After nearly two years here (we're about to reach 22 months), we can confidently say that this is home. The 2 year itch is a common thing for missionaries, and the question of whether we're going to stay has reached us a number of times, but the vision for being here extends beyond a few years of sharing Christ. It has been one of the busiest two years of our lives, but this is a long term work toward Gospel Centered churches being planted in our city. I heard a pastor of one of the few Protestant churches say that Olomouc is reached, because of the number of churches that already exist here. But while there are a number of beautiful historic cathedrals, this city, the buildings, and the people are dry with regard to understanding and desiring God in the Gospel. There was a recent article by the Guardian that presented recent polling on the religious state of Europe, and Czech Republic has only gotten worse. While the country as a whole is 70% non-religious, it is a much higher number with the youth (sitting at about 91%). You can read more about that by Clicking HERE
Over the season leading up to Easter our church network had a time of prayer and fasting. We want to see people come to know Jesus in our dry land. And through that, it means seeing healthy churches coming to life by the work of the Holy Spirit. What the culture celebrates here is much like the U.S. version of the Easter holiday, only with an added number of traditions that stem from pagan roots. And we're learning a lot more about the ins and outs of these traditions through our relationship with the kid's schools. Even though the non-religious population is the highest in Europe, the traditions here tend to be incredibly religious and superstitious in nature. And that is a balancing act in regard to what we engage in as a family. There are traditions that we can easily adopt, while others (like witch burning day) are not so easy. Though, they can make for interesting springboard conversations to the Gospel.
Our family is doing well overall here. The language process is still an uphill battle, but we're seeing progress. Especially for the kids. Since we started putting our kids in national school, Lisa and I have watched them struggle, cry, and lament their way through the unknown. But over the last few months we've seen them loosen up quite a bit with regard to their schools and we've even heard them speaking Czech to each other while they play!
So now, Adelyn will be finishing 1st grade to move on to second, Andrew will be moving on to 1st grade, and Nora will be in Kindergarten (Školka). We're proud to see them acclimating to their new world.
One of the vital things that God has used to sustain us here has been our support system. We have multiple layers of accountability and that has helped us to keep our head on our shoulders. Between our Czech church, our Pioneers Team, and our Supporters/Friends/Family back home who pour into us, I have to say we are extremely grateful for the amount of people God has given.
In February we had the opportunity to go back to the SHARE conference (don't ask me what the acronym means). This has been one of our favorite events of the year, as we spent a week with other missionary families from around the world. There were some families who haven't had English conversations for an entire year, so it was really fun getting to hear their stories and be mutually encouraged by each other. There were people there who volunteered their time to serve us, and through a generous counselor, Lisa and I found out our marriage is normal (score!), and that Andrew is right on track with his development in speaking (double score!). The kids were reunited with old friends and it really filled our tanks for the next few seasons. We're grateful to call this event a long term investment toward being a healthy family in the Czech Republic.
This last season we have continued to put on the parenting workshops. We will be taking a break from this for the Summer months, since most of the people who join us will be gone, and we will re-evaulate what the next focus will like be in the Fall. But what we've seen with Metro Church has been positive. We've been asking for God to raise up new people in the church, and not only has the college ministry grown in size, but we're also seeing new members of the church! We're praying God sized prayers that only He can answer, so we ask that you'd join us in praying for 10 new members by the end of the year. The Lord builds His church through the Gospel, so pray that our church would center our attention and affections there, and that we would be open to the Spirit's leading.
Over the last few months we have also had the opportunity to connect with a church plant in the town of Šumperk. Kostel Jinak (Different Church) is a like-minded church who are also a part of the Majak Network. I was given the opportunity to preach there in April, and getting to know the people has been a lot fun. They want to be a multiplying church, so we're excited to see what God will do with that in the future.