Posts in Missions
Stories from Summer in the USA

Last Saturday, July 28th, we said goodbye to the Basque students staying in the homes of several families from New Life Church. Five teenagers – Nekane, Pablo, Irati, Nicolas, and Iratxe — (as well as their leader, Arianne) arrived on June 28 to spend four weeks with us practicing their English, learning about American culture, and hearing about who Jesus is. They came through the organization SUSA, Summer in the USA, which partners with local churches to host students from Basque Country in Spain as a step towards sharing the hope of the gospel with what is still a largely unreached people group within Europe. 

Our days were filled with big things like beach trips, hikes, fairs, and kayaking, as well as small things like berry picking, grocery shopping, and some of our normal routines. This short video offers a glimpse into a few of our activities together as a group:

We wanted to share a few stories with the church, because so many of you played a pivotal role in praying for the host families and students, sharing things like beds and food and rides with us, and welcoming them into the youth group and church while they were here. Thank you for your encouragement and support throughout this long and exciting month! 

 

"One of the many benefits to having Irati in our family was the chance to experience our normal life from her point of view. Elaine's picture to the right is more interesting to me than the one Irati was taking because it captures not only the landmark sign, but also the Basque student's interest in the sign.

We had a chance to rediscover the city, coast, rivers, and the gorge in a new way. Moreso we had the chance to think about the food we eat, the way we eat together, and the structure of our family times. Does our normal week of schedule and interactions reflect Jesus' love to each other? The language barrier was a bigger challenge then we guessed, but at the end of the day, those are just words. How do we live? How do we relate? Aside from church attendance, what makes us a 'Christian' family? These questions came into focus in a real way."

— Josh + Elaine Hochstettler


"Laughter – yes laughter filled our home and the homes of our kids when we could visit our local families! Toward the end when Nicolas played in the swimming pool with our four-year-old great grand-daughter, Ady, she told Nicolas that he had become her best friend. The transparency of Nicolas really surfaced the last two weeks in which we saw Beryl and Nicolas really engaging one another in fun verbal exchanges. Overall, we found ourselves desiring to learn more about the Basque people and wishing to be a part of SUSA again."

— Paul + Beryl Metko


"It was such a joy to host Pablo this summer! We loved getting to take him on some memorable hikes, his first camping trip, and lots of family gatherings. Towards the end of his stay, Pablo became like family to us, and we grew in our laughter, appreciation for each other's cultures, and depth of conversation.  

Surprisingly, this experience also uniquely challenged our own assumptions about our culture, the Bible, and hospitality. Even as we showed him American culture, our aim was to point to a greater Kingdom. And even as we welcomed him into our family, we sought to invite him into the greater family of God."

— Ben + Lauren Edmonds


"I think what made our time so special with Iratxe was that we all, including Iratxe, saw her as the 6th Zook daughter. Her desire to have sisters and our bountiful quiver, was a perfect match. Iratxe was engaged with us so much in our lives. We are thankful that this was a FAMILY experience that will last a lifetime and, we pray, for eternity."

— Matt + Kelly Zook


Thank you, New Life Church!

 
Final Days in Slovenia

June 29, 2017

We had yet another huge thunderstorm that started at 11 and lasted for hours. It kept a lot of us awake, but we all still somehow awoke refreshed. Today, we went on a hike to a waterfall where we had a lot of good conversations with the kids and got to know them better.

Chris talked about the Gospel tonight. The kids had a lot of questions ranging from the Trinity to who Jesus is – all of them productive conversations. And, a lot of the kids took steps toward Jesus - those who already professed faith grew closer to Christ, and those who still haven’t believed made steps towards understanding more about the Gospel. We then went to the campfire where some of those discussions continued, and we had s’mores and hot dogs. Thank you for the prayers - they were much needed! Continue to pray though! Camp’s not over, and neither is God’s ministry in Slovenia!

June 30, 2017

We all stayed up dancing the night away and welcomed Stephanie’s and Lisa’s birthday at midnight! The kids continued to ask difficult questions today as we wrapped up camp by having the Oregon Beach Bash and the dance party following.

July 1, 2017

Today we celebrated Stephanie’s and Lisa’s birthdays again, gave gifts to the kids, and packed up to head back to Radovljica where we gave English achievement awards to the kids, and we all performed the camp dance and workshop song for the parents.

July 2, 2017

This morning we went to the church Stephanie and Chris are involved in and shared some about our week and what we saw God do. Later that day, some of the kids from camp came to a barbecue on one of the Slovene’s farm where we hung out and said a few goodbyes.

This was also our last day with the Spokane team.

July 3, 2017

This morning we went to Chris’s house to debrief the previous week of camp, and then went back to Lake Bled to spend more time with the kids. We all went together to go eat pizza and afterwards said emotional goodbyes to everyone.

July 4, 2017

We spent our last day in Salzburg, looking at Sound of Music sights. We had an early night as we had to wake up at 4:30 for the first of many flights!

English Lessons, Workshops, and Games

June 27, 2017

We had another day filled with English lessons, workshops, and games. We played a fun afternoon game called “Ultimate What” where we played Ultimate Frisbee with a volleyball, banana, head of lettuce, fish, octopus, and cat food instead of a Frisbee! All the kids and the building stunk after that – but we all enjoyed it. Later that night we played a murder mystery set up by the Slovene helpers. The kids ran around to different actors asking questions and obtaining warrants for searching apartments. All the Slovenes and Americans had a great time!

June 28, 2017

Today, we had a morning similar to the last couple of days. But this afternoon, we had another crazy storm so we had lots of fun playing foursquare in the rain, playing games inside, and painting nails. And yes, even the boys painted their nails! Tonight, we look forward to relaxing and watching a movie with everyone. The kids are very excited to get American candy, popcorn, and soda.

A big prayer request right now is for energy! Everyone is physically and emotionally drained, and Marcia has a sore throat. And, don’t forget about our prayer calendar. We are talking about sin tonight and the Gospel tomorrow; please pray discussions go well.  Thanks to everyone who has already been praying for us. We really appreciate it!

Donuts and English Camp

June 25, 2017

We woke up and packed our stuff up from training. Then, we took off to the bus station in old town Radovljica where we waited for three and a half hours for the bus and enjoyed ice cream and lunch with the Slovene helpers while waiting. Then, the campers showed up around 12:30 p.m. and we packed our stuff up on the bus and headed off to Mariborsko Pohorje! On the way, we continued the tradition of stopping for donuts and ice cream. After two hours of driving, we arrived, got settled in, and played foursquare with the kids. After dinner, Chris, Stephanie’s coworker, talked and we went off to discuss the evening session. To finish off the night, we played bunco!

Team.jpg
Camp.jpg

June 26, 2017

Today was the first day of class! All our English lessons went well. After lessons, we ate lunch and played a relay race and team games. The afternoon was filled with another day of board games and foursquare. Chris gave another talk after dinner about how people view Jesus. We then went into small groups and partook in another round of discussions with the kids. Finally, we ended the night with fun board games.

One day into camp, our team is feeling tired; some people are starting to feel like they are getting a cold. We could use prayer that our health would stay optimal, as well as we would continue having good conversations with the kids here in hopes they would understand who Jesus is.

We Made It!

June 23, 2017

We made it! For those of you who weren’t there, we arrived at the PDX airport at 4:30 a.m. and exited the Slovene airport at 5 p.m. the next day. That is 24 hours of airplanes, airports, and Zurich. At our layover in Newark, New Jersey, we spent most of our time looking for inexpensive food. After our seven hour flight to Zurich, Switzerland, we took to the town and went on a free walking tour around old town Zurich, learning about culture and architecture. We finally boarded the airplane for a one hour flight to Slovenia where Stephanie picked us up from the airport and promptly took us to the training facility we will be at until Sunday morning. Our first substantial meal was stuffed bell peppers with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side. Later that night, we were all awoken to the sound of a thunderstorm that roared through the skies. The next day we learned the ins and outs of Slovene culture and drove to Lake Bled (pronounced: "blade") where we ate ice cream and swam. We are finishing up the day by writing this blog post outside being assaulted by troves of bugs.

Meanwhile back at the ranch...

Victory Ranch that is…

All is going well. God is truly at work in the military and all around. Such an exciting experience to see our men and women that are serving us in the military to turn their lives over to God.

I have had the privilege of serving in three different retreats here on the ranch since I arrived.  Each retreat was such a wonderful time sharing our lives with these  men and women.

God has given me a love for the military people and their families that I can't even explain.

I even had the opportunity to go to the Billy Graham retreat center, the Cove, for an Eastern Conference with Cadence. What a wonderful time to meet others that have spent their whole lives serving God. 

I am truly blessed to be a small part of this ministry along with all of you at New Life Church.  Your prayers are such an important part of what we do. I know that this ministry could not be as successful as it is without the prayers that go out on our behalf.

We have already experienced one hurricane since I arrived and we are gearing up for another one this week. I know this one won’t hit us directly but the whole city of Columbia and surrounding cities are really bracing for the worst. But they are all comparing it to last year at this time when they were completely flooded. I ask for prayer as we are in the season for hurricanes that the storms won’t cause the damage that it caused last year. Some people are still homeless.

Thank you for the support and love that I know all of you give. Your prayers are cherished and I also know that I miss you all and can’t wait to share all that the Lord has and is doing here at Victory Ranch in South Carolina.

In His Service,

Cindy Sollers

A Video Summary of the Slovenia Trip

There are too many stories to tell and faces to introduce, but we hope this short video will give you a glimpse into some of the incredible things God did during our time in Slovenia this summer. Thank you for joining us!

Camp Complete!

Since our last post, we have been racing around (and dancing and jumping and playing and talking) at camp! And after six of the most jam-packed and simultaneously short days ever, we are back across the country in Radovlica, where we met up with parents, handed over their kids, and performed a short program to tell them about our time together at camp.

And what a rich and remarkable time it has been! There's a thrill in finally seeing all your plans and preparations become tangible. Our team pulled off a fantastic carnival (complete with cotton candy), an epic Oregon Trail scavenger hunt, a new version of "capture the flag" that students were begging to keep playing. There was constant action – foursquare tournaments, kite building, a hike, bonfire, and dance party. 

Far more rewarding, though, is finally seeing the faces of kids you've heard about or have missed and prayed for. God brought 34 of them to us, and, for over half of them, it was their first time at camp. We can't wait to tell you all the stories and introduce you to our new friends!

All of this we've gotten to do alongside a fantastic team of Slovenes, many of whom came to Jesus in the last few years because of camp. They have been examples to us of service, compassion, and boldness, and they are evidence of some of God's plans for reconciling Slovenia to himself. I am convinced that God is excited about Slovenia, that He is actively building His kingdom in all parts of the world, including the greater Portland area. We pray that one of the long-term results of our short-term trip will be more fruit in the communities of New Life Church.

Thank you, New Life team, for praying for us this week! Your prayers mattered – through them God brought us comfort, softened hearts, protected us, gave wisdom, prompted grace and forgiveness towards each other. So please continue! We still have two more days with most of the students, as we enter into their community and spend more time together in their context. Pray that there would be more quality conversations. Pray for strength to end strong. Pray for our love and patience with each other to continue to deepen.

 

We look forward to seeing you all soon!

Lauren Reavely (for the Slovenia team)

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)

Plans & Purposes

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

On Tuesday, June 21, at 6:07 a.m., our team of 13 brothers and sisters in Christ will board an airplane en route to Ljubljana, Slovenia, to take part in running an Evangelical English camp for 12-16 year-olds. Literally hundreds of details have had to come together over many months to make this camp happen, both on the part of the Josiah Venture staff and of the New Life Church crew. In fact, for the team leadership’s part, we started formulating ideas for this year’s camp before our plane even landed back on home soil after last year’s trip, and we began the process of forming a new team as early as November, 2015. As a team, we have been diligently putting plans in place for an exciting camp, full of creative games and great conversational English lessons, and, we especially hope, an effective ministry, through which the kids can experience the Father’s love, mercy and grace. 

We desire to be intentional and give the very best of our efforts, but plans can be troublesome, because there’s a point where we can get caught up in the fog of details and the outcomes we have envisioned, and the vision gets hazy. When we can see only the steps, the logistics, that are right in front of us, we easily become discouraged and forget the purpose behind all the plans. But we’re almost through the fog! Just one more week of putting one foot in front of the other, and then we’ll be there, and the vision will be clarified by the presence of the people we’ll be serving.

The other trouble with plans is that they are so fragile! One illness or injury, one lost bag or missed flight, one strained relationship or miscommunication, could cause any or all of our plans to crumble. And you know what? That’s okay. Because the God we follow is a God of love, mercy and grace, just as we hope the campers will discover, and he has a plan of His own, which is the big picture, which he’s dedicated to fulfilling, for the purpose of his glory. We want to mold our purposes to his, and trust him to be at work through the Holy Spirit.

As much as we would love for everything to go smoothly and for everyone to stay healthy, we acknowledge that often Christ is most clearly seen in his followers when they are at their most dependent on him. By all means, pray for our physical and spiritual protection…but pray most of all that we will put our trust in the Lord, not in our plans, and that he’ll be glorified in us, no matter our circumstances, to the result that more people around the world come to delight in him!

 

On behalf of the Slovenia team,

Katie Maricle


Prayer Needs

We are now fully funded and are so thankful for the Lord’s provision and for the many generous families who have blessed us and this ministry with financial gifts! We now ask for increased focus on prayer support from our partners in the gospel. We have many, many needs! We’ll keep you updated as the trip progresses, but here are some important ones to start with:

Relational

  • For humility, patience, and grace toward one another. Cooperative attitudes, and a willingness to reach out.
  • For the relationships built at camp to be healthy, impactful and long-lasting (particularly for Slovene Christians to build discipleship relationships) 

Spiritual

  • For encouragement and clarity of vision, and spiritual alertness
  • For Ben as he prepares the nightly “camp talks” (verbal presentation of the gospel), and for our small group and one-on-one discussions, that the Holy Spirit will lead the way. 
  • Spiritual growth for the young Slovenes who will be helping with camp this year, as they take on new responsibilities and practice serving and leading 

Physical & Logistical

  • For the final details of workshops, games and English classes be resolved well
  • For a total of 35 students to register for camp (currently at 32)
  • For a safe arrival (and return)
  • That our nutrition and rest needs will be sufficiently met; physical protection from illness and injury