Let me begin by thanking everyone for your interest and prayers. I know I was very blessed on this trip. I feel really good about the opportunities I had while at the same time feeling the gnawing sense of frustration about having to forgo some good teaching possibilities because of time. I feel the loss of not going to Bulgaria keenly.
The new opportunities I chose did prove very rewarding. The classes in East Bohemia led to us already having tentative plans for a spring encore. The contact with the school looks like it will lead to a spring set of lectures as well.
The steady progress of things like the church in Brno as well as the lectures there as well as the continuing growth and maturation of the church in Prague have become the kind of constants that gives me a basis for being optimistic that subsequent trips will continue to be fruitful.
Of course the brethren face some challenges, and a higher than typical percentage of my time was devoted to helping address some of these. Sadly, they are learning that well-intentioned outsiders sometimes lose sight of the importance of church autonomy. They have seen the damage done to their young people when those they should be able to look up to disappoint. Even in these things their love of the Lord and determination to do things well shines through.
The power of the gospel, the efficacy of prayer, and the wisdom of the Lord continue and shine brightly.
Thursday in Prague was was productive and refreshing. I spent most of it with the Novak family in their home. Pavla had overheard me tell someone at the lecture that I liked rabbit, so she cooked that delicacy for us. Honzik was home from school, so I got to visit with him for a while as well. In addition to studying/discussing a variety of spiritual topics, Honza and I begin developing an idea to wed some cutting edge technology with class material for kids. (I’m extremely excited about this!) Before Honza drove me back into the city we took advantage of the perfect weather and nearby hiking trails to walk a couple of miles. It was a delightful end to not only a good day, but also a rewarding trip.
We copied last spring’s Brno lecture topic for this effort. Honza videoed it for the church website, and the turnout from the church was good considering some ongoing illness issues. However, the number of visitors was very small. I think the church will probably need to keep tweaking the location and advertising. That said, three of the visitors were very encouraging. Two of them were people that the church has an ongoing relationship with, while the third was new but stayed to talk for some time even after the Q&A session. The pic was taken a while before the lecture, but does show a couple of visitors. The third was not in the picture because he had agreed to help with a logistical issue.
As I awaited the chance to spend some more time with Kuba, I did some walking and shopping. I’m still amazed at the prosperity of the country, especially when I remember what it was like almost 30 years ago. The blending of the old and new impresses me as well. Can you find the four-floor shopping mall among the pictures? Speaking of multi-floor structures, how do you address the shopping cart issue in the two-storied grocery store? You do it by inclining a moving walkway and magnetizing it to keep the cart from going down too fast. I’ve never been a “smart car” fan, but the Czechs have produced a nice one. If I had my truck handy, I’d be tempted throw this one in the back and bring it home.
The time to meet Jakub came, and we had a wonderful meal and visit together. HIs insights and questions reflect a passion and knowledge that make me smile when I think about the upcoming generation of Christians in this country. It also made me appreciate evenly more deeply the wonderful job his parents have done it raising him.
Being with the church in Prague is always a joy. In spite of some of the folks being ill, it was a great day. The worship was encouraging on every level. The sincere love of the Lord is delightfully visible. We had two visitors (I don’t count myself a visitor.). One was a local man who one of the members has been working with. He plans attend the lecture tomorrow night as well. The other was a young Czech girl who first heard the gospel while studying Scotland, and is now with a group in Germany where she was recently baptized. Hopefully she will move home when her studies end. I was too busy to get much in the way of pictures, but I did get an obligatory partial crow shot.
The time here has been wonderful, but sadly had to come to an end. Sunday was the last day here, and it was special. Of course, it began with the trip to Litomysl for worship. The assembly and the class were both encouraging. The men who led various aspects of the gathering were thoughtful and well prepared. We had some visitors, and I don’t know all of the members well, but I’ve known some some of the folks for about 25 years. As I stood and began to speak, reflecting on their faith brought a joyful lump to my throat.
After the service, we traveled back to Marek and Pavela’s for lunch. It was even tastier than it looked. The sauce with more of the mushrooms we gathered surely helped with that! After lunch Marek drove Kuba and I to the train station in Pardubice. Wow, that brought back some memories! The train ride gave the two of us the time to have the kind of serious discussions our longstanding relationship allows. He is truly an extraordinary young man.
The third day was even more eventful than the first two. We hiked to a small forest that Marek’s family owns just a couple of miles from their house. It was multitasking at its finest. It was an amazing walk through beautiful countryside that let the kids burn off some energy. It included an ingenious Bible class plan for the kids Mark had developed, and we gathered mushrooms. We hurried back just a bit to allow some modern world-shrinking technology to come into play.
Andrei and Nelli are Bulgarians who Marek and his family befriended and studied with during their time in England. Because of our mutual connection, plus my Bulgarian connection, a study via Skype was arranged for noon- our time. So a Czech and an American situated in a village in East Bohemia studied with two Bulgarians living in the burbs of London. Wow! More importantly, the study went extremely well. As a side note, Andrei is a physicist who is sincere in his belief in God. After about an hour and a half of study and Q&A, we said goodbye to move on with the day.
That included Marek demonstrating that though grilling came late to his country, they are fast learners. That meant him knowing that there, pork is the meat of choice. Though the meat was delightful, personally, the variety of grilled mushrooms we had gathered earlier was the highlight. In the process of all of this, Marek was surprised to learn that I would love to go to a neighboring village farm to help him pick up bags of potatoes and onions. I won’t waste your time on the details, but suffice it to say, everyone agreed I would go there again on my next visit.
In addition to the other wonderful activities, I did my regular schedule of classes, plus a couple of hours with one of the brothers to discuss some personal questions on his mind. I hope I did some good for others, but I know it was one of the most rewarding and encouraging days of my preaching life.
Friday was filled with classes. I taught four of them. Marek had also developed same teaching activities for the kids that combined games with learning. We also took a break to go and out enjoy the incredible fall weather, and watch the kids fly a kite. The day was productive, rewarding, and tiring. When the last class wrapped up at about 9:00 PM, even the kids were ready to go to bed.
The wonderful family hosting these classes moved to a rambling, ramshackled old family farm house about 15 years ago with dreams of remodeling it as they started their family and served the Lord. They have done an amazing job with all three tasks.
Now, they are using this lovely home and its amazing courtyard and garden to host a variety of teaching and fellowship efforts within the country. Young families with children from across the country have benefited from their wonderful hospitality. Their sincere love for the Lord and his people combined with their generous spirits and the experience of having used the place for short time as a B&B has combined to create an extraordinary environment for teaching. It also demonstrates for others how a passion for teaching children, a willingness to make personal sacrifices, and servants’ hearts can accomplish a lot anywhere. As I keep posting about my days there, I’ll continue to include some pics of their place.