Winter Update


Winter Update

What was once a strange new world has quickly become home in the last 8 months.  We still don't understand a few things (such as the post office, as the picture captures below), but this city is our city now, and the more we come to understand it the more we realize how much more we have to learn as we seek to be faithful with our time and energy.  From holidays to basic ways that people go to the store, it has been a massive learning process.

While it's normal to get around our cities by car in the States, it is far more normal to use the public transportation system here.  Trains and Trams are extremely practical, though getting to know the yellow box below was something new (you'd think the cheapest option was for the shortest amount of time, but come to find out those tickets are for children...oops.).  But the good news is that we've come to the point where we can get around the city just fine and even engage in some simple Czech conversations.  

The yellow box for picking up public transportation tickets. 

Our Nádraží/ Train-station 

Dan's daily commute to class.  

For our Colorado people, the green cross is not a weed dispensary.  It's the pharmacy symbol.  

The kids catching snowflakes while walking downtown.  

This thing is the monster that has kept us from sending things back home.  It does not translate well with Google, but we're about to master it in the coming month! 

What is a Czech hike?
Before we arrived here, we were warned about Czech hikes.  Many Czech people walk a lot.  And when I say that, I don't think most American's know what I mean by that.  They really walk A LOT. And I was not ready for what we went up north to do in mid January.  They said it would be a 20km (about a half marathon) hike through the mountains.  "Shouldn't be too bad," I thought.  But it wound up being as intense as running a half marathon.  What was first a brisk fast paced walk, through a few inches of snow, turned into trudging through 1-3 feet of snow for a good couple kilometers at a time uphill, downhill, UPhill, downhill, and a whole lot of UPHILL.  

Thankfully the trip was with a group of guys I've come to know as family here.  But by the time we had to turn back, there was a small blizzard and a whole lot of up hill hiking to do.  Will I do it again? Probably....

The dog was much happier than me toward the end

At the turn around point there was a little open cabin to eat lunch

Family update
It has been an adjustment figuring out a number of things, like school (for both the kids and us) and our place in this city.  We know who we are and why we're here, but the details of what that looks like are a process of learning and adapting where needed. The overall hot topic for our family has definitely been how we want to educate our kids.  There are many benefits of having the kids in Czech school, and there are many benefits of having them do homeschooling with the classical model.  But which one is best here and now?  We don't know.  But we've made the decision to put the kids in the Czech school system so that they will learn the language and make friends.  

So far school has been a hard transition for them, since most of the kids are timid to interact with each other not knowing each other's languages.  And there have been a few additional culture shocks along the way in this area as well. This is all very normal, we're told, but the process can be a struggle, since we want the kids to thrive. But the positives have outweighed the negatives.  Lisa has time to devote to her language studies and we're all learning pieces of the culture that we wouldn't have learned otherwise.  

Addey is now 7 and is about to get schooled in Checkers.

Calvin sleeps a lot. 

There are frequent field trips around the city for the kids.  

Nora got to be Mary in the re-enactment of the nativity story.  

Getting to know the holiday traditions has been fun and interesting for sure.  The Christmas market in the main square made the city look festive, and the events that went on around the area made it feel similar to what we have in the States. But the specifics were what made the differences stand out. Instead of Santa Clause (though they have a St. Nicholas day), they use baby Jesus to give out presents on Christmas eve, and there is something about a Christmas Carp that we don't really understand still.  But the culture, while mythologizing Christmas in a different way than the American's do, still has a semblance of the supernatural in their traditions.  And this actually gives us a number of points of reference in conversation.  

New Years

Watching a metal bending demonstration at the Christmas market.

Just Satan's throne in the middle of the mall....  

The three wise men come playing musing at your front door.  They ask for some money, and then write their initials on your door. Didn't know they did this here, so it was super random to us.  

The Christmas Carp is a common tradition, where the Carp swims in the bathtub for a week before Christmas and then they cook it up and enjoy it for the Christmas meal.  

Besides consistent language learning, which is beginning to put Seminary to shame in difficulty, we're still loving the community group that we get to pour into, and just recently Dan started an International Bible study with a small group of guys from around the world. It may be some time before we're speaking consistently in Czech, but we're always looking for ways to be used along the way. We're also working on a parenting workshop, where Lisa and myself will be leading a teaching/group discussion for people from the church and around the city, to encourage and disciple parents to have the practical tools to raise kids to the glory of God.

This next week we will be heading to a retreat with the church to encourage each other and get on the same page for what this next season will bring us, and then we'll be heading to Hungary for a family conference to better understand life as a missionary family.  .  

The Institute is a quarterly gathering, where in depth topics of theology, philosophy, and practical life topics are covered for 4-5 hours.  

Dan and Basel from Syria

The men from our Community Group

The Christmas party with about 55 people in the house made for a memorable night! 

Christmas party 2016.  


Culture Shock & Rhythms of Life


Culture Shock & Rhythms of Life

These last few months have been incredibly formational for our family.  What was once a situation that would leave us wide eyed and wondering what the day to day will look like is finally starting to even out into a quality rhythm.  There are still the many facets of culture shock that exist for us, and thankfully we know what is normal for people all around the world in our situation (Click here for a brief example of the stages of culture shock).  But with the challenges of getting used to a new world, we're now beginning to find our niche, as we're settling into a way of life that is healthy for the long run.  Having the long game in mind has been one of the most consistent pieces of advice we've been given, so we've been taking that seriously.

Dan shares a Czech class with a few other international students.

This is barely a fraction of the many ways you can say "go."

One of the key skills that we need to develop here for the long run is to learn the Czech language.  It is one of the most difficult to learn from English, and at this point we truly understand why.  There are many complexities and exceptions to the many rules that it can be disorienting, and frankly we feel like our brains are put into a blender after every lesson.  But at this point Lisa is taking home lessons with a good friend of ours from the church and I am enrolled at the local University, taking 18 hours per week of Czech studies.  Just when I thought school was behind me, it locked me back in.

Though the process can be difficult, the mistakes I've made along the way have made the class a little more fun.  When you want to say the word "painting," but wind up saying "love making," you tend to get weird looks.  Another time I wound up telling the professor "train station" in response to his sneeze.  And "the pub" has taken the place of "the hospital" on more occasions than I'm willing to tell you.

The quality side of this kind of rigorous training is that we're catching on a little better every week.  When we first landed here, being surrounded by discussions in Czech was extremely overwhelming, but now it feels a little more natural to hear, and I'm actually catching on to some of what is being said. One of the key qualities of knowing the language here is not only communication, but there is a ton of cultural knowledge that tailgates the language, such that you wouldn't really be able to have a firm grasp of it without it.  

Metro Church in Olomouc

We've had a few influential people, like Dietrich Schindler, come out and speak to our network of churches.

In terms of ministry, I have to say we've been given more opportunities to serve here than I thought we would being so new. Our church has become as close as family very quickly and by the grace of God we've seen more people coming and being apart of this movement.  Our home church in Olomouc has almost doubled since we got here, so if you're praying for us we would be grateful for you to turn your attention there.  But on top of hosting a community group in our home, I had the privilege of preaching at both Metro Church in Olomouc and Majak Church in Vsetin.  And each time amplified the motivation to know the language.  

Preaching on Acts 17 at Majak

Preaching on 1 Peter 4 at Metro

On top of our Sunday evening gatherings and meeting in our homes, we have had other opportunities to serve by using our native language.  On two occasions over the last few months were able to teach english and share the Gospel of Jesus through our stories of who we are and how we got here. And that opened up deeper conversations with a number of people. A few weeks ago we were able to share on a panel alongside a few Syrian refugees and it was incredibly encouraging to see what God is doing around the world, even in the darkest places.    

Sharing communion together

Telling our story at a Metro outreach event

Metro Union is a monthly event that brings in university students to discuss various topics of life, society, and faith.  And during the week students are invited to be apart of the community group, where they can go deeper together.

Our family has been doing well as we've settled here.  There is definitely culture shock for the kids as well, and we can see it in their interactions with other Czech kids (they can sometimes be more reserved when they realize they don't understand what's being said).  Not knowing the language is a huge barrier to relationships, and we have come to the point where we are going to find a Czech school to enroll them in for the sake of their knowing the language and making Czech friends. But in the meantime, they are keeping with their home curriculum and have opportunities to connect with kids at community group and different weekly things that we have them involved in (Andrew is loving Muey Thai).  But on top of all of that, we can tell the kids have grown closer together as a result of the move, and we just recently surprised them with a kitten (and a puppy on the way next week.....Shhhh, don't tell them).  
Interestingly, Nora believes that police officers punish traffic violators with kittens after Daddy got his first traffic ticket on the night we brought the cat home in a box.  

We received a care package from one of our sending churches.  I cannot tell you how loved we feel from our people back in the States.  

We got a Ragdoll cat named Zwingli (named after the Reformer/Theologian Ulrich Zwingli).  

Andrew learning his numbers in the most productive way he knows how.  

Kids trying not to get zapped as they feed a cow over an electric fence.

First snow of the year. 

When it comes to support, I couldn't ask for a greater situation. Our community group has come to be an immense encouragement to us and our Pioneers team is a diverse group who get along really well.  So, between the Czech's and American/Australian team, we have a well rounded group of people helping us to keep our eyes on the reason we're here

Our missional community group

Our Pioneers team

Friendsgiving 2016

While the world of visas has been an interesting puzzle, we're now only 1 step from receiving our 2 year visas coming in January.  What was once a crazy spiral of experiences has become a little less intense now that we know where to go and the right people to talk to

Waiting patiently in a long hall way for one of the endless doors to open for us to apply for our next round of visas

4 hours later....

Our city goes through the waves of a typical college town, but it is different to be in such a completely post-Christian society. We have resemblances of that in the States in small pockets, but here there is so very little understanding of the Christian worldview that a lot of pre-evangelism work needs to be done before a grid can be laid for the Gospel to make any sense.  Our heart is to see Gospel centered churches planted, so to see the health of the local church on mission is of the utmost importance to us.  A Word and Spirit driven community that multiplies is what we long to see in our lifetime, and by the grace of God we get to be apart of that.  

the main Square with the Trinity monument at its center.

Through the ups and downs it is a dream come true to be investing our lives amongst the unreached.  So grateful to be apart of what God is doing in the Czech Republic


Our First Month(s) Pt. 2


Our First Month(s) Pt. 2

We are now nearly 3 months into our new lives in the Czech Republic, and so far our expectations moving in are pretty much matching reality and then some.  We were expecting stress, confusion, and disorientation where things are different.  But while those feelings are true for new expats, we've also been well taken care of by our church, the Pioneers team, and even our neighbors.  Walking the streets, we've been praying to adopt the overall feel of our city, and we've noticed a drastic difference from the time we moved in until now.

Olomouc is a city of around 100,000 people, and a quarter of that consists of college students.  So, during the summer months when classes are not usually going on, the city feels a lot less full.  Even if you did not know this about the city, you could probably feel it by simply looking around.  Something is missing.  But now that the Fall season has begun, the city is now brimming with life again.  

Speaking of students....After many many years of finishing the undergrad and graduate degrees, it would seem that school was behind me.  Not so!  We are both involved in language studies, but now I (Dan) am a university student again, devoting about 20 hours per week of class time to learn Czech.  Pray for me, since they don't call this an intensive for nothing.  And as Lisa and I would tell you, it is a very difficult language to learn from English, so your prayers are truly appreciated.   

This kids running toward the city square

The City Square

I'm a student again! 

One of the things we have made a high priority for is making sure the kids are making friends and learning the Czech language.  They are doing distance learning through the Academy for Classical Christian studies out of OKC, so much of their education exists at home with a quality curriculum.  But to get the kids involved, we have found a Muey Thai gym for Andrew to attend and the girls will soon be starting gymnastics.  And there have been a number of other International friends they have made through our Pioneers team, and other MK's.  The creative opportunities to get the kids immersed are almost endless, so we're just experimenting along the way and seeing what God gives us. 

Pioneers Kids hanging out on a turtle

Andrew in Muey Thai

Probably our greatest joy here has been connecting with our neighbors and opening our home for community to happen.  Our neighbors have been incredibly inviting, and we have found good friends with a number of them so far.  Some of them do not speak english, which is a huge motivator to get proficient in Czech, but some of them do, which has given us a lot of opportunity to get to know them better this early.  So, they have been an immense blessing to us.  We have a community group meeting in our home as well, which has been exciting to have both people from the church and the other parts of the area coming and exploring who we are in light of who God is.  

Our church in Olomouc is still in the church plant stage, but we are seeing a lot of changes along the way, as we are apart of a broader network of churches here called the Majak network.  This movement began about ten years ago with leaders desiring to see the Gospel as central to life and ministry and wanting to see that play itself out in the way more churches are planted.  This last month was the big kick off for the next season where all of the churches came together to worship Jesus and share our common vision for the country.  The video below shares a few Czech songs. 

Majak Vykop 2016

Lisa sat in on a panel discussion sharing what life has been like as an International working with the church in Czech.  

Dan filming the video below

In the first month we were here, we showed up to church on a Sunday night, but the owner of the building forgot the Sunday we were supposed to meet, so at a last second change we had church in our living room.  Flexibility is a core value of Pioneers, and things like that have opened up great opportunities to serve.  

We have been honored to invest our lives to the local church here, and while we have already made great friends with many of them, tonight we made it official by becoming covenant members of Metro Church in Olomouc.  This is our new home and this is the community that we will invest our lives in, as we work together for our mutual joy in Christ and seeking the welfare of our city.

"So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." ~2 Thessalonians 2:8

Doing church at our house

Our regular gathering place at the Art center near the city square.  

We became covenant members of Metro Church today!


Our First Month Pt. 1


Our First Month Pt. 1

It is crazy to think that just two years ago today we were flying back from our first month in the Czech Republic. Our hearts were stirred all the more for the people here, and we were convinced that the Holy Spirit was calling us to this place where we would plant our roots deep.  It was a long voyage here, and we are incredibly grateful for those who have partnered with us on this journey to work with the local church to see Gospel centered churches planted.  And now that we have lived here for over a month now, it is very clear that what has been stirring in us is confirmed.  We have been able to make this place a home.  And while there have been a number of difficulties along the way, the joy and adventure with God through it all has been worth it.  

We traveled through 11 States in 2 months.  The High Five Tour gave us great memories of seeing many of our friends and family before being sent out.

Thankfully the kids slept for a good portion of the flight over the Atlantic.  Unfortunately, on the first night they were all up and playing loudly at 1:30am during our first night.

Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind month and a half.  Upon arriving here 4 of our 5 bags were missing, which is never fun, but a few of our Czech friends met us at the airport in Prague and drove us back to Olomouc, where we were warmly greeted into our new home.  A day or so later, the entire community got together for a welcome BBQ, where we got to meet more people from the community, and it wound up being a really good opportunity to get to know new people who are not apart of the church.    

After a long flight and a long drive, this was extremely warming to the heart.  The kids got to crash their way through the paper into their new home. 

The welcome home party was a lot of fun (even though we were feeling jet lag pretty strong at that point).

I don't think we could have asked for a faster set up than what we had.  The first week was very fast paced, and I wouldn't recommend that for most people, but with the two weeks of camp ahead of us, we were able to get the house mostly set up with furniture, internet, and a plethora of little things that you don't really think about until you don't have them.  All of this happened almost seamlessly because of our new friends at Metro Church.  These people bent over backwards to help us, and the fact that we feel a lot more at home at this point is largely because of them.  I will share more about our new church later, but to find a group like this has been an incredible blessing. 

With all of the newness of everything and the fatigue of travel, we were then told on our second day that we needed to register with the foreign police by day three.  This was a bit of a shock, because we didn't know where to go.  So, after a mountain of research, we found the center in Prerov, which is about a 30 minute train ride from Olomouc.  So, after a 30 minute walk to the train station with the kids and another 45 minute walk to the foreign police station in Prerov, we were told, after an hour wait, that we need to go to the foreign police in Olomouc.  So, with a heavy sigh, we made our way back to Olomouc, and after a bout of trying to explain why we were there to the officers (Thank God for Google Translate!) we finally finished our registration and were officially in the country.  While we were all exhausted from that excursion, we had successfully navigated the transit system without help and we figured out where to go when we re-apply for our next VISAs in 3 months.  

Shopping is not all that different, but there are little things that you need to know (such as which kind of flour to get, since there are about 40 different kinds).  

Community BBQ following Majak

Before meeting at Metro, we had the opportunity of connecting with Majak church in Vsetin.  This is the church that helped plant Metro.  

After a quick week of trying to get gather our composure and set up as much as we could, I was off to meet with a team from our sending church in Oklahoma City.  It was incredibly encouraging to have them with us.  With so many things happening at once, it was a big comfort to have people who share our heartbeat for Christ and the lost to come alongside us amongst all of the unknowns.  Our focus was to teach English to kids (ages 9-12) and be a resource to the Czech team, who had the opportunity to invest in them in their own language and share the Gospel.  Most of the children do not have access to a Gospel focused church, so for many of them this was the first time that they had been introduced to Jesus.  
There were many highlights from the camp, and some challenges as well, as having a room full of young boys can be a handful.  But we were able to encourage the Czech team along the way and we got to see some of the kids begin to ask questions about spiritual things that they previously wouldn't have been asking. 

Following the first camp, we had to say our goodbyes to our Bridgeway family (it was too short), and then after a day of rest we were then on a train to Ostruzna for a Family English camp.  We did not fully know what to expect, as this was the first time we had been apart of something like this, but it was also the churches first time putting one on, so we had the opportunity of learning together.  The camp consisted of families from the church and both believers and non-believers from various towns, as well as a short team from a church in Tennessee who came out to help.  This was a very different kind of camp from the previous one.  Where there was seemingly non-stop high energy with the kids camp, this had a more relaxed tone, where events gave the families something to do and conversations could happen more naturally.  Each night someone from the English team would share their stories of how God impacted their lives, so we shared not only about how God rescued us through the Gospel, but also some of the ways that He would guide us through the various stages of life leading us to the Czech Republic.  It was a great week, and while it took some time to slow down, we were finally able to get a little rest when we landed back in Olomouc.  

Overall, our first 3 weeks were lightning quick and that did come with some disadvantages, but the Holy Spirit has been very sweet to us as a family, as we've been able to grow closer together through the adventure.  The kids have been very open about what they miss in the States and their friends whom they no longer get to see regularly, so it has been good to shepherd them through all of the changes.  We'll keep going in the next few days with Pt. 2.....

Checking out a model layout of Olomouc with Eddy and Trevor.

Making our way on the train to Ostruzna.  

During the camp we had the opportunity to explore some old bunkers constructed right after WWI near the border of Poland.

Campfire conversations are the best.  


High Five Tour 2016: Pt 3


High Five Tour 2016: Pt 3

We are now only a few steps away from our last bit of traveling.  The time we spent in Montana visiting with Lisa's family and resting from the long trip was really sweet, and it was a nice and slow pace.   Unfortunately, it went by too quickly.  When your life is chaotic, living out of your van, and not really having a stable rhythm of life, it is good to have a time of rest to enjoy the people around you and reflect on what is to come.  But it was hard to say "see you later" to people you know and love, knowing it will possibly be about 4 years before we come back to visit.

The kids found a baby Antelope on the farm.  

Lisa and fam.  

Andrew feeding his new cousin Teryn.

During our three weeks in Montana Nora turned 4 years old, we spent a few days with Lisa's sister in Helena and met with a few relatives in Billings along the way.  The kids got to enjoy Grandma and Grandpa and all the excitement of the farm.  When I say it went by too quickly, I mean it's hard to believe that what we've been looking forward to for nearly a year is already behind us.  It has been a very fast season.    

Celebrating Nora's 4th Birthday

Had the opportunity to see some of our favorite people from Canada! 

Family Games

Nora playing in the mud

Following a series of high fives in Big Sky Country, we were now set to travel to Dan's hometown of Milwaukee.  While the idea was originally to fly there (since plane costs were down) it seemed a better idea to hold on to the travel van, so we enjoyed the beauty of the countryside a little longer and had the opportunity to catch a few more Czech Flag State pics:

Bartol kids representing their home State!

Usually when the brakes are low, there's a squeal to give you a hint.  Well, our brakes went from functioning to immediate grind in Minnesota.  Thankfully there was place near by that could help us (and it was only a 3 hour wait).

Last major stop before Czech Republic!

Mt. Rushmore

We went West

Since we've been in Wisconsin, we have been on a logistical waiting tour.  Dan's mom and step-dad recently moved to Wind Point, just south of Milwaukee, so it has been a good time helping them with the move and situating the family into a more consistent rhythm until the Visas arrive.  And we have been able to meet with new people and churches along the way, which has only encouraged us more, as we get to see the love of the church in America for the nations.   

Forever grateful for this man.  Because of Stuart Briscoe's faithfulness, I had a good news to believe in during the summer of 2003.

Forever grateful for this man.  Because of Stuart Briscoe's faithfulness, I had a good news to believe in during the summer of 2003.

While we were in the moving process we found out that Andrew is literally my mini-me.

There have been a few hiccups along the way with paperwork for the embassy and the shipping agency, and I can't say it's been simple, but it has all been moving in a forward motion and we are now expecting our Visas to arrive any day now.  If you would join us in prayer, the Visas are the last thing keeping us from getting on a plane and moving into our new home in Olomouc.  

Our heart is to be a resource for the Church in the Czech Republic; to see the local church thrive and multiply through the good news of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf.  We are grateful for everyone who has partnered with us to that end along the way and we are all the more excited to plant our feet and begin the work.