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.