Our Home Garden Construction Project

First of all, if you are reading this because you had anything to do with funding this project and/or praying for our family, THANK YOU!

Ever since we bought our home back in 2014, we have wanted the pool in the backyard to be G.O.N.E. Why would you not want to have a pool in your back yard, you might ask? It just was not safe for our family. For the first few years that we lived here, our youngest could not swim, so we kept the water level really low. In addition, it was a pool made out of a grain silo placed into the ground with the top sawed off, a very thick layer of concrete was poured as its floor, and then the top rim was edged with very thick concrete. So, when the water level was low, my kid might not drown, but he might break his neck if he were to fall in.  In addition, I cannot even count the number of times the neighborhood kids would run around the rim of the pool when they were playing tag and hide-and-go-seek. No matter how many times I warned them not to do that, that is exactly how they played. Oh, the stress!  It also did not help that Casey traveled so much, so keeping up with pool repairs…no. It literally just became a murky steel-rimmed pond with various critters living in it. One time, my neighbor even asked me if I could please get rid of my frogs because his wife could not sleep at night. My frogs? Oh, bother.

Casey even put in some ultimate effort to start the process, but as the project got more and more involved, we realized that we needed help and how were we going to afford this?

Part of the challenge of living in a foreign place is that you do not have the same tools and resources that you are used to. You do not know where to go for things or who to ask. Often we know what we would need in the States but what is it even called here?

Fortunately, during our 6-month exile outside of Czech, Casey thought to involve a few friends that we have to get their suggestions on what we could do. We ended up hiring a project manager and he hired a landscaping company that he knew. Praise God. The owner used to work for Josiah Venture and we did not even know that he owned such a company. They were great.

We mostly just wanted a safe place for our kids to play with no “ponds” or gaping holes for them to fall into. In addition, we had a greenhouse in our yard that we never used with broken glass panels, and our sidewalk pavers were all falling apart. They helped us with that too.

We also found out in the process, thanks to a neighbor that was observing our progress, that in a few years we would have to update our septic system and all of the drainage lines. This would cost us thousands extra if we had to tear up our sidewalk in a few years. I remember getting that phone call as we were driving through Slovakia heading down to Bulgaria for our first ministry stop for the summer this July. We had loads of stuff, our kids, and our intern team in the car, and were faced with the possibility that our project would have to be stopped because of these drainage lines. We just stopped and prayed that God would provide some solutions because we did not know what to do (the whole not knowing who to call, what info. you need, or where to get said resources, person or info struck again).  The Lord brought a friend from Czech to mind that worked for the local septic company that served our septic tank regularly. I put him in contact with our landscaping friend. Within minutes, we got a phone call back that the project was back on. That one call saved the day.  Praise God for HIS resources!

A few years ago, we realized that most of the walls on our first floor were wet and growing mold (it’s a concrete home thing) so we had to have extensive repairs done to the interior of our home. A year later, we were noticing that some of those walls were getting moist again (NO!!!). This construction helped with those problem walls because they were able to bust up the concrete on the outside of the house that was holding water against the house like a sponge. Above, that big slab of concrete by the door was one of the major culprits. It has now been smashed to smithereens and removed (YES!!!).

This project turned out to be for so much more than just beautification (even though our backyard truly does look beautiful with a nice big patio area, planters, and nicely landscaped and seeded lawn… grow, grass, grow!). I am so thankful for the repairs that will help our family to not only have a safer yard to hang out in, but it has helped us to maintain dry walls and keep mold at bay.

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Czech Ultimate Frisbee training and league launch, September 2019

We are so excited to have our first JV Edge league start in Czech. We have been praying for JV Czech to find a JV Edge Sports Country leader for years. The leader is Tomas and he is an enthusiastic quality Ultimate Frisbee (U.F.) coach who is ready to make this happen! IMG_7468During the training, Casey was able to help mold Tomas’ experience as an Ultimate Frisbee coach into JV’s coaching framework. Many of the coaches that came have already been coaching U.F. through their local churches in Czech, but being part of our league not only gives them the opportunity to compete but provides them with a model for evangelism and disciple-making. IMG_7471One nice thing about this sport is that it can be very co-ed, so it is possible to get more females involved. At this coaches’ training weekend, there were two female coaches present. There were 15 participants at this training weekend including Casey, Tomas, and Fanny. Our good friend Greg Strock (JV Czech missionary who lives close-by) even came and shared on evangelism on one of the evenings.IMG_7489One of the females present was able to see some but was legally blind and has a heart for the Czech special needs community (halleluiah). For now, she is going to be an assistant U.F. coach but would love to do an Edge fitness group for the handicapped. How cool is that! More groups that often are getting overlooked getting seen. Praise God!

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Romania Soccer Training and Launch, September 2019

Back in February 2019, Casey went to Romania and did a level one soccer training with potential soccer coaches and local church leaders. His training was both a time to train coaches but also to present the idea of developing an evangelistic JV Edge soccer league to many Romanian local churches. Some showed great interest and some went back to their churches to present the idea and see if their church wanted to get involved.

A few weeks ago, Casey returned to Bucharest and, with the help of D.U. and Bogdan (black hat) from Romania and Michael from Northern Ireland (blue jersey), he conducted a second long training weekend for coaches that were committed to forming the league.

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The attendees were 12 assorted coaches and assistant coaches (including one female. unusual but rad). Casey was really enthused to train this group of people because they were super quality individuals, and they were excited about all of the principles and ideas being taught, both about coaching soccer and reaching those that do not yet know Jesus as their Lord and savior.

One of the attendees was a former drug-user whose goal was to go back to Teen Challenge (the Christian program that helped clean him up) and start a team with the residents there that are still struggling.

Franz (a dutchman) is a missionary in a Roma (gypsy) village in Romania. He brought 3 of the guys that he is disciplining with him. When they were presented with some of the discipleship/evangelism materials, two of them shared that they could not use it because they could not read.

How beautiful that the Lord is bringing even the illiterate to our trainings. They are learning to share their faith without the use of the written word. JV Edge Sports is bringing the gospel to groups that may not be reached in other more traditional ways. Praise God.

Another highlight in Romania is that Michael Stoneman (a former JV summer intern who is currently a soccer coach and youth leader in Northern Ireland) came to help lead this training. He loved what we are doing to share the gospel through sport and is interested in helping Casey do training in the future. Yes! Casey sure needs the help!

 

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Scotland at the end of August? Um, yes.

Sometime in the spring of 2019, Casey’s mom Blythe made the exceedingly generous offer to take us to Scotland in the last week of August. In addition to the trip sounding excellent, the thought dawned on us that we had nowhere to go that last week of August (still in exile from our home in Czech) and needed to find a place to rent anyways, so we said “yes!” We are so happy that we did and what a wonderful way to celebrate the very last days of our exile, get some much needed Nana and Grandpa time, and have great adventures. Warning: this post is long.

Day 1: Edinburgh

Some of the sights: the real Tom Riddle’s grave, the street that may have inspired Diagon Alley, the Edinburgh castle, weapons, the statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, a huge fireworks celebration over the castle at night, Harriet’s private school (Hogwarts was modeled after how this school is run). Our tour guide wore a kilt and was very patient with all of our questions. It was even a very warm day.

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Day 2: Linlithgow Palace, Battle of Bannockburn visitor center, more weapons, the William Wallace Monument, the Lake Menteith hotel, and the hairy coo.

We literally did a potty stop at the palace on our way top the visitor center but took a few pics on the way. The next stop was the visitor center where you could see how the battle was fought, do role-playing, and even try on some of the armor and swing some weapons in the end. Our boys LOVED it! Weapons!!!!!

Next, Sterling castle, archery, and the William Wallace monument

I finally got my salt and vinegar potato chips at the castle and Emilio continued to win over the hearts of our boys with their fellowship of the sweet tooth. Gotta love that! One of my favorite quotes of the day, “our national animal does not even exist [the unicorn] and our national flower is a weed [the thistle].”

Our day ended at the Lake of Menteith hotel on the lake. It turns out that it’s the only lake in Scotland. The rest are called “lochs.” The boys certainly did not hate the Keurig in their room with hot chocolate.

I took a stroll down the country road that our hotel was on and got some pictures of the sereneness of it all. The church right next to our hotel was silent, surrounded by green, and (as Beni told me once about our local chapel in our Czech village) “the graveyard is where people go to die.” I love graveyards, especially these ones with tombstones overgrown with moss about to topple over. Plus, the side door to the church was for people that would call me an absolute giant. I love the highland hairy coos (cows) too. They are just so cute without even knowing it.

 

Day 3: A boat ride on Loch Lomond, Some excellent tea, Falls of Dochart, and our cozy hotel room

Great Scottish breakfast (included blood sausage), the cute village that we departed from on our boat ride on Loch Lomond, and Loch Lomond. This was our kids’ first ride on a speed boat EVER. They had no idea what they were in for. Some of the highlights were: the McFarland stronghold/Invergulas island that we stopped at to climb all over, and Rob Roy’s prison (hung on a rope upside down by the lakeshore) and cave hide-out.

One last picture of beautiful Loch Lomond, our lovely British tea, our stop at the Falls of Dochart, a visit to see some hairy coos, and back in our hotel by Lake Menteith in fuzzy robes.

 

Day 4: The Jacobite (Harry Potter) steam train, the famous Glenfinnan viaduct (also from the movie), Scottish Highlands, and the Glencoe House (the nicest place we have ever stayed overnight).

The boys loved riding on the train. It was really a pretty ride too. Of course, we had to buy all of the Harry Potter treats (a chocolate frog, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and Jelly Slugs (all thanks to Nana Blythe and Grandpa Emilio). Unfortunately, Beni got a vomit-flavored bean twice.

Since we were staying in Glencoe that evening, we had to do some backtracking by car after the train ride. During the car ride, we passed by the viaduct again and saw a tall stone tower that our driver, Gordon Craig, described as the tower commemorating where the Bonnie Prince Charles (the son of Mary Queen of Scots) started the Jacobite uprising. As he was explaining that at some point Prince Charles had to escape his enemies and did so disguised as a woman (thus his nickname “Bonnie”), he mentioned that he had no ears. I thought that it was kind of strange and was wondering if it was some kind of birth defect (you know, all the incestuous royalty stuff), but no, I misunderstood Gordon. He had no heirs! His ears were fine. We laughed and laughed. It is so funny how accents can confuse people who are native speakers of the same language.

That evening, we stayed in the most marvelous place that we have ever stayed in. It is called the Glencoe house. First of all, Beni barfed in the car all over his clothes and shoes on account of all of the windy roads that day. This is how we arrived and what did they do? They took all of our icky stuff, had it cleaned and returned it to us the next day. I have never had someone else deal with my kids’ barf. That was a first. The place was warm with roaring fireplaces, amazing food, all the comforts. Thank you Nana Blythe and Grandpa Emilio!

Day 5: The guys went to the Glenkinchie Whisky Distillery and the rest of us went to North Berwick, then back to Edinburgh.

Our last picture at the Glencoe House. What a stay!IMG_3991The famous Scottish Kelpies (shape-shifting water spirits)IMG_8128Meat pie does not look like a pie at all. It’s yummy meaty goodness with a big puff pastry thingy on top. IMG_3996IMG_8159IMG_8169This is our driver Gordon Craig (below) telling us how to address the haggis. It was the best. You will probably understand very little but is sounds amazing just the same. I love the Scottish accent. It is not every day that you hear a Scottish man addressing the haggis when there is no haggis in sight and he is driving. Talk about multi-tasking!

Edinburgh at night.

IMG_8210Alexander Graham Bell’s home. IMG_8211IMG_8212

On the roof, you will see many chimneys. Every residence has it’s own fireplace and its own chimney. All of the roofs of the historic buildings in the center were like this. Fascinating.IMG_8213

And our day of departure. Gordon Craig was an extremely good driver and guide during our stay. It was such a pleasure to get to learn about history, see beautiful things, eat all the yummy things, but, most of all, get some precious time and make memories with Nana and Grandpa!

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JV Kids’ Camp 2019

Words can hardly express how thankful I am for how our Josiah Venture leadership has put such a great emphasis on the spiritual and mental health of our Josiah Venture kids. Below, Beni (no shirt) is with one of his good American buddies whose family also works for the JV international office in Czech; therefore, also growing up as a third culture kid. IMG_7131Caleb’s small group at camp. They are called “the guardians” and are from families serving in Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Scotland, and their leader is serving in Latvia. IMG_7180Beni’s small group called “Meraki” (the right side of the group below) has kids living in Czech, Bulgaria, and Hungary, with their leader (Noah… a returning third culture JV missionary kid) who is about to move onto the field with his wife Jill to Monte Negro. IMG_7181The main leaders and organizers of this camp are Mel and Amy Ellenwood and Claire Patty (the daughter of our organization’s president), who has come back to Czech after university as a JV missionary to serve our JV kids and families. Each summer, many of our JV staff (mostly singles who have worked tirelessly over the summer at evangelistic camps) help run this camp and it is such a blessing to all of the kids.  IMG_8371The whole crew!IMG_8372Below: Beni’s small group being epic.IMG_8497They do a craft every summer to take home and remind them of what they learned. This summer, the kids made shields that have symbols to represent their faith and qualities they want to uphold (ie. peacefulness, trustworthiness, skillfulness, uniqueness…).IMG_8498Praise God that we get to be a part of a group of believers that really believe in training up the next generations to seek the Lord with all of their hearts and to serve him!

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Croatia the beautiful

We are finally back home in Czech and, after our first month of getting acclimatized back to our home and school starting for our kids, I have a moment to get caught up on some writing.

After our week in Croatia in August to train the Croatian team to do JV Edge Fitness was over, we had a few days with our intern Elle, a few more days with Fanny, and we still could not go home, so we just stayed. We could think of much worse places to spend our exile, to be honest.

This first picture is a selfie that Elle took of the boys and me after getting drenched in a surprise heavy rain while we were on a walk in Split. This is followed followed by pictures on the beach, our time at Krka national park (one of the prettiest places on earth with beautiful natural lakes and ponds full of fish and waterfalls, you can see to the bottom, and they even have an area to swim), and some pictures of old town Split. Caleb did not end up eating all of those fish but he sure put in a star effort. I…no words. Swimming things are not for eating! Ick. All my boys love to eat fish. The sad expressions on Fanny and Elle’s faces were due to the fact that Elle was about to fly back to the States. They were such a great duo all summer. We have been super fortunate to just have outstanding JV Edge Sports interns so far. Elle was no exception.

After Elle’s departure, we stayed in our teammates’ home for a few days while caring for their very pregnant French Mastif Millie. Once they returned, we moved to a campsite on the beach with Rachel and the Hillman family from our JV Bulgaria team. We had a blast. and did mostly what this last picture suggests. P.s. Millie had her 7 puppies the day after her family returned from the States. Dodged a bullet, we did :). P.s.s. that little yellow electrical tower-looking thing was an electricity/water outlet. Can you see any problem with that arrangement? Aside from that, it’s pretty cool how campsites in Europe all have electrical outlets and running water for each campsite.

Since Bulgaria is so hard to drive to and out of from Northern European countries, we took the Hillmans’ 2 oldest kids with us when we headed back North to take our kids to Josiah Venture’s Kids’ annual camp in Poland (their dad Gabe later flew to Poland to pick them up when camp was over). Oh, our lives over here are so far from normal. The next few posts will be about the remainder of our summer, all of the ministry/travel that Casey has already done this fall, and the huge project completion on our home/garden in Czech (thank you North Coast church for your help!!!!). Stay tuned…

 

 

 

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An overnight in Serbia and on to Croatia

After leaving the Bulgaria camp, we travelled about 8 hours until we reached the Sivulkas’ home in Temerin, Serbia (our halfway point to Croatia). If you have been around North Coast Church (our home church in Vista, California), you may have seen or even met Greg and Jelena Sivulka. They have been missionaries in Serbia for years, and I greatly admire them for their great faith and steadfast spirit in the face of all that they have experienced in life. Greg pastors their church in Temerin, Serbia, has been involved with ministering to those afflicted with drug and alcohol addictions, and they both minister greatly to the Serbian special needs community. They are a family affected by special needs so they get it. Boy do they get it. We benefitted greatly from their ministry around 6 years ago at one of their Joni and Friends camps in Serbia. It was a pleasure to be a part of. Our boys were ministered to and were among people that understood what they were going through and what we were going through as parents.

We were all thankful for this overnight visit but it was just too short. We love this family!

On to Croatia! Fortunately, due to insider info from the Sivulkas, we took some back roads to a tiny border in the sticks of Serbia/Croatia. It sure helps to know a local. Our border wait was only around half an hour!! Praise God and thanks friends!

We were welcomed to our fellow JV Croatian missionaries’ home (they are currently in the States) by this beauty. Her name is Millie and she is very pregnant. The family gets home in a few days and we really hope she holds out until then :).

Our main purpose in coming to Croatia was to teach the Josiah Venture Croatian team how to do fitness ministry so that they can start this kind of ministry here. Casey is teaching proper form in a kettlebell swing.Fanny demonstrating above.

For 3 days, Casey and Fanny taught the group how to do many of the exercises that they would be training others to do in their own groups, how to do short evangelistic devotionals with these groups, and also how to invite their group members to learn more about the Lord/do discipleship.

Each day would start in a local Crossfit gym and end in a local church where Casey/Fanny would teach and break things down. Fanny and Elle would also lead morning workouts to give real-life examples of how they can run their own groups.

After this training was over, Elle was with us for a few days and then returned to the States. Fanny left a few days after that. Since we still are not able to return to Czech, we had no reason to hurry back up North, so we stayed.

I will show some fun pictures of Croatia in my next few posts. This place is hot but great!

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