czech republic missionaries

Czech Diary, November 2004

The lowdown on mission life in the Czech Republic
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Sunday 28th November 2004, Home again! Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

We’ve spent the day resting, after yesterday’s long drive home from Hungary (actually, only about 5.5 hours driving time). We’ve needed a rest day like this for so long.
OM Hungary
OM Hungary training centre

playing drums
Zsolt helping Reuben and Benji on the drum kit!

Saturday 27th November 2004, Missionary Training School, Hungary (Steve)

Reflections on Missionary Training School
For the last 2 weeks we’ve been in Budapest, Hungary, having follow-up missionary training. It’s been weird to be away from the Czech Republic — we’ve missed our friends, we’ve missed speaking Czech, and feel like it will take some time to get back into the language again.

(Varya) I was truly amazed at how much I missed the Czech Republic, and some of our friends here. While in Scotland and England, back in August, I hadn’t really wanted to come back to CR, but after being away this time, I began to realise how much like home the CR feels. It’s great to feel much more settled — thanks to those who have prayed and encouraged us. :-)

But it has been amazing to meet up with others who are in missionary teams similar to our own, in nearby countries. In many ways it was a more subdued time than in out first MTS, just before we came out to the Czech Republic. That’s because all of us have gone through some very tough times — some suffer personal abuse (eg Koreans serving in the Balkans), some have had team problems, some severe culture shock, others sickness.

These 2 weeks have also been a fantastic time of spiritual refreshing. I had almost forgotten what good Bible teaching, targetted at me, in my own language, is like. I think that the preaching in our church in the C.R. is probably excellent, but the most I get out of it in Czech is the gist of the outline of the sermon (so far...).

We’ve also enjoyed all the outings here... to the movies, to bowling, to a village, to a pizza restaurant, into Budapest. And childcare! It’s fantastic to see Benji enjoying himself and making new friends.

We really like the way that OM runs these training schools. While some missions agencies require prior theological training, OM is happy to take on people who God has called into mission, irrespective of training, and train them on the job.


Friday 26th November 2004, Missionary Training School, Hungary (Steve)

I finally finish my video of the MTS (“Director’s Cut”) and show it to everyone tonight on the big screen. Cool :-) I am still so impressed with Apple’s iMovie, and I am gaining converts to Apple Macintoshes. People can hardly believe that I can use a meagre 667MHz laptop, and just plug a digital video camera straight into it and edit a semi-professional video. Thanks Apple :-) Of course, we don’t actually have a digital video camera of our own, so if anyone would like to donate... I am starting to get more requests for doing promotional videos (eg the Czech team, the Hungarian team, and the MTS) but don’t have a video camera to do it with.

Thanksgiving night

Thursday 25th November 2004, Missionary Training School, Hungary (Varya)

Preparations for tonight’s American Thanksgiving celebration took many hours. All of the Americans worked really hard preparing delicacies such as apple pie; “pecan” pie (with walnuts, as no pecans could be found in Hungary!); stuffing; mashed potato; choc mint pie and the most ENORMOUS turkey that I had ever seen. The dining room was beautifully decorated with candles. Before our meal we heard readings from the Bible thanking God for His goodness, and we then sang “Give thanks”, while holding sparklers. Benji’s face was a picture of delight! It was a truly magical time. . .

Most of us non-Americans had never attended a Thanksgiving meal before, and it really felt as if we were extended family members being welcomed back into the bosom of the family. It was awesome. . .

Benji in window, Szentendre
Benjamin in window, Szentendre

Sunday 20th November 2004, Missionary Training School, Hungary (Steve)

All us MTS guys went off to a Baptist church in Budapest this morning, where they were having a Brazilian day! Very international. [this MTS includes people from Argentina, New Zealand, the UK, Holland, South Africa, Hungary, the USA, Romania and Korea; all working in different countries in Central Europe, the Balkans and Greece]. We sang “Our God is an Awesome God” in as many languages as we could manage :-)

Yesterday a bunch of us went off to a Hungarian village called Szentendre, to see what traditional villages are supposed to look like. It snowed heavily and we retired to a coffee shop instead of doing much walking... oh well...


Friday 19th November 2004, Missionary Training School, Hungary (Steve)

In a freak storm this afternoon we saw a large, heavy swimming pool cover fly from over the next door fence and somersault over all the cars in the OM Hungary carpark. Oskar included. When we are able to go outside we see that Oskar is OK, but one of the other cars has been bashed. Man...


Tuesday 16th November 2004, Missionary Training School, Hungary (Steve)

It’s becoming a bit of a habit — I am going to make a promotional video about MTS. I’m also leading the worship and singing here some mornings (glad we brought the keyboard with us). :-)

The Bible teaching here is awesome. In the mornings we’re having an in-depth look at the (often considered difficult) Old Testament book of Judges, and in the afternoons we’re learning study methods as we study through the book of John. Varya and I are not the only ones here who have been starved of good regular Bible teaching while out “on the field” (because church for us is basically a difficult Czech lesson). We’re all loving the spiritual input we’re receiving.

Budapest by night
Budapest by night

Monday 15th November 2004, Missionary Training School, Hungary (Steve)

Childcare! Benjamin is being well looked after along with about 5 other kids, and having a fantastic time! He’s getting on particularly well with his friend Reuben who he hasn’t seen since February. So Varya and I can both attend the seminars together. Wow!

Tonight we took a trip into Budapest itself. Simply put, it’s awesome. The Danube river divides the two towns (“Buda” and “Pest”), and the views from the castle across the river and bridges to the Parliament buildings are breathtaking.


Sunday 14th November 2004, Erd, Budapest, Hungary (Steve)

No snow today! The weather as we drive our way to Vienna and on to Hungary is fine and cold, and we’re grateful for the clear (and very quiet) roads.

Roads... the motorways from Vienna to Budapest are top class, and we cruise at the top speed of 130km/h. Despite not speaking Hungarian I have a feeling I see a sign requiring the purchase of a “motorway sticker” (vignette) which I didn’t know about, so, relieved, we purchase one over the border (they are also required in Austria, which we were prepared for).

Streets... once we turn off the main streets in Erd (a fairly wealthy suburb judging by the housing) to get to the training base, all the streets are unsealed! Huge potholes, narrow streets, deep ditches, all requiring a good deal of swerving in order to protect the car exhaust... Hungary is so enigmatic.

It’s amazing to see some of the folks with whom we did training before we got to the Czech Republic. They have all had experiences at least as tough as ours, and that’s pretty humbling.

Benji and Grampa
Benji and Grampa

Friday 12th November 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Tonight Benji was talking, and mentioned “pani ucitelko”. This is not a phrase we have taught him, but means “Mrs Teacher”, the polite phrase he would use to address his teacher at skolka. Wow! I was so surprised to hear him use it so confidently. He really must be learning Czech and starting to use it... this morning when I dropped him off at skolka a wee group of girls and boys rushed to the door to greet him, saying “Benjik” or “Benjaminek” (can’t quite remember which diminutive...) and looking really happy to see him. It is so encouraging to see the friendships and language coming together for him!

Meanwhile we’re preparing to drive off to Budapest in Hungary on Sunday for 2 weeks of Missionary Training School. Will probably be a long drive (6+ hours?), may well be snowing, and we’re all very tired. Final preparations today have involved double-checking the need for Hungarian visas (none required for New Zealanders, UK citizens or Koreans [we’re taking a Korean girl with us]), and trying all the major on-line route planners for reliable maps and information on how to get there. Finally settled on the Michelin guide though none of them could give explicit directions to the exact destination address. Finally, a Hungarian language mapping site gave me a map of the final destination. Phew. Don’t want to get lost in a strange country, strange city, in the snow, with upset 3-yr old on a winter’s night :-Z

In Prague
Douglas and Varya in a Prague market (old town square)

Thursday 11th November 2004, Prague (Steve)

Today we took a day off work and took the train to Prague for the day. The lying snow (first snow of the winter!) of a few days ago petered out close to Prague, but Prague was still a bit grey and chilly.

Still, the weather did not disrupt the important activity of shopping! English books at a new big bookshop on Wenceslas Square, a big record shop, and great for Varya and I: Debenhams, Marks & Spencers, and C&A! Yeah, I know, why get excited about British stores in a foreign country (and honestly, we don’t lust over these generally), but after months without being in big comfortable shops with which we are familiar, it was like an oasis.


Tuesday 9th November 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Didn’t mention this last Sunday: Varya’s Dad has come over to visit us, driving from Switzerland (after driving from England!). Amongst other interests, he’s into Bollywood (Indian) films in a big way, so tonight Varya invited around 3 of her girl friends and we watched the film Andaaz together. Quite long, as is the way with Bollywood movies, but a good story, colourful, and fun. A good introduction to Bollywood for our friends, too. And Varya’s Dad was in his element, introcing new people to his interests.

I was thrilled today to receive from the USA a replacement battery for my beloved Apple “TiBook” laptop. Life’s not the same when you have to keep it plugged it in all the time. I’m used to having it in sleep mode continually, so I can flip it open at a moment’s notice, to show/edit/file/email some photos, play some music, edit some web pages, find an address, work on a presentation... with no battery you just can’t use it in the same way, and it sucks. Now I have well over 3 hours of on-time, plus days of sleep time between recharging. Life is good again.


Sunday 7th November 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

Looking after six children (aged between 3 and 7 years old) on a Sunday morning, for about an hour and a half, is a challenge. Throw into the mixture two squabbling siblings, various pleas for more food, just as we run out — oh, and a language barrier. While I (often) enjoy being with the children while the church service runs, there is a limit to what we can achieve together with me referring to a dictionary constantly, and them becoming increasingly frustrated with this adult who appears not to understand them NO MATTER HOW LOUD THEY SPEAK!!

doing a quiz
doing a quiz

Friday 5th November 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Stephen)

Tonight was another English Class party — a chance for the students and teachers to get together in the cafe and get to know each other better. At times like this I’m just amazed at how perfect the cafe space is for such gatherings. The first party was a highly organised games night, but this time it was a more relaxed occasion; a cafe night with a few quizzes and get-to-know-each-other activities mixed in. Much better.

Being the 5th of November, one of the quiz questions was about why tonight was celebrated in the UK, Aussie and NZ. Why? Because someone by the name of Guy Falkes once attempted to blow up the parliament buildings on this night, was caught and burned at the stake, and now this is the one sanctioned night for fireworks displays, bonfires, and burning effigies called “Guys”. When you put it like that, it’s no wonder that someone commented “I thought the Czechs were the only ones with crazy reasons for celebrations...”

In Krumlov
us in Cesky Krumlov this afternoon

Thursday 4th November 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Stephen)

What a fabulous day! My usual gym partner, P, has invited another friend M to join us. He introduced me to his friend last week as “this is Stephen, who is a missionary”. Hmmm. Not the way I usually introduce myself! I met P at the English camp in the summer, he’s now one of our English students. He’s not a Christian, and we haven’t yet had any conversations about anything spiritual.

Anyway. Today P tells me “M has got a question for you”. M (in Czech): “What does a Missionary do in the Czech Republic?”. So, all of a sudden, the long awaited opening develops, and I have quite a lengthy conversation with both of them about beliefs, Jesus, how they are seriously put off by the Catholic church, cults (there are JWs and Mormons here in Ceske Budejovice), and how OM is made up of very normal Christians from a number of different denominations. And I actually spoke most of the time in Czech! Please pray...


Tuesday 2nd November 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Varya)

It’s important to have time to relax and let your hair down . . . so with this in mind, I invited three friends around (one Irish girl, one Northern Irish, and one Czech - two of us are Christains, the other two not) (yet?), and we talked, laughed, watched a movie together and imbibed some rather fine fruit of the vine. Aaaahhh . . . life is good :0)


Monday 1st November 2004, Ceske Budejovice (Steve)

Monday’s my biggest day; we get Benji to kindergarten (skolka) by 8AM, we’re in to devotions at work for 8:30, I go to the gym for a couple of hours, I prepare all my lessons for the evening, then teach from 5-8:30PM.

I knew that today I’d meet someone who’s doing a 1-week missions exposure trip to see if he might come and work with us next year. Little did I know that he’s a fellow Kiwi, who greeted me in Maori! He helped out with all the English lessons tonight which was great. I enjoyed the conversation class especially, where we tried doing a chain story where each person has to add a sentence to a story, and it gets more and more crazy as it goes around the class. Great fun, and we managed to actually get everyone talking!

lots more interesting news and pictures - read our older diary pages: Sep 2003 - Jan 2004 May 2004 Aug 2004
Feb - Mar 2004 Jun 2004 Sep 2004
Apr 2004 Jul 2004 Oct 2004

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