Friday, December 31, 2010

Můj Vánoční v Česká Republika (My Christmas in the Czech Republic)

The beauty of Christmas is friends and family.  On paper that certainly suggests we might be up against a difficult one this year.  We're further flung than a two hour drive to Sacramento, and that 50 dollar Southwest special to Portland is no longer at our fingertips.  It seemed the, 'left coast' of the United States was determined to remain on the other side of the planet this Christmas.

Since arriving we had done well to fake out and fend off this ever closing in 'monster,' that was Christmas!  The occasional, "man, it's going to be soooooo weird this year," being our only real slip-ups in our attempt to avoid this onslaught of certain realization.  The realization that without two very important, above stated ingredients, Christmas might feel a bit off this year.  Ever tried making Mac and Cheese, without butter or milk? 

Our hiding place must have been sufficient enough, the over-exaggerated, 'Christmas Monster' (loneliness) wasn't frightful at all. Our new friends treated us like old friends, inviting us to be a part of their families. We spent time in two new Czech cities, (Mokra and Usti) with three very hospitable Czech families. We opened presents, ate way too much (amazing) food and most importantly made new friendships and cemented a few life-long ones as well! Surprised, would be the perfect understatement to describe how we've felt this holiday season, in receiving a torrent of blessing. I can't say it's been either the best or worst holiday season of my life, just that it's been the most essential. It's unquestionable that it often takes being without something or someone to recognize it's significance.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a long time comin'

I've been bad at this whole blog business.  I apologize, but it's just not really my thing.  Talking me, me, me, for the unknown to read via the world wide web can seem strange.  I understand it's importance however, and will continue to try.

Anyway, I was thinking of things that have been nice to have some distance from over the past two plus months and the list goes as such:
  • A time sensitive lifestyle- As Americans, we really are conditioned to live a, "to the minute life."
  • Safe from harm rules- as creepy as that sounds, I mean, we can't even play hide and seek!
  • Genetically modified meats and pesticide ridden fruits and vegetables.
  • A vehicle- This caught me off guard, but I love my two hours on public transport each day!
  • Political debate, with the dividing line being Republican/Democrat.
  • More of the last- Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, health care talks, etc.
  • Commercials
  • Not being good at basketball...
  • Brass band (sorry, but I like instruments you plug in)
  • My couch (the place where no physical activity happens)- We've been playing sports once a week, and doing plenty of walking.
So, life really is simpler; kind of like when you spend a summer at camp.  All of these things are obtainable for us in the states, but maybe it takes living without them to know how important they are to us.  It's something I'll be working at when I'm home again.

Don't get me wrong, the list of things we're missing is a long one.  To name a few:
  • Family/friends
  • Merced Corps folk
  • American sports
  • Taco Bell
  • Mountain Dew
  • Good and fairly priced (specifically Cheddar and mozzarella) cheese
  • Carpet (haven't seen it once since we've been here)
  • Friends/family
  • Spicy food
It would be nice to teleport back every once in a while, but we are loving life.

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Jsem rád, že jsem v Česká Republika!

    I just keep waiting for life to naturally wipe this smile off my face! Just visiting the CR would be great, even if it were a short vacation and you knew nobody and the trip was to serve no purpose. It's beautiful, you'd have plenty to do and surely you would enjoy a wonderful time.  But the package deal we got hooked up with, it's even better. Our job consists of working with people almost all the time.  I don't just sit in front of a computer all day, when I am, I'm usually designing fliers on Photoshop or something media related(something I love). I'm sure this excitement can't last forever, but for now I'm truly glad.  We've been here a month, and my grin persists. 

    Aside from everyday things, we have two weekly programs in English that we lead or help lead.  The one that's already been going now for two weeks is called, English Christian Fellowship.  This amazing young (Czech) married couple, Blaza and Honza started it a few years ago.  They felt led to start a group that catered primarily to the English speaking foreign exchange students in Brno.  Over the past three weeks we've gotten to know them quite well.  Something about lots of prayer, and knocking on every door in the English speaking dorm at the local University together that really forges relationships. So now we have this really great opportunity to meet Christians our age from all over the world, relate with fellow foreigners about coping with a new culture and language, and most importantly to talk about Jesus (in English). 

    We've also been given the assignment of starting a conversational English class.  This starts Wednesday, and really just consists of us picking a topic, and making sure it flows well.  Conversation, tea, and coffee.  With so many adults here in Brno that have been learning English for years, but have had no practical way of putting these skills to use, this will be great for them to talk with native English speakers.

    So, what I'm saying is that God is meeting ALL our needs.  It's really been a far smoother transition than we could of expected.  The crazy thing is that I have only expressed a small fraction of life's goodness here in Brno.  I quite frankly am too lazy and wouldn't want to bore you with it all anyway.  Stay tuned though!

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Roots by the stream

    Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water who sends out it's roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; it's leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8

    Coming across a passage like this, it's difficult not to see the particular measurement of time, "a year" and compare it to our situation.  We are here in the Czech Rep. for a year, so what is this stream?  How can I remain ever-quenched?

    Far before we made it here, maybe even before we knew it was Brno or even the CR, we knew that one of the most important keys to our success would be support.  The prayer many Christians pray when they know they're at a crossroads is, "Lord, shut the doors that you want shut and open those which you'd like me to walk through."  It has been the catalyst prayer for me and my wife through this whole process. God has used the support of so many to get us where we are today!  It's like he has handed all of you the keys and said open this or that door for the Pearce's. 

    We found out that part of the application process was to raise $2,000 before we left.  The door stood locked before us, friends, family, rich and poor busted that door down.  The application process was fairly long and tedious, looking back at it we may have asked for an unreasonable departure date knowing now all that had to be done in time.  What better way for God to clearly throw a door off it's hinges than to have everyone from your Corps Officers, your DC, and especially the Missions Department at THQ (Hector, Colonel Judy, and Major Eloisa) not only help, but find a way to expedite and support the process in every way.

    In an attempt to curtail what could go on forever, I just want to say thank you! Your support is an example of His love, and therefore a constant reminder to trust in Him. If you've prayed for us, if you've supported us financially, if you've shown us love in any way, then you are the stream that God has so convienently placed just to our side.  Just in reach for a refressing, (even though we're miles apart) just close enough to be assured we'll bear fruit this year!


    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Vacation or missions trip?

    I found myself on the stage of Prague Corps during the Sunday service this morning, giving what I was told two minutes prior would be a "short testimony."  With little planning, one of the first things out of my mouth was, "I promise I didn't come to Europe for a vacation!" The translator laughed a bit just before trying to communicate my awkward defense.  This of course was a joke, but it may of stemmed from a bit of guilt.  Jess and I have been spoiled all this past weekend by our National Commanders who asked us to come stay at their house. Majors Mike and Ruth Stannett, (who insist we ought to call them by their first names) are humble officers from England.  So, not only were we blessed by great people, but also by what now is the most amazing place I've ever been in my few travels.  PRAGUE. Put it on your bucket list folks! I've yet to even comprehend it still, so I doubt I could do a proper job expressing in words how ornate and brilliant it was. 

    Brno is where we live, and we took a bus with a very nice company called Student Agency to and from Prague. As amazing as Prague is I think it would be very unfair to say Brno isn't magnificent too.  Brno is filled with trasures both in it's magical architecture and in the hospitality of it's people.  We've met so many friends already, but none more special and altogether neccessary than the Malach family. Our bosses and their children, I know Jess already talked quite a bit about them in her blog so I'll spare you, but let me just say they've saved our lives more than once.

    Sounds a bit like a vacation so far, but the fact is that we work throughout the week in three centers scattered throughout Brno with children.  It's nothing like the work we did in the States. It's often done in more of a social setting, with a tone not centered on God.  It's the way it works in a lot of countries in Europe.  Because the Armada Spasy isn't recieving many private donations and therefore isn't self sufficient, it must rely on the state for funding.  So when we want to talk about God we have to let people know ahead of time and give them an option to be there or not.  Most of the staff at our centers aren't Christian.  This is where we come in, the goal is to get these kids to be a part of Christian clubs and ultimately be coming to the Corps on Sunday.  We've got our work cut out for us! 

    So, no we're not in Africa without water or a bed to sleep on, and we aren't being persecuted for our beliefs in China, but let me remind you that we are in the heart of the most secular part of the world where it wouldn't be uncommon to say the word Jesus only to hear in reply, "nerozumim!" (I don't understand)  God has us here for a purpose, so please stay tuned!

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Be still, and know that I am God.

    Well, Jess and I are preparing to leave the United States for a completely different country, culture and language. English is sometimes spoken, but truly as a second or third language. So, in an attempt to make this cross-cultural splash more of an elegant dive than a belly-flop, I have entangled myself in the World Wide Web, watched Czech films, and began with some language training.  I don't expect to fit right in, but if nothing else I may be able to get myself around town and avoid being a walking faux-pas. But, this past week I abandoned my computer and brought only a few books with me as I left for a week at camp.

    There is certainly no better medicine for the cyclical tunnel vision I often find myself plagued with than to just escape it all.  Forgetting why I do what I do happens as the grass grows, just while we rotate in space - assuredly and without notice.  But then His promise proves true and you're dislocated from life's monotony and you've been given an opportunity to relax and just breathe.  I've finally curtailed this side effect of just going, escaping that sort of muscle memory that seeps into every crevice of your soul.  Well, this most recent dose of such mental and spiritual aid came to me this past week in the same place where it all started.  Camp Kuratli, a place I have no qualm about calling holy ground.  Sure when we pulled into camp Monday morning I felt shortened breath, a rush of anxiety and an unexplainable estrangement.  This wasn't 2007, I was not Cutty Ninja and I unfortunately didn't have Papa Grizz by my side.  Kuratli was beautiful, both scenic and safe.  I acclimated myself well with the staff and children, and away went the nerves.

    One morning Jess and I misjudged the schedule and woke up with an hour to kill.  I took advantage, grabbed my book and headed for the creek.  I'm reading, "Disturbing the Peace" a novel length interview/autobiography by Vaclav Havel, the first president of a free Czechoslovakia/Czech Rep.  As I sat by Deep Creek, Something President Havel said hit me hard!

    When asked how he would, in a more meaningful way organize the world, eventually said, “I feel that somewhere here there is a basic tension out of which the present global crisis has grown. At the same time, I’m persuaded that this conflict – and the increasingly hypertrophic impersonal power itself – is directly related to the spiritual condition of modern civilization. This condition is characterized by loss: the loss of metaphysical certainties of an experience of the transcendental, of any super personal moral authority, and of any kind of higher horizon. It is strange but ultimately quite logical: as soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world began to lose it’s human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.

    We are going through a great departure from God which has no parallel in history. As far as I know, we are living in the middle of the first atheistic civilization. This departure has its own complex intellectual and cultural causes: it is related to the development of science, technology, and human knowledge, and to the whole modern upsurge of interest in the human intellect and the human spirit. I feel that this arrogant anthropocentrism of modern man, who is convinced he can know everything and bring everything under his control, is somewhere in the background of the present crisis. It seems to me that if the world is to change for the better it must start with a change in human consciousness, in the very humanness of modern man.”

    I can’t help but think that while the question was asked about the world, it came from a man who has spent his whole life in the former Czechoslovakia, the majority under communist rule. Yes these are mankind’s symptoms, but this description is especially true of ex-communist Eastern European countries. Suddenly, like a whisper from Jesus, I felt these words, “psst- this is why you are going where you are going”