czech republic missionaries

Czech Diary, April 2005

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Sunday 24th April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


The Czech Republic has its own version of Pop Idol / American Idol called SuperStar, and Varya and I tend to be riveted to it on a Sunday night. As of tonight there are only about 8 left in the competition, and we love it! It’s amazing how much our impressions of a performer are based on how well they can sing in English :-) as it’s one of our pet peeves when Czechs can’t pronounce their “th” sounds, get “w” and “v” sounds completely confused, or are just generally unintelligible! That’s not to say that our Czech is always much better... but this is not about us. It’s about the Czech Education system that does not include much or any spoken English in their language curriculum, despite the fact that most Czechs learn English for years at school.


Saturday 23rd April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve & Varya)

Benji in butterfly enclosure
in the butterfly enclosure

Big day — I was working with our church music team in the recording studio (well, the conference room at OM) for about 12 hours, while Varya took Benji and a couple of friends up to Prague for the day to go to the zoo. Ah, the life of a missionary! But as a result we’re both completely exhausted.

butterflyVarya: I first met my friend three years ago at an English summer camp. At the camp there were some evening sessions talking about God — but she didn’t want to have anything to do with them. After moving to the Czech Republic I started to see her more often, and we have become good friends. Today she, her daughter, Benjamin and I spent a day out together, and we talked, amongst other things, about Christianity. She seems to have had some bad experiences with Christians in the past, but her attitude is changing. “When I tell my other friends that I know a Christian missionary, they’re very surprised” she said. “But I tell them that you’re a very normal, real person. You’re different because you’re not just trying to change me all the time. You seem to value me as a person.” Her attitudes towards Christianity are changing. Sometimes it takes a long time to earn the right to talk to people about what’s really important, but it’s worth it. Please pray for her :-)


Friday 22nd April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

rain dance
Harry teaching the Canadian
Rain Dance

Harry and Astrid are a retired Canadian couple who every year offer 3 months of their time to OM ministries in Central Europe. They work as volunteers doing practical work, helping with teaching etc. Tonight they put on a Canadian Night for our English students. It was a real encouragement to see that some of the students had brought their husbands, wives and children, and one student brought 2 of her friends, and one of their friends who is from Norway... so we had a real United Nations tonight!

These types of evenings are increasingly becoming an important part of our ministry here. We often find that relationships deepen as we talk about life over doughnuts and sandwiches.

19th-21st April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

The pastor and mission chairman of a church in Washington DC visited us to find out more about the ministry of OM Czech Republic. A missionary from their church who works in OM in Austria accompanied them. As part of my role in OM I had organised a programme for their stay.

As a family we had dinner with them one evening in a restaurant where there was much laughter, great conversation, and oodles of encouragement. We felt so blessed that their church was concerned for the lost people in the Czech Republic. Benjamin reached a milestone that night - he tasted his first snails! At least we hope it was his first taste... :-) He’s an amazing boy. Sometimes it’s hard to get him to eat scrambled egg and beans, and yet he’ll happily munch through pickled walnuts, black olives, and snails in garlic butter!!! A boy of exquisite taste and a cultured palate.


Saturday 16th April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

Michal and Dasa

Benji and Verunka diggingWhat a wonderful day! We drove out into the countryside and turned up a dirt track towards a huddle of buildings where we saw two small girls playing with their toys and helping their Dad paint the outside of the house.

Daša and Michal are a couple from church. They had invited us for lunch with their daughters Veronika and Natalka. As Daša prepared the lunch, Benjamin and the girls had fun chasing each other around the lounge and playing catch with Benji’s favourite toy, Baby Pom!

After lunch we walked to their pond and explored together some of the surrounding countryside. The sun shone, the birds twittered, and the leaves swayed happily in the breeze. It was a tranquil and wonderful afternoon — good food for the soul...


Monday 11th April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


4 nights in a row, Benji has not snored. Hooray for adenoid removal!


Friday 8th April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


I slept like a baby last night, for the first time in weeks. Says a lot about the stress of Benji’s operation.


Thursday 7th April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


9PM Thurs night: Benji is back home and soundly asleep, exhausted from an adventurous day at the hospital. Varya and I are exhausted too, though thrilled and relieved that Benji’s adenoids are no more. We hope that the promised improvements to his hearing, breathing and snoring will be forthcoming. A brief listen outside his room just now reveals only the merest hint of snoring...

THANK YOU everyone who has been thinking of us and praying for us over this time. We’ve really needed and appreciated it! It has been a very stressful time for Varya and I, though probably a little less so for Benji, who has faced today with excitement and bravery.

Admission was at 6:30 this morning, then after dressing him in hospital-issue pyjamas (had to bring his own slippers from home — Va and I could not even wear our shoes in the ward!) he was led off with another wee girl to an ambulance which took him to some other part of the hospital for the op. “The little girl was crying for her mummy all the time” he tells us later, “but actually I didn’t cry at all”. He had his “Baby Pom” with him which always makes a difference.

When we came back to see him at 2PM, he was wheeled back into the ward top-n-tail on a stretcher bed with the wee girl! It was so cute... he was straight into the food, told us he had no pain anywhere, and seemed basically completely fine. Wow!


Wednesday 6th April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


What a complete nightmare day this has turned into. Benji’s hospital pre-admission was at 9, but we’d forgotten to pick up his lab results and have his final checks done at the doctor’s. Lucky he opened at 8, so we managed to get everything done in time and get to the hospital in time. Phew. It helps that the GP and the hospital are very close by.

The doc at the hospital is a laugh. Pavel, who was with us to translate, sees him first: “hey, see this guy, he looks like he’s homeless!” he whispers to us conspiratorially. And he does. He’s sitting there, unkempt, in front of an ancient typewriter into which two fingers punch a staccato rhythm. “I’m a victim of socialism”, he proffers by way of explanation for the typewriter over which his fingers dance. “I can’t type, and I can’t speak English.”

After the by-now-almost-expected-part-of-such-meetings “you’re missing a vital piece of paperwork and we can’t proceed” thing gets resolved, we’re away again. Check-in time tomorrow is 6:30AM.

Naturally though, that’s not all. A call to the hospital finance people reveals that they have not heard a word from our health insurers. Panic call to South Africa: GET IT SORTED OUT; they promise to. Later in the day I receive an e-mail from them informing me that they’re about to pay the GP instead of the hospital... then some guy from their up-till-now-unmentioned Prague office calls me and tries to tell me that I have not let him know about the hospital operation at all, so he’s not gonna pay for it; a monumental breakdown of corporate communication between offices if I ever saw one, since their other office had agreed the operation and payment a week ago. Aaaaaaargh!

By now, at the end of the evening I am not only emotional about my son going under the knife in a foreign country, but absolutely ballistic at our insurance company for putting me through extra hell on the eve of the operation. So I’ve just called South Africa and given them a piece of my mind. Even made them phone me back. Feel a bit better now.


Monday 4th April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


Varya, Doreen and I were interviewed today by a reporter from a national Czech women’s magazine called Kvety (“Flowers”) about being missionaries here. Very cordial interview, and Pavel had a chance to share the gospel with the reporter afterwards. Looking forward to seeing the article (and will reprint here if possible!).


Sunday 3rd April 2005, Prague (Steve)

on Charles Bridge

Off to Prague to see some friends over from Scotland for their wedding anniversary. Decided to brave the roads instead of the rails, and very glad we did! It’s a beautiful drive, and quick and easy to do a park’n’ride on the outskirts.

We’re becoming SO Czech... even while being treated to a meal at a restaurant we balk at the cost of a single main course, which back in Ceske Budejovice would pay for all 5 of us. Tom and Carrie insist though, and we bask in the glow of scintillating conversation (at breakneck speed, though Carrie and I resign ourselves to playing only cameo roles), superb wine, and expensive food. Life is good. Thanks T&C!


Saturday 2nd April 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

decorated car

worship night

Steve is reading: The Road to McCarthy / Pete McCarthy
Varya is reading: Around Ireland with a Fridge / Tony Hawks

With both of us reading different travel-related books with strong Irish themes and a taste for the ridiculous, it was inevitable that sooner or later the bizarre would leak into our own reality. And so it happened this morning.

Benjamin came into our room early this morning and said “What’s that on our car?”. Semi-comatose we imagine it must be something a bird did... only later do we look out the window and see Oskar the Octavia bound and trussed like a Christmas turkey... in pink toilet paper! In denial, I head back to my book for a dose of normality. Varya has the distinct feeling of being in a different dimension. We have no idea if this is a case of mistaken identity, whether it’s a practical joke against the local foreigners, or what.

TONIGHT, though, was a different matter. It was a combined-churches praise-and-worship night and it was our church music group planning and playing. Awesome! We must have had close to 70 people cramming the conference room at OM, and the music and singing lifted the roof. We counted people from 5 or 6 different churches, including Catholic, and that’s an amazing sign of unity around here. Seriously. And everyone loved it. One guy said he’s been waiting 20 years for something like this... everyone’s waiting for the next one already... by next time we should have our album finished as well.

At the back of the meeting are two friends, Milan and Pavel, grinning conspiratorially. “How’s your car?????”. Scunners. They had cycled over after midnight last night...

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