czech republic missionaries

Czech Diary, July 2005

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Saturday 30th July 2005, English Camp, Dobra Voda, Sumava mountains (Steve)


Shooting the movie finished yesterday, so today was a 10 hour editing stint to have it ready for tonight. 10 hours editing for 10 minutes of movie. No wonder real movies are so expensive to make. But it came off well. I enjoyed seeing and hearing the audience laughing their way through parts of it, then coming to a shocked silence when they realised what had actually happened. There may be a way I can put some of it on-line, but unfortunately we used copyrighted music on the soundtrack, so it can’t all go up.

Coming to the end of the camp we’re all completely exhausted. But we’ve made loads of new friends, renewed old acquaintances, communicated an awful lot, and used all our reserves of creativity. And a new bunch of people have met Christians who didn’t fit normal stereotypes, who were fun, friendly, willing to talk about their faith, and were above all real.


Friday 29th July 2005, English Camp, Dobra Voda, Sumava mountains (Steve)


Somehow I have turned into “movie man”. Not only are we making a movie, but I’m running a couple of conversation classes for the more advanced English speakers based on movies. Yesterday’s was about the movie “The Hours”, and today, for rather lighter entertainment, it’s “Waking Ned”.

It’s been quite a challenge to fit everything in just one hour. I’ve had to show enough of the movie to give a sense of direction, then pick questions interesting enough to fill the rest of the time. It’s so easy, often, to choose conversation questions that are pretty banal. But at least “The Hours” is meaty, discussing questions of life, power, love, and the will to go on. And the students really got into the discussions — I think they could have gone on for hours. For “Waking Ned”, on the other hand, all they wanted to do was watch the rest of the movie! (Can’t blame them — it’s hilarious).


Thursday 28th July 2005, English Camp, Dobra Voda, Sumava mountains (Steve)


One of the joys of being up in the mountains in the summer is the wild fruit. For the first time in my life I have picked wild blueberries, but there are also wild strawberries and raspberries. Tiny but delicious. Benjamin has really got into the blueberry thing — his hands seem to be permanently stained purpley blue, and his mouth likewise.


Wednesday 27th July 2005, English Camp, Dobra Voda (Steve)

Benji as superman

Filming for the short film has started... today is a scorching hot day, a rest day from English teaching, and we’re all off at a local lake for a picnic and swimming. Benji is having a whale of a time. He has attached himself to some of the Canadians, and delights in playing tricks on people:

“There’s a bear behind you!”

uh... no there isn’t!

“Ha ha, tricked you!” (followed by peals of delighted laughter)


Monday 25th July 2005, English Camp, Dobra Voda, Sumava mountains (Steve)


Varya started her teaching today and felt very confident. I started my film-making class and didn’t feel quite as confident! We’re taking a parable, as we did last year, and remaking it in a Czech context. The parable for this time is the Good Samaritan, and my aim is to make in as film noir.

The first session today was to agree on the plot and main protagonists. My original idea was that the injured person would be a goth (costuming and makeup would be fun), and the Good Samaritan a techno clubber. But it looks like my idea of stereotyping doesn’t work so well in a Czech context, and the group decided that better protagonists would be a prostitute, vs. a bunch of snobby, high-class wine buffs, one of whom would be the Good Samaritan, and the others would just walk on by! Prostitution is a big issue around here, particularly close to the border crossings to Austria and Germany.


Saturday 23rd July 2005, English Camp, Dobra Voda, Sumava mountains (Steve)


All the students arrive tomorrow evening, so we’re sharing the camp with a Rock Musician’s course for a couple of days! The practice drumming on the floor below us didn’t stop till about 3 this morning... but on the other hand it’s cool being surrounded by so many musicians! The tutors are awesome musicians. This evening they had a final concert and invited us to it — unbelievable. Varya reckons that even if there’s no English camp next year, we should just come to the Rock camp instead. Tempting.


Friday 22nd July 2005, Dobra Voda, Sumava mountains (Steve)


This morning’s news was bad. A family from South Africa who were to join OM Czech Republic in September can no longer afford it. They will not come :-( It’s awful to be the guy that passes on the bad news.

This afternoon we drove out here to English Camp 2005. Dobra Voda [“Good Water”] is a few kilometres from Prachatice, in the Šumava mountains. The campers won’t arrive until Sunday night, but it’s great to get together and prepare with the rest of the international team. Our friend Wendy from Neilston in Scotland has come to help us as well, as she’s done an ESL course. It’s so great to see her again (as well as a number of the Canadians who we have got to know over other camps).


Tuesday 19th July 2005, Prague (Steve)


At last I have seen a tax advisor in Prague, specialising in non-profit organisations. We had a meeting today and were able to put to him all the ideas we have had for ways to reduce the amount of tax, social insurance and health insurance that we will have to pay once we become fully formally employed by OM Czech Republic.

Unfortunately the news is bad, really bad. Even my best-case scenarios don’t turn out to be particularly sustainable. And worse, the amount of money that has to be considered as taxable salary for us has to jump by about a third, pushing us into a higher tax band. This isn’t just going to affect us, but also all the people who are supposed to be joining us in the next few months, from various countries. I think some of them won’t be able to make it now. Own own stay here looks pretty iffy.


Friday 15th July 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)

guys do crochet too!
apparently, even guys
can crochet

This week a team from the USA who had helped out at last week’s wonderful Teen Street Central Europe stayed on for an extra week, helping here at OM. We have been so humbled by their willingness to participate in so many outreach activities as well as manual tasks around the OM base.

This week there’s been:

  • a volleyball and pizza night (wonderful to see some people come who were invited specially)
  • several craft afternoons (learning to crochet, do scrapbooking and beading)
  • a music night, where we did some rock’n’roll numbers, some kids songs, and some Christian songs
  • the team did a whole bunch of gardening, and also washing windows in the OM base

Varya did all the organisation for the mission, and it has been great to see how it has all come together. Benjamin too has loved spending time with a couple of the guys. He responds so well to English speakers, and guys in particular.

volleyball at the villa         scrapbooking


Tuesday 5th July 2005, Teen Street Central Europe, České Budějovice (Steve)

the "Teens in Mission" sponsored run, raising funds for young people in Ukraine

Teens In Mission sponsored run
weird and wonderful, preparing for the sponsored run

the teen street band
the awesome worship band

Benjamin is all excited — he’s off to “Kids’ Street” this morning. Hooray for any conference where there’s a children’s programme in English!

Varya and I are nearly stressed out of our skulls though. Today is prayer emphasis day at TeenStreet, and the Czech OM team are organising this one. We’re both doing stations of our own, and the stress of making barbed wire, purchasing strawberries, making bi-lingual sets of instructions, lugging around bags of soil, finding a suitable “soap box”, keeping Benjamin occupied, and getting in early enough for Steve to do the filming for the morning meeting are making us a bit short tempered.

OK, so you’re intrigued: here’s what’s going on. All the young people will be going around the various prayer stations this afternoon. Each station is geared towards a different style or theme for prayer. Varya is doing one on “being soiled by the world”, where the participants have to get their hands dirty in the soil, get a friend to help them clean their hands again, then reflect and pray on how the Lord can cleanse us of our sins. Her other one focusses on Strawberry plants, from seed through to fruit. How beautiful fruit can come from tiny seeds.

I’m doing one on the Persecuted Church. In a covered area just outside the main foyer (and it’s absolutely pouring down with rain outside today) I’m setting out signs saying “Shhhhhh... don’t pray out loud — people are listening!”, “Hide your bible — it’s illegal”, and “Don’t gather in groups — only pray with one other person”. I made some barbed wire and have wrapped it around some candles as a symbol of the persecuted church. And I have a big long chain to use as a prop... I’m using some case studies and stats from Open Doors to help to illustrate the plight of Christians in many countries, and I want to get the teenagers into the “mood” of having to gather in secret to help concentrate the prayers.

My other prayer station is the “Soapbox”. The teens have 1 minute to stand on the soapbox and “gie it laldie” aboot something they feel passionately about, then the rest of their group has to pray with them about that situation or issue.


Later: oh man, how awesome it is to lead people in prayers about something you feel passionate about! The Persecuted Church station was amazing. One group of young people are here from Albania (where officially, there are “No Christians”, even now!), and I wept with them as I led them in prayers for the persecuted Christians of North Korea. They were shocked (how ironic) at the fact that North Korean Christians are regularly put into psychiatric hospitals, labour camps or prisons, and are routinely executed if they refuse to renounce their faith.

There were a few teens who ignored my very clear instructions about not meeting in groups, or were openly carrying bibles. Tut tut. As resident secret policeman I was obliged to wrap the chain around their hands and lead them off for interrogation... play-acting, yes, but a powerful reminder of the serious situations that are faced by so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

A group from the US who are helping at TeenStreet were similarly blown away by the teens’ response to the “dirty hands” station. Must have been good. And even from outside the building I could hear some soapbox orators expounding their views... they obviously got into the spirit of the thing too.

Prayer points: praise for the way that everything is going. The organisation has gone really well, things are running reasonably smoothly.
Praise for the amazing worship band! They are a mixed group from Italy and Birmingham (UK), and they are absolutely amazing. The times of worship are powerful, people are spending time weeping before the Lord, opening their hearts, spending time with God.
Pray that the teaching, presentations and group times will foster lasting change in the teenagers’ lives. Experience with past TeenStreets has been that lasting change can and does happen, but your prayers will be appreciated.
Pray for the programme team as they work towards the next 3 days of programmes.

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