My eight months in Rough Rock are over. It seems strange to write those words! An adventure I didn’t see coming that changed me at my very core, and hopefully had an impact on this Navajo community and even on you.
My last week in Rough Rock was a busy time of packing, cleaning, visiting, traveling and saying good-bye. I really savored the moments as they passed. Coffee with Lula, long walks with Lavina, steamed corn treats brought by Sonny, hours of Yatzee with the Marianito boys, cupcakes with Pauline, road trip with Rod, and even a Navajo parade!
My last weekend was so full of memories and fun moments that I think all of us are probably still recovering! We had our last story night and completed the Bible story with Revelation. They had a lot of questions about things like the rapture and eternity. I got out a roll of toilet paper for our favorite illustration of how long eternity is- the kids LOVED it and I think it helped them understand…
We had dinner together- hotdogs and s-mores and stayed late laughing and talking.
We all had dinner together on Sunday after church and the day ended with a powwow at Lavina’s which was so interesting and fun! They even dressed me up in a grass dance dress and tried to teach me how to dance- lol!
I’m in San Diego now, with my friends Paul and Andreya Armstrong, and it seems like the perfect place to finally tell you about what God is directing me into next.
Perfect because this story all began with Paul and Andreya. Paul was the pastor of my church in Fort Wayne, Indiana when I first decided to take college students to Mexico to help a little church in a tiny village called Siete Ejidos. He and Andreya were the best cheerleaders as I struggled to learn the ropes of taking groups to another country to serve. I remember both Paul and our youth pastor, Tom Cochran, reminding me that when God calls, God provides.
The other thing that Paul did, is to tell me (at every opportunity) that I needed to consider leaving the medical field to work full- time in God’s work. He told me this so many times that the idea got stuck in the back of my mind.
Maybe I would leave the medical profession to work full-time for God. Someday.
I remember very clearly, standing outside with Casper before work, and telling God, “You know, I will do anything you want me to, God. Anything. But you’ll have to make it clear, and you’ll probably have to take away my medical job because I can’t imagine being brave enough to quit a job I love with great benefits.”
That prayer haunted me as I travelled through the closing of our Genetics Lab. What did this mean? Did God have something other than hospital work for me to do?
Of course, now we know what His plans were: Go to Arizona and serve on the Navajo reservation for eight months!
But then what? Go back to Parkview? Work in the lab?
It seemed strange that God would call me out of that profession only to call me back in to it?
I’ve had eight months to pray about this, and I’m incredibly blessed to have the best praying friends and family and pastors ever! We all have been asking God to make the next steps clear.
I started by applying to Parkview. I applied for everything that was open in the lab and even did phone interviews, but God closed all of those doors.
Mid-July, I got a Facebook message from a friend that works for a mission group called Josiah Venture, Mike Sullivan. He told me he thought there might be a stateside position opening there in the fall. He asked for my resume.
A woman named Brenda called me from JV. She explained what the job would entail, and said that she wished we could meet in person to talk, but that would be impossible since she was in Chicago and I was in Arizona. Impossible EXCEPT that I was scheduled to return home for my cousin’s wedding the following week! We agreed to meet and I got a chance to have coffee with Brenda and visit the JV offices in Chicago.
To make a LONG story short, all doors were wide open to work with JV and I’ve decided to accept an invitation to work on their stateside team!
So- who is Josiah Venture and what will I be doing?
JV is a mission organization that was started in 1993 in response to the end of communism in Eastern and Central Europe. When these countries opened up, a small team of youth pastors that had been working on US military bases in Western Europe began to do summer outreaches into these newly-freed countries. They realized immediately that the young people there were SO open to hearing about God. They had a lot of questions about the gospel message. There was a great need for Christian teachers and leaders in these countries.
There still is a great need, less than 1% of the people in these countries are believers in Jesus. JV is hard at work in 14 Eastern and Central European countries, hoping to change that.
The mission of JV is to “Equip young leaders to fulfill Christ’s commission through the local church.”
Best. Mission. Statement. Ever.
They are not going in and running the show. They are equipping an entire generation of eastern Europeans to BE those leaders and teachers. They aren’t creating an organization over in Europe to do this- they are mobilizing local churches- of all denominations- to be the place where all of this happens.
Here is their vision in their own words: [click here to read]
The best part? They are actually living this out, and God is doing INCREDIBLE things!
How do I know? Because JV is the organization that our college group travelled to Slovakia with to do English Camps.
In 2011, one of the guys in our college ministry decided to go into full time missions in Slovakia. His name is Josh Howard, and he REALLY wanted our college group to go over during the summer to help with an English Camp and experience what God is doing though JV.
We decided to go, and we were partnered with a church in Zilina, SK. This church had been working with JV for years, and when we arrived we met a youth group of about 40 kids who were passionate about reaching their city for Christ. We spent 2 days becoming a team with them. We played games, had coffee, decorated the hotel where camp would be held, and became friends. Then the students arrived. They had been invited by people in this youth group and also by presentations by JV in the public schools. They came to practice English with Americans, and learn about God. The Americans and Slovaks worked together as a team to reach these kids, and it was an incredible experience. After camp, we returned with all of them to Zilina and had a huge after-camp party at the youth building. Kids who had never set foot in a church before came to the party with their new camp friends and got a fall schedule of events to look forward to.
I left with a whole new vision of how ministry should be done. These kids were LEADING. They were using their gifting. They were discipling other students and reaching out to the lost. They weren’t coming to be entertained (although there was a lot of that too!) They were coming to fulfill the commission of Christ, and they were doing it through their local church.
Camps are an outreach tool of JV.
They do English camps and Fusion Camps. Fusion camps teach music instead of English, but they have a similar format.
There is also a network of missionaries that are hard at work in these countries all year round. Some of them are American, but over half of them are nationals. These missionaries work closely with the local churches in a given area. They work to equip them and encourage them. They disciple with the idea that those who are discipled will go out and do the same for others. This network makes it possible for JV to partner with these local churches for things like camps and other training opportunities. The training available through JV is incredible. It really gives the local church some valuable tools. If you’d like to read more about the overseas training programs, they are [here].
I will be working here in the United States (in Fort Wayne with monthly commutes to Chicago) as an Intern Coordinator. One of the positions that JV incorporates into those summer camps is an intern position. These interns are made up of both Americans and Nationals. They are typically college-age students. The interns begin signing up in September and work through a training and preparatory process that takes them all the way to May. In May, the US interns travel over to Europe and meet in one designated city. This is quite an event, as it involves 80-100 students from all over the United States. The interns are divided into groups based on which country they will be serving in, and they participate in an “Amazing Race” style game that is designed to build them into a team. After the race, they attend training sessions. In late May they go city-to-city in their designated country and they speak in public schools to invite kids to join them for summer English Camp. Then they attend all three sessions of camps that are held in their country during the summer months. Experienced youth groups get maybe one or two interns to help run the camp, but churches who are hosting a camp for the 1st time will get a team of interns to help them and encourage them.
This is a life-changing process for many of these college students. My friend Josh, who originally invited us to visit Slovakia, started out as a JV summer intern and is now in charge of the entire Fusion program in Slovakia. One of the college students I took over for camp, Ricky, felt SO called to serve God with JV that he did a summer internship and is now raising support to be a full-time missionary there.
I am SO excited to be a part of this movement of God across Central and Eastern Europe! I love that my little part of it involves ministry to and with college students! I’m excited that God taught me so many lessons during all those years of planning mission trips and leading college ministry that I can use now, as I serve Him through JV.
So, what’s next?
I’m driving home next Monday, visiting some friends in Colorado, and getting to Fort Wayne on the 13th or 14th.
This position is a mission team position, and will require me to have another team of supporters, both in prayer and finances, (and possibly in occasional Oreos). I was very thankful for my Oreo suppliers out here in Arizona!
I will need to raise 100% of this support before I can start this position, and I’m hoping that God gathers together a team for me quickly, because I can’t wait to start! This fall I will attend training sessions for one week in Chicago and I will start learning more about the registration process for these interns. Once all of my support is in, I will start full time, working with these students as they go through the preparations (training, support raising, visas and passports, airline tickets etc) to serve overseas next summer. I will be in Europe when they arrive in May to welcome them and do the Amazing Race with them, and then I will be a resource for them over the summer as they have needs back here in the States. When they get home, we debrief them and help them process what God did in and through them over the summer. Then the process begins again!
Before I leave San Diego, I will be mailing letters out to many of you to give you more information about how you can be a part of this new adventure. I have absolutely LOVED having you all along with me during this time with the Navajo. I am still praising God for all that He accomplished because of your faithful prayers and generosity.
This has been a long blog post. A part of me doesn’t want to turn the last page of my time here in Arizona and call it finished. I know I will be back to visit, but I also know that it won’t be the same. It was a good book though, these months on the Navajo Nation. I learned and grew a lot during my time here, and talking to all of you, it seems you did too.
Now a whole new book is waiting to be opened!
I’m taking a deep breath and opening up to the 1st chapter….
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37