czech republic missionaries

Diary, September 2003 to January 2004

The lowdown on preperation for mission life in the Czech Republic
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Benji at Gran’s

Sunday 18 January 2004, Neilston, Scotland

Moving house is one of the oft-quoted "3 most stressful things in life"; now we are experiencing it for ourselves. We managed to find a removal company that will do our stuff for £1700 instead of £3300, and they allow us to do our own packing. The living room is now a hive of industry, with huge tea-chest sized cartons being assembled, inventoried and filled. The previously busy walls are now devoid of pictures, and rows of nail-sized holes inhabit the spaces in which they used to hang.

Our wonderful news of the day is that we have a family to stay with when we get to the Czech Republic. About 20km (12.5 miles) from our team base, in a tiny village called Svaty Jan nad Malši ("St John on the Malshi"). We’re to stay with a couple and their five children, but that’s all we know! Pavel, our team leader, will visit them this week and let us know more details. It’s really great news, and closer to base than the other potential host was.

Leaving our friends, jobs, colleagues and church has been harder than we imagined, particularly for Varya. We’ve had so many going away events...

  • our fabulous "Bon Voyage" party last weekend at the QP Crypt—expected about 30, had over 65 there
  • our send-off from the Neilston church-folk and friends this afternoon—over 25 there, and quite emotional as we said farewell and thanks to our friends
  • our commissioning service from QP this morning, where we shared for the last time about our calling and our reasons for making such a big move. Queen’s Park has been extremely supportive of us, and we have made many friends there. We are glad that being "sent out" is not the same as being "sent away", and we know that the church is behind us 100%.

Thank you to all of our friends and supporters who have been behind us every step of the way. We appreciate you and value your kindness and encouragement.


Wednesday 7 January 2004, Neilston, Scotland

News flashes: all kinds of things are up in the air at the moment.

  • all of a sudden we find that our financial support minimum target is not £1015, but £1200 per month. We now have about £780 of this, but our faith is being tested! The Lord answers prayers though. Just after praying about it we opened our e-mail to find two more pledges for support. Fantastic!
  • if anyone is considering regular support has yet to contact us, could you please get in touch? And if you feel that the Lord is laying the work in the Czech Republic on your heart, and you could financially support us, then also please get in touch.
  • we have been reading about cultural adaptation and bonding with a new culture, and feel that our first couple of months in the Czech Republic should be spent staying with a Czech person rather than getting a flat of our own straight away. Our new boss agrees that it’s a good idea as long as we can find someone, so we’ve put out some feelers. There are already a couple of possibilities, but they could be in a smaller town a bit of a way from Ceske Budejovice. Please pray for this situation!

the old and the new: Christmas in Birmingham

Monday 5 January 2004, Neilston, Scotland

Christmas and New Year took on an added poignancy this year. We drove down to Derby (6 hrs + stops) to see Varya’s Mum and Dad, and knew at every point that we were doing "lasts". The last Christmas in the UK for some time. The last drive down and back up again to Scotland. The last Hogmanay (New Year) in Scotland. Somehow it didn’t seem too sad though, as we’re already planning for various family members to come and see us in the Czech Republic throughout the year.

For Benjamin, this Christmas was "Car Christmas". Almost every present consisted of cars! He must have at least 30 vehicles of various shapes and sizes now... how are we going to ship them all over?

As usual, Christmas in Derby comprised rich food, trips to wonderful places (circus at Great Yarmouth, the new "Bull Ring" shopping centre in Birmingham, and a night in a gorgeous B&B in Norfolk), and real quality time spent with family and family friends. We are so grateful to God that we didn’t go to the Czech Republic last August as originally planned, and had a chance to spend very special time with family.

It’s now Monday and Varya and I are both back to work. It’s a bit of a shock to the system.

Calendar Girls, Christian style!

Sunday 14 December 2003: Neilston, Scotland

Tonight was the night for our NCF Christmas Special. (NCF - Neilston Christian Fellowship - is a group of local Christians, from various churches, who meet monthly for fellowship, and a short service. We’ve been involved in running several Alpha courses, and Discipleship courses over the last few years.)

We enjoyed several sketches from one of the home groups: an interesting take on the Calendar Girls film, that saw one of the company sporting a garter. Only problem was that he had rather hairy legs. . . !?

Steve and I have been asked to speak at the meeting next month, as it will be our last one (gulp!). Time really is galloping by as we prepare for our move. . . .

frosty in Glasgow...

Sunday 14 December 2003: Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands

"Bring your scarf, hat, gloves and ice skates" the e-mail said. With some anticipation, I imagined that Den Haag (The Hague) was going to be full of people zipping around on frozen canals. Alas, the Netherlands are just like Scotland in winter—sometimes cold, dreech, drizzly and dark. No ice this weekend.

Gliding along in the train towards Den Haag, I see wet, empty roads side by side with low narrow canals, together mirroring the leaden skies. The countryside is flat, almost monotonous, and the occasional car surprises me as it appears to float by on a waterway.

I’m over here for a short weekend (06:15AM flight from Glasgow yesterday), as part of some work I am doing for a European project called MusicWeb. My flight back to Glasgow is delayed again (when was the last time I had a flight leave on time?).

Breaking news while waiting in the airport lounge though: Saddam has been captured; CNN is playing softly on an overhead TV. A crowd gathers, mingles, a mixture of intrigue, excitement and ambivalence on their faces. One man mutters "[well it’s] good for Bush", evidently not thrilled. "Good for Iraq too" I proffer, but he turns back to his paper.


Sunday 7 December 2003: Neilston, Scotland

Ooops, spoke too soon on Friday about the lack of frosts. Had a real beauty this morning :-)

Benjamin, Stephen G & Sam

Saturday 6 December 2003: Paisley, Scotland

We had a wonderful day today with our friends the Gurlings—went down to "The Lagoon", a swimming pool and leisure centre in Paisley. Benjamin was born on the same day as Sam, and they’re great friends with each other. It’s great to see baby Mia developing. Steve got very broody when giving her a cuddle...

Tonight we sat down and tried to work out where we’re at with all our planning. Still to do: going down to England for Christmas; a leaving party; selling the car and lots of other items; visa applications; getting to Mosbach in Germany (easier said than done). All three of us are loaded up with colds, and badly in need of rest and sleep, but we can’t quite see how we’re going to get that over the next few weeks :-(

Friday 5 December 2003: Neilston, Scotland

Maybe there is something to this Global Warming thing, after all. So far this winter we have hardly had a single frost, and for a place up in the hills as we are in Neilston, that’s pretty amazing for December. There have been some gorgeous, clear, mild days, and some pretty misty ones too, but so far, no frost. Can’t wait for the sharp winter days in the Czech Republic! (providing the global warming thing hasn’t hit them there too!)

Adventure of the week: coming to grips with all the bureacracy required to get a visa to the Czech Republic. For the first time in my life, a plain old New Zealand birth certificate will not be enough to satisfy someone of my birth date: I need to apply to NZ to get a new one with a particular seal on it, then send it to the NZ government to get an "apostille" certificate for it. And that’s just the start! I have to do something similar for a "police certificate", and both Varya and myself have to get police certificates from the UK police too. At least we know it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Finally we’re starting to get replies back from our last mailout, from people pledging prayer and financial support. Phew! Support levels now around £750 per month, aiming for minimum £1015. Please keep praying for us! And if you’ve been thinking about financial support and haven’t told us yet, please get in touch and put us out of our misery :-)

New website for the week: Steve got a call out of the blue to do this one. A couple of days work for a really interesting company who arrange foreign nurses to work in the UK, and do lots of other work in minority ethnic communities, especially in Glasgow.

Stephen showing Frank McAveety, the Minister for Culture in the Scottish Parliament, how the new Scottish Music Centre web site works

Friday 28 November 2003: Neilston, Scotland

What a week, this week. Lots of news to report:

  • We’re not going to Hungary after all for our Missionary Training School, before we go to the Czech Republic. Due to lack of numbers, we’ll be going to Germany for 10 days instead, starting on 28 January 2004. We’re a little bit disappointed, but it’s great to have a definite arrival date now though!
  • Amazingly, Queen’s Park church are giving us quite a lot more support than we thought they might. A much needed boost to our finances—we’re up to about 2/3 of target now. Fantastic!
  • Varya’s Mum was up for the weekend last weekend, and Benji loved every minute of it! "We’re good pals!" he kept saying :-)
  • Stephen’s big claim to fame for the week was the site launch of a huge project he’s been involved with for almost 2 years. The Scottish Music Centre web site was launched by Scotland’s Minister for Culture in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Stephen has done much of the database programming and project management, as well as some of the web design. What a relief to see it all live.
  • Varya has been hard at work sorting out boxes of things to give away or to take with us. Steve is glad she’s so organised... :-)

back garden, looking tidy!

Friday 14 November 2003: Neilston, Scotland

Yippee, we’ve sold our house!

The house was only on the market for 1 week, and we had 4 people come and look around it before we received an offer we decided to accept. Amazingly, we almost doubled the price that we paid for it, only 5 years ago. We had lots of great comments about how the place looks, so we feel that all our hard work was worthwhile.

  • Many thanks to everyone who has prayed for our house sale. We really appreciate it! The new owner has a child of about Benjamin’s age, so we are thrilled to think of Benji’s room having another little boy in it.
  • Time is flying by. With a departure date of about the 27th January, we have only about 10 weeks to go!
  • Finances: we are starting to receive more pledges, but we’re still not quite half way to our target of £1015 per month. Please remember to pray for our financial situation, and that God will release more finances in our direction.

Sunday 2 November 2003: Neilston, Scotland

It’s been a big week this week.

  • Benjamin has just learned the question "Why?". Please pray for Varya and I!
  • We finally managed to get some letters notarised, giving the Czech team power of attorney for getting our work permits. Hopefully this week’s mail strike in the UK won’t prevent the documents getting through to C.R.
  • And at last our house is on the market! Yesterday (Saturday) was a mad rush to get the back hedge trimmed, the rest of the back lawn mown, and massive amounts of clearing up done in the back garden. Varya even painted the garage door, but it got rained on last night and has turned out a bit of a mess :-( Oh well, another coat this week should fix it.
  • People are starting to find this site on the search engines (particularly Google). It’s amazing what people search for, then find us - "work permits seoul south korea" (finds this page), "operation mobilisation", "atheists czech republic", "ceske budejovice flat" and others. If you’ve stumbled across this site from doing a search, please stick around and read our story!

Autumn leaves, Glasgow

Thursday 23 October 2003: Neilston, Scotland

I’m watching a tv program called "Does Prayer Work?" while writing this. It’s a scientific study comparing the progress of heart patients undergoing angioplasty; some who are being prayed for at the time, and some who are not (double blind test).

So far it looks like prayer is winning! Which is just as well, since we have some prayer points for you!

  • we’re just starting the process of applying for work permits and Visa to get into the Czech Republic. It’s the job of OM to apply for the work permit for us, then once we have that then it’s up to us to apply for the Visa.
  • it can be a very tricky process to get the work permit. Please pray for the Czech OM team that they’ll get all the paperwork right, and for the local officials, that they will look kindly on the application!
  • all going well we’ll get the work permits during December. We also have to have translated and notarised degree certificates etc, and loads of other stuff. We have to then apply for the the visas in person, in London, and it can take even up to a couple of months to come through... by which time we will be in Hungary (till early March). Will it all come through in time? Please pray!

Thanks everyone!


Wednesday 22 October 2003: Luton Airport, England

Writing from another airport lounge, this time I am returning from a 2 day work trip to London. I’m missing Varya and Benjamin terribly. Plane delayed by an extra half hour. Won’t get home till close to midnight, and might not even see Benjamin awake tomorrow morning. I miss him so much!

Sunday 5 October 2003: Seoul, South Korea

Praise the Lord - today was everything that we had hoped a brief stopover in South Korea to be. We arrived from Auckland on an overnight flight (there’s only a 3 hr time difference) getting in at 5:30 AM. Having been here 2 weeks ago we knew exactly what to expect - the right bus to catch for the hotel, the right stop to get off, what to expect in the hotel.

We had hoped that we’d be able to check into the hotel early since we were so tired this morning. Normal checkin 1PM. So we prayed as we came in on the bus, and sure enough, a room was made available at 8:30 for us! A few hours sleep later and we were ready to hit the town.

Our first plan was to visit one of the huge markets in Seoul, but our journey there took us past the Korean War Memorial - a huge museum and park. That definitely piqued our interest, so we flagged the markets and spent the avo at the Musuem instead. Very interesting.

This weekend is also the Itaewan International Festival, and a lot of the action was right next to our hotel, so we spent ages there too - listening to live Korean pop/traditional ballads, eating curries, and Benjamin being admired by hordes more Koreans. Glad we don’t live here - we’re sure it would go to his head!

Last but not least we plucked up enough courage to go into a proper Korean restaurant for dinner. We chose the dishes, but then they were cooked in front of us over a charcoal brazier in the middle of our table! Awesome. Back to the UK, and normal food, tomorrow :-(



Sunday 28 September 2003: Natan and Maria’s wedding day, Wanganui, New Zealand

"We just want this to be a simple wedding..." - my Mum’s words still ringing in my ears. As Varya puts it, "there’s nothing simple about doing the entire wedding yourselves!". A better description may have been "informal", which it certainly was.

What a day, what a wedding. We’ve been working on this solidly since Wednesday, putting up the marquee, decorating, getting lighting stacks and a huge generator in place, our wonderful neighbours providing meals, and no-one seeming to stop for a breath. A real family effort.

And now Maria and Natan are married, and have been sent off in their "highly decorated" car on honeymoon.

The ceremony had a substantially Jewish/Israeli flavour, since Natan is an Israeli, but also strongly Christian since they are both Christians too. One highlight was the blowing of huge ram horns (shofar) as the bride arrived - calls and responses from shofarim inside and outside the tent. Reminded us a bit of all the weddings we’ve been to in Scotland with the bride being piped in on the bagpipes.

Because Natan’s parents couldn’t make it over from Israel, Stephen took a number of photos on the digital camera and made them into web pages, in the gap between wedding and reception. So by about 9AM Jerusalem time, just a couple of hours after the wedding, the pictures were available to Natan’s family. Isn’t technology wonderful sometimes?

Did I mention the weather? For much of today it has been bucketing down with rain, though with some clear spells. It didn’t dampen spirits too much as we were mostly too hyper to notice it. And we were blessed with the loan of lots of huge umbrellas from - gulp - a local funeral home! No-one seemed to notice the writing on the brollies, thank goodness!




Tuesday 23 September 2003: arrival in New Zealand


Mental note to self: never take 2 year old child on a long haul flight again, at least without the aid of sedatives for all concerned!

Korean Air was excellent, except for giving contradictory advice about whether Benjamin could sleep at our feet during the flight. For the first 11 hour flight from London to Seoul they didn’t mind him being there, and as a result he had a good night’s sleep (and so did we). For the second 11 hour flight from Seoul to Auckland, they would not let him be at our feet, and as a result he would not settle at all - when up on the seat he wanted to be down, when down he wanted to be up, he would not sleep, and the stewards always wanted him to be up. Aaargh! Even Calpol did not work its usual wonders. Night flights are great if you manage to sleep, and awful otherwise.

Seoul for a day and a night was interesting, though far more expensive than we had imagined. At least we got a flavour of the place so we’ll spend more targetted time on the way back. Enduring memory was of everyone gawping at Benji... gazing at him, making little noises to attract his attention, coming up and stroking him on the head and chatting to him in Korean. Unusually he was pretty shy with people instead of his usual flirting...

So finally we’re in New Zealand again for 2 weeks, for the wedding of my sister Maria to Natan. Staying with my brother Michael and his family tonight, then driving down to Wanganui in convoy with them tomorrow (6-7 hours incl stops).




Wednesday 17 September 2003, around midnight


Wow, we’re getting the first pages up on the web. Quite a feat, even though it’s Steve’s day job! This blog is to be updated regularly, and form part of our communications strategy.

Major accomplishment of the evening was finishing off the two prayer letters (UK edition and NZ edition) that we need to get sent off as soon as possible. Time is running out before we fly off to New Zealand on Saturday for Steve’s sister Maria’s wedding, and we want to be able to give prayer letters out to all the family.

Tomorrow we were planning to have the real estate agents around to value the house so we can put it on the market in a few weeks time, but looks like we’ve run out of time for that just now.



Varya, Ewan and Benji

Saturday 13th September 2003

After leaving the OM conference in de Bron (Netherlands) we’re back at Varya’s Mum’s place. It’s so great to have time to truly relax, after a frenetic couple of weeks! Varya’s brother Ewan is unexpectedly here too, and we’ve had an awesome day all together at a park near Derby. The weather is still really warm, and I got some great pictures of us all.


Friday 12th September 2003

Left de Bron at about 11AM for Amsterdam. Was hard to say goodbye to some wonderful friends we have made over the last 2 weeks. Will Benji ever see his new wee friends Liliane and Mariane again? We’d love to re-introduce them in, oh, say 15 years time!

At Amsterdam we met a bunch of others leaving the conference. One person was having a really difficult time getting the airline staff to allow her to her destination with only a 1-way ticket. Strictly not allowed - must have return ticket (despite prior advice); they would be fined if they allowed her to board! She asked Varya to pray, though I was just about to lend the required 120 Euros... not long afterwards the airline staff contacted their main office, and couldn’t believe the advice they got: "allow passenger to embark". IMPOSSIBLE had turned into POSSIBLE. Awesome God!

Left Varya at the airport to have a rest, and decided to go into Amsterdam with Benjamin and another friend, to see the sights we had missed out on earlier. Really enjoyed our brief time in the city. Interested by all the sweet herbal aromas emanating from various cafes...

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