Casey went to Ukraine in March to train coaches at their first ever EDGE level one soccer training course! This is so exciting for us! The Ukraine team has done an epic job at running their floorball league for years. Right now they have approximately 22 teams in their floorball league and people are hearing about the love of Jesus on a regular basis when they train and at tournaments. Andrew Polonnikov has been leading the sport for years. A few years ago, Marc Meland moved to Ukraine to join the team and he is heading up the soccer portion of EDGE sports in Ukraine. He is UEFA certified and a very good player.
Since EDGE soccer is brand new in Ukraine, this first training course was mostly designed to introduce the sport to potential coaches (each representing a local church in Ukraine). Several potential EDGE coaches attended and we would love prayer that many would commit to become part of our league.
Casey was accompanied on this trip by his assistant Paja. She is Czech and is a floorball player. She was a member and team captain for a team in Ostrava, Czech for a while and used to play pro. We even saw a big picture of her on the side of a bus several months ago in Ostrava. She has been such a great addition to the EDGE International team with her experience playing team sports, her super positive attitude, and her very hard working spirit.
While there, Casey and Paja both taught in the classroom. Casey loved this course because so many of his EDGE people were there helping out. From the Ukraine team, Andrew, Marc and Svyatko taught and Tomasz translated. Ion from Moldova came and taught on the field as well. Fun crew!
Before this training course began, Marc had 4 coaches that had already agreed to join the league with their teams. Please pray for the rest of the attendees to hear the call if this is something that God is calling them to be a part of. We would also love prayer for the coaches to invite a mix of Christian and non-Christian players to join their teams so that the coaches can disciple the believers and share the love of Jesus with those that have not heard. We would love to see the league grow and make an impact in local Ukrainian churches and in the cities/villages where they serve!
Oh, and Casey brought a “friend” home with him from this trip. We all received that friend in the form of COVID.
This seems like a crazy time to be making plans for trips, right? That’s what we thought when Casey was planning his trip to Romania in February. Restrictions in Czech had been getting tighter and tighter the longer COVID had been chillin’ in the world making the idea of travel seem crazier and dangerous. Well, things were looking a bit different in Romania at the time. I would not say that things were wide open, but WAY more open than in Czech. Even more importantly for our purposes, people could still play soccer outside, meet to train, and Bogdan (our JV EDGE leader in Romania) had invested in many coaches, so they were ready to get trained to lead their teams.
The logistics for this 4-day trip were nutty. On account of limited flights, Casey had to fly from Krakow, Poland to Amsterdam, then to Bucharest, Romania. In order to fly into Amsterdam, one must have a COVID test that’s less than 4 hours old, so Casey had to take his test at the Krakow airport before taking off. He also had to take a test to enter Poland before that to even get to the Krakow airport. He had to take a test in Romania to leave the country and then one again upon returning to Czech. He had to make the trip as short as possible because Romania had a rule that you could only be in the country for 48 hours without quarantining, so he actually was picked up and went straight to the soccer field to teach as soon as he left the airport. He even had to change in the car!
So what’s the big deal and why the hassle? For EDGE sports, we really want to do quality training courses. Some of the coaches that Bogdan invited to be a part of the EDGE league in Romania were UEFA certified coaches, so he wanted their first official EDGE training course to be done by a UEFA certified coach. Casey was the only one of our UEFA certified coaches that could travel at the time of the course.
Casey was very impressed with this group of men that came to be trained and with all of the work that Bogdan put in to prepare these coaches. Since no one could come to lead the training course before February, Bogdan spent a lot of time doing what he could do. He introduced these coaches to JV’s training and discipleship materials and showed them what he could in the way of soccer training. On account of Bogdan’s hard work, The coaches were very engaged at this course and asked really good questions. Casey was VERY impressed with them.
Aside about Bogdan: He is not a soccer guy. He is a basketball guy. He earnestly put out a great deal of effort to start an EDGE basketball league in the beginning, but, like Paul the apostle, he trusted God to change directions when it was evident that his first plans were just not to be. We have watched Bogdan embrace this new direction for EDGE sports in Romania wholeheartedly. He is now quite knowledgeable in the sport, leading others so effectively, and we are so proud of him.
Ion from Moldova came to help out with the teaching and brought some of his Moldovan coaches as well.
Bogdan and Ion did the lion’s share of the classroom teaching in the Romanian language (Moldovans speak Romanian). The classroom teaching consists of discipleship training, learning how to pick out personality types of players in order to relate to them appropriately, and soccer drills. Casey only taught one classroom session. On the field, Casey did the majority of the football training with Ion teaching about 30% of the time.
Towards the end of the course, Bogdan had the coaches write out their players’ names and pray over each one. Many of these teams have a mix of Christians and non-Christians (often more non-Christians). We for sure want our courses to be focused on the salvation of the players and coaching a quality sport.
Casey made it back safe and sound with no COVID…until his next trip.
I, Kristin, was at a women’s group for our local church this week, and we got onto the subject of holidays. Damaris, our pastor’s wife, asked, “What do you like about Christmas?” I initially thought about all the years that I went to Disneyland on Christmas eve with all of my cousins, aunts, and uncles as a kid. It was very magical for me growing up. Now, as an adult, I just miss my family.
So what do I like about Christmas now that I am a grown-up, living super far away from my extended family, and needing to come up with new traditions? While living in Czech, our family has discovered the magic of advent. Surprisingly, in this mostly-atheistic country, there are many people that buy advent candles and candelabras. You can even get them from huge displays at the local grocery store.
Not having much experience in my life with advent, I started out literally having my little kids (very reluctantly) move around their little people figurines from our Little People toy Advent set while I read scripture that they did not fully understand. Last year, we finally progressed to reading Jotham’sJourney by Arnold Ytreeide (the boys LOVED it), and, this year, we are reading Unwrapping the Names of Jesus by Asheritah Ciuciu. We have made a habit of opening each day of their chocolate advent calendars after our readings, and, this year, a family from our church brought us a homemade advent calendar for our whole family, complete with challenges, games, and/or treats for every day. Below, you can see a picture of our epic airplanes that we made for one of our Advent activities.
Now when asked what my favorite part of the Christmas holiday is, I for sure would answer Advent. Spending every day recentering our hearts and minds on Jesus, focused time with my family, and fun? What’s not to love?
Casey led a JV EDGE Ultimate coaches’ training course in Prague September 10-13. I (Kristin) am super excited to write about this because..
1.) We have been living in Czech for over 9 years and it wasn’t until 2019 that the JV Czech team finally found a JV EDGE country leader that could start an EDGE league. It is going really well too.
2.) On account of the “Rona,” Casey has not been able to travel for any of his coaches’ training courses outside of Czech for quite a while. I was just excited to get to see him out with his people.
3.) This was a great reminder that you should be careful what you pray for and that the Lord really did hear our prayers. Casey travelled so much in the fall of 2019, that we could not wait for him to have some rest….well, rest he received.
4.) Casey hired Paja on to his EDGE international team in March of 2019 and this was her first opportunity to be a part of an EDGE coaches’ training course. You can see her below in the upper left hand picture speaking to the coaches with Casey.
5.) We are thankful for Tomaš. He is the JV EDGE country leader. He really has been super delightful for Casey to work with. He is very knowledgeable about Ultimate Frisbee (we call it EDGE Ultimate because Frisbee is a trademark name), very flexible, and teachable. Who would not like to work with someone like that? You can see him in the picture on the bottom right.
6.) Last but not least, our JV teams in Bulgaria and Poland both sent coaches to learn how to coach Ultimate Frisbee. As a result of this training, we are hoping to see EDGE Poland and Bulgaria’s leagues get launched in the near future.
Please pray for the Czech teams as there are new restrictions in Czech about anyone meeting in groups of more than two as of this week. May the coaches be innovative to keep their teams connected until they can be active again. Please also pray for Poland, as their measures tightened this week too. We do not know the latest about Bulgaria.
In my last post on fear (part one), I talked a little about how God helps us overcome fear (something I have struggled with for years). Am I cured? Ummm, no. Am I in process? You betcha!
5 weeks ago today, I had hysterectomy surgery in Bohumin, Czech Republic.
I am not a person who particularly cares for needles (read that as has almost fainted a few times on account of those tiny evil things). I also worry too much about all things hospital. When I finally got my head out of the sand and turned to the Lord, he told me this: “I am the great physician. I am better than any doctor anywhere.” So this God that I know to be all powerful and who loves me a whole big lot can make sure that my doctor does a great job? Hmm. I suppose that’s a pretty good deal :). Casey and our good friend Rach helped me come up with some snacks and activities to take with me and away I went.
I had always imagined that if I needed one, I would get it done in the States by the American OBGYN that cared for me before and during the pregnancies of both of my boys, did a few minor surgeries on me, and delivered Beni. I did not think that it would happen this way. But, a lot of our life has been kind of unexpected at times.
My surgery was on a Friday but I had to be there by 6am on Thursday (after fasting since midnight Wed.). I received one meal from them (a brothy soup for lunch) and was not allowed to eat anything else until Saturday at breakfast. I was so nervous that my digestive system was not working right. I felt like I had a rock lodged between my stomach and my intestines. I was sure that I was going to have to cancel the surgery. The nurses were super calm about it and gave me some kind of muscle relaxer to calm my stomach. I prayed a ton and asked a lot of people to pray for me. I felt much better by Friday morning.
I was in a room with 2 additional ladies. All three of us arrived on Thursday, and we were all scheduled for surgery on the same morning. One was this super tough 70-year-old lady (Stanislava) that smiled easily and complained about nothing. She was not even scared in the least about the surgery. She and I had the same procedure done. The other young woman (Nikolka) was only 26 and was scheduled for a minor surgery (no organs removed). She was also so brave. They were an answer to prayer for me. I felt really encouraged by their bravery.
All of the procedures that we had to go through to prepare our bodies for the surgery were VERY uncomfortable and I will not list them here. It was all a surprise to me. Every. Single. Thing. I was only told that they would do some tests on Thursday to make sure that I would survive the surgery (blood pressure and heart monitor stuff). Surprise!
Aside: They also did a mandatory COVID-19 test. It turns out that they are different than the ones in the States. In the States, it’s a nasal swab on a long bendy stick that goes through your sinuses and touches the back of your throat. In Czech, it’s a swab on a stiff stick that goes straight into your sinuses (OUCH!) where they scramble it around up there for a while. Either is VERY unpleasant, but just in case you were interested…
Bright and early on Friday morning, we had to do some more not-so-fun preparatory things and then we had to wait and wait and wait. Then, a nurse gave Stanislava a shot in the backside. Of course, I had no idea what the injection was for, but I figured that they would end up giving me one too. When it was my turn, I was very impressed by how painful the shot was. I remembered rolling over and asking Nikolka if we had to have these shots every day. She laughed and said, “no, that’s your anesthesia shot.” Good to know! We were later wheeled in one at a time to the operating room. The operating room looked and smelled very clean, had a joking and talkative doctor, 3 very smiley and chatty nurses, bright lights, and was warm…I felt safe. My waking up from the surgery was a blur but not an uncomfortable one.
The nursing staff was very attentive, patient, and kind. My roommates were a joy to share a room with. They were not noisy and they were very considerate. We did not even have a t.v. in our room anyway. There was one in the common room and that was it. The food was not great, but my Czech roommates also were not impressed, so that made me feel like I was not just being a fussy American.
My I.V. was removed right after my surgery but I had all sorts of other things hanging out of me. I learned something at this hospital. I have always feared the I.V. above all other things in any hospital. It turns out that there are worse things. It’s called, no I.V. Why? Because every single medication or substance that needed to go into me, then, had to be done through shots. I had to have anticoagulant shots every day in my shoulder, shots for pain meds, shots for shots’ sake. I was very much missing my I.V. I had so many bruises. I started refusing my pain meds because I just didn’t want more shots.
The day after my surgery, they came in bright and early and yanked out all of the gauze and tubes from my body in one quick evil motion and I was ordered to march myself to the bathroom. It kid of felt like a calloused way of doing things, but why not? Didn’t I need to walk to get rid of all of the gasses that they pumped into my body for my laparoscopy? Why yes I did. I had to march up and down the three small hallways in our area of the hospital several times a day. I started to call my constant walking my “fart walks.” And fart walks they were. Even at 5 weeks out, I ask Casey to go with me on fart walks in our neighborhood. They’re the best :).
The rest of the days were uneventful. I watched a Czech fairytale with Stanislava on the communal t.v. on one of the days, did lots of embroidery, watched Netflix movies that I had saved on my iPad, sent lots of messages, read a lot of Scipture and other books, and walked a lot. Not a bag gig. My hospital stay was Thursday through Wednesday and I could not have any visitors. It got a bit boring, but I am thankful for modern technology and really great roommates that had great attitudes.
Upon returning back home, our friend Rach had organized herself and other friends in Czech to bring us meals for a whole week, then our Polish church brought us meals for the whole following week. We are so blessed. I am so thankful for how the Lord so tenderly cared for me, despite my fears. I am not alone and the Lord does give me a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). I just need to choose to receive the ability to live that way each day.
I wish that I could say that I have never been paralyzed by fear. I wish I could say that running to God is always the first thing that I do when I am afraid. I am a person that has always struggled with fear. The great news is that there is always a way out. We can always bring our fears to God, thank God!
I remember standing on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in Caesarea Maritama, Israel 6 years ago with tears running down my face. I was looking out over the sea realizing that I no longer had any excuses. I really could not come up with one. I was standing in the place where Paul had cried out to the Roman Governor Festus that he wanted to appeal to Rome so that he would not be sent back to his accusers in Jerusalem (see Acts 21-26 for the whole story).
Up until that moment, I held on to some crazy unspoken belief that the reason so many famous heroes of the Bible did so many great things was because things were different in Israel. Nope! I was standing there breathing the same air, standing on the same sand, stones, and concrete, and drinking the same water. There was nothing different there. No magical water. No fairy pixie dust in the air. What was it then? It was the Holy Spirit that helped these people to do what they did, and it was the same Holy Spirit that I had living in me. 2 Timothy 1:7 in the NIV says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and, self-discipline.” All of my excuses did not stand a chance with that reality blowing in my face with the wind from the sea.
From that point on, I will not say that I was cured. I am a sinful human, after all. Even though I abhor vomit, the following verse from Proverbs 26:11 is too often true of me: “Like a dog returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Yuck. Does that have to be true of me? Nope. It does not have to be. It is a daily choice to take hold of what is true. God has offered his spirit to me to make me powerful, not timid. It has to be a daily choice. I am so thankful for that. Plus, God says that he will never leave us or forsake us, so when we are being brave, he is standing with us. Now, that’s a comfort.
I was hoping to not make this post too long, so I will end here and call this part one. In my next post, I will share how God helped me overcome so many of my fears to get a hysterectomy in the Czech Republic during a world-wide pandemic. Stay tuned…
This last week, the president of Josiah Venture, Dave Patty, shared with all of us JV staff what some of our teams in our JV countries came up with to creatively share the good news of Jesus and further the gospel message—despite so many social restrictions still in place this summer.
I love how the Lord is so creative. After spending lots of time praying and working together, here are a few things that some of our teams have come up with:
Slovakia: One of our team members started asking many of the churches that they serve what their biggest need is right now. Many of them said trained leaders to lead small groups. So, a big focus of the Slovak team this summer is training small group leaders to lead small groups so that they will be ready to do summer discipleship.
Slovenia: The JV team is putting on 7 different Reconnect festivals (see the picture above) with the help of 7 different churches. They are similar to a very energetic and fun evangelistic day camp for youth 12-19 years of age. The really lovely thing in all of this is that these festivals (lacking in help from U.S., U.K, or Canadian teams) can only work if the local churches collaborate and support each other. This just does not happen normally. What a great way to bring unity in the church and Christ to all of those young people.
Ukraine: They are doing a JV Ukraine Amazing Race with local church leaders to build relationships with the youth outside of their churches. Each team has at least one believing member that gets to spend each day of the race sharing their faith with their team mates as they conquer challenges together. Each evening, local churches doing evening talks for the youth that are participating. Their motto is “our calling hasn’t changed, but our situation has.” Romania will also be doing an Amazing Race.
Albania: There are many young budding leaders in the local churches where the JV Albania team serves that want to really learn what it means to share their faith with others. This summer, those youth will have a chance to actually go fishing and learn about how to go “fishing for men” while fishing for fish.
Estonia: They are actually able to do camps this summer, so they will do their typical evangelistic JV Edge soccer camps. They are so looking forward to these camps as many of their team members have not been able to participate for months. They are anticipating young players being eager to move their bodies and experience the community that they have on these teams. Casey just told me as I am writing this that their camps actually started this week.
The Czech Republic: Evangelistic summer camps are on! Our family is hoping to help at one or more of these camps this summer. Since no outside help is coming in, our JV Czech and international teams are chipping in at many of these camps all across the Czech Republic.
I am so excited to hear about how things go during these next few months. Please join us in praying that all of the JV staff, volunteers, and local churches that are reaching outside of their walls and trying new things would fully trust God. May they not shrink back when unexpected things and challenges happen this summer. Amen!
Every summer, JV puts on an event called JV Intern Training. It is designed to help our summer interns (working on a JV intern team for approximately 2-2.5 months starting in mid-May) to be prepared for the work ahead of them. This summer, no interns will be coming from JV sending countries (UK, USA, Canada) but our Camps team has chosen to still do an Intern Training for the European interns and people that were planning to be with us this summer but can no longer join us.
Casey, above, is recording the main talks during the training. Of course, it looks a little different this year.
Normally, the JV intern training starts with all of the interns landing at the same airport in one of our JV countries and starting the JV Amazing Race. After 3 days of intense team-building during the race, all of the intern teams (separated out by which country they will serve in that summer) gather together for JV Intern training at our JV training center in Malenovice, Czech. Then, they are trained in skills like, communication with team-members, conflict resolution, cutting out sin/true confessions/porn, how to disciple, the 5 challenges of Jesus, how to be culturally sensitive, how to be a team member, etc. There is also a speaker that does the main talks.
This summer, Casey is that main speaker. His talks are about being full of the Father’s love and out of that having the compassion to serve others. But, instead of teaching in front of an audience, Casey recorded his talks 2 weeks ago at our JV office in Frydlant nad Ostravici, Czech. Last night and tonight, those talks are being shared with our European interns and those that could not serve with us this summer due to the virus. I love hearing our friend Rachael talk about what she hopes for our interns this summer. She is the Camps director for all of JV and really wants to see these interns be successful whether they are near or far. In addition to Casey’s talks, Rachael is giving the interns discussion questions, providing them with zoom discussion groups (last nights groups lasted 1/2 hour minimum), challenges for the summer called the #JVintern5 that they can do wherever God has them this summer, and there will even be a talk about race and COVID-19 because they are real things in our world right now. Rachael is even sharing stories about how God is moving in Europe and in the States to encourage the interns to follow the Lord’s leading no matter where they find themselves.
The recordings of the talks (should you be interested) are available to view if you click on the link below:
It is interesting to see how things have changed in the world on account of COVID-19. The idea of having a speaking engagement certainly would mean a person or group of people speaking to a physical audience, right? In our context, and in the context of many people around the world today, it could be a physical audience of as little as zero, but with a viewing audience in the hundreds or thousands. Below, you can see one of Casey’s more recent speaking engagements to a physical audience of Caleb and myself.
For many summers, Josiah Venture has organized and/or facilitated evangelistic summer camps all throughout post-communist Europe through local churches. Most of the time, the big draw To these camps for students in this part of the world were the teams of native English-speakers that would serve at these camps and teach English, run sports programs, and/or teach music to the campers. This year, all of our short-term teams from sending countries (USA, UK, and Canada) have been cancelled because of COVID-19. So what now? Well, “the show must go on,” at least in the countries where summer camps are allowed. Josiah Venture has provided evangelistic evening talks for those churches that are able to do camps this summer. Casey and Chris Loux (a JV missionary living in Ukraine) took on the task of writing the evening talks for all of the camps this summer. Not only did they write the talks, they also recorded them so that church leaders could see how they were meant to be delivered. Above, Casey is recording one such talk. The theme this year is “Being Human.” It is a rewrite of some camp talks a few years ago but with some very real-time applications to what is happening in the world today. Some of the topics discussed in the talks included: what it is to be human (where your identity is found), being set free from sin/prison, we are whole people (spiritual, physical, mental). I, for one, am looking forward to hearing about lives transformed this summer as a result of the Lord using these talks to reach the hearts of young people.
For most EU countries, schools end on June 26th. After that, camps will begin. Please join us in praying that many young people will have ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts open to the salvation that Christ offers.
I have not been writing blog posts for a while because I have been trying to think what might actually be of interest in our day-to-day life over here in Czech. I suppose that most of our days look like yours (unless you are still working outside of the home). Our kids are home and are getting loads of school work to complete each day, Casey and I are home, I am baking too much, we go on walks, Casey does his job through ZOOM every day, my kids push all my buttons, I yell at my kids, I apologize to my kids, I get some work/household things done when I can, our dog gets out on walks twice a day, and I meet with people online when time permits. Probably same ole’, same ole’ just like most families everywhere. Despite lockdown, Casey and the other JV staff have not been idle.
The president of our organization (Dave Patty) has been really pushing in to the idea of innovation and how we can be proactive, not reactive, in the wake of all things COVID-19. So, last week Casey, along with a select group of JV staff, were asked to be a part of 2 day-long innovation meetings last week and this.
Even though all of the American, Canadian, and UK teams that typically come over will not be coming this summer to help run camps across all of our JV countries, what about the local churches? What about all of the local Christian leaders in these churches that long to see their neighbors fully grasp the love of Jesus and that forgiveness is available to them? For many years, JV has relied on the help of the short term teams from our sending countries (US, CA, and the UK) to help these churches share the good news, but what do we do when they do not come? I, like you, am very interested to find out what solutions they come up with and how the Lord will lead this group of leaders to support the bride of Christ in this part of the world. God is still in control.