Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Untouched Fields of Snow;" journal entry from the evening of November 29th while riding home with Greg from Malenovice

"Untouched fields of snow."  This phrase has been going through my my mind.  I see it as a living picture of some truth of this country and the people who live here.  As you drive or train around these days you will surely see untouched fields (or landscapes) of snow - beautiful, bright, shining.  And so the people are here - made in the image of God with innate beauty and worth and value and purpose.  But in the midst of its beauty there is death. There is no life in snow.  It neither is alive nor produces life, and so are the vast majority of people here.  In them is only death, and like snow that is here for a season and then melts away, so their lives will melt away.  And for a season they may gleam and shine bright and beautiful, but there is death in them, and unlike snow that melts away and returns each in year in season, they will not return.  It is appointed to die once and then face judgment.[1]  And this fate is all our fates; for sin gives birth to death and only death, and maybe as with the first snow the birth is celebrated, but in due season death comes.

And it is in this state, in the untouched fields of snow of our hearts that Jesus proclaims, "The fields are white for harvest!"[2]  For it is Jesus who takes our hearts touched only by the gleaming, cold death of sin and brings forth life.  With the fields frozen and buried, the stuff of life is cut off, for the fields of untouched snow cannot and will not grow - buried under gleaming death - and death would have its way, but Jesus comes to the fields of our frozen hearts and melts away the sin and quickens us to new life, taking the frozen, gleaming death of our lives upon Himself and giving us the stuff of life, which in truth is the person of life - Himself - Jesus the Christ.

And so I hope and believe for the people of the Czech Republic and for my friends and family back home in America, whose lives are but fields of snow - life killed, buried under the weight of death.

And it is to these fields Jesus also proclaims, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers."[3]  And like the sun that melts the ice and brings life, so the Son of God melts our dead, frozen hearts and gives new life - His life - to us.

And it is to these frozen fields of snow we laborers are called, and to these frozen souls we proclaim the Savior; we love those frozen and dead by sin, and the Holy Spirit moves in and through us as life from the life Giver, and saves.

We are in a world of untouched fields of snow waiting to be touched by the melting, life-giving embrace of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

With 26 days to go...

Yesterday I shared about my weekend in Zlín.  Today I want to share about my week in Tabor.

High Schools:
God, in the last two weeks, has opened up two schools for Greg and I to go into.  This means students who need Jesus have been placed at our fingertips (so to speak).  God has given us access to the lives of students of all backgrounds who all need Jesus.

School 1: This school is like the middle/upper-middle class high school comparable to Ronald Reagan High School or Alamo Heights High School (for those that live in San Antonio).  Almost all the students here will go on to universities.

School 2: This school is comparable to Roosevelt High School (again for San Antonions).  It is a technical/vocational school.  Most of these students will not go to university, and the simple truth is there is less money to be had there.

In both schools, the students have equal need of Jesus.  In both schools there is the pain caused by sin.  In both schools there are walls of different shapes and sizes between Jesus and their hearts.  In both schools, I believe, is low-hanging fruit waiting to be picked, a bountiful field ready for the harvest.

I have had two weeks to go in to classes at School 1 and one week to go into classes at School 2.  God has decided these two doors would open up with one month left in the Czech Republic.  God has given me 26 more days in this country for this season.  I hope it is 26 days of preparing the way for these students and teachers to meet Jesus Christ (Mark 1).  26 more days...

Prayer Requests:

  • We will be having a sports afternoon for School 2 on Wednesday, November 29.  We are hoping and praying it will be an opportunity to connect with students, especially guys.  "So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
  • For wisdom in pursuing relationships with individual students - where, when, who, how, etc.
  • For wisdom and courage in telling them the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • For the Thanksgiving youth group night/outreach - for the youth group to be loving and inviting and welcoming and for relationships to begin between Christians and non-Christians, to the glory of God, the sanctification of His children, and the salvation of the lost.
Dekuji moc (Thank you very much)!

P.S. I may be mostly offline this next week.  I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.  May it be a time of rejoicing, praying, and thanking.  In all these God is faithful.  Amen.

A weekend in Zlín

Below you will find the story/account of my weekend in Zlín.  For those that have less time, you will be able to skim through the bolded words or phrases for a quicker read while (I hope) still getting all the main ideas.  Čau!

One final weekend:
I want to thank you for your continued support of the ministry I am a part of here in the Czech Republic.  My final weekend (of this season at least) in Zlín and Olomouc was great.

I got to teach on Friday night, and I talked about God's call on our lives.  God is ultimately unique (Isaiah 64:4), and He imparts this uniqueness to His children (1 Corinthians 2:9-10), and then we split for the guys to read and talk through 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and for the girls to read and talk through Proverbs 31:10-31; both pictures of what a life called by God look like, and we as brothers and sisters are called to exhort and encourage one another toward these pictures of Christ-likeness, with our prayers, our words, and our actions.

The rest of the overnighter was a lot of fun, especially introducing them to P.O.W. (Place, Occupation, Weapon).  I love it because it is an improv game that overcomes language barriers.  We also ate pizza, which is an essential requirement of any youth group overnighter.  We walked around town and closed out the night with a viewing of "Fireproof".

Saturday was full of surprises as plans changed and changed again.  When it was said and done, I got to spend the day in the beautiful city of Olomouc.  David, one of the students at the overnighter, goes to college in Olomouc, and he took the afternoon off to give me a tour of the great sights - walking, pictures, churches, architecture, statues and sculptures, a black and tan and fried chicken and cheese, dorm room coffee, and good conversation - so good.

Back in Zlín for the evening, I went to Samuel's house for the night.  He is the elder who is responsible for the college and youth ministry of the church and the Czech leader I led Zlín camp with.  Staying with him and his family is always a joy.  Full of hospitality and love, the Huštovi family has been a source of great joy and encouragement for me.
The Huštovi family and me.  L-R: Samuel, Eliška, Šarka, Barunka, and me.
Sunday followed with a wonderful farewell in the church as I got to enjoy seeing Filip, a student who became a Christian this summer, share his testimony again, and be given the opportunity to share my testimony.  I was only asked about five minutes before, so I did not have anything planed (for those who may come and visit Czech churches, always have a message/testimony in your back pocket because you really never know when you will be asked to share).  I ended up sharing about the people in my life who impacted me - Mom and Dad, a 65(?) year old Sunday school teacher named Ed, my first and third youth pastors, my first and only college pastor, and roommates (and this is only scratching the surface).  I read Hebrews 10:24 and exhorted them and myself to not put off what we can say to someone today until tomorrow because you never know what God will do with your words and actions.  Like the five loaves and two fish, we do not know how God will multiply our obedience in "spurring one another on to love and good deeds," but we have hope and assurance that He will because our "Father is always working" and "the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."  We believe that God has done, is doing, and continue to do great things.

I got to thank the church for their hospitality and spend a relaxing afternoon with the Huštovi for lunch and dessert, then I boarded the train to head back home to Tabor.  I was given the opportunity to tell three people about Jesus.  So thank you for your prayers.  God acts because of our prayers (Isaiah 37:21ff. Keyword: "Because").

And that was my weekend in Zlín and Olomouc.

For more pictures from the weekend, please click here.

Prayer Requests:

  • I am traveling to Ústí nad Labem tomorrow.  I will be joining the youth groups from Litvinov camp for a weekend retreat.  I am teaching Friday night, and this will be my final weekend (in this season) with these friends.  So, prayers for teaching, relationships, and goodbyes.  "[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
  • For a restful week after the Ústí weekend.  I will be traveling to Orlova to visit friends and then is Thanksgiving conference (WooHoo!).
  • Next Friday is a Thanksgiving youth group night/outreach for the Tabor youth group.  I will be sharing a short word, and we are hoping to build relationships with some new students who (we are hoping and praying) will be there.
Thank you all.  It is hard to believe I am near the end of this season.  It's been amazing.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 25 of 30 (give or take)

I want to show you all pictures of what has been going on, and then I'll add some text.  Sound good?  I hope so.

More photos from the "Autumn" themed English club (like I promised):

Leading English club.
Greg, Danča, a Matě listening "eagerly" and enjoying čaj.
Eliška a Kačka cherishing a pre-butchered (carved) pumpkin.
My partner in crime, Franta, and I as we decide how best to carve our pumpkin.
Our finished masterpiece.
Bara, Danča, and Greg beginning the Jack-O-Lantern process.
Bara eying up the potential pumpkin spook.
The squash, the myth, the is Jack-O-Potter (and Greg).
Someone's relationship status on Facebook got updated ;)

Okay, now more a few pics from our first men's group last Sunday night:

So, I didn't get any picture of us guys actually, but here are a couple shots of the aftermath: burgers, roasted pumpkin seeds (which I made for the first time - score!), drinks, and the Word.
Pretty good ingredients for a guy's night.  The key verse was 1 Corinthians 11:7.

So, that's that for pics right now.  Onto the text:

This week has been an explosion of sorts, mainly in regards to new opportunities.  This week doors opened to two different high schools here in Tabor, which is great.  Both of these schools we were trying to get some things started at since September or October, and now, they have finally opened up for Greg and I to come in and teach English, which for us a bridge to meet students initially and begin to pursue relationships and evangelism with them.  I am so thankful God has opened these doors.  This also creates a whole new area of prayer needs:

  • Scheduling, pursuing calling and not potential, pursuing fruitfulness and not busy-ness (thanks to Mark Driscoll for that phrasing): Basically, with these new opportunities, there is lots of overlap: Which school do I serve at more?  Do I balance both?  Is one supposed to be my primary focus and the other supplemental?  How do I balance these two new opportunities, new open doors?  Prayer for wisdom as I pursue God's direction is much appreciated.
  • Connecting with students: I do want to pursue teaching English with God-honoring excellence.  If the students do not know English better by the end of the class, I have failed.  That being said, for me (us), English is far more a means to an end - that end being meeting with and connecting with students for the sake of Christ and His elect.  Wisdom in knowing how and when to pursue students (collectively and individually) - in and out of school - is something I need intensely.
  • Bridging relationships I build to Greg and the Christian students and youth group/church here: I leave soon.  This truth makes it all the more important to be a bridge to those who are staying here and continuing in the labor among God's harvest here.  I do not want students to leave when I leave.  I want students to be connected to God's laborers here when I leave.  So, prayer for this as well is needed.
  • "John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
    He must increase, but I must decrease.
    He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:27-36 ESV).
Finally (for this post), I go to Zlín this weekend to spend time with the youth group there, teach the Bible, and enjoy fellowship with the students and leaders.  This will be my last time seeing these people for this season in the Czech Republic.  Please pray that when I speak to the group it would be a fulfillment of 1 Peter 4:11-12, and that it is a good last time with them, that it is a time we can have and look back on with joy.  I hope for and believe great things for these brothers and sisters, and I am thankful and humbled that God has called me to be a part of their lives and calling and His work in and through them.

Thank you all so much.  I look forward to more.  Čau!
If you want more to pray for, please pray for more laborers to come to Tabor, southern Bohemia, and the Czech Republic as a whole; please pray for people to come to salvation in Jesus Christ; and please pray that the Christians here (including myself) would really go and make disciples and speak boldly with power, love, and a sound-mind/self-control (2 Timothy 1:7ff.).

Dekuji moc!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An evening of autumn

Today was a pretty good today.  I got to help teach in the jr. high this morning, which was followed by a morning search for candles.  Why candles?  We needed them for our jack-o-lanterns tonight.  Yes, tonight was the autumn/fall/late Halloween/taste of Thanksgiving English club.  Well, I got the candles, and then I took another look at a recipe for apple cider I found online.  After using Google's online translator to try and figure some stuff out I went to Billa (the local grocery store) to begin the hunt.  I was able to find everything I needed except for cheesecloth and kitchen string.  The journey toward getting all the items was certainly laughable and humbling - limited Czech + online translations + somewhat confused workers + laughing with Martina Pixova as I talked with her on the phone asking, "What is hřebíček?"  Turns out they were the cloves I was looking for.  Score!

Well, since I could not find the cheesecloth I figured we would just throw all the ingredients in and strain them out or just be careful when serving it to not give someone a few allspice berries or orange rinds in their drink.  However, after talking with Greg and getting into some good ol' American ingenuity, we decided we could make our own tea bags out of coffee filters.  We threw the ingredients in those and stapled them off and into the cider they went for brewing.  And it turned out flippin' awesome! (you may read that in whatever tone of voice best works for you).

After cleaning up, I decided we needed more apple cider.  The tea bags couldn't be out of flavor yet.  So I went out to Billa for the fourth time today and bought two more bottles of cider.  They are brewing away right now.

Greg and Štěpán took a lot of pictures, and I took some also.  Right now, I only have mine on hand.  I put up a link to the other pictures when I get a chance.  Enjoy!

Pumpkins from Tesco for the Jack-O-Lanterns

Everything you need for hot apple cider. 
Post English club mugs.

Our homemade tea bags.
So, that was Thursday.  I have a full day head of me tomorrow: jr. high in the morning, workout after that, lunch with friends, back to the junior high at 2, Czech lesson at 4, and my first graduation ball.  So, prayer for any and all those things is appreciated.  I really desire that I would decrease and Christ would increase as I spend time with others.

Oh, and we saved all the pumpkin guts.  I am thinking of trying out this recipe some time soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A post of pictures

I just got back from Multicamp.  Now that I'm rockin' my Nikon Coolpix 4600 4-megapixel digital camera, I got pictures for all of you.  Go this link to see them all.  Čau!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On the road again

Today, I was on the road again (well, technically its rails because I rode trains).  By now, I will hopefully be in Vsetin, CZ for Multicamp.  I'll doing 3 sessions of 3 hour English lessons for students and hanging out and having a good time.

This means I will likely be offline until this coming Monday.  In the mean time, please pray for my health (I got myself a bad cold), for Christian students to come away knowing and loving Jesus more, and non-Christian students to come away knowing and loving Him for the first time in their lives.  Also, please pray for wisdom as I teach and have conversations and participate in the lives of these students.  May I be an instrument of preparing the path for them and Jesus to meet in significant ways (Mark 1).

A snapshot of my personal life - books I am reading or just finished:

I just finished the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel.  Talk about wading through swamps for a while, but it was totally worth it.
I just finished Mark.  It was a nice change after being in the Old Testament for about a month or longer.  I think I will head to 1 and 2 Peter next.
I am reading On Being A Theologian of the Cross.  It is pushing me to think more deeply about grace and holiness.
I am reading Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum.  It is fascinating.  It makes want to take a long sea journey and see and meet amazing people.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Less of an update, more of a story...about a friendship

So, I have come to find myself in a surprising new friendship...with butter.  Yes, butter.

You see, I rarely use better.  When I want jam on my bread, I don't lube it up with butter first.  When I eat pancakes or waffles, maple syrup is just fine.  Sometimes I do eat buttered toast, but that is only if it is an "only butter" piece of toast.  When I eat bread with meat and cheese and veggies, butter is not present.

So, how did I find myself in this new found friendship with butter?  Well, it started slowly.  "Maybe I'll follow suit and add some butter to this piece of bread.  I'll just eat a piece of buttered bread."  This, like any gateway decision, will lead to this morning's breakfast: "Yes, I will put butter on each piece of bread I eat whether I will ultimately add peach jelly or meat and cheese.  It doesn't matter.  The butter's here, and I am going to enjoy this friendship."

Will I be as dedicated a friend as I showed myself this morning.  Probably not, and I doubt my friendship with butter will last when I return back to the states, seeing as you cannot really Skype or Email or Facebook with butter (I am not counting any of the "I like butter" fan pages.  Those are 'fan' pages, not 'friend' pages).

You may be thinking, "But Jonathan, your relationship with butter does not have to be long distance.  After all, we do have butter in America.  This friendship can last.  It really can."  No, my friends, I don't think it can (or will).

"Why?" you ask.  It is simple.  Butter does not pursue you in America like it pursues you here.  Butter is patient here.  It waits at every meal at camp and at every home.  It doesn't beg or plead.  It waits.  It remains present with you and is patient with you, as if to say, "I know you'll come around.  Look how present and patient I am, and look how much everyone else so enjoys me.  I have time.  I'm butter."  Yes, my friends.  This is the butter of the Czech Republic.  A butter I have become friends with for the time being, a friendship I do not think will last much past the next two months, for better or for worse.

Do you have any unexpected friendships?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's happened, happening, and coming up.

What's happened?

So, for those of you who read my blog nine days ago, I need to update you on how all that went:

- The teaching went really well at youth group.  I received a lot of good feedback.  Thank you so much for praying.  I taught on Mark 1:1-15 on being people who "prepare the way" for others and Jesus to meet.  Really, thank you.

- The weekend in České Budějovice was great.  Thank you for praying.  I believe God responded to those prayers with "Yes."  I was encouraged and refreshed and discipleship opportunities showed up, and it was a good time.  The paragraphs up to the next " - " share about the weekend.  If you need to move through this blog quicker, just scroll down to the next " - ".

I had a great 9 kilometer hike with a student there named Pet'r.  We talked about life, leadership, youth ministry, politics, rebuke and correction, team building, vision, and more. We also went to a small village called Trocnov.  This is where a very famous Czech named Jan Žižka was born and where a very nice statue of him resides (there are statues of him all over Southern Bohemia - southwest Czech).  He was born at Trocnov around 1360 and despite the youthful loss of his left eye, went on to become the most feared and respected military leader and tactician in Czech history.

Read more about him here.

We went to a fast-food window (Hungry Window) for lunch, and the ones in ČB completely outdo the one here in Tabor.  They sold BURRITOS!  It was awesome!  Cheese, beans, corn, chicken, and BBQ sauce.  Heck yeah!  I am looking forward to eating there again before I return to the states.

We also spent quite a few hours in a Čajovna (Tea House).  It was quite relaxing.  I got Chocolate Tea.  It was Earl Grey with milk and sugar and cocoa.  It was rather enjoyable.  I recommend trying it if you like tea and chocolate and milk.

We prayed, played Activity, which is kind of like the Czech version of the group game Cranium, and we watched "Jáchyme, hod ho do stroje!" which means "Jáchym, throw him in the machine!"  It's a famous Czech comedy, and I did laugh - comedy success.  I also got to spend Sunday afternoon enjoying a comfortable living room with two of the students and their family - espresso and fun conversation in a cozy chair.  Not a shabby way to rest on a Sunday.

- Teaching at the junior high has gone well.  One of the teachers said she will come to church on Sunday.  Also, I have been able meet more students, and class visits have been fun.  Please pray that God would guide me in how He wants me to connect with these students more, and that I would be proactive in responding to the Spirit's impulses.

- The missionaries coming to visit was great.  Nate and Emily Hughes, Dan and Kim Johnson, Leah Cox, and Melissa Wilson all came out and spent Friday evening through Saturday (today) afternoon with Greg and me.  Greg taught at youth group Ephesians 4:1-6; we went out and had delicious Indian food (at the Indian restaurant I told you about.  I wasn't kidding about how good their food is); we enjoyed conversation with each other - stories, jokes, laughs, memories, ministry, and etcetera.  We shared lessons we had learned about persevering in ministry here and visions that we have and prayed together.  I am incredibly thankful to be part of this team and community, and it is through you - prayers and/or generous, sacrificial giving - that God has brought me into this time and place to be with these people.  Thank you.

- I received an incredible care package from my mom a few days ago.  When I say incredible, I mean incredible: Hershey's white chocolate peppermint kisses, dark chocolate reese's, double-stuffed oreos, microwave instant barley/veggie side dish things for meals, trail mix bars, beef jerky, a binder of really helpful class notes from Moody, hot cocoa mix, microwave Asian dinners, and my digital camera (that means pictures will be coming).  Like I said, incredible :|)

What's Happening?

I am blogging for all of you.
I am always desiring and trying to learn more Czech.  Please pray I pursue this earnestly and intentionally.

What's coming up?

- I will be traveling to Strakonice on Monday to spend time with students and help with English Club.  I'll be staying over in Strakonice and traveling to Česke Budějovice on Tuesday to hang with students and help with their English club too.  I'm looking forward to seeing the people in Strakonice and spending time with them, and it will be great to see the ČB group again.

I will be traveling to Vsetin (Southern Moravia - southeast Czech) on Wednesday for a youth conference ( of about 200 students to help with English teaching there and spend time with students.  My connection with this conference is the Zlin youth group from our second camp in the summer.
"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:4-6).
This is what I desire.  I ask that you would pray this over me as I pursue His direction for me this week and the weeks to come.

I also ask you would pray for things much bigger than myself - for God to save many here, to cause much growth in His children, to send more laborers, to raise up Godly men and women to lead His bride - the church, for wisdom for His shepherds already in place.  Please pray for the churches and youth groups in Tabor, Strakonice, České Budějovice, Litvínov, and Zlín.
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest" (John 4:35).
Thank you all.  Čau!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Music that makes you stop

I appreciate music that makes me stop.  Sometimes I like to multi-task too much.  Music here, a few internet windows there, and so on.

And then I hit a song or an album that makes me stop.  I can't multi-task.  I have to stop because I have been drawn in by the message of the song.  I want to grasp it.  I want it to wash over me.  I want to sit in it.  Maybe you appreciate music that makes you stop too.  Here six artists that make me stop.  Maybe they will make you stop too.

My Epic
Bradley Hathaway
Ascend the Hill
Preson Phillips
Mars Hill Music
Dustin Kensrue

What's a coming: life, ministry, and prayer

So, what's coming up for the rest of the month?

- I am teaching this Friday (tomorrow) at the youth group out of Mark 1.  I am really looking forward to it.  Pray for my preparation - that I would be disciplined, diligent, and responsible in my handling of God's word - and the people who hear it - repentance, salvation, to leave with a Great Commission mindset, to be reminded of who Jesus is and what He has done for them - and the illustration I'm working on - clear, helpful, God-honoring, that it would help them remember - and that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit - that I would led and directed by Him and be humble before Him.  I desire that God be working through me as His instrument and not in spite of me due to folly or laziness.  I am so thankful that He is always working either way, being the strength in my weakness(es) and overcoming my weakness(es) for His kingdom and glory (John 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:11-13).

- I travel an hour south to České Budějovice this weekend to visit students from Strakonice camp this summer.  It will be our first time hanging out since camp, and it will be my first time back in CB since March, 2008.  It was the first Czech city we went to and where I gave my first message in the Czech.  Good times.  I am hoping for refreshing times of community and fellowship as well as discipleship and mutual encouragement and spurring to take place (Matthew 28:16-20; Romans 1:12; Hebrews 10:24-25).

- I have gotten connected to a local junior high school to come in and help teach some English classes.  I am thankful for this opportunity to meet students.  I am also seeking to discern whether this is an area of calling and fruitfulness God has for me or if it is only opportunity and busy-ness.  It is an opportunity for service and connection and relationships, but Jesus knew His call and walked away from these opportunities at times as well to pursue what His calling was (Luke 4:38-44).  Please pray for wisdom and discernment as I pursue faithfulness, calling, and fruitfulness these last two months and not merely potential and busy-ness.

- Most/Maybe all the JV missionaries in Czech will be coming to Tabor next weekend.  It is a time to see Greg's ministry and spend some time together in community and pray for him and each other.  It will be great to see them all again.  Please pray John 17:20-21 and Romans 1:12 and Hebrews 10:24-25 over us.

- I will be traveling to Vsetin again (Southern Moravia - southeast Czech) for a youth conference ( of about 200 students to help with English teaching out there.  My connection with this conference is the Zlin youth group from our second camp in the summer.  I found out four other Americans are coming out to help as well as a short-term mission trip.  I am hoping and praying for gospel proclamation opportunities, discipleship, and a deepening of relationships with students and leaders during this time.

- Still trying to learn the language.  It's hard, but I'm getting better one step at a time.  Please pray that I would have energy and motivation and discipline to continue to study and practice and really learn Czech, the heart language of over 10 million people, about 99% of which (9,900,000 people) still need to hear the gospel and repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

- There are some stories I could tell.  If you want to hear some of the stories of specific interactions and relationships, just ask.  You can ask via comment, Facebook, or email.  I am more than happy to share with you how God is moving in this country and in and through me.
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Mark 1:2-3).
May we go and do likewise.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My travels and things: 17/09 - 26/09

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The above map shows my traveling schedule from 17/09 through 26/09 (G is where I started and where I will finish).

I just finished up a great weekend with the mladež z Zlína (youth group from Zlin (might be incorrect Czech grammar, but only Czechs and missionaries here who read this will know for sure)).  I taught Friday and Saturday night (thank for your prayers).

Tomorrow I leave Zlin (C) for Bratislava (D) to get my visa.  Please pray everything goes smoothly and we actually get it.  Also, tomorrow after that I head to Malenovice, CZ (E) for Josiah Venture fall conference.  I think almost all of JV's missionaries and many staff members from all their countries will be there.  I am looking forward to catching up with friends and meeting new people and hopefully getting some rest and refreshment (I hope you get to visit Hotel Malenovice one day.  It's beautiful.  Near flawless sunsets behind mountains covered in a forests of trees while overlooking a valley with the city of Malenovice laid out right before you.  Yeah, I hope you get to see it one day.).

On Friday I head to Most, CZ (F) for a fall retreat with the Litvinov and Usti n. Labem mladežy.  I'll be teaching from Galatians 5, so please pray for that as well.  Then it is back to Tabor (G).  All the traveling is by train except from Bratislava to Malenovice.  Dobry Časy (good times).

So, a story to break up all the information feeding:

I have never spent more time or tried so hard to fly a kite in my life.  It was a morning and afternoon activity at the retreat.  We made our own kites in partners (My partner was Filip, and Šarka and Eliška helped decorate it - totally rocked.).  After lunch we climbed the nearby hill to fly the kites.  Filip and I then proceeded to run up and down and back and forth all over that hill to keep the kite in the air (which I learned you really have to do if there's no wind once you get it up 30 ft.).  I definitely got my cardio that afternoon (up and down that hill).  Also, I learned what they call kites in Czech - drak(y) - which means "dragon," and they don't "fly" their draky (možna (maybe) 'draci' for the plural); they "play" them.  So for our "flying kites" they have "playing dragons."


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life and ministry in the Czech Republic, An Update

This post is a bit long.  It consists of many stories.  There are pictures with captions if you just want to scroll through, and prayer requests are at the bottom.

I usually give chronological accounts of my life and ministry from the last post to the present, but this time I will just share some stories (they will be in chronological order but not necessarily in the "this happened...then I did this...then this cool..." kind of way).  Hope it suits your fancy.

I'm learning Czech.  It's hard.  It's got seven cases (it means the endings of words change based on how they are used in the sentence).  This makes the Czech language incredibly flexible when it comes to word order, but for the English speaker who loves word order (I've discovered I am especially partial to word order) it is quite difficult.  With every word you have to know the 14 potential endings (original word + the next six case endings + and the seven endings when it is plural).  There is a pattern though.  Like I said, a lot of work ahead of me.  I learned that you are officially a beginner in a language until you know 2,500 words, and then you get to be at the intermediate level.  I have also learned it takes about 400 hours of study to go from beginner to intermediate - 150 hours of grammar study and 250 hours of vocabulary.  I think I have completed about 30 hours so far.

The Buchtelovi family have been one of the most welcoming, hospitable, fun, and friendly families I have had the privilege of spending time with and being hosted by.  I have enjoyed many firsts at their home with their family, and this time I experienced my first homemade svičkova (I gotta tell you, Czech food goes great with Czech beer and Czech beer goes great with Czech food.  It's like the two were developed together to create a culture that contained a near perfect harmony of the two).  It was fantastic, and I'm not just talking about the food.  I have enjoyed some wonderful Czech hospitality from the Buchtelovi family in Strakonice, and I hope I will get to see (or at least hear about) another first there as well - pan (Mr.) and paní (Mrs.) Buchtelovi and their son, Pavel, become Christians.  Their daughter, Mňamka, is already a Christian, and I hope I get to witness (or at least hear about) her continued growth and maturity in Jesus Christ.  Those will be the best firsts, and I am so thankful that God has brought me in to play a part in His plan for each one of them.

Pavel is in the yellow shirt.  He's also a great musician - singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, and bassist.  Dang.
P.S. This is my English class from our first camp (Strakonice camp). Back Row L-R: Martin B, Martin L, Šarka, Me, Terka, and Sam.  Front Row L-R: Pavel, Jenda, and Honza.
Mňamka and I in Prague after English Camp (from last summer)
Svičkova, the national Czech dish and my favorite Czech meal = marinated beef in sauce with bread dumplings, garnished with a slice of lemon, cranberry preserves, and whipped cream.  So good.

My camp dance BROmance partner from our third camp (Litvinov Camp) is now a believer.  He trusted in Christ on Monday, August 30.  We got a new brother as of two weeks ago.  His name is Lukaž (but we call him "Spajsy" (pronounced "Spicy") because of his last name).

Enjoying our camp dance BROmance :)

This took place at the first big Litvinov camp follow-up - Pancake Party and Overnighter at the Dankovi home.  It was here that I received my first home-harvested and home-jarred jar of honey ("med" in Czech).  I walk in to their home in Ustí nad Labem, and one of the first things I see is hundreds of jars of honey.  I think, "Wow, either they love honey or they have some way of getting a lot of it."  I then discovered that they have bees.  How often do you hear that when you go to someone's house?  "Wow, this is a lot of honey."  "Yeah, we have bees."  Wait, wait..."You have bees?!"  We also played sports, sang worship and camp songs together, had some delicious grilled pork and chicken made by pan Dank, led morning exercises, ate some delicious pancakes, got to meet some new people and enjoy some new friendships, and had the privilege of Spajsy coming to some of us just to tell us he was now a believer, and just have fun with friends and family.

Morning exercises at the Dankovi house.

Now, we're jumping to this weekend that just took place, so go ahead and make the jump with me.  Aaaannnddd...LEAP!  K, good job, glad you made it.

This weekend was the Tabor City Festival (Táborská Setkání).  This is where the Renaissance Fair comes to you rather than you having to go to the Ren Fair (apparently in Europe that's how it works).  They fill the town square and outlying areas with booths and food and performances and shows.  Lots of friends and students were in town who I know from Josiah Venture or camps, and it was great getting to spend time with them (got to watch a Driscoll sermon with Martina, always a highlight).  Night one involved a plate-sized, fried, potato pancake (bramboračka) topped with sauerkraut and pieces of cooked ham, finishing a friend's bramboračka, a klobasa (decently large sausage with two pieces of bread and mustard), and a large cup of Kofola to top it off (again, so good).  We also got enjoy a laser light show that transitioned into a quite good fireworks display.  I don't think I had ever been so close to where the fireworks were actually being shot from.  Day 2 involved eating a "Goliath" burger (definitely the best food of the festival).  It was big and delicious and was great with Kofola.  We also got to see a knights and jousting show (somewhat similar to what they show at the Excalibur Hotel in Vegas).  We got to cheer for the Ruža Žlutá (Yellow Rose) Knight.

Poster for the festival
I wasn't kidding about the food.
The entrance of the Hussite army and medieval folk - complete with real torches, fire jugglers on stilts, and a guy who blows fire.
So, now for my final story of the post.  As the weekend of the city festival approached, I was praying for opportunities to share the gospel and for God to give opportunities to the Czech believers as well.  Yes, as I prayed I was also thinking, "I do not know this language well enough to share the gospel, and You know that too God, but I'm still praying for it.  Hmm..."  Well, I got to do just that Saturday night.  I was leaving the festival, and ahead of me was a guy in a wheel chair and a young woman (early 20s myslim (I think)), and I felt the twinge of "Go share the gospel with them."  And I thought/prayed, "God, I really don't know how to do this in Czech at all," which was followed by the, "Do you trust me?"  "Yes, yes I do."

So, I walked up and said, "Prominte," which means something like "I'm sorry/excuse me."  "Mluvite anglicky? (Do you speak English?)"  "Ne (No)."  "Dang it," I thought to myself.  I almost called it there, but someone (I'd say the Spirit) kept me going.  So, as I tried to make some semblance of sense in the best Czech I could muster with minimal use of English, I asked if they know Jesus, "Znate Jeziš?"  The man in the wheel chair said yes, and I don't remember what the woman said.  "Znate tady? (Do you know here?)" I asked pointing at my heart.  He said yes, and I don't remember how the woman responded.  I then apologized for not introducing myself and got their names - Michal and Eliška.  "Budete v zabor zitra rano? ("Will you be in church tomorrow?" is what I wanted to ask.  I said "zabor," but the word for church is "sbor."  You are allowed to laugh and smile with me at the Czech errors.  That's what I do)".  Again, Michal said yes, and Eliška said no.  I wanted to tell them that Jesus loves them, but I don't know the verb "to love" yet.  "I want mluvit vy tenhle (to speak you this)...Jeziš ma rad vy hodně moc ("Jesus likes you very much," at least that is how I think it translates)."  Trying to invite them to church came next with some more butchered Czech in which I think I got the meaning across (I accidentally told them I have many good girl friends at church when I meant to tell them I have many good friends there).  Mind you, even when the words are right, this is very likely quite butchered Czech.

Life and ministry in the Czech.  You and I both know there are many more stories to tell and people to introduce you to.  I look forward to sharing more with you all soon.  Here are some quick prayer requests:
  1. For the people mentioned in this post - continued growth and perseverance in their faith or for salvation.
  2. English club started last Thursday.  The second one is this Thursday.  It is a great opportunity to serve and build relationships with students and have fun.
  3. We have a sports day follow-up with guys from Strakonice camp this Wednesday.  We want it to be a good time with the guys and a time for us to share the gospel and our lives with them (1 Thess. 2:8).
  4. I will be traveling to Vsetin this coming weekend for a Zlín Camp follow-up retreat.  I will be giving two messages - God's Fatherly Faithfulness (Is. 36-39) and The New Self (Col. 3:1-17).  They will be a total of 1 - 1 1/2 hours (including translation).  It has been a while since I prepared an original talk, and I have never been up in front of others giving a message for that long before.  Please pray that I would pray through the preparation and that I would listen to the Spirit as He guides toward what to communicate to the students at the follow-up.
  5. And for me specifically - growth and maturity in Christ, self-discipline, purity.  If you would, please pray Colossians 3:1-17 over God's Spirit and grace I will.
I miss you all, and I am thankful I get to share this with you, even if it is only a glimpse.  Thank you for your prayers.  Thank you for the financial support you gave as well.  Because of your sacrifices of time and money I am very well provided for; I am able to do much ministry, and I am able to be a good host for those whom I get to receive into my home.  Thank you all so much.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Czech Republic, a cultural note

The Czech Republic drinks the highest number of beers per capita in the world. So far this year, the people of this country have drunk a total of:

1,065,061,931 litres of beer
That's an average of 187280.14 litres per hour or 52.02 per second, with every man, woman, and child each having drunk 104 litres.[1]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Update and some thoughts

For the conclusion to the conversation in Istanbul, please click here.

I've been able to spend a lot of good, fun time with students and peers here in Tabor - grill outs, spontaneous dinner get togethers, cafes.  It has been a lot of fun, and I have gotten to reconnect with some people I first met two years ago or last summer.  I also had my first Czech lesson today.  It is going to be a hard road to the conversational level, and I am excited for it.

Recently, I have been thinking about friends and friendships.  I got to read three blog posts all about the same event.  It was quite interesting getting three perspectives of one singular event.  It was a goodbye between three friends who are also friends of mine, and it has inspired a lot of thought and reflection on my end.

I was reminded that I missed a summer with these three people.  These three people are (or is it have been or a mix of both) great friends and have significantly impacted and changed me, and there is a part of me that is saddened that I could not share this summer with them.  There is also the peace that God has us where we are for a reason, but that doesn't negate the sadness.  It creates of stew of trust, thankfulness, sadness, memories, and joy for the present and what is to come.

My thoughts have then turned to the myriad of friends I no longer "share life with" these days and how much I miss them.  So, I have been thinking about reconnecting with friends from school or home that I haven't sought out since being in the Czech.  How successful will I be at it?  I don't know, but I'm hoping I'll get to share life with some friends again though we are very far apart.

So, that's about it, and Czech is really hard.  I've had two lessons.  Those ninjas just won't give up.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Prayer Needed ASAP!

Conclusion of the conversation in Istanbul: 
I think the conversation went well.  It is at the point where God needs to open his eyes to see the lie that Islam is and the truth that Jesus is God and that we need Him to be our savior.  I learned a lot about Islam in the process as well, and I believe God also used it to equip me more for next time and to give me a deeper love for those enslaved to their sin in the false religion of Islam. The most interesting thing was that he acknowledged our conflicting beliefs but refused to say I was wrong.  We could not both be right and that was a big deal, but he refused to acknowledge such a thing.  He lives in San Diego with his Jewish wife and (I think) two year old daughter.  I am praying more laborers would enter his family's life in Turkey and in the states.  His name is Mashala.

Well, I'm in Istanbul, and it has been hard and great (also hot). Here's what's been up: I think I cam here desiring to have ministry and evangelism opportunities but did not come with God's armor on and equipped. This is a hard place. I was bold in one conversation last night, and I felt that God wanted me to stand up and preach the gospel to the whole hostel terrace hang out place. I was terrified, and I eventually just went to bed. Humility and repentance...I need to remember that "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1 John 4:18).

Well, that being said, I was led through the Blue Mosque by a man who sells carpet and brought me to his store. There they pressured me to buy a carpet, but I didn't cave. Here's where it hits the fan though. They serve me coffee and tea, and His nephew (about 30 years old) and I begin to talk about Islam and Christianity. He goes on for a while, and I push back with truth.

Long story short: this is Ramadan right now, and Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. He invited me back to his store/home at 8:30 to essentially debate Christianity vs. Islam and to join him and his family for the breaking of their fast. PLEASE PRAY FOR ME AND THIS CONVERSATION AND MEETING TONIGHT.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete" (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV).

Thank you all.  I will be spending the next hour praying and preparing.  The time here is eight hours ahead of the Central Time in the U.S.  This means it is 7:00 p.m. here and 11:00 a.m. in Texas or Chicago, etc.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stories: The end of the summer and a trip to Istanbul

The summer is done.  All the interns fly out tomorrow, and I do as well.

It has been an incredible summer.  From our three camps we saw three students saved and repent and believe on Jesus Christ for salvation, and we were invited into God's current work in many others.  It was a summer of planting, watering, and reaping.  God reminded me of John 3, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  This is my hope for the students now that camps are over.  Sometimes, you do not know what is going on inside a student, but you do not see the Spirit of God moving, but you have faith in it, and God has given me faith to believe and pray for these students.

Man Time at Strakonice Camp
At each camp I saw changed lives - people who were touched by Christ through His word and His love through His Spirit, and us, His chosen vessels of clay.  One student at our last camp said this to me, "There was no conflict here.  It was amazing."  I thought about that for a while.  How often can you put forty people together for a week, and only a handful know each other prior to that week, and an even smaller handful have known each other for longer than a few months, and have essentially no conflict?  I believe God gave us His grace to be of one heart and one mind and one Spirit as He is one with Himself, and this student got to see it, and he knew it was special, something different, in his words, "amazing."

Ultimate in the rain at Litvinov Camp
I was given the opportunity to be a spiritual brother again.  I have messed up in my share of brother-sister relationships/friendships - biological and spiritual - and God gave me opportunity for redemption, and He did redeem it.  I was asked and given the opportunity to speak words of truth into the lives of my sisters.  Here, I must thank Donald Miller and Grace Groups of Open Heart Ministries for giving me some tangible, creative ways to give words to others (If you want to know what they are, just let me know.).  I am incredibly thankful for God's redemption in my life.  I certainly do not deserve to be a safe person for others, but God has decided to change my heart and make it more like His, and along the way He is molding me into a safe person for others, with grace for the mistakes I make along the way.

Swimming in the Jordan Lake
Team BonJon 2010 is not departing each other this summer just as teammates and brothers and sisters.  I believe each of us would say that we are also departing as friends.  I am very thankful for these relationships.  God has used these people as sanctifying vessels in my life this summer, and He equipped and called me to be a sanctifying vessel in their lives as well - through righteousness and sin.  Thank you, Ryan, Alli, Jenda, and Eva.

Leading alongside Bonnie this summer has also been a great joy.  Last summer, we would both have told you it was very difficult to lead with each other, let alone build a friendship, and we probably would have never picked to team up again, but God had other plans, and Josiah Venture paired us up for a second time, to our surprise, and we were surprised.  The summer's camp theme was "Redeem," and we lived out redemption as we saw God take what was nearly a bit of a disaster last summer and change it into something great this summer.  Last summer we entered in as strangers, frustrated by our differences and various strengths and weaknesses, and this summer we entered in as friends - excited by our differences and wanting to support each other's strengths and cover each other's weaknesses.  Thank you, Bonnie.

Watermelon Rind Home Run Derby at Litvinov Camp :)
Fun "non-spiritual" memories from the summer: getting slapped on the butt by a 65(?) year old woman in Litvinov while buying drinks for my team, having "Man Time" at Strakonice camp where we took off our shirts, did warrior yells, and played viking football; getting a new nickname at Zlin camp - Mufloniček (mountain goat), going hiking and playing ultimate frisbee in the rain at Litvinov camp, having a watermelon rind home run derby with Ryan and Barry (pronounced bar-ee) at Litvinov camp, going swimming with the team in the Jordan Lake in Tabor, having my first B52 in Prague.

I'll have more "stories" posts to come, but I need to move on to something else for the time being.

It is 3:52 a.m. in Prague, and I leave Czech to go to Istanbul today at 12:00.  Why?  Well, when you enter the Czech on a tourist passport, you can stay for 90 days.  My 90 days is up on Sunday.  Now, ideally, my extended visa would already be in and effective by now, but there have been some complications.  Czech is also part of a group of countries known as the Schengen Countries.  "Under the Schengen agreement, transiting from one country to another within the Schengen area is done without border controls. In fact, the Schengen visa makes it possible to visit all the countries in the Schengen area and to cross internal borders without further formalities." [1]  Unfortunately for me, the 90 days applies not just to being in Czech but to being in Schengen period, which means I not only have to leave Czech but I must get to a non-Schengen country as well.  The kick: nearly every country in Europe is a Schengen country.  Exceptions are the U.K., Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Croatia, and Turkey, and the cheapest airfare was to Istanbul, Turkey, which is why I am will be in Istanbul from today through Sunday.  I will be staying at the Istanbul Harmony Hostel.

So, all this said for now, here are some things that I/we could use prayer for:
- Transitioning into what's next - for interns going home (American and Czech) and for me into fall ministry here in the Czech
- Safe travel and stay in Istanbul.  For ministry and evangelism opportunities along the way and while and there.
- Learning to live on my own well.  I'll be living on my own for the first month of my time here in Czech.
- Learning the Czech language.  It is very difficult.
- For the churches to follow-up events and seeking to continue building into the relationships and ministry started at camp - discipleship and evangelism.
- Humility in listening to the Lord confessing and repenting honestly and openly and sincerely.

Thanks for everything.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The picture post before the stories post

Here is where you can find almost all the pics from the summer: Ryan's photos
For some extra pictures from Litvinov camp (our last camp of the summer), you can go here: Litvinov Camp Photos.

How can you participate in this blog? Take a picture and add a caption or dialog to it and put it in the comment field or email it to me, and I'll put it up :)

Stories with pics for them to come.  Hopefully later today or Monday.

Thank you Ryan for taking so many great pics this summer (all of his pics were with a broken camera - the viewing screen cracked. Every picture was taken not knowing what it would look like.  Pretty sweet, huh.).