Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Our talk show/worship
led by the rock group from our church,
Black Sheep(Černa ovce)

We have about 6 standard songs we can play and we spread them throughout the show. We invited the audience to sing with us and most of them did.

Pastor Jan was our first guest and it was a nice time for the youth to get to know him on a different level.

At the end we had a fun task for our guest and two audience volunteers. We call this part of the show "Ukaš, co umíš/Show us what you can do!" Pastor Jan drinks a lot of green tea each day, so we had a challenge to see how many cups of tea they could drink in 2 minutes. He drank 6, Pavla 5, and I think Martina had 1 and a half. It was a fun way to end the program.
Now we're in the planning stages for our next show on the 11th of July. We have already asked one of the teachers from the High School to be our guest and we're working on some new songs to add to our rep.
On a personal note, I'm sorry this took so long to get up. I know it's already been two weeks, but I just wasn't feeling like posting it yet. I think part of it is that I'm already starting to feel those pangs of separation anxiety. These kids and especially this Band are such a special part of my life. I feel like this Pokec is just starting before I leave, without much of my hand in the outcome and continuation. However, I know these kids are taking it seriously and they want to carry it on after I leave. Plus, with Jamie and Jeremy, there will still be people dedicated to encouraging the youth to be a part of the church. So keep us in your prayers as we prepare for the next one, that the kids start to become better performers and more aware of the flow between segments as the gain more experience in leadership.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The moments you've been waiting for

First installment of video clips from our April Fool's Night.

First a video of our Band playing one of the Czech favorites. If you are Czech, you know this one:) If not, you can enjoy watching us play and seeing the people in the audience.

Introduction and first joke.
Part of my introduction is in English, but most of it is in Czech. This video is especially for those of you who have said that you'd love to hear me speak Czech. What I'm saying is a little play on words, using the scripture from Ecclesiastes: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose in our program. A time to be silly, a time to be true, a time to move your feet, and a time to sit and listen, etc. etc. It doesn't sound as nice in English, but you should at least get a laugh at the end of the clip if you don't understand a word of it.

The Hokey Pokey
The 1st-3rd graders teach an American dance:)

The Chair Commerical
Are you tired of standing? Buy our chair! Take one home today!

More to come next week! Until then, enjoy and be thinking of us on Wednesday, as we have our first Wednesday night with the band(Pokec or Chat show with Cerna ovce)!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Black Sheep/ Černa ovce

Finally, our band has a name! Černa ovce as in the Black Sheep(singular). I think it works so well. We're a Christian band, with Jesus as our shepherd, so the sheep image fits. Plus the whole concept of the black sheep carries through this culture and perfectly describes the life of a Christian in an atheist world. The youth had this idea and they all like it. We're Černa ovce. Here's an extra mp3 for your enjoyment of one of our favorite songs.

Next week we have our first concert in the style of a Talk show. We call it POKEC or Chat in English. We'll have a guest, ask questions, sing songs, and a short devotion. The idea was to offer something like youth group, but cool enough that the youth would want to invite their friends. I'm really excited about this. Part of me is frustrated because it's all happening just before I leave. But the greatest part is that the youth are really taking it all on themselves! They selected the guest, made up questions, came up with the flow of the service and even the whole idea of the talk show was theirs. I think they have enough ownership with the idea that they will carry it on next year when I'm in Atlanta. I'm glad I get to be here to see the start of this great idea! Enjoy our poster! See if you can guess which one is me(hint: I'm wearing glasses all the time now).

Monday, May 05, 2008

Life in a free country

Just when you think it's all smooth sailing ahead, a strong wind is sure to blow. This picture you see shows our recently finished church building from the 1930's. The country was flourishing and no one quite foresaw the inevitable occupation by the Germans and then the Russians. Not that our situation can in anyway compare to the totality and devastation those strong winds brought, but our recent strong wind came quite unexpected and feels life threatening for those involved, my sweet middle school girls.

Even before I came, Pastor Jan began having overnights in the church for the religion classes. Each group would have two Saturday nights a year where they played lots of games, ate junk food, prepared something for worship, slept(only a little), and then went to worship together the next morning. He began the nights as a way to reward the kids by giving them a fun time in the church and also by giving them time to get to know one another. The kids were always encouraged to invite their friends, but everyone accepted that they go to worship the next morning together, because it seemed natural since the service would be taking place while they were there in the church. So people who had problems with the church tended not to send their kids at all, just because they didn't want their children socializing in the church.

When I came last year, I automatically began helping Jan with these sleepovers(they total to 6-7 overnights a year, more endurable with two adults). As more and more kids showed up for these fun nights, we decided to open them to kids from the English classes. We lined them up with the Game Nights, so that if the kids wanted to just stay for the overnight, they could. Four of the younger kids from the English Classes got really excited and wanted to come, but only one of them ended up staying. This little boy had an older brother who had come with his friends once before, so he had already heard about the fun times we have. The other kids seemed like they wanted to stay, but still felt too young to sleep away from their parents in a weird place. We all remember those times when we were 7(well, at least I remember calling my parents once at midnight from a sleepover, because I wanted to go home to my mommy and daddy).

The middle school kids experienced it in a little bit different way. Some of them really liked the game nights, but didn't want the pressure to stay overnight and go to the church, so they stopped coming to the game nights all together. One of these kids finally confronted us about it last week. She wrote to me saying that she really wanted to come to sleep in the church, but her parents didn't want her going to the worship service. Her letter was phrased as an apology, but I felt like she was fishing to see if I would allow her to come anyway and skip out on the service. I told her that even if she could not go to the worship service, she was welcome to come to the game night and then go home. I made sure, however, to reply about how shocked I was that her parents didn't want her to come to the worship service. You'd be amazed at how strongly these parents don't want her to go to the service. They feel like we are taking their liberty away by saying that the children must go to the worship. The young girl complained to one of the girls which go to our church,"We live in a free country and the church can't force us to go to the worship just because they need more members." I was so proud of the other girl who replied,"We don't need more members. We have plenty of people who come to worship. The overnight is for those of us who go to religion, so we go to the worship together. It is a free country. You don't have to come." Ah, and there-in lies the rub! Now that this country is free from communism and a government which seeks to control every aspect of their lives, for some people freedom means doing things the way they choose, without restriction.

A year ago, I would have expected these reactions and complaints, but I honestly felt like we have come such a long way in building trust with the community so that they don't feel threatened by the church. I think this was a good reminder that many people still have reservations about becoming "too close" with the church. They believe we "need more members" and will do anything to get people to sign up and join. Once they get to know us, however, I think they will find that we define freedom in a different way. Freedom for people in this church comes in the ability to openly live, work, and worship in a way that pleases God. During communism many Christians were forced to keep their beliefs secret or live under constant pressure from the government. No one in this church would want to "force" anyone towards any belief, simply because they, too, value the freedom of choice, the freedom to believe as you please.

Freedom of religion is still a new concept in this country, and even stranger is the freedom of choice. Throughout history their governments have forced religion and/or other ideologies and at other times suppressed those who worked against them. As an American I have a hard time comprehending the ingrained reflex to reject anything that comes with force.

I feel like I could go on about this all day, but to wrap things up, I'll end with this hope for the future of this country. I pray that these people will learn to open up to each other and accept one another's beliefs in a way that they don't feel forced to live exactly like their neighbor. I pray that as these people learn to live as individuals they remember that they can still work together and help each other around them. Finally, I pray they will find that freedom can be found within restrictions and laws, and that it can only truly be shared within a set of laws that a community supports and upholds.