Locked in the Moravian Brothers’ Bathroom


Does anyone love studying Emotional Intelligence like we do?!? Watching the US elections play out, or watching the Ukrainian parliament in session – these are always good platforms to observe people with, and more often than not, without, Emotional Intelligence. Self Awareness, self regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills are always great things to work on.

Here I am, working on  Self-Deprecating Sense of Humor (a sub-point found under Self Awareness). This is the ability to poke fun at yourself and not take yourself too seriously.

So do you see the museum postcard above, which we received at our Josiah Venture Fall Conference. Note the tiny little window on the side of the museum (in the large museum photo)…well, I was the last person to use that tiny little water closet at the Moravian Brothers’ Museum during our JV Fall Conference field trip day.


The little latch broke off in my hand, and so we needed some Moravian Brothers tools and my friend, Syava’s knife, in order to jimmy rig the sliding lock to spring open with no “handle”. I seriously was afraid that I’d hold up the whole 350-person tour! Instead, although I got out, I did have to testify to the entire conference about the incidence.

And I even got pee on my coat. Don’t ask… Just remember that having high emotional intelligence is an incredible leadership gift to the people you lead and to the people you follow. Our Christian character is essential to work on day-by-day, and there are also EI principals that are honestly worth incorporating! They coincide well for leading more like Jesus. Check them out!


Standing in the Darkness

This is Mykola. Mykola and his wife and many, many others were displaced from life as they knew it when Russian separatists came into Eastern Ukraine and began shelling and bombing what they considered home. They moved all the way across Ukraine, to a town called Ternopil, where they now continue to minister. Mykola is now helping our team figure out ways in which our national organization, Epokha, can start influencing youth ministry strategy in Eastern Ukraine, where there are far fewer people, far fewer resources, but many open doors for the Gospel to spread in a place that desperately needs Him.


At the JV Fall Conference a few weeks ago we learned about six things done (as seen in the book of Acts in the Bible) in order to keep the Movement of God burning BRIGHT.

  • Unexpected Obedience (making space and time for God, listening)
  • Stay clean (repentance, holiness, humility)
  • Stand Against Darkness (rebuking sin, areas where God does not reign)
  • Go Public (public proclamations of faith)
  • Singing in the Suffering (discipline of joy in trials)
  • Radical Evangelism (“we cannot help but testify to that which we have seen and heard”)

In each of these areas, our president, Dave Patty, gave a special award where this act is seen in real life today. Our Mykola was nominated for “Standing in the Darkness” because truly, the state of war-torn Eastern Ukraine is very, very dark. But each month or two, Mykola and some others take a trip deep into Eastern Ukraine, willing to risk their safety and their comfort, in order to bring physical and spiritual provisions for people who are living in refugee-type “camps” and shelters right outside of the shelling zone of the Ukraine-Russia war that is now in its third year.

We don’t know exactly how our partnership with Mykola and his church is going to work, but we feel very convicted that the fields are ripe for harvest in Eastern Ukraine. We feel the responsibility to somehow get involved in training and equipping youth leaders who are already living out there to boldly lead young people through very uncertain times.

Join us in prayer for clarity in how to be involved. And pray that we wouldn’t hesitate or wait. Now is the day of salvation. 

Three Women For Whom We Are Thankful

In this crazy month of September there were three women in our lives who had three milestone moments that are worth celebrating.

First, Happy Big Birthday, Mom! My mom had a big birthday last week. She doesn’t look it, that’s for sure! Nor does Dad, for that matter. We’ll see them soon, as they decided to celebrate their 60th birthdays this year by coming to Ukraine and Israel in October.

Second, Ben’s mom, Kathy, experienced a milestone moment by watching our kids for 9 days while our whole team was away. In 2015 she took on 12 days with them while Ben and I attended a conference in Israel, but our whole JV Ukraine team was around to keep her occupied. This time she was solo, with just some help from our babysitter, Nadya. She did great. We are so thankful for her service.


Lastly, I wanted to congratulate Connie Patty. She has been serving Josiah Venture for the whole time with her husband, Dave, who is president of our organization. They are the founders of the very mission that we love so much. Connie captures the story beautifully in her own missionary autobiography. To God be the Glory, and check it out on Amazon! “No Less Than Yes”. This is her book release and signing last week.

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And this is my prayer for these three women who are celebrated today, for there is nothing greater in life:


Fun September Happenings

I really do (DID?) love September, but now I don’t know if I can, with a clear conscious, title this post “Fun” September happenings, because the chaos of having a school-aged child feels UNENDING!

For example just today at 11am I went to check my email. (On Thursday mornings I get kids ready until 7:30am, then do discipleship meetings at a 24-hour cafe down the road with my sweet Vika from 7:30-9am, and then I have Russian language lessons from 9-11. Only at 11 do I have a spare second to sit down.) In my inbox was an email from Marissa’s 1st grade teacher, titled “wa?ne” which means “Important” in Polish. Basically it was telling me that she needs to get picked up early today, as in, in 1.5 hours from when I am reading the email.

For the past 30 days, God has been daily pounding it into my head that His movement is mission critical, and that caring for my family and being available to them at any hour of any day is also mission critical, on a much smaller level. I had been praying about starting certain ministries or getting involved in different ways, but I feel like my kids and husband need me to be all-in to help serve them. As much as I am 100% committing to the movement of God, I am also committed to the individuals around me. It is amazing how clear the Lord speaks when we are open to His leading:

Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here!

For I am among you as one who serves.  (Luke 22:24-27)


I was hoping that by September 29th, the “September Tsunami”, as my dear NJ friends Laurie and Susan name it, would have died down, but I guess it is still early for that wishful thinking! It doesn’t help that each September we go away for 9 days for our annual Fall Conference affairs. Maybe if I tack on 9 more days into October, I’ll feel a bit more stable! But oh, wait, my parents will have just arrived for their 60th birthday celebrations! It is time to take myself out of the center and be among people as one who serves.

So the bass keeps runnin’, runnin’-in’, runnin’, runnin’-in’…

Learning From Barnabas: Fall Conf 2016 Prep

Our organization, Josiah Venture, is preparing for their annual Fall Conference from September 19-23. We actually go from the 16th to the 24th because of our different JV responsibilities. We are so thankful that Grammy (Ben’s mom, Kathy) has come to serve us for three weeks and help with some of the September insanity (see previous blog post!). This will be the first year we are leaving the kids in UA for a fall conference. 6 years of memories of figuring out what to do with them so that I could be a mom in full-time ministry things like that. But now we are in a different stage!


Anyway, Ben has been a part of the execution team for Fall Conference for many years. It is a conference for over 300 missionaries and main youth leaders in this region of the world. We LOVE Fall Conference! Ben does a great job teaching and helping to shepherd the conference from the stage. I love sitting up close and watching him. This year the team asked me to help. I play a small role in preparing small group leaders to lead their country teams to certain decision points and action steps for after the conference. I also will help host a session, serve on the Camps Lead team, etc. It is always a very full week. Plus, I get to help care for these guys:


This is just a part of our broader Ukraine team. As it has been in the past few years, we’ll have 26 JV Ukraine staff and local partners with us, studying about the inspiration of the Book of Acts in the Bible, and how God continues to move across the world since the first century.

Which leads me to Barnabas. Look at this little section of 5 verses of Scripture about one of the earliest church leaders, Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement”. Already you can tell there is something special about this guy, which is why I this week I want to learn 12 key points from him and his ministry. I was asked to lead a short Bible time on Monday. I’ve chosen this:

Acts 11:21-26
And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch (1). When he came and saw the grace of God (2), he was glad (3), and he exhorted them all (4) to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose (5), for he was a good man (6), full of the Holy Spirit (7) and of faith (8). And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul (9), and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch (10). For a whole year they met with the church (11) and taught (12) a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. 

1) The main church in Jerusalem deemed him a worthy leader to be sent. He had the trust of other leaders.
2) The grace of God is everywhere. Do you see it? Especially in places that are culturally different than yours?
3) Joy of the Lord is a marker in great leaders.
4) Exhort is also a form of encouragement. Barnabas is living up to his name. The Church needs encouragement always.
5) Faithful in the big and small things. Steadfastness. Perseverance. Do what you are called to do. All key leadership qualities.
6) Self-explanatory and don’t we want people to notice that about us?!?
7) Acts is rocking my world right now, showing that without the Holy Spirit the Church cannot grow.
8) Bold faith award. It wasn’t easy to go to this foreign town and be a missionary there, for over a year. He was faith-filled.
9) Friends, Saul was a recent convert and Christians were terrified of him. Did he really change? Barnabas wasn’t afraid to mentor this previous Christian killer!
10) God is on the move! Earlier in this chapter, there was a great scattering of the Church because of persecution. God’s okay with this. So must we be.
11) Barnabas and Paul lead others. It is not forever, but for a key amount of time to build the right foundation. Train the trainers.
12) Teaching. They did a great many things, but they got to still serve in their gifting, for which all leaders are grateful.

May we be like Jesus and learn from Barnabas (and many others) this week.

Nervous To Start School

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It is hard to believe that we made it through 2+ years of preschool and preschool graduation for Marissa. Dylan has completed one full school year at preschool, and was also eager to get back…

But just when we hit the 10-year-as-missionaries mark fairly soon, I realize that there are still major milestone markers that we are NOT prepared for…


Starting first grade and a new school is one of them. After a week in this September Madness I had a mini breakdown and just started crying. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I DEFINITELY felt God humbling me and bringing me back to the early years in Ukraine. When everything was new and no one took time to explain it to you. And even if they did, it was in a foreign language that you could barely understand. For me, this is my experience in the Polish school. I went to a parents meeting this week, and after 1.5 hours of instruction about European school systems (and boy is THIS foreign to my Wheaton-Christian-Grammar-School K-8 background), I went home and just went to bed. I was so frustrated about little things like having to sign up to be a cleaning mom in the classroom TWICE A WEEK, about how they end at 12:30 sometimes and 1:30 other times, about how they have to change for gym as first graders, and that they have to wear specific clothing for gym, about the weirdo list of art supplies and general supplies, including trash bags, toilet paper, bulletin boards and carpet.

I feel much joy and inner calm about being here, but all around me if feels like a tornado has blown through.


We are at a legal, public school in Ukraine. Kids must take Ukrainian language each day and will have to take Ukrainian “SAT”-like exams in order to complete school (which only goes up to 11th grade here). But that is where the similarities to Ukrainian public school end and Polish school begin. There is mass. There are nuns. All other subjects (except 4 days of one Ukrainian lesson and one English lesson) are in Polish. There are strict behavior guidelines, dress code guidelines, etc.

Marissa is in class with some of our favorite kids from the preschool. We have high hopes and expectations that this is going to be a great fit for Marissa. She has a new, young teacher. Her class size is 15. Many parents would kill for such a small group. She walks to school each day; just 15 minutes (for her little legs) from our house. After school she heads to ballet, swimming or piano. (Dylan was deemed too young for tennis lessons, so we are putting that on hold for a year or two.)


There is a crazy list of medical exams she had to complete, including an EKG… There is a crazy list of school supplies, many of which you would not find on a list in the States…and yes, my Polish sucks (according to my own 4-hr./week standard), but


ready or not, here we come! And God is good.

Yes, I’m nervous, but I am also amazed by the way that our God has paved this way. We started this process before Marissa was two. And now here we are. Doors have opened. We’ve courageously stepped forward, knowing that God has so clearly called our whole family to Ukraine. And guess what?! Marissa’s not nervous or stressed even one bit. Her Polish doesn’t suck. When the teacher mentioned at a parents meeting that some kids have very weak Polish skills, I went to inquire and she said that she was not at all referring to Marissa. Marissa loves the kids in her class. She went to Saturday School for a whole semester to get her ready for this moment. She’s not afraid of the unknown. She is trusting God, and she knows that God has got this one!

Plus, a little side note. She started ballet with her friend, Zosia, that week! What’s there not to love! She’s in a beginner group, so she is the oldest and the tallest, which is funny because she is only between 25-50 percentile for height and weight for her age!


Hello, BarTHelona and Menorca

When our summer vacation destination is chosen and it turns out to be Spain, I am NEVER disappointed. Spanish. Sun. Latino flare. High-energy culture. Water all around. Bright colors. More Spanish. Tapas. Paella. Sangria. Repeat.

blogBalearicIslandsA huge thank you to Dave and Karen for blessing our family with yet another remarkable vacation. After a few days in one of my favorite cities in the world (Barcelona), this year we headed to Menorca, a little island next to Mallorca and Ibiza.

I am constantly blown away by the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea. I love that this sea has a front seat location in many Bible stories. I love that God’s heart for the whole world culminates around this particular body of water.

Here are a few things that we did.

We unplugged. Entirely. No email. No social media. Frankly, Scarlet, I don’t give a *(*& what the rest of the world is up to this week. I’m taking advantage of the distance. If I don’t get filled up physically, emotionally and spiritually while away this week, I will not be able to pour out and invest in the lives of those in my ministry this fall. This vacation is mission critical for our well-being.

We read. And read. And swim and read some more. I took 12 very outdated (yes, 2014, 2015) Health and Christianity Today magazines that I never got around to reading because of seminary and life. I brought “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell and “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Scazzero. On my iPad I have Covey’s classic leadership book and “Love Does”, just in case I read through everything, which I won’t because I want 8-9 hours of sleep. And I still have to watch my kids in the pool. Dylan’s still only four…

We play with our kids. I went a little crazy on the iPad app downloads, mostly because I finally found a website that I liked with very trustworthy and unique recommendations. educationalappstore.com ~ my favorite are the games that teach your 5 year-old how to do primitive computer programming! So fun! But I think that a pool and daily ice cream will be more than enough.

And now, on the other side of the vacation, I can say that it was EXACTLY as I expected it, expect that the kids were even better deep end (1.7 meters, so about 6 feet) swimmers than I’d ever imagined. What a blessing. Here are few pics, in no particular order.

Departing Day. Experienced Travelers. Dylan is circa 1930s here. 

One of the coolest things in Barcelona. That archway is larger than life.


“When you get tired in the pool, just lay on your back and a do a starfish.” ~ Advice from Pani Maria, our Ukrainian swim instructor. They take her advice after having swam from 10a-7pm on many days…


Karen had a milestone birthday this summer. We celebrated it by FINALLY shopping at Desigual, whose home headquarters happen to be in Barcelona. SUCH UNIQUE STUFF THERE!


Father and Son off Binibeca Beach in Menorca.


Pop-Pop with his favorite fish.


Seriously struggling with the selfie stick at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, but loving life, nonetheless.


This scene reminded me of LBI or somewhere on the Jersey Shore. Love the two coolest guys in my life.


Again, a big THANK YOU! to Dave and Karen for the 10th year of above-and-beyond memorable summer vacations. We are eternally grateful, as not only our bodies but also our souls get rest when exploring these one-of-a-kind places. Mucho amor.

Marissa Justine Turns 6

It all started with a haircut…

Marissa celebrated her 6th birthday!!!
She got this awesome owl from Dylan, plenty of “Calico Cats” accessories, chapter books, clothes and a few Legos and educational apps. In a nutshell, that is what Marissa is into these days.

She’s counting down the days until she attends first grade at her “big school”. There are huge milestones these days for our family!

Dylan is a pistol, like always, and of course got gifts on Marissa’s birthday. He got a long-awaited Spiderman bathrobe and Batman clothes. And a watch. They each got a watch and are S L O W L Y learning how to tell non-digital time. (I love how some educators are saying that there is no need to learn to tell time off a clock or learn how to write with handwriting…why would you not want kids to be well-rounded and be able to write AND type, or recognize digital and analog format? So dumb…)


Ways that I can tell Marissa is 6 ~
1) She no longer wants to talk about Jingle, her old, now non-existent invisible friend. However, Dylan’s version of this, Milan, is always appearing at most family events.
2) The tantrums have tamed 100-fold. She is not so emotional, not so prone to anger. Some of this is due to our exerted efforts in this area, all of it is God’s answers to our prayers, but a little bit of it may just be “Mom, I’m growing up.”

3) She wants to be a big girl. Going on errands. Coffee shops. H&M. IKEA. Make-up. Cell phone. She knows that she can start thinking about marriage after she is 20…it is so endearing, and also a reality check.
4) The kids’ interest in spiritual things is growing a lot. We have lots of talks about the Catholic church compared to the Protestant church (hence the visit to the Catholic church here ON HER BIRTHDAY!!!), and about praying to Allah, Mary, the saints, etc.

Oh my word – we don’t have preschoolers anymore.


And thank you, Dylan, for gracing us with your bowtie on Marissa’s special day.

Our Blog Turns 10!

Happy Birthday, dear blog!

Oh how I remember the day the blog was born! Here is its first home! It was at missionary training in North Carolina in late August 2006! We had so much free time on our hands it was scary for us, because training would last until only 2-3pm each day. We’d just finished our masters’ degrees. We’d quit our jobs with Lockheed Martin just weeks before. Everything was happening so fast as we prepared to move life to another continent.

So we decided to start a blog to log the journey. Here was its inception. You can see the WordPress screen up on Ben’s Dell.

950 posts. Almost 100 posts a year. That’s one every 3-4 days for ten years. 

I am so glad that Ben came up with this idea. He still manages the blog, even though he’s only written less than 50 of the posts 😉 He is gracious to me like that. And our blog is gracious to me, too, especially since its younger sibling, Instagram was born. Instagram gets far more of my attention these days, but the blog doesn’t need to be jealous. It still has its place in our ministry. And how it has taught us to be disciplined and faithful, too, in recording the journey.

But really it is to God be the glory for this endeavor. He is faithful. He was at the beginning of this. He is at the 10-year mark. He will be there when the blog someday comes to close. But today we testify to a log of God’s faithfulness, recorded every 3-4 days for the past 10 years. Pick any one in the archive, and it will give a glimpse of God at work around us, in the good and in the bad.

We are eternally grateful for these stories.

Elements is 10 Years Strong

Strike while the iron’s hot. This idiom is used when you see an open door and it is critical to take advantage of the opportunity given to you. This is particularly true about post-camp activities.

Just being honest, emotions are high immediately post-camp. Even for me I felt a challenge reentering into daily life after camp because camp itself was a microcosm of a perfect atmosphere. Constant fun, parties, games, laughter. Constant community, including serving side-by-side with most of my dearest friends in Ukraine. Constant love. Constant distraction. Constantly being cared for (ie. no cooking, no cleaning, our sitter helped care for the kids.) Constant emphasis on the Bible, on prayer, on the church, on Jesus Himself. We were equipping leaders and sharing Jesus with campers.


Basically, we were doing everything we felt called to do, just on a small, 91-person scale(!)


Which leads us to Elements, the 2006-07 JV-produced course of 10 key building blocks of the Christian life. It is for campers who have made a decision to follow Jesus (or for those who are curious about what composes this Christian life).


Last summer we saw great need and usefulness in providing a weekly Bible study that would last through the start of the school year and give kids some spiritual “meat” throughout the summer. Many do not have any Christian disciplines in their lives, so this starts them out on the right track. Out of the 120+ different kids and leaders from camp, we have a 20-to-25-person turn out each week. This is a 16-20% turnout, which may not seem really high, but there are constant new people. And considering that it is summer vacation season, and that there are campers who actually are not interested in doing a Bible study, we are grateful for the consistent showing that we get!

JV has moved on and promotes many of its other great intro courses, but Elements is a classic, and most of our kids have never been through it. It is a privilege to teach and facilitate our youth group in this way! I love this role. This is serving in my sweet spot…Bible study for teenagers who want to learn…

Here we are, watching one of the videos of a girl named Jitka Ehlova, who actually came to her first English Camp with me in 2002 in Lovosice, Czech Republic, and after that summer, gave her life to Christ. May we in Lviv have many more Jitkas in the next few months!