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The Finish Line is the Starting Line

It was June of 2013 and my exhausted intern team dug deep to find the last of our energy to cross the finish line in Krakow’s Old Town. We had begun The Amazing Race in Kyiv, Ukraine and three days later we had bonded as a team, worked out some frustration cross-stitching miniature flags, replaced our jet lag with adrenaline, navigated across borders, traveled by foot, train, bus, tram, and marshrutka, experienced each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and seen each other in stress. That summer, as we served together with local churches doing camps across the Czech Republic, the Amazing Race had given us a shared experience to reference when we had to make decisions or encountered a conflict.

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Fast forward ten years later to June 2023; I’m back in Krakow standing at the starting line of the 2023 Amazing Race, this time as the race director. And now there are 49 Josiah Venture summer interns waiting for the countdown to start. As we release teams, they are immediately confronted with a codebreaking challenge, and from there they earn a clue to the location of their next challenge. For the rest of the day and the next day, each team follows the clues from challenge to challenge to eventually find the finish line in Český Těšín, Czech Republic. 

Along the way, they reenacted a famous Polish myth, unscrambled the sheet music of a Polish composer, played a massive card game, learned how to wash laundry in a bucket, cross-stitched both Polish and Ukrainian flags (yes, we brought that challenge back), followed maps, learned a local dialect, and identified plants, teas, core values, flags, countries, and missionaries.

The Amazing Race can get very competitive, it is a race after all, and the winning team does get their name on the trophy, but the real achievement of the two-day adventure was the 14 intern teams that were built together and ready to serve. Because what is the point of team building if the team doesn’t have a common mission?

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“Everyone's strengths were shining,” reflected Nia Stoitseva, a communications intern from Bulgaria serving on the international team. “We were supporting each other, [and] everyone was open to receiving help.” 

Not every team feels that way for the entirety of the race. At some point, the race reveals weaknesses and conflicting values. Helping others and knowing when to ask for help can give you an advantage during the race, but it is also critical for a successful summer. 

Some lessons you learn on the race, i.e., following directions or threading a needle for cross-stitching a tiny Polish flag, but others are better learned through reflecting on questions like: “How do others experience me when I’m tired or frustrated?” or “What strengths do I see in my teammates?” With the right questions and posture during debrief, the Amazing Race shifts from just a cool shared experience to a powerful character-building, spiritually-shaping experience. 

Nia had also run the Amazing Race in Prague as an intern the year before but she reiterated, “It is really helpful to see yourself from the other person’s perspective.”

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Equipped and Commissioned

For our interns, The Amazing Race is just the beginning of training. After crossing the finish line, interns arrive at Josiah Venture’s conference center in Malenovice, Czech Republic for four days of equipping in the disciplemaking pathway, healthy team dynamics, practical skills for the summer, and the purpose and posture of serving. 

Nia jokingly said, “If I could say it in a really Gen Z way, you are diving into the vibe of Josiah Venture and how you approach this summer.” Intern Training really is all about setting the tone for the rest of the summer. 

It’s not just about soaking in knowledge, but it’s also about preparing our hearts, knowing that if we want God to work through us, we also need his spirit working in us. That preparation looks like singings songs of worship together, quiet devotional times on the side of the mountain, opening up scripture, learning this year’s camp dance bit by bit, delighting in a Czech dessert while asking someone to share their story, praying with your team, and so many other things focused on the summer ahead.

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But maybe one of the scariest parts is sincerely asking the Lord what he doesn’t want you to bring into the summer. It can feel vulnerable to ask, “What is the sin I haven’t wanted to let go of?” or “What have I been believing about myself that is not true in God’s eyes?” When you ask those questions knowing that you are deeply loved by a God who has already forgiven you, it isn’t about guilt or shame but about letting go of what is holding you back and stepping fully into what God has for you this summer.

In the front of the intern training booklet is something Rachael Davison, Director of International Summer Ministries, says to interns: “It is our hope that wherever God calls you in the future, you will be closer to him for having served with us.”

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As we conclude Intern Training we commission our teams out for a summer of service across 10 countries. The event is over, but the summer is just beginning. Nia summarized that “this time together with everyone gives you the push for the summer. I’m not alone in this.”

We are all partners with the movement of God in Central and Eastern Europe. This summer, pray for these workers sent out into the harvest.



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