Saturday, December 29, 2018

Tearful Goodbyes, Festive Parties, and Exciting News!

I've already told you how incredible our interns were this summer, but let me say it again! We were so blessed by the five of them and even more blessed to have two of them, Rachel Berkebile and Tim Jurgensen, stay for 5 1/2 months! During the fall, Rachel started a youth group in a church plant in the city of Burg, and Tim trained student leaders in two youth groups in churches with no pastors! We asked an awful lot of them, and they both rose to the occasion magnificently!

Their internships ended and we had to say goodbye to them at the airport on December 11th. It's very lonely around here without them. They have each left a big hole, but also trained the youth themselves to carry on with the youth groups now that they are gone. Jim and I will be traveling 2 week-ends a month to continue the training and encouragement of these youth groups and their young leaders!
Saying goodbye to Rachel and Tim and the airport. Don't let the smiles fool you--there were plenty of tears!

With the German crew who surprised them by showing up at the airport to say goodbye!
Before they left, we had some fun Goodbye and Christmas parties with the youth groups, including this "Ugly Sweater" party in Guben!

Now, for the EXCITING NEWS!!!!
Rachel Berkebile, our Extended Summer Intern, has applied to come full-time!!!! We could not be happier!
Prayer Points:

  • Pray for Rachel as she begins her support raising process that she will be able to join us here this fall!
  • Pray for Jim and me as we travel the 2-3 hours twice monthly to continue the training of the young student-leaders now that Rachel and Tim are gone. 
  • Pray that the 5 youth groups we are working with will thrive and grow.
  • Pray for the 3 German young people we will be talking to on Monday, January 7, about joining our team as Summer Interns this coming year.
  • Pray for our two new American Summer Interns, Joel Akers and Claire Walters, as they prepare for coming this summer to serve with us. Pray that their support will come in quickly and that they will have servant hearts as they enter into this process.
Thank you!                                                                                                     

Friday, October 19, 2018

Instant Grandma of 8 Teenagers!

I am at an age where I would love to be a grandmother, but I never expected to suddenly have 8 teen aged grandchildren at once!

Last week was our English Camp for Burg. It was very different from our summer camps, as most of the teens were not believers and all but one from broken homes, so you can imagine my delight when the youngest boy accidentally called me "Omi" (Grandma)! By the end of the week, they had even made a "family tree" and made copies for everyone to take home! Oh how desperately each of us need to have a safe, loving place that feels like family!

The whole Burg Camp gang!

Yanik, the first one to call me Omi!

For this camp, we partnered with our friends, Samuel and Anela Lűtke Lanfer who are starting a church plant in Berg.

Samuel, Mattis, Silas, and Anela
Our two Extended Summer Interns (ESI) are still here until December 11. What a blessing they are! Rachel is working with the teens in Berg, following up, discipling, starting a youth group, and even teaching some English classes at local high schools! Tim is working with teens in the Guben and Zeesan area, doing follow-up from the camp we did there this summer, as well as training some of the students to take over the 2 youth groups he has started there!
Anela, Rachel and Tim during the "Clue" game at our Burg camp. Tim was "Mr. Body" and all the students had to figure out who killed him, where and how! So much fun!
We were also so privileged to have Alpha and Emily, our daughter and son-in-law, help us out at the camp, Alpha with music and pictures and Emily with teaching English! They had flown in from Bangladesh for some medical check-ups and jumped right in to help us! Alpha returned to Bangladesh on Monday, October 15, and Emily will return the first part of November after a few more appointments.
Alpha and Emily at our church retreat a few days after they arrived.
 So many incredible things are happening here in this part of Germany! We are excited that God has invited us to come alongside and do ministry here!

Prayer Points:

  1. Pray for the kids in Berg, that God will continue to draw them to Himself.
  2. Pray for Rachel and Tim as they lead the youth groups in Berg, Guben, and Zeesen, that the teen leaders they are training will continue to grow and invest in their peers.
  3. Pray for both Rachel and Tim as they return to the US in December and make decisions as to their next steps in life. We would LOVE to have both of them come here full-time!
  4. Pray for Jim and me, that God will continue to multiply our ministry here. It's incredible how He continues to bring unexpected people alongside us to extend our arms in ministry!
  5. Pray for Alpha and Emily as they finish their time here and re-enter into their life and ministry there in Bangladesh. Pray that all their medical issues will be resolved in a positive way.
Here are a few more pictures from camp if you want to check them out!

Our theme was "Reign Forever" and we looked at the life and reign of King David and of Jesus.

In the meeting room.

Jim "knocking 'em dead" at soccer! :0)

One of the guys' discussion small groups

The entrance to the facility.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Rejoicing in God's Provision and Protection

So much has happened this summer, I wasn't sure what to put first because I want you to read it all. I've decided to start out with what God has done through our camps, but please, read to the end to hear the story about how God saved Jim's life from a 40 meter (about 120 feet) fall down a steep mountain. (or you can just skip to the end if you don't like "cliff hangers")

We have experienced God in so many ways: through camps, through incredible relationships, and through His protection!


Let me start by introducing you to our incredible intern team!

Our Intern Team Leader was Rachel Berkebile. She was the only one of our team who has done a JV internship before. Her first was in Czech. She did an incredible job! I don't know how we would have made it through the summer without her! She is one of our 2 Extended Summer Interns (ESI) and will be with us until December 11.
Rachel (second from right) with some of the campers on "Dancing Through the Decades" night! Such great costumes!!!
 Our other ESI is Tim Jergensen. He was the only male on our team and he fit in everywhere. From helping lead and teach the camp dance, to playing the "Body" in our Clue game!
Here Tim (the blond) is, playing soccer with two of our campers, brothers who are in Germany as refugees.
Emily Jensen was the "Game Master"! Everything from Sports to Giant Clue and New York Games to leading and teaching the camp dance with Tim.
Emily giving clues during the Clue game. The kids had a blast!!!
Christi Wiggens was our bit of Sunshine wherever she went this summer! She jumped into relationships fearlessly with her limited German language, but certainly always with a smile and bringing wonder and delight!

Christi, yes the darling one smiling at the front of the line, playing a game with the campers.
Noel Weibel was a relational magnet! Weather it was deep one-on-one talks or playing games, kids were always gathered around her!
Noel with one of the crazy Americans, Nick, from our Short Term Church Team!
I could tell you so much more about these 5 incredible people. I think the things that sums it up the most was their servant attitude and willingness to help in any situation. No matter what we would ask them to do, their answer was always, "Of course! That's what we're here for!"


We were privileged to do 3 camps this summer and will have the opportunity to do one more during the school's Fall Break. During our last camp, we had a young man accept Christ. It was so incredible. At the beginning of camp he made it clear that he was just there of the English and didn't want to have anything to do with the God talk. On Thursday, right after he accepted Christ he was so excited and said, "I feel like I have a hug on my brain and on my heart!"

We also baptized 3 young people in the lake. I had the privilege of baptizing one of our interns, Noel, who had been baptized as a baby, but felt that God was asking her to take this step of obedience as an adult. Because of her courage, two of the girls from camp decided to be baptized the next morning!

Marie and Jasmine (the two on the left) giving testimony before their baptisms. Jasmine (in the middle) called her family and asked them to come. As she was giving her testimony, she told her family that she loves them so much and hopes that by seeing her get baptized that they will also believe in Jesus!
Getting Baptized
Going to church in Guben after camp. The two boys on the left on either side of Emily are still not believers, but were so touched by the love they felt at camp. One of them, during "open mic" time at the end of camp, after he commented on the love he felt said, "Oh, by the way, I know you guys are suppose to tell other people about your Jesus. You're doing a really good job!"
Corrie, our German Camp Director for our Leipzig camp. The kids LOVE her! Can you see why?!?!

Jim in the kitchen cooking for our "Mystery Dinner"!

Camp follow-up in Starbucks! Where else?!?!?

We had two experiences of God's incredible protection this summer. The first was while Jim and the Interns were gone to a camp in Poland and I was in Leipzig getting things ready for our next camp. I was on the way to the baptism of 7 of our youth group kids at a near-by lake. By the way, this is such a season of seeing God working and so many kids getting baptized!! Anyway, I was driving with two of the youth group girls in my car when I pulled out into an intersection, not seeing the car coming from the right. We were hit, as well as the car that hit us bouncing off to hit another car. Thankfully, no one was hurt!
So sad to see our little car totaled, but...
Through the generosity of many of you, we were able to buy a beautiful Ford Transit Van.

Our interns call it "JV" the "Jesus Van". It came with all this lettering already on it! This side says, "Jesus Christ said:" then has John 14:6 (I am the way, the truth, and the life) on it.

The front says, "Jesus loves you!"
...and the back says, "Jesus Christ is coming back. Be ready!" This defiantly isn't the kind of van you usually see in this part of Germany! We've had lots of stares and even a woman in Berlin blowing a kiss at us!
Jim's Great Fall

The next and biggest protection was of Jim. He was on a hike with the JV Country Leaders in Slovenia when he lost his footing and bounced down about 40 meters (about 120 feet) of an embankment before his backpack got caught in some tree roots and stopped him, hanging upside down! It took Search and Rescue about 1 1/2 hours to get him out and, as you can see from the pictures, he was amazingly stopped before going down a straight, sheer, rock cliff! We are so thankful that he only ended up with scrapes and bruises! The phone call I got that day could have been a lot different, but for the grace of God!
One of the guys at the Top!
Jim fell and bounced from where the man in the yellow helmet is to where the man in the orange backpack is standing.
And this is what was waiting for him if he had not stopped. It just keeps going! God is so good!!!
If you want to know the whole story, ask Jim next time you see him!

Thank you everyone for your prayers! It is only because of God that any of this is happening here!

Prayer Points:

  • Pray for Jim and I as we take a much-needed week vacation the first part of September, that we will be able to truly rest and spend quality time together and with God!
  • Pray for our ESIs Rachel and Tim as they continue ministry with us here through December! We are so excited! Rachel will be working with a new church plant in the city of Burg bei Magdeburg and Tim will be going weekly to help establish the youth groups in Guben and Zeeson!
  • Pray for Dave Patty as he comes here to Germany this Fall to do an intentional search for a JV Germany Country Leader! Pray that God will lead him to the right person!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Graduation and Interns

Here in Germany Pentecost is a holiday, but seeing the way they celebrate it here in Leipzig helps to understand just how far from being a "Christian" nation they have become. That weekend, Leipzig literally turns black, as the city hosts the world's largest Gothic Festival! You can read a bit about it here!

Sunday afternoon, 3 friends of mine and I headed downtown to share about Jesus. The three friends are all young mother (their husbands watched the children). Two are German and one is British married to a German. It was an incredible time. I was so surprised how easy it was to engage them in spiritual conversation either by commenting on an element of their costume (a cross, a pentagramm, etc) or just asking them what are the spiritual beliefs of Goths and of them personally.

Please, for each these precious ones we had the opportunity to talk to!

Anna with an older couple wearing crosses. We were able to talk to them and pray with them. She is catholic and he believes that there is nothing after death. Pray that the seeds watered here will grow into a God-given harvest!
Anna with some of the Goth women

One of the most disturbing things to me, was the way so many women were being lead around in handcuffs, chains, and dog collars. This woman was even blindfolded as her "man" lead her, stumbling, around.
Young "Steampunk" boy

Me with a young girl at the festival with her family. There were so many families with young children there, all dressed up!
The end of April we had a girl's weekend with the girls from our youth group. It was called "Hello Beauty" and we talked about how God views us. I had a lot of fun doing an "art talk". I shared the story of the woman anointing Jesus feet and Simon the Pharisee thinking, "If only Jesus knew what this woman has done, he would not let her touch him!" and Jesus turning to Simon and saying, "Do you see this woman?", with the intent of showing that she was more than her actions. She was a precious woman, loved by Jesus.

Beforehand, I had written "Do you see this girl" in German in wax on my watercolor paper. Then as I talked about what other people and what we say about ourselves, I made chaotic, black marks on the page. Next I had them take turns reading verses about what God says about us and as they did this, I drew on the flower tops and painted in the colors. Last of all, I painted blue over the wax and the words "do you see this girl?" appeared. 

Please pray for me as I will again do this talk, only asking "Do you see this woman?" at our Refugee women's cafe on August 6.

Our 5 interns have arrived and are in Poland now doing a camp with Jim. Please, pray for many campers to sign up for our other 3 camps this summer!

We had the inestimable pleasure of seeing our youngest son, Jared, graduate from University on May 5! Wow! No more kids in college! This is a milestone!

We are so proud of him. He graduated with a degree in Electrical/Computer Engineering from John Brown University. He started his first "real job" on June 11 at the Dillards headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas in their IT department.

Nate, Jared, me, and Jim

Big Jared and Little Grammy

Jim, Jerry (Dad Miller), Noland (brother-in-law married to Judy), John (brother), Evelyn (Mom Miller), and Judy (sister)

One of the "parent" things we got to do was to help him move in and set up his new apartment. This was very special, as we do not always get to be around for these kinds of things.
The apartment is a "Loft" apartment, right downtown, with so many things in walking distance!

Thank you for your prayers! Here are our prayer points:
  • Pray for our coming 3 camps in Leipzig, Cottbus, and Burg, that many will come and God will give Kingdom fruit!
  • Pray for the Goths we had the opportunity to speak with, that God will grow these seeds.
  • Pray that God will use my "Art Talk" with the Refugee women on August 6.
  • Thank God for Jared's job and pray that he will be able to settle down well and that God will provide life-giving community.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Serbian Ladies, Surprise Baptisms, and Special Reunion

I often acutely feel the absence of teammates.  If you know Jim and me well, you know that we thrive in team. God has given us incredible relationships and community here, but I consistently long for team. This was no more keenly felt then when all of the Country Leader Wives (of which I am one) were asked to have a woman's retreat for the JV women in their country. Planning and leading a women's retreat, ah, that is like chocolate to my soul! Bummer, but I don't have any JV women in Germany. Away melts the chocolate dream and my mouth is left watering. But God had another idea. "Don't have women yourself? I'll give you three precious women who have no chance of having a retreat!" Yes, that's right, the Serbian JV country leader is an incredible man, Bojan, but he happens to be single, so there is no Country Leader Wife to lead the women's retreat! So, I was asked to become the "Country Leader Mom"! How cool is that!!!!

Jim and I flew to Serbia (no not Siberia!) February 15th and he spent time with Bojan while I got 3 incredible days with 3 incredible young ladies! Meet Traci, Faith, and Kayla!

 I will admit that life is much harder in Serbia than it is in Germany except for one incredible "Chipotle-like" Mexican restaurant! I wish you could meet each of these young ladies, I think you would love them as much as I do!

God has been doing amazing things here in Leipzig. A few weeks ago our pastor, Thomas, completed his sermon preparation on Friday for service on Sunday, yet he didn't feel a peace about it. So, Saturday morning he scrapped his sermon and asked the Spirit what was going on and what He wanted him to talk about. He felt the strong urge to talk about our identity in Christ and to offer for anyone who felt the Spirit's leading, to come up and be baptized right then and there. This is a pretty vulnerable place for a pastor to stand, in front of his flock, not knowing if anyone will respond and he'll just feel foolish. But God was truly speaking to him and then through him! Six people came to be baptized during the 2 services! One fun thing for me was that one of them was Clara, the high school girl I mentor! So cool!!!!
 As we gear up for camp season, it's fun that we are still having reunions from last camp season. We just had a reunion in Cottbus for the camp with the teens I am able to meet with once a month for leadership training. Cottbus is about 3 1/2 hours away and draws kids from another 3 hours away. It was a great time. Some of the girls and I did some watercolor journal painting!
Meal during Camp Reunion

Cottbus Camp Reunion
As we move ahead, here are some prayer points:

  • Pray for our 5 Summer Interns - Rachel, Tim, Christy, Emily, and Noel - as they raise support for the summer
  • Pray for our 4 camps - Leipzig, Cottbus, Burg, and one in Poland - that each of them will have at least 35 campers and that at least half of those are not yet believers.
  • Pray for all the youth group kids, that they will be bold and invite their friends to camp.
  • Pray for our two Church Teams that are coming to help with camps - one from Washington State and one from California.
  • Continue to pray for team mates to join us in the ministry here, both German and non-German!
Thanks for your continued prayers. We want this to be God's ministry and you are an important part of it!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just a Hair's Breath from Failure!

Do you ever wonder why God chooses to use you for one of His specific purposes? I often wonder this and no time more than this last week. Two large events were coming down on me and I felt such anxiety and defeat that I was sure both of them would totally fail!

This past weekend was a Prayer Weekend at our church. The youth group was in charge of Friday night and I was in charge of the over-all program for that night. The theme was "Prayer Through Celebration."  The young people and I had prepared hand-made instruments to give out to each person as they arrived, we had set up 4 prayer booths around the sanctuary, and the youth band would be leading the worship through the singing time.

Then on Saturday, I would leave at 8 am by train to go to the two student trainings I teach every month. One would be at 10:30 am and the other at 6 pm. Then I would stay the night with the family of one of the teens and visit their church.

Last Tuesday night at our House Group Bible Study I felt attacked and defeated by the enemy. My dear friends gathered around me, laid hands on me, and prayed. I sensed such a releasing from fear and a reliance on the Spirit!

Some of the Home-made Instruments
So, how did it go? The prayer evening was truly a time of celebrating God! We celebrated God as Creator, Savior and Refuge, and Almighty, Eternal King. The youth band was incredible, even doing one song as A Capella! (The "bump, bump", "chit, chit"s and all!) One of the girls plays the violin and it truly added to the feeling of celebration!

Two of the Prayer Booths, to represent the joyous celebration of the Jewish "Feast of Tabernacles"!

We used them to pray for "Ourselves", "Others", "Our Church", and "The World."

And the trainings had 7 teenagers from 6 different towns and 7 different churches, and with only 1 or 2 of those churches having pastors! Every month we are studying a different "Foundation" for running a youth group and a "Tool" to help them run it. Last month was Prayer and How to Ask Good Questions. This month was God's Word and How to Use the "COMA" Bible Study Method. These kids are so incredible and are excited to learn how they can be used of God to lead their youth group! The first group came up with the title for the first chapter of Philippians of "Just Pray and DO IT!" Wow! We could all use that encouragement sometimes!
Jona is leading his youth group in Guben. He gave his testimony at the church service I attended on Sunday and will be getting baptized on March 25! Pray for him as he continues to be bold for Jesus! 

Erik is attending the trainings and has a desire to help lead his youth group in Zeesan. Tabea is one of the University age German girls who got this all started. See this blog post for more of that story. 

Melli (also in the blog post) and Steffan cleaning up after dinner at one of the trainings.

Louisa, Anton, and Jona after a training. Louisa's testimony at camp is what God used to speak to me about doing these trainings!
Please, pray for these young people as they learn to stand boldly for Christ as possibly the only Christian among their atheistic peers!

Also, to get our latest prayer requests, go to the JV online Prayer Room! There you can sign up and be lead through an incredible hour of prayer for JV Germany and Josiah Venture as a whole!