Faithful Discipleship: Maruška’s Story
Amy Nickerson | July 2014
Maruška Kožlejová learned about Christ at a young age and became involved in ministry in her church youth group when she was only 17. She is a part of the Josiah Venture leadership team in Slovakia and is the director of one of the largest youth leader conferences in Europe. She lives in Presov where her heart for discipleship is inspiring and contagious.
Q: How did you first become involved in youth ministry?
A: I became a Christian when I was 9. I’m from a Lutheran church, which is a pretty traditional church in some ways. In 2000, I was working in my village of 700 people and when I was 17 we started a new ministry at my church. Basically, in a few months of faithfully praying and searching for people outside the church, there was a revival in our village. Every young person who could come came to the youth group and we had like 70 kids attending. I started to disciple some kids who began to lead the youth group with me.
Q: What about with Josiah Venture?
A: When I was leading the youth group, we went to a conference for youth leaders and there was an activity there where we were supposed to paint pictures of the structure of our group, who was influenced by whom and who was discipling whom. The other leaders, who were there with me, made a structure with me somewhere in the middle. Danny Jones, who was a missionary with Josiah Venture at the time, found the structure. It was really different from other groups and he wanted to know who was the person in the middle. That’s how I was invited to be a part of Kompas, JV’s partner organization in Slovakia. They wanted to know my story more and how youth ministry worked in our village. I was probably around 20 at the time and I started volunteering with them. When I finished my Masters, I was invited to start full-time ministry with Kompas. I joined the staff five years ago, when I was 25.
Q: What are you doing now?
Now, I am the director of an annual conference for youth leaders. It’s the biggest youth conference in all of JV’s countries and maybe in all of Europe. It has 700 youth workers who are coming to it. I also serve in training programs with Kompas and I’ve been speaking at JV’s fall training conference for the past three years.
I am also a writer. I wrote a book together with another girl on our Slovak JV team. It’s a book about discipleship for girls called On Display. I tried to include all the things I’ve learned from Josiah Venture and observing the missionaries. It was published just 2 months ago, in the Slovak language, and girls are now studying it. This is how we are trying to pass on what we have learned to others in our country.
Q: What stands out to you about JV as an organization?
A: I had never seen such health in families before. I was wondering how it was possible. In Slovakia a lot of families are messed up and Christian families are not always better. There is so much bitterness and unforgiveness, even among Christians. It’s really sad. That’s what I loved about JV, that they just set this great example of health in families, health in marriages; there are just healthy, beautiful women in JV. This was something totally new for me and I decided I really wanted to fight for that and know everything possible about that. I started asking questions and I learned about how I could submit to authorities even though I’m a strong leader and how I can bless people with my leadership under someone else’s leadership. This was totally new and probably the biggest and most influential thing I have gotten from JV.
Q: What excites you most about JV?
A: I really like JV’s DNA for two reasons. First, it’s based on Christ’s life and strategy. JV is very Christ-centered and that’s unique and special among other mission organizations.
Second, I love JV’s bigger picture. I went to a JV fall conference 5 years ago. I loved when Mel Ellenwood and Dave Patty were sharing the big picture and I could see God’s movement through the countries. I was amazed and felt very proud to be a part of it in some ways. I also really like the Advance ministry (healthy, reproducing churches) of JV –that we are trying to figure out what happens when youth hit the ceiling and are not in the age of youth groups anymore. Where are the spaces where they can be implemented into the church? It’s a big problem in my church. We are losing people after youth group, as they don’t connect to the larger church body. So, I love that JV is thinking about the bigger picture.
Q: What is your vision for the next year? Next 20?
A: In the next year there are going to be a lot of changes. I’m getting married and I’m starting a new life. I don’t know exactly what it will look like and it’ll be a year of transition for me.
So far, I am the only woman on the leadership team in Kompas. I’d love to see more young, really healthy women being grown in faith, being Christ-centered, being in leadership positions, being wise and heard.
For the next 20 years, and the next 50 years, I want to be a disciple-maker who will make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples. I can see such a strength in being faithful in discipleship, walking with people for years, teaching them through Christ’s strategy, multiplying and sending them out. I’ve already seen the fruit of this and I’m just so happy to be a part of it. If nothing else, whether or not I’m working with JV, this is what I am going to do for the rest of my life.
As Maruška gets married and starts her own family this year, Josiah Venture stands with her in praying for the health of families in Slovakia and the fruit of faithful discipleship.