Saturday 27 September 2014

On Coming Home

I remember getting this email two years ago today saying I'd been officially accepted by Josiah Venture. I remember telling my parents, and driving to tell the Bowmans. I spent that night with some of my closest friends in Belfast (although I can't remember the occasion) and I remember telling them.

Josiah Venture has been a part of my life for a long time now - I first travelled over as part of a team from my Saintfield church to an English camp in 2007, at the age of eighteen. I had no idea back then I'd become a full time missionary or live in the country I'd probably only learnt about because of that trip.

This morning I woke up in my little flat in the Czech Republic. I went to a couple of shops to buy a few things I needed. I prepared to lead small group in Czech. I walked around my little town. In a couple of days I mark fifteen months of living here.

Last weekend Paul Bowman, the one who introduced me to this country on that short term team, was here and got to see my life and ministry here. At one point he said "Rachael has come home here." 

In that moment I knew how true those words were. Now, Northern Ireland is and will always be home. But somehow Czech is too. It's not one or the other. It's both/and. 

I fully believe God has given me home here. Home in a culture I don't fully understand. Home in a language that continues to baffle me. Home in a country I met when I was eighteen.

And God has far surpassed my expectations. Eighteen year old me did not expect to call this country home. Two-years-ago me did not expect how completely God had prepared this place for me and me for this place.

He has been overwhelmingly faithful. And I'm excitedly expectant about how He will continue to be faithful and how He will continue to shatter my expectations and give good things.

Friday 26 September 2014

Photo Friday - 26th September

Dawid Werner kicked off our time at the Fall Camp Meeting as he shared a devotion about the call of the disciples. I love the Fall Camp Meeting - this year we had over forty people there. We gather the people leading the camp ministry of JV in all our countries at this one point in the year - we debrief the summer and tell stories of God's faithfulness, we go through a lot of business, and we plan and dream about next summer. Yes, in September we decide on the theme for the next summer!

It was so great to have Paul Bowman (left) here for a few days to be at our Fall Camp Meeting. There were many long talks, and lots of laughter. This was late on Sunday night as a couple of us gathered in a stairwell seating area. 

On Monday I said bye to Paul at a train station in torrential rain and arrived back in time for Fall Conference to start! Our theme was ReJesus, returning again to the model and method of Jesus' ministry and applying it to our own contexts.

There were 280 leaders from all over central and eastern Europe at the conference! It was fun to spend time with so many friends and co-labourers. One way the conference was made "smaller" is we spent a lot of in small groups processing the teaching together and seeking to apply it to our ministries.

There is lots of this at any conference: cake (this is a special Czech cake made twenty minutes from my house), Bible and community.

On Thursday night we celebrated God's faithfulness to Josiah Venture as we told stories of how God brought us all to this point, of celebrating twenty years of JV. And there were fireworks!

One of my favourite things about these stories is how many of them included things like praying God would call someone to this ministry and realising He'd called us, saying we'd be involved for one year and still being here many years later, etc. God and His grace calls us despite ourselves, and it's incredible.

Malenovice, where we own a conference centre and it's just a ten minute drive from our offices, is a magical place. It looks stunning in every kind of weather.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Fall Conference 2014!

Today is the last full day of Fall Coference! We have 280 leaders from across central and eastern Europe and we're gathered to look again at how Jesus did ministry and how to apply His principles to our ministries. 

It is so good to be here and with so many wonderful people. And worshipping with that many people from fifteen countries is a beautiful thing. Would you pray for us as we finish up tomorrow and go back to our nations? 

Friday 19 September 2014

Photo Friday - 19th September

Our youth group had an English Camp Reunion Party where we showed photos from camp, did the camp dance and sang camp songs, and talked about what we'd be doing at youth group for the next few months. There was also a clear challenge to follow up on what they heard at camp. It was so good to see so many of the students from my class there! 

The Yormans came round on Sunday night for a long planned "hang pictures on Rachael's walls and have ice cream" "party". I am so thankful for this family and it's always fun to have them round. And pictures on my walls? They're still making me smile. 

How Monday mornings start in this season of life: two hours at McDonalds from 6.30am before work while Casey goes to jujitsu halfway between Český Těšín and work.

My current desk set up in work, on a day when no one else was sharing the desk.

Don't think because I live in Czech I'm not following The Great British Bake Off. It was a show Amy and I watched together, and I love the lack of meanness on the show. 

The skies here are often beautiful! This is the view from the Yormans' home. 

Friday night saw me waiting at the train station at 10 o'clock, waiting for a train from Prague with Paul Bowman on it! I took him to the Yormans', where he was staying, and after introductions we chatted over tea for too long before I headed home. 

Friday 12 September 2014

Photo Friday - 12th September

It was a joy to spend time with these two ladies who were in my class at camp. It was a great way to start a Saturday morning!

Sometimes you need some British comedy.

Early morning train rides to work, with the sunrise tinting the pages of my book pink.

On Tuesday mornings we have our I-Team meetings. I Team stands for International Team and comprises those of us who serve internationally with JV, those of us who serve all our countries in various ways from camps to graphic design to computer systems and many other things. Over the summer we grew a lot with a few new missionaries starting. We're getting too big for the rooms available to meet in!

Again, I'm often captured by this view. 

A youth group team meeting where we talked about the year ahead - I wonder how many youth group team meetings happen in four languages (and the fourth, English, was only because of me)?

There was a country fair kind of thing in my town - I blogged about it here

Bunnies on the Basketball Court

I think I've let the list of twenty blog posts I want to write stop me from writing any. So let's kick off with some photos from today. Today I had a couple of errands to run and while I was out I decided to walk along the river, a very normal thing for me to do.

Well, this is what I discovered. Apparently even though this Saintfield girl moved away from Northern Ireland she didn't move that far! There is a series of parks along the river in the centre of my town and there is some fun country show kind of thing happening.

There are tractors for sale.

Piles of homegrown vegetables - both for sale and on show.

A lot of livestock.

Including goats!

And there were bunnies on the basketball court.

Along with hens, roosters, geese and ducks.

Also spotted: a beehive and a blacksmith!

I love the little town here I get to call home, and I love surprises like this.

Friday 5 September 2014

Photo Friday - 5th September

Lots of laundry had me thankful for hot days where I could open my window to help things dry quickly. 

At church our 11-16 year old (or so, I think) ministry talked about the camp they'd just been on. It is so encouraging to see so many young people in church, and I'm praying they continue to fall more in love with Jesus and change this country for His glory.

After the busyness of summer it was "tidy up the office" day. Lots of rubbish! Lots of chocolate!

I have an app that shows me what I posted on social media on this day in years gone by. It's often a good reminder of fun times with friends, like this one.

Taking my car to the great man from my church who repairs them. 

What one of my local supermarkets looked like. They're going through a renovation and it's been hit or miss if they have anything during their change over.

A wonderful fellow missionary came over from Poland for a visit, and brought muffins. It was wonderful to spend time with her and busy summers for both of us!

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Hello again!

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. Right now in my notebook I have fourteen blog post ideas, seven of which are “Photo Fridays”. And I want to, and will, blog my way through those, documenting God’s grace during the last couple of months.

So, what have I been up to?

After camp this summer we had our S-Team retreat where we talked about our ministries and dreamt and planned and prayed a lot. It was very exciting, and I really feel that God has made it clear how He is going before us.

I had a few working weeks and got to visit the Polish short-term team training, and finish up a lot of summer accounting, and other necessary tasks as we look to this new year.

I had a week of holiday/vacation. And I didn’t go a single place. Well, I went to Prague. For a day. A blog post coming about this soon.

And then last week I spent the whole week learning Czech, after a summer of not really learning much. I find myself praying that God would repeat Acts 2 v 4 again, with Czech, right here in my little green kitchen.

And now September has started! Yesterday and today were suitably rainy and foggy, weather that always makes me think of Northern Ireland. And this week marks the start of new things.

Tomorrow I hold my first English Club meeting. The goal with this is to connect students who want to learn English with our youth group and church. And I find myself simultaneously being nervous that no one will show up and being nervous that my flat will be too small.

Even saying it out loud (or writing it in this blog post) seems like a risk because tomorrow I might get to tell you that, yep, no one showed up. But this idea has been floating for a while, and prayed over a lot, and I’m excited about the potential it has.

One of my favourite things about camp was being able to say to students “Let’s spend time together in September!” And those prayers have been answered. Students want to hang out and I’m excited to spend time with a couple of them in the coming days.

Tomorrow at 8am I’ll also be dropping my car off at the mechanics. A combination of holidays, busyness at the mechanics, and different schedules mean that, yes, tomorrow I’m finally taking the car in to fix a problem that started on July 5th. And with that I’m praying for wisdom, an easy and complete fix, and God’s provision.

There is so much new to be thankful for: new ministry opportunities, new relationships, new seasons. And as I start my second year in this place, I am so grateful for deepening relationships, language, knowledge and familiarity. There are constants to be thankful for too: God’s provision and how He clearly goes before as well as alongside. 

I’m excited to continue to tell the stories that point to His gracious provision.