20 Years, Same Mission
Jun 9, 2014 | 6 min read | Connie Patty
“A movement of God among the youth of Eastern Europe that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.”
With those words, penned in 1992 by my husband, Dave Patty, the vision for Josiah Venture was born on the shore of Lake Geneva, inspired by the Lord and His heart for the young people of those nations.
Yet, it was actually years earlier that the story began.
After eight years of leading a ministry to American teenage military dependents in West Germany through Malachi/Cadence International, communism fell right across the border from us in 1989. The doors were wide open to share the gospel freely for the first time in 45 years.
In the summer of 1990, Dave led a group of Malachi staff and American teenagers to share Christ in Budapest at an English speaking high school. They witnessed great spiritual openness as they spent a week sharing their lives and the gospel with Hungarian teenagers. But when several students put their faith in Christ, Dave found it difficult to put them in touch with local youth ministries.
Since youth work was illegal for so many years behind the Iron Curtain, churches were not prepared to evangelize and disciple in their new-found freedom. There were few, if any, functioning youth groups to take care of new believers.
Our hearts broke for the young people of those countries. There was now religious freedom and an openness to the gospel, yet who would tell them about Christ and His love for them? Who would disciple them? Who would train them up to lead others to Christ?
We prayed fervently that God would raise up an army of people to go tell them. For two years, we spoke with many about the need, asking them to consider going.
During a sabbatical year at Wheaton College in 1991 while Dave worked on a master’s degree, he heard Anita Deyneka of Slavic Gospel Association speak of the “hinge of history” that was occurring that fall as the former Soviet Union began to break apart.
With the coup that occurred in Russia in August 1991 and Gorbachev resigning, Anita spoke with conviction about how the people of Russia and former Eastern European countries were spiritually hungrier than they’d ever been and that the doors for evangelism were wide open like never before. “Nobody knows how long the doors will remain open, so we are doing all we can to penetrate with the gospel,” she shared.
Dave came home with a fire burning in his soul.
“I think God’s calling us to do something in Eastern Europe,” Dave said to me. “Something big, not just a retreat, a work project, or a short term trip – something longer, more permanent.”
“You know how we’ve been talking with everyone we could think of after the trip to Hungary, trying to find someone to go in, live there and do ministry to reach young people? Well,” he said as he took a big breath, “I think we’re the ones that are supposed to go. I think God’s asking you and me to go into Eastern Europe at this hinge of history.”
Two years later, in November 1993, we moved to the eastern side of the Czech Republic with our two small boys, and Dan and Laura Hash moved across the border into Poland. We were the Josiah Venture team in Eastern Europe. We prayed that God would use us for His glory as we lived out the gospel and shared our lives with young people.
Twenty years later, God has done a remarkable work throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
- He brought 270 teammates to join us in this work
- He expanded the ministry into fourteen countries
- He gave us inspiration, creativity and energy to do 900 week-long camps with 55,000 students
- He raised up thousands of leaders who are now evangelizing and discipling across the region
- He called hundreds of churches in North America, Great Britain and Ireland to partner with us in short term projects
- He provided resources to build training centers that are a home to the movement
It has been the thrill of our lives to be a part of His movement among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe.
As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we invite you to read stories on this blog over the next months that tell more of the story of what God has done. You’ll hear personal testimonies of young people and read about movements that have begun in Josiah Venture’s fourteen countries.
You’ll get an inside view into some of the miraculous ways God has displayed Himself and accomplished His work among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe.
We tell these stories as a testimony to God, giving Him glory for all that He has done. When we reflect on what’s happened in the past and on what He is doing today, we are amazed at the scope of His power that is changing lives throughout the region.
We also know that there is so much more to come just around the corner, and it is His heart for the lost that compels us to stay here and continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ. While we’ve grown and expanded beyond those original two countries, our heart, vision and mission are the same.
“A movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.”