Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Fall Conference 2014: ReJesus

On 20th September I again put my suitcase in my car and drove the forty kilometres to Malenovice, our hotel and conference centre a five minute drive from our office. Malenovice is a special place – I’ve been going there since my first English camp in 2007 and I’m there five or six times a year (for three-seven days each time) for conferences, retreats or camp.

Just before Fall Conference each year we use the fact people are already travelling to gather our camp team. This year that meant over forty of us met for two days to debrief the summer that was and look ahead to next year. Yes, in September we talk about and decide the direction of next year’s camps.

This meeting is really the only time each year we get all these people in one room. It is so wonderful to hear the stories of what God is doing through camps in these countries. It is also good to talk about the issues we’re facing in different countries or across our countries. These are the people I work closest with all year so it’s a lot of fun to be all together.

And from that meeting we went into our annual Fall Conference from 22nd to 26th September, where we gather those serving in or alongside Josiah Venture. This year there were two hundred and eighty youth leaders and missionaries from thirteen central and eastern European countries!

Our theme was ReJesus. The idea was to get back to the Gospels, and Jesus. It’s always a good idea. The loop we circled many times during conference was looking at our own ministries, looking at Jesus and His ministry and applying Jesus’ principles to our ministries. It was a good loop to circle, and one we should always be going through.

The Bible talks about Scripture not returning empty, not returning without accomplishing the purpose God desires and so even when we return to familiar passages it’s amazing how God speaks in new ways. And in unique ways too, I think we all felt like God was talking individually to us as we looked to Him to guide us in our ministry.

The conference was used to release our training material called Walk 2:6, based on 1 John 2 v 6 “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” This training material was the basis of the conference and goes through those loops of looking at our ministry, and Jesus’ ministry and applying His methods.

With a conference this big we’re getting creative with how to have that many people. Our main sessions took place in a big tent/marquee! Thankfully it has heating, although sometimes we turned it off and it was worth it (check out the link for more photos of conference!)

The other thing about having this many people at conference is it’s impossible to meet or even see everyone! But it was so good to connect with so many friends and co-labourers over different meals, during coffee times and while walking from one meeting to another.

Malenovice continues to be a wonderful and special place, and I’m so thankful for my week there sitting in the Bible and being refreshed.

You can see more of my photos and short explanations of the week here

Monday, 13 October 2014

Happy 50th!

Again this week I have seen multiple maps and articles that commented on how secular Europe is. And Czech continues to be one of the nations leading the way, along with Estonia, with less than a fifth of the population believing there is a higher power, and less than 1% being evangelical Christians.

And it is statistics like this that make what happened yesterday all the more exciting. Yesterday my church here celebrated fifty years of God's faithfulness! Fifty years ago this church was planted and, despite extra seats, there were people standing in the foyer during our church service.

Each of the former pastors were there giving greetings - well, the first one is eighty-five and lives a few hours away so he gave his greetings via a recorded video. 

It's incredible to think about the legacy of faith in a church that survived communism. We have a lot of young people in our church and as we watched our Sunday school kids perform it was exciting to think of the continued witness and impact this church will prayerfully have.

Each week our musical worship comes in a few different forms - a worship group, an organ for Polish hymns, and often we have a choir too. This blurry photo was taken as we sang How Great is Our God in Polish, led by our worship group. On Saturday night we hosted a youth night for several of the local youth groups and we sang four songs - in four languages. It's a little taste of heaven as we flit between Czech, Polish, Slovak and English (definitely the least common) worship songs.

This week the church that planted this church sent some of their choir, just like they did all those decades ago, to encourage our church.

Our church is one of the biggest churches in our denomination in the country now. And in his sermon Dave Patty, Josiah Venture's president, who has lived in the Czech Republic for twenty years, encouraged us to be completely dependent on God's grace as we continue to minister to this town, the Czech Republic and beyond. 

During the service we received bookmarks - the back says 
"We want to reach the world"
"We want to glorify Christ"
"We want to make disciples"

I pray that, relying on God's grace, we would do these things well in this little corner of this country and beyond. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Photo Friday - 10th October

On Saturday I woke up with a messy flat but knew I needed some time to read, do my Bible study, and rest. So I combined this with some errands and escaped the mess. And I was right, it was needed and good. And my flat did get tidied in the end.

Sunday nights involve me prepping for the week - cutting up vegetables for snacks for the first three days etc. So my sink inevitably looks like this on Sunday nights.

Autumn has been showing off this week!

The light in my flat in afternoons is crazy beautiful.

I'm currently working my way through this Bible plan, reading the New Testament in 90 days. I should be finished right around the new year. It is blessing me immensely.

Poland's autumn is showing off too (I'm taking this photo from Czech - in my town the river divides Czech and Poland).

My IKEA construction skills are lacking sometimes... like in this chair. The back came off during a skype. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Changing Lives (Video)

Changing Lives from Josiah Venture on Vimeo.

This video was shown at our Fall Conference in September. I can't help but get goosebumps as I watch young people talking about how God has changed their lives. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Grace and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

There’s a children’s book called “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and one Thursday in August I was convinced that was my day.

That was my day before 11am.

Unlike Alexander I didn’t wake up with gum in my hair, nor did I trip over a skateboard. But as I walked to my car to drive to the office I was feeling overwhelmed, and I was juggling three or more bags with my laptop, stuff, dinner for friends and more.

And then I got to my car, parked a street away from my flat, where I routinely park.

And that’s when I saw the red thing on my front tyre.

In the book Alexander wants to move to Australia and right there, carrying too many bags, standing in the rain, I thought that sounded like a great idea.

Because, let’s be honest, getting your car clamped is a bad day in English. Getting your car clamped in a country where you feel like you have approximately zero of the words you require?

Rachael and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

So, I ripped the notice from my window and stomped home. I called my good friend Kristin and got out all the “I’m having the worst day in the whole entire world”. She was wonderfully sympathetic and was with our Czech teacher, and they were willing to make the call for me and deal with it. I decided that I needed to deal with this but I was grateful that I had back up.

And so I called the number. I had no idea what the notice said, but saw the word for “call” and there was a number. Here’s how the conversation went, translated from my bad Czech.

Policeman: “Good day”

Me: “Good day. I don’t have good Czech.”

P: “Well, I don’t speak English at all.”

M: [deep breath] “Well, I parked… on a street... in the centre and now I have… a red thing… on my… tyre.”

And, please know, I said tyre in English.

Well, we figured it out. Even though I’d forgotten the name of the street I parked on. And I think I understood I was to meet him at the car.

A few more minutes waiting in the rain later and the policeman arrived.

He spent a lot of time telling me to calm down, he asked how good my Czech was, and explained that they wanted to clean the street that morning and there had been a sign. A sign I’d missed.

He told me the regular fine for this was 2000kc (just under £60, or $100) and went into his car to write my ticket.

When he returned he told me the fine would be just 100kc (£3 or $5). I only had a 200kc note on me, and he didn’t have change. So instead he walked to the shop at the corner of the street and returned with 100kc change.

As I drove away I was so grateful for grace – grace that my language helped me survive this interaction, grace from the police officer, grace from God.

And then I got onto the motorway/highway to the office. Northern Irish people may know the company Sawyers who sell fish and have a shop behind Boots in Belfast. It’s a store that has a lot of memories from my childhood and my granny.

Well, in my little town on the border of Czech and Poland there was a Sawyers lorry (truck) – complete with a Northern Irish number plate.

It felt like crazy grace that reminded me of all the places grace had beautifully shown up that morning.

I’m grateful for the grace that overwhelms terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. And thankful that it reminds me I do not want to move to Australia.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Photo Friday - 3rd October

Amy left on Saturday, it was fun to travel with her (she landed in Estonia) and to be flatmates for three months while she interned with Josiah Venture.

At church on Sunday morning we had six baptisms! 

Monday involved staying at home the whole day waiting for my landlord and landlady to show up to look at my troublesome radiator.

October arrived! And with it the pizza restaurant beside my flat started dismantling their outdoor seating area.

The conclusion on Monday was that there is a problem with my boiler. So this was my view for part of Wednesday, and it looks like it's all working now.

I've been rediscovering some random sweets from NI thanks to sweets from my mum brought by Paul. 

It's election time in my little town, so these noticeboards are set up on the town square and the amount of junk mail I'm getting has increased dramatically.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

On Coming Home

I remember getting this email two years ago today saying I'd been officially accepted by Josiah Venture. I remember telling my parents, and driving to tell the Bowmans. I spent that night with some of my closest friends in Belfast (although I can't remember the occasion) and I remember telling them.

Josiah Venture has been a part of my life for a long time now - I first travelled over as part of a team from my Saintfield church to an English camp in 2007, at the age of eighteen. I had no idea back then I'd become a full time missionary or live in the country I'd probably only learnt about because of that trip.

This morning I woke up in my little flat in the Czech Republic. I went to a couple of shops to buy a few things I needed. I prepared to lead small group in Czech. I walked around my little town. In a couple of days I mark fifteen months of living here.

Last weekend Paul Bowman, the one who introduced me to this country on that short term team, was here and got to see my life and ministry here. At one point he said "Rachael has come home here." 

In that moment I knew how true those words were. Now, Northern Ireland is and will always be home. But somehow Czech is too. It's not one or the other. It's both/and. 

I fully believe God has given me home here. Home in a culture I don't fully understand. Home in a language that continues to baffle me. Home in a country I met when I was eighteen.

And God has far surpassed my expectations. Eighteen year old me did not expect to call this country home. Two-years-ago me did not expect how completely God had prepared this place for me and me for this place.

He has been overwhelmingly faithful. And I'm excitedly expectant about how He will continue to be faithful and how He will continue to shatter my expectations and give good things.