We (Josh, Val and Cambria) left our home in Copper Mountain, Colorado on January 8th, 2015 for six weeks in Europe. As the initial outset of our 3-year European Spiritual Investment, our plans for this trip were to simply “show up” at some of our SFC European friends/family’s events (or non-events). In doing so, we hoped to spend time together building relationships, praying together, engaging the European shred culture on their own turf, getting a clearer sense for the ministry’s future application in the Alps and building some excitement for the coming SFC International Conference in May 2015 on the Dachstein glacier in Ramsau, Austria.
We scored big time when we “rented” a brand new car through a French buy-back program (for cheaper than the cost of a long-term rental) that we picked up at the airport in Zurich on January 9th, 2015. It had a navigation system that proved to come in very handy on the confusing roadways carved through the Alps.
We drove immediately to 1.) Thun, Switzerland where we stayed with Vince and Jen Lehmann (the current SFC Swiss coordinator) and their three boys. While there, Josh played soccer with some of the leaders when there was no snow, Val babysat the Lehmann children to help out around the generous Lehmann house, and Josh rode Grindelwald resort with 6 of their local SFC members. Josh also attended their SFC Thun monthly dinner (where around 35 people gathered at a Tex Mex restaurant and played “socializing musical chairs” to spark fresh and lively conversations amongst all attendees). Josh also gave SFC Trailmaps to 4 of the local leaders and encouraged Vince as he learns to “step back” from the leadership of the local chapter and not “step out” of his long and invaluable history as an SFC leader and mentor. We clarified his new goal of mentoring and discipling the younger leaders (who currently run the local sfc house/regular weekly events). We left very encouraged by what God is doing in and through those guys in that community!.
Next, we drove (stopping by the airport to pick up Ryan Leeds) a few hours to stay in Buchs, Switzerland for one night with Manuel Buck – who took us skateboarding in Lichtenstein. We then headed a few more hours to stay for three nights with Reto and Judy Gubler who run the YWAM base in 2.) Davos, Switzerland. We also invited SFC Thun leaders Fabian Kuenzi and Stefan Burri to join us there. We prayed with the dozen or so YWAM leaders at the base and joined them on the hill at Jakobshorn resort. We rode for two days in both powder and park, handing out fliers for their video premiere event of Serious Fun (partnering with the local church called ICF run by Dr. Robi Sonderegger) in a local cafe/bar. Ryan and Josh spoke at the worship service and film premiere to around 25 people. As a side note, one of our SFC leaders in Scotland, Brian Rae, has just moved to Davos to re-launch the highly anticipated (and local-Church-supported) SFC Davos group with Sarah Nicolaisen, which we are all VERY excited about!
We left Davos and stopped for a classic Swiss dinner in Igis, Switzerland with local Christian shredder and snowboard industry sales rep, Gian Andrien Triet and his family. We left after dinner bound for 3.) Flims/Laax, Switzerland where Ryan stayed with Stan and Debbi Naujoks and we stayed with our long-time SFC friends, Moni and Willy Wakelin. We rode park at Laax with SRS’s Manuel Buck and Josh’s fellow American and ZION Team Rider, Benji Farrow who was in town for the European Open at Laax the following weekend. Benji stayed with our good German pal (and SFC advocate) Tim Seefeld. We had coffee and talked SFC & Lighthouse partnership with Tim. We rode pow one day with the local Lighthouse crew of a dozen or so. Val spent some time babysitting Moni and Willy’s two kids during the week. She’s amazing with kids!
Val and Cambria stayed at Moni & Willy’s while Willy, Josh and Ryan left on Friday morning on a 12-hour roadtrip (with a diversion in Prague) for 4.) Cesky Tesin, Czech Republic where they joined Pichal and around 8 local friends for their first ever SFC Czech event (Wax/BBQ) in the basement of an apartment complex/(maybe it is becoming a church/youth center). SFC Slovenian coordinator, Hondo Wynn, and two of his interns Zach Creighton and Casey Freshour, made the drive to attend the event as well. The three stayed at Picahl & Romi’s house and Josh came down with a stomach bug where he apologetically woke up the house the following morning. That day, Josh, Willy, Ryan and a Czech/Polish/Slovak/Slovene crew of about 12-15 rode at a small, icy resort in Slovakia. A local pastor paid for the whole team’s tickets. After shredding, they all had pizza at a restaurant in Poland together. Josh and Willy rode their snowboards (in their shoes) down a hill across the street after dinner so that they could say they had ridden in Poland. It was great time encouraging the local, fledgling SFC chapter and potential leaders. We’re stoked to reunite with this crew and do some more vision casting in Austria at the SFC International conference.
The next day, after praying with Pichal and Romi, the three boys left in a convoy with the three SFC Slovene leaders for 5.) Schladming, Austria (10 minutes from the location of the upcoming SFC International Conference in May) where they stayed at Torchbearer’s Tauernhof Bible School/hostel for the night. The next day they rode pow/park laps at Planai resort for the morning and met with the school’s directors Jonny and Martin over lunch. Martin will speak at the upcoming conference in May. After the meeting, the 6 parted ways and Josh, Ryan and Willy drove the 8 hours back to Flims/Laax (with a detour through Vienna & a serious 2-hour prayer/worship session in the car). They dropped Ryan at the airport in Zurich and arrived home after midnight. After joining in on Lighthouse’s prayer/worship service in the Wakelin house the next night, Josh, Val and Cambria took two and a half days off to drive south to Italy to celebrate Cambria’s second birthday.
They then drove to 6.) Serre Chevalier, France to join the SFC UK leaders for 4 days of their week-long retreat (a crew made up of half Christians and half non-Christians). Josh spent four days on the mountain coaching, shredding together and talking over dinners with their leaders while Val stayed in town at a hostel with Cambria. The last night Josh was there, Andy Brumby (SFC UK coordinator) interviewed Josh, and Josh shared the gospel through his personal testimony. The SFC UK contingent is growing rapidly in their indoor snowdomes, and the leadership is growing stronger and stronger together through collaborations like this. We couldn’t be happier for how God is stirring hearts in the English shred scene.
We left France and stopped halfway for a night in Bellinzona, Switzerland before continuing the next day to 7.) Munich, Germany where we stayed with SRS Team Extreme coordinator Benjo Baldauf’s wife’s sister for two nights. We attended the largest ski/snowboard expo in the world, the ISPO Expo, for one day to network alongside about a dozen of SRS’s Team Extreme leaders. We did some recon on potentially running an SFC booth there next winter. We’re currently praying about this possibility.
One day later, we left in a four car convoy for 8.) Hochkonig, Austria where we stayed in a house for a 6-day, 34-person camp run by SRS Team Extreme (another half-Christian, half-non-Christian event). Josh spent five or six days coaching and most evenings pretending like he understands German. He shared one morning on SFC, the approaching international conference and WHY we as Christians have hope. We had opportunities to pray with the leaders and join in fellowship/morning Bible lessons. At the end of the camp, the leaders put on a night competition at the local hill and saw something like 75 people in attendance. The week was immensely encouraging.
We left Austria and headed to 9.) Bohinj, Slovenia where we spent a night at a hotel with a swimming pool and a day looking for a place for Val and I to stay during the next camp (where there was no room for us with the campers/staff). Josh spent a day with SFC Thun’s Christoph and Fabian Kuenzi, SFC Slovene’s leaders, SRS leader Manuel Buck and SFC USA volunteer Adam Stromwall doing staff training, mini-backyard park building and camp prep work. The 4-day camp consisted of coach-led small groups studying through the book of John, on-hill lessons all day, evening games and backyard demos. The growing relationships with shred kids from across Slovenia as well as with locals there make it worth coming back every year. We’re so excited with how God continues to use SFC there. We left Slovenia as the camp ended and drove halfway to Munich, got a hotel room for the night and drove to Zurich the next day to return the car and finish the trip. We met there at the Zurich airport for one last bit of family time with Moni and Willy Wakelin before departing. After our super-early morning flight got cancelled (and after we sat on the tarmac for four hours before taking off), we arrived home days later.
Two days after getting home, a weary Josh left on a 24-hour drive for a week in Canada with members/partners of the Australian Christian Channel.
All in all, the trip was successful in both building relationships and getting a sense of what God is doing in and through our leaders, partner ministries and general Jesus-loving, snowboarder/skier network in Europe. We are praying for seeds that have been planted with our non-Christian friends, boldness and endurance for our friends in ministry in the dark European shred culture and for the final $9,707 dollars we still need to raise for this 3-year European Effort before our upcoming SFC International Conference in May. The culture is massive, the workers are few and we get a sense that there is a long road ahead. We are both encouraged that God is at work there and a little daunted by the seemingly impossible task at hand…BUT God is bigger and more powerful than we can imagine. We are praying expectantly (especially for these next days leading up to the conference) for God’s mighty hand to continue working in the European shred culture, so that we may see Him reconcile the people of the worldwide shred culture back to Himself.