Scripture. Above we have John giving the talks and Mladen translating. 

The team found out just a couple of days before camp that they had to wash the dishes after each meal. So this was my view on many days, as I much preferred freeing our full time staff and the short term team up to connect with students. It's a joy to get to travel to camps and serve in whatever capacity I'm needed once I get there! 

It was Euro time and one night at camp we watched Croatia play - and, though it was rather nail biting, they won! 

Camp was an incredible experience for these students and it was a joy to see them become more confident in their English, and process the stories and what the implications were for their lives. 

The camp was kind of in the middle of nowhere but beside this beautiful church. 

On the last night of camp students went through a labyrinth - a series of multi sensory stations designed to help them process what they learnt during the week. 

And then there was a bonfire to close out camp well!

I am so glad I could be in Croatia as we re-launched camps there! It was a joy to spend the week with Croatian students and our team there and I really think we'll look back at this week and see that God started something really cool during this time. 

(And for those of you wondering, I got my car back on Thursday and managed to drive it the 11 hours home without any incidents - except for all the road works that made it turned an 8 hour journey into 11 hours!)