Saturday, June 30, 2012

Belated Update

Where to even begin?

There is something so settling about knowing that you're in the place where God wants you to be, knowing that all of your passions, gifts, growths, experiences, and desires have all prepared you for this time and location. While this may sound like a bold statement, over the past few months as God was preparing me and leading me to make this small step, I've seen Him reveal to me again and again how my life as a Christian has been to lead me to this place.
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

I previously mentioned the scariest moment of my trip—of my life—when I spent the evening in the Emergency Room recovering from a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting. If you want to see the detailed story, I just finished writing up a blog about it:
(I was going to include it in this update, but it was just too long)

I've had a busy but fruitful two weeks here already, and while it partially feels like I've always been here... I also feel like the time is flying by too quickly. One-fourth of my trip is already over! In addition to the hard times that you've heard about—the difficulty getting here and the evening in the hospital—I have had some wonderful times here as well!

I've built some great relationships with the Czech church here. The church pastor and his wife have been very welcoming to me, having me over to their home to visit and play with their two kids. They have been very encouraging, and I have spent quite a bit of time with this pastor as well, since much of our ministry work has been side-by-side. His nephew is also a Christian, and probably my best friend here! He lives about an hour away, but has come to visit a few times. We get along great, and have fun hanging out and playing music together. I also have gotten to know the youth leader fairly well. She is very sweet, and we've had some great evenings visiting. I have gotten to know several of the Christian youth also (One girl just left on Thursday for a 2-month mission trip, herself! She's in Brazil, if you can also pray for her).

But I've also built some great relationships with people that do not attend the church! One woman has quickly become a dear friend of mine. We met in an English lesson that I visited, and immediately hit it off. Her English is excellent, and she enjoys the opportunity to practice the language. In addition, she has been giving me free Czech lessons and helping me grasp some of the grammar and usage of this difficult language. She has been surprisingly open with me about spiritual things, and while she does not claim to be a Christian, she hungers strongly after God and has a relationship with Jesus Christ. Her husband and family, however, are interested in “spiritual” things, but are not as close to Christianity. I am praying for the opportunity to invite her to church with me.

Part of our outreach this past week was speaking in public schools, inviting high school students to the English camp we are hosting in August. We have had immense success, with five students having signed up already (last year there were just 2 from the schools), and several of them have added me on facebook as well. I spent yesterday morning with a young girl from one school.

Prayer guides:
  • Pray for the upcoming English camps—I have about two weeks until our first one, and from that point on I will become very busy... that the students will come, and that they will be open to both building relationships and hearing the Gospel.
  • Pray that I will stay plugged-in to God. All of this may sound like fun and games, but it is spiritually and emotionally draining. There is spiritual warfare going on around me, and I need to stay on top of my game, and continually filled, as I pour out love and hope to those around me. I can't pour out if I'm empty!
  • Pray for the other Americans from Mosaic Church that will join me here in August—my parents and baby sister, Deb, Christy, and Emily. Pray that they will be sufficiently prepared, their spirits will be lifted and filled, and that the fundraising will be provided for.
  • Pray for the Czech church here—that I can encourage them, and that they will continue to have boldness to share the Gospel with their friends and family members. Also that any spiritual warfare will stay away from their doors, so that any people that enter will see the truth and love of Jesus.

It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.” (Psalm 44:3)

A Bee's-Eye View

The scariest moment of my trip—of my life—up until now is when I spent the evening in a Czech Emergency Room. And it is all thanks to one little bee. 

The youth group spent Friday afternoon hiking up “Holy Hill” outside of Olomouc, and as much fun as I was having, I needed to leave early. With a friend's wedding in Vysoke Myto on on Saturday morning, I needed to catch Friday evening's train. To get me there, one of the Czech youth leaders, Jarek, was going to drive me back down the hill/mountain to grab my bag and get me to the train station. However, at the last minute, the leaders decided to have Ivan drive me (the reason is still unknown to me, because they made that decision while speaking Czech).

Visiting as we drove into town, Ivan and I were about two minutes away from Dorkas (the Bible school where I'm staying) when a bee flew in the car window and stung me on the shoulder. I was obviously in pain, but since 12 years had passed since my last sting, I didn't think much about it.

Arriving at Dorkas, and I ran to grab my backpack. Upon reaching the 4th floor, my face and ears began to feel funny. Attributing the sensations to heat and exertion, I grabbed my pack and ran back down. Nearing the car, I noticed that my lips were going numb. Telling Ivan of the situation, we decided to call Mike Young (he missionary taking care of me, who lives about one hour away) Mike asked Ivan if he could drive me to the hospital, so we jumped back into the car and took off.

Roughly three minutes later, my lower back began to itch. Reaching back to scratch it, I felt bumps along my skin. Asking Ivan to check, he told me that he saw “bubbles” (hives). By the time we arrived at the hospital, hives had broken out over my entire body—back, chest, legs, arms, neck... even in my hair. In addition, my face had become significantly swollen. Rushing into the emergency room, Ivan began to speak to the nurse in Czech. Her first concern was about my breathing, and I answered that it was fine... for the moment. She then began the neccessary paperwork, and I presented my passport. Luckily, I had stuck it in my purse on a whim earlier that day.

Within a minute or so, breathing began to grow more difficult. Panic setting in, I told Ivan of the new development, and he in turn translated the message to the nurse. Standing up, she tossed my passport onto the desk and rushed me back into the doctor's room. He began to ask me the usual questions through Ivan's translation, “Are you allergic to anything else... are you taking any other medications... are you allergic to any medications...” A we spoke, the nurse pepared my arm for the injection, which eased my breathing within moments. Once my breathing was back to normal, they set me up with an IV to treat the swelling and hives.

A while later, as I lied in my hospital bed, IV dripping into my arm, Ivan prayed over me, thanking God for His protection. When he finished, I turned to him and said, “You know... I can see that God was with me. He really was protecting me.”

The events of this attack may have been frightening, but even lying on a gurney, I could look back and see how God kept me safe. From the time the bee stung me until I began to have difficulty breathing was about 25-30 minutes. What are the blessings that kept me safe?

  1. Ivan would drove me--his English is impeccable, and a a result, we didn't have any translation issues. Had the original driver, Jarek, been my escort, communication with the Doctors would have been much more difficult.
  2. We had a car--this was one of the mere handful of times during my trip that we've had a car readily available. Most of the transportation here is by foot or public trams/buses. If I'd had to wait for a tram, or for someone else to come pick me up, the extra time could've been lethal.
  3. We were already in town--instead of having been stung on top of Holy Hill (I did see several bees up there throughout the day), I was stung within city limits, extremely close to the hospital.

I praise God, because I know that He is with me. And He's stronger than anything I face.
The view halfway up "Holy Hill"

"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you." (Psalm 5:11)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Settling In

Hello, everybody!

I have been in town since Friday afternoon, and I thought it would be time for an in-country update!
(I am 7 hours ahead of AR, by the way)

I am so in love with the Czech Republic... it is wonderful to be back! I am currently renting a room from the dorms of a "Bible School" here in town. While there are still a few students also living here, they are finishing up their semester and will be moving out later this week. The location of this building is wonderful: right behind me is a beautiful park, and in front of the building is a quiet, peaceful courtyard. I feel like I live in a quiet part of town, but it is only a two minute walk to Dolní náměstí ("lower square") and two minutes farther is Horní náměstí ("upper square"--also the main square).

I just got my public transportation pass yesterday, but I have been walking a lot since I have been here. All of the walking on cobblestones has been a little rough on my ankle (I injured it last summer), but I think it is growing stronger. In addition, I think that the extra foot-transportation has caused me to lose a little weight... in spite of the fact that my diet largely consists of rohlík (bread/rolls), smažený sýr (fried cheese), brambory (potatoes), and kofola ("Coke"-like drink)!

I've also been feeling really tired. Yesterday I took a one-hour nap then slept for 10 hours straight. This might partially be from jet lag, but the missionaries here were telling me that learning a new language can really wear you out. Most of the Czech words I previously knew have come back quickly, and I am trying to learn new words and phrases as much as possible. However, much of the time I don't get translations while the Czech people are having conversations. While listening, I am constantly trying to figure out what they are saying--while I do catch a few words here and there, my brain gets tuckered out from trying to translate all of the time.

On a much lighter note: God is so faithful! It has been such a blessing to be with the church here, and they really are taking care of me. I have been spending quite a bit of time with the pastor and one of the youth leaders. I have also had a great opportunity to reconnect with many of the youth I met last summer, and have plans to visit with a couple of them throughout this next week.

Prayers guides:

  • Pray that the students will be open to building a deeper relationship with me (both the Christians and non-Christians). My desire is to really invest in the youth here.
  • Pray that my time will be spent wisely--I have quite a bit of free time in my schedule, which leaves me open to hang-out time possibilities. I want to really make sure that I'm not wasting this time away.
  • Pray for my relationships with the Czech church, that the spirit of God that unites us will also provide us unity as His church. I also want to avoid doing things that are culturally offensive.

Thank-you so much for your prayers and encouraging emails! I am thankful for all of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I've got you.

The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
-Exodus 33:14

A few nights ago, as I was spending some time in prayer with my parents and friends, I felt a wave of anxiousness over me. Distraction, doubts, and fears have been plaguing me for weeks now, and as we prayed I felt them return. In that moment, I turned my heart to Jesus, and he pulled me into a tight hug. As He drew me near to his heart, He whispered, "I've got you."

I wrote that on the outside of my journal yesterday, and the thought of that is all that has gotten me through the past day.
Arriving at the Little Rock Airport around 5am, I had smooth sailing checking in and going through security. However, once we'd boarded our 7am flight, we were told that there is a problem with the generator on one of our engines, and we would have to deplane so they could repair it.

Multiple flight changes, a few tears, some interesting new acquaintances, and 12 hours later... we board a new flight to Atlanta. However, once reaching the Atlanta airspace, we discover that there is unexpected bad weather in Atlanta. We circle around and around until we get too low on gas to continue to wait it out. The plane turns back to Nashville and refuels, by which time I missed my newly-arranged connections in Atlanta.

Landing in the Atlanta airport around 10:30pm, I then waited in line to get a new flight set up, waited in line for over an hour to get a shuttle, then waited in line at the hotel only to find out that they'd run out of rooms. By 2:30am, they had the opportunity to clean a "smoking" room for me and I was able to get a place to crash.

22 hours later, I have so far made it to Atlanta. I've got 20 hours of travel left to go.

Throughout the day, a lot of thoughts have been flitting about in my mind. Is this spiritual warfare, maybe? Or is God intervening? Maybe He's protecting me from something... or there's something better in store now. Or maybe this is just the accumulation of all my no-problem travels.

But as I prayed, watery-eyed and frustrated in the Little Rock terminal (and--not gonna lie--in the Atlanta terminal and hotel lobby), God reminded me of this truth: He's got me.

It doesn't matter what happens to me on this flight, because no matter what reason--whether His goodness or His intervention--He's still got me. He knew all of this was coming, even though it wasn't how I was expecting my day to go.

So there you have it! So begins the great adventure.

Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does nto go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?"

And the Lord said to Moses, "I will do this very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name."

Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory."

-Exodus 33:15-18