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.).