Monday, December 24, 2007

I love Czech Christmas:)


It's like living in a winter wonderland; it's been so cold and moist that the snow seems to just form out of thin air and attach to the trees. The top picture was taken in the morning on my way to work on Friday, and the next picture shows the long line of people waiting to buy their carp for the Christmas Dinner. Yesterday we had a full day, the our Christmas pageant in the morning and Live Nativity in the evening. The play was great, if you've ever read "The best Christmas pageant Ever," this was a translation into Czech language and culture. You can see the group of hoodlums in this picture starting some firecrackers, and in the next picture the firemen came to clean it up.


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Our band also played two songs during the worship, a big step. We got many great comments of support and encouragement, plus I feel like the members of the band really felt like they played a special role in the service. We had many visitors and I think they could tell from the service that exciting things are happening in this church.
And of course, the Live Nativity was the perfect ending to the day. We stood outside for an hour, singing in the FREEZING COLD! I had two sets of gloves(thank you MaryAnn and Jacque:), two hats(thanks to one of my students), two layers of pants, and my special coat from a woman in Switzerland(see first snow post from last November). In between the singing, I did somethings with members from our Band, Madla on violin and Honza on guitar. Honza and I put together Jingle Bell Rock as kind of a last minute idea, and it was a great hit. Lots of people know this song; it was quite a surprise though, against the other classical carols. We finished off the evening with Christmas Punch and Goulash:) to bring the feeling back into our fingers and toes. It was an amazing day full of celebrating Christ's birth. I'm excited to get started on another one today!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

We wish you a Merry Christmas

The spirit of Christmas has been buzzing around our church all through the month of December. We started off by making some things for our Christmas Bazaar led by the women of the Church and the Sunday School Classes. The profits from our sales will go to help a teenage boy in India. The biggest hit was our Snowman Soup, made with hot chocolate and marshmallows(quite a novelty here).

This month I'm giving presentations on typical Christmas Traditions in the US. My first presentation was in the church, and I was shocked by the variety of people we had attending. Out of 40 people I would say that one third was under twenty, one third was between 25 and 40, and the other third was 50 and over. Quite balanced and interesting, especially since there were several people I had never seen before. A friend of mine was translating for me, and I'm so thankful that I was able to have someone to help me share my thoughts and feelings with everyone. Throughout the rest of the month I've been sharing my presentation with some of the schools. I think it's interesting to meet new kids and tell them about some of our traditions as they get the experience of listening to a presentation in English.
The English classes also learned some Christmas Songs, which we recorded for a CD that they could take home. The CD also has some readings translated by the students, and I think many of us were pleased with the way it turned out. I know I'll listen to it for many Christmases to come:) Here's a sample made especially for you! A little Christmas wish from the students of Policka.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A real Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic

Best Thanksgiving Ever
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Who would believe that you could convince a bunch of families, where both parents work, to fix a hot dish and bring it to the church on a Thursday night along with their whole family, not knowing what to expect except this American Thanksgiving Feast, which they've only heard about in movies. I think the final count of people turned out to be over 70 with a perfect mix of families from the church and the English classes! The miracle of enough chairs and tables appeared while we were setting up the kitchen and Sunday School room. Maybe you can't completely admire the beauty of finding seats for so many to eat a meal upstairs in our church without actually experiencing it. I should probably explain that we thought our limit was around 56, and we reached that when our friends from Minnetonka were here just last September. If you were here and you remember how close we were seated, then maybe you can respect the idea of serving so many people.

I think the beauty lies in the age old thanksgiving tradition of "the Kids' Table." I realized while planning, that "in the spirit of Thanksgiving," we needed a Kid's Table. The balcony turned out to be the perfect place where the kids could have their space and at the same time provide seating and space for all of them. We some how turned the pews to face each other and stuck an old table in between them for the older kids. The younger ones sat around the ping pong table. Some of the kids knew each other, but others didn't. When I went out there to check on them I was amazed at the sight of them playing together and laughing together. They looked like a big group of cousins and friends, stuck playing together while their parents talked, having a good time in spite of their differences.

When everyone arrived, we had plenty of food, and all of it was spectacular! After a short program sharing the meaning of thanksgiving, we did head up stairs and share with our neighbors about the good things in our lives. The adults sat around every other table we had, and we somehow ended up with one big table big enough for all of the food. I know that we always say Thanksgiving is about family and saying thanks, but when you're right in the middle of it, it sure feels like it's all about the FOOD! And, by golly, even this came across! There's just something about sharing food you made with others, and enjoying the food that they brought as well. When everyone feels happy and full, it just brings a certain joy into the room. Maybe you can even see it in these pictures that as the night went on, people had more and more fun, and the room seemed to glow with the feeling of love and merriness in the room(despite the absence of wine and eggnog from this feast). I even felt like we almost had to kick people out at 9pm when they came just before 6pm. What an amazing evening! A Thanksgiving I'll always remember!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is around the corner when everything looks like Christmas. Last week it snowed everyday and the stores started putting up decorations as people started their Christmas shopping. In the Czech Republic, Thanksgiving falls around the same time as Halloween and All Saints day. They celebrate by decorating the graves of their loved ones and both Catholic and Protestant churches have special Sunday worships services. It's recognized by many people, but not all people.

In the spirit of the season, we're having a Thanksgiving Dinner this Thursday in the church for families of the English Classes and the congregation. Like a normal American Thanksgiving celebration, many people who are not necessarily related will come together as one family. I think it has a lot of meaning for our two groups, because the people of the church don’t really know the people of the English classes. I feel like there's a kind of parallel between what has been called "the first Thanksgiving in America" when the Pilgrims came together with the Native Americans and our first big dinner between people from the English classes and the church. Not that we're enemies, but we definitely feel like two separate groups of people who use the same place. This will be a time where we can all come together at the same time and get to know one another.

We'll begin the dinner with a short reflection on Thanksgiving and then head upstairs and sit at the tables in groups. We'll have a round of saying what we're thankful for, enjoy the dinner, and then maybe have some games for the kids while the parents sit and chat. Amazingly enough we already have 65 people signed up to come and that's with a commitment to bring something. Wow! It's going to be big. I have some good reliable women helping me with organization and food, and I'm hoping to have some of the youth entertaining the kids after dinner. Please remember us in your prayers this week. My hope is that despite the inevitable flukes that will come, the night will run smoothly and the people will feel at home in this building and with the people around them. I want them to experience that Thanksgiving is really about being with family, whether they're your relatives or just people you enjoy. I know that this feeling also goes along with Christmas, but I think the difference comes in what we do with this feeling. At Christmastime we focus on sharing that feeling of love and acceptance. On Thanksgiving we say thank you, thank you to our friends and family who love us and thank you to the One who created us and brought us all together. Thank you for following this blog and keeping all of us in Policka, CZ in your thoughts and prayers. Happy Thanksgiving! (Ještě něco)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fantastic Reception

I'm so excited! Yesterday our new band played in the worship service for the first time. They sounded fantastic and everyone loved it. Even the old ladies were smiling, and one of them came up to me afterwards to say how much she liked it. AMAZING! The song turned out really well, and I'm just so proud of them! I can't wait for us to play again, and neither can anyone else. We've already been invited to play during the Christmas play. I think many of us are extremely excited about having a band, and it's wonderful to see so many people involved in the worship service. Yesterday we also had some kids doing a skit, so plus the normal help of a congregation member reading the announcements, we had around 15 people contributing to the worship! On a normal Sunday in churches of this denomination, you would find 3 people at most(counting the Pastor and organist) contributing to the worship. We usually have 4-5, which seems like a lot, but yesterday was like a celebration.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Coolest Halloween Party EVER

Halloween Party of 2007; night of the mummy
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What a night! We had such a great time that I wanted to post these pictures IMMEDIATELY for you all to enjoy while you're in the "Halloween Spirit," so to say. This year I planned the party with several goals in mind: include a variety of ages, include the parents, give them lots of candy, encourage them to watch out for each other, and give them a really great haunted house. Amazingly enough, I feel like everyone enjoyed themselves to the fullest. You can get a feeling for our events as you look at the pictures and read the captions. The key to this party turned out to be their small groups. I split them into groups, not by ages, but by bunches. Everyone got a character on their back and their found their group by figuring out what they were. By some act of God, these groups made the whole evening flow and brought the age groups together, since they were mixed up pretty evenly, as they watched out for one another. Everyone respected one another and stayed past the end. The most remarkable thing for me, though, were my helpers. I had 9 helpers and I needed each one of them. They really came through for me, scaring the kids, helping the kids, handing out candy, and cleaning up before they left. I couldn't have done it without them. So I think I will go get some sleep, and I hope you enjoy the pictures. I will remember this night for a long time, and I think they will, too.

Happy Halloween:)
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Friday, October 12, 2007

The building of our church

This Sunday we celebrated 70 years since the dedication of this church building. We had a special service with guest speakers and special music featuring the new organ bought after several years of fundraising in this church and investments made by many individuals in the US. I think there are many times that I take this building for granted.

We have a beautiful church which reflects the hard work done by the congregation members over the last 70 years and the other congregations that have helped it along the way. Would you believe that the congregation was saving money for a church building of their own for forty four years before they finally bought a piece of land, and then it took them twenty years before they were actually able to build the church. Talk about persistence and faith. Well, that’s this church for you.
I was also amazed to discover the story of our beautiful rooms upstairs that I use for my English Classes. Before the sanctuary had a heating system installed in the late 1990’s, the congregation met upstairs in these heated rooms during the winter, but even then the rooms were very bare and not suitable for children, so the Sunday School classes met in the manse. These rooms were remodeled with financial support from Faith Church in Minnesota in the spring of 2002. Our congregation members did a lot of the manual labor creating a pipe line for water to the Kitchen and improving the floors. The original idea for their gift was to provide us with a wonderful kitchen and room for Sunday School and Tea Time after worship. A few years later it served as an area for snacks for our first English camp, paving the way for our classes and everything that we offer to the community and congregation to follow four years and more down the road. It’s amazing how one thing leads to another.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The mature Youth of our church

Two weekends ago I dove into language immersion as I attended the annual National Youth Conference for our church. I’ve been to many youth gatherings in the US, so I thought I would know what to expect, especially looking at the program. But of course, many things about the weekend struck me as strange. It must be understood that the great number of people attending were 17-24 years old and either attending with several youth from their church or on their own. I hardly ever saw a group accompanied by their pastor. Many of their pastors were there, but they had other responsibilities, one of which was not babysitting their youth. I met some younger students who were 15 or 16, but they were usually accompanied by older siblings or fellow youth group members who could watch out for them. So this immediately caused some interesting developments. Much of the subject matter seemed very mature. Of the three seminars we attended, two were lectures not unlike a normal upper level 60-90 min college class without too many visual demonstrations or concrete concepts. The third involved us in an art project, which turned out to be an all day event and we came back after each meal to finish the project(seen in the photo-I don't know if you can tell that we're describing the scene where the adulterous woman is brought before Jesus to be stoned and he just draws in the sand), it was very intense I might add. There were many sports activities that you could attend like basketball, football(soccer), and petenque or you could also hang out and play board games in the tea tent(I thought this was the coolest thing ever). Anyway, another thing that was strange was that many of the presenters and musicians were over 50 years old. I love these guys, I know many of them on a personal level. They are phenomenal and legendary in our church. However, they’re not even close to the age of these kids. I think there were two events that I went to that were overwhelmingly received as incredible by the audience. No.1 was a “talk show” provided by some young guys 25-27. This looked familiar. They were funny, in a young but educated way. They used bad language, talked in a kind of flamboyant manor, and above all, just acted plain ridiculously on stage. At the same time they addressed many issues in our church and related to the culture of these youth. The audience loved it. The second was an hour long sermon on Communication using the Gospel of Pooh. No one thought of it as a “kid’s lecture,” in fact it had the opposite reaction joining their childhood memories with their adult faith. I really felt like the whole weekend was more geared toward Young Adults in the way that the youth were treated and the activities were planned. Maybe it's just because many of our youth have a more serious or mature outlook on life. In the end I really enjoyed myself, despite the half mile walks between each event, and I was amazed at how much I understood language wise.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ice Cream Party

Ice Cream Party
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Rain, rain, go away, come again another day. It’s been raining so much lately that it’s easy to forget the amazing weather we had last weekend for the Ice Cream Party. Amazingly enough the temperature was just warm enough for us to enjoy the delicious ice cream. Fifty parents and children came to our kick-off Party to find out the results of my scheduling enigma. First they picked up a cup full of ice cream and then they tried their hand at our selection of games. After we had had enough of the ice cream (many people took seconds and even thirds), we came inside the sanctuary for a slide show and announcements concerning how the classes would be split and upcoming parties, like the Halloween Party. While they were playing games they got tickets with numbers for a drawing for prizes that we had during the slideshow. I was very pleased with the number of kids who came and I think it turned out to be a wonderful way to start off the week.
The classes this week went very well. I met some new students and saw some past students again for a second time. I was a little nervous about this week because I am teaching most of the classes without a helper. After teaching, however, I found that this enables me to speak more with the children, because they have to listen to me. I realized how some of the children are afraid to speak to me because they feel uncomfortable about their English. Instead of a helper speaking to them in Czech, they now get help with crafts and games in English first and from me. So I think this will be a better learning experience for them and a better relationship builder. I’m very pleased with the first week of classes and I’m looking forward to next week. (Ještě něco)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

First day of English classes


Today turned out to be quite a rainy day, but as far as my classes were concerned, it seemed pretty joyful to me. I packed my schedule pretty tightly for Tuesdays and Thursdays, with four classes on each day with only 15 minutes in between. On Wednesdays I'll have two classes, and on Fridays I'll have youth group and sometimes a special activity. I was pretty nervous about how this first day would go, but 15 min turned out to be just the right amount of time, and I'm pretty grateful for the answered prayers in the last few days. I hope your rainy days turn out to be joyful in your neck of the woods. I feel pretty refreshed after this first day of classes, and I'm itching for the next one.
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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Free Ice Cream?

It really has been fun starting in Policka again. I really like my new flat and I like living in the middle of town. I have to walk to and from the church at least twice a day if I go home for lunch and it’s good for my health and allows me to see people and feel like I’m a part of the community. I’m speaking Czech more easily and I think it’s all because I feel like I have more self-confidence.
We’ll be starting the year off with an Ice Cream Party, which sounds kind of like Ice Party in Czech, which is kind of funny since the weather is already pretty cold here. Many people don’t know what to expect since it’s not something they commonly do. In fact they don’t sell ice at the grocery store and no one has an ice cream maker or even a cooler to keep the ice cream cold. So I was going to have to buy ice cream in the store, which can get pretty expensive if you want quality ice cream to offer to guests. I was starting to regret the idea, because I kept seeing all of these obstacles and everything seemed so crazy. Then out of the blue, one of our parents offered to give us the left over ice cream they have from their ice cream stand. The weather got cold so early that they had a lot of ice cream left over, and it would just go to waste otherwise. I thought they would ask for some payment, but instead they are just giving it to us! I couldn’t believe my ears. What a blessing! If the forecasters are remotely close, we should have a nice warm day on Sunday before the party. I’m praying that we have good warm weather so that the Ice Cream seems appropriate. So if some people will just turn up before the party to help me, then everything will be spectacular! Ještě něco(a little something more)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

On for another year!

I finished up my week in the US with many appointments. I visited with the people of the First Presbyterian Church in Tonkawa on my last Sunday. I've been corresponding with them and they've been supporting us as well. Again I felt this connection as I saw the smiling faces of people I had only known by name. I visited some friends and even talked to people in my church about my desire to go to seminary when I return to the US and the steps that lay before me in the next year. During my stay at home, many of you have asked "So what are your plans after this next year in Policka, a third year in Czech?" I really feel like I will move on to something else after this year. I think one thing God has been teaching me as I work with so many volunteers is to know when to let someone else take over. I'm really hoping that there will be someone else to take over for me in the fall of 2008. If you know of anyone who would be interested, please put them in touch with me ASAP, because we need to start some interview processes this fall. I was trying to spread the word around in Cimarron Presbytery, and I even went to talk to the University Student group in Stillwater to let them know about our work and the ways that they could be involved. In fact if you are reading this and you find yourself saying, "Hmm...I think it would be fun to teach at the English Camp for a week next summer, or maybe even a year," shoot me an email and I can tell you more about it.
Last Thursday I got back on the plane to come back accross the ocean. I had a long layover in London and went out on the town. Since by that time it was Friday, I strolled past the Markets of Portabello Road. I was sorry that my hands were already full and I couldn't take back any produce. Then I went on a little excursion to see the Templar Chapel they describe in DaVinci Code.The whole area surrounding it was quite beautiful and intriguing. So the Tube was my friend for the day, making it possible for me to see so much. I came to Prague pretty exhausted,
but at the same time exhilarated to be back in the Czech Republic. Since I've been back, I've been Mushroom Picking, moving into my new flat, and doing odds and ends work getting ready for another year of classes. WOW, I feel so refreshed that all of the anomalies and mishaps(like loosing my luggage, forgetting my adapter for US to CZ plug, hearing that my Dukester(cute little grey schnauzer) passed away back in Ponca, getting locked out of my Apartment because I was working late and they use a dead bolt at night) haven't gotten me down one bit. In fact I find myself smiling disaster right back in the face. I feel like my old self again, with insurmountable optimism.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Where in the world is Kati Salmons?

Well, I’m home in Oklahoma for one more week before I take a flight back to the Czech Republic. It’s been great catching up on old times with friends and sharing with people about our activities in Polička.

I realized that I’ve left off the details about my whole itinerary here on the blog. I’ve been just giving you the jist of my experiences. I’ve visited five churches while I’ve been here and still to go, I will be visiting Tonkawa First Presbyterian on Sunday and speaking with the College group of First Presbyterian in Stillwater on Tuesday.

Once I had settled into Ponca City, Oklahoma, staying with my parents and sleeping in my own bed:), I lead worship in the First Presbyterian Church there, my official home church where I feel like I have spent most of my life. This is the church where Pastor Jan served as the Associate Pastor in 2003, introducing us to Czech culture and making us more aware of the world. I gave the message for the day, I sang some hymns in Czech, and I even taught them a few words in Czech along the way. Many of the members of this church have traveled to Policka or they at least remember Jan and his family, so it was a joy to plan a worship for them that would reflect this connection between our churches.

The following Sunday I had a busy day and visited the Presbyterian Churches of Blackwell and Alva, OK. I added some spice to the Youth Sunday School class in Blackwell, by asking them to play our Minefield game in Czech(I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures of this, but if you don’t know what activity I’m talking about, check out the pictures fromAn Unusual Experience). I also gave the message during the worship service and taught them one of our Czech Hymns. That evening I spoke for the congregation of Alva during an Ice Cream Social. A few people from both of these churches have been to Policka and both congregations are supporting our work. I am so glad that I could meet the people from these congregations and make a physical connection with them.

Two Sundays ago I was visiting Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison. I talked in-between their worship services during their Soul Café about Czech culture and why we do what we do. During the second service I got to sing with the Praise Band like I used to do when I lived in Madison. Christ Pres has always felt like my home away from home, and it was great to realize that it still is.

This last Sunday I drove up to Minnetonka, Minnesota to meet the people of Faith Presbyterian Church. The people of this church have been supporting the church in Policka for quite a while now, and I enjoyed learning about the many connections between our congregations. Our church in Policka was started by some people from a church in the neighboring village of Borova. Ironically enough, Faith Church was also started by a group of Czechs from Borova who had immigrated to Minnesota. They used to worship in Czech and the Pastor still preached in Czech through part of the 20th century. In 1989 after the Revolution against the communist government in Czechoslovakia, they decided to sponsor an exchange program with students from the Theological Seminary in Prague to come study at the Presbyterian Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa for a year. Pastor Jan became the first student in this program and they continued supporting him when he returned to the Czech Republic. Years later Jan became the pastor in Polička and also served Borova for a while until they could afford a pastor of their own. When I was in Minnetonka they showed me the cemetery with many graves baring family names that match those buried in the cemetery of the church in Borova which I have also visited. This is a picture from the cemetary in Borova.The day I visited the church and cemetary in Borova was a special day for me. Last May some members of a German congregation came to visit our congregation in Policka. One day we visited the church in Borova and I was overwhelmed by the history of the church and the connections between believers of different cultures as we sang a hymn in Czech, English, and German all at once. This year I’ve been fortunate enough to worship with people from various cultures in Czech, German, French, and Italian. Each time I experience worship in another culture, I’m reminded of God’s universal message in the living word, omniscient power in our lives, and abounding love that unites us all.

Ever since the Eastern Block of Europe was opened after they shook off the chains of the communist governments, many American churches have been sending missionaries to Europe to preach the Gospel and help the churches that have survived. As we travel thousands of miles to the other side of the world, I think it’s important that we remember that their history and our history are connected. We need to remember that we walk on the same ground as our ancestors who walked with Christ, pioneered the church, reformed the church, and fought wars protecting their families and standing up for their faith. We are not carrying new ideas and revelations, but instead we are helping them find the path that has just become overgrown and unfamiliar. The more I travel and meet Christians from other cultures and congregations, the more I understand what it means to be “brothers and sisters in Christ.” As I travel to visit these congregations who are supporting our work in CZ, I hope that they are able to experience a part of this ministry and feel this connection with the world too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I’m Back

The last Sunday of Camp came quickly for all of us, but what an amazing day it was. All week long we had talked about Random Acts of Kindness and everything was brought together in the worship service Sunday morning. Pastor Jan gave a Sermon based on the Parable of the Sower, and he asked us to consider what kind of seed we will be when someone does a random act of kindness for us. Will we forget about it? Will it make us happy? Will we choose to go forth and make others happy as we pass on the kind deed? What will we do with the ideas that we talked about at camp, leave them behind or keep them in mind? Our group leader, Kerry, and my sister, Jacque, also spoke during the worship. They shared about the effects that the camp has had on their lives. Jacque talked about how the unconditional love that she has experienced from our family and the Czechs helps her to understand and know the unconditional love of our God. The whole service brought a nice closure to our week as we all went our separate ways.

I left for Oklahoma on Tuesday morning after the camp filled with bittersweet emotions, excitement to see my family and friends mixed with nerves about what kind of culture shock would await me when I started to spend time with them again. I think I’ve been more shocked about my actions and reactions to life in Oklahoma, then I was to the people and culture there. I chuckle every time I enter someone else’s home, because I still can’t get over the strange feeling of walking on carpet and not leaving my shoes at the door. I feel this great urge to experience all of the things that I missed while in the Czech Republic, like Dr. Pepper, cheddar cheese, and Mexican food. However, I slowly feel myself gaining back some of the weight that I had lost, because there just isn’t as much opportunity for walking in Oklahoma unless you park far away from the door at Wal-mart or go for a walk on the flat sidewalk that runs around the neighborhood. Even walking my dog didn’t give me much exercise, because he’s getting old and can barely make it to the end of our block and back. Well, enough about that for now.

I think the strangest thing for me has been getting used to people saying, “Excuse me,” when they pass. It completely catches me off guard and makes me think I’ve done something wrong. I’ve even caught myself thinking other people as rude for not just going around me or realized how rude I had been by taking up so much space. I guess it’s one of those hard things to explain. It wasn’t a habit that I logically accepted, but now I will have to find that cheery, friendly American inside me before I start offending loads of people.

Right now at this moment I am enjoying a visit with my Grandfather in Nitro, West Virginia (just south of the capital, Charleston). If Oklahoma wasn't enough of a shock to my system with overly friendly people, now I'm up in the friendliest neck of the woods there ever was. Next stop: Madison, WI. I’ll be at CPC on Sunday, so if you are in the Madison area stop on by Sunday morning to hear my presentation in Soul Café and/or give me a call if you want to get together. My last phone number still works, but if you don’t have it anymore, shoot me an email. So, in lieu of me ending the conversation in an abrupt manner now that I’ve finished my purpose--another Czech habit that I’ve had a hard time with adjusting to it there and getting rid of it here--It’s been nice catching up with you, have a great day! Check out my new blog “Ještě něco,“ if you’re looking for “a little more” insight into my life.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!GARDEN PARTY!

English Camp 2007; Friday!!!!
click here
Friday came so quickly! Wow, I actually can't believe the camp is over, and now even the garden party is over! I've posted some pictures from today, so quickly, for all of you who couldn't be here. We missed you and lot of the kids say, "Ahoj! Hello!" I'm sorry that I don't have a lot of words at the moment, but hopefully I will have a chance to reflect back in the next few days. All I have to say right now is thank you for checking the blog this week and staying in touch. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wednesday and Thursday--Getting over the hump

English Camp; Wednesday
click here
The Young King David told us his story about fighting the giant to protect his people and family, as we talked about kind acts that start small and turn out to be big. As the kids traveled around to the different classes they found very exciting activities on this not so normal Wednesday. Check out the Baseball games, the invisible bubbles, and the T-shirts!
I think Lindsay stole the show on Thursday, as she shared about her Lakota heritage in the Surprise room. You'll also see some Basketball and a fun craft where each of the groups made a plaque with a picture of their group. In the drama room we watched part of the movie Pay It Forward, and we talked about doing things for others and paying forward the kindnesses done to us. With the younger kids in Drama, we practiced mirroring each other as we would practice the kind acts we see others doing around us.
English Camp 2007; Thursday
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday--second day of camp

English Camp 2007;
click here to view-Day 2
Well, Ester welcomed us into the second day of camp, as we learned about volunteers, who do things for others who can't. In Drama, the kids came up with commercials to tell other people how they could help. In Surprise, the kids went searching for little bits of information, in snack they started their crossword puzzle for the week, in recreation they played Dodge Ball, and in crafts they made cards to give to others. In the afternoon, we had a chance to go on different day trips and a good time with our Czech friends. In the evening we had a relaxing dinner in the country. What a day! The week is really moving along!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

First day of Camp!

English Camp 2007; Monday
click here to view--Day 1
Monday morning we began bright and early with some of our favorite Engergizers: 500 miles and Star trekkin’. After a welcome and introduction, we had our first skit of the week that talked about the theme for the week, Random Acts of Kindness. Abigail’s story(1 Samuel 25) helped us to understand ordinary deeds of goodwill that can make a difference. Then the students split into teams named after different US cities and they went to a series of station: Crafts, Drama, Recreation, Snacks, and the Surprise room. In Crafts they made their journal for the week, so they can write down things when it is needed. In Drama (my room) we played Charades with examples of acts of goodwill and then watched and discussed the examples in the Coke commercial with the song “Give a little love and it all comes back to you,” maybe you’ve seen it. In Recreation they played Four Square, and in Snacks they learned about the city for their team. The surprise for the day was a lesson full of new Energizers and dances. When each group had completed all of their stations, we all gathered back into the sanctuary for a few more energizers and Kerry’s News Report of the Day—Mother Theresa cleaned an old man’s lamp, and brought light back into his life.
If that wasn’t a full enough day, after lunch we visited a special castle, Nove Hrady. Many of the Czech volunteers and students came with us on the trip. We had a great time and saw some very interesting furniture inside the castle.
On some nights this week, Czechs host us for dinner, and we get to spend more time getting to know them as we share photos, laughs, and culture. Sunday night and Monday night the American was split into small groups and distributed to different families. Each of us has great stories and memories from these dinners and I know we’re all looking forward for the next dinners to come.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Week-beginning

English Camp 2007;
Saturday and Sunday
click here to view pictures
On Saturday we spent the afternoon with our host families. Some went to play mini golf, some went to the forest and picked blueberries, and Jacque and I went to see Harry Potter 5...dubbed in Czech, believe it or not. I think we all had some fun experiences. That night we came together with all of the families and got to know each other better over dinner.
Sunday morning we got up early and came for church. For several years the congregation here in Policka has been raising money for a new organ. It finally arrived this week, and we enjoyed our first Sunday with the new organ, played by none other than my mother, Ann. I can't tell you how refreshing it is every time I hear the new organ. Jacque and I sang "His eye is on the sparrow" and I played flute with a friend playing violin. After the worship we had tea/coffee and then lunch and then it was straight to work to prepare for the week. But don't let me give you the wrong impression, there was a lot of work, but definitely a lot of play.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Believe it or not

English Camp 2007;
welcoming the Americans
(click here to view pictures)

Well, believe it or not, the Americans arrived to Czech Republic on Friday afternoon, safe and sound, with hardly any problems on the way here. Several of the Czechs came to the airport to welcome them, and I was glad that I could be there as well to greet them and make them feel at home.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Last Day of Classes


Thursday was my last day of classes and it ended nicely with my high school conversation class at the bowling alley. I know you don’t need a lot of English to bowl, but we had a lot of nice conversation between frames. In fact the popular question this week was, “What will you do this summer?” Many of my students are looking forward to our upcoming English camp in July. I’m sure many of you remember reading about the camp and looking at pictures on my Shutterfly photo page. This year you can look at this website for a selection of the best photos from each day and a link to the Picasso web albums. So DON'T FORGET to “Czech my blog” July 23-27 for up-to-date information about the camp.

So, what am I doing this summer? Some of my friends are coming to the Czech Republic and see where I’ve been for the past year, and then one of them will travel
with me to Germany. I’m excited to visit Dresden for a third time and see Berlin for the first time. I’ve always wanted to see the Berlin Wall (or rather what’s left of it) in person. We’ll also pass through Leipzig (yeah for JS Bach) along the way. And of course, one of the highlights of July will be the releases of the fifth Harry Potter movie and the seventh book, the “last” of such a long and suspenseful series. I’m still holding on to the idea that Snape is actually good and, at during book 6, was only acting as Dumbledore had instructed him to do. I guess this proves that the typical distrustful Czech mindset hasn’t worked it’s way into my way of thinking.

After the English camp, during the month of August and the first week of September, I will be traveling to the US while the Czechs also take their vacations. While I am visiting my friends and family, I will also be visiting several churches and groups to give a full report on the progress of our mission with comments about my experiences with the Czech culture. If you would like me to come to your church or organization, please contact me by email (, as soon as possible, and we can talk about possible dates.

And finally my dear readers, I’m sorry that I forget not all of you get my newsletters, but, I'm happy to announce that we have a good base of pledges for next year, and we have decided that I will stay in Polička for another year to continue this mission. This would not be possible without the continuing support from many churches and families. I want to thank all of my prayer partners, friends, and the churches who have been supporting me throughout the year with encouraging emails, cards, continuing financial support and, most importantly, prayer. Thank you to all of you who have pledged your support for next year, sharing your faith in the work that we are making a difference.

"Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again," Ecclesiastes 11:1. This scripture says a lot to me about our work here. You have been casting your support across the world to this small country, a place where many of you have never been, and some of you may have been wondering what became of the loaf I sent. It may be difficult for you to see the ripples in the water, but little by little, the love you all have shown will come back to you. It won't be the same loaf, but it will be the reflection of your kindness and faith. I'm looking forward to telling many of you about my experiences here in August. I feel like we've come such a long way in opening the doors of the church to the community and creating a welcoming place. Now people will have a better picture in their mind as to who goes to church, what we do there and who we worship.

Oh, but there is still such a long way to go. I can't even begin to describe the shock on some people's faces any time I drop the "G" word, and I can't imagine what would happen if I said the "J" word in a sentence. Plenty of people say Jesus (Ježiš) as a swear word, but I don't think half of them could tell you where he was born or even admit that he lived in the first place. The only time I've ever talked to Czechs, other than the Dus family, about Jesus was at Christmastime. Maybe you remember my post about Ježišek, little baby Jesus who brings presents like Santa Clause. They had no problem discussing the idea of a make believe character who visits at Christmas, because it's not connected with the church and Jesus. So, long story long, some Czechs think they have a handle on what Christians are like and what God, Jesus, and all of that religious stuff is about. My prayer is that, as we have opened ourselves to them, may they open their minds and hearts to us. They may hear what we have to say and choose to go the other direction, but if they will only give God a chance, they might find something to make their life worth living and fill that gap left in their hearts when money, technology, and success no longer bring them joy.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

An Unusual Experience

Čas pro neobyčejné zážitky
(The picture above serves as a link to the photo album)
Last night we provided activities for Policka's "Time for unusual experiences." During this festival, or exposition rather, people walk from place to place in Policka to get a sample of interesting activities. For instance the schools, the Gallery, Museum, and other places presented concerts or exhibitions that people can enjoy in 15-20 minute sessions, one after another. We chose to have activities for both adults and children. We started the evening with challenges for the children in the garden and a slide show with Tea and snacks upstairs in the church. After dark we changed our youth activities to suit older kids, and we played more active large group games like Ultimate Frisbee. Unfortunately, rain finally pushed us inside(because of the cold air), but we persevered and played some card games.
I have to thank all of you who were praying with me about this event. Due to busy schedules a this time of year, on Thursday morning, I feared I wouldn't have any helpers for our activities, but by that evening I had 5 definite helpers and on Saturday another 5 turned up! Oh, I don't know what I would have done without them! I don't know how it works out like this, but each time it seems like God provides exactly the right helpers that I need. For the Disco Night I had people who really liked to dance and could get the kids dancing. This Saturday I had younger youth that really wanted to be there and had a good time even though they had a lot of down time while they waited for people to come through to our attraction. Each one of them eagerly took charge of their activity and encourage the other kids who were taking the challenge. I think everyone had a great time, and God really had something fantastic in store for us.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Interactive Post!

I wanted to write a notice to let you know the next newsletter will be coming soon, but as a combination of May and June. The July and August newsletters will also be put together into one newsletter. Many factors brought me to this decision, but in the mean time I have posted some more pictures. I think it would be fun to make this an interactive post. With my High School class we had a camera scavenger hunt based on "26 things: a photographic scavenger hunt." We used the list for May which I've pasted below. See if you can guess what we were trying to portray by posting a comment below the picture or here as a comment to this post. Some of the pictures turned out to be quite obvious. You might be suprised though, because some of the "things" or ideas can be hidden. To view the album, just click on the picture below. Have fun!
Camera Scavenger Hunt

May 2007 26 Things List

1. keys
2. dance
3. fold
4. soft
5. tangle
6. panoramic
7. truck
8. sparkle
9. nose
10. round
11. currency
12. electronic
13. large
14. fake
15. stop
16. feast
17. multicoloured
18. before
19. after
20. landmark
21. from the hip
22. front page
23. a difference
24. telephone
25. the number 9
26. sticky

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

My Volunteers

Disco Night
I realize that I haven't said much on this website about how much I owe to my helpers. I have one to two helpers for each class(except my adult and High School classes), and each event requires lots of people to make it go smoothly. Sometimes I feel like I am scrambling for help and other times I end up with two much help. Events like this Disco Night, remind me that I couldn't be doing any of this if it wasn't for the helpers.
I think maybe all of you reading this can remember your first dance from sixth or seventh grade. The kids want to dance, but they feel awkward or just plain don't know what to do. So they sit...and wait...and sometimes never dance at all. Well, I planned ahead with Energizers throughout the night and different dance games so that they wouldn't get bored, but I did have some extra songs so that they would have a chance for a break or to dance like they want. I think it would have killed me to try to lead the kids on my own. My helpers at the dance really came through for me. They had such a great energy, and when they were having fun the kids had fun. You'll see from the pictures that we all had a really good time and it was all because of their help.

On Sunday we had some activities at a children's festival in town. This was even more difficult for me, because most of the kids and parents that came through didn't speak English at all. I really tried to speak with people and the children(in Czech and English), but it's always the same situation for me when I try to initiate conversation with people who are not expecting my spotty Czech. They usually give me this "deer in the headlights" look and I have to say, "I'm sorry, my Czech is terrible." Once they recognize that they can understand me if they try, they speak back to me. I think I scared a few small children when they heard me speak English. I guess it would be kind of scary hearing another language for the first time. Some kids and parents did respond very well to me, but these were mostly the people who spoke a little English or had experience speaking in another language. Most of the the time, my helpers had to step in and help, and, oh, did they help. They did so much that sometimes I felt like I wasn't doing anything at all, because they knew what to say and they just went ahead without instruction. They were really fantastic, and I am so thankful for their support.

I can't finish this post without speaking about the faithful helpers that come every week to teach with me. They keep the kids in line, they encourage them as they work, they remind me when I forget something important. I really feel like we are team teaching at times. It has been a challenge for me to learn to work with volunteers. I remember that I only asked a few people to help with the Halloween Party. I should have asked at least 7 if not 10 people. The people that did come felt overworked, and I was still trying to do most of it myself. Over the year I've learned to plan for things that the helpers can do as well as realize I need help in the first place.
Note: I'm experimenting with using Picasa instead of Shutterfly. Just click on the top photo and it should take you to the album. Tell me what you think!