Tuesday, December 8, 2009

So, What are Things Like There?

You could probably stand in a local store in the Czech Republic and almost think that you are in your neighborhood Wal-Mart.  Well, except for the fact that all the names have been changed to confuse the American.  We have gotten quite a few questions about stores and what they have, so we thought we would include just a few pictures for you to see. 

The store above is some what like the US Best Buy. It is located in one of the malls in Zlin. In the local Tesco, similar to our Wal-mart, we found washing machines, (pračky), microwaves (mikrovlnky) and refrigerators (ledničky).

We hope that we have one of the full size refrigerators in our apartment to store our milk, fresh bread and octopus. Well, octopus and other miscellaneous animals from the sea. What do you make with octopus? Yum.

The Greatest Adventure of Our Lives . . . .

You know how we humans often long for something, think and pray for it and how our hearts often grow so attached to hopes and dreams of things to come? Yet often, when the thing longed for arrives, even though there may be a momentary experience of joy there is an emotional letdown. The thing, whatever it was, simply does not full fill the heart the way one expected. Rarely, is it more.

It seems as if this past year has been a journey of incredible proportions. We came home from English camp in 2008, knowing that we were planning to apply with Mission to the World and move to the Czech Republic. In a very real sense another journey had just begun.

We contacted MTW and they sent to us a lo-o-o-ng application to fill out. I think it covered every detail of our lives and then some. Our friends had to fill out questionnaires about us. Who are we? What are we really like? We had to take psychological tests. This was just the beginning of the approval process. We both began to think and pray about when to quit our jobs, tell our children, friends and a thousand other things that filled our hearts.

Our application was accepted and we were soon signed up for what is referred to as REV. Basically is it a week of evaluation. Little else can be said about it for once you go through this you are sworn to secrecy. For us the week was absolutely incredible. It was hard, but good. I wish that each of you had the opportunity to go through a week like this one.

At the end on the week Johnny and I had a meeting with one of the “assessors” of our team. He told us about the evaluation and said we had been accepted! (As I type the words, they sound rather boring, and dull. I would say that the words themselves were quite simple, but the emotions were anything but!) As the he left the room, Johnny and I looked at each other in amazement, overpowered by emotion. It was then we realized that we were just beginning what was going to be the greatest adventure of our lives.

This time the thing longed for has been more, far more. For, God is always more than we can ask or think. He is amazing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thoughts on actually moving to a foreign country

For the past year, Annette and I have worked, trained, planned, and prayed with a single purpose in mind: get to the Czech Republic! Over the past few weeks, we have become increasingly aware that the departure we have hoped for in April 2010 is shifting from a nebulous idea into more of a solid reality. This has brought about two distinct responses, panic and excitement.

Panic arises internally from lack of faith, and externally from the daily, nagging reminders of all the stuff that needs to be done before we can leave. There are things to give away, cars to sell, decisions about what stuff to take and what stuff to leave, a Dave Ramsey video class to take, a month of cross-cultural training to attend, licensure exams to study for, ….. the list seems endless – hence, the panic. Although I suspect that each of these things can and will get done over the course of the next five months, every time we look at it, the to-do list looks like that 100 foot tall wave from The Perfect Storm - we fully expect that it will crush us under its overwhelming mass.

The excitement comes from seeing God at work. We have been incredibly blessed by God’s provision for our work through the generosity and encouragement of our fellow believers. Every time we extend ourselves even a little, God answers with such blessings that we gain fresh assurance of his calling and taste with anticipation what he wants to do in the Czech Republic. We see that part of what he wants to do involves change in us; this too is scary and exciting. Annette and I have been regularly amazed, humbled, and overwhelmed by God’s work in us and in others as we walk toward that not-so-fuzzy departure date.

Thank you for praying and giving.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October Newsletter

In September we were blessed to be able to take some time out to visit with Annette’s Mom, cousins, aunts, and uncles in El Dorado, Arkansas and Lewisville, Texas. On Tuesday we spent the afternoon with her cousin Terry, Uncle Charles, and Aunt Sis. It was especially sweet to spend time with these relatives, as we don’t get to see them very often. My aunt Sis is someone who’s love for the Lord has always been the grounding point for her life. God has blessed me in a thousand ways through her. Not only did we enjoy our time spent with them, but we also were able to enjoy some of the cultural activities of El Dorado, eating a fresh hot Spudnut (a potato-dough doughnut that puts all others in the shade), and going out to Abe’s Feed House for all you can eat fried catfish. We also helped Mom, doing a few odd jobs, and further complicating her life by bringing her a computer, connecting her to the internet, and helping her to sign up for Facebook. Our hope is for her be more connected to us once we leave.

We are continually amazed by the doors the Lord opens to us. I think that God is always doing more than we can see and occasionally He allows us a tiny glimpse into His work. We know that this will sound somewhat strange, but in some sense we’re glad that we don’t have all our support in hand yet. Our tendency would be to stop going, talking, and pursuing this part of our journey. With the task complete why continue to speak? But, we have come to believe it is not just about raising support. This journey is also about what God wants to do in our hearts and the hearts of those to whom we speak. We do not know if He will use us to encourage someone else to answer a call to go on a short term mission trip, sign up to go with us, birth a heart of prayer for missions and God’s kingdom work, or one of a thousand other possibilities that we have yet to consider. But this we do know: God is always about more, usually much more than we can think or imagine. So, we continue this process and continue to rejoice in all the God is doing in the hearts of His people.

After our time in El Dorado, we went to Lewisville, Texas – a suburb of Dallas - to visit with several other relatives. We are not able to be with Edie and Don very often, but it is always a joy to visit them. We never expected all that they would do encourage and help us by introducing us to their friends, their Sunday School class, and their pastor. We were so warmly welcomed by all of these believers. Don arranged a meeting with their pastor on Sunday afternoon - the one day when pastors have so little time and so much time pressure. What a gift!  Pastor Wells was so gracious and open to all we shared, and we were so blessed by his church.

Sunday evening we were able to visit with Jamie Peterson and the new church plant he is leading in Frisco, Texas. Our visit fell on the second Sunday that Christ Community Church met for worship. Jamie very graciously allowed us time in the service to share our calling and our work. Interestingly there was one young woman in his congregation that has been to the CR, to Brno - a city very near Zlin! It is so amazing to see the way God knits and weaves together His people. We seem to be running into people all the time who have been to the Czech Republic or have some connection there. So, we are continuing to follow as God leads in our contacts. We never quite know what to expect, only who to expect: God. He is continuing to do great things for the glory of His Name. Thank you, dear friends, for allowing us the joy of seeing Him at work in you. All to the praise of His glorious grace; grace, grace, amazing grace!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Zlín Part II


We also had the joy of visiting the Czech pastor, Rene and his wife Renata and their children. We once again were able to go with Rene out to the chata. Rene and Johnny enjoyed dressing up in beekeeping gear and checking out Rene’s bees. The field of the defining moment was even more beautiful this year than last. I would like to think that is part of God’s promised blessing. He promises abundant life, and that abundant life is found not in His gifts which are wonderful beyond measure, but in Himself. Following Him is worth everything.

Rene and Children

We were able to visit with Martin and Daša and spent a wonderful afternoon with them and their energetic daughter Krystyna in Luhačovice. As well as a short visit with Radká and Mirek in their home in Zlín. Each parting brought with it a longing to return quickly to this new home and church body where God is placing us. We continue to be humbled by the work God is doing in the hearts of His people. He is birthing new hope in their hearts, hope that God is near and that He has not forsaken them. Great is His faithfulness!

We spent time talking with everyone, asking advice, and trying to make decisions about so many different things. One big question seems to be what to bring and what to leave, as well as how much. So we spent time looking in a second hand furniture store, Asko (a furniture and mattress store), and Tesco (the Czech equivalent of Walmart) mainly to look at appliances. We spent most of our last day talking with 3 different organizations about our language learning. We are very encouraged by the wealth of possibilities that we found in Zlín.

Typical (??) Czech Living Room Chairs

In the afternoon Louise, Johnny and I had another appointment to look at some apartments in the area. We mainly wanted to get an idea of the size of our future living space, thinking that this would help us with the what to bring and what to leave question. The flats that we were shown are probably well outside of our price range and amazingly large. It is interesting to get a glimpse of how things like apartment hunting works here. It is a bit different. We are praying that God would put us in the place He wants us. It has helped tremendously to be able to talk over these details with everyone. So, as the train rolls out of Zlín taking us on to the days ahead, our hearts are full of wonder and amazement at our God. Following Him is surely the greatest adventure of all.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Zlín Part I

Pictures of Zlin from the top of the 21 Building.

We have just left our new adopted home town of Zlín. We are traveling by train to Bechynĕ to visit with one of our dear friends from camp, Mirka.

We arrived in Zlín on Saturday after camp, tired yet full of hope for all that God will do in the hearts of our dear friends, old and new. Sunday worship was a bit different for us, in that the sermon was in Czech with no translation, as you would expect. But, that gives us all the more incentive to quickly learn to at least understand Czech, if not to speak it. Sid was very gracious to give us the songs the church sings on a CD. We hope to work through them, translating and learning, so that when we arrive we will at least be able to worship through song with some comprehension. Johnny is so far ahead of me in this area. But we both have so much to learn and are grateful that God enables us to learn more every day.

The Zlin Worship Team

Lunch after Church

We spent several days of our Zlín days enjoying time with Hans, Gretchen, Sid and Louise. They are probably tired of all of our questions, but are so gracious in answering and helping with everything. We all seem to be anticipating the joy of working together, watching God move and work in the hearts of His people. We live with great expectation because God is at work continually. What a privilege it is for us to come along beside these precious people who exemplify the sweet grace of Christ in every way.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Adventures at Summer Camp

We have been in the Czech Republic for 13 days now. The first English camp is over and the second is half complete. The days are racing by - full of classes in the morning, afternoon activities, and the evening program. There are a few moments here and there for rest.

The first week of camp Johnny and I thoroughly enjoyed “teaching” the 2 and 3 year olds English. Vendi, one of our dear Czech friends, was an immense help to us. We could not have done it without her help. The children actually did learn a few English words. The word fish was one of the primary ones, as we had goldfish crackers to eat almost every day for the morning snack. So we would hear, “Fish, please” quite frequently. I remember sitting with one of the precious little ones on my lap, looking out over the town of Bystřice pod Hostýnem and thinking what a blessing it is to be given the opportunity to love and care for these children. We do not know exactly what God will do with the seeds sown in their hearts, but He does.

Recently I read the story of a young man. As a child he had heard the name Jesus in a summer camp sponsored by missionaries. Years later, he met others who spoke of this Jesus. Because of his contact with Christians earlier in his life, he wanted to hear more about this Jesus. He soon became a believer and is now a leader in his church. His story is just one example of the many ways God is at work to sow, plant and reap a harvest for Himself. I pray that He would do this very same thing in the hearts of the little ones we had to privilege to love and serve.

One evening during the week, Johnny and I had the opportunity to share our story of God calling us to the Czech Republic. Afterward, one of our friends asked to hear more and we shared our blog with him. As he read, tears began to fill his eyes; he looked up and said, “God has not forgotten the Czech people.” It broke my heart. Surely, God has not forgotten His people. His promise is that there will be a great, uncountable number from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the hope and encouragement that has been expressed by our Czech friends. Our hearts are prompted to pray all the more fervently for the workers and harvest that is to come. We continue to be encouraged by the words of the Czech believers as they tell us their stories of coming to Christ. Over and over again, we hear how they began to read the Scriptures and God opened their eyes. So we pray that our God would cause the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ to shine in their hearts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Defining Moment

The defining day for us came on Monday when we visited with René and Renata Drapala and their family. René is the pastor of the Zlín Church. He took us out in the countryside to his chata. (A chata is a cabin built for the purpose of recreation. They range from the very basic to luxurious. Some are merely sheds made of whatever was at hand. ) Many Czechs garden, raise fruit trees, or simply relax and read when they go to their chata. René raises bees. We hiked up to his chata and spent a lazy morning enjoying the view and the neighbor’s sheep with him and his young daughter Viki.

A chata or two in the countryside.

Views from the chata

Before we left, René lead us up the hill through some trees to view a glorious field of wild flowers. As we stood there, Johnny says that he heard Smetana’s symphony Má Vlast, which means “My Country” in Czech, running through his head. That was when God spoke to him in an undeniable way about his specific call to the work in the Czech Republic.

Listen online at to the second movement of Bedřich Smetana’s symphony entitled the Vltava.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Johnny and I have been on this journey for almost a year now. This time last year we were planning what we thought was just our regular summer missions trip to the Czech Republic. We had no idea of the life-changing events God had planned for us on this trip.
It is always sweet to return to spend a week with our dear Czech friends, old and new. Camps are an intense week of teaching all morning, afternoon activities that usually do not include naps of any sort, evening activities of games, songs, testimonies given by different team members and talks given by Alan Carter, our pastor. After that, there is still much visiting and conversation that continues often late into the night. Then everything starts all over again around 6:00 in the morning. It is a great week filled with the sweetness of being together with friends, laughter, games, prayer times, worship and running on adrenalin.
After camp last year, maybe one of the best we had been privileged to participate in, we traveled home with Martin and
Daša Keller. We planned to take a few days and just relax. Martin and Daša are members of the little Church in Zlín, where Martin serves as a deacon. They live in the spa town of Luhačovice .

Two of the buildings we discovered in our walk along the stream in the spa town of Luhačovice .

You can find out more about the spa town if you follow this link.

The following link is to a brochure with pictures and tourist information for the area.

The spa town in the territory of Luhačovice has 16 sodium hydrocarbonate acidulous springs and one sulphurous spring which bubble to the surface. Every hour, 15 thousands litres of mineral water reach the surface, containing a large amount of dissolved mineral elements, particularly sodium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine, bromine, iodine, carbonic acid, dissolved carbon dioxide. The temperature of the spring water fluctuates between 10 - 12 °C. The most famous springs, and often the goal for many walks and obligatory stops by spa guests are Vincentka, Aloiska, Ottovka, the springs of Dr. Šťastný and St. Joseph.

A view of the spa town of Luhačovice

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How it all began: Blessing and Trouble, God's leading of a clueless people: Us

God is always moving and changing, arranging and rearranging our lives so that we can see Him more clearly. He consistently uses situations and circumstances that we think little or nothing about, at the time, to change the course of our life. If you search the Scripture, you begin to see this all throughout. People going about their life's business, only to be met with the unexpected: God.

That is the way that this journey with God began. In 1996 Johnny's company, Barron Industries, was hired to install fans in a plant in Poland. He was charged with the responsibility to secure another Polish company to build some 40% of the manufactured product. Therefore, he was required to make several trips to review and secure the services of a Polish fan manufacturer.

As God would have it, the nearest major airport in and out of the area was Prague. Our church, Faith PCA, had a long standing relationship with Sid and Louise Anderson, who at that time were living in Prague. And Johnny, being Johnny, called them up and arranged to meet with them on his way through Prague. Sid and Louise welcomed him into their home and their lives. He was able on occasion to see some of the work that they were doing to plant a church in that city. This was exciting to see, but even then we were so clueless as to just how God would use this in our lives.

Because of problems with the fan installation, Johnny had to take many trips to Poland, probably a total of 10-12 in all over the next 2 years. On each of these, he would stop and visit with Sid and Louise. Their visits became the bright spot in the difficulty with the job. All the while, little knowing that God had even more planned.

In one of John Piper's books, he makes the comment that in the difficulties of life, God is at work, moving and changing our circumstances around so that He can bless us more. That truth is very difficult to see in the midst of trouble, maybe because we don't believe that God wants more for us than what we want ourselves. For all too often, I find that I would just be content if I had comfort. That was part of the struggle the Israelites had. They would trade the presence of God in their lives for the comfort they desired. Sad to say most of us still struggle with doing the same thing. We would like heaven on earth and be quite content if we had it, even without God. But praise be to our glorious, gracious and merciful God! He does not give us what we desire, but changes our desires, so that He becomes the desire of our hearts. Christ becomes our Life.

God wants us to see Him. Everything He does in our lives is all to that one great end. That is His promise to us upon the death of His Son. So, even in this difficulty there was more than we could have ever seen. His plan was still unfolding.