Aug 20, 2009

August update

Hello again from Litoměřice! Our six weeks of summer holidays have just finished and we are slowly pulling ourselves back into our lives of teaching. We have enjoyed some wonderful trips and great time together as a family this summer. We also passed the midway point for our time here in Czech and now have less than 4 months until our flight back to Canada on December 10th. So as we look at this last semester of teaching we are beginning to wonder about the next leg of our journey – where will we go and what will we do after December?

In the last weeks of June we closed our English classes for the summer. My (Christy) class with parents and children celebrated with a garden party. There was lots of games and great food brought by all the families. It was wonderful for me to look around and see each child singing out the songs we had learned in class. Miro closed each of his classes with a trip to the late night ‘cajovna’ or ‘tea-house’. For him it was a great opportunity to relax with his students and get to know them better. In the last weeks of classes he distributed a letter to all of the students which included his testimony (i.e., the story of how and why he became a Christian). This sparked a few questions and discussions during these closing classes. He is looking forward to beginning classes again and to picking up these conversations.

As I looked back over our summer calendar I was amazed again to see all the things we have done in such a short time. There were only rare days when we stayed home alone. It is a strange feeling to look back and see written “visited Berlin,” “day trip to Prague,” “morning in Vienna” and “road trip to Croatia”. We have definitely maximized being in Central Europe during these holidays.

My parents came for a visit during the first weeks of July. It was a busy time but it was wonderful to be with them and to show off this part of Europe. Miro took a classic photo of them during their time here. They are both taking a photo but my dad’s camera is pointed up taking a picture of a historic building and my mom’s camera is pointed down taking a picture of Isaiah. They were able to fulfill their love of history and grandparenting in one visit!

After my parents left I felt bereft and homesick. Miro did his best to keep my spirits up by keeping us busy. His cousin was very generous to lend us her little car for a week so we were able to take a number of smaller trips to the areas around Litoměřice such as the Varhost lookout tower and the 14th century castle ruins of Helfenburg. We have missed having our car so it was wonderful to stock up on some groceries and see some of the local sites.

Another of these trips was to the small village of Hrdly where Miro lived until his parents left for Canada. Their flat was in what was originally a monastery. During the time of communism it was used for apartments. Since the fall of communism there continues to be disputes about the owership of the land so the buildings have fallen into disrepair. As we looked around the flat where he lived with his family we were walking over broken glass and fallen plaster. It was sad to see the buildings falling apart and the area mostly unused. One family continues to live there and the woman was an old friend of Miro’s aunt Kveta from when she was a young girl. She was so warm and welcoming once she figured out we weren’t just tresspassing.

We decided to take a road trip holiday to Croatia. We were late to plan the holiday but we were able to secure a rental car and a reasonably priced apartment by the ocean. We headed off to Opatija, Croatia via southern Czech, Austria and Slovenia. Our car travels went smoothly with the exception of a few construction related traffic jams. (As Miro pointed out, they are repairing roads all over the world.) We had a great time spent at the beach everyday and taking small road trips to historic towns and cities. Isaiah, as usual, found fun wherever he went whether it was bouncing his ball through the narrow pedestrian lanes of the old town or sitting in the lapping waves on the beach. It took him awhile to warm up to swimming in the water but by the last day he was laughing and splashing with me.

The highlight for Miro and me was our balcony overlooking the ocean where we had some great late night chats and quiet afternoon siestas while Isaiah slept. We are learning to slow down and to enjoy life at a toddler’s pace. We came back from our holiday feeling rested and not strung out from one too many outings.

With all the traveling and driving we did, we were thankful once again that our visa situation was worked out prior to the summer holidays. We still had a few stressful moments at border crossings since our documents are a bit of a mishmash – Isaiah with his Canadian passport, Miro with his Czech identification and me with my residence permit card. Our most stressful moment though happened on the way to pick up my parents at the airport. In Czech it is required that headlights be on all the time. We had borrowed an older car which did not have automatic lights which we were reminded of as we were pulled over by the police. We had a feeling we might not be seeing my parents that day as Miro handed over his Czech id card, Canadian driver’s license and the registration for the car under a completely different name. Obviously it was a confusing, if not completely fishy, situation. It definitely puzzled the police officer since he went back and forth from his radio a few times and finally waved us along saying ‘let’s just say we never saw each other.’ We were on time at the airport with our headlight shining all the way.

So now we are settled back into life in Czech. For the last two weeks of August we are hosting free conversation classes in the evenings as a way to kick off the fall semester. It is a chance for previous students to ease back into English and for new students to investigate the courses Bethel offers. I am hosting a new conversational class for mothers with young children that will continue into the fall along with classes for older children.

Along with all these trips, the holidays provided us with lots of time to think and talk and again we have mulled over what we are really doing here. It has been a major shift for Miro to come from leading a church community to teaching English as only one part of a larger ministry. I have struggled to find ways to serve without being able to communicate in Czech. We have thought many times that we could be doing more given our experience and talents but there does not seem to be a place. Yet, when we talk with the director of Bethel about our role here he is so pleased with our work and the connections we are making.

I think there is a lot going on under this tension that we are feeling. There are likely more ways that we could be serving but the opportunities are limited by our foreignness and our temporary commitment to living here. This is a real challenge for us. Time and again we seem to be forced to accept these limits and focus again on the basics of praying, connecting, focusing on what God is doing and sharing all that Christ is to us whenever we can. Which is deceivingly so simple yet it is the basis of what following Christ is all about anywhere. So as much as we are challenged with our feelings of ineffectiveness here I can see that God is perfecting our faith by bringing us back to His simple yet difficult request of serving Him in every moment.

At the same time we are mindful that our time here is becoming very short. We are looking forward to the fall and the return to our regular schedule but we realize how quickly those months will pass. So we are making plans to visit with Miro’s family who are outside of Litoměřice and making time to meet friends and family here. We are also beginning to wonder and pray about the next step for our little family. Should we return to Edmonton and look for permanent work, move somewhere else within Canada or look for longer term opportunities here in Czech? Right now we feel little direction in one way or the other.

Thank-you for all you continued prayer and support of us. We think of everyone in Canada often.
Blessings from Christy, Miro & Isaiah

Please pray for…
…our friends couple of friends here who are both immigrants. They face a number of challenges such as loneliness and limited finances.
…one of the students with whom Miro was able to share his faith. Pray that her heart would stay open to God and that she would keep seeking Him.
…wisdom that we would use the rest of our time here well.
…direction for the next step we should take in our lives whether in Canada, Czech or somewhere else.
…Miro’s mom, Jane, who is continuing treatments for cancer that she would be strengthened during this time of treatment and that she would be completely healed.

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