Saturday’s plans changed in a fortunate way. Our planned meeting with Hristo and Vanya was cancelled because of something that popped up on their end. That allowed us time not only to visit with Savella, but to also help her with some tasks. By the time we finished, we had climbed almost 1000 steps in total moving things and repaired a window. It was great we were able to do that for her. She had prepared a nice meal to share with us after we finished the work, and we were able to have a good visit and study.
Traveling to Sofia was easy. This time I managed to get a good price on a direct flight. That got me there early enough to get settled in before any meetings. I’m staying in an Airbnb flat I have used before, so that simplified things. It was a beautiful warm day, so talented street musicians were out in force. The Bulgarian pipes are especially haunting. Biss and I met for tea to catch up, discuss some ongoing questions, and plan the details of the visit. Later that evening, I had a study with and older man and his nephew. The uncle is a “devout” Catholic who doesn’t believe any of the stories in the Bible are true. He said he wanted to meet again the next day. The Bulgarian leg of the trip is off to a good start.
After meeting Biss at a metro stop in the center, we made the trip to the suburbs to meet Rafik and his family for supper. It was another chapter in their wonderful ongoing story. We ate good food, laughed, talked, prayed, and discussed the scriptures together as a group. The children are doing amazingly well in all aspects of life while keeping a proper focus. The evening came to an end too quickly as I headed back into the centrum for another scheduled study.
The last day in my adopted city is always emotionally complicated. I’m so thankful to have been here, but so mindful of how many opportunities were missed. This particular last day was the day of our public lecture. We really never know what to expect here. The brethren work hard to do it well, but we still wait with some apprehension to see what will happen. We did have four visitors, and that was encouraging. In addition to what we may accomplish during the presentation, the lectures are videoed and posted to a website that has a good bit of traffic. Our efforts are still a work in progress. It was great to see the diligence and spirit of the Christians as they worked to engage the visitors even after the Q&A session lasted for an hour after the lecture ended. Got back home late, and needed to pack and clean to be ready to fly out the next morning.
Finishing up in Prague included maintaining one of our favorite traditions. I was able to take some of the college kids to a wonderful restaurant that serves Czech cuisine. Each of us enjoyed our meals while envying what the others were eating. After the meal, I had one final opportunity for an intensive two-hour study with one of them. The hunger of a college student to dig deeply into the word is humbling, encouraging, and energizing. I only wish I knew how to bottle some of it.
Monday back in Prague was highly unusual. I didn’t have any classes scheduled. I used the day to catch up on some correspondence, and prepare for the last teaching opportunities before leaving Prague. I got a use the magnetic declining sidewalk in the grocery store again, and I even managed to hike up to the communal laundry and give some clothes a fresh start.
On Sunday morning, we all headed to Litomysl to worship with the brethren who gather there. It’s a fine group of disciples who are a joy to be with. I have known some of them since the earliest days of our work here. I spoke twice, and then we hurried back home to grab some lunch before the afternoon sessions began. As lunch was being readied, Marek took me to their forest to see the devastation wrought by the bark beetles. Being from pine country, I could feel his pain. After an amazing lunch that included fresh pork cooked in mushrooms from the forest that found me asking for “seconds” at least once, our final work began.
It began with a meeting with men from several Czech churches to discuss the future of Kamenice and to ask me to be involved in that process. To their credit, the Czechs have decided to take a much more active role in that. I changed my topic for the main afternoon session from what I had planned. The Markan Intercalations stuff went over so well, they asked if we could do another. I happily complied. An older couple from an Adventist background came for the final session. They made the trip from their village for over half of them. The final “session” was with the carload of us making the 2-hour drive back to Prague. When I finally got back to my apartment, I was really tired, but it was a wonderful tired.
Saturday was a whirlwind of good stuff. We have a total of five classes plus a few more hours of less formal studying. To make it all work, we limited each session to an hour. One session was quite different from the others. A Bulgarian physicist and his wife joined Marek and I via Skype for a study. They had emailed us a couple of questions they wanted me to address. They are a delightful family, and our studies are always pleasant, and I think productive. They are working in England, so I don’t know when I might have a chance to meet them in person. In between studies, a little FIFA, a couple of chess matches, and a lot of talking and laughing broke out. Of course, we had more wonderful village meals which led to me gaining a couple of pounds. The last class ended at about 9:30, and after visiting a little more, I found some solitude to get ready for another busy day.
Just getting to the village for the study was part of the fun. It gave me an opportunity to travel with four of the finest young people I know. Our first train was too crowded for me to even bother trying to take a picture. I’m guessing nearly as many people stood for the trip as had places to sit. The second leg was more comfortable and it gave us the opportunity to share the sandwiches Katka had prepared for the trip. The conversation was light, pleasant, and filled with laughter. When we arrived at a small-town train station about 20 minutes from the village, Marek was there to drive us the rest of the way. Pavla, who once again should win “hostess of the year” had prepared a wonderful meal. It included a very rich mushroom soup prepared with mushrooms from their forest, homemade sweet pickles, dark bread and homemade pate. By the time we finished the meal, it was about 7:30 in the evening, so that gave me about 30 minutes to settle in before beginning the first of two sessions for that night.