Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Shape of Christmas

Thanks to Tim Keller and John Frame, we are learning new ways to look at ancient truths.  One idea that has come back to us over and over is the perspective that the form in which God reveals his truths to us is critically important to understanding the truths themselves.  The form of Christmas is a good example of this.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Good News!  The shape of the gospel is good news.  The original meaning of the Greek word euaggelion (gospel) has faded over time.  In Jesus’ day it had clout.  It wasn’t the word people used for everyday news.  It meant incredible, joy-producing news.  It was the kind of news that would change the course of your life. 

So, why should it matter that the gospel comes to us in the form of news?  It matters precisely because it differentiates Christianity from every other religious system, and every system of non-belief, in the world.  The essence of religion is advice: do this and God will accept you.  The essence of Christianity is an announcement that what you need in order to draw close to God has already been done for you in Christ. 

Taking and keeping advice, however good it may be, is still a burden on the advice keeper.  Did I do it right?  Did I do it enough?  Am I accepted?  What else must I do?  Of such questions there is no end. 

The heralds of Christmas say, Good News!  Great Joy!  Your God has come in the form of a baby… well, that’s another post. 

Veselé vánoce Vám přejeme, a radost v Kristu,

Johnny and Annette

Monday, December 2, 2013

We Are So Thankful!

The Thanksgiving weekend has just passed, but we’re still giving thanks over here.  Why?  Because we’ve just learned that our new teammates, Miriam Grady and her son Evan, are on the way to Zlín! 

A big THANK YOU to all of you who prayed for Miriam and to those who have pledged to support her!  We are tentatively planning for her arrival in late January.  Before she gets here we need to find an apartment for her.  So, please pray with us that God will provide something that fits her budget and her needs; we’re hopeful we can rent it before the end of the year.

There will be many details for us to work through together – visas, schools, language tutors, and lots more…  Miriam will bring with her years of missionary experience, her mastery of the Slovak language (which is very similar to Czech), and a heart that is open to the Lord.  We are delighted to have her on our team.  

May the Lord be thanked and praised!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

GMC in the Rearview Mirror

The global missions conference in Greenville was great!  We enjoyed the speakers, the worship, and the seminars.  But most of all, we enjoyed the fellowship.  It was wonderful to see old friends and meet so many new ones.  Thank you for dropping by our display booth and talking to us! 

We met several young women who expressed interest in our summer internship for 2014.  We’re looking for two young ladies who would be willing to give us 4 to 6 weeks of their summer next year.  Our little church has five teenaged girls who would really benefit from a relationship with a young woman who is passionate about her relationship to Jesus and willing to honestly share her faith as well as her struggles with our girls.  If this sounds interesting to you, please go to THIS link or drop us an email at .

Thanks for making GMC such a memorable event for us!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why We’re Coming to the US

It’s completely dark at 5:00 p.m. now.  Winter is coming; the skies were really gray today, a harbinger of the dreary season ahead.  We miss our family, our church, our home. 

But that’s not why we’re coming to the US later this week.  We’re coming to attend the MTW Global Missions Conference (GMC) in Greenville, South Carolina.  We’re hoping to find some young ladies who would be willing to serve as interns next summer and work with the teens in our church (see this link for more information).  We would also like to find some new team members to come work with us for the long haul. 

The GMC is a great place to meet folks who are interested in missions.  So, we want to meet with you and encourage that interest, no matter where you may end up serving.  The GMC is also a dangerous place for folks who are interested in missions.  It could start a fire in your heart that you might not be able to put out.  God used the GMC in our lives in 2007 to begin moving us toward a call to the mission field.
We plan to have a booth in the exhibition area of the conference.  Please drop by and say hello.  In God’s providence it may be that we’re coming back just to talk to you. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Things That Last

One of the side benefits of traveling to visit our fellow missionaries in Europe has been the opportunity to do a little sightseeing.  The Pont du Gard was built sometime in the first century A.D. as part of an aqueduct that brought water to the Roman colony of Nemausus (present day Nimes, France).  This impressive structure is still standing after two millennia, a testimony to the Roman engineers and construction workers who built it. 

The protestant evangelical church in Europe is still standing, too.  Despite hundreds of years of persecution and the twin scourges of Nazism and Communism, the tiny evangelical church remains.  It is tempting to bewail her present weak condition and find fault with her for failing to win the continent back to Christ.  I’d rather praise God for her faithfulness.  She has weathered the storms and endured the trials.  In many countries here she has been an outcast for centuries, always in the minority, always marginalized, but continuing to hold fast. 

As the church in America struggles with the hostility of her culture, the loss of her freedoms, and the marginalization of her ideas, perhaps we could learn a thing or two from our European brothers whose faith, by God’s mercy, has lasted.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Rescued by the Sovereign God

We have been blessed – a bless-your-socks-off kind of blessed – to be part of a home group in Karolinka for the last year and a half.  This group started 5 or 6 years ago when Roman Martyščák returned from the U.S. as a new believer and wanted his family to hear about Jesus.  He and his wife Martina gathered with his parents, Zdeňek and Marie, and his sister Eva for a Bible study on Saturdays.  Eva gave her heart to Christ and invited her boyfriend Michal to join the group; soon afterwards Michal, too, began to follow Jesus.  A few years later, Roman, Martina, Eva and Michal began to attend the Zlín reformed church.  They invited the Deutschmanns, and later Annette and me, to join with them in their studies.

Just a few weeks ago we wrote about the arrival of twins in the Erbanovi family.  About the time these little ones were born, their grandmother, Marie, was lying at death’s door, in a coma, on a respirator, due to complications from surgery.  Many of you prayed for Marie.  The Lord heard your prayers and did abundantly more than any of us expected.  When she regained consciousness, Marie began to tell those around her that the sovereign God had rescued her (her words, not mine).  She is now saying she has a new relationship with Jesus.  The picture on the left shows Marie holding one of her twin grandchildren.  It is a picture of two kinds of new life in one frame.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his lovingkindness and for his wonders to the sons of men! (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31)   

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Good Retreat in Bojnice

We recently spent a few days in Bojnice, Slovakia with the leaders of our church and their wives.  This was our second planning retreat and God really blessed our times of prayer and discussion.  Through God’s providence and under his guidance, we took an idea that one of the leaders had been thinking about and developed it into a simple plan for growing community and evangelism in our church.  Thank you Lord!

The weather was mostly rainy and cloudy, so we didn’t get but one opportunity to go outside during our time in Bojnice.  We visited the local castle, which looks like something out of a fairy tale.

Thank you for praying for us and our work!

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Double Blessing of New Life

We have written recently about how God is adding to our little church in Zlín.  The same family that joined the church in June has now added to our number in a different way: they have just welcomed twins into their lives!  Nearby are some pictures of Julia and Matěj Erbanovi.  They were born last Tuesday morning to Michal and Eva.  Both are healthy and are now at home. 


Please pray with us for these dear friends.  Eva’s two older children, Nikola and Ondřej, decided a few months ago to move into Michal and Eva’s tiny flat in Karolinka.  There are now seven people living in a two bedroom flat with about 800 square feet of living space: two teenagers, a toddler, newborn twins, and one bathroom!    

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Friend of Jesus

Yesterday one of our teachers was presenting her Bible lesson.  During the lesson, she asked if any of her students would like to be Jesus’ friend.  Her helper saw one of the children, about 6 years old, begin to nod his head in affirmation of his desire to be a friend of Jesus.

In the young adults’ class, two of our students have shown real interest in the Bible stories during class this week.

We are overjoyed at seeing these evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work among us.  Please pray that the camp would end well, that faith would be born in some and grow in others.  Please pray for safety in travel for our students and our team.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


It’s hard to believe that our English camp has reached the halfway mark.  Once again, as we have seen in the past, this is the fastest week of the year.
We have been especially encouraged by the reports we are getting about our young adults and the connections they are making to the youth in our church. 

Yesterday afternoon we had a difficult, but very good, discussion about forgiveness in one of our discussion and discovery groups.  We talked about how hard it is to forgive others, but how necessary it is, too.  Forgiveness heals the offender and the offended.

Thank you for your continuing prayer support for our work!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Seeing God at Work

One of the great privileges of missionary work is seeing God work. 
The primary theme of our English camp this year is the heart.  We have been discussing the heart, its meaning and its place in our lives, since the beginning of the week.  In our evening program last night, Kristy Booker gave her testimony.  She told the camp how God had supported her through her struggles and kept her heart in his love and care.  Several of those who were listening were deeply moved.  Kristy had opportunity to speak with some of them afterwards.

This was God at work.  We were allowed to see him as he worked.  It was, and is, a beautiful thing.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday Was Awesome!!!

Thank you so much for continuing to pray for God to be present in our English camp!  Many of our friends attended worship yesterday.  René preached an excellent sermon from Matthew on the two great commandments.  Later in the day we heard from Alan about the different ways we refer to the heart – both as a physical organ and as representative of our whole beings.  The discussion groups really went well.  We saw God at work in many ways yesterday – in our classes, in our conversations, and in the atmosphere of the camp.

Close by is a picture of Ginger’s class learning to play some parachute games.

Please, keep those prayers coming!  THANK YOU!!!!!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It begins…

Our annual English camp got underway last night with the evening program.  The music was good and there was a good atmosphere in the room.  One of our friends from church gave her testimony during the program.  Although she was literally shaking in her shoes, the Lord used her. 

Please pray with us for open hearts and minds, for protection from the evil one, and for sweet times of conversation with friends new and old.


Johnny and Annette

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This

Last Sunday we were overjoyed to receive two new families and a single man into the membership of our little church in Zlín.  As part of that joining, two children and one of the parents were baptized.  These  two families are part of the Karolinka Bible study we have written about in previous newsletters and blog posts.  So, it was an especially joyful day for us.

It has been an enormous privilege for us to spend time with these dear ones and to become friends with them over the past three years.  Please join us in celebrating their union with our church family!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Thriving Church in Southern France

The history of Marseille, France stretches back to pre-Roman times – at least 2,600 years.  MTW hasn’t been in France quite that long, but has enjoyed about 30 years of cooperation with UNEPREF, a reformed French denomination with roots in the protestant reformation.  Johnny was privileged to visit the region of southern France where most of UNEPREF’s churches are located and meet with the leaders of the church to discuss MTW’s past and future work with UNEPREF. 

It was a great pleasure to meet with French pastors Jean-Raymond, Daniel, and Pierre and with Pete Mitchell and Ken Matlack of MTW.  The Lord has allowed UNEPREF and MTW to cooperate in the planting of several churches and the meeting highlighted our desire to continue this good work. 

Although much of our time together was focused on how to improve our working relationship in the years ahead, there was time for some wonderful fellowship around meals.  We even paid a brief visit to the Musée du Désert, devoted to the memory of the persecution of the French Huguenots in the 17th and 18th centuries.   Most of the MTW team in France showed up for the dinner celebrating our 30 years together.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Empty Sorrow without Hope

We attended a memorial service for an old friend today.  Following her death, this dear one was cremated and her ashes placed in a plastic urn.  Although she died several months ago, her ashes were kept until the local cemetery held their biannual ceremony for those who die without any relatives to provide for them.  Her friends paid for the cremation and the public burial.  Due to the impoverished circumstances of her life, there were no funds available for anything more elaborate.

This wasn’t the first funeral we had been to in the Czech Republic, but it was the first of this kind.  We were unprepared for the sadness. 

The burial took place in a very pleasant, tiny grass field.  There was a small brass band that played several quiet songs prior to and during the ceremony.  A gentle lady read a poem and then a brief sentence about each person.  These remarks weren’t personal, but general in nature - typically along the lines of, “She is gone, and nothing remains to us but her memory”, or, “He will lie here in this peaceful place forever.”  After these remarks, the lady would call the name of the deceased person and two attendants would pour their ashes into a small hole in the field.  In this manner they buried about a dozen folks in the space of 20 minutes. 

Our great sadness came in the realization that the ceremony held no hope of anything beyond the moment.  No life, no joy, nothing but a flower pot sized hole in a patch of grass - forever.  There is a hollowness, a thinness to an attempt to memorialize a living, eternal soul in this manner. 

But we are convinced of better things about our friend.  She was a lover of Jesus.  And, no matter the words that were spoken over her grave, she now rejoices in bright splendor before him who has forever loved her.  We will see her again, when she comes with Christ at the last trumpet.  This is our hope.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Love We Need

In his excellent book King’s Cross, Tim Keller talks about the necessity of Jesus’ death.  Beyond the legal necessity of Jesus’ death to atone for our sins, Keller talks about the personal necessity of Jesus’ death.  We need Jesus to die for us because we need to be loved by someone who doesn’t need anything from us. 

Our love for one another is deeply flawed.  And we all seem to know the difference between false love and true love.  In false love we aim to use the other person to fulfill our happiness.  False love is conditional and non-vulnerable.  It needs something from the other person.  It says: “I will love you if ….. if you make me happy, if you affirm me, if you provide the things I want, if you make me feel secure, if you ….”  And it holds back, not willing to completely give itself to the other in case it needs to minimize its losses in the relationship.  Sadly, we all love in this false, broken way.  We love the other for what we need from them, not for what we can give to them.  We use them to get love.

True love is unconditional and completely vulnerable.  Its greatest joy is the joy of the other.  It holds nothing back, giving all away for the loved one.  We cannot love like this – not fully, not all the time.  But we need, desperately need, exactly this kind of love.  We need love from someone who doesn’t need anything from us.

Inside the Trinity, from all eternity past, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been giving and receiving this perfect love.  God doesn’t need love from us.  He is already fully satisfied and delighted with the love he has.  Jesus can love us radically, unconditionally, and vulnerably.  We need this kind of love because it heals us.  It tells us we are of such enormous worth that God has given everything for us.  And it allows us to begin to love others in this amazingly radical way - Jesus’ way.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Summer Interns

Mission to the World offers many ways to get boots-on-the-ground missionary experience.  One of those ways is through their summer intern program.  This year, our Czech Republic team will be hosting two men as summer interns.  We hope to give these guys a glimpse of missionary life during their stay with us.

We will be posting more about these men and their work here as the summer draws closer.  Please pray for Cory and Erik.  It will be an intense time for them and for us, but please pray that it will a rich time as well.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring IS Coming

The winter has lasted overly long here.  We saw the sun today for the second time in weeks.  The high temperatures have stayed in the thirties on most days.  Everyone really wants spring to come.  Why is it taking so long?

The winter has lasted so long here.  We don’t see the son clearly on most days.  It is cold here in my heart.  We really want the Spring to come.  Why is He taking so long?

Just as surely as the warm, long days will return, just as he promised, Jesus will return, just as he promised.  Nothing can hold back the spring.  It often seems that winter will win and keep her icy grip on the world.  But a spring day is coming…..

Then will the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Snow

We awoke this morning to a beautiful snowfall.  Snow is lovely while it’s falling and it makes the trees and the fields around us pure white.  In one way, it covers up some ugly stuff, but underneath, nothing  much has changed.

That’s where the “Easter” part of this post becomes important.  If Christ isP1000607 really risen from the dead, things have changed.  If what we say in the apostle’s creed is true – he was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead – then something fundamental, mysterious, amazing has changed.  As long as men have walked the earth, death has been the inescapable fate of all.  Not only have we been cursed to wither and die physically, but we have been alienated from the only source of real life.  We’re twice dead – outwardly and inwardly. 

The resurrection changes all of that.  Jesus experienced both kinds of death, and yet he lives.  And he promises that we will also live.  “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”  If you do believe this, you have been changed, way down deep inside – not with a pretty covering, but by a gift of life that cannot be extinguished, even by death.

Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dateline Berlin, March 2013

One part of Johnny’s new responsibilities on the Europe Leadership Team is to meet regularly with others on this team, including Ken Matlack, Johnny’s boss. More often than not the meeting happens over Skype as all nine of the team members try to stay connected (Skype gives them a lot of trouble!) They try to meet “face to face” to develop community, relationships and support for one another. The members then seek to bring that faith community to the MTW missionaries throughout Europe as they seek to serve, pray for and support them.

Europe Leadership Team
Recently we had the joy of meeting with the ELT team face to face—for real in Berlin. We experienced sweet times of conversation, great food, and especially wonderful times of worship together. Thanks Ken and David!)
We did not have a lot of time for sightseeing, even though Berlin is full of wonderful things to see and do. The train station we arrived at was only a block from one of the larger pieces of the Berlin Wall, so we were able to catch a glimpse of it. Unfortunately, on that outing I did not have our camera, only my phone, so photos are sketchy at best.

The outside of the Wall on the old East Berlin side

The inside of the Wall in what was formerly known as No Man's Land

The ELTeam and wives at Check Point Charlie

Thursday, February 21, 2013

We’re Not in Kansas (or Alabama) Anymore

This may sound a little crazy, but shortly after we arrived on the mission field here I developed a simple game.  It goes like this: see how far you can walk before you notice something – a sign, a car, a person – that lets you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you’re in a foreign country.  In our country, it’s really hard to go very far without running smack into something that looks truly foreign.

P1000033It was plain when we arrived in Prague last Saturday that we had gone way beyond the bounds of our little home in Shelby County, Alabama.   Thankfully, our Czech friend, René Drápala was there to meet us and make us feel welcome.

We returned to the Církev Reformovaná on Sunday and were delighted to re-connect with our dear church family there.  Both of us got a hug from someone who normally only gives handshakes – that was pretty special! 

Since we’ve been back, there have been several snowy days.  The snow helps brighten the gray days, so we both enjoy it (see the picture nearby).

We are so grateful to all of you who allowed us to spend time with you during our visit to the US.  Thank you for feeding us, housing us, and sharing your joys and sorrows with us.  Many thanks to all of you who prayed for our travels – the Lord surely heard your prayers. 


Friday, January 4, 2013

Welcome the New Year, Welcome Our New Team Member

Miriam Fall Retreat 2012So much of life is process.  Sometimes long.  Sometimes short.  But always process. In the process there are often sweet wonderful joys and gifts found along the way.  And as it has been said so many ways and times, God never does things the way we dream or expect, He is always doing bigger and better things - more than we can ask or imagine.  So wonderful is He!

This is a brief story of a long process, beginning even before we arrived on the field, we begin to pray for team members to come join us. You know, we had ideas. Ideas of what they would be like; how we would work together; where they would fit in—sort of.

Then last summer we had visit from a veteran missionary who was somewhat interested in moving to the Czech Republic and joining us.  All went well.  The time together was simply too brief to base any kind of major decision on what we knew of each other.  We both needed more.

(Inviting someone new is almost like getting engaged.  There’s commitment, the need to listen, love, help, support, and so much more involved in an invitation to join a team on the field.)

So we invited our friend to return and work with us and visit with us.  We wanted to really get to know each other in a deeper, soul-knowing way.  The Lord was gracious to us and really began to turn our hearts to the opportunities and possibilities of what could be, of friendship that could deepen, of laughter to be shared, and of good works yet undone.

Soon the invitation was offered and accepted!  Our prayer is that soon our new team member Miriam Grady will be on her way to Zlin.  Please pray for all the details of things we all will have to deal with before she arrives in the Czech Republic.

But foremost, rejoice with us!