Wednesday, 16 April 2014

My new, best worst Czech mistake

When I was MTI receiving my language learning training we were repeatedly told that to learn a language you need to make a thousand mistakes. And if you need to make a thousand mistakes you may as well get over it and start making them as quickly as possible.

We were also encouraged to learn to laugh at ourselves because laughter and joy make the mistakes a lot more funny.

I have two wonderful Czech tutors and I meet with each of them for two hours a week. I added the second tutor in February and it has helped my Czech so much! My time with this tutor is a lot less structured, we don't follow a textbook. This actually gives a lot of freedom - each week I pick what I learn and so I can pick what I feel I need to learn.

Every week we read a story from my little children's Bible. Thankfully there are pictures, and I know the stories. But I am still learning many, many words. After, painfully slowly, reading the story I maybe retell it in my own words and then we talk about how the story applies to our lives what what we can learn from it. My tutor is not a believer so it's a really fun to be talking through these questions.

Well, a couple of weeks ago we read about a miracle and my tutor asked how it was possible for people to get into heaven.

I wanted to say it is only because Jesus died for us.

So, I wanted to say "jen protože Ježíš umřel"

Instead I said "jen protože Ježíš zabil"

umřel: died

zabil: killed or murdered

I said the only reason we can get into heaven is because Jesus killed. My tutor thought it was hilarious and I can definitely see the funny side. I don't think I'll ever make this particular mistake again... but I'm sure there are many, bigger, funnier mistakes in my future.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Ladies' Retreat 2014

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God” Luke 9 v 62

When ploughing, looking anywhere but forward will cause the furrow to be crooked. And how often we are tempted to look backward or to the side or even inward.

We look back to how life used to be or what we maybe think we’re “missing out” on. We look to the side and compare our lives with those around us. And sometimes we even look too much at our own sins, sitting in condemnation instead of looking to our glorious Saviour.

This was the subject of our time at the Josiah Venture’s ladies’ retreat in Slovakia a few weeks ago. As I sit to write this blog post I have just re-read my notes from those four days, those precious four days.

One of my favourite things about the retreat was that we heard from seven Josiah Venture women who all shared how God had called them forward through hard things in life and the mission field – living in a new place, not knowing the language, loneliness, infertility, singleness, staying in the country God has called you to, trusting God in our mess.

These women are all incredible women of God. And it was a joy to spend time with them. It was also so rich because you’re hearing from women who know the life you live because they live it too – who know what it means to feel so inadequate because your communication has been reduced to baby level again, who know what it means to live far away from loved ones.

I feel like this is where we hear the greatest words from Scripture: But God. Language learning is rough, but God has called us to language learning and He can speak through our lives in deeper ways than our words. Some days are hard but God is good and God is trustworthy – He has proven that over and over again. The Gospel demands radical sacrifice, wherever you live. And chasing after anything but Jesus is disappointing.

God spoke during those four days – and not just through the up front teaching – in wonderful, tender, deep ways. I feel like I’ll be returning to those pages in my notebook again and again.

Another wonderful thing about the four days is that we were all placed in groups of three. Amy Ellenwood, the wonderful lady who led the conference, put us in the groups using the same technique as the last ladies’ retreat. She categorised everyone into three groups based on how long they’d be on the field. And she created groups by picking one lady from each of the three piles.

When my group met for the first time we were astonished, and actually checked with Amy to make sure she hadn’t put us together on purpose.

The women along with me in that photo are Lucka and Judita – Lucka is the wonderful Czech friend whom I have known as long as I’ve been coming to the Czech Republic. She is also the one who went with me to every office when I moved here to help with all the paperwork and translation. It was my first time meeting Judita but her husband serves in our Edge Sports ministry in Slovenia, so I’d met him.

Lucka is from the Czech Republic and serves in Slovenia.

Judita is from Croatia and serves in Slovenia.

Rachael is from Northern Ireland and serves in the Czech Republic.

And all of us serve alongside wonderful Americans as part of a brilliant missions organisation.

At times the three of us don’t feel like second culture missionaries, but third culture missionaries. We experience dual culture shock – when I explain a cultural problem or food I'm craving neither the Americans nor the Czechs will know exactly what I'm talking about. I’ll be making banoffee for Bible study this week because no one has had it before. It’s incredible to be a part of a multi-cultural team and it’s a beautiful picture of who our God is. But sometimes it is hard.

It was wonderful that God gave us three this time together to encourage each other, to speak with each other and know that not only did these people listen but they also understand.

And that was true of so much of the retreat. It was such a joy to meet so many wonderful women who I hadn’t met before, and to spend time with women I already know. There is such sisterhood born in knowing the lives each other live – hours of conversation, laughter, encouragement and joy… not to mention rest.

I am so grateful for these beautiful women and the time I spent with them all in Slovakia. But even more, I am so grateful for our beautiful Saviour who has called us and given us many good, good gifts.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Photo Friday - 11th April

This is the notebook I got at ladies' retreat - it's been good to keep going back that week, and what God revealed there.

I'm currently going through this Bible study on a Monday night and it is so good. God is really using it to speak to us and encourage us.

My crazy co-workers crossing the river using a pipe on the way to lunch.

I am in a lot of denial about it being April, never mind it being April 8th. The summer is getting so close and there is so much to do! But the view out my window at our office in Frydlant is beautiful.

I love little train stations we stop at on the way to places.

Back when my bed was constructed last August the depth of the mattress was misjudged and... well.. I've just lived with it. I finally got round to the hour long process of unscrewing all the bits of the base and reconstructing them higher up. Worth it!

Work emails at 9pm on a Friday night. Thankfully I think the problem I spent the better part of a day and a half figuring out has been solved/a solution has been found.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Photo Friday - April 4th

I didn't realise how close I lived to Auschwitz until I drove there on Saturday with my family. It's only an hour away. It was a weird place to be in - especially on a beautiful day, seeing lots of butterflies flying around. We were in a group with a really stoic Polish lady as a guide. Her monotone voice didn't really convey the evil that happened in this place, although I'm not sure anything could really.

Seeing mounds of suitcases, pairs of glasses, shoes... It was crazy to think of the lives lost in that place. Almost the population of Northern Ireland! Czech lives were also lost there and that was hard to think about to - I have really come to see here as home and these people as my people. It was challenging to think about this part of their history.

Spring has definitely sprung over here - and my family had fantastic weather the whole time they were here.

Before my dad had even taken his coat off (see that top left photo) he was fixing things - and he continued to do so the entire time. My kitchen was clearly not put in very well but it looks so much better now! And the worktops are even secured to the cabinets! He also created that wee shelf (with my nail polish on it) to hide the exposed wiring in the bathroom. I am so thankful!

I really need to plant somethings in my windowsill containers.

Because when you're ordering $20,000 worth of t-shirts you have a Mars bar close at hand for when you're done! 

Apparently I like grey shoes... I was trying to decide what to wear for Friday.

On Friday I went into a local high school to promote my church's English camp and invite people along! So I did six classes with English games and a presentation on Life in Northern Ireland. It was so much fun to be interacting with students, I'd forgotten how much I love teaching. 

I was also offered a job in the school after my first lesson! It was funny. I'd love to have an opportunity like that to really get to know students and connect with them but they were offering 20 hours a week and I already work crazy-hours-a-week and with my travelling schedules it wouldn't work.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Photo Friday - March 28th

Re-entering life after the retreat meant a lot of emails! I had over 104 in the four days. And apparently I stopped taking quite so many photos!

With the mornings being lighter I've been using that as motivation to get up earlier to allow a longer "quiet time" in the morning.

My new favourite snack: peanut butter with pretzels.

My little spare bedroom normally exists as a office (until a roommate appears) but here it was, all set up for guests!

I have to file taxes here.. Unfortunately my Czech friend wasn't able to come with me the day I needed to go. So I went to four buildings and six offices alone. It was exhausting. Hopefully I'm legal! 

It was both encouraging and discouraging in terms of how much I was able to communicate. I needed a special form at the third building and it meant the lady had to take me to her boss to ask for it. The lady told her boss "This woman speaks really bad Czech" - although I understood what she said! And I had enough Czech to ask for the form... 

Anyway, I knew the lady at the last building, the health office, because we've dealt with paperwork issues with me before. She doesn't speak any English but we chatted, her asking if I'd been to all the associated offices that day and how brave I was doing that alone. Before I left she went into a cupboard and reached out a packet of sweets for me! So, so sweet. 

My parents arrived on Thursday! And they surprised me by bringing my sister! It was so good to have them here. They flew in and out of Krakow so we took some time on Thursday to walk through the city. The funny thing was that the only time I've been in this beautiful city was when I did the Amazing Race through it so I couldn't remember many historical facts - more the crazy challenges I had to do at various landmarks. 

Prague is four hours away by train and that's where we spent Friday! I loved getting to show my family around this city I love so much.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Photo Friday - March 21st

I spent three hours with a wonderfully patient teacher and learnt to crochet! Mine is the cream snowflake (and I didn't do all of it) - it's not perfect but it was a wonderful time together! 

Some necessary baking before Saint Patrick's Day.

Being surprised by a co-worker with coffee and biscotti made Monday morning a lot nicer!

Tuesday-Friday I was in Slovakia at the JV ladies' retreat. There's a fuller blog post coming soon but for now here are some photos of our surroundings.

Where we stayed was the summer home of the first president of Czechoslovakia (between World War One and Two).

It was a beautiful place to gather with beautiful women to worship our beautiful God.

We were divided into triplets for our time and I was blessed to be with these two women! 

The teaching was on how we can look forward, and run the race marked before us without looking back or comparing sideways. What was so wonderful was the fact we heard from seven JV women, on times when they had to run their race through different seasons or hard things.

I am hoping to write a fuller blog post or two on this retreat soon!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! It was fun to make some shamrock shaped cookies, cover them in green colouring icing and share them with my co-workers and friends here. And to share the story of who Saint Patrick is and how he loved God.

Two of my favourite Saint Patrick's resources are this short Veggie Tales video that is surprisingly accurate and this article that talks about the challenge Saint Patrick's life should give us.

May we all, like Saint Patrick, follow the call of God on our lives and share the Gospel with those around us in a way they can understand.

The Prayer of Saint Patrick
As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.