Leah Cox's blog of youth ministry in the Czech Republic with Josiah Venture (plus stuff)

Monday, April 21, 2008

dear Ukraine

April 10-18

Sweet little kids at the temporary (90 day) orphanage. The little boy in the bottom middle was especially cute.

The home for mentally challenged women. They totally got into the songs (with motions) and duck duck goose (even though we had to shut down this surprisingly dangerous game)...

At the home for mentally challenged girls...I think this was my favorite place, we didn't spend a of of time there, maybe because of the tb quarantine, but I got to hug a lot of cute pumpkins.

Sunday night the pastor and his wife, Michal and Halia, invited us to come to there house to use the sauna and they surprised us with piles of great food: cream cheese crepes and cream puffs and chocolate and kvas and tea and....

Our team in Ben and Kristy's van. Our team loved the Williamses, the people at New Life and everyone we got to meet. This trip was my first little mission trip and *siiiiiiigh* it was one of the top experiences of my life.


my ukraijna...

outside the prison hospital, downtown lviv

When Ben wrote us that we'd be doing some prison ministry, I got nervous. It wasn't that I was scared of the inmates, but I wasn't sure if I could take seeing human beings in that setting, regardless of what they've done. With "bad people," I often think of them as babies, and wonder what happened in their lives that they made such terrible choices, how the original sin that's in all of us happened to manifest in extreme ways...anyway...

The prison/juvenile delinquent home for young buys (ages 7-13?) was fine. When we gave them stuffed animals they pressed their faces in the fur and stared into their glass eyes. We played soccer and frisbee and learned each other's names. The Ukrainian guys and Ben go there pretty frequently.

Then we went to the prison hospital. It was a little chaotic at the beginning, we were trying to help Halia (the pastor's wife) make up bags of food (sweet crackers, candy, tea, garlic--it has a lot of vitamin c) and then we realized we were actually going to go room to room and talk to the prisoners. The first few rooms were women's, so Sceava (the youth group leader) told us girls to go in first. As one of the men from their church was telling the women about Jesus' death and resurrection, Sceava whispered that when he was done I should share something. I said a little something about what Jesus Christ means to me as a woman, and it was one of those moments when you know know know that the Lord is speaking through you. Two women knelt on the cold floor and gave their lives to Christ. Kristy told us later that many of those in the prison hospital die there. In one of the rooms, a young blonde man stood out from the rest. Not only was he smiling, but his face seemed to almost radiate. He'd become a Christian before and the guys from church knew him well. He was in for murder.

At the bigger boys' prison, some of the Ukrainian men preached, Tomas told the story of how he came to Christ, and Marketa challenged the boys--and the guards--to take a step towards God (that girl has the gift of evangelism). Seven boys came to the front and prayed out loud to receive Christ. Sceava had teddy bears for those that had birthdays that month and even the older boys rubbed their faces in the bears' fur. The guys from their church also go to this prison regularly.

I haven't totally put this together yet, but I've been thinking about Maslow's heirarchy of needs and Christians. I think that we can get so wrapped up in our existential, self actualizing issues that we can miss the call of Christ to feed the hungry, comfort the downcast, preach the gospel. And that we can get so sophisticated that the power of God to transform the "worst" people and the "worst" situation seems like foolish naivete. Maybe that should be: "I can get..."

Serving in this way fed deep parts of my soul that have been neglected for years. Serving in this way humbled me.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

10 things you probably didn't know about me...tagged by Dana

1. I can't tell my left from my right. Even when I make the "L" with my thumb and forefinger I get confused (which way does the "L" go?) Its too hard when there are only 2 options!
2. I am a maniac reader. If I could, I would read all day, every day. I read so much when I was younger our babysitter Sue once hid my book to force me to go outside and play. And I've read Lord of the Rings 7 times.
3. Johanna and I used to smoke Swisher Sweets on the balcony of our apartment in Rock Island. I quit because Dad asked me to.
4. When I was in jr. high my friends and I made a master list of which people were in what cliques and then ranked the groups by popularity. We were 6th. Our scheme to become more popular was to systematically date boys in higher groups and climb to the top. It didn't work. But a few years later...
5. I was prom queen. Make that Prom Queen. Actually, quite a few people know that because I pull the PQ card every so often. But what you don't know about that is how it happened. During my lunch hour senior year I didn't have anyone to sit with, so instead I skipped lunch and spent time with the disabled kids. They'd just been mainsteamed into our school and it was pretty rough for them. So, when prom rolled around and the ballots came out, the teachers and aides "helped" these students fill out the forms by marking my name on all of them.
6. Once when I was about 8 I tried to change my identity. I tied a shoelace in my hair and called myself "Sneaker."
7. My senior year at Augustana, one of my roommates had a big Sunday school style picture of Jesus hanging up in the living room. My friend and I colored his blue eyes brown with a marker over the glass to be more ethnically accurate. Conflict ensued.
8. Before Czech, I worked for about 2 years at a domestic violence shelter in Rock Island. It was great, and also so hard and growing.
9. Oh, and before that, I was a carpenter, I restored stained glass, and did a little lumberjacking on the side. Really. :) I worked for Auggie's art gallery's director's husband, I started out doing the stained glass--which is so fun--and then when he had more carpentry projects I'd go down to the shop and help, and then he started this whole mill thing so I'd go and stack the drying kiln or help haul trunks.
10. I started walking at 9 months.
***correction, 10.5. I confused myself with my sister Dana. Sometimes I confuse myself with Rebekah, and forget who graduated from HS in 1997 (oh, not me:)***

Okay, I'm tagging Nathan Pitcher, Krista and Natey! And I'm facebook tagging Bex and Lucka.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Ukraine, baby!

Ben and Kristy and young Ukrainian leaders at a training conference they held this month.

This Thursday our team makes the journey east to Ukraine. We'll be there for about a week, returning next Thursday or Friday. In the mornings and afternoons we'll be helping to remodel their church building, in the evenings we'll do things like visit a hospital and a youth prison and help kick off an outreach club. JV missionaries Ben and Kristy Williams are hosting us and we're stoked. The whole point of the Internship program is transformation, and what better way to practice Romans 12:1-2 than to leave our comfort zones to serve. Yaaaaayyyyy....

Please pray for:
* our trip there and back, safety and no breakdowns and no border problems :)
* our team, for unity and growth and guidance
* that we'd be an encouragement to the church, New Life
* that Jesus Christ would be proclaimed, in word and deed!

Also, we haven't yet raised *all* the money for the trip, so there's till time to give--you can send a check to: Josiah Venture, P.O.Box 4317, Wheaton, IL 60189 and make a note in the memo line: Internship Account # 4016170.

Thank you for joining us in this!


Monday, April 07, 2008

English Club con't

Boys...Jura and David got us good with this, uh, doll? They put it in the bathroom with the lights off and freaked most of us out.

One of my favorite things is when everyone's just hanging out before club, talking and laughing.

Jana loves cookie dough. We started getting together earlier and baking...food is really great for community.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

CBV/Lifelong Biblical Education Conf/4.3-6

Things learned at this year's CBV

*Life is hard. And sticky and dirty and unmanagable. I knew that, but hearing people's stories of burnout, sin, confusion vividly reminded me of that, and also that...

*God is sovereign. He is so much bigger than the years where we can't serve because we're dealing with wounds we minimized, he's bigger than sly complacence and insidious apathy, than disappointment. And, I truly believe that in his economy, nothing is wasted.

*Jesus is real. He's really real! These past few weeks have been sad, but his presence has been so near and constant--when I can't sleep, when I'm on the bus--he's there. In reading the gospels, he's more loving, he's more stern, he's more shocking than I realized. After hearing Marian tell story after story of the Jesus changing hearts, after Ken's "the most basic thing about me is that I am in Christ and he is in me," after being washed in worship, I feel like I could put out my hand and touch him. amen.

Video below: in Slovak, and beautiful--Marian and his band Timothy taught us this song at CBV (song starts at 1:37).


Timothy-Si viac

I'm hungry for you Jesus
I breathe for you,
I breathe through you--
You are my breath

good question, David

I took a walk with David (the youth group leader in Cesky Tesin) and his wife Lucka at CBV, and David asks if I have a boyfriend, which, I don't, so I said no. He then asks if I'm ever angry at God because of that. His honesty made me laugh, but he nailed it. Thankfully, I'm not angry--anymore. But I was, sometime between 25-27 I was so angry I didn't even know what to do. I couldn't believe how unfair God was to not give me what I wanted--not only wanted, but longed for, body soul & spirit. When my (younger) sister Dana told me she was pregnant with her second child, I cried. I labored long and and hard under the misconception that there's something seriously wrong with me. Figuring out who to blame for my unfulfill-ed-ness took a lot of energy, so I usually flip flopped between blaming either my hairy arms, or being a missionary, or God filing me under "second string." Self pity is a swamp. I'm not even exactly sure how I got out of that place. I remember sitting at Borders and reading Elisabeth Elliot's Loneliness and having an aha moment, something like "It's not all about me! ! AHA!!!!!!!" And then that fateful year at Moody, when the reality God's sovereignty finally made it to my heart. Somehow, too, I started believing that God is good. That's really important. Because if he's good, he really cares about what's best for me and will give me what's best for me--and if he's sovereign, he has the right to decide that and the authority to make it happen.

I'm not angry now. And I'm not jealous of friends who make great matches and have beautiful babies. And I no longer think that I'm defective or misplaced. And it really doesn't bother me when girls say "I just hope I won't be 30 and single!" And thinking about being single for another 5, 10 years doesn't make my stomach churn. And I mostly trust God. Mostly! The desires are still there, even stronger, and I have times of sadness. One of our student leaders told me he can tell when I'm feeling lonely, he says he can read it in my eyes. But there's peace and contentment too, so much.

Sidenote: However, Lucka Z. and I are in our third year of attempting to name it and claim it. If you want to know 2008's slogan/vision, you'll have to ask nice. :)