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Fingerprints and Footsteps - JV's Israel Trip

I found myself stumbling along in a dark tunnel with 20 other willing JV participants. Wading through ankle-deep water, with only our cell phone flashlights beaming in the dark, we braved Hezekiah's Tunnel, weaving our way under Jerusalem finishing at the pool of Siloam. Our shoulders touched the sides of the tunnel and the low ceiling made for a claustrophobic journey.

For a number of years, Josiah Venture has embarked on trips to Israel with the purpose of instilling and defining the JV heartbeat into the team: make disciples who make disciples. As missionaries serving with JV, my husband and I were lucky enough to go this year. Disciples who make disciples is the DNA of the kingdom. And we see it everywhere in Josiah Venture. In every program and in our mission statement: "to equip young leaders to fulfill Christ's commission through the local church." It’s a fingerprint of Josiah Venture.

How better to equip young leaders in the mission of making disciples than to physically take JV missionaries to walk in the footsteps of the Master Discipler. Being in Israel was enlightening and encouraging as we sat in scripture, hearing lessons taught by Dave Patty (JV’s president), in the places where events might have actually happened.  

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Sitting in God’s Presence Gives God’s Agenda

At one point, I found myself thinking about God’s agenda while walking on Jericho road in the wilderness in Palestine. Dave had just taught about the value of withdrawing to the Father's presence to return to our mission on the Father’s agenda. Standing in silence, feeling a slight breeze under the hazy skies, got me wondering just how Jesus did that in the wilderness.

The Father’s agenda included one-on-one work that trained his followers to be disciples who make disciples. The hallmark of any thriving ministry today, I was personally challenged to make more time to get in God’s presence, actively seeking his agenda.

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Disciple-Making with Our Eyes on Jesus

Part of God’s agenda is to make disciples who make disciples, which happens while we keep our eyes on Jesus. When we spent a few days in the Galilee region, we thought about Peter sinking when he tried to walk on water, and reflected on the necessity of staying focused on Jesus. It helped me to realize that this is the “engine of a God-movement” as Dave talked about.  

When I take my eyes off Jesus, my ministry and everyday actions are about me. The success and failures become a reflection of my self-worth and I no longer participate in God’s plan, but uphold my own agenda. Motives and ministry twist and the mission and vision become dark. Keeping my eyes on Jesus is the light for myself and for the ministry God has placed before me. Christ’s faithfulness to me continues to turn my head in the right direction.  

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Christ’s Faithfulness That Swallows Up Failures

Yet, sometimes we get distracted and our eyes feast on our circumstances and not Jesus. We are faced with our failures.

It’s God’s faithfulness that prevails in spite of my feeble attempt to make disciples and when I fail, his faithfulness prevails. While in Jerusalem, visiting the house of Caiaphas and Garden of Gethsemane brought the reality of human failures to life. Peter, Caiaphas, Judas, and many more failed Jesus and yet Jesus was faithful to God’s agenda.

We sang with our group “How Great Thou Art” in the house of Caiaphas where Jesus was held captive and endured torture before the cross. We sat in the courtyard where the rooster crowed reminding Peter of his failure. We took great hope in Christ’s unwavering faithfulness, which breathes new life into our ministries and redeems all our failures.

I am still unpacking truths from this trip that are making a difference in my day to day efforts of being a disciple maker. Realities are sinking in and taking root as I invest in the lives of others. I am holding onto truths and pressing onward, while staying connected to the faith-filled realities I find in the person of Jesus.

Making disciples who make disciples can feel like walking through Hezekiah's long, dark tunnel. Sometimes I’m stumbling through claustrophobic places that make me uncomfortable. I can’t see in front of me, but I keep my eyes on Jesus who gives me the Father’s agenda and swallows up my failures with his faithfulness.

Are you walking through the dark tunnels of life while making disciples who make disciples? What does it look like for you to keep your eyes on Jesus and to lead others to do the same? How has Christ’s faithfulness swallowed up your failures?



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