Monday, October 24, 2011

The Next Journey!

To my friends and supporters around the world,

I would like to share the joyous news that I have accepted a call to be the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Nebraska! Over the past few months I have enjoyed getting to know them through their Pastor Nominating Committee, their references and their joyful newsletters. Recently I have had the privilege to preach for them and visit their community on a more personal level. They are a small, strong congregation that daily lives out their mission statement to be a “church that feeds people body, mind and soul.” I thank God for this opportunity to join in mission with them in Howard County and beyond! I will be joining with them in ministry beginning November 14th! It will be a fast transition, however, I am excited to begin with them in preparations for their hosting of a community Thanksgiving dinner(one of their central ministries) as we enter the Advent season together!

I would like to invite you(in body or in spirit) to my Service of Ordination on October 30, 2011, at 2pm in First Presbyterian Church of Ponca City, OK. This will be a very special service as we remember our baptism and celebrate our callings in the one body of Christ. We will welcome a few members from my future congregation as well as Rev. Jan Dus from Polička, Czech Republic! As we celebrate God’s call upon my life and future ministry, I would like to celebrate the ministries where I have witnessed God at work. Our offering during the service will be designated to support the Cimarron Presbytery Solar Under the Sun project in Juju, Kenya. During my time at Columbia Theological Seminary, I had the amazing opportunity of studying alongside Rev. Henry Kaira, who is now a pastor at Juju Presbyterian Church. I was overjoyed to discover that our presbytery has already been at work in a partnership with this particular community.

Please join me in celebration of my calling as a pastor and witness to God’s love and work in the world! If you cannot be in attendance, don't worry! As always, I will continue to update this blog with the coming steps of this journey! Thank you for your love and support that has carried me to this place!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Kati

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Worship/Bible Study Resources

Today another friend shared some more great resources with me from "The Skit Guys".  Click on their picture above to follow a link to a brilliant parody of The Office called "The Workplace".  I've never been very comfortable watching The Office because it is full of all of those awkward and alienating moments in life which we generally try to forget about.  The boss-like guy and his assistant in this skit really don't get what it means to be disciples of Christ...and yet they remind me of so many awkward and alienating Christians I have met throughout my life.  They mean well and they even quote scripture, but they just make other people hate Christians.  Surely living out your faith in the workplace looks a lot different than this, and the skit guys make that point loud and clear as a trumpet.  

This Sunday I'll be preaching in Stillwater, Oklahoma using our lectionary text from Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. This is the one where they all receive the same reward, despite the fact that they didn't work the same amount. It's not the one where the workers kill all of the messengers...even though they may have wished to kill the foreman who doesn't pay them "fairly". Anyway, one of the messages within the parable centers around answering the call to work in God's kingdom. I won't be using the video for my sermon, but I can't help but laugh at this visual representation of those of us who get so wrapped up in pushing ourselves to work harder at serving God, that we miss the object of God's affection: those awkward and alienated creatures called human beings. Let it be a reminder for all of us with "beautiful feet", that no one likes to have someone shove a foot in their face. May we strive to be more like Christ who invites us to first share in humility by revealing the dirtiness of our own feet and continuing to share the living waters of grace with others in an effort to reveal God's beautiful handiwork and not our own.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Power point minus the slides

A dear friend shared this great new resource with me which is changing the face of presentations across the world.  It's called Prezi, and it's a fun way of making power point more participatory.  Since this follows along with my yearnings for worship reform which encourages more participation and active thought, I've been playing around with reading scripture in Prezi.  Try this out and let me know what you think. To view the presentation, simply hit the play triangle and continue hitting the right button or click where you want to go.  To view in fullscreen mode(the coolest) use the more button.  For more instructions and to try your own hand at making a prezi, go to

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

JC's Pizza

Have you ever found something that your parents saved from your childhood that you're both embarrassed and excited to rediscover? Today my mom was cleaning out her office at work and found a short skit I had written back in college (ten years ago;) for use with explaining faith to kids. I think I wrote it originally for her puppet ministry…which uses a lot of puns, so brace yourself. I was shocked to discover how there are a lot of funny theological explanations in a quite basic and yet deep way. I'm not sure if it is for adults or kids, but I think either group would pick up on some things and just have fun in the mix of it. I think it perfectly describes my understanding of the relationship between grace and sin. Plus it plays with some explanations of the Trinity. Most of all, I think it's a fun way to explain communion and how through the bread and wine/juice we are able to partake in the peace of the Holy Spirit as we meet with Jesus at the table(or counter in this case). There are some things I would adjust after my seminary explorations and more experience with children, but I think it is worth sharing as it is--a snapshot of my understanding at the time of God's desire to fulfill our true hungers in life. So, here's a picture of my mother with one of the puppets they used in VBS to get you in the mood, and enjoy this skit with a joyful and thoughtful heart. Feel free to laugh, criticize or groan…I know I did;)

JC's Pizza

(Customer walks up to the door, sees a sign that says, "knock and the door will be opened to you". He reads it aloud, and then the man at the counter, JC, comes to open the door.

JC: Come on in, how can I help you? (as both walk to the counter)

Customer: Do you have any specials?

JC: You’ve come just in time for our Pizza the Holy Spirit Combo. It includes our famous Pizza the Holy Spirit, plus free breadsticks and Grape juice to fill your soul. It's the combo that will make you so full that you'll never go hungry again."

Customer: (after a brief pause) Grape Juice?

JC: Yeah, you could say it's kinda our gimmick, whenever someone eats the bread and drinks the grape juice they think of this place and my father.

Customer: Your father?

JC: Yeah, He really owns the business and used to run everything until he had me, and when I was old enough he put me to work for him. Now people come to me when they want the Pizza the Holy Spirit. Speaking of, would you like the combo special?

Customer: No thanks. What's the "Forbidden Pizza"?

JC: Well to be honest, it has a really bad after taste and makes a lot of people sick. Still a lot of people order it because they think, "Maybe this time it will be better," but it just gets worse and worse. I wouldn't recommend it. One of Dad's old friends came up with it, and knowing him explains why it's so un-fulfilling. After you eat i,t you're even hungrier than before you ate the pizza. I had one once, and I think I suffered enough for the rest of this town, even enough for the rest of the world. Trust me, it's not worth it.

Customer: So why are you telling me this? Why does it make a difference to you?

JC: I just don't want anyone to suffer like I did.

Customer: Thanks! Thanks kind of you, but I think I will just have a large pepperoni pizza for me and my friends.

JC: Okay, one pepperoni pizza (shouts to the back) One Large Pepperoni.

(Deep voice from back): The pepperoni has gone bad, try the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

JC: Sorry, Did you hear that?

Customer: Sort of, but I couldn't understand what he was saying.

JC: Oh, He said that the Pepperoni has gone bad and asked if you wanted to try the Holy Spirit Combo.

Customer: Well that's okay, but what about the Hamburger or Sausage?

JC(yelling to the back): How's the hamburger and sausage?

(Voice): Unclean, try the pizza the Holy Spirit.

JC: So what do you think?

Customer: I'm sorry, I still didn't understand him.

JC: He said the meat was unclean, which means it would probably go under the Forbidden Pizza Category, if you know what I mean.

Customer: Ah…I see.

JC: Oh, he also asked again if you would like the Pizza the Holy Spirit?

Customer: Um, what about the four cheese pizza?

JC: Well, one of the other workers left the special cheese out too long and they spoiled, so you know, unless you want a plain cheese pizza, you should really try the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

Customer: Well, we definitely don't want a plain pizza. We want something more exciting. OK, I'll try the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

JC: Great! (yelling to the back) One Pizza the Holy Spirit!

Voice: Coming Right Up!

JC: And I'll even throw in the Breadsticks and Grape juice on the house, so you'll have something to remember us by.

Customer: Wow, thanks. So, how much is that with tax?

JC: It's free.

Customer: What do you mean it's free?

JC: All you had to do was ask, then the whole deal is free.

Customer: Wow, that's very gracious of you! How can I ever repay you?

JC: Just go and get the word out about JC's Pizza and the Pizza the Holy Spirit Combo. And your appreciation is enough for me.

Customer: Wow, thanks! You really made my day! I can't wait to enjoy the Pizza the Holy Spirit with my friends.

(Man dressed in Red enters from back with pizza box and bag, and then leaves)
Customer: Was that your dad?

JC: Oh no, that was Pentecost. He brings out the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

Customer: Man, I was kinda hoping to get to meet your Dad.

JC: Well, I'm a lot like him. Pretty much knowing me, lets you know him. He likes to stay pretty incognito and only shows his face to a few people. But I know everyone will get a chance someday when the time comes.

Customer: Ok, well I better get going. Thanks, JC, this visit has really made an impact on me.

JC: You're welcome, I enjoyed it too. Make sure to come back and see us.

Customer: Oh, I will. I will.
(The End or the beginning)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reflections on English Camp 2011(#8!)

English Camp has always been more than just about teaching English. It's about building relationships across barriers. This happens so quickly in this cross cultural experience, because all are invited to live in that free space of acting outside of your comfort zone. I like to call this "active humility", because you have to be confident in looking ridiculous in front of 150 people. Once you get over the embarrassment or really the fear of doing something difficult, you feel like you can do almost anything. In that zone of discomfort, where you are speaking a new language or experiencing a new culture, you discover new things about yourself and about other people. Throughout the week the kids are invited to do crazy energizers, play funny games and interact with different generations all on a common ground. Sure there is still a teacher--student relationship, but everything is turned upside down from their normal classroom routine.

The students are invited to be creative and many of those who are still school age act as teachers. The volunteers which help us with the classes and serve as team leaders are mostly between the ages of 16 and 25. So, this is a huge opportunity for them to lead the kids as well as an opportunity to work on their own translation and teaching skills. Friendships develop among volunteers as well as among kids and Americans as we step out and do things we might not necessarily do on a regular basis.

This is what I love about camp and mountain top experiences. You take a chance and do things you've always wanted to do, but maybe don't have the chance or guts to do in your normal life. The funny thing is, the more you do it, the more you find that you have more gifts and guts than you knew you did in the first place.

And this was what I felt like made this camp one of the best English Camps ever. Not only did we all accept the challenge to do new things and develop new and old friendships, but we all seemed to grow together in a deeper way. This year some of our veteran volunteers became the leaders and they planned and lead the program. I walked with them through a lot of the planning, and I was so proud to see them follow through with everything they dreamed and planned out. If you haven't read the last post, go ahead and read what one of them felt about their progress in learning and stepping forward with the camp.

One of their ideas was to have each class make a short film in English by the end of the week. This was a huge commitment/gamble and it turned out to be a huge success! Each group had to work together as a team in order to come up with an idea, write the script and star in their own film in four class periods! At the end of the week we showed the films, and they were all so proud of their accomplishments. But, most of all, it was a wonderful memory of their courage to do something out of the ordinary and trust their own gifts as well as the gifts of their teammates.

I think this was also what we felt as leaders during the camp. All of the American and Czech volunteers had to trust their own gifts as well as the gifts of their teammates. It wasn't Americans bringing an English Camp to the Czech Republic. It was Americans and Czechs working together to provide an invitation for the kids to experience life in a new way and learn to trust one another as we all worked toward a common goal. I saw many of my students(and even myself) grow as human beings throughout the week. I know this growth happens every year, but this one seemed to be different as many of us carried new roles and responsibilities. I even feel like we had more discussions about faith, mission and life, as the volunteers(made up of half church members and half non-church members) made decisions about what to teach and how to teach it.

This time last year, I could never have imagined how the camp could exist with a new pastor who didn't speak English, no committed Americans to plan the program of the camp, and the feeling of many veterans which felt like the mission of our camps had come to an end. Instead, it has come through to a new phase and new direction. The new pastor is actually a great match to this congregation. He is energetic and has a commitment to bring new life to the traditions of the ECCB denomination. He came to faith while in youth group and his story resonates with a lot of the youth from our program--a kid from a non-church family finding himself adopted into a new family and making a difference in the world. With his creativity and energy, he seemed to fit naturally into the camp, and his English grew leaps and bounds in a very short time. He speaks perfect German, so I'm sure English comes to him easily through the connections of those languages. He is already committed and willing to help plan for a camp next summer.

And that's where it gets even crazier to me. Every year we have left as if there would not be a camp the next year, but this year seemed to set the stage for more camps in the future. Everyone seemed to be on board for another one next summer--planning team included. So, while this is exciting, there still need to be a lot of things ironed out before any commitments can be made. A Czech team needs to commit to preparing the program, the church needs to commit to hosting the camp and an American team needs to commit to coming. Many have given hopeful commitments, but we will know the team players as our lives unfold in the coming months.

One thing is clear: These relationships will continue to grow in the future. Whether the camp continues as an American English Camp delivered by Czechs or whether we all find ourselves working together once again, we will continue to grow because of the camp throughout our lives.

As I look toward the future, I'm so glad that we have these films to watch and remind ourselves that no dream is too extreme if you dare to share your gifts with others. It makes me thankful that God created us with specific gifts which empower our community to do the impossible. I don't think God is done with us yet. And I'm definitely thankful for that too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cultural Exchange

It's one thing to speak about mission theoretically as empowering others for action, and it is another to read it back from one of your partners in mission. Enjoy this letter from one of the volunteers which helped plan this year's camp. Keep in mind that this young adult was once a student, became a volunteer and now volunteered to be part of the planning team which encouraged and implemented the existence of this camp.

Dear Ann and Kerry,

American camp 2011 is almost over, so I think, that now it is time to summarize the results. It was our 8th camp! Unbelievable!!! I was on every one of them, so I think that I’m kind of old dog, who can compare it and maybe find some deeper ideas in it. Your president writes every year a State of the Union address, so I’ll try to do something similar. I’m writing you, because (maybe I’m wrong) for me Ann Salmons and Kerry Ebbert are like American parents of this project, so you have right to know, how is your baby after 8 years of living:) Well, I can tell you, that your camp is doing well.

I was thinking about all camps a lot during this last week, and I recalled the story from your history, the oldest story, the story of the pilgrim fathers—A group of people, who believe in God and his love, went to a different country and tried to do something good and they succeed. Of course, there is a lot of differences, but for me there is a clear message. Like pilgrim fathers you took your families, spent lots of money and time to get to a place, which you don’t know, somewhere behind the ocean, 10 000 miles away, among people with different language and culture, where you knew just family of pastor Jan. I think it’s incredible and definitely same like pilgrim fathers:) God didn’t control people like puppets, he is more like a sign, which show us the best way for us, and the choice depends just on our decision. You decided to take this task, and during one week you planted here in Polička seeds of love, understanding and sharing. We were kids at that time, I was just a 12 year old boy, only one in my family, who speaks a little English, but I understood, how wonderful the camp is. And during time new people have come like Jarda, Martin, Jitka, Dan and so many others. I think, that I can say, that you and your friends from USA plant a seed in every helper and volunteer at the camp.

In Luke 8:4-15 we can read: While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the
path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
I think the seed is like volunteers, some of them went away, some of them were really excited the first time, but then they stopped, but some of us stay. Well, look at us now!!! Previous camps were prepared by Ann, Kati, Jeremy and Jamie and a lot of other people from USA, but the people and kids for whom you did it were growing up during that time. We are not kids anymore, we are young adults and we are able to prepare the camp by ourselves. Unbelievable, your small seeds grew up
into young trees and you made a big group of young people, which want to continue with the camps in Polička. Congratulations!!! You connected people from different countries, generations and faiths in the big arms of Jesus love.

It definitely doesn’t mean that we don’t need you anymore! Like kids needs their parents their whole life, the parent will take care of children, even if they are big and independent. It just means, that we are big enough to take care of some work, not to disturb you with every tiny problem. It means, that we can do the work, the skits, background, games etc. and you can just come to see kids and your old friends and see, how something, which you hardly started, can go on its own with the people, which you have raised in love and trust in love and God. I know how you took care of the camp this year, even though you couldn’t be here. Your friends told us about your work in USA, which helps a lot.

Thank you mum, dad and all American friends,
Přemek (young camp tree, which you planted)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Closing Skit

Curious about how the week ended? Here is a video of our final skit.

Plus over the next week I will be featuring different films from our Film Laboratory. This film won the award for best groovy moves. This age group was encouraged to make a musical and this is what they came up with. You should meet this Lukas, he's just as adorable and heartwarming in real-life;) And so is Jana who plays the lady janitor.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Films: Take 1

Are you ready to see our films? You can begin by enjoying the film of our youngest kids. They were making fairy tales. Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Giving and Receiving

Today we watched our final movies and they are amazing! Many of our volunteers stayed up most of the night to edit the films and add sound, subtitles and special effects. I think my favorite part of this years camp is that there are so many fingerprints throughout everything we have done! The Films accent the gifts of the children as well as the adult/youth volunteers--Czech and American.

In Snacks we played this game where they each got a bag of M&Ms. They could not eat any of the candies in their bag, they could only enjoy the gifts they received from others. So, they gave the red ones to people they thought were nice, blue to those good at sports, green to those who were funny, etc. At the end of the first game, many had not shared all of their M&Ms. I made them put the left over M&Ms in a cup, and no one got to eat them. We talked about how this applies in life too, when we don't share the gifts we have, then no one, that even us, gets to enjoy them.

This week was a constant sharing of the gifts of many youth and adult volunteers as well as students. They have been sharing so much on facebook, I'm afraid I have been a bit behind in sharing pictures here. As we tie things together and I return home, I will be reflecting more and writing about the camp. So many new and old friends stopped by today, and I have this strange feeling. I can't imagine that I have to leave here again. I am so thankful for all of my Czech friends and my American friends who have made this all possible.

Thursday's Skit;) See what happens with the two brothers! Friday's ending skit will be uploaded some time this weekend;)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Enjoying our times together


I give thanks for every moment we have had here. Wednesday was so amazing, I will write about it more in retrospect. There are somethings I would like to put to words and more videos that I would like to upload. Until then, please enjoy our facebook posts if you are able and continue to hold us in your prayers. I am completely in awe of the time we have had here...sorry to leave you with a cliff hanger, and such inticing photos, but they need my computer to cut the films that have been recorded this week. I can't wait to see them!!!!!



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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Pictures

Just in case you hadn't seen enough today, here are the pictures taken by one of our volunteers assigned to take pictures;)
Monday and Tuesday

The story of Little Brother

The Skits for our opening program are following a fun interpretation of the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). We are telling the story as a reality tv show called “One Big Happy Family”. The main story is like the parable, but with a few present day imaginations. Yesterday the younger son (Lil’ Brother - Caleb) requested his inheritance in order to go to Hollywood and become a movie star. The older son (Big Brother - Our friend Philip) is faithful cowboy who stays at home with the family ranch. We wanted to add a female character, so we created cook (Curly Sue - Jacque & Klara), who gives the gossip about the family at the end of each show (episode) and testify to how the father (Big Daddy - Pastor Tengler) cares for the hired workers. Each day highlights one of the themes, but they also play into the whole story which will be spread over five days. Today's theme was persistence and we saw Little Brother working hard to become a movie star.

The coolest part is that we created a fan page for Little Brother on Facebook. He is listed as "Little Brother from the ranch". So feel free to search for him on Facebook and become his fan to see how the rest of the will turn out. Will his fame last forever? Tune in to his page tomorrow(Wednesday afternoon) to find out!

Monday, July 18, 2011

the strength of embers

English Camp 2011: Sunday Preperations


We have been bustling around as we carry the weight of beginning a camp with many new team players and many new responsibilities for many of us. One of my new responsibilities is being a pastor for our team and here with our group. I feel it as I care for making sure all of the volunteers are included and responsible. And most importantly, I enjoyed preaching in my church home in Polička on Sunday. I invite you to take time to enjoy these photos as well as my sermon. I will do my best to post later in the week, but many of the kids are posting on facebook, so feel free to join our group English Camp Policka 2011 if you like! I've been running on embers and adrenaline for the last 15 hours, so I think I will head back to my host family and sleep! Please keep us all in your prayers this week!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Greetings from Policka

Arrival of Americans

Wow! Our entire American team has arrived in Policka along with their luggage. There have been a few bumps along the way, however, God continues to bring us through to the start of our camp! I won't talk too much, because I would rather you watch the video where several of our volunteers say hello to those of you who were not able to be with us. We miss you, and we thank you for all you have done in the steps before us!!!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Getting the Czech Experience

Week One: Journey to and around Policka

More pictures from my travels with friends in the Czech Republic! Streets new and old, friends new and old, my summer of memories continues to remind me of where I've been and those who have accompanied me along the way.
My friends have been helping me practice my Czech language and Czech ways of life, first and foremost walking a "bit further" than I was used to doing in Atlanta. The Bartoš family was kind enough to take me to the Castle Karlstein, which I had planned to go to many times, but ended up canceling because I thought the walking would be a bit far from the train station. Boy was I right.
This is a shot already a "bit" up the hill from the parking lot, and the train station is about another half a mile down the road from there. I didn't count how far the castle was uphill, but it was definitely a "kousek" or as we joke, just a short piece, which always means quite a bit further in the American understanding rather than the Czech understanding. But please do not misunderstand this to be complaining, I'm just explaining how it was been. As you look through the album you will see how the walk is worth the view! This also explains why I dared to ask my friends Magda and Madla to walk with me from Teleci to Kamenec. I remembered it to be merely a "kousek" and it was such, it's just that my Atlanta legs needed to be reminded of the strength needed to walk through the hills of Vysočina(the Czech Highlands).
As I approach these physical challenges, I'm reminded of how many times I met my match here in the Czech Republic, how many times I felt like I couldn't go any further and found myself carrying on to the finish. I felt like I discovered my own boundaries and surpassed them time and time again. I think this part of the trip has been incredibly valuable at this point in my life journey. Suddenly it is the reminder that what we choose to do is not always on the basis of opportunity but also the basis of faith and fear. When we fear we cannot accomplish something we let it go, or when we fear those who pressure us, we abide by their desires rather than our own.
I have been reminded of two difficult lessons I've learned since I first arrived in the Czech Republic. While I was here, I learned to listen to people again. I couldn't speak so clearly, so I mostly listened and through that I learned a lot about life, people, God, and really everything. I found that I listened differently when I sought understanding over information or verification. While I was in seminary, I feel like I learned to listen to myself. I learned to trust the inner connection I feel with God and to trust God to work through the blessings in my life. Over the last several months, I feel like I have been learning again to listen to God. During my last semester of seminary, I feel in love with the Bible again, as each of my classes seemed to draw me into the Living Word where God continues to bring a new message again and again throughout our history. This new openness also heightened my awareness to the presence of God with me while reading and seeking. So even here in special moments with friends and in the woods, I have been listening for God's voice and presence. It seems that as I have been reestablishing my Czech legs, God has also been strengthening my legs of faith, preparing me for the "kousek" ahead. I've been learning to speak and walk and to listen and sit. Even these familiar shoes and dirty feet are a reminder that God has been with me at every step. These new legs of faith will withstand the changing of shoes and the changing of the terrain, but I'll remember again to keep listening for God as I continue in my training.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011



Here's my travels from last week. I'm still compiling pictures from this week, but they will also appear about a week late I think. I've been having a fabulous time reconnecting with friends and beautiful places in the Czech Republic. You will see in the pictures some of my interesting experiences at Terezin, which served as a prison for many different oppressive rulers but most famously as Hitler's "gift" to the Jews.

The Nazis used this town as a sort of propaganda to say that the concentration camps were more of a way of consolidating the Jews in one place. They encouraged musicians and artists to continue their arts and they even allowed them to observe rituals for those who died. One the one hand, this was done to convince the Red Cross that the Nazis had a respect for Jewish culture. On the other hand it served to calm the fears of those in the camp that would report for transfers to other places like Auschwitz. I can't decide if it is more dehumanizing to treat someone like dirt and deny them of their culture and health necessities or to convince them that you have respect for their culture and humanity while also treating them like dirt and forcing them to pay to sleep with the sick and the dead, among other horrifying things.

All I know is that among the art, poems and music that survived, I saw a kind of hope which was profound. It was built on perseverance and faith, as those who were scheduled to die survived, and those who misled were revealed as fools. It was not the most joyful of a start to my trip down memory lane, but my road has widened. I discovered a group in Prague called Živá knihovna, where they share the stories of some special people as if each person is a Living Library. As my library grows, the more space I find for new growth. So, I continue on in my journey, sharing in the knowledge of the people I meet on the way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Off to Polička!

The day has arrived! Today I am flying to Prague where I will meet with some friends and end up in Policka by Friday night! I'm so excited about all of our preparations for this year's English Camp!

This year we are receiving back the ripples of the relationships we have been enjoying in Policka. When there was no longer an American available to write the curriculum for the English Camp, several of our strongest volunteers stepped forward to say they would plan it(our 8th Camp!), if we would come and help. I was concerned in the beginning, that they were just trying to get us to come visit and not so interested in the camp. We always knew there would come a day when we would have to let go of the English Camp and let new programs develop. So, I asked Jarda to ask the group, “Why do you want to do this? Is it just to spend time with the Americans or is it about spending time with the children?” Without a thought, he replied to me, “both.” They love to see us, but the volunteers now have the ultimate desire to share the camp with more and more kids.

Why? Because it has made a difference in their lives and effected the way that they see the world. Many of those on the curriculum planning team, made up of only half church members, have visited the United States through the help of people in in Cimarron Presbytery. Premek, Jarda, Petra and Jitka, were all greatly affected by their experiences here with the congregations in Ponca City and Stillwater Presbyterian Churches, as well as other friends throughout the Presbytery. As they have written the curriculum, they have designed spaces for them to share their experiences about American culture. Even the non-church members want to share what a difference has been made in their lives and the way that they see the world thought their interactions with the Camp and their relationships with those of us who have befriended them here and abroad.

When we began these English camps and English classes, we were helping the church reach out to the community and now we are witnessing them reaching back. Instead of building the bridge in one direction from the church to the community, many non-church members have extended their help to meet our bridge somewhere in the middle.

If you're interested in learning more about the camp there are many ways you can keep up with us. First off you can continue to keep "czech"-ing my blog, but you can also check the Blog of the English Camp during the camp July 18-22. I will post that link when it is closer to time. You can also watch my sermon from yesterday at First Presbyterian Church where I gave a larger explanation of how far we have come with the English Classes. Also, you can invite me to come preach and/or share about our trip when I return to the US in August. I will be back in Oklahoma while I continue my search for a call as a pastor in the PCUSA.


More Energizers!

Meet part of our team!

Have fun with the youth of First Presbyterian Church, Ponca City, OK


Thursday, June 16, 2011


We are bustling with plans for the camp! Yes, if you haven't heard at this point, we are doing our 8th English Camp in Policka this year! Can you believe it? Even more amazing is that some of our Czech volunteers have volunteered to plan the curriculum for the camp and they are doing a marvelous job! They have developed a Movie Star Theme where we will talk about some misconceptions of the American culture displayed in films. Each team of students will prepare their own short film and at the end of the week we will share them and give a few awards. The city of Policka has offered to provide a showing of the films for the whole community during the week following the camp. What a wonderful cooperation between the community and the church!

Part of my preparations will be developing the skits and activities for the opening programs of each day. We will begin with a few energizers, have a welcome and announcements, and then lead into the skit. You will hear more about the skits soon enough, but until then you can learn a few energizers! This posting is mainly for the Czech and American leaders, but anyone is welcome to enjoy these videos! Just remember, we had fun making them, so feel free to laugh at us and with us as you take our tutorials.

Full video of shortened tutorials in order to guard against copyright

New: Paparazzi--Find the Superstar!

Rock Star/All-Star (Summer Fun)

Run, Run, Away/Cow, Cow, Lasso (With new added action!)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Full Circle

For the last week I've been reconnecting with my friends in Madison, WI. I walked down familiar streets and sat in familiar places. I talked and laughed with many of those who were a strong support for me while I was living here and abroad, and I also made a lot of new friends in the process. I got to preach last Sunday at Christ Presbyterian Church (my Madison church family) and today I got to sing with them in the contemporary worship team. What a wonderful week I have had!
I shared with my friends about the difficult journey I've been on in these last five years since I started this blog. There have been low points and high points, but I feel like during this trip I felt everything come full circle. While I was here in Madison, I heard the call to ministry, but I was frustrated and lost, not knowing what or where that was meant to be. When I had an injury in my hand, my "Flute" ministry seemed to be at an end. Part of me wondered, what if I had tried harder or what if I hadn't tried so hard(causing my overuse injury)? When I went to the Czech Republic, I was partly testing my call to church ministry. Was I called to serve as Music Director, a Christian Ed Director or as a Pastor, and if a pastor, what would that even look like?

These last five years have been a discovery of my call to pastoral ministry, working with all varieties of God's beloved people. As I look back on it, even if I had not had my injury, I know the position in the Czech Republic would still have drawn me to Polička, and I still would have answered the call to seminary and pastoral ministry. It's always life shattering to loose such a precious gift, but I am seeing now more than ever, that God places gifts in our lives for the time we need and always continues to bring us more gifts, even when others no longer serve their purpose. I always saw my life purpose to bring joy to others and empower them to use their gifts in empower ways for them and those around them. Now, that calling is the same, I'm just playing a different instrument and singing the same song. Stay posted to hear about my upcoming trip to the Czech Republic to reconnect with those friends, sharing with them in the joys of our continued expedition in life.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On the Way

I'm writing on the way towards new things. Last Saturday I graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary, and Monday we set off towards Oklahoma for a summer of reconnecting with old friends and continuing in the process of connecting with churches in the search for God's calling in the Presbyterian Church USA. Friends, you will be glad to know that I've had several interviews, and as some options fall away and others rise to the surface, I feel God revealing new things and opening my heart in new ways. I am still actively seeking a call, and I rest in the knowledge that God is preparing both me and that particular congregation for an extraordinary time of ministry together.

Isaiah 43: 19 "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Being Human Beings

This week I had the pleasure of enjoying my last spring break in Washington DC and Philadelphia visiting some college friends. Traveling always makes me think about being in Europe and it was fun to compare DC with a European city--centuries of history on the streets and in the buildings. Not only was I wearing my Czech Backpack and Czech Shoes, but I also had to find my Czech legs as we walked, and walked, and walked some more. I think I will need to practice more before heading to CZ this summer;) I'll write more about that as my July trip gets closer!!!!!

Besides connecting with old friends, eating lots of chocolate and making faces at a two year old, the highlight of my trip was visiting the Holocaust museum. I won't go through it all, because I feel like it would spoil the experience if you are expecting certain things. One experience that I felt compelled to write about, though, was a reflection on how we treat other humans. The Nazi's singled out the Arian race as particularly superior to all others and saw those "inferior races" as lesser humans and they treated them that way, in denying them rights, declaring them as deficient, treating them as slaves and then killing them in the most inhumane ways possible. The exhibit showed piles of left over shoes and hair as "witnesses" to how the Nazis took these and other things(including dignity) from those they forced into the "showers" which turned out to be gas chambers.

There was a walkway between buildings which revealed the names of communities where the entire presence of Jews was wiped out in the final movements of genocide. I was saddened to find the names of Czech towns I know very well: Svitavy, Litomyšl, and Polička. I sort of expected the names to be there, but I think that made it all the more heartbreaking. The displays also told how at one point in Warsaw there was one group of Jews who attempted to fight back. I was shocked to read that one of their slogans was "Let us fight and die like humans." They were speaking for men, women and children who were being boarded onto the trains heading for the "reform camps", where they would be treated and killed as anything but human. That's what got me to thinking about what it means to treat someone as a human, so much so that even in dying they feel like a human.

Towards the end, I saw a video of testimonies from the liberations of the concentration camps. In one of the stories, an American male soldier and a German Jewish woman from the camp were giving their experiences of their first meeting. The man was observing different people in the camp, watching some men drinking from a fountain, when he saw her leaning against a building. He asked if she spoke English or German, and she replied in German, "We're Jews, you know," as if making sure he knew he should know better than to help them. After a few seconds, he said, "Me too." She was shocked at this and yet he continued to say strange things, like "Where are all the other ladies?" She couldn't believe her ears since this was an address they had not received in quite some time. She replied that they were inside and when he asked her to join him, she didn't know what he meant. Then he opened the door and invited her to go first and she said, "It restored all sense of humanity and dignity in the world." I started to think about what it means to treat someone else as human in the sense that we are all in this together and made of the same stuff.

Could it possibly be this simple? Greeting one another with respect and inviting others to join us or go before us? It's something more than just saying, "Hello, howareya?", it's acknowledging the precious presence of the other person in the world, seeing someone as important and valued in life. It's been interesting for me, as I pass hundreds of people on the buses, trains and planes over the last several days, and reflected on what this looks like. I had no problem looking at little Luke as a gift of joy, but it was a little different with the security officers or busy businessmen and women speeding by. With a little kindness, I did get a few smiles and happy greetings. It was a fun little project. Try it yourself. I think it's different in different contexts, so it's kind of interesting to experiment and give thanks for the people we meet. Feel free to comment if you have a response or if you try it yourself. Let us know what happened to you:)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Creative Energy

One of my favorite things to do these days is check out TedTalks on Hulu or YouTube.  Scientists and Artists from all over the world give powerful lectures with interactive powerpoint presentations telling of innovative ways to change the world.  This last week I watched a fantastic speech about Creativity by Amy Tan, Chinese-American author, business consultant and historian.

She began by seeing the possibilities which rise out of nothing, because out of that nothing rises something.  My favorite thing she said was this: "There is uncertainty in everything and that is good, because then I will discover something new."  It made me laugh to think of how much we yearn for closure and certainty, when there is so much freedom in openness and so many possibilities in uncertainty. 

Then this week I've been reading a book called "Amnesty of Grace" by Elsa Tamez for our World Christianity class.  In this book, she offers some of the liberation theologians' description of grace as creativity.  That the truth that we are saved by grace and not by our actions is not a dismissal of the importance of human action, but rather it is a liberation from the human condition which keeps us from acting.
"Faced with a capitalistic, utilitarian and meritocratic society, Silvio Meincke analyzes justification by faith in relation to the open spaces of life that are constantly being increasingly restricted by our society.  He shows how justification by grace and faith opens those spaces in order that people can live life and how, at the same time, it motivates them to promote the same kind of open space for their neighbors as well."(35)

I think we are so quick to read Paul's letters as rules to live our life by.  Here in her writings and in several other scholarly books I've been reading lately, we are called to read for the gift of God's liberation and empowerment to live free from sin and the boundaries of the law.  Not that we should continue sinning, but so that we can live and share with others in life. The goal is not to follow all of the rules, but to live out the gospel message of God's love and forgiveness for all human beings.

Suddenly, I feel like Jesus is not just my savior from sin, but also from perfection and the pressure to be innovative.  It's like we are freed from the anxieties of the world to be the best, so that we can be the best version of the selves we were created to be.  Freedom from filling this expectation, so that we can exceed all expectations.  Sure this throws us into the uncertainty of "how must we live", but God has already given us that guidance, "To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God." Those were not commandments for control but empowerments for action in the world. We may be saved by grace and not works, but we are also saved by grace so that we can work for God.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Silence that "Inner Pharisee"

I am taking this amazing class with Rodger Nishioka called "Teaching the Bible through Liberative Pedagogy".  In a nutshell, we're focusing on non-oppressive forms of teaching, ways to create dialogue and empower others.  First and foremost, we recognize as Parker Palmer says, that we teach ourselves, or we teach what we love and how we see the world.  So, a good teacher must be aware of that and know what other voices to bring into the discussion.  Walter Wink also had this amazing paragraph about taking a posture of learning as a teacher in order to make way for "transformational" teaching as opposed to "informational" teaching:

"Unless, as leaders, we ourselves are 'on the way,' and are struggling at the long, arduous, largely unseen task of integrating the lost or wounded parts of our own selves; unless we are fighting daily to silence the voice of our own inner 'pharisee' and to affirm the divine word that declares us forgiven, loved, and accepted at the very heart of the universe; unless we are working at identifying the ways we project elements of ourselves onto others, and are claiming these back as lost aspects of ourselves; unless we are trying to alter our own lifestyles toward practices that are ecologically sound and economically just--then our leadership will hardly evoke these kinds of commitments in others."
-Walter Wink, 1980, Transforming Bible Study
As I'm nearing graduation and looking forward to that day when I will join with a church as a pastor, I'm comforted by the fact that teaching and preaching is not about telling people how it is, and that the long, arduous task of struggling with life is a life long and communal struggle.   Wow, what would it look like if we all were "on the way", not feeling guilty for the ways we're not there yet, not claiming to be there when we aren't, not worried out of our mind because we're not there yet, but just happy to be walking together on the journey, one step at a time, enjoying those around us and encouraging others to keep going.  Now, that would be a fun road trip.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Preaching before Presbytery

Tuesday I had my final examination before my own presbytery.  We had a beautiful worship service, everyone seemed receptive of my sermon, and they questioned me over the Bible, Polity, Worship and Theology. They voted to approve me for ordination pending my receipt of a call(in other words: offered a position as a pastor of a church)! I've made a video of moments from the worship service and posted it below. Thanks to all of you who helped out!  My full sermon is also posted below in a separate video.  In it I reference the Old Testament reading from 1 Samuel 1:4-28 .  So if you are unfamiliar with Hannah's encounter with Eli the Priest, you might want to watch the worship clips or read the passage here in preparation. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Friday morning a blind man opened my eyes to see the Lord.  Ken Medema, jazz musician and composer(remember "Our God is an Awesome God"?), led the worship team for the morning service and there was so much love in the room that I felt like he gave us all this huge embrace!  The whole service seemed to be like a musical as he sung narrative lines to move us through the different "spaces" of worship, like confession and response.  There was this incredibly mutual collaboration between Ken and the dancer, it was unbelievable that he couldn't see her.  I think he could see her though, with his heart and mind.  If you're a musician, maybe you even know what I mean, when you are sensing the other musicians to the point that you become one voice despite your different lines and timbres of sound.  He didn't need to see her, because they were working together as one.  We were singing "O Come, O Come Emanuel" and as we reached the chorus, Ken rose and gestured for us to stand at "Rejoice, Rejoice, Emanuel."  It felt almost as if he had lifted us all into the presence of God, and I truly encountered Jesus.  As I stood there with tears streaming down my face in fear and trembling, amazed at the glory of God, I said, "Oh, I get it, it was never about me, it was always about you." Then Jesus said to me, "No, Kati, it was always about you, each and everyone of you.  I love you each so much that I want you to know me and I want you to know and love each other in the same way I love you."  The love was so strong, it still makes me tear up to think about it.  It was like a slap in the face, as if I was Paul, standing in the middle of the road, blinded by the light and given a vision of the Lord all at the same time.  "Know my love for you, that you might know how to love others," Jesus was saying to me. 

As we continued to reflect on Philippians, I suddenly understood what it meant to "Be of the same mind, after Christ Jesus."  It doesn't mean sharing the same ideas and preferences, and it especially doesn't mean sharing all of the same opinions and gifts.  These are the reasons that Jesus loves us individually and in our eccentricities.  Being of the same mind, simply means to love each other, as Christ loves us.  And it's that love that unifies us in the presence of God.  By loving the "otherness" of others, we come to love ourselves and we are all held in God's love.

This love displacing our fear of those who are different from ourselves showed up later in the workshops as well.  I attended a workshop reflecting on one congregation's journey to becoming intentionally inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities.  It began with the simple education of the congregation about what one child with autism experienced in worship.  The child would make strange noises or outbursts during the service, and every time people would turn and look or sneer.  One day the pastor approached the family, and asked if they wouldn't mind if he said something to ease the congregation about the behavior of the child.  "How might I describe her disability?" he asked. The parents educated the pastor, and from that conversation, he was able to educate the congregation.  The next Sunday, after the child's first outburst, the pastor paused and commented on her response in the worship.  The next time she did something, no one turned around.  Suddenly her behavior was accepted.  They showed her love by recognizing that this was her experiencing and taking in God's love during worship.  This confrontation with "otherness" in the worship service led them to the inclusion of many new freedoms as they became a multicultural congregation.  The worship that created a space which was not disturbed by outbursts also opened up space for new kinds of music and other forms of response in the worship like testimony.  By embracing the brokenness in others they were able to embrace the brokenness in themselves. "We all have a special need," one lady said.  "We just have to recognize that we're all in it together," like we're all in the same boat…same mind…seeing others as better than ourselves…

Later I went to a worship service where the leadership fully embodied this idea of collaboration.  There were three sermonettes which served as the backbone of the service, while incorporating the other elements of the service(ie.  gathering, confession, proclamation of the word) in a fluidity led by music and images .  The call to worship evoked an array of senses and learning styles.  Most worship services use only two types of communication: music and language.  Howard Gardner says that we have  at least 6 other ways of learning: personal reflection, spatial or visual, interaction with others, movement of the body, interaction with nature, and logical reasoning.  This service involved them all.  There were beautiful paintings which suggested some kind of fire extending from the table.  The bible and other images began on the ground, and during the call to worship they were lifted and raised to be placed on the table.  At one point in the service we were invited to imagine and play with a ball of clay which resembled our bodies.  All of these examples point to many things and simply create space for God to speak and for us to hear God's message for us.  The whole service was more about "encountering" rather than absorbing information or giving our gifts.  We met with God, we met with others, and we even met ourselves. 

I discussed with one of the worship leaders, Ron Reinstra, about the sermon writing process.  We ended up in a discussion about the collaboration of the whole worship experience.  Everything was intertwined and when it happens like this, everything keeps changing or adjusting a little as it goes on.  Everyone joins in and contributes as one mind, not because they think the same way, but because they trust and lift each other up in a way that values the gifts of all.  This kind of thing doesn't happen over night, but overtime as the group grows together and learns from each other, all trusting in the Spirit to lead and move.

philippians 2
Imitating Christ’s Humility
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
More reflections to come about the conference later in the to sleep;)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Making Space

Everyone goes to conferences looking for new ideas.  Here's what I learned today: leaders provide the space and the people bring the ideas.  We spent most of the day in a seminar on worship renewal.  Several churches requested grants which would essentially motivate a congregation to focus on some aspect of worship for one year.  They all said, "We didn't really need the grant, but the grant gave us the motivation to do what we felt God was calling us to do." One church focused on different imagery for the Holy Spirit, another focused on intergenerational ministries, another multicultural worship, another interactive preaching.  In every instance, however, the leadership didn't dictate what was going to transform the congregation, they merely said, "Okay, here's our theme, how should we do this?" They made space for everyone's gifts to be shared and experienced.  The pastor igniting a new spirit for the Holy Spirit found new artistic gifts in the congregation which united the people around art which ignited a fire in the hearts of the youth and drew all generations into active participation in the worship and sermon series.  In each case, the leadership excercised an amazing sense of humility as they acted as facilitators to enable others to live out their vision.  What humility to trust others with your own dream and vision for the ones you love…loving them enough to let them do it their own way…letting go of your dream to see God's dream for you and others.
 This week we're looking at Paul's letter to the Philippians, which talks a lot about humility and unity.  And for me, I think this is the key to this text.  It is through humility that we are united, through the discovery of one another's gifts that we are all gathered together and lifted up as one body of Christ.  Thought our history as Christians, we have allowed humility to separate us from each other as we translate this spiritual practice as one of self-hate and even self-mutilation to the point that we see others as so much better than ourselves that we see ourselves as nothing, with nothing to contribute.  But the humility that Jesus exudes is one that draws people together.  Humility is a solidarity with the oppressed, rather than a form of oppression.  Humility reaches out and lifts up the brokenhearted, rather than continuing to breakdown our own broken selves.  Humility, in the case of worship renewal, is answering God's call by calling others to join in seeking God's movement among us, then being open to God's movement, even when you're surprised and especially when you are surprised.

We worshiped twice in this amazing round chapel.  Worship in the round.  It had me mesmerized . The sound was so different; it actually sounded round.  You could see people as you worshiped; we were singing to each other and hearing each other. It was multidirectional rather than one/bi-directional worship as in most churches.  I know this isn't the only space like this, but this was my first experience with such a large group worshiping in a completely circular space.  Above us some banners hung in a circular shape, and they swayed slightly from the air, accenting the presence of a wind…a spirit…The Spirit.  It was like the visual representation for me of what I had been thinking about all day: leading worship as creating space for the Spirit to move and gifts to be shared.  Here the space was literally at the center.  It recalled to my mind God's creation of space at the beginning of time, "Let there be light", "Let the waters separate", "Let the waters gather allowing for the land to appear", "Let the days, nights and seasons have separation", "Let there be space, so that life can appear and swarm and be within."

Humility that induces a unity in diversity…something to ponder over the next few days...