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Blog

16 Personalities and the Annual Staff Retreat

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Ben recently asked our whole team to take the personality profile test from a well-known website. www.16personalities.com This test is nice because it is available in Czech, Russian, Ukrainian and English, all native languages spoken on our team of 21. It doesn’t take very long to answer, yet the pages and pages of personality profiling are very accurate and helpful. (Now we at least understand Edik’s behavior better!!!)

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This exercise was for Ben’s preparation of a presentation of our one and five-year vision for our organization in Ukraine, as well as for each individual ministry. This all took place at our team’s annual staff retreat, which we are trying to create a rhythm for every February. We go to this spa in Truskavets, 1.5 hours away, and get a lot of work and play done in a quick 48-hour get-away. Our team is so fun. You can’t help but notice that as we present.

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There were 11 of us there. We each got to read a section of the personality type explanation that described us best. It was what we wanted our co-laborers to understand most about us. God was very kind to me in the week leading up to this retreat because I was having some internal conflict and finding myself quick to anger in certain situations, particularly in the morning and before bed with my kids, and when teammates or more distant co-workers seemingly blow off my emails, questions or requests.

Finally when it came down to it: I feel most disrespected when people do not take my requests seriously or do not do what I asked. I am not asking to create more work for them; I fully respect their time. But I am asking because it is actually important.

Reading about my personality profile in depth was a gift from God that day. I was so grateful for this AHA moment. It helps keep me be a better Christian and leader when I understand myself better. If you are interested in reading more, go to the 16 Personalities website Profiles. I am an Executive (ESTJ). Ben is an Architect (INTJ). Most of our team are Entertainers (thank you, stereotypical youth pastor profile.) Yes, it is a version of Meyers-Briggs, but the way they present it is unique. It was a blessing for our team.

Here was my profile: Executive personalities lead by example, demonstrating dedication and purposeful honesty, and an utter rejection of laziness and cheating, especially in work. If anyone declares hard, manual work to be an excellent way to build character, it is Executives.

Executives are more than willing to dive into the most challenging projects, improving action plans and sorting details along the way, making even the most complicated tasks seem easy and approachable. However, Executives expect their reliability and work ethic to be reciprocated – people with this personality type meet their promises, and if partners or subordinates jeopardize them through incompetence or laziness, or worse still, dishonesty, they do not hesitate to show their wrath. This can earn them a reputation for inflexibility, but it is not because Executives are arbitrarily stubborn, but because they truly believe that these values are what make society work.

Weaknesses: Judging. Difficult to relax because action oriented. Do not feel the emotions of others.

Strengths: Dedicated. Strong willed. Direct. Honest. Like tasks. Enjoy order. Excellent organizers. Loyal and reliable.

16personalities . com ~ enjoy!

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Love EUROPE and LOVE EVFREE Fullerton

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This is a special thank you to a very influential ministry partner (EVFree Church of Fullerton, CA) that keeps on loving the ministry of Josiah Venture in Central and Eastern Europe. In heaven I’m convinced that there will be a whole night devoted to this church’s people who have loved Ukraine and pleased God SO sincerely in their bond with the body of Christ.

I’m blown away by the story every time. There are people reading this right now who won’t notice the finger prints of God ALL OVER their lives, but I beg you! Please, look closely! We have a Heavenly Father who loves His children and delights in giving us the keys to His kingdom. He holds all the resources. He looks for clean hands and pure hearts with which to do His work. He loves a cheerful giver. He is faithful to the faithful and the faithless alike. His mercies never fail; they are new every morning. This partnership between Josiah Venture Ukraine and EVFree Fullerton (particularly high school and college) is a great testimony to our great God. blogLoveEurope

Scott and Kay Fisher. Scott Belond. Scott Williams and Christian Amundsen, back in 2008, who took a chance on Josiah Venture. Dan Crane. Heather Anderson and Lee and Katie Humerian who heard the long-term call to mission after being sent out short-term with EVFree. And to the thousands of families and short-term team members who have sacrificed so that at least someone you know could come to Ukraine and serve the youth of this nation through some kind of camp, THANK YOU, EVFree and its members. God is so, so pleased.

We look forward to this 2017 partnership as well! Every week we get contacted by someone who is excited to return and see God continue His amazing work in Ukraine. Thank you for truly embodying THE BODY.

EXIT TOUR Time Again

EXIT Tour Ukraine – news briefing from EXIT Tour Ukraine on Vimeo.

When I watched this video, taped and aired for our local Lviv news channel, in the youth slot (6:45-7pm on Tuesday nights!), I was reminded that we have our second official round of EXIT TOUR starting April 19-21.  New potential! New teenagers! New fruit! You may not know Ukrainian, but you’ll see Christy Owen (JV Ukraine) and Nadya V. (redhead), and Pet’o M (JV Slovakia) and Michael and Junior, also known as “Faithchild” from London.

As we go into our next round of EXIT, here is a reminder: what is needed for an EXIT Tour
1) A band! Our beloved techno artists, Crossfya, from England, are coming back to us!

2) Schools! It looks like we will have three brand new schools in Lviv that have never experienced Fusion or any partnership with our organization before. The department of education in Lviv is choosing them as we speak. We are hoping for awesome partnership.

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3) A local youth group! This round of EXIT Tour is specifically for our local church, New Life. We had 28 leaders and teens over to our house last Monday for a time of encouragement and story-telling with our friend, Benjamin Francis, from India, and it was the reminder to our older leadership team for youth min, that we have LOTS of eager current and future younger leaders in our midst. They’ll do great with EXIT Tour. “The workers don’t feel so few” (Luke 9) when I look at this group. I love them so much. The are bold and brave and all in.

4) Lectures and Lecturers! It’ll be interesting if they invite us back! Me with my personality and conflict types, or Ben with his bullying theme, or Syava with the dreaded “I’m addicted to the internet or gaming” talk.

5) A Final Concert!! Remember this series of pictures from March 2016?!? What an incredible atmosphere. God is alive here. I love this ministry.

6) A Boldness to Share About Why Life with Jesus is the Best Life! We have all been recently trained on sharing our stories, how it relates to God’s story, and how to be on the lookout, sensitive to the people of peace out there, who are in desperate need of healing, prayer, life change.

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What is the Gospel Anyway?

Between EXIT Tour (see February blog posts) and INSPIRE conference (I’ll write more soon) our team and network of churches/youth groups have been discussing A LOT about sharing the Gospel.

blogTheGospelBraceletThe Gospel, ie. evangelia, is the good news that God the Son was sent to Earth by God the Father. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross, rose from the dead, an has power over death and sin and evil. He came for you because He loves you and has an incredible plan for your life and eternity. Trusting Him and asking Him to be Lord of your life is the only way to mend your broken relationship with the Almighty, perfect God and Creator. When you make this decision, God the Holy Spirit enters the believer’s life and helps you to live for Jesus. And just as He came 2,000+ years ago, Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will be again perfect and endless. Christians await this reconciliation, renewal and redemption with joy and an unquenchable hope that helps them endure life, love others, and share this hope with everyone who will listen. Those who do not make Christ Lord and King of their lives will spend a different eternity, which is eternal separation from our Good and Beautiful God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the non-Jew.”

But did you ever think about the fact that every Christian has his or her story to share, connected to God’s story? Sometimes when people are turned off by religion, they are not interested in hearing about “your God”. But they will be more often interested in your personal story. Always connect your story back to God’s story.

May God radically prepare hearts to accept Him as we radically obey Him by sharing our own stories with those who are not yet following Jesus. There is no greater life than in Christ. If we truly believe this, then we will share. If the love of Christ is in us, then we will share.

Acts 4:18-20 “So the [religious leaders and teachers of the law] called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

Standing Among Giants Once Again

February 25th, 2017. I’m sitting on a flight from Lviv to Munich, Germany. Ben is seated one row ahead of me. The kids are still in Lviv, staying for 11 days with Grammy, while we are headed to Pasadena, California for our first on-campus intensive at the very start of a new stage of life as candidates of the doctorate of ministry (DMin) program in the area of Youth, Family and Culture. http://fuller.edu/dmin/ 

In the plane I am reading the Fuller Theological Seminary Quarterly magazine. It’s an article about pop culture with 10 short blurbs of different Fuller scholars writing about the content of their Ph.D. dissertations, the books they have published, the studies they’ve led, the research findings they have discovered.

I’m overcome by a strong wave of emotion. One tear drips on the magazine. Then two. Suddenly I can’t read anymore. 

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My mind automatically rewinds to April 2015. I was on an airplane then, too, with Ben, and without kids, who were safe in Lviv with Grammy. I was flying home from 12 days in Israel with Global Youth Initiative specialists from around 90 countries. I, then, was also crying on the plane. I was overcome by emotion then, too, because I had just spent 12 days touring with some of my modern-day heroes of the faith – Dann Spader and Steve Hudson from GYI/Sonlife training, Benjamin Francis from Biglife (out of India), Dave Patty, founder of Josiah Venture, and other key JV leaders who are doing amazing things in Central and Eastern Europe by obeying God’s call to make disciples of Jesus.

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In that sea of GYI participants, I was very, very small. In the sea of Fuller post-graduate students, I will certainly feel the same. I am overwhelmed, humbled, and eternally grateful to God to stand among these spiritual giants.

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Now, I know that in the Bible and in history, Jesus is the only hero. But at the same time, as we look up to human spiritual influences on our lives, we can see in them a God who is so, so big.

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As I enter into ten days of study, my expectation is that I will leave twelve days at Fuller, just like I left 12 days in Israel, with a much greater understanding of the greatness of our God and the mission He has called me to.

An Annual Report You Don’t Want to Miss

Ahhhh. Seminary prep has taken me captive for the past few weeks. Therefore the blog suffers. In order to get back into blog land, I usually choose something relatively easy to post to help me ease back in.

Therefore, enjoy the annual report from Josiah Venture.

No one likes reading annual reports, but this one is different. I promise. These quick facts are amazing. Actually, God is amazing to take us all on this journey. What a privilege it is to serve Him in an organization like this.

2016 Year End Report

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Tomorrow EXIT Tour Launches in Ukraine!

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Tonight, a Slovak leader, an American missionary, a rapper from England called Faith Child, and his drummer arrive in Ukraine. Tomorrow two EVFree CA youth pastors arrive, as well. They are all added to another two Slovaks, a man from Scotland, our Josiah Venture Ukraine team of Ukrainians and Americans, and two local churches, Christ Fellowship and Hosannah, who are just about to launch a ginormous project of significant impact on Lviv schools, the church, and for Josiah Venture Ukraine, as we add one more ministry sphere to our youth ministry focus.

Being bridges between schools and churches. Meeting hundreds of teens in one day because our program “takes over the school” for the entire day. Ben and I both feel honored to be lecturers (partially because the dept. of education was promised foreign lecturers, so pray for us and our translators). We would have had to do the lecture (I’m doing personality testing and why we need one another; Ben is doing bullying; Syava is doing internet dependance) 16 times, but at least Ben and I can share our lecture with Christy and Chris, whose churches are doing the program. So we are splitting it 8 and 8!

blogexittourflyer6:50 At a public high school.
8:30 All school program/concert with Faithchild
9:20-13:25 Four rounds of lectures and games (the kids rotate)
13:25-15:00 Lunch and debrief and take down
15:00-17:00 “break”
17:00-20:00  EXIT Club (a youth group activity at a local church )
20:00 Dinner for all the foreigners/guests
Wake up at five the next morning…and repeat for Monday through Thursday.
Friday 12pm prep for the 18:00 concert where all the teens from all 4 schools are invited to hear Faithchild rap. And yes, they will also hear what a life with Jesus looks like and why we believe it is worth it.
Then a bunch of follow-up parties, meetings, and REPEAT in April and October, and hopefully more and more.

This program has unbelievable potential in so many avenues. If it goes well, we can have access to 86 secondary schools in our city. This is a huge open door. I’ve dreamed about this. Also, I am thrilled that I get to lecture on something rather than teach English. I like teaching English, but this is a new experience for us. Also on a personal note, I believe that they key to my doctoral research and dissertation is found somewhere in the midst of this program. We are fasting, praying, and relying fully on God because this project is larger than life. We are super excited for this launch, and super grateful for Josiah Venture to have launched EXIT so many years ago and to equip and outfit so many countries for this amazing possibility.

To be continued…

Josiah Venture – EXIT Ministry from Josiah Venture on Vimeo.

Luther, A Mighty Fortress, and Ukraine

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Last Saturday we attended a three-hour event for the Christian youth of Lviv regarding the 500-year Reformation anniversary.

  • We learned about Martin Luther and his fight to call the existing church out on its corruption and lack of a biblical foundation.
  • We learned about the Protestant movement beginnings, and how Lviv, Ukraine and western Ukraine was under Polish rule, where the movement spread.
  • We learned that orthodox (ie. untainted) Christianity is built on “glory only to God”, “only Scripture”, “only Christ”, and salvation “only by grace and only by faith”.
  • We talked about how a Christian awakening must begin in the hearts of each individual.

Our crowd was a couple hundred young people, almost all under 30, made up of Pentacostal, Charasmatic, Baptist, and non-denominational backgrounds. I have been impressed with the presentation of the Reformation in Ukraine, because it is not pointing the finger at what the traditional church did wrong. Rather it is highlighting what we need to do right. We have much in common today spiritually with the mood of Christianity during Luther’s day.

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My favorite part of the evening was singing Luther’s hymns in Ukrainian. (Thanks to a great worship team from Dzherelo Zhyttya, a youth group partner with us.) To sing my favorite “A Mighty Fortress is our God” in Ukrainian after all these years…tears, to say the least. So imagine my surprise when my Bible reading this morning was Psalm 46 ~ God is our fortress.

“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (v.7 and 11). Also on my heart has been the war that continues on in Eastern Ukraine. It has not ceased. The physical and spiritual enemy fights strong, but our God is stronger.

“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire” (v.9)

Please continue to pray for the war to cease in Ukraine. Pray for God to reign victorious over the physical and spiritual enemies. Pray that we would always remember that “God is our refuge and strength, a well proved help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,”(v.1-2).

Now Choose Life: Dad Turns 60

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The first picture is when I was in 7th grade. My dad had made a decision to follow Jesus a bit before that. And I have seen God at work in his life through the easy times, the busy times, the slow times, the sick times, the hardest of times.

Today is my dad’s 60th birthday. A few months ago we celebrated with a trip to Israel. I praise God for his resurrection from the dead. God takes things that are dead or dying and makes them into new creatures. I praise God for being faithful in my dad’s life.

I like to choose Bible passages for special birthdays. This has been a year of challenges for Dad, and I praise God that he knows the One who gives strength and life in all things. I hope that, in heaven, I get to meet the person who God inspired to write/say such incredible text from Deuteronomy chapter 30. Until then, Dad, this one is for you. We pray that this may this be true of your life. Cheers to SIXTY!

(Background – remember that Moses is standing on Mt. Nebo looking out at the promise land, knowing that the time has come for his people to receive the inheritance that they had been awaiting. This transition came with much pain, much wandering, battles of trust with God, battles of trust with Moses, and an uncertainty of how it was all going to work out. The only thing they could cling to was the fact that God, who miraculously saved about 2+ million of them from the hands of the cruel Pharaoh of Egypt, was the same God today, who promises to meet all our needs.)

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Deuteronomy 30

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul,

then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the Lord your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. And the Lord your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you.

And you shall again obey the voice of the Lord and keep all his commandments that I command you today. The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The Choice of Life and Death

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

In the Top Ten of the Nicest Things In 10 Years

I’ve already mentioned that January 10th, 2007 was our 10-year anniversary of living and serving God in Ukraine.

Over the years we have been the recipients of some very kind gestures, including several surprise birthday parties, an unexpected baby shower, “welcome back” fanfare at the airport, being called up the front to be recognized for something totally out of the blue, etc. We know that we are loved by New Life Church and by our team in Ukraine and JV. There is no question about that.

But the mini-speech made by Syava at our annual Winterfest retreat and the presentation of our first “too many to count” bouquet of roses – this gesture was to be remembered forever. Why?

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Well, Syava started off with a question, asking the teenagers what was the largest single sum of money they ever received from going Christmas caroling (a common tradition on January 7th and 8th). Some shouted “500 hryven” (our UA money); others even exclaimed “$50 USD!”. But Syava said that there was one time when the New Life youth group went carolling to an American’s apartment in Lviv in 2007, and received an even better gift than that.

It was a week or so after the Christmas season, but to this youth group it was worth taking up Jay Hughes’ invitation to come carol at his apartment, where we were staying. This was our first introduction to New Life Church, having just arrived in Lviv days before. Syava had already met with Jay and knew that there was a chance that we might choose to serve at New Life, but we had yet to even visit the youth group or the church at this time.

This is one of those memories (both the video below and the celebration 10 years later above) that will stay with us into eternity. God’s ways are often unpredictable, but He is so faithful to lead us. Much thanks to Jay, to Syava, to New Life, to Josiah Venture. Again, my heart is filled with an explicable joy in looking at the Lord’s leading over this entire time.