Jun 4, 2009

May 2009 Update

It is good to give thanks to the Lord … How great are your works, O God, your thoughts are very deep. Psalm 92:1, 5

Dear friends and family

Warm greetings and hugs from Czech Republic, land of fresh bread, goulash and a beautiful spring. Since our last update we’ve settled down into a daily routine and begun to simply enjoy being here. Here is some of our life. And if you don’t have time to read the whole tome, just go down to the prayer update to get the highlights.

visas and finances

Well, the visa saga has finally ended in the last few days. Last week we each had half-hour interviews at the Foreign Police office to confirm that we were really married and knew the details of our wedding and life together (ie. that it wasn’t a marriage of convenience). Fortunately we got most of the details right – all you newly engaged couples, make sure to remember the details J. This Monday, as we were walking together to Bethel for Miro to start work, we got a phone call from the Foreign Police that we needed to do more paperwork. When we got there, they told us our housing situation wasn’t clear and needed another change. So, dejected, we left the office. But lo and behold, five minutes later they called and said that it was a mistake, that Christy could just come and get her temporary residence permit. And so, half an hour later Christy had her residence permit in hand. Surprisingly, it is valid for five years, until May 2014. The very same day Miro finally got his Czech ID card which allows him to travel all over the European Union (EU). We celebrated with calling some of the folks here and having schnitzel and gulash. It’s been such a long journey for us, that it was almost unbelievable. So the long and short is that we will be here until Dec.10 with no more visits to the Foreign Police. We are so thankful to God.

Financially God has graciously provided for us through so many of you - our budget goal of $19,220 has been met and exceeded by more than $1400! Thanks to each of you and each church family that has so generously supported our work here in Czech Republic. For those who haven’t given yet, but were planning on giving, please feel free to support another ministry.

reaching out to Czech people

We’ve been busy with various weekly activities: Miro’s 5 English courses ranging from beginners to advanced, Christy’s class for parents with their 5-8 year old children, Christy tutoring Sarka and her two daughters in English, and Miro and Christy each doing Czech/English language exchanges. In addition we had a Canadian Easter presentation in April (about 20 people came) and a visit to the Usti Zoo in May (about 10 people came). Right now the churches in the area are gearing up for the LIFE festival on June 20th, with which Miro has given a hand (li-fe2009.blogspot.com). Christy is assisting ShineBean, a non-profit ministry that helps the poor in Kenya, with paperwork to get legal non-profit status in Kenya (www.shinebean.org/en.html).

The first few months in Czech we spent so much time just settling down and doing visa application work. Now in the last 4-6 weeks we are refocusing on why we’re here - to reach out spiritually to Czechs through friendships and outreach activities. This has meant just spending more time over coffee, on hikes and casual meetings. Because we are foreigners, sometimes there is more of an openness to spiritual conversations. For example, back in April Miro was getting off a bus and started up a conversation with a Vietnamese man, Duc, with whom we’ve been connecting slowly. This friendship is really growing as this week in honour of Children’s Day he brought over a toy elephant for Isaiah. Last week Christy went to one of our favorite local coffee shops and spent an hour talking with the server (mostly in Czech!). Pray that we would have courage to take the opportunities as they come! Its interesting to note, that Czech on the surface seem quite cold and distanced. For example people do not strangers on the street, or even at the Mother’s Centre where we take Isaiah to play with other preschool children. But once you are invited into their lives, they open up through hospitality and warmth.

life in Czech

Just a brief note about life here in Czech. Similar to Canada, politically there has been a minority government for a while. In April it fell and a temporary government was installed until fall elections. In 2004 Czech Republic joined the EU, a union of 27 European countries working together to create an economic and political force on the world scene. When I asked my grandmother what she thought of being part of the EU, she spoke of it quite negatively, saying that it harkened back to former Czech subordination under the Austrian-Hungarian empire. Other people seem to be divided on being engaged with day-to-day happenings. The publically funded TV news and radio shows focus a lot on politics. However, when I talked to my English language tutor Jitka, a young 29-year-old, she said she didn’t have a clue about the politics in Czech or EU and didn’t really care about it. In my advanced English class, the students were more aware, but felt powerless to really do a whole lot.

On a different note, gardens are a core part of Czech life. Since most towns are houses, low-rise apartments and high-rises, all clumped closely together, there is relatively little space for people to have a garden. So most people own a garden plot somewhere else, usually within a few kilometers of home. Once April roles around, they spend weekends there planting, tilling and growing fruit trees and vegetables. Ironically, salads and veggies are not a major part of most Czech diets. For example, lunch is the major meal of the day, and you’re lucky if it’s more than meat and potatoes. Czech people are quite generous with what they have - recently on a visit to one family who keep bees, we were blessed with a jar of their honey, while a couple weeks later someone gave us a bottle of dandelion honey to help Isaiah with his cold.

Culturally there are some different holidays here. Easter is mostly about celebrating spring coming, at the end of April there is a straw witch burning and May 1 is a worker’s holiday (connected with labour movements). Finally each day of the year is a name birthday, where different Czech names are celebrated. In March was Miroslav day, so my cousin presented me with a bottle of wine and kisses.

Finally the geography around Litomerice is simply beautiful. On one side are the farms and fields of flat prairies, extending all the way to Prague. On the other side, the town is bordered by the Central Mountains, a low mountain range that extends north for 150km. We’ve been on various hikes that reveal a gorgeous landscape. Plus how many ticks a person can get – two weeks ago on a hike where we had to go through various fields and woodlands, we ended up getting 5 ticks between the two of us. Yikes!

family life

It’s been such a pleasure to visit family here in Czech Republic. Every Thursday I head off with Isaiah to visit my 86 year old grandmother and her two cats. She usually hosts us with some Czech delicacy such as wieners, baked goodies, goulash and candies. My cousin, Ivanka, and her family have warmly invited us into their lives, so that almost every week we are usually connecting in some way –a BBQ in their backyard, a walk to Terezin (a former concentration camp just a few kilometers from here) or visits at her office on the main square. In May we headed off for the weekend on a 3 hour train ride to my aunt Kveta’s house, where we feasted on BBQ chicken, much laughter and a wonderful walk.

Family wise Isaiah is such a joy to us. We speak to him in Czech (Miro) and English (Christy). Although he has yet to say any words, he obviously understands both languages. He’s a great walker, he has 10 teeth, and knows various sign language vocabulary, especially “I want” and then pointing at what he wants. Last week our downstairs neighbour called Isaiah a little cricket. At first I thought this was a note of affection, until I realized that he was emphasizing how a small creature can make so much noise! Oops – we put down a rug onto our ceramic floor kitchen to soften his cricket sounds. Isaiah also loves us chasing him as we say, “I’m going to get you”; his giggles are magical. It’s cute how he will pull out a book and bring it to you, asking that you spend time with him. And this last week he has finally learned how to wave goodbye, now to everybody he sees. Yesterday Christy said, when he is in his stroller, he looks like the Queen in her chariot, as he waves to one and all. And hair-wise, we’re taking him for his first ever haircut (which is bound to be an ordeal in Czech or English), the result being that he will lose his precious curls!

We’ve all had colds the last 8 weeks, with Isaiah visiting his first Czech doctor and us trying to navigate how to get over-the-counter drugs (why can’t you get Fisherman’s Friends here?) at the local pharmacy.

Back in Canada, my mother is going through her second bout of cancer treatment. At the same time my parents are moving slowly to their new home. In February Christy’s mom broke her ankle and then in April got pneumonia, and is still recovering from both. We are looking forward to a two-week visit from Christy’s parents in July. Also my sister and Christy’s sister each had a baby in the last two months, so we’re missing them even without having met them.

And finally, because our Sunday church experience is entirely in Czech, we supplement our English spiritual lives with a dose of Willowcreek sermons and our biweekly English bible study.

a reflection

As many of you know, we had substantial visa preparations last fall and then all the hoops of superlegalization and applications once we got here. As I think back over the details I am struck with how some of the very things that were hindrances/road blocks at the time have actually made it possible for us to stay here. For example, normally you’d want to get your visa approval before you left the country. But we didn’t find out that the application was denied until after we got here. In hindsight, if we had found out that the application was denied while we were still in Canada, that is, after we had rented out our house and were jobless and living in one of our parents homes (in NS or ON), we might have just had to decide to not go at all, because waiting for 4-8 months for another application response while living in a parents basement without an income would have been unthinkable. Another example – when we were making our second application, we discovered that we had to wait at least 2 weeks before we could even submit the application. But because of that delay, I was given the chance of applying for my Czech citizenship and consequently Christy could apply for a temporary residence permit, which has in the end meant a possible open door for longer-term ministry in Czech Republic if God should so desire.

At the end of the day, I take this all as God’s providence and timing. It also makes me more hesitant to necessarily call ‘bad’ or ‘not God’s will’ those things that don’t work out for me. Rather, I think that God can take ‘bad’ situations or circumstances (maybe I could even say that in some cases God created those situations?) and turn them into good.

prayer items

Things to thank God for

- that our fundraising needs have been met, and with excess!

- that we have our stay until Dec.10th confirmed

- that friendships and doors are slowly opening

- for the English Bible group, for the challenge and encouragement that we’ve received

- for Isaiah’s development and growth, despite the changes in culture and place

- for Christy’s considerable language growth in the last month

Things to ask God for

- Miro will end each of his classes with each student receiving a New Testament and a brief account of his faith journey. Then we will have our last class in a coffee shop to connect. Pray that God would open doors for conversations and that Miro would have boldness to speak and wisdom to speak well.

- some of the people who we are reaching out to, Duc, Hana and Patrik, Ivanka, Kveta and her family, that their hearts would be stirred with curiosity and longing.

- for Isaiah in his language acquisition, since his little brain is trying to process two very different languages.

final words - We miss connecting with you all. Thanks especially to SBC for your monthly prayer updates, we feel like we are in your midst. We pray that each of you reading this may enjoy some of the richness of grace that God is pouring out even this moment.

PS.Sorry about this update being so late and so long. To be more realistic with our time, we will give our updates bimonthly (end of July, Sept., Nov. and Jan.). To stay connected, read Christy’s blog updates (with pictures too) at www.rakersons.blogspot.com.

Don`t forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ.Pray that every time we open our mouth we`ll be able to make Christ plain as day. Colossians 4:3‑4 (Message)

2 comments:

  1. Hi Miro, Christy and Isaiah,

    We enjoy your updates so much! So many things sound familiar!
    Lee was just wondering about the ticks. Are they bigger (and better) than the ones in Canada? He says everything else there grows bigger (garlic, other vegetables, flowers, slugs, snails) so they must be bigger too!? :)

    take care, Lee and Conchita

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  2. No the ticks were pretty small. We could hardly see them but we got rid of them luckily. We miss you guys.

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