Rookie Reflections II

Tonight is our very last night in Czech.  As Ryan said, it is a bittersweet time.  It will be good to have a short but much needed time of rest, but it is always sad saying goodbye to those we have met.  I feel that I have just barely gotten to know the people we have worked with over the past week, and it will likely be at least a year, if not longer, until I have contact with them again.

Our last day was spent in Prague, wandering around the old and beautiful city.  It was a refreshing break from all the ministry work we have been involved in.  The big city was a bit of a shock compared to the small towns we have been in, but it is one step in the adjustment back into the very suburban southern Ontario.  I must say I really did enjoy being in Dlouhy and Hlinsko.  They are less busy than the GTA and people seem more relaxed.  This is another reason why I enjoyed church so much yesterday.  For me, church has always been something fairly organized and planned, and I felt the need to have all the details worked out ahead of time so that whatever the ministry facilitators were doing would not be distracting to our worship.  But this service was quite different from what I am accustomed to.  It was relatively informal, and very relaxed, with only about 35-40 people in attendance.  After multiple individuals had shared a story or song with the rest of us, there was an invitation for anyone else to come and share whatever was on their hearts.  It was comfortable, welcoming, and God was glorified.

One particular thing I have been reminded of during this trip is that the Holy Spirit is constantly interceding for us.  Due to our busy schedule, and team meetings that went longer than planned (but for good reasons!), I was exhausted every night and got little sleep, making it very difficult to make time for God.  Many days I did not.  Often events would come to pass that I had intended to pray for, but suddenly they were taking place and I realized I hadn’t prayed hardly at all.  However, there is a peace to be found in knowing that even when we forget or are unfaithful, God is faithful, and prepares us as much as we need to be for any given situation.  Am I saying it is ok not to pray?  Not at all.  It is our primary way of communicating with Him, although when we miss the mark the Holy Spirit is there, communicating with the Father in ways we cannot understand.  I am so thankful to be reassured of this, and I trust that the words we spoke and activities that took place were seeds planted in the lives of those we worked with.

Now that this trip is ending and we are returning to Canada, I am reminded that God’s mission doesn’t stop here.  Even when we are far away and feel as though we cannot do much, we can pray.  God doesn’t stop pursuing His people, and neither should we.  Prayer is powerful, and God so desires to change the hearts of those who do not yet know Him.  I pray for a burden to keep praying for those we have met, particularly the kids who stayed at the ICC with us this week.

Once again, I am so thankful for an awesome week where everything seemed to go right, and for an awesome team of people to work with.  It was a honour, privilege, and so much fun to work with you, and I will miss our valuable and hilarious team meetings every night.  Really hoping to be able to come back next year 🙂

Julia

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Tomorrow…Praha. Things are a changin’.

I can’t believe our time in Hlinsko/Dlouhy has come to an end yet again.  It just feels like yesterday that we arrived and were picked up at the airport by Filip (aka Tulip), Vojta and Nela.  Man, time has flown.  It has truly been an amazing week.  The kids camp was great and we built some really cool relationships with new kids.  Not a moment of the day went by where there was not a kid hanging off of you or hanging onto your every word.  Seeing the youth in Hlinsko was amazing especially since I have seen many of them grow up from wee kids.  Some of them are already in University and more will be heading there next year.  It is hard to think about this place without the youth.  Not only are the youth growing up and moving forward with their lives but the Dahlbergs will also be moving to Sweden to take on a similar role there that they had here.  Wow…talk about change.  I don’t really like change.

Speaking of things changing, two things that haven’t changed is that Canada has retained the gold medals in men’s and women’s hockey!!!  Booyah.  Just thought I would throw that in there.

As I look back on the week, I am saddened to be leaving but also excited about going home and seeing my beautiful wife.  Soon we will be having our first child and I cannot be more thrilled.  I really wish she was here with me and many of the youth, missionaries and friends from years past really missed seeing her smiling face.  Who knows about next year at this point. How feasible will it be for us to travel with a 9 month old?  Fortunately, we don’t need to worry about that now.

The hockey was a blast and we went 3-1.  My D partner, Bernie, was amazing and showed a lot of confidence for never playing hockey before.  The testimonies that were shared were genuine and thoughtful.  Seeing the familiar faces was a blessing and encouragement.  What an awesome way to share the gospel.  Wow.  I’m humbled in this moment.  God has used the game of hockey as a conduit to glorify himself.  If the rocks cry out, I guess the pucks do as well.  😉

But alas, tomorrow we head to Prague and begin our journey home.  First though, we do some sightseeing.  I am excited about being able to relax for the first time this week and just read a book in one of the open cafes or pubs in Prague.  Maybe buy a souvenir or two as well.  I’m really going to miss this team and this place.  It just seems to get harder and harder to leave each year.  Sigh.  Bittersweet is probably the best way to sum up how I feel at the moment.  Anyways, time to get packed and head to dinner.

Na shledanou!

Ryan

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It’s already Friday!?!?

This week has flown by and I can’t believe it.

The camp has been so cool and the kids have been a huge blessing to me.  It is great to be able to be around youth again and to not feel panicky or anxious all the time.  Today I learned some sick new dance moves from one of the youth named Patrick.  He is studying dance in Prague and decided to run a workshop for the camp.  It was hilarious.  I also have to add that I received many compliments from people about how quickly I was able to pick up the dance moves.  Even though there is a language barrier it has been awesome just spending time with the kids and loving them.  There have been a lot of laughs and some interesting conversations when a translator has a enough time to sit down with us.  It has been really busy and it feels like it has been go go go…

Tonight we played a game against the Skulls.  This is a team that we have played every year and on my first trip, I shared my testimony with them.  Tonight, I shared it again but only shared about the last 6 months of Melinda’s (my wife) and my lives.  They have been crazy to say the least.  God has been at work and has performed some incredible miracles.  I am not going to say all the details but we are having a baby and the doctors did not think Melinda was going to be able to get pregnant.  That’s amazing!  God is good and I had often forgotten that, especially since I had such a rough patch just before the trip.

I am already missing the “Prayer and Share” times with the team before we head off to bed.  I find these times incredible, uplifting, sometimes frustrating but more often than not, fruitful.  We are open and honest with one another and really have a sense of community.  It is great but every year I feel sad about having to have to give that up at the end of the trip.  Before I know it I will be on a plane anticipating seeing my wife at the airport.  But until then there is still a lot of work to do here.  God is moving in the Czech Republic and I am so honoured and blessed to have been able to experience a small part of it.

Dobrou noc.

Ryan

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Rookie Reflections – Julia

Well, it is the end of another busy day.  It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the midpoint of our week.  Being a newbie this year I am grateful that our team is getting along very well.  I am also amazed at how smoothly everything has been running.  We have not had many difficulties at all since arriving.  Praise God for working out all the details 🙂

My favourite part about today was being able to interact more with the kids who are staying at the ICC with us.  Yesterday was full of activities, but today, with a little more time (and despite the huge language barrier), we were able to communicate better with many actions accompanying our broken Czech-lish.  In the evening Dan pulled out his guitar and we sang some songs (mostly in English, with some Czech), including everything from Hillsong to Justin Bieber.  It did get pretty silly after a while, but we all had a great time.  I love these opportunities because even when we can’t clearly verbally communicate, laughter brings us together.

During our morning session I had the opportunity to share about some of the transformations God has been doing in my life.  Speaking with a translator was a new experience, but I really enjoy being surrounded by another language.  It causes me to listen more and speak less . . . always a good practice.

For me, not having played much hockey prior to this, the games have actually been quite enjoyable!  They are at a good pace, and our team has played two great games so far with two more to go.  We definitely appreciate the cheering squad 🙂

I am so happy to be on this trip and am excitedly looking forward to our next few days, hopefully including another 20-person game of ping pong.

 

Julia

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Gifts

Each year we take a small gift to present to the players on the teams we play against.  Over the years, we have given gifts such as: water bottles, pucks, chocolate pucks, hats and maple fudge.  We are very grateful that the teams in Czech would choose to spend their time playing with us and listening to our stories.  It’s nice to give them a small token of our appreciation and perhaps a visual reminder of us and our message.  This year we had flashlight-keychains made with our logo, the year and a scripture reference.  In Czech, Jan 8:12 – Já jsem světlo světa. – I am the light of the world.  Sure, it’s a bit of a corny illustration, but I hope it will be a visual reminder of our testimony.

Key Chain Flashlight3

Tonight I compared the scripture to going into my 7-year old’s bedroom at night.  He often has hard plastic toys on the floor that are mostly undetectable in the dark.  Even with a night light or lamp on, some of the toys are still invisible.  Unexpectedly stepping on small hard objects can be really painful.  Having a light won’t remove those obstacles, but it will help you safely navigate through them safely.  It’s our prayer that the people we meet and share with will come to know the “light of the world”.

John 8:12 NLT – Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Jan 8:12 Bible21 Ježíš k nim pak znovu promluvil: „Já jsem světlo světa. Kdo mě následuje, nebude už chodit v temnotě, ale bude mít světlo života.“

 

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Anticipation

So it is Wednesday just before the trip.  I am sitting at my desk trying to tie up some loose ends before I go on my 8th trip with SOS Canada!  I can’t believe it has been 8 years.  Looking back on the transformation I have gone through over that time it is somewhat astounding.  I don’t necessarily know if I have “grown up” that much but I think I have changed and my life has changed immensely.  This will be the first trip that Melinda will not be going with the team since we got engaged.  That is going to be a huge difference and I don’t think I have quite prepared myself for how I am going to feel when I start to miss her.  10 days is a long time and we have not been apart for more than a weekend until now.  However, with the advancement of technology, we will not be going that long without any contact.  That makes me happy. 🙂  Personally, I have been struggling recently with depression.  I needed to take a leave of absence from work and after consulting with my doctor and counselor, they both agreed that going on this trip is something that will benefit me.  I am really looking forward to this trip and being able to spend time building new relationships and continuing old ones.  The Czech has a big place in my heart and being able to see God moving in this place has been such an encouragement to me, especially over the last few years.  I can’t wait to get my feet on the ground and update you all more about what God has done over the last year and to see how God moves through us this year.  Keep praying for us and again thanks for all the support through the years!

Much love and blessings,

Ryan

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Early Reflection

As I sit here in my living room in Canada, home safe from a great 11 days of ministry in the Czech Republic, there are a few things running through my mind.  As jet lag sets in and the business of life picks back up, it’s often hard to hold on to the memories of such a whirlwind of a week abroad.  I woke up this morning to the sound of the wind on my window… eerily similar to the day we left, prompting me to wonder if this was all a dream.  Were we actually there?

It was a tough trip in many ways.  It was physically demanding, with a number of very long days and little rest.  It was mentally exhausting with many long stretches of ESL class converastions 1:1, talking about pets and hobbies.  It was difficult to lose all 4 hockey games.  Those 3 things were still fun at times and quite enjoyable most of the time. However, it was heartbreaking in many ways.  It is tough to witness a country in such a dark spiritual state, with very little hope.  It is difficult to see a church, so very small, with magnified problems clouding it’s vision for the lost.  It was hard seeing friends heartbroken still from last year’s hardships.  In these situations, we went to offer hope.  A light, however dim at the moment, in the darkness.

It is always tough to tell if we have accomplished anything more than painting a few rooms and meeting new people.  Our work in CZ is not a quantifiable thing, though.  To the cynic, it may seem mostly worthless, but we trust that God is in control and that he can use us.  We trust that God will use our sacrifices of energy, time and skill to glorify Himself in CZ.  We didn’t win any games, but our testimonies and joy despite losing speak louder than any victory.  The language barrier may have been difficult, but relationships were formed and grown.  No one gave their heart to Christ while we were there, but our example as the living Body of Christ shone brightly in a land where that is rare.  We don’t know exactly what our impact was or will be, but we do know this: God can use the most feeble sacrifice to make a world of difference for His glory.

So we pray.  We pray that God gets ahold of the hearts and lives of those we now know and love in CZ.  We pray that the Church in Hlinsko would come together and live and breathe God’s vision and heart for His children in CZ.  We pray that God will be a Father to the fatherless and bring hope to a broken nation.

Thanks so much for your support and prayers.  Please continue to pray.

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Day 5: We’re not a one-trip-pony

Here at Immanuel we’ve established a sort of trend; we stay up late and get up early. While sleep deprivation could provide a hindrance to our social functioning, it’s this very social context that has us up late. This group is growing closer and closer each day, and it’s pretty exciting to be part of this.

As introductions go, this is Steve Coupland, a rookie member of SOS Canada. I’m a 26 year old Tyndale student and pastoral intern at Wellspring Worship Centre. Having been given the idea of SOS Canada at camp Mishewah, the Spirit led me to join this trip and I’m super glad to be here.

I digress.

It’s the end of day five and life has been full and fulfilling. However the hustle and bustle of teaching english, painting projects, a visit to a local orphanage, and several hockey games has not masked or hidden the work of God in this place and in this country.

Hearts are breaking and our team has expressed so many ways that God is showing them His redemptive love. A spirit of prayer has developed among us, and we’re upholding each other in daily prayer. Thoughts give way to tears, and yet this only gathers us closer together. The heartbeats of eighteen have quickly synced into the beating drum of one, and it is one after God’s own heart.

The parable of Matthew 13 (parable of the sower) reminds us that there are successful ways to evangelize. This trip (and those that have come before) has acted in seed-planting and soil developing, and yet this year many of us are realizing that our job is to continue to plant seeds and develop soil, but it is also to trim the thorns and prune the branches. Continuity is at the heart of this ministry. Familiar faces are different, for they now accept that we’re not a one-trip-pony; we’re here to shine the love of Jesus and we’re doing our best to show them how much we love this place, this country, and our God.

I think the only drawback is that we’re not winning hockey games. We’re 0-3 in our three games played (though all of them are tight games), but it may in fact be a good thing that we’re not cleaning up over here. After the heartfelt testimony of one of our guys (A. Collins…no, that’s too obvious…Adam C.) wherein he spoke of not needing the validation of winning hockey games, for he finds his validation and purpose in God, it is fitting that we as a team are not needing to win. Perhaps our message will be well received if we’re humble and happy losers.

So, keep us in your prayers. God is working and we’re stoked to see what He’s going to do next.

Cheers.

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Safe and Sound

Well, after some uncertainty about the baggage with the Handlex strike and a nice blustery evening, we made it to Czech and a little bit ahead of schedule too. Thanks for all your prayers. Baby orphanage tomorrow afternoon and first game tomorrow night.

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Ready to Go

Well, we’re almost ready.  18 people will be heading to Hlinsko on Saturday evening to shine God’s light in the Czech Republic.  Please pray for safety as we travel, open hearts and boldness to share.

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