Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Liberation



Tonight found me on the road to Krakow airport, picking up some wonderful visitors for our Academy conference.

It's a route I know well, and normally there aren't surprises. But tonight I noticed one police car.. and then another.. and then several at the toll booths.. and then there were multiple motorcades with many police cars and sirens. There were even police cars escorting coaches along the motorway.

It had been in the news all day, the specialness of today. But I'd forgotten just how close I live to it.

Seventy years ago today Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. It's about an hour from my home, and I visited it in March when my family was here.

I am so, so thankful for the liberation that happened in that place seventy years ago. For the sacrifice and bravery of so many that made it possible.

And I'm praying for another kind of liberation for this region. The infamous arch in Auschwitz declares "Work makes you free". I'm thankful that it doesn't. But grace and truth? Yes. Yes, they do.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Photo Friday - 9th January



A new year in the Czech Republic means needing a new sticker for my car so I can drive on the motorways (which I need to go on pretty much everywhere I go - office, or the big city near here). My favourite thing about this process has been that I know how this new-year stuff works here. I know that I need a new sticker. Thankful that I'm now experiencing a second year of routines.


So, yes, my Christmas tree is still up. Thankful for quiet mornings at home.


It snowed at the office on Monday!


On Tuesday morning instead of our regular international team meeting we met with our co-labourers who serve in the Czech Republic. We all work for Josiah Venture/JV's Czech organisation KAM and live in the Czech Republic but although some of us live here we serve all the JV countries. It was so good to spend time together, praying for this year.


Wednesday involved a long, exciting planning meeting for the leadership conference we're running at the end of the month. We've gone all techie in the office with a TV to display computer screens so we can all see it.


My little car refuses to have both a correct date and a correct time. And I'm always going to care more about the time than the date. The quirky thing is the date just randomly changes. So on this day it thought it was my birthday! I definitely should have had some cake.


I had some teammates - John and Erin K and Daniel - over for dinner. Shepherds' pie is the best. It was really just a clever ploy to get this little cute guy, Shade, over where he got introduced to minions and animal finger puppets. So thankful for these relationships. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

Photo Friday - 2nd January



Over Christmas I did a lot of clearing out! Like above.. and getting rid of all my university and any high school notes that were still hanging out. It's crazy to think how much work this all represents.


I loved being back in this place and seeing so many friendly faces. I am well loved by my home church.


Northern Irish sunrises!


My family and I went out for a wonderful fish and chips, in a place with bars on the windows, followed by going to the cinema to see Unbroken. Such a great film!


New Year's Eve: playing board games and some old school PlayStation games with friends. Love it.


A New Year's Day project with my dad. I bought a little ottoman at a secondhand furniture place years ago but it definitely needed to be recovered. Very thankful for my handy dad who definitely provided all the skill for this project.


On Friday I flew back. As I boarded in Dublin I started hearing Polish and Czech and although it was a long day it was so good to get home to Czech. And as I got off the plane I was able to hug Rachel J before she got on the plane to fly back to Ireland. Waiting for me at arrivals was the beautiful Petra and we got to spend some sweet time together as we headed to the main train station and talk for a few hours before my four-hour train back to my town in the east of Czech.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Photo Friday - 26th December




Saturday back in Northern Ireland! It was so fun to be at the Elevate Christmas bash.


It was so good to be back in First Saintfield. It was a joy to share about what God is doing in the morning service. In the evening it was a Christmas carol service - the lights were so pretty!


Walking round Belfast looking at the Christmas lights and drinking hot chocolate in the rain with a close friend was pretty amazing!


So, my friend Rach managed to get some tickets to an amazing little gig in Bangor Abbey. It was Gary Lightbody, the lead singer for Snow Patrol, and some of his friends playing solo acoustic sets in this centuries-old abbey.

It was stunning to hear Snow Patrol songs reimagined for this context, but the most incredible ones were five songs Lightbody had written inspired by Seamus Heaney. It felt like a family concert, with many in the audience related to one of the performers. I loved hearing songs about or inspired by our little country and history. A wonderful night!


There is a great Christmas Eve tradition of some of us dropping in on the Bowmans. Paul even made me a cup of tea declaring it would be "the best cup of tea you'll have all year". I am so grateful for this family.


My family, including my granny's husband and his sister on Christmas Day. So thankful for these people!


This was my entire Boxing Day. I read 500-page and 700-page books over Christmas. Loved squeezing in so much time to read.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Photo Friday - 19th December



I try to make a lot of Christmas presents - so some of my free evenings in December looked like this: crafting and a movie or music.


Or like this, knitting in front of the Christmas tree!

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I made some cookies and delivered them to my next door neighbour. Super fun. 


December also included printing a year-end update on what God is doing in central and eastern Europe and my life. It was incredible to sit and write it and reflect on the goodness of God.


Our international team all got together to celebrate Christmas the night before I left Czech. It was a lot of fun and I'm so thankful for the people I serve alongside.


In 2013 I had something like nineteen flights. Crazy. In 2014? I had one. From Prague to Dublin on December 18th. I love travelling and people watching, good books and coffee.


Last year I flew back for Christmas on December 23rd. This year I got back a little earlier to squeeze a lot in - on my first day back I went to the dentist, met my home and sending church's new pastor, spent time with various people, and was very, very confused as to what side of the road I should be driving on.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Photo Friday - 12th December



It was a joy to be in Poland on Saturday combining some of my favourite things - research and camps - and training youth leaders in how to do research so we can learn how to do camps more effectively and fruitfully. Excited about what God is going to do and what we're going to learn through this project! 


On Sundays I try to take some time to plan the week - and with this one I was trying to plan my time in Czech before NI! It was exciting and good to get on paper much of what I need to do.


Some days this is how I work...


You can't really tell but in this picture there are eight little birds chirping in the bush.


It honestly hasn't been that cold here recently, but my bed got another layer anyway. 


From Wednesday until Sunday we were under a smog warning. The air where  I live is usually pretty bad but for those five days it was five times the legal limit. This is a photo taken outside my Czech teacher's home, she lives eleven kilometres away in a town with many of the factories that make my town's air so bad.


Other days this is how I work! Sitting on my kitchen floor surrounded by notes, tea, and little oranges. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

Thanksgiving

The group picture - borrow from Connie.

Moving to another country and culture inevitably means you start to celebrate a couple of new holidays. One of the fun, new ones for me is Thanksgiving. Not that Thanksgiving is a Czech holiday, of course, but I serve with a wonderful American missions organisation who celebrate it.

So this year on Thursday 27th was my second time celebrating Thanksgiving! Missionaries from Czech, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary gathered at our hotel and conference centre in Czech to celebrate.

We start with dinner on Wednesday and go until lunch on Friday and it’s just relational time. On Thursday it starts with a “Turkey Trot” (a 5 kilometre run around a nearby reservoir) and then some flag American football (I kind of ran, I did not play flag football).

The dessert table.. but not even all the desserts!

After that we have Thanksgiving dinner! We get the turkey from a man from our church who raises them. And then everyone brings a few dishes – sides, desserts, stuffing.

After dinner there is a talent show with the kids performing. Being so far from family means they don’t get to have their extended family, aunts, uncles, grandparents at school plays, so for one night we, their extended family, get to watch them perform.


This year I didn’t get to watch the talent show because I was taking the wonderful Yormans to the airport to head off on home assignment. Thankfully driving their seven seater on what I still consider to be the wrong side of the road was very uneventful.

Dave, in the grey shirt, our president, leading us in grace and singing.

I’m so thankful for my Josiah Venture family - for this group of people who understand what it is to leave home and call a new place home. I’m thankful for the relational time we got to spend together.

Just before we said grace before the meal we sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness” – it was a beautiful reminder of God’s incredible faithfulness. Even in new countries, new cultures, and new traditions there is one thing I know, deep deep down know, He is faithful.

And I am thankful.