MERRY CHRISTMAS/HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
It has been a fast paced couple of months. A lot has happened and we're excited to share a glimpse of what this last season has looked like for us. Back in October we were pleasantly surprised by a visit from Lisa's parents. We didn't think they would be able to get here for another year, so it was really nice to have the Grandparents in town. Seeing them go through a taste of what we have experienced was fun to watch, and it gave them a better idea of the culture we're living in and what how important the work is here.
We have mentioned it before, but one of the hardest factors of living here is walking through the struggles with your kids. Andrew has gone through stages of self doubt, and not having many boys his own age who speak English has been tough on him. But since we've found a wrestling club for him to join, he's grown in confidence and has a more positive attitude overall. The boys at the club speak some English and have taken him on as a little brother. It gives us more excuses to wrestle with him at home too. The girls have been continuing their ballet lessons and have even had a few recitals already. It's fun watching them put their all into it up there.
The Christmas season tends to be a big deal in the U.S., and it is a big deal here as well. But while there are similarities in how we celebrate, there are some big differences. The lights and decorations are all very much a common expression of the holiday, as well as the rampant consumerism that tends to veil the real purpose of celebrating Christmas, but the smell and busyness of the Christmas market in the town square is still something special and a few interesting traditions can be a means of bringing up Gospel conversations.
It hit us a little more that we were not with family this year, but that also gave us a greater motivation to make sure that our time together would be more memorable. The fact that we were sick a for a few weeks kept us at home, but we've developed a number of family traditions that have made for sweet times of worship and reflection on our Rescuer. For a lot of people the Christmas season is a stressful time of year, and it's no different here. But it is in the regular rhythms of pointing our family to the person and work of Jesus that has kept our perspectives in the right place.
Our Church has been very active over the last season as well. One thing we've really appreciated about being a part of Metro Church in Olomouc is that they have a heart for their city and they want to see people meet Jesus. And not just that, but to do this in through the life of the Church. One major conviction that we stand on is that the Local Church is the primary means by which God advances the Gospel. It is in community that the Gospel is dramatized in real life for people to see Jesus more clearly, and we're honored to have a church that shares that ideal.
A new addition to our church plant has been the ordination of elders. This gives our community a greater sense of structure and understanding of who we can look to in regard to leadership. I have also had a few opportunities to preach along the way. It is different preaching here, since I am doing it in English and it must be translated. So, I have to condense the sermons and that is difficult when you want to add so much, and I have to go much slower for the audience (which is ok, since I need to slow down the delivery anyway). All that to say, it really makes me long for the day that I can do that in Czech and it motivates me to work hard at language study.
We are also putting on a monthly family workshop, which alternates between marriage and parenting as a focus. It has been really sweet to see new families come out and wrestle through the hard topics that come with building a home. And it has helped us to re-evaluate our own goals and rhythms for ourselves.
Last Fall we had a great time at a weekend retreat we call Metro Relax. The theme of the weekend was on the meaning of life and relationships. A good number of people came out, including a team from the Crossing Church of Fort Collins. We had a children's program and the adults broke out into groups to make a few videos depicting the cultural differences between American's and Czech's (with hilarious results). And we got to spend some time out in nature. But it gave everyone an opportunity to slow down, have fun, and get to know each other better, while reflecting on the deeper issues of life.
One thing we have attempted to make regular in our lives is by frequenting the same coffee shops, barber, and other places like that. It has helped in practicing Czech, but also in relating with people in our city. There are also a few opportunities that have come our way that might be another means of integrating into the fabric of Olomouc. The kid's school has been a maze to work through, since their ways are not our ways in the education process and that can be very confusing when trying to understand them in a different language. Thankfully we have friends who have helped us along the way. But there is an opportunity to teach English as an after school program that we're considering and that would offer more opportunities to learn Czech along the way, as well as get to know Addey's school better. So along with that and everything else, we truly appreciate your prayers and support.
Soli Deo Gloria
(Glory to God alone)