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.