Friday 27 March 2015

Photo Friday - 27th March

Youth group on Saturday night. I'm so thankful my church built this new extension so we can have space to meet!

I am so thankful for Sundays - time at church and then I use the afternoon to squeeze in extra reading, work through a Bible study book and prepare for the week. 

Monday was the day I filed my taxes here! It involves going to a lot of offices in three buildings and two towns. But this year no one criticised my Czech skills to my face so it felt like a success, and I rewarded myself with some cake.

My suitcase is getting a lot more use right now as I start a busier travel season - between now and June I'm away from my flat about 25% of the time! Thankfully I've a well-honed system at this point.

The Fusion International team! I love serving with these guys. On Tuesday they were picking songs which involved playing them loudly and I declared "You guys are LOUD!" to receive the response "But we're Fusion!"

And on Tuesday evening we started our S-Team retreat. This is our planning retreat where we reflect on our ministries and look forward and ask what God is wanting us to do. I am so thankful that I get to serve on this team and see God at work. The perk of having an Englishman on the team is that this was breakfast! I can't remember where he got the Irish sausages from but I was also very thankful for this! 

Selah, our organisation's cabin, is a beautiful place to meet! Our retreat ended on Thursday. 

My sad little car! I am thankful for the three men who each intentionally drove alongside me to point out the back of my car before I could pull over, and for the man who helped me tape it back together in the car park so I could get it the 50km home where Casey used some zip ties to "fix" it. Cars are always an adventure. 

Wednesday 25 March 2015

A day in Kraków for the Research Project

Sunday 15th started early as we headed to Krakow for a 9am meeting. We got lost a few times as we picked someone up and navigated differences between the GPS and the new roads. Already running late, we then got pulled over for a random check by the Polish police! But eventually we arrived at the hotel where we had booked a conference room.

I love stationery.

Back in September we began a project in six of our countries to research what makes young people "stick" in youth groups and the local church after they make professions of faith in Christ at camp.

This meeting was to get together and discuss and synthesise our findings. I am so thankful for how God showed up and gave us insight and wisdom. Now we have an incredible responsibility to communicate what we found well and to wisely implement our findings. 

Of course, when you're in a 9am-5pm meeting you need to stop for lunch! I spent over an hour researching our options and decided on a highly-rated burger place because good burgers are hard to find in this part of the world. We were not disappointed! And it was fun to celebrate the hard work of our team.

I'm really thankful for the people who were involved in this project and all their work. And I'm praying that God would continue to give much grace and wisdom as we figure out what these findings mean.

Monday 23 March 2015

Youth Retreat 2015

A couple of weekends ago we had our annual youth retreat! The topic for the weekend was spiritual warfare and we had a local pastor there as our speaker. Although we talked about lots of different things within that topic, we also thought about what it practically means to put on the armour of God. It was a great topic to dive into! 

There's actually a really sweet story behind the cottage - one of the older men in my church, years ago, saw that there was nowhere for young people to meet and have these kinds of youth retreats. So he built this place! It was a joy to be there during the weekend.

On Saturday we hiked up the mountain we were staying on - it really wasn't a long hike - and had lunch up there. Sadly the visibility from the top was practically zero, but the food was very good! 

During the weekend it was so fun to spend time with our young people, in small groups and over meals. I'm so thankful for our youth group here and that I get to be a part of it!

Some more photos below.

All good retreats have silly games! 
Our main speaker for the weekend in blue.

Late night worship.

The beautiful view out the window!

2 degrees, the perfect temperature for a hike!

The "view" from the top!

But the food from the top was worth it! Fried cheese and chips!

The way down.

I love old windows.

The room I shared with some of the other girls!

Friday 20 March 2015

Photo Friday - 20th March

I feel like all the products made with poor English get sent to countries where English is not the first language in the hopes that no-one will notice.

Sunday was spent in Krakow with some from our camp team as we discussed our findings from a research project looking at our summer camps and what makes students "stick" afterwards.

Monday involved some very special baking...

And I loved celebrating Saint Patrick's Day here! I wrote more about it in this post

Spring has definitely sprung and I am so enjoying the longer evenings.

On Thursday I had my annual work review. It was a fun process to reflect on the past year and God's incredible grace. He has been so faithful and it was good to think this through, and to see where He has helped me grow, and to dream and plan and make goals. I am so thankful to work in an organisation where I am encouraged to grow and develop! 

And on Friday I headed to Slovakia to see a conference put on by our organisation there. Over the four day conference they had 800 leaders! The theme was The Upside Down Kingdom and there were seminars on various topics. My favourite thing was connecting with our wonderful Slovak family and seeing their incredible work! 

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day lovely people! 

I love Saint Patrick's Day. I love being from Northern Ireland and it's fun to see people celebrate this day around the world. 

And there is so much depth and beauty to this holiday and what it remembers. I love Saint Patrick's story - that he returned to Ireland to share the Gospel with the nation he was once a slave in. That being a slave there meant that he knew the language, culture and history and this enabled him to share the Gospel in culturally sensitive ways. 

This includes things like using shamrocks that Irish people knew to point to God, a lot like we see with Paul. Coming up to today I've seen a lot of ideas on how to decorate that included four-leaf "shamrocks" which made me shake my head a little. The shamrock was, legend says, used by Saint Patrick to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish.

My favourite article from today about Saint Patrick is this one on Desiring God which includes this paragraph:

Patrick knew the Irish well enough to engage them as they were, and build authentic gospel bridges into their society. He wanted to see the gospel grow in Irish soil, rather than pave it over with a Roman road.

And as I look at my life and ministry here in central and eastern Europe that is my prayer - that we would see an indigenous movement of God again in these nations that reflect the beauty of the culture and people here.

Some photos from today:

Last night involved some baking to celebrate the 17th March and I took the shamrock-shaped sugar cookies to our regular Tuesday morning meeting at work.

Connie, our president's wife, wore green and wrote a little about today on her blog here

And after work I took a walk because it was such a beautiful day - I walked down and across the river into Poland, to the map of Europe in a park.

Our winter really hasn't been bad but it has felt long! So it felt so good today to be out in summer shoes!

And tonight I had the Yorman family over and we ate shepherds' pie with lots of potatoes and drank tea with dessert. It was a fun night!

I'm thankful for the example of Saint Patrick and a day to celebrate where I'm from! 

Friday 13 March 2015

Photo Friday - 13th March

You know the warmer weather is coming when fresh fruit like blueberries come on sale again! The fruit and vegetable selection here is a little more seasonal than in the UK. It's nice to have rhythms throughout the year of what is for sale.

Sunday was warm! Like, I had my first ice cream on my Sunday walk warm! It was delightful.

One of the things that always makes me smile is the way the afternoon light streams into my little flat, especially the kitchen. The funny thing is, my flat was advertised as "atypical" and I've had people tell me they don't like the layout. But the layout means lots of natural light and I love the quirkiness! Sunday was "International Women's Day" so I was given a rose which I've enjoyed having on my kitchen table.

There is currently a lot of chaos in my town right now as they are making the train station accessible for disabled people and improving the train tracks. The train tracks divide the town so with different roads and walkways under the tracks closed it's leading to interesting routes! I think it's all going to be finished by late October so we have a while to enjoy the craziness!

I was here twice this week. I've been going to "rehabilitation" for my chronic back pain and I'm really grateful for the medical care I receive here. In a week and a half I had three 45 minute appointments! I'm especially grateful as my back was particularly bad this week. 

Thursday involved a trip to Poland to talk about t-shirts for this summer. It's so funny but every year there is some weird situation with the t-shirts - last year there was a fire in the factory! So I find myself praying that all our summer t-shirts arrive to us safely!

After my rehabilitation appointment on Friday I spent some time at a local coffee shop working. It was nice to have a change of scenery and I love being out and about in my little town. 

Friday 6 March 2015

Photo Friday - 6th March

As part of our youth retreat we went on a hike! It was only an hour to the top so thankfully we weren't too disappointed that this was the extent of our view!

On Sunday as we left the youth retreat to hike back down to where our cars were left the skies were blue!

After spending a weekend doing ministry it was nice to have Monday off and watch the Ireland game!

Crazily there are two Irish pubs/restaurants in the town I drive through every day on the way to work. So we went to check out one of them for dessert one evening. The food was not Irish-y at all but the atmosphere was.

In a bit of an Irish theme I tried to make wheaten bread this week. It was a bit of a disaster. It was a recipe I'd used before but it tasted so salty we couldn't eat it! I've no idea what happened! Does anyone have a good recipe?

Spring is coming and I can tell as I can see more and more birds as I sit at my desk when I work from home.

My whiteboard screams "Summer is coming" and my favourite part is Skyping with our missionaries in different countries to talk with them about what summer will hold. I love the wonderful people I serve alongside. I'm already trying to plan my summer travels and I'm so excited about what God is going to do this summer!