Widen Your Hearts

Date written: 6-25-16

Location: Zgornje Gorje, Slovenia

We made it to Slovenia! At this point in the trip, keeping track of time is no easy task, between jet lag and simply being out of routine, in a completely different country, but here’s a quick rundown of the trip so far:

On Tuesday morning we met at PDX at 3:45 a.m., flew on three planes for a total of about 15 hours in the air, crossing nine time-zones, to finally arrive Wednesday afternoon in the tiny Ljubljana airport (with ALL our luggage - praise the Lord!), where Stephanie, Chris Wick, Seba and Ana greeted us and drove us to our lodging for the our first night. But before we could collapse into exhausted sleep, we drove back to Ljubljana (Slovenia’s ancient, picturesque capital) for a quick tour, concluding with pizza and ice cream. By then we’d stayed awake long enough to offset jet lag, and once we got to bed, some of us slept 12 hours or more!

The following morning we had a leisurely start before driving to the Wicks’ home for a short meeting, a chicken lunch, rest and conversation, while looking out from the backyard over the green, green valley. Later in the afternoon we made our way up to the village of Zgornje Gorje, where we would be meeting the two other American teams and a number of leaders for orientation. The extra day of rest was great, but we were ready to get started!

For those unfamiliar with Josiah Venture camps, rest assured that pre-camp training is top-notch! They have put on so many camps in multiple countries for long enough that they have some great content and really know how to get teams excited for what’s ahead. The days have been packed, but well-paced, as Stephanie and the other leaders (both Americans and Slovenes) shared their personal stories of how God led them to serve in Slovenia, or lectured on topics such as Slovene culture and history, or led instruction and discussions on how to share our own stories, how to talk about the Gospel without using jargon, how to engage in dynamic conversations, and more. Along the way we also had morning Bible and prayer time as a whole group, team-specific meetings, free-time for recreation or study, and a trip to nearby Lake Bled (pronounced “blade”).

Pretty much everyone on the team agrees that the most powerful part of orientation has been hearing about the history and culture of Slovenia, and especially hearing the testimonies of the three young Slovene women, as they shared how they felt so loved when they came to English camp, and how that began the process of them wanting to know Jesus. Now, several years later, they are mature believers and leaders in their own communities and ministries! 

In reading from 2 Corinthians 6, Paul’s plea to the Corinthian church to “widen [their] hearts” to their fellow Christians rings in my head. Hearing the Slovenes’ stories and insight has given us context, compassion, and a stronger sense of purpose, widening our hearts to the spiritual needs of the people, and specifically to the campers we are about to meet. Many of your prayers are already being answered, and we ask for your continued prayer, that as we begin camp tomorrow and throughout the week, the Lord will continue to widen our hearts to the campers and our Slovene helpers, and theirs to us, to receive the message we are here to share. 

 

With love and grace in Christ Jesus,

Katie Maricle (for the Slovenia team)