My heart is so full that I’m finding it hard to decide what to tell you first about this on-going story of God, and me, and Eastern and Central Europe. I think Fall Conference is probably the best place to begin.
As most of you know by now, Josiah Venture has an event they call Fall Conference every September. (My blog about my 1st time at this event is here.) This conference involves all thirteen of the JV countries (and some that aren’t even a part of us yet- but we are praying for God to open doors!). Pastors and leaders in local churches invite teenagers and young adults who are in the process of becoming ministry leaders to join them at this event, and it is such a beautiful glimpse into the tremendous movement of God in this part of the world! It honestly takes my breath away to hear the stories of what God is doing in these countries. It testifies to the fact that God can do ANYTHING. He can work around laws, and government opposition, and long-standing tradition, to completely turn things His way. I wish you could all be there to experience it.
This year, the theme was “Inspire”. The week began with a field trip to surrounding areas to learn more about the Moravian movement- which was a HUGE movement of God in the 17th and 18th centuries that was ignited in part by a young man named Christian David who lived just a short distance from where JV headquarters is now. We were led through the progression of this movement that eventually impacted an enormous portion of the world with the Gospel message. (you can take the tour yourself by listening here!)
The week continued with a study of the movement of God in the book of Acts, and then the hard-hitting (for me, anyway) part began. We took a long look at what elements of these two movements were similar- and asked ourselves: what things did people in these two previous movements do that we are not doing?
There were two things that were a huge part of these two movements that I am personally not doing well.
- Specific and deliberate times set aside for prayer. The Moravians had our equivalent of 24/7 prayer- but they did it for over 100 years!!! I feel like God and I are chatting all day long, but I don’t often set chunks of time aside to pray very specifically for God to move in the world around me- and to listen and ask Him what my role in that movement should be.
- Going public with the Gospel message. Both of these incredible movements of God involved people sharing the good news of God’s love through Christ boldly and publicly– often in the face of tremendous persecution. Rob, who was the speaker for this session, mentioned the quote “Preach the Gospel. Use words if necessary.” He shook his head and said that he thinks the apostle Paul would probably laugh at this and say: You have to TELL people about Jesus- not just show them!!!! Use words.
Ah… that’s so hard isn’t it? To speak to someone at the airport or grocery and turn the conversation to God and ask where they are at with Him. To speak with people about Jesus. Even though I don’t face persecution, it is hard.
(If you want to listen in to the sessions and learn about the rest of the things brought up, all sessions are available at: https://www.josiahventure.com/media/ )
So I spent a good portion of the week thinking about these two things and how to better incorporate them into my life- and I wasn’t alone! Every person I connected with shared with me things that God was revealing to them about what people in a movement of God do!
On the last evening, we spent the entire night in worship and prayer. We were asked to sit still before God and to ask Him what our next steps are in Him. I closed my eyes and quickly explained to God that I’d already started sorting out my next steps: Prayer and being bold about sharing the gospel.
Now, I’ve never audibly heard the voice of God- but the longer I know Him and love Him, the more clear his voice is in my spirit. So when I heard him say STOP…I did. And I listened. And what God spoke into my heart was basically this:
Those are two important steps Ruthanne- but they aren’t your next steps. Next, I want you to rest. I want you to listen to me when I tell you that what you do for me is not what matters. Who you are to me is what matters. You are my daughter. You are loved outside of what you do- not because of it. You are valuable because you are my very own. You are not valuable because of what you say, how you serve, or ways you give.
Don’t try to gain the approval of others.
Just be mine.
I’m hard-wired to do. I love the challenge of a new task before me and I love the satisfaction of a job well- done. But sometimes I think my confidence rests in my ability to do things- rather than resting in God’s ability to do things. Sometimes my worth comes from others appreciating my ability to complete a job well rather than realizing I have tremendous worth to God regardless of performance.
I spent an evening recently talking with Lydia, one of our staff from Scotland who does HR for JV-UK. She was telling me about a tremendous revival that took place in the mid 1900’s in Scotland. She told of churches where people walking by outside and hearing the worship and message fell on the ground weeping because they realized their need for Christ. I asked her what was happening at these churches today. She explained that she had visited a few, and that they had stopped being effective at all- there were older people who remembered the revival and were hoping God would move again- but they were just going through the motions trying to stir up the embers of a blaze long-gone. I was quiet for awhile thinking about this, and then I asked Lydia why she thought the movement stopped.
After a pause, she said- “I think they tried to control it and organize it into something manageable. Movements of God aren’t manageable, you know.”
That sentence clicked into place alongside all the things God had recently been impressing on my heart.
When a movement of God happens, He incorporates people with all sorts of gifts- including those of us who plan and organize. But the danger is this: If I run ahead of God- trying to please him or others with my doing, I might actually get in the way of movement.
Instead- by abiding in Him— by being– I need to move when, and wherever He goes. Plan and organize- but following his lead rather than setting my own agenda out of insecurity, fear or pride. Allow Him to make me more and more fully dependent on Him alone.
Be a human being rather than a human doing.
As always, thanks for letting me share a little piece of my journey with you. What an incredible adventure it is following after our Father together!
I will leave you with a few quotes from the Moravian movement, and a really interesting article written about this movement of God. I had very little knowledge about this part of world (and Christian) history- but it was truly incredible. It stirs my imagination about what God could do in our world today!!!
“I have one passion. It is Jesus. Jesus only”.
“I am destined to proclaim the message, unmindful of personal consequences to myself.”
“Missions, after all, is simply this: Every heart with Christ is a missionary, every heart without Christ is a mission field.”
“Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten. ”
“We will work simply and quietly. Even if we never see wonders with our own eyes or hear them with our ears, we are planting the kingdom of heaven into the nations and will look for the fruit which grows from it.”
A quick article (Christianity Today) about early stirrings of the Moravian Movement- it sums up much of the field trip we took. I’m in AWE of a God that draws together a church with a congregation of around 40,000 where people walked all night to meet together. We got to visit this church in Cieszyn, Poland.
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Jesus (Matthew 17:20)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
I’ve been on vacation this week. It’s my last deep breath before fall hits with new intern applications, recruitment at colleges, and Camp Meeting/Fall Conference in the Czech Republic. I am SO excited about all that this fall holds, and SO thankful for all that God accomplished this past summer. This week away was a perfect time to rest, reflect on all He has done, and to allow Him to prepare my heart for all that is to come.
I began the week in Florida with dad, and I’m ending it in Fort Wayne with my sweet puppy asleep on top of my cold toes. My time with dad in Florida was wonderful! Incredibly hot and humid- but I love hot and humid! We had a sad start to the week as his kitty Zoey was diagnosed with an inoperable stomach tumor and had to be put down. Goodness, it’s crazy how much these sweet pets wiggle their way into our hearts. Makes me hug my Casper a little tighter, knowing how short a time we have together.
I haven’t written in awhile- I feel like I update you pretty regularly with newsletters about how things are with Josiah Venture, and these past few months have felt less like a time of new lessons from God and more like a time of settling in to the changes He’s made in and around me over the past few years. (If you don’t get my newsletters and want to, you can sign up here)
One of the lessons He has been teaching me (and it has been a particularly hard one to learn!) is the idea of resting in Him. I really want to control as many aspects of my life as possible, and when I cannot control things I WORRY. I toss and turn at night worrying about if these uncontrollable aspects of my life (and other people’s lives) will work out ok. I say that I’ve given these things to God- but I worry worry worry about them.
I think God has taken extreme measures to pry my fingers off of things I try to control. I think extreme measures are sometimes necessary for those of us who think we need to help Him run things 🙂
He took away my job in medicine three years ago (can you say “worry”!?!), He sent me to work with the Navajo- with people I didn’t know and in a culture I didn’t understand (but learned to LOVE!), and he made me wait until the VERY LAST MINUTE to provide a job with Josiah Venture.
When I considered working with a mission organization, I told God I would be happy to go wherever He needed me- but to please not ask me to raise support. He asked me to raise support- to essentially become completely financially dependent on Him (which I was before- but thought I had control over!) Then he allowed mom to get cancer- and no amount of worrying and planning on my part could change things for her- or for us.
Last Wednesday I went to church with dad and the lesson was on rest. A portion of the lesson involved the idea of being still before God and letting go of the things that we are worrying about and trying to control. The pastor had us spend some time in silence identifying the things that are keeping us up at night- battles that we are trying to fight that we simply need to let God fight.
I sat in the silence and thought of 3 things that have happened over the past few months that are unresolved, out-of-control things- and I realized I had already given these to God and found rest in Him for the wait.
It might seem like a little thing to you- but when I realized that I didn’t have anything festering away in me – keeping me from peace- it made me smile. It reminded me of the song:
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
and to take him at his word;
just to rest upon his promise,
and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust him more!
Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
just from sin and self to cease;
just from Jesus simply taking
life and rest, and joy and peace.
Life and rest and joy and peace. *smile*
I am so thankful that our God loves us so much that He gives us each exactly what we need to continue to grow in Him. And I’m thankful for the patience He has in teaching us- because I am a slow, and often reluctant learner!
I was thinking this morning about the verse from above in Romans. One of the “patterns of this world” is worry and fear. I see it all over social media- we are worried about the election, the national debt, our jobs (or lack of jobs), our homes, cars, budgets, safety, kids, relationships, health, what people think of us…. We are consumed with worry and fear. But Romans says we should not be conformed to this pattern- but transformed by the renewing of our minds.
I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that when I’m refreshing myself in scripture with story after story of God’s faithfulness that I worry less. I allow God to remind me that He goes before me and that He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He controls rulers of nations- he raises people up and lowers them. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and still notices how flowers are clothed- so He is aware of me, loves me and will provide for all of my needs.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds for you- or for me- but God is already there. He is able to “work all things together for good” and I don’t know about you- but I want to escape the pattern of this world and accept the life and rest and joy and peace of trusting Him!!!
This is my friend Josh and I on my very 1st trip to Slovakia in 2011. He was treating me to Kofola- the soda beverage of choice in Slovakia. I was pretending to like it, and also pretending to be awake after a whole night of flying and day of travel.
Josh was a part of the college ministry I led, and I remember how excited we all were when he decided, after doing a summer internship with Josiah Venture, to become a full-time missionary in Slovakia. He is the reason I have any connection to JV at all- so I guess he is a part of getting me to the path I am on today!
Josh and I have been dear friends for many years now, and I remember how excited he would be after JV spring conferences. We would Skype for hours and he would try to tell me about everything he learned and all the ways that God was teaching him through the sessions at these conferences. I would ask him if there was any way for me to listen to the lessons and he would always say no- they were shared online for JV staff- but not available for the public.
Now that I am on staff with JV, I have access to these sessions, and although I wasn’t able to be at Spring Conference this year, I was excitedly waiting for these sessions to post online for staff.
Then TWO surprises.
First, Dave Patty (JV’s founder and president) and his wife Connie came to Gull Lake Bible Conference- only about 20 minutes from my hometown of Battle Creek- and taught the Spring Conference sessions! I was able to invite many of my friends and supporters from Battle Creek to join me over three nights for his lessons. It was so fun to introduce people to JV on another level- and to hear some of these sessions in person!
Then, my second surprise: Josiah Venture launched a Media Page this week!
FINALLY, the incredible sessions taught at the various conferences and events of JV are available to the public! There are just two events hosted there now- but more from previous years are coming! You can upload sessions to your computer or phone and take them with you. I’m listening to the Spring Conference sessions I missed during my morning walk each day- and God is really speaking to my heart and teaching me about himself as I listen!
This media page is available at josiahventure.com – just click on media and choose an event!
I love how God is always drawing us closer to Himself- and these little joys in the busy-ness of life just make me smile. As Father’s Day draws close, I am reminded again that I’m not only blessed with an incredible earthly father- but a Heavenly Father that has adopted me as his own, loves to give good gifts, and provides ways for me to learn to love him and know him more!
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Intern Training 2017 brought so much joy to my heart that it is a little difficult to express it to you here. I’m sure that at some point in your life you have had that shocking sense of how BIG God is. It feels like he peels back a little corner of a curtain and gives you a tiny peek at how He moves in lives and circumstances and it just about knocks you over. Just a tiny look knocks me over. I wonder sometimes about heaven when we will know fully- just as we are known in full. When I think about mom, I wonder what she now knows about God that the rest of us only see tiny glimpses of. Makes me smile.
My last update left you awaiting the intern’s arrival at our headquarters in Malenovice. I spent the day helping my friend Martina get organized with arrival packets, room assignments, name tags etc.
The interns arrived in a downpour, after dark, completely exhausted but exhilarated by the Amazing Race. Team Estonia took the win (by a few seconds over one of the Czech teams!) for the second year in a row! We got them settled, had snacks together, and all went to sleep to the sounds of the most gloriously LOUD thunderstorm.
The week was full of worship, and learning about Josiah Venture- it’s history, mission, vision and method of disciple-making. It was full of training in team building, teaching English, working with a translator, sharing your testimony, sharing the gospel in Eastern and Central Europe, spiritual warfare…etc.
Each team had time to meet independently of the large group. I was adopted by team Poland and learned SO much about the ministries of JV in this country. I loved it.
I had the joy of spending one-on-one time with some of the interns and lots of the Intern Directors that I work with from each JV country. This time was so valuable to me. I got an email yesterday morning from one of our Intern Directors, Katka, in Latvia. It said this:
Hi Ruthanne! I have to tell you, writing you emails now is way more fun because I have fun memories with you 🙂 Can’t wait for the next time we get to hang out! I LOVED our day together!!
I was so excited to be a part of it again this year. I was assigned the 1st roadblock on Margitsziget Island right in the middle of the Danube River. I, along with several other girls left for the island while everyone else left to pick interns up at the airport. I was in charge of a station where intern teams had to compete against each other in a human chess game.
I woke up not feeling very good, and that “not very” turned into terrible by the time I was set up for interns to arrive at my station. Food poisoning…? Stomach flu..? Either way, I quickly ran out of Hungarian Forint at the pay-per-use restroom in the park. The woman collecting the money was giving me sympathetic looks, but still asking me for coins. Sigh.
Do you ever have those moments when you think, “Ok, God. You keep the planets aligned. Could you have picked a better time to allow the flu? Like not in the middle of the Amazing Race? Like in a place where restrooms are free to use?
I have so many of those moments in my life. Obstacles and roadblocks always seem to come at the worst possible times. All I can do with those moments is to trust that God loves me- and that if I got the flu now, he had to have a reason for it.
We had one intern that was arriving an hour late, and one of my co-workers, Aleisha, came to my station to drop her off and arranged to have me pulled off my station and put in the shade at the finish line to rest (ironically, in Josh’s Fusion van- the one we sold a million pounds of cookie dough to help him buy).
So for anyone else, this would mean a good night’s sleep and then back to the race the next day. I am unfortunately not in the category of “anyone else”.
There is a struggle in my work with JV that I haven’t wanted to share with everyone in my life. Like, you know, writing about it in a blog 🙂 I was really convicted about transparency yesterday though. There’s something really freeing about not having anything to hide or protect, and I really believe God wants us to live in as much truth and freedom as possible. So here goes.
If you’ve known me very long, you know that I have a medical problem that makes it hard for me to regulate my blood pressure. About 8 years ago I took college students to Mexico and picked up a stomach bug that turned out to be some random virus that damaged my autonomic nervous system. This is the part of your body that controls things you don’t think about- like blood pressure. When you sit down, all the blood in your body collects in your legs and feet because of gravity. When you stand up, your autonomic system tells your blood vessels to constrict so that this blood fights gravity and is pushed up into your brain. That doesn’t work well for me, so when I stand up nothing constricts and my heart beats really fast to get blood up to my head so I don’t faint.
It took me several years to figure out how to live with this well. Medications and IV fluids to keep my blood pressure up have worked well- and in the past 4-5 years I have had almost no symptoms or issues.
Then I started to fly overseas with JV.
Every time I flew over or back I had problems with this again. So my cardiologist and I started brainstorming ideas to make it possible to fly well. Being a scientist at heart, I charted out all the things that trigger this problem and I researched every possible way to prevent those triggers.
For this trip, I did everything I knew to do to be healthy. I ate specific foods, I adjusted my sleep schedule to be on European time before I left, I got IV fluids before my flight out….
I was doing well. And then the flu happened. Dehydration is enemy #1 for me, and there comes a point where nothing will fix that but IV fluids. So I was pulled completely from the race and driven to Czech to get these IV fluids.
I had done everything in my power to prevent any problems- and then the flu happened. Once again, a reminder that no matter how hard I try to control things in my life that I can’t. I was curled up in that van and talking to God about how hard I’d tried- and how it all unravelled right at the beginning! I had several hours to talk with him about this, and the end result was, “I give up. Have thine own way Lord. You unravelled my plans and I will trust you in this.”
I spent 4 hours the next day in the car with Aleisha. Aleisha is the JV International Camp Director and one of the overseas people I work most closely with, and I had never had a chance to really get to know her. Those four hours were an incredible opportunity to get to know her better- and I can’t imagine any other scenario when the two of us would have a 4 hour block of time to just talk about things other than work. And we needed to talk about things other than work. We needed to become friends.
Today I am sitting out on the deck of Malenovice drinking ginger ale and waiting for the interns to arrive for Intern Training. I see the blessing in the interruption of my plans. I see God teaching me that in my weakness He is strong. Teaching me that it’s ok to need other people to help sometimes. Teaching me that honesty and transparency mean that people can pray more specifically for the things I am struggling with- and I can pray more specifically for them.
The interns will arrive tonight at about 9. They will be here until Wednesday and I ask you’d pray for them to continue to grow together as teams that are united to bring the hope of God to young lives this summer.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27
I don’t have time to write today. Wow- things are a little crazy here right before departure. Even though I feel like everything is in order, I keep getting curve balls thrown my way.
As I’m “putting out fires” in these last few days before I depart for Hungary (followed shortly thereafter by all the interns!), I have been noticing something. It’s been making me smile all day and I wanted to capture the moment here before it disappears in the travel and activities of the coming week.
I’ve been noticing all the parts of JV working separately, but all together for the common goal of bringing the gospel message to young lives in Eastern and Central Europe. Today as I hopped between email, phone, and FaceTime conversations, I noticed:
The missionaries of (un-named, still a secret) country- planning the final details of the Amazing Race. Putting in 16 hour days tying up loose ends- sending kids to bed while thinking out loud with me about different challenges of the Race. Asking me to review race clues for clarity.
A grandma- staying with grandkids in Croatia so mom and dad can be at Intern Training with the interns that will be serving there this summer.
Missionaries in Poland and Czech- training intern leaders that arrived early to help lead and disciple intern teams this summer.
The JV communication team- deciding on how to best promote camps and outreach events on social media. What will our official #hashtags be? Who are our intern teams, so that they can each be represented in what we share?
A dear Czech friend who is in charge of setting up for Intern training- lodging, food, name tags, chairs, equipment. I texted her this morning while she was working from Costa coffee in Ostrava CZ, charting out all the details- and cheering on Czech vs. US in hockey on the side 🙂 #multitasking
Countless people dividing up supplies like camp shirts, flyers, and banners into country groups so that they can be picked up at Intern Training and taken back to their country for the summer.
The financial team here in the states, recording all the last-minute donations and making sure intern accounts are fully updated for the big transfer of funds into each country’s account tomorrow.
Our staff in Wheaton- waiting on last minute mail deliveries of visa documents (join us in praying that those come no later than TOMORROW, by the way…!) and cheering us on.
Isn’t it nice that we are a part of a team? Goodness. As I paused throughout this day to thank God for all the little parts of this enormous undertaking of His, it made me smile.
If we are each willing to do the things he sets before us, we can trust that he will tie those things together with the work and gifting He has given others- all to accomplish His purpose in the world around us! We need each other. God calls us to work together for him- to be the hands and feet that bring his Good News to the world!
Many of you have texted or emailed me in the past few days to say that you are praying for God to protect, guide and lead us all as we plan and then go. So YOU are a part of this team as well. An incredibly important part.
Just another thing that makes me smile as I work today!!
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3
I have that verse from the Bible hanging up in my bedroom. My mom gave it to me several years ago. I see it every evening before I turn out my lights and every morning when my eyes open. I don’t always notice it- but it is there. Reminding me that God is working- even when I can’t see Him in a situation. Taking my ashes and trading them for something beautiful (Isaiah 61:3).
I was mowing my grass just now and praising God for all the new life outside. It seems like everything is blooming, and I had a hard time just mowing and not stopping to admire all the new life in my yard that has happened in just the past week! (I actually did stop, right in the middle of mowing, to take the above picture. My neighbors are usually pretty entertained by how distracted I get mowing….)
The past few weeks have brought new life in more than just my yard- and I am reminded again of how faithful God is in His kindness to us when we wait for His timing.
Since I returned from Arizona, I’ve been “off” in my life in Fort Wayne. I still connect with my friends, but what used to be a natural community of people I did life with doesn’t exist anymore. I used to have a community of coworkers, a small group at church, a college ministry to serve. I had people doing day-in and day-out life with me. I also had my family in Michigan. My favorite times of refreshment came from spending time at mom and dads and taking long walks with my sis-in-law. Now my family is split up, and mom is gone, and it isn’t the same. It’s work to get together. Wonderful when we manage it, but not the same.
So I’ve been praying. I’ve been asking God for community here. I’ve been asking him to direct my steps to people I can do life with. People I can learn from and grow with on a regular basis. People who are on mission and involved in what God is doing in Fort Wayne. People who are passionate about the things I am passionate about. People who are real, and who I can be real with.
I’ve been asking God this for over a year, and waiting.
Last year, I started attending a Saturday night church service here in Fort Wayne. I was invited by friends from college, and I enjoyed it. I didn’t feel particularly connected, but it was set up as a coffee house with round tables, and it felt like a good place to invite college age students to- so I kept attending when I could. They became one of my supporting churches with JV, and I was excited to have this connection with them.
Three weeks ago, I went back to visit again and it happened to be the 1st night for their new pastor. My friend Chuck graciously introduced me to this new pastor as someone working for Jehovah’s something and I quickly explained that I don’t work with the Jehovah’s Witnesses….JOSIAH Venture… 🙂
This new pastor’s teaching immediately injected something incredible and beautiful into this group. He explained that he uses a method of Bible Study that he calls SOAP. Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.
He had us open our Bibles to Philippians and we read together a fairly large passage. Then he had us discuss it at our small tables and pull out observations that we shared in the large group. Then applications. Then prayer. It was beautiful. It is my favorite way to study scripture. Everyone is a participant, you allow the Holy Spirit to breath life into God’s Word, you come away with a fuller, richer understanding and you have things to apply to life.
And….you have community. Small round tables and coffee do not make community- but sharing scripture and life observations and prayer does!! We went out for pizza afterward, and the next week wings, and this last week we brought food in and talked of Christ, and cement trucks and kids, and faith and struggles. They wanted to know about Josiah Venture. I wanted to know about how they started cutting hair and why they like the Detroit Lions. No- seriously- why?!?
This new pastor told me- told us all- that the church is better because we are there- and I think he believes it.
I feel at home. Finally. After a year of asking.
Beauty in His time.
I have written these words before, and I pray God will enable me to speak this truth with my dying breath:
God is faithful!
I am so excited to see what comes next. It feels like He drew a curtain back at just the right time and said, “Here’s the next part of the journey!” I can’t stop thanking Him! 🙂 As much as I want to see a movement of God in Eastern and Central Europe, I want to see a movement of God in Fort Wayne, Indiana too!!!!
This week is the final week of support raising for our interns. By Sunday, all funds need to be turned in, and God- in His perfect timing- is providing. Every day, I get phone calls and emails asking me to pray and to ask God for the impossible, and every day I get emails and phone calls telling me of His Great Faithfulness.
My favorite this week- it hits close to home- is a sweet girl going to Hungary to serve this summer. Her mom was diagnosed with cancer several weeks ago and needed surgery. We talked and prayed for her mom and for the decision to either stay home or go and serve and I got this message from her this past weekend:
I just found out my mom is cancer free! She only needed one surgery to get it out! Praise God!
Thank you for all of your prayer and help during this time. A HUGE weight was lifted off of my shoulders!
The above verse is the very last sentence of a prayer offered up by an Old Testament king named Jehoshaphat. I’ve loved this story- and this snippet of his prayer ever since I read it many years ago.
The story is about a king of Judah who obediently follows God. He declares God’s law, so that the people hear it and obey it. He tears down all idol worship. He seeks God’s counsel before going to battle.
One day, he is in Jerusalem, and he gets terrible news. Three nations, Moab and Ammon and Mt. Seir have amassed an enormous army and together are headed toward Jerusalem to attack.
In fact, when he gets this news, this enormous army is camped at En Gedi, an oasis in the desert that we visited when in Israel. The picture above was taken there. It is also where David caught King Saul in a cave and cut a tassel off his robe.
King Jehoshaphat immediately prays. You can find his prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:6-12, and it ends with this: “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
After he prays, God speaks through a prophet to say: “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
They go to meet this army, but before they get there, the army ends up turning on itself and completely destroying each other. When Jehoshephat and his army “came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.”
There are so many incredible examples of God’s provision in the Bible. I’m not sure what makes this one stick in my mind so firmly- except for that prayer. I have so many moments in my life when I turn my eyes from something hard and seemingly hopeless and say the words: “Lord- I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you.”
When we visited En Gedi, this story was told, and this prayer was quoted. I couldn’t help but smile when it was read. I’ve made it my own. It has been my cry to God in so many things over the years. There are so many times when I simply don’t know what to do. The problem is bigger than I can handle. It looks hopeless. I feel small. But I remember that God is big. He gives hope to the hopeless. He handles the seemingly impossible without any hesitation.
There is something about saying these words out loud. Deciding to stand firm. Telling God that we are watching for Him to move on our behalf. Trusting that He will.
Earlier this week, I read Psalm 5 and it again reminded me to EXPECT God to move. Not to just ask and sit around worrying about what will happen- or to ask and resign myself to nothing changing– but to ask with expectation.
“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”
I’ve been praying with expectation this week. Not expectation that God will provide in the ways I see as best, but expectation that he will indeed move in each thing I pray for- and that he will move in ways that will bring life and hope and healing to each person involved.
Join me as I pray for:
- Financial provision for all 135 of our American, Canadian and European interns before May 1st.
- A movement of God- beginning tonight and all through the weekend- for SoulBlast– a huge youth retreat led by my friend John up in Michigan.
- Full support to come in quickly for my friend Ricky as he seeks to serve in Slovakia with JV next fall.
- For those in my life (and yours) who are trying to fill the emptiness inside with anything other than Christ.
While I am consumed with preparations for sending interns overseas in just a few short weeks, God is moving in powerful ways across the countries of Josiah Venture.
The above picture was taken in Slovakia last week at KPM (konferencia pracovníkov s mládežou)- a training conference for youth workers. Almost 700 young people attended! If you’d like to read a little about it, visit this blog written by Connie Patty- she captures all the beauty of it well. Events like this take place in several JV countries. SO exciting to see God moving!!!
Next week is the annual Fusiondary event with JV. It is taking place in the Czech Republic (recently re-named Czechia?!?) April 29- May 1. It is a music festival for all the music ministries of JV. Seven countries and more than 700 people will participate in concerts, seminars and lots of fellowship. Please be praying for this!
JV Spring Conference will take place May 4-8. All staff are invited to come and be refreshed by teachings and time together. Pray that this will be an encouragement to staff that have been working hard all year in Eastern and Central Europe.
I’ve enjoyed seeing many of you in recent weeks as I’ve visited your churches! I still have Avalon Missionary (this Saturday and Sunday) and Battle Creek Friends (next Saturday and Sunday). Hope to see you then!!!
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:8-11
One of the unexpected things I loved about visiting Israel was the impact that geography has on the story of the Bible.
We spent an entire afternoon hiking in the Wadi Qelt. This is a deep canyon that runs between Jericho (at about 800 ft below sea level) and Jerusalem (at about 2500 ft above sea level). It’s a deep canyon with just a narrow trail, and it was a hot, dry hike. We hiked down toward Jericho, and I cannot imagine hiking it up to Jerusalem! Along the way, we stopped and learned that this was likely the wilderness of Jesus’ temptation, the setting for the Good Samaritan parable, and almost certainly the path that Jesus would have taken with his family to Jerusalem, and with his disciples on that last trek toward his death and resurrection.
Even more interesting, was when we arrived in Jerusalem two days later and our guide pointed the canyon out from the top of the Mount of Olives. You could see all the way down to the Dead Sea- past Jericho. The entire path through the wilderness from here to there.
Naturally, our tour involved a visit to the garden of Gethsemane, and while we were there, we were reminded that this garden sits outside of Jerusalem- on the east side- right on the side of the Mount of Olives. Right on the way out of town. It would have been incredibly easy, on his last agonizing night here, for Jesus to just slip out of the garden, onto the path, out into the wilderness and escape this certain death.
He could have left…
Again, my biblical imagination had failed me in this. I always thought of Jesus in a position where he had no choice. He was the Son of God. He had come to die. There was no other option. I never thought about the temptation of leaving. The disciples were asleep, Jesus had asked them to stay awake and pray, but they couldn’t. He knew what was coming. He knew how awful it would be.
But he stayed.
He pleaded with God to take this cup from him- begged God to find another way. He was in such distress that he sweat drops of blood.
But he stayed.
He fought the biggest battle ever fought by a man in this quiet garden away from the view of the world. He set his face toward obedience and said the words, “Not my will, but thine be done.”
He stayed out of obedience- and he stayed out of love.
As I sat in this garden, and looked up through the olive branches into the blue sky, the intensity of that love hit me. He stayed for me. He stayed for you. He knew that if he left we would face the penalty of eternal death ourselves- so he stayed.
Being loved like this changes us. It shows us that we are treasured by God- we are incredibly valuable. We are worth rescuing. We are worth dying for. We have purpose.
We can find rest in this love. It means we are never alone. It means we never (ever!) will be alone. If we choose to accept this love, we will have it from this moment all the way into eternity. It means we are accepted. We are adopted as children of God. We can run to him any time and find his great love waiting for us.
I love the picture of God that Zephaniah paints in 3:17
“God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Isn’t that beautiful? When life gets confusing and hard- when I feel like I’m terrible at everything- when I fail miserably at doing the right thing- when I’m tired and discouraged—
There he is, rejoicing over me, taking delight in how he created me, singing his songs of joy and hope over me- and my heart is quieted by this overwhelming, unbelievable love that I don’t deserve.
How can I recognize this love and fail to respond? How could I not offer my life to him in return? Why would I ever choose to live apart from him? Why would you?
How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, the Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross- my sin upon His shoulders,
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life, I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything- no gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart- His wounds have paid my ransom.
My very first thought was: It’s so small!!!
I’ve been imagining the Sea of Galilee for my whole life.
Peter, James and John in a sailboat- out on the rolling sea… Jesus calming the storm… Jesus walking on water and Peter trying to join him….
I didn’t imagine I’d be able to see all sides of it at once. How in the world did they have storms on this little lake that were big enough to scare anyone?
Our guide, Andre, gave us a birds-eye tour around the lake (since we could almost see all of it)…
Right below us- Magdela- where Mary Magdalene was from and then Geresene. Then Capernaum- where Jesus spent a good portion of his 3 years of ministry. As Andre made his way around the lake, I squinted down at the rolling hills and farm land. Tiny little towns and villages. Probably tinier when Jesus lived here.
I’m not sure why I always picture Jesus completely swarmed with masses of people, but as I looked out at the green hillsides before me, it struck me that the whole world as we now know it was changed… from here. Little towns on a fairly small lake in the rolling hills of Galilee. A spark was lit here that would be fanned into flame across the entire globe and even I would hear of the events that transpired here- in a little Sunday School room in Battle Creek Michigan.
I was lost in thought for the rest of the day. I imagined what ministry was like here for Jesus. Poor (but incredibly beautiful!) fishing villages, smelly fishermen, rowdy children, grumpy old men, sad people, hurting people. People that all knew each other because they were from a small town. Gossips, troublemakers, but also kind and generous people.
My biblical imagination had failed to flesh these details out. The disciples, and people Jesus lived alongside, were fairly vague shadow-figures in my mind with just a few sharp personality points- Thomas doubted… Peter was impulsive…. But I’d never imagined what day-to-day life was like for all of them.
Seeing the smallness of this place and realizing the enormity of what God accomplished here gave me such a jolt of excitement that it surprised me.
Because if God can use such a little place and such insignificant people to change the world…then it could happen in Indiana. It could happen with us.
As my week in Israel unfolded I was reminded over and over of how small things can be powerful in the hands of God.
Only a day later, as I was thinking through these things, Dave shared a lesson in Sepphora about this very thing- about how Jesus came from such a tiny, insignificant town. His take-away for us was: “Small things have big significance when they are a part of God’s redemptive plan.” He explained, “Whenever we step into what God is doing, we step from our small story into God’s big story with huge significance.”
Later that day, Andre pointed out mustard plants to us. They were blooming- we were very fortunate to be in Israel during spring- and the bright yellow flowers were everywhere. I thought about how Jesus used this plant in parables and lessons.
Matthew 13: 31-33 “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Tiny things…result in things of great size and significance…and in the very next verse:
“He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”
Tiny bits of yeast transform the entire bowl of dough….
Or how about this story, that I thought about as I had a chance to hold a Mina, or a widow’s mite from Jesus’ time in my hand:
Mark 12:41-44 “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Little is much in God’s economy….
So I’ve spent some time this past week thinking about what God is already doing around me. In Josiah Venture and in Fort Wayne. I’ve been asking God to show me where I can join His story more fully- where I can give all of the little bits I have into His hands for His use and glory.
And I guess I am sharing this with all of you to encourage you to do the same, hoping you will catch the excitement of stepping into the great eternal story of God. Hoping we all will allow him to take our small stories, and tiny towns, and weave them into his Big Story- the one that continues to change the entire world with grace!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through out all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21