Following His Lead: 4 Years of Service in Slovenia
It is difficult to believe that four years have passed since Karis arrived in Slovenia. The date was May 5, 2015, when she began her work as a missionary with Josiah Venture in the city of Maribor. However, the Lord had begun his work on her heart years before. Being a military kid, she spent her high school years living in Germany, occasionally getting to travel to other European countries. It was during a short term missions’ trip to Slovenia with Josiah Venture (JV) in 2007 that she fell in love with the Slovene people and their culture. Seeing the mission of JV lived out firsthand, Karis hoped to one day return to Slovenia. She wanted to once again participate in the work God was doing building His church there.
Karis remembers the impact her youth leaders had on her life in JR high and high school. The Lord used their time and investment in her to grow a love for Him and a longing to live according to His plan for her life. It is through these adolescent experiences that she also developed a love for working with and mentoring JR high and high school kids. She decided to attend Moody Bible Institute, studying Evangelism and Discipleship with an emphasis on youth ministry. While at MBI she began attending Grace Church of DuPage
After graduation she started the Women's Ministry Training Internship with Grace Church. Following the completion of this internship, Grace would become her sending church with JV. In the interim time, Karis had the opportunity to serve on staff with Quest. It was a special time of training for her that the Lord used both for the advancement of His kingdom in the lives of several students, and in her own life as He prepared her for full-time youth ministry. One of those students would end up traveling overseas a couple years later to work alongside her at a Fusion camp telling Slovene youth about Jesus.
Karis hit the ground running when she arrived in her new country. She pursued language learning and relationships with local Slovenes with a unique fervor. With her intensity to pursue every opportunity for the sake of spreading the Gospel message, she sometimes needed to be reminded to rest. The Lord was with her, using even those moments to teach her to ever rely on His strength and provision. It was His mission she was participating in and she could trust that He was continuing to work in the lives of the Slovene youth even when she was sleeping at night.
Our church is familiar with Fusion camps since we have sent a team the last three, soon to be four, years to Slovenia. However, Karis’ work in Maribor continued on past those week long camps. She was responsible for running the weekly Fusion music ministry. She hosted a discipleship group in her apartment once a week. She led worship with her local church music team and was an active church member. Starting in her third year with JV, she helped to coordinate the short term teams that visited Slovenia. She was also regularly investing in a few different discipleship relationships with girls she'd meet through Fusion. Her email updates often had exciting news about how the Holy Spirit was working in the lives of those girls.
Karis possesses a striking transparency in how she communicates. Through her updates we were able to share not only in victories but in her struggles and challenges along the way. She was never shy to reach out in her letters, asking for prayer against spiritual warfare or for areas she longed to grow and develop. Her letters were filled with declarations of the Lord’s faithfulness to herself and her teammates. Through her testimony of God’s unfailing love we were regularly reminded that He was the one deserving of the honor and praise. We were able to share in exciting stories of students committing their lives to the Lord. We bore witness to the remarkable work the Lord was doing in the lives of JV missionaries and Slovene nationals despite being separated by thousands of miles.
Unexpectedly, at the beginning of 2018 the Lord began leading in a new way. When Karis returned home for a two and a half month long furlough she met up with one of her supporters, Nate Jones, who she had been friends with for a few years. During her first month in America, it was clear their relationship was developing into something new. Uncertain of how the Lord was leading, she returned to Slovenia in February refreshed and excited for her next year of ministry with Josiah Venture.
Serving in Slovenia and dating a guy in America certainly sounds complicated and there were times when she felt the distance from Nate acutely! But the Lord, being an ever good and gracious heavenly Father, was providing even through these challenges. Through previously scheduled school and family travel, Nate had four different trips planned to Europe in the year of 2018. Each time, he and Karis were able to spend a few days together making the long months apart more bearable. Karis was also able to visit Nate and his family for a week and a half in August, at which time they got engaged.
On the surface, engagement to an American while being called as a missionary to Slovenia can seem at odds with one another. How can the two manifest themselves side by side? Karis recognized the potential for this, but in walking the road ever reliant on the Lord to lead and provide, she has not once felt that conflict personally. She sees the Lord’s ministry in Slovenia continuing on, people being raised up on her team and through national believers who will continue his work long after she is gone. The Lord is not finished saving Slovenes, but she recognizes that he is now leading her to a new, or rather, old, mission field living among the people of DuPage county. And that is the glory of the Gospel lived out in the heart of each and every believer: that despite our place of residence we are called to live and speak the truth of God’s power to save sinners, reconciling them in relationship to Himself forever, to the praise of His glorious grace.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10