Growing Hearts For Czech Republic

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Growing Hearts For Czech Republic

I've been thinking a lot about the changes that my heart has undergone over the last three years. Before then I still had a desire to go to the unreached, but there were hesitations in my heart and mind.  Yet, through prayer, mourning, and re-oriention in the direction of my focus He has changed where I am now. I am forever grateful that God, in His kindness, goes before me and prepares me in the here and now.

Three years ago we were still pursuing Thailand - though a few of those doors had begun to close. Three months before we even began praying about Czech, I started to have consistent dreams about traveling into that country, talking with people, seeing certain European style buildings, and my heart began to long and wish that we would head there instead of Thailand. So strange I thought - I mean, we were supposed to go to Thailand. So, I kept those dreams quiet from Dan, and instead prayed that if Czech was where we were suppose to go, then God would need to speak directly to him. He did, and a few months after that I told Dan how God had already laid the Czech people on my heart.

Since then, our journey has been one confirmation after another. Missionaries who are preparing to enter a country often talk about having a deep caring love for the place that God is sending them to - I often wished I knew what that felt like, and I'm so thankful that I can say that I do understand and know that feeling today. With our journey last summer to Czech and this past year since, my love and desire to move there has increased more than I sometimes know how to communicate.  It could be a song, a picture, a dream, a name, some of the Czech words that I remember will come to mind and my heart sincerely longs to go. People have asked how certain we are that this is where God is leading us, and without a hesitation or doubt, my answer is YES! There is no doubt.

What is it that drives a person to uproot one's life and move clear across the world - to say in a sense "Goodbye" to beloved family, friends and the familiar in order to embrace the tremendous difficulties that an entirely different country brings?  It's Christ! It is the Love of God who compels me to go. I see trials, self-interests, and life different now. The thought of moving our entire family to the Czech Republic feels like the most natural decision we've had to make so far in our marriage. 

I long to see God's Glory known among the Czechs. What this world has to offer isn't eternal. People are. That's why pursuing their minds and hearts to know and love Jesus is so important. God is so passionate about the Czechs, HE LOVES THEM! Oh how He loves them.  Gaining an eternal perspective has changed me so much so that I can't be the same. I am thankful for how God's grace on my life has tenderly helped me understand His heart for people, and in all of the things that "pass away" - only one thing remains: An Eternity of seeing and savoring Jesus with His people across the globe.

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Our Journey: Part 3 - Camp Events

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Our Journey: Part 3 - Camp Events

Every afternoon, various seminars were offered to students who were interested, as well as sports and crafts. Some of these topics consisted of marriage, sex, and money, and one afternoon I (Dan) had the honor of teaching a class on God and the Big Bang.  (Don't mind the shoddy handwriting on my part-->)

Most Czech students are not exposed to an alternative to the predominant secular worldview at school, and science is mostly regarded as the antithesis to a belief in the God who made them.  So, I figured this would be a good opportunity to offer a basic case for a personal Creator, which would hopefully instill a deeper confidence among those who were more skeptical about the person and work of Jesus.

Following the seminar, I received a number of comments from some of the students:

"I have never thought that science and religion could go hand in hand so well." 
"I get these questions asked all of the time at school, and now I feel ready to answer." 
"Thank you for the discussion we had about the connection between religion and science...I always hoped to have this conversation."

Evening Program

 

This year's theme for the summer camps was "Upside Down".  Throughout the week, the students were introduced and invited to see the world they know in a different light and perspective. The world without Jesus pushes the view that looks, wealth, and love will satisfy and fill empty hearts - giving happiness; yet this only leads to despair, whereas only true and eternally rooted happiness comes from God. The world says that if you were wronged it's good to be angry or seek revenge - yet God calls us to forgive and love our enemies. Our imperfect nature longs

for control of our lives and worries about the future - yet, God in His omniscience knows everything and we can completely trust in His goodness and perfect will. What if God's perspective is the right perspective? What if what seems to be hidden and unsure is actually spoken and written in the Bible for us to know and hold on to? What if the God who made this world cares so much about the details and status of our hearts and souls that He would send His son Jesus to take our place that we might be made right with God and be called His "children", "holy", and "blameless"?

 

On another occasion, Dan had the opportunity to share a message on Love through the story of Jesus with the prostitute and Simon the Pharisee from Luke 7:36-50.  The message that people ought to get what they deserve is what pervades our cultures, but in the upside down kingdom, love for the unloveable conquers the death we have been lead to.

 The Labrynth

The Labrynth

As each evening program progressed, the themes became more pointed or personal all leading up to a summary on Thursday night where the Gospel was laid out for the students to walk through in what was called a Labyrinth. Through a pathway outside, lit only by candles, the students would walk at their own pace through a series of stations and reflect on what they had heard about Jesus.

This was a solemn time to reflect on the message of the love and forgiveness that only Jesus brings through His death and resurrection, and at the end of the trail there was an opportunity to burn the piece of paper that had 2 of the major sins keeping them from God written on it.  This was a symbol of handing their lives over to Christ and watch Him take their guilt and shame away.  Please pray for the number of students who have taken that step.

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OUR JOURNEY - PART 2: CAMP ACTIVITIES

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OUR JOURNEY - PART 2: CAMP ACTIVITIES

Training was very beneficial for all of us – we are so thankful for all of the hard work of Josiah Venture and the Czechs to help us prepare for everything. Now, it was the start of Adventure Phase II

After packing our things, our team was guided by 2 translators through a series of 3 buses during our 2 hour travel South. It is interesting how in the Northern Central part of Czech, there are far more rolling mountains and lush lands, compared to the South where it flattens some with patch-work fields separated by tree-lines. This narrow road rolled through cities and small villages with few English words to be seen and we are thankful we had translators as our guide to help navigate us to our next destination.

We're Here!!!

Once we arrived, it was time to get busy to get this camp ready before campers arrived the next day. Dan and Maddie used their amazing painting skills while Lisa helped organize supplies upstairs.

In the morning after breakfast, there were various levels of english classes, ranging from Beginner to Advanced.  Dan and Emmy taught the Advanced class, while Sam and Lisa taught an Intermediate class as. (Class Photo’s Below)

What really made this a more enjoyable experience was the options that were available after lunch.  The afternoon was usually busy with several activities consisting of Crafts, Sports, and various seminars, or you could find a place to rest and enjoy the camp grounds.

Joselyn and Lisa were in charge of the crafts – which was a lot of fun! They had almost an average of 20-30 each day and as busy as that time was, Lisa really enjoyed it.  Not only because she loves crafts, but also it was a time where she could practice more Czech.

Our teammate, Mark, did an amazing job leading afternoon sports – which was a big hit, and of course every summer camp needs some sort of water games

  Waiting on the stairs for dinner (Left) and playing a game called “4 Square” afterwards (Above)

Waiting on the stairs for dinner (Left) and playing a game called “4 Square” afterwards (Above)

Our friend Luke put together a great overview of the camp experience

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OUR JOURNEY - PART 1: BEGINNINGS

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OUR JOURNEY - PART 1: BEGINNINGS

 We celebrated his birthday early since it fell on a day that was during our trip and didn’t want to miss it.

We celebrated his birthday early since it fell on a day that was during our trip and didn’t want to miss it.

My last day at home with the kids was frazzling for me. I felt overwhelmed in all the last minute details of making sure my parents would have everything that the kids would need, we still needed to pack, and somehow in the craziness of it all I wanted to enjoy and savor every last moment that I had with them. “What if something would happen to us or them?” Our kids sensed it too and were more emotional and needy than ‘normal’. Change is hard. It’s hard to let go of the little ones you love so dearly and trust that in all things Jesus is still good, perfect and worthy of worship. Both of us were quite eager and excited to begin this 4 week adventure of just the two of us and there is peace knowing it’s okay to take that step of faith into the unknown because every detail is known by our Father.  There is rest in that. So, here we were: we said our goodbyes, walked away from our precious little ones and embraced what lay before us.

 Most of our Team at the Denver Airport, 8pm

Most of our Team at the Denver Airport, 8pm

I’m always impressed by those who can sleep on the plane, but 8 hours later we landed in London, and 3 hours after that we flew 2 1/2 hours to Prague landing at about 7:30pm.

We were warmly greeted by the Czech training team who blessed us weary travelers with sandwiches, water and an apple, then driven roughly 45 minutes away to a quiet location, where we would receive training for the next 3 days. These 3 days were much needed for not only adjusting to the new time change, but Josiah Venture gave us a condensed thorough understanding of the history, culture, and what to expect working with Czech youth so that we would be effective and not offensive.

Along with our American team of 8, there were also other teams from Chicago, New York, Alaska and Florida – and each would join other English Camps scattered along the Czech countryside. We are very thankful for all their hard work.

Both Dan and I connected very well with a number of our new Czech friends. Hearing not only the sound of their language (which is really really cool!) but more importantly their hearts and stories, we found ourselves drawn to them and it confirmed to us that this is where God is placing us. Whether or not we felt ready for the beginning of the journey, this long-anticipated trip that we had so prayerfully prepared was here and now it was up to Him to guide our paths wherever and however He wanted to in this adventure.

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Is There A Cost To Following Jesus?

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Is There A Cost To Following Jesus?

It's crazy to think that Dan and I are flying out in 5 days to Czech Republic! Then I think about all the things that we have to get done beforehand, plus the many ways I want to spend with our kids before our 4 week separation.....sigh.... I keep telling myself to take a deep breath in and trust God. Off and on I have thoughts of "what if something happens to us or our kids when we're gone?", "what about the moments when the kids really miss me and I'm not there to comfort them?" People have been asking how I have been doing, and my answer is "I'm super excited and terrified at the same time", but Jesus is worth it. I know our kids will be in excellent care, but being gone from them for 4 weeks will be a stretch for all of us.

The cost of following Jesus will never always be easy, but the sacrifices we face to follow Him is worth it. I was thinking about this passage:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home."  But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:56-62)

Side note: we need to understand that Jesus knew what was behind their hearts when they claimed they wanted to follow him. He wasn't saying that those who choose to follow will never have a place to sleep nor that it is wrong to tend to family needs (He actually encourages that elsewhere); here He was teaching and testing to see if He Himself was their greatest treasure/priority.

Along our journey of preparing to move long-term to Czech, there have been quite a few who have either said "How could you do that to your mother?" or "I could never support someone who would take grandkids away from their grandparents"; I too have had to wrestle with these things. Once we get to Czech I will miss out on my brothers having kids, important moments with my sister, parents, and in-laws, probably my grandma's funeral, and life-changing events that my dear friends encounter. I'll be honest: it does sadden me and there has been a "grieving" that I have wrestled through -  but Jesus is worth it! He is so worth it. He was identifying hidden idols in those men's hearts to not only reveal that to them, but to see if they would still follow amidst all of those events in their lives.

When he said those things to the people, he was on his way to Jerusalem where he'd face the brutality of the cross. But Jesus also knew what was on the other side of the cross: redemption for sinners and life in God for believers.  Jesus will always be the greatest missionary who ever lived because he chose to leave the glorious presence of God and the beauty of His kingdom to a humble birth, filled with people who would hate, betray, and want nothing of Him so that we who are sinners may be made right with God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." – C.T. Studd

And after I think about those things and the goodness of God in His perfect wisdom, I am warmly reminded that there is no fear in Jesus. Giving my life to follow His plan for me is freedom for me because although I want to know every little detail in the next 20 steps I have to take - trusting Jesus in step before me is enough. God is enough. In fact, He is more than enough.

This changes everything for me. What was once a fear, is now a breathtaking opportunity to join Jesus in His mission.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (Romans 10:14-15)

This is why we want to go.  Mission exists because worship doesn't, and we want to pour out our lives to see Jesus made much of.

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