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.
The studies in Zderaz, a peaceful and quaint village on the edge of the Czech highlands, provide the most intense study opportunities. The weather was cool (cold if you are from Florida), and it rained all day on Saturday, but it was still beautiful. The quiet street they live on, as well as well as the old Cooperative-style grocery store that is only open 4 hours on Saturday and closed on Sunday really did take me back to the “old days” over here. The Lustyk’s nicely modernized old farm compound make a perfect setting.
As I looked at the upcoming schedule, I realized I had 11 sessions scheduled with the group of people from 3 Czech churches as well as some local visitors. All of this was to happen in 2 ½ days, and it did not include the hours of additional, more private follow up studies. The group studies, a per their requests, included topics like: metaphors for the church, Markan Intercalations, Archeological Evidences, “copy-cat” charges made against the gospels, and The “Divine Council.” The less formal sessions included questions on things like the literary relationship among the gospels, issues in child-rearing, the possible relationship between Gen. 6 and 2 Peter/Jude, and more than my fatigued brain can presently recall. I knew it was going to be an exciting opportunity and great challenge.
The many hours of personal studies early in the week included a trip to the Novak’s that not only meant a great study, but also a home-cooked meal. Honza spends a lot of time in the text and, while he calls me in the States with some of his questions on a regular basis, he saves some up as well for when we are together. He has been spending a lot of time in Kings and Chronicles, and as you know, that is fertile soil for question production. As modern as Prague has become, the trip from the city-center to the suburbs is a bit like stepping back in time. The subway is still crowded, and even on a cold and rainy day the milk truck is still set up by the subway exit.
The week back in Prague got off to a great start. The topics people want to discuss are not only challenging but incredible varied. This reflects not only their general desire to grow, but also how much they want to deeply look at the text. Jakub is a great example of this. Among other things, he wanted to talk about the relationship between 1 & 2 Peter based on 2 Peter 3:1. Katka and Kris are similarly motivated, but they have other things on their minds as well. They are planning t be married and wanted to some things about starting their family.
Some travel issues led to me traveling back to Prague Sunday night and back for the lecture on Monday. It posed no great hardship, and time train is typically pleasant and productive. The ride through the countryside is beautiful. (It’s a bit tricky to get good photos at 100 mph.) The folks in Brno had asked me to do a lecture on some archeological stuff again. That has proven to be a good type of lecture to attract visitors and provide material to show the reliability of the scriptures. We have a nice venue, though folks have several steps to climb to get to the room. Once again, their choice was vindicated. We had 25 or 26 visitors. This time, most of them were first time visitors. It seemed to go quite well, and the brethren were very pleased with how it turned out. One of the visitors was an archeologist, and he wanted to talk more after we dismissed. He had some good questions, and they happened to coincide with some things I have spent a good bit of time studying. One interesting dynamic that has developed is that our lectures have come to be known and positively anticipated by some small evangelical groups in the area. I wish I had opportunities to do these lectures more regularly.
Walking around in Brno on Monday made me think I should do a post on “abnormal life in Brno.” Thankfully, I survived the zombie apocalypse in the main square and even slipped away almost unnoticed as the other frightening creatures moved in to confront them. Actually, as the drama department from the Masaryk University did their presentation, it wasn’t one I liked, but that’s a different story for someone with a different purpose. I do love this city of almost 500,000 people with a student population of around 50,000. It hurts me that I don’t have more time here. At least having some relaxing time in a local mini-mall with some nice tea helped calm my nerves from the scary folks outside.