Camp starts three weeks from now and we're buying all the Wonka candy we can find and finalizing our lessons for camp. This will be our fifth trip over to the Czech Republic to help lead a Teen English Camp and our theme this year is pictured above; we will be studying men and women of faith in Czech history. To prepare for the camp (and kill two birds with one stone for the Czech-themed exhibition I have at a local arts centre) I researched all the people we will be studying and drew them. Here're some of the pieces in the gallery that I made for camp.
You see that word in the blog title? It's Czech for "four" and I cannot say it. I try and I try and my American tongue is just not able to say it. Despite my struggles, I'm going back to the Czech Republic for mission trip number čtyři.
If you know me at all, you know I love the Czech Republic. I went there for the first time in 2011 with hesitance and am returning now with a backbone and an ever-increasing love for the people there.
I have waited a month to collect my thoughts and reflect on our worship gatherings and Sunday nights the past four years. For some, it was eleven years and I envy that a bit; I wish I had attended Mosaic in its entirety.
Honestly, the last Mosaic gathering was hard on my heart. I hoped you didn't see me, because I was a lump of sadness. I retreated to our tech booth where I've been doing slides the past few years and was able to watch people worship as our community and it was bittersweet. It has been a real honor to serve in that group. I have so enjoyed watching and listening as you worshiped earnestly and passionately. It was an encouragement to be surrounded by good men and women who grew toward maturity in Christ each week but also got really excited when Chad surprised us with ice cream sandwiches. I liked doing slides because it was, like, super easy. Plus, if I didn't click my mouse, you didn't sing, which was a cool power I possessed. I'm just kidding. I didn't do that often, at least not purposefully.
Chad asked me to prepare a community art project for our last Mosaic gathering as a way to worship (you can worship through paint, it's true) and an opportunity to create something as a group that would serve as a reminder and memento of our growth and time on Sunday nights. Later, I told him it was a bit like making a tombstone for a friend. It didn't feel good, it was grim. I sketched it then created it anyway. I painted everything but the leaves so that everyone who came that last night could help finish it.
But I wasn't happy about it. Before J & I drove up to church for the last gathering I was putting the tree painting and paints in the car and I thought, "Maybe if nobody shows up we can delay the last Mosaic," because I have the mentality of a third grader sometimes.
Nonetheless, we drove there. It happened. It was fantastic; possibly the best worship gathering we had ever had. Nathan & the band crushed it. As did Chad. When everyone was eating Ray's BBQ and enjoying each others' company, I sat back and thought, "This is such a good moment. This is what Mosaic was: lots of folks enjoying God, food and worship together. Why am I not happy." Everyone seemed really joyful and I felt that's how I should have been, too.
The next week, I beat myself up for not enjoying the last Mosaic. Everything went out without a hitch; it was such a good representation to the other church members who had never attended, to see how great Mosaic was to us; God was there with us and was glorified through it. I was mad at myself for wasting time being sad when there was so much to be joyful about.
So, here I am one month later and my Sunday nights are free for the first time in four years. I realize now that it was okay to shed tears and mourn, even in the midst of joy. I experienced tremendous joy that night and tremendous sadness. This gif is an accurate representation. My mind is clearer now and I am enjoying our Sunday morning Bible Study of The Prodigal God with a section of the Mosaic community. God is really good and provides for us when he also takes things away.
All this to say, I hope those that attended Mosaic enjoyed it as much as I did. The purpose of this post was not to complain nor begrudge the ending of something I really loved. I wrote this as something of a thank you note for coming to Mosaic, all those who did. Even if you came once or twice, I'm really glad you made it there. I'm happy we were able to experience that together. I grew stronger and learned more than I ever thought I would. God is good like that.
Thanks for worshiping with me.
[In case you haven't heard, Mosaic is still going on a Winter Retreat in Wisconsin again. The dates are January 3-5 and it will be affordable and fun. See you there.]
A full two weeks later & English Camp 2013 seems simultaneously to be a several months ago and just the other day. The Czech Trip puts me in a bubble for a couple of weeks as I focus on lessons, games and prayer. I don't think about work or St. Charles or my future; I truly am in a bubble with some of the best people in the world and I love it - but two weeks of it is good because the catch-up is grueling. The world keeps turning, bills and work need to be paid for and done, and television shows don't wait for me to get back. They keep going. And I found out **spoilers ahead** Bri is back on Masterchef and that Cris was Whodunnit. And here's what I did while in Czech.
We really just had a ton of fun together. Those things I asked you to pray about? God demolished those barriers and answered prayers the day they were said. You could see God working and that is something quite remarkable but not at all surprising. I was given opportunities to get to know new students and share testimonies and spend more time with the kids I already knew and loved. We played card games, sang songs, did improv, drew ridiculous pictures and I laughed so hard my eyes were leaking. So, when I say that Czech was good I am also saying that I miss the people there a whole awful lot, so much so that my heart aches and I start looking at my bank account again and pondering just how much a plane ticket may be right now.
These are my girls. Pictured left to right, my Astronaut Unicorns (you may have heard of us, we performed a pretty incredible version of Rumpelstiltskin that got rave reviews and a few eyebrow raises) : Paja (who spent the last year in Alabama and now loves Arby's and speaks English like a straight-up American now), Verča (has near perfect poise, can balance a liter of water on head in Prague metro), skip me , Míša (glorious Czech beauty that is rivaled only by the glory of her wit and creativity), Lucka (sings a wicked Adele cover with raw emotion but can dominate a slack line like Adele never could), and Bara (who knew more Spanish than I did and now has intense cowboy swagger that she channeled through being naturally awesome). This was my class for the week and we had heaps of good times. We talked about God, the world's problems, and girls who deserve the title "heifer." The answer is none but that doesn't make saying the word heifer any less funny.
We stayed at Chata Muhu again which is where you should stay too if you ever find yourself in the area. Go on in, Frankie is friendly. We ate apricot kolaches & had a great bonfire at the end of camp.
After camp, we returned to Prague and recuperated with some serious naps and some Chinese food. The Sunday after camp we had church together at Tyrannus Hall and then went into the city as usual. This year's top site was the Strahov Monastery where I saw two of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Look at these photographs. Jacob took these photographs.
1. Seeing Pavel, Renee & the Czech leadership team again and catching up with some of the Trča clan over some grilled burgers and paprika chips.
2. Seeing the famous Josh Krato again. We delivered Doritos & peanut butter and he led worship & songs like a champ every day while also delivering not one, two BUT THREE evening talks/sermons.
3. GLOBUS. It's basically a Czech Walmart but it is precious to us and we make field trips to it almost every day we were in the city.
4. Wanna see videos from our trip? My talented husband compiled videos at the end of each day at camp to recap on the all the fun we had each day. You can watch them all at that link - the videos labeled "Building Bridges."
5. My sweet girls made me one of the most heavenly cakes on the planet. My only regret of the trip: I couldn't take it back to the States with me. I would have eaten the whole thing.
In conclusion, there really is no conclusion to this camp. There are English Club meetings throughout the year. Pavel, Josh & Renee still pour their love and attention into these kids. I keep up with them throughout the year until I get to see them again. God doesn't stop working at the end of camp and He is still very present in the Czech Republic. I don't know about you, but I will continue to pray for God's work to be mighty and evident in Prague and beyond. We learned at camp that God is so aware of the pain and suffering throughout the world and in our hearts; we learned that this too shall be made right. We learned that ignoring the problem or becoming apathetic to others' pain is inexcusable because we can always help. In some small way, we can always help.
For the past three years, Czechs have been a big part of my life. I have traveled to the Czech Republic with the Calvary Church Prague Missions Team since 2011 and will be going again this week. For two weeks, we spend time with the greatest kids on Earth, hiking in the mountains, eating really cheap & really good ice cream, playing games, teaching English lessons, learning about God's love, and admiring God's creation in the place where Narnia was filmed. Don't believe me? Czech it. One of my specific roles, besides teaching, is leading art workshops. In the past we have done portraiture and Disney characters - this year we're gonna something a little more cartoon-oriented that involves an English element. PUMPED.
Let me tell you why I love Czechs. First off, they are not into this "let's scream because we're happy!" American crap. When they're happy, they smile. Sometimes they say "Woo!" - but for the most part, they are a somber people and I love them for it. Secondly, they are very intelligent. You know a little bit of Spanish? Whatever. They know Czech, Russian, German and English. Muy intelligente. Third, they live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and they treat it well and are really active. 10km hikes are nothing to them, and I admire that ... from the 3km mark where my face is beet red (hey, I now know I can blame a heart problem!) and I am turning back for the chata.
Prague is a great city. Beautiful architecture, awesome history (they often threw people out of windows, it's called defenestration ), cheap & delicious fruit, great weather, gorgeous bridges and views, a super sweet metro system and was the workplace of Alphonse Mucha, WHOM I LOVE, and his handiwork (and handiwork of those influenced by him and his style) is all around the city.
Okay, let me wrap it up or I'll be here for days. Would you please pray for us? I have a few requests.
1. Pray that we would not solely seek to be understood but to understand. The content of our lessons is a lot heavier this year as we are focusing on the world's problems (HIV/AIDS, poverty, natural disasters, war, etc) and where God is within these. It's easy to fall back on what you think is right and what is wrong. Pray we would always think before we speak.
2. Pray for energy & good health. Beating jet lag quickly and adjusting to different plants & foods there can sometimes take a toll on us. Last year, God really pushed me to certain limits when it came to health. I learned a lot... I just don't want to learn that same lesson again. PLEASE PRAY.
3. Pray that we would continue to develop and cultivate relationships as well as create new ones. I cannot wait to make more friends there.