The Lord Providing Through a Generous Donor and a Few Brave Men

Living on the mission field, we get to experience God opening seemingly impossible doors on the regular. Many things that seem impossible require prayer, then a baby step, then the next prayer and a baby step, and so on.

Back in the early spring, a wealthy and generous attendee of North Coast Church (our sending church in California) contacted Josiah Venture asking how he could help with the efforts in Ukraine—above and beyond his previous very generous donations to the Josiah Venture Ukrainian Crisis fund. Our response was “body armor.” Since long before Russia started their big invasion on February 24, 2022, there has been a lot going on in the eastern part of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion that really started in 2014. Over the years, members of our Josiah Venture team have been traveling back and forth from that war-torn part of eastern Ukraine to plant churches, encourage believers, and bring aid. After, February 24, the need became greater, but the risks became greater as well. As many have seen on the news, so many civilians have been targeted in these recent months, but, despite the odds, our team did not cease to serve the church in eastern Ukraine. The safety vests and helmets were for them. Back on April, good body armor was nearly impossible to come by in Europe, so that was a specialty item that our team desperately needed.

11 sets of body armor!!!!

The first step was getting them manufactured/purchased in the States. The next step: figuring out how does one get them to eastern Ukraine? It sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised. They could not be shipped because they are military-grade equipment and an officially authorized entity on the European side would have to receive them (possibly to have to be released with lots of paperwork, fees, and taxes … no thanks). The next idea was to have people personally bring them on a flight. After some consideration and much prayer, two men were up for the job: Connor McFadden (the Community Service Pastor at North Coast Church) and Jeff (an FCA missionary who also attends North Coast). Next, paperwork had to be filled out so that customs would not have a hay-day in Krakow, Poland with 2 men showing up with suitcases full of 11 sets of military-grade body armor and helmets. Casey asked some of our Polish friends to help us figure out what paperwork was needed and how to fill it out. They made it in with all of the body armor, by the way. Next, we needed to make sure that they would not be confiscated at the Ukrainian border (where border guards are notorious for confiscating whatever they feel like on a whim). Fortunately, we had Ukrainian people living with us who helped us fill out official forms or the transport of the equipment and the day before Casey and Connor crossed the border, Ukraine officially stated that all body armor could enter Ukraine without being confiscated. If you look at the math, that was after Connor and Jeff boarded the plane. Prayer and then a baby step … Praise God!

At the border, the Ukrainian border guard was suspicious with Connor and Casey and was sure that they came to join the Legion, not just bring in aid. In the end, they made it in and were able to deliver all of the vests and helmets to the people most needing them. Praise God!

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JV EDGE Sports Balkan Cup 2022

“The Dream Team” from Moldova won first place at our first ever JV EDGE Sports Balkan Cup

Since my (Kristin’s) mom is in town and could hang with the boys, I was able to accompany Casey to the Josiah Venture EDGE Sports Balkan Cup held May 18-22 in a town 1.5 hours outside of Romania’s capital city of Bucharest, called Pitești. The original plan was to have JV EDGE league teams attend from Bulgaria, Albania, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine. In the end, 1 team came from Albania, 5 from Moldova, and 5 from Romania. Despite not having as much of an international presence as at first hoped, the international competition present was mighty, teams became more cohesive as they traveled and played many games together, deep conversations were had, and the gospel was shared.

Casey (white shirt) sharing his testimony and the gospel message during the evening program and Bogdan translating for him.
Discussion groups after the evening talk: There were a ton of young men at the tournament. We had Moldovans from Transnistria (the coach only spoke Russian, not Romanian) and from Romanian-speaking Moldova, Romanians, Albanians, and even Turkish gypsies living in Romania. Most of these young men had never heard the gospel presented to them and 7 were Muslim. These young men had a large variety of backgrounds and life experiences.

When we arrived, we knew that Casey was going to speak, but I did not have a role to play. I asked Bogdan (Romania’s EDGE country leader) what I could do, and boy did he have work for me to do. The original idea was that I would help the nursing student (Ioana Cristina) who they had as the medical person by managing the cooling spray (for athletic soft tissue aches and pains)—so the players would not overuse it. I soon got catapulted from “spay girl” to “medic.” I was called out on the field for head injuries, leg injuries … you name it. For many of the injuries, I had no clue what to do. It was fun, though, and I was glad to be there. By the end of the tournament, there were 2 broken arms, a possible broken thumb, sprained feet, knees … all the things.

One of our medical kits. We easily used gauze wrap, tape, and the cooling spray the most. Ioana and I on the “battlefield.”

All of the fields that our players used (4 mini fields) were artificial turf, so we saw a lot of bloody knees, hips, butts, and elbows. These boys for sure did not let pain hold them back from playing. They would come to me with some open bleeding wound and beg me to apply the cooling spray to it so they could feel some relief and get back in the game. I am 100% sure that the spray was not meant for open wounds. I think that I need to get some sports medicine learning under my belt before I make a trip like that again.

Right before lunch on the last day of the tournament, the coaches from all of the teams played each other. It was so fun to see these young guys cheering their coach/mentors on. Casey was put on the team with the Moldovans. The one Albanian coach was on the team with the Romanians. It was a fun match to watch. The Moldovan (Casey’s) team won.

The coaches right before they played their match

The finals: The team with the flag won first place ( from Moldova), the white team to the left of them was second place (from Romania), and the black team to the right won 3rd (from Moldova also).

Please join us in praying for these teams. Each of the teams that came represented a local church. Something that I love about EDGE sports is that this is not a “one and done” experience. These teams will go back to their hometowns and continue to play with their same teammates on a weekly basis, hear the truth about the Lord, learn that they are important and significant in the sight of God, and hopefully when the time is right, make faith-steps towards the Lord.

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The gift of being able to help

This Ukrainian crisis has disrupted things all over the world. Many people are angry at what they are seeing and hearing on tv and the internet. It’s hard not to be. And, of course, many want to help or just do something-anything-to help.

Our family is in a position to be able to tangibly help and we are thankful for it.

Never before was our home in such a strategic location as it is now. It is almost equidistant from our Polish and Czech retreat centers and only 5.5 hours by car from the Ukrainian border.

When war broke out, we offered our home to some of our teammates that were fleeing the country. One family of 4 took us up on our offer. Shortly after, Casey was told that our friend Andrii was driving his wife, her cousin, and their small children to the border. This hit us hard. These were the first friends that we knew that were having to say bye to each other at the border. He’s Ukrainian and could not cross. I bawled my eyes out. Casey drove all through the night to get to the border with Ukraine to pick them up. It was quite the adventure. There were so many people all over the place, but the Lord helped Casey to find them.

Yulia and her cousin with Tereza and Solomia

Immediately, our local Josiah Venture team members started bringing meals to us to help us. We went from a family of four with a teen and tween to a household of 12 with 4 kids under 4 years old in a week.

Casey and Rachael installing a baby gate using duct tape,toy blocks, and zip ties to make it fit the space. It worked.

Our non-Ukrainian Josiah Venture teammates left Ukraine as soon as possible when the war started. They all were heartbroken to leave, but they have now formed the backbone of our organization’s efforts to care for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Some of our Ukrainian team having a strategic online meeting with people inside and outside of Ukraine to pray and plan how to help.

In addition to all the meals that started coming in (even from our friends in Poland), our neighbors brought over cakes and chocolates because they saw Ukrainian license plates on a car in front of our house.

Another lady that was a friend of a friend brought over new clothes and shoes for the little Ukrainian girls with us.

Mom and 2 daughters that brought over clothes and shoes for Tereza and Solomia.

Yulia and her cousin were with us for a week or 2 and moved on to another location and then another refugee family moved in.

Soon after the war began, Josiah Venture’s conference centers in both Czech and Poland opened their doors to house refugees. That’s when our home’s location became really helpful. One of the families living with us was assigned to help with the refugees at the Czech location and the other to the Polish location.

The second family to move in has since moved to Hungary to help refugees that have moved there.

We don’t know what’s ahead, but we are thankful for this blessing of being able to help and continue to be the hands and feet of Christ in a time when many people need help, kindness, encouragement, and the hope that only the Lord can bring.

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Hell’s gate

In December, I received a newsletter from our little village in our little corner of the Czech Republic. Part of the newsletter always mentions something about the local elementary school (where Beni attended from preschool through 4th grade). On account of COVID and different people in the school being sick, they opened for in-person teaching for the first time this school year on December 6th. Something that is significant about December 6th is that it is Mikulaš day. It would be something like St Nicholas day in other countries. In Czech, the tradition on this day is for someone dressed up as Mikulaš, accompanied by an angel and a demon, to visit classrooms in schools. On this visit, children will approach Mikulaš with a sweet song or poem to “appease him.” If he is pleased with them, the angel will give them a treat or a small bag of treats. If the child is deemed naughty, the demon will often bag up the child and take him or her away. The child is generally only taken to another room and released, but it absolutely terrifies little children (for obvious reasons). Back to my story about the school … So Pan Pekel Lucifer (Mr. Hell Lucifer) went to their school and made the children come up to him one by one to decide if they had been good all year at home. They called the school “Hell’s gate.” Fortunately, all of the kids said a poem, were allowed into the school, and received treats. When they left school for the day, they all promised to be good for the coming year. Wouldn’t you?

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The JV EDGE Sports Going Deeper Project

Photo credit: Ranno Seppel in Estonia

While Casey is super looking forward to getting some really good time to reconnect, look into how things worked in the last few years, and look towards the future together with his JV EDGE country leaders in Barcelona, he is also really looking forward to starting the Going Deeper Project.

For many of our JV EDGE country leaders and those who they lead, they have never had a significant discipleship relationship where they were discipled themselves. Yet, they are being asked to disciple others. The purpose of this Going Deeper Project is for Casey to spend time discipling his guys in order to invest in them on a deeper level relationally and spiritually, in order for them to be properly equipped to do the same for those who they lead, and those people can do the same for those who they lead.

This project is being kicked off during their time in Barcelona in just a few weeks. After that trip, they will be meeting once a month as a group for the next 5-6 months. Casey will be exploring different topics with them at each meeting, but he will be starting off with how much God loves them while they are all together. Their time in Barcelona hanging out and building relationships with each other as a team is also part of Casey’s plan to model cohesiveness as a team. After all, eating together, walking around, going to public events (in this case: a soccer match), talking about life, and getting deeper spiritually were all things that Christ did with his disciples, right?

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School Christmas Photo December 2021

School pictures can be awkward, but most parents want them anyways. They have not been a terribly regular part of my kids’ school experience because of both COVID and the few times that we went back to the States for the summer before they even had school pictures taken for the school year. As a result, any opportunity that we have to order school pictures, we take. In previous years, my boys were at different schools, so a picture together was not even an option. I was all too happy to say yes to them having their picture together this year.

I would say that the boys were less enthused about the picture than their dear ole’ mama. Caleb came home with these pictures with a slightly frustrated expression on his face when he handed them over. At first glance, I thought that they looked like the normal slightly awkward pictures that you get from school, but Caleb had more thoughts: “Mom, my problem with this picture is that Beni looks like he is an evil villain that wants to crush that gnome, and I look like I am going to cry because of my stupid pose, and that I had to touch my brother in a school photo.” That, my friends, is how this picture just became my favorite school picture of all time. Even funnier to me is that the gnome is not even ours, it was a school prop that was supposed to make this a super cute photo. Epic!

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Christmas Eve 2021

Manger Scene on the town square in Český Těšín

As a kid, my family had our largest Christmas celebration with my extended family on Christmas eve. And oh the memories that I have! Although that’s not typical in the States, it’s absolutely typical in the Czech Republic. Since we live quite far from my extended family, we have come up with our own traditions for Christmas eve, but it’s typically just the 4 of us, so not nearly as lively as my childhood. This Christmas, we were invited to join some of our Czech friends (Jakub, Tamara, and their 3 children) in their Christmas eve celebration. We were only too happy to attend!

Some typical Czech traditions and superstitions for Christmas eve:

  • You decorate your Christmas tree on Christmas eve.
  • You fast all day until dinner.
  • Each family has their own version of the golden pig (foil-covered cardboard in the shape of a pig, a golden piggy bank…), but the children of the family have to go out in their yard or somewhere in a forest and find the golden pig before they can eat.
  • Once the family has all sat down to eat, you musn’t get up from the table until everyone is done or it is believed that you will die in the coming year.
  • Your home must be spotless. Nothing like spring cleaning in the winter!
  • You cannot have any unfinished laundry to hang or that is still hanging up to dry or you might die.
  • Fish soup, Carp, and potato salad are the traditional foods eaten for Christmas eve. Of course, each family has their own variation, but these foods are the norm. The carp is often purchased from large vats of water in front of the grocery store for the last week leading up to Christmas. Many people will keep their carp alive and let it swim in their bathtub for days before they kill it. It helps to make the fish less full of dirt (carp are bottomfeeders).
  • Somebody puts fish scales under one of the plates at the table and whoever ends up at that place setting and finds the scales will have good forture of thre following year.
  • Each person at the meal has a half walnut shell that is filled with wax and a wick. You light the candles and let them all float in a large bowl with water. If they float nicely, you will have a nice year. If it floats poorly you will have bad luck. If it capsizes, you will die in the coong year.
  • After the meal, all of the children go into another room and after all of ythe gifts are laid under the tree, someone rings a bell and says that Ježišek (little Jesus) has come and brough the gifts. Then, the children open their gifts.

Our Christmas eve did not include most of the traditions above. (note: the above traditions are just some of the traditions observed in the Czech Republic. Christmas is a big deal here.) First of all, the family that we celebrated with are Christians and not at all superstitious. They did, however, send the kids out into their garden to find the golden pig. This family used a golden piggy bank, and it took the kids a long time to find it. They have small children, so we got up from the table many times during the meal. We had pea soup because both Jakub and Tamara have Polish roots, so do some of the Polish traditions (like eating pea soup, not fish soup). We had the traditional Czech potato salad, but they served chicken schnitzel (called smažený řizek here) and salmon. I brought a green salad and a pumpkin pie (very American). Before eating, Jakub stood up and read the Christmas story in Czech and then asked the children questions to make sure that they understood. I loved that he said, “well, we normally read this in Polish, but because you are here, we’ll read this in Czech.”

Dinner was followed with Christmas Carols and worship in Czech, English, and Polish, while Tamara played on the piano. Afterward, the kids all went upstairs and the adults brought out the gifts. Ježišek is kind of like the equivalent of our Santa Clause in the States, so even Christian families may not tell their kids the truth until they are older (just like in the States). Then, they rang the bell and all of the kids came back down. It was so precious watching the little ones open their gifts. They were the cutest.

I totally still miss my family in the States, and would love for my boys to experience one of the crazy Christmas eves that I had as a kid someday, but this year’s Christmas eve was pretty darn great in its own right. And I love how much of it was focused on Jesus. How lovely to focus on Christ with others on such a special evening.

Happy birthday Jesus, who was once a baby born in a very humble situation, and grew to be the man who made a way to save us all.

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Caleb’s going to high school

I cannot believe it! It feels so surreal, because things are so different in Czech. I remember that going into 9th grade was huge, but Caleb is in 9th grade. It does not feel huge. It’s just the end of his elementary school.

This is how things work here:

Elementary

1st and 2nd stage. 1st stage is grades 1-5. 2nd stage is grades 6-9.

High School

Grades 10-13. And high school is split into 2 options: trade school and the model of high school that we know in the States called “gymnázium” here.

The last year of school (13th grade) is primarily dedicated to taking some ridiculously hard tests called “Maturita” that cover all of their years in high school. And I thought finals in high school were hard, but they just covered one semester. Geeze.

Caleb has to take some really hard tests to even get into high school in Czech called the “Cermat.” Students are mainly tested in Czech Language and Math. Fortunately, Caleb has math in the bag, but Czech is a whole other dealio. He speaks great and actually does quite well in his class, especially as a foreigner, but he will still need to prepare. When you apply for high school here, you can only choose 2 options for high school. Caleb will choose a local one in Cesky Tesin, but he also wants to apply to a private Christian school located 1/2 an hour away from us that is super competitive to get into. One thing that he will have to do to give himself a competitive edge to get into the private school is to take the SAT. I don’t even think that I thought about the SAT ever in 9th grade. I am planning to sign him up soon. Crazy!

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Moldova Level 2 Coaches’ Training Course—October 2021

Casey had a wonderful experience in Moldova during their Level 2 Coaches’ training course. There were 20 people present at the course. The attendees were approximately half Moldovan led by Ion, Moldova’s Edge country leader.  The other half of the guys traveled all the way from Romania with Bogdan, Romania’s EDGE country leader. Casey really encourages international collaboration between his EDGE country leaders. That kind of collaboration is made even more simple when both countries share a common language—Romanian! In addition, our guy from Northern Ireland came to help with the course, but also to evaluate Bogdan and Ion’s teaching/leadership.

Just like with Casey’s lack of energy at the beginning of his Renovare course in September, after some rest, Casey was able to be energetic and full of life to do the work that the Lord set before him. We are praising God for that! This was the first Level 2 training course for Moldova, so it was really great for Casey to be there and contribute. Casey was also pleased to see how well Ion and Bogdan led and taught this level course too. “This is why I have been working so hard.” – Casey Yorman

As with most courses where the students are asked to read the material before coming so that they can contribute to discussions, the level 2 course is just that. Each one of these coaches attended and passed the level one course in the past and lead their own teams. They very much “read the text” before arriving, so that they could contribute to quality discussions about successes and failures in their first 1-2 years of coaching and discipling young people. None of their discussions needed to be hypothetical. All of their discussions had real examples, and all of the coaches were well invested in the subject matter.

In addition, some of the coaches brought their assistant coaches. This is epic as they are not only sharing the gospel with the young people on their teams, but they are also investing in the next generation of leaders to answer the Lord’s call.

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Josiah Venture’s Re-charge

Josiah Venture (JV) normally holds a Fall Conference where JV staff and volunteers, and people coming to check JV out from all over central and eastern Europe come together at JV’s Malenovice retreat center for one big conference aimed at inspiring people in what God is doing with the youth, and strategies to share the love of Christ and disciple the youth in this part of the world.

On account of COVID, things looked a little different last year and again this year. Fortunately, it was quite a positive change. The whole event had to go online and was named “Re-charge” because our team saw how weary so many people were and that they specifically needed a “Re-charge.” As a result, many people who in the past could not have afforded the travel or could not get the proper travel documentation could now “attend.” The attendance went from 350 attendees to around 700! Each person that attended the online event did so as a group with JV staff and volunteers in their area. All the talks included discussion questions and many people were greatly encouraged. At our last all staff webinar, Dawid, from Poland, shared that this event last year had a very big impact on his leaders.

This week all over central and eastern Europe, JV Recharge Vol. 2 is happening. Please pray for the JV staff, volunteers, and those interested in partnering with JV that will be in attendance. There are 77 locations and approximately 1600 people expected in attendance. This is the largest event of this kind ever to happen in this part of the world. Our prayer is those in attendance will be comforted by learning in community, walking alongside and inspiring each other, and that all who attend would really be asking God what is next in their ministry.

If you would like to check out what is going on with this event, please click on this link: https://www.youthministryrecharge.com/international

We had a small Re-charge event in our home with some JV co-workers. The main topics covered were the following:

We had speakers from JV staff in Estonia, Albania, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic. The most impactful for me was the one done by our friend Ermal in Albania. He talked about what a difference it made in his life when he was loved and discipled as a young man. Now, he is reaching many in the same way all over Albania. I took a picture of his talk (below):

I am so thankful that so many people are being reached by the messages shared at the Re-charge event this week.

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