Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Notes from leaving

So today I’m heading to Madison to see my friends Jason and Joanna get married, the Oklahomans are heading out towards Wichita, KS, and Jamie and Jeremy are heading through Germany on their mini tour of Europe before classes start(just like I did with Jacque and our friend Sarah Holstedt). This morning as I rode in my taxi, it took me past the Prague Castle and Charles Bridge, one last time, right at the perfect moment of sunrise when everything has a nice rosy color. I couldn’t believe my luck in getting to take a nice last pass through the city I love, with the glimpses of all the places I adore. It was painful to say goodbye to Pastor Jan as I got in my taxi and even harder as we drove away, but as I gathered my memories while looking at the sunrise, I was filled with thanksgiving for two AWESOME years. When I think of how my life and the lives of these kids would have been different, I no longer regret the pain which still exists in my hands.
Friday:Final day of class and weekend events
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I’ve decided to keep posting on this blog throughout seminary and maybe even beyond that. What started inside me in Polička will stay with me and my next journey is only a continuation of the first. Please keep this site in your bookmarks I previously had started a second blog called Ještě něco, and I think I will use that as a way to let my Czech friends know about my new experiences, and keep up my Czech. Můžeš tam se pojdivat a upravit můj čestinu. Ještě nemám něco tam, ale budu.
Here’s the final group of pictures that I didn’t get to post the other night. A selection from the last day of camp, Friday night garden/church party, Saturday Day, and Sunday morning’s worship. Like I mentioned in my last newsletter, I’m empowered by the fact that as I finish this glass of wine, another is being poured. Jamie, Jeremy, and I are all recieving the fruits of new wine, and enjoying the sweetness along with the freshness. We may not know how this new cup will taste, but we’re excited to see what it’s like. Please have patience with them while they are traveling, and they’ll be in contact with you all towards the end of August or the beginning of September, with their newsletter.
Praise be to God for his guidence, patience, and faithfulness. Thank you all for your prayers and encouragements this week. We’ll be in touch. Until next tím.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Friday to Monday: Exiting the door.

I apologize for the lack of posting in the last few days. I have been emotionally and physically exhausted. Leaving Polička turned out to be every bit as difficult as I imagined it to be, but I survived and I know the friends I’m leaving behind will as well. During the camp on Friday, we talked about exits—leaving and what it is like to move on to another culture. We sang Pharaoh, Pharaoh, as we learned about how Moses took the Hebrew people out of Egypt. I was invited as the guest for the day and it was an incredible way to say goodbye to my students and answer any last minute questions they had. The camp came to a close with farewells and exchanges of emails, but the fun didn’t end there.

Starting in the afternoon, we had our annual garden party. This year turned out to be a bit different from the rest. It began in a similar way, with the men huddled around the roasting pig, and our performers making last minute preparations. Our Band had equipment set up outside for the performance and some of our volunteers were prepared to dance on the bare ground. We got through the first few musical performances and the first two rounds of meat, when the rain began to fall. We all headed into the church for shelter and continued the rest of the party inside the church. So, yes, food and drinks inside the sanctuary with some kind of program which definitely didn’t feel like the normal activity in our place of worship. In fact a lot of it felt like chaos to me. Maybe it’s because I’m used to programs inside the sanctuary having a focus and following a formal flow of events, and this was everything but that. Amazingly enough, however, after dancing energizers and singing silly songs, by the end of the night we were all sitting in the sanctuary together having a time of community, focused on friendship and love. So the question could still stand if it turned out to be a worship of some sorts, as we recognized the ways we have been connected over the years through the love of God. If you want to see some pictures of Friday’s party and some videos of Jacque and me singing, check out this link to our area paper: SvitavskyDenik. There are two choices: to view photos or video, and you can select the pictures or use the arrows.

On Saturday we visited some caves and then some vineyards in Moravia (Southeastern Czech Republic). More fun times to strengthen our bonds of friendship. Sunday provided more time for saying Goodbye, as we had our closing worship. This year, I feel like I wasn’t surprised to see so many volunteers attending the worship, because they had been attending our devotionals all week. We all know the same worship songs now, and I think they have a better idea of what it means to meet with friends and talk about God. In previous years, I felt like Sunday was kind of like the final party, but this time, I also felt like it was just the continuation of the party that had started 8 days before, when we met in the same room to get to know one another.

The community we experienced this week again makes me so excited that we have these camps. Everyday we came together, as brothers and sisters and grew in our relationships with each other, and some in their relationships with God. We have always been very careful not to speak about Jesus(aka evangelize) during class time of the camp, because we feel like this is backhanded and deceitful by “tricking” them into showing up for a bible study. So this year we had a special time for reflection and discussion about Jesus and God, and people came. More than just coming out of curiosity, they came every day of the week.

I want to take this space to thank all of you for following along this week and these past two years our ministry on this website. I will be still posting from time to time on this website, but as of next month Jeremy and Jamie will be making new posts about their coming activities and classes with the kids. Leaving would be so difficult for me, if I didn’t know Jeremy and Jamie would be continuing my work. This week we’ve been fortunate enough to spend lots of time with each other, and I feel so great about passing my work on to these talented individuals. They’re already speaking a good bit of Czech and learning how to communicate, plus that have so many great ideas for this year. I’m going to miss Policka, but I really can’t wait to see what they have in store for this community. So thank you, I’ve had a blast sharing my experiences with you and I hope you enjoy hearing about the continuation of this ministry with Jeremy and Jamie.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Follow the arrows

    So, yesterday I missed the daily blog post. Wednesday is always the most stressful, but once it’s over, it’s all down hill from there. Our morning scripture focused on the story of Mary and Martha, reminding us that as we go through this day full of tasks and activities, we should take the time to sit and listen to our friends. In the evening, Cerna Ovce, our band from the church, presented our Pokec(Chat Show) with Ann and me as their guests. They asked some great questions like, “Ann, was Kati a good daughter?” and “Kati, do you think that you have any qualities like your mom?” Oh, there were some good stories told in answer to these questions, but I’m afraid that they might be too personal to put on the internet
There was a great crowd, and I think what shocked me the most was that there were even people who would NEVER come Sunday morning to church. Sure we have a devoted group of volunteers that come on both Sunday’s(and have been coming every morning to the devotion), but there are still some people that I know feel strange about coming to a worship service. This chat show has a form which is a bit more acceptable.
Then last night, several helpers, my sister and I prepared the event for today: šipkovaná-The Arrow Hunt. The children have been learning from the Americans all week, so today we swapped the rolls and had a scavenger hunt through the city of Policka to teach the Americans about Czech culture. Each team followed arrows to special sites in Policka, for instance the park, the town hall, the Catholic church, and the Brewery. We had 10 stations and the Czech volunteers provided the task at each one. The whole thing was pretty demanding, lots of walking and complicated routes, but everyone had fun and got to spend some personal time with the Americans. Even those who got lost had a great time finding their routes and completing their tasks. Needless to say, we were all ready for the great lunch that awaited us today-pork, sauerkraut and potato dumplings.
This afternoon we took a trip to Zelená hora, a beautiful church with a mix of baroque and gothic architecture. Again the afternoon trips are special for us, because it’s time we spend with our friends, old and new. We have met so many people this week and heard many new experiences as we learn about life in the Czech Republic and the history of these people. I think we will all come out of this week with changed hearts and minds. It amazes me how every year we have done this, each time feels new, and every year brings surprises and blessings. ONE more day of camp and then the GARDEN PARTY!
sipkovana:the Arrow Game

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No more first day jitters, no more first day novelties.

    Today we were full on into the stream of class time and work. Again, most of the same people from yesterday showed up for our reflection time and we even had a few new people. We’ve been singing in Czech and in English and I think it helps us all feel on the same page, a bit awkward but together in front of our grace giving God. We opened with the story of Zacchaeus, the outsider which Jesus called to come and follow him. We talked about how we have a special time this week to call to the outsiders and include them into our groups. Some of the Americans also pointed out how difficult it must have been for Zacchaeus to leave the safe and secluded tree and come join Jesus and his followers in front of all of the others. Joy told us how the story made her think of our Czech friends who haven't stayed hidden in the tree, but have come down from their hiding place and taken part in the action. I can’t tell you how impressed I was when so many Czechs showed up for the second day of the devotion. I don’t know if I would say there are more Czechs than Americans, but there definitely is about an equal number, making the half an hour less of sleep worth it for all of us.
We continued into the second day of camp focusing on the theme of what it feels like to be closed out of society, an outsider cast out by society. The skit showed how Moses tried to protect his Hebrew relatives, and ended up killing an Egyptian. Instead of winning the friendship of his people, they regretted what he did and refused to call him one of their own. Yet at the same time, the Pharaoh had heard of Moses’ actions and wanted to kill him as well. Moses was forced to leave his home, his heroic actions resulting in his rejection. We were very fortunate today to welcome a guest for our “Door Experience Room,” Ondrej Kovac, a pastor in our denomination who has conquered several obstacles despite his blindness and Roma ethnicity. The kids got to ask questions and had quite a few of them. We heard about his wife and kids and how he lives like a normal person, how people help him on the street, and how he can use the computer and internet with his special program which reads aloud what he types. One very interesting thing for me was listening to him talk about how he interacts with his children. Since he cannot read books to his children, they sit together with the book, his son describes what is on the page, and he makes up stories to go with the pictures. He talked about the importance of imagination and imagery when you live with blindness.
I think today we all had a lot of personal time with the kids and volunteers. We’re starting to learn names and building more friendships. I think we’re already starting to get a bit tired, but we’re really excited to be getting to know these kids! Enjoy the pictures below! You'll see some fight shots, Engergizers, Dodge Ball, Craft time, Snacks, and discussion time.
Tuesday: Day 2 of English Camp
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 1 of English Camp

    OH, was today exciting! We started today with our first "Daily Reflection," which we have opened up to the helpers and students. We didn't really know who would show up for the devotional time. I was counting on the Americans, but the funny thing is that when it was time to start, there were more Czechs than Americans. We began with a song in Czech and English and then read from the book of Matthew 5:13-16.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

I encouraged the youth and the adults to think of themselves as the salt for this week and to put their light on a lampstand for all to see. "We will be adding a little fun and joy to the lives of these kids. Even when you feel like one person in the midst of a crowd, remember that what you say to these kids makes a difference for them. Your random acts of kindness go a long way...This week you will be working with many kids. It’s difficult to make personal relationships when you’re working with 100 kids. Every moment counts and the more you can personally interact with the children, the better. Call them by name, ask them questions, make eye contact, and do what you can to speak to every child once this week. Let the light and love you have inside you shine for all who can see."
100 kids showed up to see their old friends and make some new ones, too. You'll see from the pictures how we started with Energizers in our opening and then had our first of five skits which will tell the story of Moses and how he rescues the Hebrew people. From the random pictures of class time activites, I think you'll see that the camp has a nice balance of fun and serious times. One of our rooms this year incorporates a special guest who will be sharing their personal life experiences with the kids. Today Julie spoke about her travels and being welcomed into a new culture. This afternoon the volunteers and kids joined us for a trip and we'll spend the evening making more friends as we again share dinner with another family. Today we all had our first taste of the great things to come this week. Enjoy the pictures from the Album below!
Monday: The first day of camp!
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Praise God for Sundays

Camp 2008; The first Sunday
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This morning we began with an amazing worship, filled with music and involvement of so many people! The handbells played, Cerna Ovce played, our church choir sang, Jacque and I sang during communion, and all of the songs were in English and Czech.
Then we sort of partied all day, with a bit of hard work inbetween. Looking at these photos, you might be confused with what was party and what was work. Each team member has a fantastic attitude and they just make the work FUN! We got a lot prepared today and I know we're all bursting to actually start our first day of classes!!


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday with the Volunteers

This morning most of the team slept in to at least 10am and the others were too filled with excitement(like me) and woke up at 6am ready to get to work and start having fun. It was a long day for me and several others who helped to Černa Ovce(our church band) get set up. Jeremy has started to help us with sound and is doing a great job filling the gap, mixing it just like we needed. Jirka Švec(some of you know him) was there to help us too, as we were getting the equipment set up. Plus my Dad was there to lend his expertise as well:)It was quite a big endeavor though, because after the intensive rehearsal we started a big round of active and competitive get to know you games.
Saturday is usually our time to get to know the families that are hosting us and introduce everyone. This afternoon the helpers planned a surprise and ended up having an afternoon full bonding time. We began with making our own Coat of Arms on balloons and sharing with others the symbols that best described our personalities and what we enjoy. Then we split into teams for a quiz on Oklahoma and Czech history. After the quiz, we had a major strategy game to win the Battle of Polička. Each team had a General who had the map composed by his scouts and sent messages to the armies to attack and move his musketeer. I know, sounds confusing...we thought so too, and then we started playing and we all had a blast! What a great way to start off the camp! Then we went upstairs to share a light meal and socialize with our host families. To finish of the night, some of the youth went bowling and the "Adults" and older youth headed to the pub. I know in these pictures you'll see a lot of new faces, but after today, they don't seem quite so new to me. We're all having a great time getting to know each other. Tomorrow we'll start our work!
Saturday with the volunteers and our host families
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They're Here!

Believe it or not, yesterday we met the crew from Oklahoma and Everyone has arrived, On time and with ALL OF THEIR LUGGAGE! Considering we had one group yesterday and four other people arriving from different places or with different circumstances at other times this week, this is an amazing fact. Several Czechs traveled from Policka to welcome them and as you can see from the picture above, we’re all really happy to be here (Jarda’s even loosing his head a bit:)
So when we came to Policka, we split up to join the families which will be opening their homes to us this week. For me this turned out to be a special time when my whole family could sit together again at a meal, because Anna and Jan invited Jacque and I to join them for the meal they would be providing for my parents. For others, they have already begun making new relationships, visiting with old friends, and/or getting their first impressions of Czech culture. The week has gotten off to a good start.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Arrivals part one


Jacque and I met Jamie and Jeremy at the airport as they arrived on time with all of their suitcases! We had a great time last night as we shared dinner with Anna and Jan. We've been getting to know each other and sharing lots of laughs! After dinner we went down to the cellar of our hostel where they have a nice pub and Jeremy and I had some good Czech beer: Kozel. This morning we're all a little tired, but we at least had a good night of sleep to start the week. This afternoon we'll head back to the airport to meet the other team members and our Czech friends which will come to meet them at the Airport. The good news is I've already heard that they made their flight to Amsterdam, so we know they're on their way!!!!
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From Blueberries to Monasteries

For the last two weeks I have been traveling and visiting friends, preparing for the camp and preparing for leaving as I take a last good look at this countryside and share the final cups of coffee before heading home.
My friend Debbie Fields came to visit me for a week and we ended up spending most of the time talking with my friends about Czech culture. As we visited museums and I translated for her, I began to realize how much I really know about the history of this country and the lifestyle of today. I’ve really enjoyed sharing my experiences with all of you over the last two years on my blog.

Last week I went blueberry picking with my friends Stepan(who came to Oklahoma, invited by Vikki and Dennis Paulson) and Petr(his brother). Usually the forest is a calm and quite place where you can feel quite alone. When it’s blueberry season, however, the forest is filled with laugher and noise as families come to take their bucketfuls of blueberries home for yummy baked goods. As I picked and picked during those two hours, I remember how completely peaceful it felt. Picking, picking, eating, picking for another hour, and then eating. Our hands turned purple from the juice, and as I took a photo, it struck me that these hands look the same as they would have hundreds of years before. When their grandparents’ grandparents picked in this same forest to make the same kolačy and fruit dumplings, the blueberries stained their hands as well. Although they surely picked a bit faster than we, it felt lovely to crouch next to the bush and pick, pick, pick, like the generations before.
Friday our American team will arrive, with many new faces mixed in among the one’s we know. As we begin the camp in the familiar ways, finding something that’s almost routine, we’ll be thinking of all of you who have helped us in the past and thinking about our old memories as we make new ones. Be sure to check back starting on Saturday (or Friday if you’re lucky) for pictures of our activities and the daily English camp. Wow! The fun is about to begin!
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