Thursday, November 29, 2007

A real Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic

Best Thanksgiving Ever
click here to view

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.