Wednesday, July 31, 2013

the tug of the Yo-yo

We're about to get on our plane, and I felt like making one more post before we load. Every year it seems we are left with a question of "is this the last year?" And it is always hard to say good bye, because we don't know if it is forever. But this year I feel like we saw some growth on seeds we planted ten years ago and have been watered and fertilized so consistently that the plants are starting to grow, and the leaves are full of life and possibility.

My congregation gave me a yoyo before I left, to make sure I would come back to them...but I wonder if they also anticipated that as I feel the tug back to them, I would also see the future toss ahead. I would love to see the camp continue, the question for me is who might God also be calling to join us on the next journey? If you already feel God tugging at your heart, send me a message...we will see where God will lead.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Be the Change

 This year has been unique for me, because the children who were in my youngest class are now becoming teenagers and at that age when they are maturing and opening themselves to discover their true identity. I saw many of them taller and looking beautiful, and they could all communicate with me in ways that they could not before.  They younger groups had children that I remember being born and growing to be able to communicate a little. What a gift to see the growth of these children and the growth of the camp.

In my room on Thursday we watched a video from Volkswagen meant to inspire people to create fun ways to change the world. You can watch it below. The children thought of problems they see in the world and made advertisements for fun ways to encourage others to act differently.

Essentially, this is what the camp is. We created something fun and crazy to help kids be brave enough to speak English and develop an openness to other cultures and in the end an openness to discover themselves and their neighbors. On Friday we watched a video based on the phrase: "Be the change you want to see in the world." You can watch that video here.

As the children wrote in their journals, we gave them the option to write "After this week, I would like to have an (open mind/open hands/open doors/open hearts/open eyes/open ears) so that I can..." I was surprised to see how many children chose open hearts or open hands.  They chose to say that they want open hands to help others or open ears to listen to others. On Friday after the camp and especially on Sunday, I spoke with many who were struck with an open heart because of our camp. May this opening of their hearts draw them closer to one another and closer to God!
Over the next few weeks, I hope to share more reflection and videos...we have so many! This morning I am writing from Prague as we are sharing our final goodbyes to the country and our friends today and tomorrow. Please pray for our safe return (on Wednesday) and for the continued spirit of openness we discovered with the children this week!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Brave Explorers

The children have been coming each day with Open Eyes, and on Wednesday they definitely experienced the danger of having open hands. In one room they were doing trustfalls, as they learned to trust one another and lean on one another. In another they were baking American banana muffins, where their snack was to eat the muffins baked by the previous class...trusting their expertise. 
And in my room, we had an episode of Fear Factor (insert suspenseful sound effect), where they tried some "American" food. We chose Avocados, Red Peppers, Beef Brisket and for the scariest of all...gummy worms.  Now you may say, "Are these really American foods?" But the basis of our lesson was that America is full of a variety of nationalities which have shared their variety of food. I was amazed at the brave explorers who didn't like the avocado slice, but kept on eating thinking it was a race to see who could finish first. They left on Wednesday with open hands and an open mind to see what new surprises are in store!

Then in the evening we had a special opportunity for them to ask the Americans Questions and hear nice music;) In previous years, the youth band had played, but most of them have grown up and started going to school in other places. So, Pastor Tengler and I lead some hymns with our friend Madla playing the violin, and then Jacque and I sang some of our favorite duets. As we were singing "His Eye is on the Sparrow" I was looking around and saw all of the eyes they had made in crafts. It felt like God was watching over us in that moment, and I felt God filling our hearts and strengthening the bond we have together. 

Please pray for our health, as it has been physically demanding in the heat and with the hilly sidewalks. You can pray for the final preparations of our camp, but overall, please pray for the final themes of this camp. Friday our theme is Open Heart, and we will offer the children a chance to think about how they have been influenced by the people they have met this week or in previous years. It is a chance for them to think about what happens when we open our heart to one another and to what may be. Thank you for your support and I will post our final video when it is ready!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday, Monday

Today was one of those days, where it felt like there were not enough hours in the day. It could have been one of those days focused on tasks to be done and places to be, but it was filled with unique moments of joy, so many that there were not enough hours in the day to enjoy it all.

Our first day of camp was full of more reunions and welcoming several new campers! We also welcomed our special guests, Dora the Explorer, Indie Jones (sister of Indiana Jones) and the Wise Man. Together we looked for opportunities to take a step into a new experience.

Each afternoon we have opportunities to spend more personal time with the students and the volunteers and members of the church. Today we went on a trip to an wonderfully reconstructed castle from the Roccoco period. My favorite part was the hedge maze. When you succeeded in finding the middle you were rewarded with a half buried statue of Stalin. There was a plaque about how liberty takes work and should be the center of the maze which holds you prisoner. I thought it was a nice ironic gesture for the adults who take on the fun and beautiful maze.

But of course the best part of the day, were the moments we stole away with friends, singing and laughing, and sometimes learning a new tongue twister. Here's a fun video for your entertainment;) May you also find that there are not enough hours in the day to enjoy the gifts of God and the beauty of the world that surrounds us!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

jacque's doors? wait...closed doors. doors!


Hi Everyone! This is Kati's sister Jacque writing to you this evening. Jak se mate? (I'm just kidding...Kati is the one that speaks Czech, not me!) 

This morning we enjoyed a wonderful worship service with the congregation here in Policka, and then enjoyed a delicious lunch with some of the Czech volunteers. Then we had the afternoon scheduled to prepare for the week of camp, and WOW...what. an. afternoon! Remember how our camp's theme this year is about openness? Open eyes, open hearts, open hands, and tomorrow's day theme is open doors. Well, all of the American and Czech volunteers had a big lesson in how to keep ourselves open when we discovered that the school doors were, in fact, CLOSED!!
It was quite a task to prepare for lessons about open doors when all the doors we can find are closed. And of course, at first, we all were a little bit freaked out about what to do next. Will we even get into the school? Will we all be late to our planned dinners with generous host families? what if we don't even get into the school tomorrow morning for the first day of camp?!?! Then I saw one of the czech volunteers open his hands and offer to carry a heavy bag of supplies for someone who had been holding it during the long wait for the key to the doors. Then another volunteer opened his ears and realized that all the updates about the door "situation" had been discussed in Czech so none of the Americans had any idea what was going on, and he translated for us - explaining that we would just have to wait a "little" bit longer. Then more volunteers opened their hearts and offered to come over to help set up the classrooms after the doors were miraculously OPEN!

It was remarkable to watch the work of many hands and hearts complete all the tasks we believed would take us all day long in just a few short hours at the end of the day! I am sure the lord was moving through us all today - opening our eyes, our ears, our hands, our hearts, and...eventually...our doors.

It was a great reminder to keep ourselves open throughout this week as we meet with new friends and familiar friends, young friends and old friends, american friends and czech friends.

Well, I'm off to get some jet lagged sleep for now, because bright and early tomorrow morning we will be welcoming the kids into the church for the first day of English camp. We are so excited to share with them in the energy and love and joy and (hopefully!) open doors!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saturday Reunion, English Camp 2013

The first Saturday of the camp is usually when we get acquainted with our hosts and the volunteers for the camp. Now that this is our tenth camp, we know mostly all of the Czechs who are volunteering and the new people are some of the family members of our American Team who are here for the first time. So for many of us, today was more like a reunion than a meet and greet.  And this was the best type of reunion. High School and college and even family reunions are usually with people who you have been forced to get along with or people you feel like you need to impress. This reunion was filled with the joy and thankfulness, that everyone here has already been changed or influenced in someway by the camp. Seeing these people again is like reconnecting with some of the most important people in your life.

The theme of our camp is Open: open doors, open eyes, open hands, open ears, open hearts. Our Czech volunteers were waiting upstairs to surprise us. We came in and sat down in the sanctuary, and after we said the first day of the theme loudly, "Open Doors", they opened the doors, and came in with their hand over their ears and their eyes closed. Then we said the second theme, open eyes and they opened their eyes. We said the third theme and they opened their hands to give us apricots;) we said the fourth theme, "open ears", and they uncovered their ears. The fifth theme and they came and gave us paper hearts. 
I felt like they showered us with such a great Openness that it overwhelmed me. The first year, our main goal was to make people feel comfortable inside the church walls.  Many people held preconceived notions of what the church was about, and they were very cautious about whether they would be forced to accept our ideas or whether we would be open to learn from them as well. 

We have all opened our hearts to one another and been changed for the better. As you look at these pictures, they almost look like capturing moments of life long friends. Throughout the week, I will be posting some pictures here and others on Facebook. I will do my best to post as I can on this blog, because I am eager to share the joy of learning alongside these talented and fun people! Thank you for joining us by reading and seeing the pictures! I hope that your open hearts will also be filled with joy and thankfulness for the work the spirit is doing among us!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Settling in to the Old and the New;)

In our family, wherever we go, we seem to find the Pizza Hut and go there first to feel like home. Last night Jacque and I realized we have even found our "pizza place" in Prague. It's called Pět Pětka, "The Five Nickles", and we have eaten there every time we have stayed together at this hostel. It has a nice balance of Czech and international food, Czech beverages and fair prices. But we always get the pizza. You might think it strange, but they make pizza in their own way, with a light flaky crust and lots of fresh garlic. As we struggled to adjust to the new timeline, we got to catch up with each other and have some true "sister time", before we join up with our friends and dive into camp.

I started this morning with some Česky Chleba, true Czech bread.'s great to be in my home away from home;)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Laughter and liftoff!

Today I am headed back to the Czech Republic, and I did something for the first time...wait for suitcase was a delicate 51 pounds! No extra bag and no extra fees! I just talked to Jacque and her baggage was an even lighter 47 lbs! Are we forgetting something or are we just at that point where we realize we can't carry everything to the Czech Republic and back!

As our plane was taking of in Wichita, the little boys in front of me broke out in hysterical laughter! It was their first time on an airplane and they were laughing themselves silly as they tried to sit forward and fell back against their chair. Their sister in the next row cried, "We're going to see Papa! We're going to we Papa!" I couldn't help but laugh with them and cry out in my heart, "We're going to see Polička! We're going to see Polička!"

If you're as excited as I am to see another English Camp in Polička, check back in the next 14 days to hear about our joyful and uplifting(as well as terrifying) moments!