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Blog

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.

Josiah Venture National Orientation

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Recently I did something I never imagined I’d do. I attended a JV orientation for Europeans who have just joined JV over the past year. Praise God that over the past few years, we have always sent a few people from Ukraine to get training because they have joined our team. Our team keeps growing, and for this we are so thankful.

Edik and Lena Kurat (on my left) have been with our organization for almost a year, so they have been in JV but not fully understanding all of the policies, procedures and blessings that go along with it.

Sasha and Natasha Dubovyk (on my right) have been with our organization only since October. I remember that Ben and I took them out to lunch at our favorite “Felicita” and totally caught them off guard by the invitation to join JV and God’s work among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe.

Both of these couples have been full-time national (to their own people) missionaries, moving from far Eastern Ukraine to west for 15+ years. They have a huge heart for God’s work, for young people, and for faith in believing that full-time ministry is worth it, even when often it has felt for them that there is seemingly no salary that goes along with it.

They’ve made bigger steps of faith this week to trust God to provide for their FULL financial needs so that they can freely serve in JV without the financial restraints that often keep pastors from being fully in. We talked a lot about support raising and building a team of partners that will be there for prayer and for giving, and even for coming over to Europe to see their work.

Join us in asking God to meet their full salary and ministry expense needs. Pray that God will keep being generous and lead them to His generous children who want to give and get behind their training and equipping youth pastors and pastors to give their all to making disciples who will make more disciples of Jesus Christ. As you can see from a slice of our schedule, we talked a lot about finances. But we also did Minute-to-Win-it and had so many jokes and laughs, too (only two times did I say something whack and mess up my translation…we were in tears both times, though, yet trying to operate under-the-radar in the corner. Let’s just say this – I am a passionate translator, so I’m sure the dear Czechs and Slovenes around us were like, okay already. Voice modulation…)

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Why was I there? Oh, as their translator (into Ukrainian for 3 days…a first for everything) and playing the role of an HR coordinator, trying to complete a big “policies and procedures for new employees” project that is in my lap. It was a huge blessing to be out there in Czech with these two couples. We worked harder than I remember working in years. Literally, we were nose to the grind stone with morning meetings at 7:30-9am before a full day of training, and then we’d do night meetings, too. We basically were trying to cram in Josiah Venture training with another set of training of ours in Ukraine for new Ukrainian employees. I never thought I’d wear the HR hat, but I am super grateful once again for my MBA days and my time at Lockheed Martin. The skills I pull from there still remain useful today. That was 10 years ago I graduated from Drexel…time flies.

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We also got a moment with these beauties. Christy, Nadya and Olya were just arriving to Czech for a Fusion leadership training. And Amy is an incredible athlete and international servant of youth for the Lord. She is looking for a ministry to do full-time sports and disciple young people and share Jesus – all at the same time. Sounds like JV is just the place for her! God keeps growing His family! What a journey to be a part of. I end January overflowing with joy.

19 Books; 19 Papers ~ Hello Fuller Seminary

2017 is going by too fast. Today is the last day of January and I’m realizing that I still intended to blog about the first days of the month. There is a reason why the year is already flying by with no signs of stopping anytime in the near future…

We have become students again! 

We started out the year with a read-cation. The week between January 1st and January 8th is culturally very exciting for Ukrainians because it is their culmination to Christmas Eve (January 6th) and Christmas (January 7th). Lots of cooking, cleaning, and preparing. We never have been invited to anyone’s house for the 6th or 7th, so it is quiet for us. The kids are out of school. It is the perfect time for us to sneak away for a week. (Nothing like using your 2017 vacation time on the very first days of the year…)

Why a read-cation? Well, let’s just say that beginning February 27th, 2017, we return to Fuller Seminary for a DMin (doctorate of ministry)  (http://fuller.edu/dmin) program in the department of youth, family and culture (http://fuller.edu/academics/school-of-theology/dmin/Youth-Family-Culture-Cohort) , studying under Dr. Chap Clark, who is well-known in youth ministry circles.

The pre-work has been to read 19 books (that is 4,500 pages) and write 19 papers. We enrolled in this cohort very late in the game (November) so we have been in a reading frenzy. FRENZY. As January comes to a far-too-quick close, we are checking the last books off our list and are moving on to note-studying and papers.

We understand that we have this on top of many other responsibilities in Josiah Venture, in our Ukrainian organization, to our church and to our family. We will soon be required to spend 2+ weeks in Pasadena, CA to meet our cohort and learn more about the dissertation process. Pray for us. We believe and trust that God gives amazing strength when it is His will and His plan. We would NOT be pursuing this if it were not very clearly from God. It’s a long story, but we are super excited about the prospects and believe that God’s timing is perfect.

Enjoy the reading list. It has been incredibly uplifting to me. I am amazed how God has met me in every single book. He has been preparing the way for us. I’ve never shared a book list before, but here are just 10 of the 19 titles.
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New Years and the Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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We have some readers in the house. 2017 is going to be a year of reading.
It actually started out as such. We took a read-cation to Poland to begin 2017. We literally arrived in our hotel around 5pm on December 31st, 2016, and we left January 7, 2017, Ben and I each having read 5 books (and having eaten a lot of Pizza Hut.) I always test as extrovert on personality profiles, but the truth is that there is nothing I ever want more than to go away and just read all day long for days on end. I can’t get enough!

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Marissa and Dylan are progressing in their reading skills. We are super proud that they celebrated the arrival of 2017 with the completion of our first 300+-page “English homeschooling book”, as we call all our activity books.

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We also completed a read aloud (as in, Mommy reads aloud and kids listen) of the Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum. This was a mini-milestone as well because there are no drawings in our copy of this book. So the kids had to JUST LISTEN. However I did supplement with clips of the beloved movie, so that they could get their imagination juices going, especially at slow parts. They LOVED it. Toto the most, they said. So far we have not had any nightmares of Monkey Monsters, as we called them in our house growing up, but you never know. Dylan has a vivid imagination (although here I think he just copied Marissa…).

Cheers to 2017 – a year of reading.

EXIT on My Mind

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In exactly one month, our team officially launches EXIT TOUR in partnership with Josiah Venture. Because of our love for teenagers and our team’s love of serving local schools, this is an ideal ministry. It must be covered in prayer, because there are many moving parts and plenty of government (department of education) permissions, but we believe that God is on the move through this creative joint effort:

Exit Tour takes teams of youth speakers and musicians into local schools (one a day for 4 days) to spend a day doing their prevention program (i.e. warning against at-risk behaviors, dangers and threats facing teens, health concerns, etc.) from a Christian perspective. At the end of the week, an evangelistic concert is held in the city, sponsored by local churches that will take responsibility to follow-up with the teenagers after EXIT TOUR is over. At the concert, a musician or speaker will clearly share the Gospel and challenge young people to respond.

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From our side, pray for Nadya V., Lee and Katie Humerian (missionaries in training in CA), Roman K., Christ Fellowship Church, Hosannah Church, the Ukrainian speakers, and many others who will participate to make this program possible.

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From Josiah Venture’s side, pray for the international team (Scotland, Slovakia) that is coming to train our churches on how to run an Exit Tour logistically and care for teenagers who repent at our concert. Lots of doors are opening for this ministry. We are excited to see what God does. We are also excited for our newest North American missionaries, Lee and Katie, to arrive, Lord willing this summer, to help run this program full-time. There is great potential for many schools and churches to partner to better love and care for this next generation. Pray for God’s favor and blessing as we move forward with great boldness.

Josiah Venture – EXIT Ministry from Josiah Venture on Vimeo.

Ten Years in Ukraine: Jan 10, 2007 – Jan 10, 2017

Horray! I’ve been waiting for this milestone for a long time! I love milestones like 5 YEAR! 10 YEAR! It testifies to my achieving personality type, I suppose. But let’s face it. Anniversaries like a ten-year sound like such an accomplishment. But the reality is that this is God’s accomplishment, not ours. Only God could write a story like this one! To Him be all the glory for these past twenty years…

20 years? Not 10 years? Let me explain.

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This photo was dug up from Mom’s garage collection, taken in 1997, so TWENTY years ago. Ben and I were close friends. We were even signed up to serve for 3 weeks with Josiah Venture in Czech Republic that summer. We were 16 here and headed to the Wheaton North Prom, although not as one another’s date.  Our moms just got this cute idea to take pre-pre-prom photos together before we found our dates and went separate ways at Aurora, IL’s Round House venue that evening. (I still remember because I was on the prom planning committee. Thank you WNHS student council.)

Ben and I often like to play an entertaining game of sorts when we see old pictures of ourselves like this one. One person says:

“What would you have done if a stranger came up to you right there and whispered in your ear  ______.”

The game is that the second person then fills in the blank about something crazy that came true in their lives. (Think Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka movie, where the creepy Sluggworth character sneaks up and whispers to the kids to steal the everlasting Gobstoppers.)

So when selecting this photo this week, I say to Ben “what would you have done if a stranger came up to you right there on my driveway, by my rad ’88 Chevy Cavalier, and told you that in ten years from now you’d be moving to Ukraine with me, ie. your wife, and in twenty years from now, we’d be celebrating 10 years of living and serving God with Josiah Venture in Ukraine?”

Then Ben answers “I probably would have _________…” And he fills in the blank. It’s a fun shock-value conversation. Our life feels so shocking that we could actually play it quite often.

Here’s another one:

Ben: “What would you have done if, at the JFK Airport on January 10, 2007, the day you were moving to Ukraine, some random person came up to you and just showed you this second photo of our family.”
Kristy: “I don’t know…maybe I’d think we were babysitting someone’s kids at some museum.”

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January 10, 2007 at JFK Airport                                           Ten years later, in Lviv, Ukraine

I look back over these past ten, even twenty years, and I see the fingerprints of God written ALL OVER the tapestry of our lives. It is pretty remarkable that, when God says, ‘for I know the plans I have for you’, that He means it. He is writing this story. God loves you and He is writing your story. Will you accept the story and follow Him in faith? When I think about our story, my heart is filled with inexplicable joy but not so many words. How can I measure the hand of the Lord in these past ten crazy years living in Ukraine?

I want to burst into song, but I’m no singer. I want to write a prose, but I’m no writer. I honestly don’t have words to express the emotions that come to mind about the past decade, and I don’t think I need to try. Rather, I think I’ll say one more time “to God be all the glory” and instead use King David’s words here:

Psalm 139: 3-7

You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold,O Lord,you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?

Needing Passion for 2017

I have one thing going through my head for 2017:
Lord, grant us more passion for the mission and the movement that we are a part of.

As I’ve been thinking over these last days of 2016, I realized that passion for Jesus and His work comes from the Holy Spirit Himself. He is the passion. He is the fuel for the movement. I need more Holy Spirit to awaken my soul to more of Him, and that will unleash passion in all other directions.

How do we get more Holy Spirit? 

  1. By time reading the Bible (get yourself an English Standard Version ESV Journaling Bible – you will NOT regret it!). Reading passages like Acts 2 and Joel 2 about the Holy Spirit unleashing His power are amazing.

No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike— and they will prophesy.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below— blood and fire and clouds of smoke. The sun will become dark, and the moon will turn blood red before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives. But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

      2. We get more Holy Spirit by entering into God’s presence in prayer:
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    3. We get more Holy Spirit by worshiping our Lord. This video is the passage from Joel/Acts that I quoted above, put to music by Bethel Music. Take 10 minutes to watch this video and ask God for more passion. Take 60 minutes and go to www.josiahventure.com/pray to pray for the Spirit to pour out more power on this movement.

These are the things that 2017 is going to be all about.