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.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Fall Conference 2014!

Today is the last full day of Fall Coference! We have 280 leaders from across central and eastern Europe and we're gathered to look again at how Jesus did ministry and how to apply His principles to our ministries. 

It is so good to be here and with so many wonderful people. And worshipping with that many people from fifteen countries is a beautiful thing. Would you pray for us as we finish up tomorrow and go back to our nations? 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Bunnies on the Basketball Court

I think I've let the list of twenty blog posts I want to write stop me from writing any. So let's kick off with some photos from today. Today I had a couple of errands to run and while I was out I decided to walk along the river, a very normal thing for me to do.

Well, this is what I discovered. Apparently even though this Saintfield girl moved away from Northern Ireland she didn't move that far! There is a series of parks along the river in the centre of my town and there is some fun country show kind of thing happening.

There are tractors for sale.

Piles of homegrown vegetables - both for sale and on show.

A lot of livestock.

Including goats!

And there were bunnies on the basketball court.

Along with hens, roosters, geese and ducks.

Also spotted: a beehive and a blacksmith!

I love the little town here I get to call home, and I love surprises like this.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Hello again!

Well, it has been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. Right now in my notebook I have fourteen blog post ideas, seven of which are “Photo Fridays”. And I want to, and will, blog my way through those, documenting God’s grace during the last couple of months.

So, what have I been up to?

After camp this summer we had our S-Team retreat where we talked about our ministries and dreamt and planned and prayed a lot. It was very exciting, and I really feel that God has made it clear how He is going before us.

I had a few working weeks and got to visit the Polish short-term team training, and finish up a lot of summer accounting, and other necessary tasks as we look to this new year.

I had a week of holiday/vacation. And I didn’t go a single place. Well, I went to Prague. For a day. A blog post coming about this soon.

And then last week I spent the whole week learning Czech, after a summer of not really learning much. I find myself praying that God would repeat Acts 2 v 4 again, with Czech, right here in my little green kitchen.

And now September has started! Yesterday and today were suitably rainy and foggy, weather that always makes me think of Northern Ireland. And this week marks the start of new things.

Tomorrow I hold my first English Club meeting. The goal with this is to connect students who want to learn English with our youth group and church. And I find myself simultaneously being nervous that no one will show up and being nervous that my flat will be too small.

Even saying it out loud (or writing it in this blog post) seems like a risk because tomorrow I might get to tell you that, yep, no one showed up. But this idea has been floating for a while, and prayed over a lot, and I’m excited about the potential it has.

One of my favourite things about camp was being able to say to students “Let’s spend time together in September!” And those prayers have been answered. Students want to hang out and I’m excited to spend time with a couple of them in the coming days.

Tomorrow at 8am I’ll also be dropping my car off at the mechanics. A combination of holidays, busyness at the mechanics, and different schedules mean that, yes, tomorrow I’m finally taking the car in to fix a problem that started on July 5th. And with that I’m praying for wisdom, an easy and complete fix, and God’s provision.

There is so much new to be thankful for: new ministry opportunities, new relationships, new seasons. And as I start my second year in this place, I am so grateful for deepening relationships, language, knowledge and familiarity. There are constants to be thankful for too: God’s provision and how He clearly goes before as well as alongside. 

I’m excited to continue to tell the stories that point to His gracious provision.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The normal, unforced rhythms of grace

After a long summer season of ministry it is so good to be getting back into “normal” life. We have joked that I get a “normal week” about 30% of the year so “normal weeks” are good whenever they happen, but after weeks and months of packing and unpacking and repacking? Normal feels so good.

What does normal mean?

Normal means waking up at a normal time and spending time in the Bible and praying.

Normal means answering emails, having a Skype meeting and getting work done. Normal means spending time learning Czech after a summer of not learning much.

Normal on the first Wednesday of the month means noon is noisy.

Normal means buying food at Tesco and baking muffins for friends. Normal means hanging out with those friends, new missionaries who moved here recently.

It also means other things.

Normal means hearing my doorbell ring and answering it to find two Jehovah’s Witnesses on my doorstep – they’re really active in my town, and I often see them handing out leaflets at the train station.

Normal means walking down my street by the Buddhist centre and the homeless guys who often sit on the benches during the day and sleep on them at night.

A year ago few of these things seemed normal. I didn’t have the keys to my flat yet. I had been here just over a month. Some of these things should not be normal, and I ache and pray for "on earth as it is in heaven".

I am so thankful for God’s grace in big adventures, long roadtrips, weeks at camp, and visits to camps in others parts of Europe. But I’m also incredibly thankful for God’s grace in the details of life, and in the normal, mundane days here. I'm thankful for how His grace breaks through, and brings life, and changes things.

Matthew 11 v 28-30 in the New International Version reads

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

In the Message that same passage reads

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (emphasis mine)

I feel like I’m experiencing those unforced rhythms of grace in the everyday, mundane, normal of my life here in this little corner of the Czech Republic and am praying for this grace to continue to break in in this part of the world. I am so thankful for His incredible grace.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Camp begins!

[Written on Saturday but it has just appeared online now.]

English camp has begun! It has been a full day with lots needing to be prepared before the students arrived in the afternoon. 

And now we've had our first evening session and discussion group. The discussion group is the same as the English class. There are nine students in my group plus an American, a Brit, a Czech translator and myself. 

Please pray that we are able to bond well as a group and that as the week continues we would build good relationships so we can better share the Gospel. 

It is so good to be here at camp! It's a little funny for me to be at a camp where I am not the "foreigner" but that means I can build relationships that can continue throughout the year. It's also really fun that I can talk with the students in Czech!

The moon tonight over the mountain. 

A bonfire with sausages and marshmallows roasting. 

Our setup. This is the stage area for the songs, speaker etc. 

Upside Down!

Every year there is a particular theme for our camps - it helps us with the materials such as the t-shirts, printed books and flyers, etc. And the name of the theme is based on the evening programme talks.

Every night at Josiah Venture's camps there is an evening programme with games, songs and even a special camp song with motions (we pick a new song every year that fits the theme and create motions for it). But the most important part of evening programme is the talk.

This year the theme is Upside Down. And you can look at it a couple of ways. Clearly this world is upside down. Even the young person who is most opposed to God will generally easily admit that there is clearly something very wrong in the world. There are wars, famine, greed, pride, anger.. and I could keep going for a long time.

So during the week we will talk about a King who came as a baby. The Lord who came to serve. And that He invites us all to be a part of His Kingdom where things seem Upside Down as we love our enemies, forgive our debtors, lose our lives to save them. A kingdom where it's not about anything we've done or could do to earn His love but where that love is freely given by grace because it was bought with an incredible cost at the cross.

I'm excited about what God will do through these talks and the discussions that happen after them!