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!) 

Saturday 18 June 2016

Safely in Croatia!

After over 1000km (or over 600km) of driving, over ten hours of driving split over two days, I safely arrived in beautiful Croatia yesterday! The short term team from America landed last night and today has been full of orientation and training. 

We started the day by walking around the palace here in Split and hearing the deep and rich history of this place. And then we heard about the vision for Croatia from our JV team down here, before heading into the practical pieces of camp life and responsibilities.

In this city of almost 200,000 people when they have joint youth group here, with the three churches that have youth ministries, they have twenty young people. This place has a rich, rich history of Christianity but things look different today.

Would you please join us in praying as camp starts tomorrow? That God would be drawing many to Himself and that, years from now, the fruit from this week would be uncountable. Please pray for deep unity across the different teams and that students would see Christ in us.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Intern Training 2016

With the Amazing Race over it was time to start Intern Training! This is our four days conference that equips our interns for the summer ahead. This year the theme throughout our time together was the path of a growing disciple and the five challenges we see Christ give to people along that pathway - to come and see, to repent and believe, to follow me, to follow me and fish for men, and "I am sending you." 

In the Bible we see Jesus give these five challenges to people - He sees and loves people exactly where they are and calls them to follow Him in a deeper way. And everyone we meet is somewhere on that pathway, and we are somewhere on that pathway too. We had five chairs (and, at times, five people in those chairs) on stage as visual reminders of the pathway.

We spent time talking about these five different stages and how each stage has different needs and challenges. In the evenings Dave Patty, the president of Josiah Venture, taught on the Father heart of God and led us in examining where are the places where we need God to bring us into deeper relationship with Him.

As well as those sessions, we shared about the mission and vision of JV - who we are and why we do what we do. Interns also receive teaching on how to serve in a team, how to share the Gospel and their story, their role for the summer, and many other things. There are also a lot practical skills they need to know for their summer - including teaching English or music, and the camp dance, which 2 year old Stella J is joining in on this photo. 

It was really fun for me to teach about serving cross-culturally with Rob! And with 92 North Americans and 41 Europeans, even if you're serving in your own country, everyone is serving cross-culturally.

As well as all the teaching sessions there is also plenty of space in the schedule for interns to get to know one another and process what they've been learning (both in their teams and individually). We also had afternoon sports games.

And on the last night each country stood in turn and were prayed over by a JV staff member. We are so excited to see how God works in and through these wonderful people - this summer and beyond! It was such a joy and honour to spend a week with them and I am looking forward to seeing some of them throughout the summer, and hearing some of what they've been up to! 

You can see some photos and read some of their stories if you go to this link of the #jvinterns on instagram.

And if you want to read our president's letter about our interns you can do so here.

Monday 13 June 2016

Amazing Race 2016!

The welcome crew in Budapest airport!

Every year when our interns arrive they do an "Amazing Race" - a three day team building exercise that has them travelling around different places and doing various challenges. This year we started in Budapest (Hungary) but were mainly in Slovakia. This marks the start of the internship for most of them and it's the first time they're meeting their teammates! The Amazing Race allows everyone to get to know each other, see what their team is like under pressure, and is an incredible bonding experience.

The first day there were a couple of challenges in the centre of Budapest before we got buses to Slovakia. There was an unintended late night challenge - filling out all your information for the foreign police for the night at the hotel! Normally it isn't necessary to give all the information but with the recent refugee crisis, things have become a lot more strict. We got the first person checked in at 11.40pm and the last person at 1.20. It was a long process!

The next day was chock-full of challenges - including, but in no way limited to... Getting your team across the square using pieces of cardboard, with one less piece than team members.

The infamous food challenge! This year it was Slovakia's halusky (potato dumplings with bacon) which is actually pretty good, there was just a lot of it. The lukewarm, soured sheep's milk, though? Yeah, not good. And a lot of it. 

After the food challenge teams were off to the absolutely stunning High Tatra mountains. Here teams had to climb one of the mountains, complete logic questions, build a shelter, answer questions about Josiah Venture, and other things! I was quite happy to have this view for a few hours as I waited to ask people about Josiah Venture.

The next day, Friday, we woke up in the high Tatras but quickly left. Interns travelled to an old castle and completed all kinds of crazy tasks. The theme running through the Amazing Race was that the princess had been kidnapped and the interns had to get clues, go through training, etc to get her back.

I was at the second last station of the day - and that black plastic fob is literally the key to the castle (or, one of the many castles in Slovakia!). Teams had to go in, listen to a guide's spiel (which was in Slovak!) and hear the name of the famous person within the presentation.

When teams had successfully completed that challenge they were running to the finish line! They found a princess and had to pick her up and carry her to the finish line (don't worry, we had princesses there, they weren't lifting random women).

And this is what all twenty-eight teams were running for - the Josiah Venture Amazing Race trophy! This year the first and second team were literally only ten seconds apart but, for the first time in JV history, a country won it for the second year in a row! Way to go Estonia! 

And here is our group shot from the end of the race! I am so proud of these teams and how they jumped into their summer, getting to know one another and being stretched. With the Amazing Race finished it was time to go to Intern Training!