Friday 31 October 2014

Photo Friday - 31st October

My favourite walk in my town - this is the start of it, about five minutes from my flat. I then walk along the river for twenty minutes or so, sometimes crossing into Poland. 

I do this walk three to four times a week, and the colours at the moment are stunning. 

The Tesco flier from this week - if you're not sure what these are you should check out this blog post

Tuesday was a national holiday here, as we celebrated the establishment of the state of Czechoslovakia after World War One in 1918. Some of us got together that night to celebrate Josh's (the guy on the very left and closest to the camera) birthday before he left on home assignment. I'm so thankful for the community I have here!

Another beautiful walk!

I worked entirely from home this week. So from my kitchen table I skyped with Bulgaria, Romania and Albania. Here you can see Gabe Hillman, the Josiah Venture country leader for Bulgaria. It is such a privilege to serve the wonderful people serving camps in our countries. Their enthusiasm and passion to see their nations reached for Jesus gives me goosebumps.

Another wonderful skype happened this week. Last time Julianne and I hung out in person was two years ago this week. Julianne and her husband were living in Toronto and I visited just after having new missionary orientation with my organisation in Chicago. And last time Julianne and I skyped she was still pregnant. But look at those two adorable six month olds! I'm so thankful for long skypes with dear friends, and meeting these two cuties.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

How do you know it's October?

One of the weird things about moving to a new culture is you lose cues for dates and months and important things. The seasons are a little different in Czech than they were in Northern Ireland. The seasons are... deeper. They are more extreme here. Already it is down around zero some days (all day) and soon zero degrees will be a high in a day.

My birthday is in early November and in the UK my cue for my approaching birthday is poppies people are wearing for Remembrance Day. Here there is no such cue.

But there is a definite cue that it's October. I've taken all these photos, in various locations over the past month or so. Can you see what is in all of these?

One grocery shop.

The local home/diy store (in Poland)


The cart in front of me as I bought me food for the week.

The flier I read from Tesco today.

What you see above, whole aisles of them, whole pages of adverts for them, are graveyard candles. They are candles people put on the graves of their relatives. Some places say it is to help them to remember to pray for their dead relatives, and other places say it is to give the dead light while they journey through purgatory. 

In some places there are also a tradition of baking food for the dead, to appease any souls that might be roaming the earth on All Souls Night. 

What I think is crazy is the sheer number of candles available for sale! In the diy store there are pallets and pallets of them, stretching the length of the photo. Or the man in front of me who had twenty-one in his trolley. 

It'll be interesting to see what the town looks like on the night of November 1st.

Friday 24 October 2014

Photo Friday - 24th October

Playing about on Saturday.

On Sunday the weather forecast looked like I'd made a really good choice in getting my winter tyres on so early! Thankfully (kind of) it didn't actually snow. But the temperatures got a lot lower than they predicted too. 

Erm.. apparently Christmas is just around the corner? But it's only October 19th! 

I hosted our ladies' Bible study so made an apple cinnamon crunch. I am so grateful for the community of women I get to do life with and alongside. It is always such an encouraging time as we share what God is teaching us and pray for one another.

Decorations at our conference centre, where I was invited to lunch. Tuesday was bright, sunny and crisp - perfect for boots and a puffy sleeveless jacket. Wednesday and Thursday it did nothing but rain and I had my Wellington boots on. And then it got very cold. 

An early early birthday present from a friend! I left it in the office so I wouldn't be tempted to open it.

This year I am hosting a small group Bible study for girls from our youth group. And at our first meeting of the year I was the one asked to prepare a talk. It was fifteen to twenty minutes and I did it in Czech! Horrible, bad Czech that I just read from the page. But to be able to communicate in Czech, share prayer requests and understand the ones that had been shared, to chat about life with these girls? It was incredible and worth all the studying.

And this is a result of a good night: lots of used teabags and bowls dirty from dessert. I loved hosting small group on Friday night!

Friday 17 October 2014

Photo Friday - 17th October

We had a "together youth group" event - we invited several local youth groups to our church and the president of Josiah Venture spoke. It was wonderful to see so many young people, they filled our church. 

My church turned fifty! And I blogged about this here.

Eggs with soldiers. 

I had a week of not feeling great at all, I felt nauseous pretty much all day every day, and was given firm instructions to rest. So this was my view for much of the week.

And for the first time I went to the doctor here. It was.. interesting. But I got some tablets that really helped with the nausea. 

I've finally figured out internet shopping here a little better and it has been a big help - it's easier to find stuff by searching for it online than hunting through many, many stores.

I was taking it very slow until the next week but I managed to get my winter tyres put on my car, something that must be done (it's a legal requirement) before November 1st.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Fall Conference 2014: ReJesus

On 20th September I again put my suitcase in my car and drove the forty kilometres to Malenovice, our hotel and conference centre a five minute drive from our office. Malenovice is a special place – I’ve been going there since my first English camp in 2007 and I’m there five or six times a year (for three-seven days each time) for conferences, retreats or camp.

Just before Fall Conference each year we use the fact people are already travelling to gather our camp team. This year that meant over forty of us met for two days to debrief the summer that was and look ahead to next year. Yes, in September we talk about and decide the direction of next year’s camps.

This meeting is really the only time each year we get all these people in one room. It is so wonderful to hear the stories of what God is doing through camps in these countries. It is also good to talk about the issues we’re facing in different countries or across our countries. These are the people I work closest with all year so it’s a lot of fun to be all together.

And from that meeting we went into our annual Fall Conference from 22nd to 26th September, where we gather those serving in or alongside Josiah Venture. This year there were two hundred and eighty youth leaders and missionaries from thirteen central and eastern European countries!

Our theme was ReJesus. The idea was to get back to the Gospels, and Jesus. It’s always a good idea. The loop we circled many times during conference was looking at our own ministries, looking at Jesus and His ministry and applying Jesus’ principles to our ministries. It was a good loop to circle, and one we should always be going through.

The Bible talks about Scripture not returning empty, not returning without accomplishing the purpose God desires and so even when we return to familiar passages it’s amazing how God speaks in new ways. And in unique ways too, I think we all felt like God was talking individually to us as we looked to Him to guide us in our ministry.

The conference was used to release our training material called Walk 2:6, based on 1 John 2 v 6 “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” This training material was the basis of the conference and goes through those loops of looking at our ministry, and Jesus’ ministry and applying His methods.

With a conference this big we’re getting creative with how to have that many people. Our main sessions took place in a big tent/marquee! Thankfully it has heating, although sometimes we turned it off and it was worth it (check out the link for more photos of conference!)

The other thing about having this many people at conference is it’s impossible to meet or even see everyone! But it was so good to connect with so many friends and co-labourers over different meals, during coffee times and while walking from one meeting to another.

Malenovice continues to be a wonderful and special place, and I’m so thankful for my week there sitting in the Bible and being refreshed.

You can see more of my photos and short explanations of the week here

Monday 13 October 2014

Happy 50th!

Again this week I have seen multiple maps and articles that commented on how secular Europe is. And Czech continues to be one of the nations leading the way, along with Estonia, with less than a fifth of the population believing there is a higher power, and less than 1% being evangelical Christians.

And it is statistics like this that make what happened yesterday all the more exciting. Yesterday my church here celebrated fifty years of God's faithfulness! Fifty years ago this church was planted and, despite extra seats, there were people standing in the foyer during our church service.

Each of the former pastors were there giving greetings - well, the first one is eighty-five and lives a few hours away so he gave his greetings via a recorded video. 

It's incredible to think about the legacy of faith in a church that survived communism. We have a lot of young people in our church and as we watched our Sunday school kids perform it was exciting to think of the continued witness and impact this church will prayerfully have.

Each week our musical worship comes in a few different forms - a worship group, an organ for Polish hymns, and often we have a choir too. This blurry photo was taken as we sang How Great is Our God in Polish, led by our worship group. On Saturday night we hosted a youth night for several of the local youth groups and we sang four songs - in four languages. It's a little taste of heaven as we flit between Czech, Polish, Slovak and English (definitely the least common) worship songs.

This week the church that planted this church sent some of their choir, just like they did all those decades ago, to encourage our church.

Our church is one of the biggest churches in our denomination in the country now. And in his sermon Dave Patty, Josiah Venture's president, who has lived in the Czech Republic for twenty years, encouraged us to be completely dependent on God's grace as we continue to minister to this town, the Czech Republic and beyond. 

During the service we received bookmarks - the back says 
"We want to reach the world"
"We want to glorify Christ"
"We want to make disciples"

I pray that, relying on God's grace, we would do these things well in this little corner of this country and beyond. 

Friday 10 October 2014

Photo Friday - 10th October

On Saturday I woke up with a messy flat but knew I needed some time to read, do my Bible study, and rest. So I combined this with some errands and escaped the mess. And I was right, it was needed and good. And my flat did get tidied in the end.

Sunday nights involve me prepping for the week - cutting up vegetables for snacks for the first three days etc. So my sink inevitably looks like this on Sunday nights.

Autumn has been showing off this week!

The light in my flat in afternoons is crazy beautiful.

I'm currently working my way through this Bible plan, reading the New Testament in 90 days. I should be finished right around the new year. It is blessing me immensely.

Poland's autumn is showing off too (I'm taking this photo from Czech - in my town the river divides Czech and Poland).

My IKEA construction skills are lacking sometimes... like in this chair. The back came off during a skype.