Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back Home

We arrived back at ABC around midnight last night/this morning. Thank you, Gene Foose, for volunteering to drive back an exhausted team!

There were a few issues getting back home as we hopped airplanes and airports. Mandee lost a few items to Prague security, and my own bags were checked by security at the Prague and Atlanta airports because the hard drives I carried around looked similar to explosives. But nothing important was lost, including the Czech snacks I brought back! Needless to say, we were happy when we were done with airports!

But God was with us the whole time, and He brought us back safely, healthy, smelly, and reluctantly! This is the first year where I've experienced the whole team wanting to stay longer and to come back next year! The friendships we have developed were amazing, and I was happy to hear from a few of the people that we were not at all like their idea of "typical Americans" (except for Asa, of course!). It has been a blessing to work (and play) with this team and to see how God worked through them, at times breaking them to allow healing and true life transformation, at other times using them to their full capacity to reveal His love and glory. Many hearts  were moved this last week, both Czechs and Americans, by our performance of the "Everything" skit, and it sparked some great conversations that moved people closer to Christ. Keep praying that they move closer to God and that their eyes will be opened to His love, confessing Him as God and Savior.

Our partnership with the Czech church and with the Dagen's created a strong relationship, even amidst a few bumps in the road. And I loved how close our team grew toward the church members and the Dagen's (the main reason we didn't want to leave!). Our goodbyes on Sunday were saddening, but encouraging, knowing that most of us will keep in touch via email and facebook, and we believe that God will give us the opportunity  to come back next year to see them all again!

Thank you, ABC, for your continued prayers and support! I don't think I could call this the best English Camp I have experienced of if it wasn't for your prayers to God and your support, and our team is eternally grateful to have had this opportunity! My last few prayer requests is to see God keep on developing the team this week as we go through the debriefing process and developing the materials for our spotlight--this Sunday, 12:30 in room E102. We all want to get heavily involved with the Dagen's ministry and the English camp ministry, and so we pray that God will help guide us during this process.

We can't wait to share this trip with you! We hope you can make it to our Spotlight this Sunday! Thanks again for the continued support.

God bless,

Michael, for the Czech team

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Homeward Bound (Almost)

We are currently back in Prague in the pension we stayed at last week. We have had an excellent, fantabulous, incredibulous, awesidble week (yeah, we added words to the English dictionary). Last night we stayed at some families homes last night; they were REALLY hospitable! They fed us until we were about to burst (yeah, we're suffering for Jesus here). To update you on the last few days of camp:

On Wednesday we had classes in the morning, lunch, and then saw a castle that was about 45 minutes away from the camp. The grounds of the castle were pretty cool; the tour was pointless but the park was nice. And we saw horses. After the castle we came back and had dinner. Then we had a wonderful campfire with all the students, roasting sausages and s'mores. Yum!

On Thursday we had our devotions, breakfast, classes, lunch, then our skit practice (the Everything skit with the Lifehouse song). After skit practice we had discussion time and then dinner and the super long evening program. It started out with Brian and Jill talking about child-rearing. After they we're done, we performed the skit; the reaction was incredibly awesome, which included a long applause and many teary eyes. It was an amazing experience! To God be all the glory!

On Friday we had our devotions, breakfast, and classes which were devoted more to our funny skits than to English. After classes and lunch we cleaned and packed, had a discussion that went from 4:30 to 6:15 (we were starving afterward!). After dinner we had our evening program which is when each of the classes performed their hilarious skits (in English of course). We got our gifts from the church (a shirt, a card, and some candy), and enjoyed some fellowship time with the campers as it was our last night with them.

Yesterday morning we left the hotel and headed to our respective family hosts. Michael and Chris went to Misha and Thomash's. The girls stayed at Jana's home and were entertained by her daughter Martina. Asa and Kevin stayed at Jirka's and Jana's house. We were all treated EXTREMELY well and fed too much. Most of us got a good night's sleep and then we went to church this morning. It was a special service for the church because of the English camp week. Brian gave a great sermon on joy, which was a common topic of discussion during the week. After church we enjoyed snacks and refreshments with everyone, said a few goodbye's and headed to lunch with nearly everyone in the town square. It was the first authentic Czech meal for some. It was delicious! After lunch we hung out outside the restaurant while waiting for our shuttle van to Prague. After a long, tearful goodbye with our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, we headed back to Prague with the same crazy bus driver. But it wasn't as bad as last time. We came back to Pension Praha, and then went to dinner with the Dagen's. We had subway and KFC :). Then we met up with Tomas, and split up. Asa, Kevin, Chris, and Tomas went off to explore more of Prague. Brian and Jill went with the girls and Michael. The girls went shopping. Brian and Michael had a manly conversation over coffee. The girls came back, then we headed back to the Pension.

Tomorrow we head out at 8:30 in the morning. Our flight is at 11:00. We should be back in LAX at 7:00 pm Monday night. We may be back in Atascadero by 1:00 am (for those of us picking us up, fyi). Can't wait to see you all again and share the amazing stories that happened. Love you all, see you sometime this week!

Mandee, Michael and Lizi for the team.

Quotes of the week:

Martina, after the girls showed her John Mayer: "I like his voice; it's like ice cream. It's smooth and you can never get enough."

Kevin: "So last night I had a cherry cordial, and then I found out it had brandy in it. So, sorry Michael, but I accidentally drank some alcohol."
Michael: "It's OK Kevin. You don't need my forgiveness. You need God's forgiveness."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 5, 6....I don't know anymore...

We are on our third day of teaching. Hopefully I (Michael) can be detailed enough to make this interesting.

So for a quick, AWESOME update, I talked to my friend Libor on Sunday. He came up to me and said that he would like to make an important decision that night, and he would be honored if I was there to pray for him. So to say I was pretty excited is the understatement of the century. So after the day was over and we finished our evening program, Brian and I spoke with Libor, and he finally discussed with us his decision to believe in God. A couple of weeks ago at another English camp, one of the English teachers gave Libor some ideas to mull over, and the next week he decided to finally believe in God (we have said that he believes, just that he's been denying it for some reason). So Libor began to believe, but wanted us to be there when he made the decision to follow Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It was such an honor to be there, to listen to his story and to pray with him! I was also honored to be part of those first few steps he has taken for repentance of his sins and following Jesus as a new creation! So for those of you who have been praying for Libor or have been "working on him" in the last few camps, I'm glad to say that he has finally taken a step of faith in accepting Jesus Christ as God! Thanks for your prayers!

On Monday we had our team devotional, then breakfast, then split off everyone into our official teaching groups. Asa and Kevin's group (the advanced group) had a grand old time playing with blocks (they had to assemble structures in pairs, each back-to-back, one explaining to the other how to build the structure). Mandee worked one-on-one with Štĕpánka, while her partner, Mitch, helped with the rest of the Beginners. Kayla and Lizi learned that the lower intermediates spoke more English than they let on, so that was quite a surprise for them. The upper intermediates have quite an outspoken group, SQUIRREL!.....especially two students who are very vocal during the Bible lessons. If you remember to pray for us, please pray for myself and Chris, as we have a very intelligent student who is not a believer but knows A LOT about the Bible. Very factual, but has no idea of the central idea of the Bible. So pray that we (and our translator Jirka) will have the answers to his, and other students', questions, but that we show it in love. He was not in class today during the Bible lesson, so pray that God opens his heart to His love and truth.

Our Bible lessons are integrating themes about family relationships we are reading in Genesis. The first two days have been instigating interesting conversations as we have been going through the history of the Bible and the creation of man and woman. Today we talked about parents showing favoritism towards their children, and read the example of Jacob, Joseph, and Joseph's brothers. Pray that these Bible lessons continue some great conversations and that they can help open hearts of the unbeliving campers.

For the evening program last night the camp watched "The Ultimate Gift." According to the team who watched it, it was an amazing SQUIRREL!......movie with a great story and a great theme. Mandee highly reccomends it.

Today, Tuesday: WE FINALLY HAD MEAT AND SLICED CHEESE WITH OUR BREAKFAST! We haven't had that since Prague! This is amazing since we only had bread and butter the first two breakfasts. Then after breakfast, off to classes! Then lunch, where we ate Lentil Soup, which Chris enjoyed the most, and the chicken with pasta and liver chunks. Delish! Afterwards Brian and I talked to Karel, the church's pastor, about the future of ABC's partnership with this particular church, especially with next year's English camp(s). Didn't make any committments, but it was good to get some ideas going that we could share with ABC once we return. Then Lizi, Kayla and I went exploring to search for the guys to try to go on a hike. But that venture failed, and only Lizi and I went on a 20 minute power hike. Then had a discussion that was a follow up on the parental favoritism topic we had today, then had dinner and a great evening program where Brian and Jill shared with the other campers about marriage.

Some great converstations are arising, whether between non-believers and believers, Americans and Czechs, and among our own team members. Pray for these conversations to lead to Christ, and perhaps for some decisions to be made. Pray for the team's energy and health (especially digestive health!)

Asa has a persistent headache, so pray that he is well by tomorrow to do the teaching and other stuff that is important. Also for his family, as Gail's mom passed away Thursday. He's been going through a lot on this trip, wishing he was home with his family. But he's still excited to be here, and he's comforted that his grandma had a nice, long life and is celebrating in the fact that she's with Jesus now.
Kayla's tooth is bothering her. She was supposed to get the tooth pulled before we left, but that fell through and it has been bugging her since we got here. She finally got a full night's sleep last night.
Lizi has been having trouble sleeping, but has been doing better.
Chris, Mandee and I have been having some stomach trouble. Yeah, pray for that.
Kevin is awesome.

We are planning on performing the "Everything Skit" on Thursday night. Please pray that hearts will be opened and that they will get a clear message of what we're trying to portray. God has worked in many hearts this week, so I believe some miracles are in store in the relatively near future.

Thinking and praying for you, ABC. We know the loss that you have experienced with John Miller and Bob Clark's passing. We pray the peace of God will be with you all during this time. We will share in your sorrows (and celebration of their lives) when we return.

Reporting live from the Czech Republic,
Michael and Mandee for the team.

Quote of the week:

Kevin, as we are driving with the crazy psycho bus driver, trying to distract us from our near-death experience: "I like this sandwich. This is a good sandwich."

Mandee, after watching the amazing astronomical clock in Prague: "That's it? I scheduled to be here...for this?!"

Kachna, the duck - "Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack....BOOM!"

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 2,3,4: From Prague to Třebíč

Our fearless leader has slacked off on updating the blog (and also we have had some internet issues), so here we are letting you know we are all still fine, jet-lagged, but fine! Today we started our english classes. Everything went smoothly, however, there were a few adjustments that needed to be made. The last couple of days we have been sight-seeing in Prague. We saw Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock Tower, and many other beautiful sights and buildings. The city is simply gorgeous! After our days in Prague, we got in a van with a VERY "courageous" driver who weaved in and out of traffic preventing any of us from sleeping. We arrived at the Hotel Delta in the early afternoon and we met the rest of the camp staff. We had a brief introductory meeting with the staff to get to know them better before the campers arrived. We spent some time praying for each other, the classes and hearts to be opened this week. Also, we had a prayer request for Zdenek's (the main coordinator of the camp) lost wallet, which was found moments after we were done praying. I have never seen a prayer answered so quickly! Tonight we had our presentation of pictures from home from each of us to show the Czech people where we come from and what we like to do. They asked a few questions regarding our experiences so far in the Czech Republic and if it was at all what we expected. Tomorrow starts a whole new day of classes. Please continue to pray for us as we continue on with these english lessons. We have already started to see God working with one of the campers that Michael and many other previous teachers in years past have been praying for and mentoring. We feel that tonight may be the night that he finally gives his life to the Lord. Michael and Brian are meeting with him at some point tonight to talk. Please be praying for that. We will keep you updated when we get information and also hopefully some daily updates as the week progresses.

Everyone has been staying healthy for the most part, just some tired travelers. Thank you so very much for all your prayers and support. This trip would not have been possible without all of you! The team thanks you for everything you have done to help us prepare for this trip. Hope everything is well in good ole' Atascadero!

Dobrou Noc!

Kayla and Mandee for the Czech Republic Team

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mission Log: Day 1

Or more like Day 3. But we finally arrived at 9 am Central Europe time on Thursday the 29th. The trip getting here went well. This has been the one time I have seen happy airline/airport staff who decided it would be great to mess with us at 7 in the morning: The lady at checked baggage nearly freaked out Kayla (and almost all of us) by adding her foot to the luggage scale so Kayla's bag could go from 50 lbs. to 75 lbs. The flight attendants were enjoyable, and I'm sure they enjoyed Asa's charisma as a social butterfly.

But the travel was LOOOONNGGG! And I'm ready to crash, but I thought it would be polite to recap the day as much as possible since our arrival.

Jill Dagen picked us up at the airport, and we rented a shuttle went straight to the pension we are staying at in Prague. An amazing conversation happened between Jill and the shuttle driver had an amazing conversation, which I got very few snippets of on the way, but it was amazing that after 5 minutes of conversing they began to talk about the existence of Bůh (God) and if he was ready in case the end of the world ever came (which he brought up). Jill recapped the conversation with us later, and she was so thankful that God helped guide the conversation to the point where the driver's attitude went from "There is no God," to saying it was a HUGE pleasure to meet Jill and even thanked her for the contact info she gave him. If nothing else comes out of this trip, seeing that seed planted in that man was a huge privilege to watch. 

Because the rooms of our pension weren't ready for us when we arrived, we stayed at the Dagen's home for a few hours and rested a bit from the trip. But it was not enough rest, as we were the walking dead throughout the rest of the day. We had a late lunch with Brian, Jill and Jessica, then Jill and Jessica took us on a mini tour through Old Town from about 5 to 9, checking out Wenceslas Square, the oldest, the Astronomical clock tower, Charles Bridge, and got a glimpse of the castle. Otherwise we were just walking the streets and checking out a few things to buy and bring back home. It wasn't an official tour, but it was a good stroll. 

The team is holding up well for being exhausted. Please pray for our health, especially mine and Mandee's. I have been feeling as if a cold is on its way since Los Angeles, and Mandee got stomach issues probably since we left LA. But we hope to be well rested and ready to go after the long sleep ahead of us tonight. We thankfully have the opportunity to get used to the time change before the English Camp, so pray that we are wise with our time and energy before the camp. Pray also for wisdom with our funds and also for our relationships with one another and with God to be strengthened and bonded in unity. Pray that we represent ABC and Jesus Christ's Kingdom excellently to the Dagen's and every person we come into contact with on this trip.

Thanks for the prayers! 

Michael, for the Czech Republic team. 

Quotes from the day:
As Chris is sitting in the most awkward positions on the plane seat:
Asa: What is Chris doing?
Cava: I don't know, but he's full of dumb.
Asa: Dominantly dumb. 

Team arrival in Czech

The team arrived safely in Prague around 3am (our time) Thursday morning. Please continue to pray as they will soon start their ministry there in the Czech Republic.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Czech Republic Team Leaving Today!

In about three hours, six brave, excited, courageous, anxious, and wonderful young men and women (and one stressed out leader ready to "Let go and let God" once they drive away) will be leaving from Atascadero Bible Church to LA for the first part of their trip to the Czech Republic. This team will be spending the night in Los Angeles to catch an early flight Wednesday morning, fly to Georgia for a short layover, and take the day-long flight to Prague, where they will meet Brain Dagen and spend nearly a day and a half resting up and enjoying the city of Prague. Saturday morning the team will head down to Třebíč (I dare you to pronounce it correctly) in the south Moravian region, and exchange all the meet and greets with 82 Czechs and a few other Americans helping with the English Camp. Each of the Czechs are ready to learn conversational English from the Americans, and each of the Americans are ready to see if they have what it takes not only to teach (and having fun while teaching), but to help minister and bring Jesus Christ's love to each of these people, most who have rejected a belief in God or believe He is irrelevant.

Oh ok, yes, we are that team. Way to ruin the surprise ending! But we (Asa, Chris, Kayla, Kevin, Lizi, Mandee, and Michael) thank you for your thoughts and prayers for our team these past few months, for they have gotten us this far, and we know by God's power your prayers will get us further on this journey! Thanks for reading our updates, and I hope that they are not only informative but also enjoyable and even entertaining as you read more about our adventures and what God is doing through this trip. We will be leaving at noon today from ABC, so please begin praying for the drive down and to be rested up to get to LAX tomorrow at 6 am.

I would like to extend a huge "Thank you" to ABC and our families and friends who have supported us through lots and lots of prayer, donations, spiritual preparation, and behind-the-scenes logistics that has made this trip possible. Also a huge THANK YOU to "team members" who have helped us with the prep and logistics leading up to today, including John and Sallie Atherstone, Julie Dempster, Ron Smith, Jan Eaton, Diana Bermingham, Jeff Hamilton, Chris Key, Keegan Kania, and Gene Foose. And for Brian and Jill Dagen and their correspondences in making sure the team is adequately prepared this week.

Well see you in two weeks! God bless!

Michael, for the Czech Republic team

Quotes from the week:
Michael, on Sunday afternoon: So much prayer! We're just drowning in prayer this week!
Kevin: You can't walk around the corner without being prayed for these days!