Friday 31 January 2014

Photo Friday - 31st January

On the Saturday night of the Academy we decided we really wanted to celebrate our leaders so we went to a place 1 kilometre from Malenovice, hired this traditional Czech band and had food there. It was so much fun. And thanks to a Scottish missionary serving up in Latvia who was there we did ceilidh dancing (as well as Polish, Ukrainian, American dances). It was so much fun and it did my heart so much good!

This lady is a joy wherever she goes and she is serving God in Ukraine. Please be praying for this country while there are demonstrations and the laws actually have the potential to make it harder for Christians too.

I think the highest temperature I experienced during the Academy was minus four and it got down to minus fifteen! Malenovice looked like Narnia. 

Post means a happy Rach.

With signing my contract for the year I finally got round to scrapping all these sunflowers off my front door! The family who lived here before me loved stickers and I'm glad these are finally gone!

Czechs all get assigned a number (like a social security number) at birth. I was told to apply to get one (it's on all official forms) and I procrastinated for a few months before finally submitting all the (translated!) paperwork before Christmas. Well, I got a letter telling me that I already had a rodné číslo (birth number) and, sure enough, I showed up at the Foreign Police, gave them my letter and they printed it out for me! It feels like such a fun step to being more Czech!

After four sleeps I was back at Malenovice again for an English curriculum planning retreat for four days. The cabins at Malenovice are beautiful!

And this is largely what our days looked like as two other ladies and I worked 9am-9pm writing three (beginner, intermediate and advanced) six day's worth English lessons! There's still work to be done to finish them but we got so much done together!

Friday 24 January 2014

Photo Friday - 24th January

The Project continued: sewing Albania!

I don't have a working oven right now (I actually never have had one here!) but Welsh cakes don't need an oven! I loved my time living in Wales and these were great!

Thirteen countries later... Sewing my last and fourteenth country!

And this is the result of that project! A 1.5 by 1.5 metre map of Europe showing the countries JV serve in. I learnt a lot doing this - Ukraine is huge and borders can be very wiggly. I love the result though!

And this is what it was for! At the Academy we had a prayer room with various creative ways to engage with prayer. I emailed out our countries to ask for prayer points and printed those out and displayed them using pegs on a trellis. As people prayed for a country they were to put a stone on that country.

At the Academy we had main sessions with all 120 of us and then smaller, specific sessions for our camp team and sports guys. It was so good for all of us to be together and be specifically equipped for this ministry. The next two pictures also show the camp team.

At the Academy we had 120 leaders from many of our countries. One night during worship we sang How Great is Our God in all the languages represented - nine. Each language was sang once before we all sang together. It was incredible. I was able to sing three - English, Czech and Polish. I'm thankful that God is so big He understands all of these, even in my broken versions of Czech and Polish. How amazing that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will one day with one voice declare God's glory? 

Thursday 23 January 2014

The Academy is here!

This week has been one that I've been working towards for quite some time. Yesterday an event called The Academy began, and it runs until Sunday.

We have 120 people gathered here at Malenovice - leaders (full time missionaries, volunteers, Americans, nationals, a Scot, an Englishman and me) of our Fusion (music), camps and sports ministries.

Please be praying for us as we meet together. The event has been organised by the team, S-Team, that I serve on. Pray for the six of us as we continue to build into people, sort out details and are hands-on throughout the time. 

The goal of our time together is to practically equip these wonderful people to serve their ministries well so we're learning things like how to motivate teams, handle conflict, lead well, prepare materials, lead Bible studies, train and equip other volunteers and teams... to name a few things!

Pray that as we meet God would not only be equipping all of us to serve Him better but that He would also meet with us here; that we would be given a new understanding of how much He loves us and the students we serve and that the knowledge of that love would be what motivates us!

It is such a privilege to be here and serving these wonderful leaders who love God and who love the students they are reaching across the nations of central and eastern Europe. 

Friday 17 January 2014

Photo Friday - 17th January

Saturday: I was home sick, which sucked because I missed out on adventures but it meant I was there when my landlord brought a joiner/carpenter to fix my door! This has been a long, long saga so it was good to see something happen (thanks to a Czech colleague who called and said that if nothing happened he'd sort it and bill them). 

Sunday night: the start of a long project.

The materials for said project: old camp shirts!

Tuesday night was a night of ups and downs... The joiner returned to fix my door but he made the door worse! Before I moved in someone must have tried to kick the door in so I've been living with the cracked door frame from four/five months. When he left on Tuesday night the door frame had a hole in it AND I couldn't really lock/unlock the door well.

I text the Yormans to update them on the situation and they immediately asked if they could come round and they even brought dinner. The boys gave us a puppet show and Casey made my door easier to open and close. 

And then my landlady came round, apologetic about the door, wanting me to sign my year long contract for my flat! I love where I live, it is such a gift from God, and to have my contract renewed so simply and for just an extra £3/$5 a month? Such a gift.

Martina and Kristin came round to help me with The Project.

Thursday: the joiner returned, removed part of the door frame and replaced it entirely. Look at how pretty it is!! The funny thing is he returned the following Monday to fit extra weather/draft proofing to the door... and then when I tried to get in after the Academy I couldn't unlock my door, because the fit was so tight. Casey yet again came over and was able to unlock the door and filed the frame a little, and added some olive oil to the lock and it's easier to open and close again.

Working on a project for the Academy. 

Thursday 16 January 2014

Other Books Read in 2013

I've finally caught up with my "Books Read in 2013" posts and, more for my own records than anything else, I wanted to note that I also read the following fiction books:

Only the Innocent by Rachel Abbott
A cheap kindle purchase! I enjoy reading crime thriller books and this book fit that category. A quick read but don't think I'll be re-reading/recommending it. 

Children of the Fog by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff
This falls into the same category as above - a cheap kindle purchase that was a quick read. The twist at the end was super weird. 

XO by Jeffrey Deaver 
I picked this up when in Prague. Deaver is one of my consistent crime thriller author favourites. This book did not disappoint. I miss being around charity shops that have these books! 

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien
After finishing The Hobbit before the first movie came out I started on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. At the moment I'm working my way through the second book. Honestly, it's taking me forever to read these. I find I don't get into them enough so I don't read them consistently and then I forget plot points or who a certain creature is so it's harder to read! I am enjoying them though. Reading the trilogy and then finally getting round to watching the movies is on my "30 things to do before 30" list.

According to my blog I read fifteen books in 2013 - something I definitely want to improve on in 2014!

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Book: How to Live Dangerously

Title: How to Live Dangerously. The Hazards of Helmets, the Benefits of Bacteria, and the Risks of Living Too Safe.
Author: Warwick Cairns
What’s it about: This book looks at the statistics behind the things we commonly fear to reveal that we maybe shouldn't be all that scared of those things. In doing this it reveals that our lives are too governed by fear and how to embrace living dangerously by pushing back on fear. It's not a Christian book, in fact the author seems rather anti-God at points, but it was a good read.
Why did I read it: This book kept popping up in various places and I thought it looked interesting so I decided to pick it up!
Favourite idea: That because of how we engage with the world (for example, by getting our news from the internet, TV and newspapers) we see a different world than the one we live in - we assume that because we see a certain bad thing on the news each night that that bad thing is a very common occurrence. This really affects our emotions and what we fear. 
Where can you buy it? The Book Depository
This year I'm participating in the Empty Shelf Challenge that runs from 26th December 2013 to 31st December 2014. I'm excited to see how many books I read this year! 

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Book: The Insanity of God

Out of all the books I read in 2013 this is easily the one I will most recommend. 

Title: The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected
Author: Nik Ripken (this is a pen name, not his real name).
What’s it about: Nik Ripken and his family served as missionaries in various countries. During their time serving Somalia (from a base in Kenya - it was in the early 90s) something happens that leads them to move back to America for rest. Wondering whether God still has resurrection power today and if the Gospel can truly flourish in hard places leads Ripken to travel the world interviewing the persecuted church.
Throughout the rest of the book he tells his own story of faith as he travels and hears stories in Russia, countries in eastern Europe that had had communism, China, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The stories are incredible, challenging and humbling. 
The stories take place fifteen years ago and the book was only published in 2013 - with the author's name changed, all the people's names changed and some details obscured. This is done to protect the story tellers.
Why did I read it: I was told about this book by another missionary family at the JV Thanksgiving Retreat and I was so intrigued I downloaded it that day! 

Favourite idea: I loved the part about their call to missionary service (but it deserves it's own post). I was really challenged by the faith of those in the persecuted church - they truly knew that God was greater than anything.. even their lives. And their passion for Him and His Word is beautiful.
Read this book! You will not be disappointed. It's less than £10 on The Book Depository and they ship worldwide for free (it's rapidly becoming my favourite site!).

Monday 13 January 2014

Book: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

Title: Discover Your Spiritual Gifts
Author: C. Peter Wagner
What’s it about: This book talks about spiritual gifts! It does a great job of looking at common misconceptions and confusions. There is also a questionnaire at the back to help you discover what your spiritual gifts are.
Why did I read it: This is one of the books I read in 2013 for work. This topic is something we teach on at intern training and I've been wanting to learn more about it.
Favourite idea: I loved this author's balance in how he explained we have each been given certain gifts to serve the whole body of Christ and yet we all are still called to certain things - yes, someone might specifically be gifted at evangelism or service but we are all called to proclaim Christ and serve the church.

Friday 10 January 2014

Photo Friday

Saturday involved going to the airport with Kristin to pick up Casey, who was returning from the States, and Christy who was moving here! Well, she's moving to Ukraine to serve there with JV but she's here for a month. So I cracked open the chocolates - I love Butlers chocolates and their tag line, "Purveyors of Happiness", is just superb for a chocolate company.

"She was an adventurer at heart; but oh how she loved drinking this tea from this mug in this chair. Oh how she loved to be home." 

After seven sleeps in NI, two in Ostrava and three with Kristin and the boys this is how I felt on Sunday morning morning - loved my adventures and love being home.

January 6th marks epiphany and the day my Christmas decorations come down. So sad! My living room still feels bare with no pretty tree.

I was able to pick up some great fabric on sale in NI and set about making curtains.. I've gotten a little frustrated with the hem so they still need to be finished but I'm excited to finish this project!

A beautiful walk in my town during my working-from-home lunch break on Wednesday.

Fun post this week!

I love how the light comes into my kitchen! 

Thursday 9 January 2014

Book: A Kingdom Called Desire

Title: A Kingdom Called Desire: Confronted by the Love of a Risen King
Author: Rick McKinley
What’s it about: This book is about the Kingdom of God! It looks at the desires we have - how those desires can sometimes appear in ugly ways but they, at their deepest, are desires that can only be met in God. It talks about how we often try to do the right thing only out of a sense of duty but when we truly encounter the love of God we obey Him because we love Him and we see how deeply He loves us.
Why did I read it: It's been on my bookshelf since 2011! It was good to finally pick it up and read it. 

Favourite idea: Oh goodness. I don't think I could pick one so instead I'll leave you with some quotes.
"But if God called us to His love freely by grace and apart from works, then that love changes everything, because God called us to love us, not simply to use us."
"The creation drama is the most passionate love story ever told, and God is the pursuing lover. We are invited to respond to love that so furiously and recklessly has come after us in Christ."
"They [people of God] have been captured by a vision of another world, and they are sustained by a love that comes from somewhere else. They are Jesus' people. They are the fragrance of life to a dying world... They are a people who have found what their hearts are made for."
"Next time you want to quit loving and serving and giving yourself away for the sake of the kingdom, remember: you're playing offence, not defence. Hell will give way to heaven. Death will give way to life; we know it is true because it has already come true in Jesus, who conquered hell through His own death and brought heaven to earth through His resurrected life."

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Book: Leadership and the One Minute Manager

Title: Leadership and the One Minute Manager
Author: Ken Blanchard, Patricia Zigarmi and Drea Zigarmi
What’s it about: This is about situational leadership - how different people need different kinds of leadership depending on how much direction and support they need. And the kind of leadership preferred by a person might even depend on the project. 
Why did I read it: This was another book I read for work.

Favourite idea: This was a super short read and I learnt a lot about how to support people and, even more than that, learnt how to assess what kind of support I need in different situations which is very useful!

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Book: The Checklist Manifesto

Title: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
Author: Atul Gawande
What’s it about: The power of checklists! The author talks about how many tasks today involve many steps and simple checklists can catch and prevent simple errors that could have huge consequences. Many errors that are made in certain fields are not because of lack of knowledge but because we fail to use that knowledge properly. Gawande was one of the surgeons involved in a World Health Organisation project that ends up creating a checklist that has made surgery safer worldwide. There are lots of brilliant illustrations and great stories.
Why did I read it: Another work book! I've been looking at how we could create checklists for some of the things we do.

Favourite idea: That checklists allow us to capture the minimum number of steps required to successfully complete a task. They are not a bad thing but serve us! 

Monday 6 January 2014

Books Read in 2013

I finally got a second to sit down and write blog posts for the books I hadn't already shared about reading in 2013. So, this week and next week there will be daily posts during the week sharing my bookshelves (and kindle) with you. 

Friday 3 January 2014

Yearly Recap 2013!

I saw this list of questions on another blog somewhere and thought it would be a good way of recapping the year!

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
I moved to the Czech Republic in the exact middle of the year. It’s been something that I know God had in store for three years and to see His faithfulness and provision lead to the point of me getting on the plane was an incredible thing.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Errr… ish. I resolved to no longer put sugar in my tea and, even though January was horrible, eleven months later the thought of sugar in my tea really grosses me out. I can even drink my coffee black and without sugar.

There are some resolutions I did passively, rather than intentionally. For example, while I probably know more Bible verses of by heart now I didn’t memorise them as intentionally as I’d have liked.

And there are some resolutions that never happened – like being able to run 5 kilometres.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
There were a couple of births in my community, yes. And it looks like 2014 is going to hold lots of births! Anyone have any good baby gift ideas?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, my granny died in July.

5. What countries did you visit?
I was in America for two months in February and March, April saw me in Scotland, in May I was in Czech, Poland and Ukraine. June saw me move to Czech via a couple of days in England! In the autumn and winter I also travelled to Latvia, Estonia and Slovenia for work (and the Slovenia trip involved driving through Austria).

All in all, in 2013 I slept in thirty-five beds in eleven countries. And I was on twenty flights.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
More discipline with my time – that I would have time to get everything done but still rest well.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
30th June – moving to Czech.
23rd August – my first night in my flat.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Surviving the first six months of living in Czech!

9. What was your biggest failure?
Failing to be disciplined in taking more time to learn Czech!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yes, I got to have morphine for the first time when I contracted e.coli (the bad kind) when in the States.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A blue coffee table on castors from IKEA – I saw it in Belfast IKEA and knew I would want it in whatever flat I ended up getting in Czech. And it sits in my living room now.

12. Where did most of your money go?
Looking at my travelling schedule probably flight tickets and fuel!

13. What did you get really excited about?
God’s faithfulness in how He provided for the calling He gave me to move to Czech and His faithfulness in providing everything I’ve needed since I moved here.

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Phillip Phillip’s “Home” – I only bought it in August and yet it is already the most played song on my iTunes having even overtaken songs I’ve owned and loved for years. All the lyrics are wonderful but there’s something about the repeated “Just know you’re not alone, ‘cause I’m going to make this place your home.” that became almost like a promise to me as I went through, and continue to go through, transition.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? happier
– thinner or fatter? I don’t own scales here but when I checked in NI I discovered I’m lighter.. That was before Christmas though.
– richer or poorer? Not sure.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
I wish I’d seen more of the area around where I live – but with colder temperatures those adventures will now have to wait until the spring.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Sleeping too late in the morning, giving me just enough time to dress and run out the door (admittedly that running out the door happened most often at 6.15am).

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Back in Northern Ireland with family.

19. What was your favourite TV program?
Grey’s Anatomy continues to be one of the shows I watch most consistently.

20. What were your favourite books of the year?
Oh goodness, that’s a tough ask. I’ve only blogged about six of the books I read in 2013 – I hope to catch up with that but I don’t think I read more than twenty which is ridiculous. I think Believing God has stuck with me a lot and I can see a recent read, The Insanity of God, doing the same.

21. What was your favourite music from this year?
I’m still loving The Rend Collective and Mumford and Sons. I have an “Irish Playlist” that includes Foy Vance, Duke Special, U2, The Script, Damien Rice, Glen Hansard and others that I love on rainy days.

22. What was your favourite film of the year?
Despicable Me 2 was amazing. And I saw BraveHeart for the first time this year and it was great too!

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I had a rather relaxed 25th birthday – I had breakfast with Kristin and Caleb and went to youth group in the evening. It was a wonderful birthday weekend though and thanks to the variety of how long it takes things to arrive here it felt like I celebrated my birthday for a long time!

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
On and off I documented five things each day that I was thankful for, something they recommend you do at MTI to help you see the beauty in the hard things when you’re adjusting to life in a new culture on the mission field. I wish I’d done it more consistently!

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Layers. Lots and lots of layers. I can’t seem to buy enough thick socks before others get holes and I discovered the joy of thermal leggings.

26. What kept you sane?
Documenting my joys via photographs and the incredible community of people who are around me, who follow this journey and encourage me.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
How to drive on the right side of the road!