Our worship in Brno yesterday saw a smaller group than normal, but wonderful and giving hearts. Jan had brought some masks to share with the group, while Jozef, a chemist, had mixed up some homebrew sanitizer since it’s no longer available in stores here.
After the assembly, I sent about 3 hours walking around the city with a dear friend and discussing a range of issues. The new laws (not to be confused with recommendations) made that a more viable way for us to meet. It was right around freezing, so I’m glad we were walking as opposed to standing.
The train ride back to Prague was odd to the pont of being darkly comical. The ticket checker initially thought that no one was in the car I was riding in. When she saw me, she said in Czech, “You have a ticket, don’t you? They told me to check all the tickets, but I don’t want to touch them all. Is it okay if I don’t look at yours?” I assured her I did have one, and then we pleasantly interacted throughout the trip.
The week ended on a very positive note with a scaled-down version of the bi-monthly Saturday study. We changed venues to Robert and Tami’s. The turnout was good (about a dozen) considering a variety of circumstances, and the people were engaged and appreciative. Tami provided a nice lunch, but we all managed to stay awake for the afternoon discussion.
Last week was busy for a variety of reasons. Thankfully it was busy with study opportunities. For different reasons I won’t detail this, but I’m thankful to say that they have included a nice variety of people and kept me busy for several hours each day. Of course, it was also a week of transition with the Corona virus. One of the young Christians was tested. Thankfully it was negative, but the accompanying quarantining complicated some plans. The rules that have been put in place have left the city streets and public transportation nearly empty.
Though I have been using Facebook to post some thoughts and updates, I want to come back to the blog to provide more details and photos. Let me start out during this difficult time with a reminder of what lovely city Prague is. These are photos from a different vantage point than I normally have.
Today was one of the stranger days I remember in my life. It was so filled with wonderful things. When I woke up in my very comfortable flat, I could tell from the sunshine it was a lovely day. It was a “no coat required sort of day,” after day of cold, dark and rainy. I had work and studies scheduled that had me excited. I enjoyed the weather. I sneaked in a workout at my “local” gym. I shopped, and by bunkhouse standards cooked a really nice main meal for myself. I had multiple studies that encouraged me a lot, and I hope did the folks I studied with.
However, there was another subtext to the day. It was also a day of calls, emails, and texts about something very different. It was about the Corona virus and how it is impacting the world, the Czech Republic, the brethren here, and my trip. Throughout the day ambiguous and conflicting reports came from governments- ours and others about what would be happening. The information about public meetings, travel, and a host of other things changed hourly. MY schedule was already a bit up in the air, but a flurry of news flew it into chaos. Our governments still to be defined policy on travel from the EU meant that my travel home was almost surely changed. The likelihood of me being able to fight and pay for the tickets back to the states available before midnight Friday (regardless of which unspecified time zone was in mind) were miniscule.
I fought the mental battle for what to do, and decided it made no sense to not try to complete the work I had come to do. In the process of this, information spread that the Czech government was considering a ban on all meeting of over 10 people. This would have essentially outlawed a couple of the basic things I had planned to do here. Shortly after I decided to stay, the government announced a series of incredibly austere measures, but the allowable meeting size had been shifted to 30. We went from messed up to golden just like that. (Yes, I’ve said a few prayers of thanks since then.). Additionally, evolving circumstances in Bulgaria have put that sub-trip up in the air, though I still think it works, and a couple of other issues I’ll leave for another day.
Through all of this stuff to process, I’ve been awed by the love and concern shown by the folks over here, brethren in the States, the amazing opportunities that have been afforded me wherever I am, and the assurance of our Father’s continuing love. It was a strange but very blessed day.
While things here seem to be getting only slightly worse, the response is ramping up dramatically. My travel arrangements are in a bit of a mess because of it. Thankfully, I have more teaching opportunities in more places than I can manage, so I don’t foresee any lack of good things to do though I’m unsure about where it will be happening.
Sunday was such a long and wonderful day! I arrived at the meeting place early enough to help set up the chairs and tables in the place the Prague church has access to for a couple of hours on Sunday. That also gave me time to visit more with the two oldest members- Karel and Milada. As the group gathered, we studied from Proverbs for our adult class and then did a lesson from Exodus 17. We prayed for local as well as global concerns. The baby daughter of a girl I watched grow up was with us. It was a great morning.
After our gathering, I was privileged to spend several hours in visiting and studying with two of our wonderful young men. Their hunger to grow leaves me feeling good about the future here.
An invitation to do a day-long marriage study that focused on the different stages of marriage and Bible principles that help us understand and adapt to those stages posed an intriguing opportunity. More than a little trepidation accompanied me to the suburb where several couple from the region had gathered. One of the couples who attended plans to wed this spring. Another seems to be at a serious stage of dating. At the other end of the age/experience spectrum we had a couple with grandchildren. The pictures show how the time together brought one of the couples closer together. As it turned out, the biggest challenge was refocusing after a great lunch. The material was very well received, and it was a good day.
I appreciate the concern about any possible impact the Corona virus might have on the folks here and my work. There are only 32 cases in the country, and some efforts are being made to check outsiders coming in. The people are interested, modestly concerned, and displaying a bit of that lovable Czech cynicism about the whole thing.
There are many great kinds of places to spend time discussing God’s word. This cold but lovely afternoon found us in a beautiful park setting combining a long walk with a good talk. We needed the good walk after a great meal. In addition to getting to study and visit, I got to hold one of Pavla’s precious grandchildren.
A quick trip back into the city center gave me just time to grab a bite before a rewarding study with two of our college students. Their dedication and hunger for knowledge inspires me.