Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Academy 2015!



From 28th January to 1st February 220 leaders from fifteen nationalities gathered at a snow covered Malenovice. This was our second Academy conference and it is a practical leadership conference for leaders from our S-Team ministries - camps, Edge sports, Fusion (music) and Exit Tour. 

This year the main teaching sessions were on teamwork and our main speaker was again Charlie Bradshaw from North Coast Church in California. There were also two workshops that each participant went to - one a 4.5 hour one and the other a 1.5 hour workshop. The workshops were on many diverse topics - from public speaking to Edge sports to how to conduct to personal productivity.

This is also a really fun conference! Although we had full-time JV missionaries at the conference a lot of the attendees are volunteers. So it was fun to organise fun "extras" that thank people who serve, to give time for teams to bond, and to introduce fun ideas that people can use in their ministries. 

I love serving alongside these wonderful people, and it's a joy to put on a conference like this for them. I'm so grateful for how God answered the many prayers that went into this conference - that people felt so cared for, that the details all worked out, and many, many other prayers.

Below are some fun photos with captions! 


For most of the week only cars that had chains on their tyres could get up the hill. It made for some creative solutions as we set up. 


It was incredible to have Paul and Val Bowman here for the conference as they taught and provided counselling! These are the people who introduced me to this country and Josiah Venture so it was super fun to have them here.


Gwynne and Kuldar expertly emceed our downstairs venue (yes, it was such a big conference the main sessions were videoed and streamed to another room in the hotel!)


One afternoon we had a "Survival" - teams had to trek through the snow to different stations and complete different team building challenges. 


I loved singing this Rend Collective song with this crowd of people - this is our prayer for these nations.

Build Your kingdom here.Let the darkness fear.Show Your mighty hand.Heal our streets and land.Set Your church on fire.Win this nation back.Change the atmosphere.Build Your kingdom here.We pray.


One of the workshops Val did was on how to serve young people who struggle with self-harm. It was incredible to hear her expertly teach and equip over forty leaders.


One of my favourite things about conferences is the late night chats and fun. Like these disgusting jelly beans. Each colour could be two options. So the black could be liquorice or it could be skunk. Green could be lime or booger.


We had wonderful people join us from the States to do the sound, run the computers, lead worship, and teach. This meant most of the conference attendees did not have other responsibilities and could focus on the conference teaching and their teams. We are so thankful for how these people served all week. This group of people (Americans and Czech) faithfully and beautifully led us into the presence of God throughout the conference.


Charlie leading a main session! It was so good to learn from his experience in ministry! 


Right after the group photo (right at the top) was taken it descended into a snowball fight! 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Snow is better



This winter has not been colder than last year but there has been snow or ice on the ground a lot longer. I think snow is so very beautiful but I am not a fan of driving in it or of being cold.

This photo was taken of me during The Academy - and, yes, I'm wearing a million layers including two pairs of socks and thermal leggings. And those snow boots that travel halfway up my calf.

There was a year when I knew full-time ministry was in my future but not where I might be. During that year I remember at one point praying God would call me to the Maldives (check out number 11 on the World Watch List). 

And then God clearly called me to this beautiful corner of the world where it snows and goes below freezing for weeks at a time. And I am so grateful. His plans are so infinitely better and I love snow!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Photo Friday - 20th February



Playing a hilariously complicated game at youth group on Saturday night! 


Sunday. Thankful for books and bagels. And an uncharacteristic second coffee of the day, because some days church at 9am comes early! 


I decided to paint my spare room/office! 


Pancake Day isn't celebrated by America or Czech so it's really fun to introduce my co-workers to this holiday and pancakes with sugar and lemon! 


This Parma Violets candle smells delicious! 


I often have to write letters for Czech homework and I always write to the lovely Petra.


How do you know Easter is coming? The shops start selling painted eggs, chicks, bunnies and... whips.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Photo Friday - 13th February




My New Year's resolution was/is to read twenty pages a day. I had just finished a book and wanted some fiction so looked at my bookshelves and remembered this book. I think I first read it in primary school - so fifteen years ago! It tells the story of a girl who had to flee from Germany, and Hitler, in 1933. I loved re-reading it and some of the thoughts and feelings about living in a new culture resonated deeply.




When I finished the first in the trilogy I continued! So I'm on the last one now. And I just finished reading Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner - I got an advanced release copy and am so excited for it to be released this week! The other book I'm currently reading is The Answer to our Cry, and I'm looking forward to get deeper into it.




My Czech lesson this week involved using an ironing board to rest the keyboard on while I typed and endured back pain.




Waiting.




I've learnt that I learn best by doing exercises, lots of exercises. So I've been trying to do more of them. This exercise is a list of different situations and you're asked if you can "tykat" or "vykat" in them. Tykat means to speak informally with someone, and vykat to speak formally - all verbs have conjugations for you-singular/informal and you-plural/formal. It felt like an achievement to be able to understand the sentences! 





Thursday was a really fun day and a good peak into what I do. At 9am I was on a video call with four other women in three countries to talk about and plan the writing the English teaching curriculum for camps this year. 

I then left that meeting to drive to Poland with our design team to look at a lot of grey t-shirts and try to pick our t-shirt for camps this year. We order over 4000 of these shirts! I am so grateful for the Polish company we use.

And then at 3.30 I was again on a video call. This time it was to be interviewed about Northern Ireland by an English club in Slovenia! Two of my co-workers run an English club down there and had asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed. It was a lot of fun to talk about my home country of Northern Ireland, its food, culture and history. And there were some hilarious questions - I've (sadly) never gone on a leprechaun hunt and Lucky Charms, while delicious, are illegal in Northern Ireland so I don't eat them as much as anyone thinks. 




The weather finally got above freezing again! But the snow is still hanging out.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Photo Friday - 6th February



On Saturday the conference was still going... and I run on a lot of coffee during conference!


Our last session with Charlie Bradshaw on Sunday. Conference ended with a group photo that devolved into a snow ball fight! 


After conference there we take a couple of "comp" days - compensation days after working eighteen hour days at conference, plus build up. I generally always take a "pyjama day" for one of these days so naturally that was the day my landlady came round with my flat contract for 2015. Can you spot my red flannel pyjamas in this pic? I'm praising God for an easy continuation of my contract here, it is no small thing and I'm thankful for His provision.


After Christmas my parents shipped a box with Christmas presents and some things from NI to me. And after almost two years of sending stuff here without a single break I had four things break in one box! These were from my days in Cardiff so I'm a little sad but thankfully it was one of each thing that broke, which just adds to the quirkiness of my mug collection!


On Wednesday the S-Team, the team I serve on, went out to lunch to celebrate such a successful conference! It was so good to reflect on what God did - even though we really only have glimpses of that right now.


Oh my, the snow continues.


I've started my fourth Czech textbook! But I've been feeling a little discouraged in it - I'm in a season where my progress in my language isn't really clear. So when on Friday I grabbed a coffee and the barista and I chatted while my coffee was made, it felt so good. She encouraged me in my Czech and I even got a "beautiful day" and smiling sun. I'm thankful God always sends encouragement my way when I most need it. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Photo Friday - 30th January



I love this quote from a poem by Wendell Berry so I put it up on the wall in my home. "Invest in the millennium" is a great reminder as I work here!


In all the snow I needed a little bit of life around here! And my crazy travelling schedule means houseplants last less than a couple of months.


At least the snow is pretty...


...but it made conference set up hard - our conference centre is at the top of a hill and the entire week the only cars that could make it up the hill were cars with chains on the tyres. So set up the day before conference involved taking stuff to the bottom of the hill, and moving things into the other car.


On Tuesday night I drove to Krakow airport to pick up the Bowmans! We flew them over to help with conference - they both taught at the conference, and Val had many counselling sessions. We stayed up way too late on Tuesday night eating toast and chatting.


It was such a joy to have the Bowmans here and watch them minister and serve. They're the people who introduced me to this country and Josiah Venture so it was fun to have them both here and let them see my world.


And on Wednesday the Academy began! Gwynne and Kuldar kept us laughing as they emceed the programme.


Zuzka, who serves on S-Team too, created our name tags for conference and she made some interesting edits. Apparently my name is Rach Cute and because I didn't have a first workshop (so I could take care of details) she made it "Party Time". It caused a few giggles during the week!


Val B leading a workshop for forty leaders on how to help young people who struggle with self harm. 


One of the fun things we do at the Academy is give "paper plate awards". We literally give people paper plates - although cute ones, from Estonia. And on the paper plate we write the name of the award. The Burkhardts serve camps in Romania and they always go the extra mile so they got the extra mile award! We love recognising and celebrating our people.

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.