Check us out. We are 10-year visa holders. It turns out that we have to get the boys new ones every 5 years until they are older but that beats going through the process every 2 years. Yahoo! The boys did not have to take a language test like Casey and I. We just had to show proof that they go to Czech schools. All done!
I am so thankful to be a part of an organization and a movement that I really believe in. I was reminded of this at our JV Academy in January.
Here are some things that I knew but it is always good to be reminded…
- Our Vision: A movement of God among the youth of central and eastern Europe that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.
- Our Mission: To equip young leaders to fulfill Christ’s commission through the local church.
- Our mission is not to run great programs so that people like us, to do a bunch of work ourselves so that there is no one to do the work when we are gone, and it certainly is not to make a good name for Josiah Venture. Our purpose is to help strengthen the bride of Christ (the local churches), and to equip and encourage people into leadership roles so that they are supporting the church, and to point people’s eyes to Christ. I can get behind that!
- The 5 challenges of Christ (these are 5 categories that a person can fit into in their walk with Christ): 1. Come and see (not a believer yet but somewhat interested in the idea) 2. Repent and Believe (just walked over the line to become a follower of Christ) 3. Follow me (a growing believer that is thirstily learning from the Word, God, and other believers how to follow Christ) 4. Follow me and Fish for men (this person is following Christ and starting to ask others to join them in their walk with Christ. They are sharing their faith with others. They are still being discipled and lead). 5. I am sending you (they are leading others in their walk in Christ and teaching others to do the same).
- It was reiterated to me that my role as a mom in our home (which often feels so not ministry) is very important at I am leading my children to Christ, teaching them to share their faith, and teaching them to lead others. It is so easy to forget that when I feel like other people who are serving in a local church are doing so much more important things and I am just home…
My favorite lesson was when the Josh Patty (the former country leader for Slovenia who now oversees the country leaders in JV’s southern countries) did a talk called “Neither Jew nor Greek”. It was super eye-opening on how we can develop stereotypes and prejudices without even realizing that we are doing it. Sometimes stereotypes can be really helpful when one is trying to make sense of a new culture around them but it can be debilitating when we think there is no way around those preconceived ideas. For example: I would say that Czech people will typically not smile at a person when they see someone they do not know on the street. One could conclude that Czech people are not nice (so not true but this is for the sake of the example). As a result, when I want to be outgoing and invite someone to church or to an event, I might have a great deal of anxiety and forget that God loves Czech people, loves me, wants me to talk to that person, and that He can overcome all things. I negate God’s ability to change things because “that’s just the way Czech people are”. In all truth, there are nice and not so nice Czech people just like anywhere on planet earth. Whether they smile at you on the street or not has nothing to do with whether they are nice or not. It’s just what’s done. Nothing more. We can even do that with people on our own teams…”well, he’s Czech. That’s why he does that.” or “She’s Latvian and you know those Latvians…” We are all one in Christ and that’s that.
I learned so many things but on account of my lack of photos, I do not want to bore people to death so I will just list a few things here. We learned about leading ourselves, we learned about all of the numerous discipleship printed materials that were written by JV (some I had honestly never hear of…good thing we had Academy), JV systems and structures, how to manage other people, situational leadership, the importance of language learning, and we learned about the i generation.
So many things that I am still processing but I am thankful that I had the time to be there.
Some thing else that was great for me was that the Academy did not separate 1st and 2nd culture JV people. I go to Womens’ retreat (mostly Americans, Brits, and Canadians) and Spring Conferences (mostly the same). Only the 2nd culture women (people serving in a country where they are not from) with no children or older children get to attend Fall conference where our national JV missionaries attend (ex Romanians serving in Romania) I got to sit with friends from many countries during the talks. It was awesome.
In order to get our 10 year Czech visas, we have to pass an A1 level Czech test that is conducted by the foreign police. So….we took the test. I was a little nervous because Casey and I took a few practice tests and sometimes the correct responses were not super clear. We had to drive an our to a designated school for the testing. It was pretty suspenseful because there were two parts. After the written part, you had to just sit in the hallway outside of the classroom where you took the test and wait until the officials grade you. The picture below is of Casey and I waiting to hear results. After you find out if you passed or failed the written, you then go in one at a time and get asked a bunch of questions. It was a little nerve wracking. Casey was sure that he would not pass the written (he passed) and then he was sure he would not pass the oral (he passed).
This is us super excited that we both passed! Casey could not believe it and kept saying that it was a miracle :). I am holding the paper that we had to turn in to the foreign police with our application for our long-term visa. It was such a triumphant day! By the way, we applied for our visas, got approved and just need to get our official pictures taken. Praise Jesus!
A few weeks ago, Caleb’s 5th grade class took a field trip to the local Planetarium and he had a great time and talked for a long time about how awesome it was. On January 2nd, Casey had to work but the boys were still on break so we decided to do a trip to the Planetarium. It really was great.
Learning about green screens…
They had really cool scientific stations were you could learn things about how planets stay in orbit, how a tornado is formed, etc.
In the theatre itself, a lecturer came in and showed us, through a very interactive media show, all the different constellations, and why the Romans/Greeks first thought that certain groupings of stars showed certain pictures, he quizzed the audience, and showed us where the moon will be in the sky today, tomorrow, and the next day. It was great.
Even though the Ruben H. Fleet Space theatre in San Diego is super cool with all of their exhibits and films, I have to say that, even though this was a much shorter program, it was super interesting and we really liked it.
After a long time of Casey not going to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, we decided that it was time for him to start up again. He loved going but life got too hectic and I needed him to be home and help out more. Recently, we were talking about how much fun he used to have and things are a little less crazy so we decided that he should really start up again.
He is having so much fun!
Above, Casey took our boys with him to his Christmas eve morning sparring. They all had a great time and some of the guys even wrestled our boys some. Great move, Casey. Great move.
So, since our Beni (yellow t-shirt) is super tactile and loves pressure on his body, we decided to put him in children’s BJJ at the gym. He has been twice and has been a little too shy to join in with the training but he joined in on the games that the class played at the end of the training times. The kids were over the top sweet and friendly with our Beni. He promised that next week he would be a part of the training from beginning to end….
Our first friends in the Czech Republic to ask us to hang out after we moved to Czech (the Boszczyk family) came over, along with Rach and we had a big time. We ate American and Czech Christmas cookies, dinner, and snacks. I ate so many bacon-wrapped dates that my tongue hurt (but they are sooooo good). At midnight, along with most of the families in our area, we went outside with sparklers and fireworks and let loose. There is no 4th of July here so this is their time.
Buying a box of fireworks was a new thing for me. It’s brilliant though. We put the box out in the field in front of our house, made sure that it was stable and wouldn’t fall over, lit the fuse, and stood back (Casey did all of that, actually). And it shot our big fireworks. It was so pretty. Casey is holding the box afterwards that smelled like sulfur. It was fun to watch everyone else’s fireworks in Poland and around Czech from our house. Any Haley snoozed through the whole thing. We have one of the most high-strung dogs ever and she sleeps through fireworks….well that’s somethings be thankful for.
I think that my favorite part about Christmas is not the day itself but the anticipation of the day. In Czech, they have lots of little events and celebrations to prepare you for the day. In addition, our family celebrates Advent so we read verses and light candles on all 4 of the Sundays leading up to Christmas.
The Christmas lighting ceremony for our village of Chotebuz and Beni’s school
Beni and his class singing Christmas carols (below) in front of the post office, town market, and municipal building.
The Christmas tree being lit up (below)
The (and I quote) “short christmas program” that lasted about 3 hours…
On a different day, Caleb’s school in Cesky Tesin did a Christmas fair in conjunction with the city in the town square. All the schools in the city participated with booths set up to sell spiced wine, Czech Christmas cookies called “Cukrovi”, non-alcoholic hot Christmas punch, arts and crafts that kids in the city made, sausages, and there were many school groups taking turns to sing Christmas carols on stage both in Czech and Polish. I love where we live!
Now that’s a sausage! Even though it was too tasty for us not to “help” Caleb eat his sausage, he did eat his fair share.
Folk Singers singing blue-grass/dixie land jazz type music. So fun!
Demons weighing your deeds to decide if you are too naughty to get a gift from Mikulas (St. Nicholas) or his angel.
Our church did a Christmas pageant type of show and both of our kids were involved. In fact our son (Beni the evangelist) got our neighborhood friends involved too…
Above: On the far right on the back row is Denisa (one of our boys’ best friends and one of our neighbors) and her brother, Kristian, is second to the most left in the back row (Beni has his face turned sideways looking at Kristian)
Caleb delivering his lines in the microphone
Beni and Kristian stomping on stage as Roman soldiers reading a decree.
I think that the crafts done in the schools here are so creative and outstanding. These crafts are outside where I pick Caleb up from his after school program. Maybe they are just ordinary to Czech people but I think that they are marvelous. What should you do with dry leaves and a plastic bag…oh yeah, make an awesome owl.
Gingerbread is a big part of the decorating and sweets around Christmas time in Czech. There are so many elaborate ways of decorating the cookies too. I have seen lavishly decorated nativity scenes all made out of gingerbread and iced super intricately. So beautiful!
Beni’s after school teacher is great at coming up with crafts for the kids to do too. Of course I managed to get a picture of the Christmas demons.
And some of the more friendly Christmas art…
Beni, then, had a second Christmas performance inside his school (yellow t-shirt)
This is what a typical plate of Czech “cukrovi” looks like for the holidays. We pretty much do something similar in the States except our cookies tend to be huge and have loads of food coloring.
Below: Casey and Caleb attended Ostrava Zpiva Gospel or “Ostrava sings gospel” (a local Christmas concert that our friend Terry English puts on every year as an outreach event to reach both the audience and the singers). It gets sold out every year and gets a great deal of recognition in the community. Members get interviewed by the news and it is reported in the news. To God’s glory! They performed “With a little help from my friends” by Joe cocker so well that Casey got all teared up because that was one of his dad’s favorite songs.
Pre-Christmas UNO card game. Look, Dad had time off so he was well rested enough to have fun with us!!!
Christmas eve. Gingerbread houses. I went into this first gingerbread production process with a bit too much pride in my skills as a free-hand artist. I will for sure be printing off a pattern or at least drawing my own next time. Dad saved the day with his cleverly placed toothpicks so that the roofs would stop pushing the walls over. Oh yeah, Beni’s house had sharks as decorations and Caleb’s had crocodiles….of course!
Caleb lighting up the Jesus candle on Christmas day morning (which happens to be silver and glued to a snowman…better than when I forgot to do the first Advent with my boys until they were already in bed last year, so I used a plastic light-up Eiffel tower toy as our makeshift candle…yes, we is classy).
On Christmas day, we opened our gifts from our very generous family members and from each other and then spent the afternoon with some dear local friends. It was lovely.