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.