Thursday, July 21, 2005


Well, I just finished up writing my final essay for the totalitarianism class that I've been taking for the past three weeks here in Prague. So that means that I'm done. Done! That's always a nice feeling, to be completely done with a class and not to have to worry about it anymore. I have enjoyed the class. It's been good learning about life under totalitarian domination from someone who actually lived through it and actively participated in working against it. Defintely cool. But the class is over now, and that means that it's time for me to go home. And that is a strange thought... It's been nearly ten weeks since I left the United States. Ten weeks that have flown by so quickly. Seems like just a few days ago that I was sitting in the plane on the XNA runway getting ready to take off. A lot has happened in those ten weeks, a lot of good stuff. I've learned a lot about who God is and how He works in this world, how He works in and through me. I've definitely been challenged to live my faith and find ways to tell others about it, especially here in these past few weeks in the study abroad program. It's awesome to think about all that God has done around me. This summer here in Prague has been an experience I am so blessed to have been a part of! I hope that God has blessed you in some equally amazing ways this summer. Isn't it wonderful to be a part of His kingdom?!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

a prayer for Olomouc

a journal entry from last night...

Olomouc. I sit here now on a bench in one of the two main squares. There's a fountain behind me, providing the soothing sound of flowing water to relax me. A gentle breeze drifts through the night, cooling the air. A half moon shines brightly above the multicolored buildings of a beautiful European town. Most prominent in the square is the immense column that towers above everything else, lit dimly so that one can see the irony of the beautifully decorated pillar that is a monument to death through a plague. It seems so odd to have such a beautiful reminder of death, especially in a city that now seems to be so full of life and vitality. As a Christian, though, I see how perhaps it is a fitting reminder. The people sitting at the outdoor cafe just to my left are obviously enjoying the night, enjoying life. But they, too, in all their liveliness, are a reminder. In appearance, they are full of beauty, joy, and contentment. As the ornately carved column to the right proclaims, however, it is possible to have the appearance of beauty and yet really be nothing but a representation of death. These things, these people, if viewed closely, are revealed to be shadows of evil. The column a shadow of the pain and suffering of the past, the people a shadow too. They are hollow, empty. They are only shadows of the men and women they were created to be. And as the clock strikes the hour, here among all these empty, shadowy people, I am reminded that they are running out of time. God is patient with them, not wanting any to perish, but a day will come when it is too late for the people of Olomouc, the Czech Republic, the world. Will they be ready when that day comes? Will they have given up their status as shadows and have taken on real, full, abundant life? Will they have allowed God to complete them, as only He is capable of? I pray that it may be so! For the people of Olomouc, like all the people of the world, are living hopeless lives if they are living without Christ. I pray that God will reach them, will change them. I know He has wonderful dreams, wonderful plans for them. And I know that the people of Olomouc, though they do not yet know it, are soon to encounter God's touch in a way they have never imagined. May the Lord bless the people of Olomouc and His children who are to enter their lives very soon. May He use Mitch Anderson, Joshua and Sarah Beall, Corey and Sarah Keen, Graham Kervin, Christie Shockley, and any others He may appoint to the task to show the people of Olomouc what His Love is and how it can change their lives. May He bless those workers with faith, hope, and love to carry out their task in full reliance on Him and with full confidence that He will accomplish His will here in Olomouc, whether or not they personally see the results. May He bless their families here and in the U.S. as they try to understand, accept, and participate in this calling. May He bless the Czechs who are to hear the Good News of Christ. May He bless those who accept that message and dedicate their lives to His service. May He bless the church that will grow here with faith, sweet fellowship, and a dedication to the Lord that will in turn lead more to Christ. May He bless His children throughout the world as we seek to know, to love, and to serve Him better, glorifying His Name at every moment, for He is our Lord, our God, and our Salvation! Amen

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

trilingualism, perhaps not at its best

I just had the coolest trilingual experience ever! The fact that it was trilingual is in itself enough to make it cool, but it was much better than that!
So, I was walking up the stairs at the study center, when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the security guard who's always just sitting there doing his job, was reading something that looked an awful lot like the Bible, though I did only get a quick glance. So, when I decided to go back downstairs a minute later to heat up my lunch, I looked again. Sure enough! I was SO excited at the possibilty of his being a Christain! (It's amazing how important that fact becomes when you're surrounded with non-Christians instead of being situated right in the buckle of the Bible belt. It should be important all the time, but that's a whole 'nother post...) So, I built up the courage to attempt to talk to him, knowing that he probably didn't speak English, and on my way back up, I stopped and asked in faltering Czech, "You are a Christian?" He didn't understand at first, but then I said it again in Czech and in English, and he got the idea and told me the very exciting news: yes! About all I could say to that was, "Great! Me too!" That's about as far as my Czech can take me. But as the conversation started to break up, he communicated that he speaks some German, so that got us started again, at least trying to communicate. Through a process which included a Czech-English dictionary, a markerboard, some maps, a little yellow information card that the church has printed up and that I always keep a couple copies of for occasions such as this, and lots of smiling and laughing at our inability to communicate, I gathered that, yes, he is a Christian and that he's definitely interested in coming to worship services with the church here in Prague. He has to work tonight, so he won't be able to come then, but maybe Sunday! Sunday would be great! What an awesome thing that would be for my last Sunday here in Prague! (If you can't tell, I'm just a little excited.) I realized at the end of our "conversation" that I'd never introduced myself or gotten his name, so I made sure to do that. Pavel. Please, please, please, be praying for Pavel! All I know about him so far is that his name is Pavel, he is from Moravia, he works as a security guard, and he is a Christian. Not much knowledge to impart to those of you who'll be praying. But God knows him, and that's all that matters. Pray that I will be given more opportunities to talk with him, though it may be difficult communication. (I so wish I knew Czech! I will learn it!) Pray that he'll be able to come meet with the church and be encouraged by that and will become a part of the fellowship of God's people here in Prague. And pray that Satan will be stopped as he will be trying his hardest to hold Pavel back. Okay, gotta go to class! As Chelsea would say, yay God!

Monday, July 11, 2005

renovation and renewal

"In order for you to do something you've never done, you have
to be someone you've never been." - Les Brown

Interesting thought, isn't it? Makes me think... In order to do the things I desire to do but never can seem to accomplish, there has to be a revolution in who I am, not just in how I act. I can't be the same old person and at the same time act in a completely new way. It's a concept that's touched on multiple times in Scriptures, though perhaps in different contexts.

"Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." -- Matthew 7:17-18
"Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." -- James 3:11-12
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." -- Romans 12:2
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" -- 2 Corinthians 5:17

In order for me to accomplish anything new and better, I must first be changed. As Jesus instructed the Pharisees in Matthew 23:26, "First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." The inside, the heart of a person must be cleansed before the outside actions will be pure. I must allow God to take the person I am and mold me into the person He desires that I be. That transformation is one in which I become a new creation, able to accomplish all things through Christ!

Friday, July 8, 2005

helpful hints from God

It's really cool how God has used a small thing as a reminder to me that all of us humans are His creations, loved and sought out by Him...
Here at my study abroad program, I can sometimes have a difficult time loving the people I'm surrounded by. They just don't seem to want to make themselves loveable!!! God, though, is very innovative in His ways of reminding me and helping me to love them. I can look at Brittany and be reminded of Ashley Johnson, I can see such a small thing like Victoria's curly hair and think of Bernadette, or I will notice how much Jake looks like Jared Lace and Adrian looks like John Schellhase. It's crazy! God has put me around people who remind me of friends back home in their looks, in their actions, and in their mannerisms. And that makes it easier to love them. I am reminded of how God loves all people by being reminded of how much I love my Christian (and non-Christian) friends at home. And seeing a tiny glimpse of the people I do love in the people that I'm trying to love, well, that's just one new way that God's helping me to be able to love.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

ask and you will receive...

It's really cool to see God answering prayers! Been praying for opportunities recently, as well as for the ability to see them and the courage to take advantage of them. So, this afternoon, as our class was walking to the metro, headed to the national museum with our professor, she and I got to talking somehow about our up-coming trip to Karlovy Vary and Plzen this weekend as a group. I told her I'd just recently been in Plzen, and when she asked what all I'd gotten to do there, I had a chance to tell her that we'd been there on our mini-survey trip, looking around to get info about the city because the group of us were thinking about moving there some day to do mission work. So then she began telling me about the Anglican church there that the Anglican church here in Prague apparently is pretty closely associated with. So I asked her more, and she told me all about how she was raised Catholic and about how she got involved with the Anglican church here. Then she asked me about the church that I work with here in Prague, Kristova Obec, which I'd mentioned in the short conversation we'd had. She was really interested in it and in what kinds of things we believe in. Definitely an opportunity, sent directly from God! As we got on the metro, we continued talking about belief in God and how it's soooo lacking from modern Czech society, about the kind of work that I would like to do someday if it is God's will for me to move over here, and about all sorts of cool stuff! I remembered that I had one of the church's little yellow information cards in my backpack, so I gave that to her, and she said she'd be interested in coming sometime. Awesome! Do me a favor and be praying for her - Alena Hromadkova - and for me too, as I try to find more ways of talking to her and reaching out to her. God's so cool!

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

opportunities galore

Well, I'm still here in Prague. Still loving the city. Still loving getting to spend time with the church. Still loving the culture. Things are a bit different though. For the past seven weeks, I've been working with the church, teaching English Bible classes, forming relationships with my students in order to show Christ to them, fellowshipping with the church and trying to encourage them, while probably receiving much more encouragement than I was giving. It was great! Now, though, I'm participating in a study abroad program with 20 or so other American students. And it's been a challenging experience so far. They're definitely typical American college students -- focused on themselves, what they can get out of life for themselves, wasting their time in meaningless gossip and backstabbing conversation, and spending countless hours at the numerous pubs and discos here in town, downing drink after drink after drink after drink after, well, you get the idea. Needless to say, I'm a little different. As far as I've been able to tell so far, I'm the only Christian in the group, which is a new experience for me. I'm used to being mainly with Christian friends, and even when I'm not with a Christian group, like when I'm hanging out with the drumline, there are at least some Christians among the group.

I know that in the past couple of days, I've learned a lot about what it means to be salt and light in the world. I'm trying to make a difference by being different. But at the same time it's been a challenge for me to find new, innovative ways of sharing my faith with these people who really don't care to hear about it. I've been doing quite a bit of praying and reading from encouraging books like Philippians. And one thing I've been praying for is the ability to love these people. It can be difficult when they don't exactly make themselves lovable. But as Christians, we're called to love because Christ loved us. No other reason. Not because we like someone or because we have something in common with them or because they are willing to be loved. We love because Christ loves. That simple. And 1 Corinthians 13 has got quite a bit in it that's difficult to do: have patience, not be proud or arrogant but be humble instead, etc. Even more difficult than those, I find that it's the always trusting, always hoping, always persevering part that's really tough to do. Always trusting in God that He's got a plan for these people who are His creation just as much as I am. Always trusting that He knew what He was doing when He put me here in their midst. Always hoping that one of them may see the light and love and truth of God in me in some way and may be convicted to change and to draw closer to God. Always persevering, through the difficulties, through the frustrations, through the doubt and fear. Never giving up. Never letting Satan get ahold of me and tell me that I just can't do it, that it's not making any difference, that I should just give in and join them. But though those things are difficult and I am way too weak to do them on my own, I've found that God is strengthening me. He's giving me the courage and the love I need. He, once again as always, is proving Himself faithful to me and to His promises!

I've been praying a lot for opportunities. For the ability to recognize those opportunities when they're presented. And for the courage to take ahold of them when I recognize them. And in that area, too, God is faithful. Perhaps these are new opportunities, perhaps they're ones that have always been there that I just haven't recognized because my eyes haven't been correctly focused. But whatever the case may be, they're there.

One very exciting thing happened last night. I was wandering around town with three of the girls, Kat, Jane, and Allison. They'd bought a bottle of wine and we'd sat down at the bottom of Wenceslas Square so they could drink it in celebration of the 4th of July. After they finished it up, we were headed to join up with a larger group at U Sudu, a pub not too far from Tesco. But instead, the girls decided, just for something different, to go to Tesco and buy some wine there. They ended up getting the cheapest stuff possible, which they said was really nasty and did I want to try some? I stuck to my fruit tea. Anyway, as we just sat on some benches and they drank the two-liter bottle of cheap white wine, Jane asked Kat how much she'd have to pay her to get her to go hug a homeless man who was standing with his bottle of alcohol not too far away from us. About a million dollars was the answer. But Allison mentioned that she is actually planning on opening a homeless shelter when she graduates. So, I started talking to her, asking her plans and how she got involved in working with the homeless people. And that led to an opportunity to tell her about my spring break work with the RFCs in inner-city Chicago and Atlanta. I told her how I loved getting to do work that makes a difference in people's lives, that gives them hope, shows them the love of God. As our conversation continued, I was able to talk about the work I've been blessed to participate in here in Prague and how it is so fulfilling to share the love and peace and joy that I have found through Christ. Then she told me about how, as her parents raised her, they gave her the freedom to explore religion and to make her own decisions about God. We talked for a while (as we walked to U Sudu after all...) about her spiritual beliefs and about the nature of truth and of God. Allison told me that she's trying to figure out what she believes about God, trying to find her own spirituality. We shortly arrived at the pub, so the conversation was cut off, but for what it was, it was good. Definitely an opportunity from God to see into Allison's life, into her soul, and to see that, underneath all of her outer layer of flirtation and continuous drinking, there is really a person there who is lost and is in need of God's guidance and salvation. Please pray with me and for me as I am given more opportunities to reach out to Allison with the love of God!