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!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Need for Community

Later Friday afternoon, I left for Havlíčkův Brod to visit some friends I made when I sang in the prison, oh, but I guess I didn't tell that story on my blog, so maybe I should give some more background. One of the ministers in our presbytery invited me to visit the Easter service in a women's prison. I thought it would be interesting, mostly because I was eager to spend some more time with his family, but also because I was curious about the life in the prison. So, he then invited me to sing and play my flute, which seemed like a natural question to me. I didn't realize, however, that there was a whole group of youth that provided music. We had two guitars several singers a violin, trumpet, and flute! Quite a lot compared with most services I've been to in our denomination. The service turned out to be abnormal, with lots of disrespectful women speaking during the sermon, songs, and even prayers. They told me afterwards that normally the woman show lots of respect and deeply appreciate the service, however, there was a recent flux of gypsies or, to be politically correct, Romani people in the prison. I thought it was interesting when they said this, because previously I had observed how the women in the prison had significantly darker skin than the Czechs that I see on a normal basis. It is incorrect to say that the Roma are disrespectful, they just have a different culture and other priorities or, rather, perspectives about life. You might say that I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I think there were many issues that could have lead them to feel free to talk and make what normal church goers would call a "ruckus" during the worship. It didn't bother me much; I just prayed that they would still hear the message so that maybe it would stick around inside their brain for later thought. Anyway, I don't know any Romani people personally. I only know about them through other Czechs, so at this point I don't feel like a good source for information about this cultural conflict. I've just been told that they came from Slovakia years ago and took over the towns that were left empty after the Germans were kicked out in the aftermath of the second world war. Knowing the cultural differences between the Czechs and Slovaks(Slovaks have a much more relaxed way of life than the Czechs), I can only imagine that the barrier would be even greater with a nation of people who seem relaxed to the Slovaks. I don't know if I will ever discover more about this issue, because there are not many Roma in this area. Well, at least this experience introduced me to the subject.

Getting back to the story, many of the youth from this worship service were from a congregation in Havlíčkův Brod(and nearby village Horní Krupá). I had a nice conversation with the pastor, David, and he invited me to one of their youth meetings. So this Friday was the long awaited youth meeting. Oh, I had a great time there. David prepared a Bible Study in Czech and English, and I greatly enjoyed the feeling of community in their youth. It actually holds true with our church as a whole, The Evangelic Church of Czech Brethren, which has a relationship with the Presbyterian Church(USA). There are always some jokes at presbytery gatherings about half of the group being related, but that's just it. This denomination is like one big family. I find myself calling it "our church," rather than "our denomination." This has been true for centuries though, because of their prosecution by the Catholics. Everyone in our church feels connected in a special way. I would say I know more people from our Presbytery/Synod in CZ, then I ever did in my Presbytery in OK or WI. I've been to several youth gatherings planned for our presbytery, as well as singing with Vocatus as I mentioned in an earlier post, and, although the number is small, the faith and feeling of community is great.

You know it seems to me that some Czechs don't even care about whether God exists, let alone care about the differences between religions and denominations. I hesitate to even call them Atheists, because then they would be taking a position as to say there is no God, but instead many people, just don't think about it. They "believe in people" as they say. And yet, there are the extreme opposites from these people, who feel rooted in the church, and these people are different from normal Czechs. Their faith and differences from the other Czechs bind them together in their small denomination, kind of in the way that all Czech people feel bound together, the small Czech people in the small country. Their faith is at the center of who they are. They may seem lukewarm to the "Red hot Evangelical," but their roots go deep and their devotion is true. They just don't go around shouting about their faith, because just walking the walk does enough to say, "This is the way I have chosen, and I am satisfied. Choose how you may."


On Friday morning I got up for the parade of the annual spring festival in Czech schools called Majáles(May festival). Each class from the High School creates a costume and there's a competition for the best one. I dressed up with one of my English classes and they ended up winning for their "mask" of trash. The Mayor, our judge, said that it was very ecological, however, we seemed to be dropping more and more trash on the street. Everyone had a good time though. After the parade, different groups from the town presented entertainment in the square while more high school students had games for the smaller kids. What a fun morning!