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Czech Diary, March 2005

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Wednesday 30th March 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


Got a call this morning from the health insurers to say that they will cover Benjamin’s adenoid operation. Fantastic! I can’t believe that for the first time in my life I’ll get an insurance payout!


Thursday 24th March 2005, Regen [Germany] (Steve)


Today we drove to Germany for an Easter team retreat. We are meeting up in a place in the mountains with our own team plus OM Hungary and OM Greater Europe (based in Austria).

The place we’re staying in is code-named “Snoopy’s”. Why code-named? Well, the owner is a Baron (remember Snoopy fighting the Red Baron?), but the story is more interesting than that! During the 70’s and 80’s, before the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain fell, this place was a stopping off and reloading point for Bibles and other literature being smuggled across the borders. It’s not that many km’s from the Czech border.

The main group involved in doing the smuggling — the biggest and most successful smuggling team of its time — was based in Austria. When the walls fell, the team transformed into OM Greater Europe, with a huge literature ministry that extends eastwards to almost the borders of China. And several of the original smugglers are here at the camp! Can’t wait to have a chat to them...


Thursday 17th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)

Czech Factoids!

Ever wondered what it’s really like to live here? See our page Life in the Czech Republic.

Spring has Sprung! The temp today reached at least 18°C and the snow is melting fast. Even the little snowy caps sitting on the tops of the 1500 beer barrels outside the brewery next door have melted (just thought you should know that).

Benjamin went to the ENT specialist today to have his hearing etc checked. He was really well behaved as the doc peered into ears, nose and throat. In the audio booth he loved having the headphones on, but as you might imagine the little button on a wire he was supposed to press whenever he heard a sound was much more fun as a general toy, and the doc gave up that particular test :-) [Steve: I’m sure I would have been exactly the same!]

The upshot of the tests is that Benji’s adenoids are to be removed in three weeks’ time (Thurs 7 April) at the local hospital. This should clear up the eustachian tubes, fix the hearing, and most likely reduce the size of the tonsils, helping his snoring. Halelujah!

Whether or not his Banner health insurance will cover this “elective surgery” is another matter. At least the cash price of 10,000Kc (about £UK230) means we just go ahead with it anyway. We’re so relieved that he has a clear diagnosis, and that the health care system here is trustworthy enough to take care of it. We’ll just have to trust God for the money.


Wednesday 16th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)


Got a phone call this morning from our health insurers to say that they won’t cover Benjamin’s consultation with the specialist tomorrow, because it’s “exploratory”. Yeeeeah... so we find our son has a hearing problem, take him to the doctor, are referred to a specialist, and it’s suddenly less urgent? If he has to have his tonsils/adenoids out, is that going to be covered? I am becoming less keen on Banner by the day. At least we’re in a country with a half decent healthcare system, and there shouldn’t be any real problem getting the healthcare we need. That’s surely what matters. Glad we’re not in Central Asia, North or Central Africa, etc etc.

I reflect that in all my life I have never received a payout on any kind of insurance. I have payed umpteen thousand pounds/dollars/whatever into their pockets and never been paid back a cent. Car insurance. Travel insurance. House and contents insurance. Insurance for moving our stuff from the UK to Czech.

(think charitable thoughts about insurance companies think charitable thoughts about insurance companies think charitable thoughts about insurance companies think charitable thoughts about insurance companies think charitable thoughts about insurance companies think charitable thoughts about insurance companies think charitable...)


Tuesday 15th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)


At OM Czech we quite often have visits from people who are considering coming out onto full time mission work, and are exploring the different agencies in Czech and surrounding countries. Today we talked for hours to a couple from the US who are doing just that. It’s always incredible seeing how God calls people in different yet similar ways. “The Call” is sometimes intangible, but always real. It’s a combination of a love for an area or people, a sense of a “pull”, and a sense that God is in control rather than you, and preparing you for this next step.

“Are we weird, thinking all these thoughts, asking all these questions?”. Uh, no.


Monday 14th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)

  We have this doctor-by-email service from a charity in the UK called Medeserve. I wrote to them today about my painful shoulder, and within a few hours get a detailed reply saying that the symptoms perfectly describe a pulled/strained muscle in the shoulder. Now that was easier and cheaper than going to a local doctor here and braving the language barrier!

Saturday 12th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)

Vltava near the OM villa
Vltava river near the OM villa

diehard skiers
diehard skiers

So much for the start of the big thaw today — instead of 10°C it has only reached 5° (still pretty warm, considering), and this morning it snowed moderately.

Varya is bedridden with what we hope is not the return of the flu of a couple of weeks ago.

Friday 11th March 2005, Lipno and České Budějovice (Steve)

It’s still mega snowy in CB, so I and Pavel, a friend from English Classes, headed off to Kramolín in the Šumava mountains for an afternoon’s skiing. I, of course, had done no exercise in advance. Fortunately my sore arm and shoulder has settled down to a mild occasional tingling.

The drive to Kramolín is stunning. Out around the back of Český Krumlov, resplendant in snowy vestments, then up up up into the hills where the winds howl and the driven snow plays and writhes like wispy smoke on the road surface, or sweeps up over the fences like thick spray over a seawall in a force nine gale.

Lake Lipno is thoroughly iced over and under a further half metre of snow. We venture out on it, unnecessarily hesitant on its unyielding surface.

Shortly afterwards we receive a phone call telling us that nearby there are 120km/h winds and heavy snow, approaching fast. Regretfully we turn tail for home, knowing that any deterioration in the weather could trap us in a whiteout on the hills. No skiiing today, though plenty of time for talking.

varya & Benji

Thursday 10th March 2005, České Budějovice (Varya)

Well, it’s not every day that you reach your 35th birthday (oops - I mean 21st birthday, plus VAT!). Benji joined in the pressie opening with great gusto, and I think was a little disappointed that there was nothing for him :0)

We met Steve for lunch in a great CB restaurant, that has a children’s area under the big staircase, and so while I “played” with my new mobile phone, Steve and Benji engaged in car chases under the stairs! Oh, and the food was good too!

Wednesday 9th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)


We’ve started running into trouble with the recording we’re doing at Church for a new CD. Copyright. For the last couple of weeks we’ve been trying to get permission from all the songwriters to record their songs, with mixed success. A couple of songs by Jiny Rytmus in Znojmo are no problem — they just want a copy of the final CD (thanks guys, you rock!). Several others by a guy living close by in Hluboka nad Vltavou have elicited a blanket NO. So one of the star songs on the CD, “Oči mám”, is no longer. I have no idea whether we’ll have permission for another song, a Czech translation of a song by American lyricist and composer, in time for launch in a few weeks. We should have thought of all this far in advance.

For reference: if you want to record a song by someone else, you have to get permission from the translator (if any), the songwriter, and the composer of the music; separately if they are different people. Sometimes permission can be obtained through the rights company if the song writer is well known, but here in the Czech Republic some of the songs are written by “someone from a church in xyz...” and you have to track them down the hard way.

I found a copy of the Czech copyright law in English (why in English?), and it’s actually well written and about the best explanation I have seen in some time of what copyright is all about. It explains the moral and legal principles very clearly and was a good help. See Czech Copyright Law 2000 for details.


Tuesday 8th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)


We took Benji off to the ENT specialist this morning, only to find that the specialist is sick. Rebooked for next Thursday 17th. Meanwhile we’re in constant communication with our health insurer who wants to investigate the fact that Benji failed some hearing tests when he was 8 months old. If the insurer deems that this indicates a prior condition, then they won’t cover any treatments here. And we’re no longer covered by the NHS ’cos we’re not in the UK any more. Great.

On the other hand there’s no way that he could have had a hearing problem all this time, since his speech is so well developed.

Last night I came home from work with a stiff shoulder, which has got really painful and spread to my arm. Slept 3 hours last night and in a lot of pain.


Sunday 6th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve)


Heard on Friday that my Uncle David has just days to live, so was about to call him this morning when I received the call that he has just passed away. It’s been a very hard day today; lots of tears, emotional phone calls to New Zealand. RIP David Brandon, 58, survived by his wife and 3 daughters.


Friday 4th March 2005, České Budějovice (Steve and Varya)


One of Benji’s favourite stories stemming from our trip to Glasgow last month is about 3 trains on the Glasgow Underground — Jimmy, Wullie and Senga [don’t ask!]. As part of the story I tell him all the stations on the Underground line: St George’s Cross, Cowcaddens, Buchanan Street, St Enoch, Bridge Street, West Street, and the rest. Some of them have wonderfully colourful names (St Enoch, Cowcaddens, Cessnock, Giffnock in particular) and really seem to have caught his imagination.

So anyway, Benji tells us this morning “I made up a new word for a station — Saint E-knock-on-the-door!”.

Clever lad.

(Varya) During the week, as an OM team, we have been praying fervently that people would come to tonight’s English Bible Meeting. We prayed especially for two people who are not Christians, but who seem to be steadily inching closer to God. Imagine my delight tonight when these two people were among the first to arrive :0) In the end, we had 17 people squeezed into one half of the OM cafe, for a Bible study on the character of Abraham. An excellent evening!


Thursday 3rd March 2005, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)


snowy morningIt’s just after 6AM and I have decided to write the diary instead of going back to bed.

Standing at the back window I see the thermometer reading -14°C, and the vista outside is starting to come alive.

The sun, not yet visible, has already started to radiate above the horizon, and a band of orange silhouettes stark top branches of the trees.

Mist rises from above the weir on the river; surely the stretch of water beyond is frozen quite solid. Beyond, isolated lights from the hillside around Dobra Voda peer through the haze.

The purpley-blue of the snow covering the football pitch and park reflects the depth of the cloudless sky — in a few minutes it will surely glow yellow, orange then blinding white as the sun makes its entrance.

Winter in České Budějovice.

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