22 November 2010

Freelance Missionary?

A few weeks ago I was asked to help out at an English Retreat that a local church was hosting in a small village outside Brno (the 2nd largest city in the CZ). I agreed and asked my friend, Megan, to come along and teach too. I really had no expectations leaving Prague. I planned a little, but I wasn't really sure of the students' English level, so it was all loose planning. All I knew was, I was happy to get out of the city and get into nature. I was excited to help out a church (I mean, I really came to the CZ with the intention of following where God leads). And I was thrilled to meet more Czech people to perhaps understand their culture better.

So, I got on a train, alone. (Megan came later in the weekend). The ride went by nicely, but as I checked the station signs at one particular stop, I was convinced that it was the one I wanted. I grabbed all my stuff that lay over the chairs and ran for the train door. It wouldn't open. I anxiously asked someone to help me. Apparently the door opens only to pulling and pushing and lifting numerous levers at once. At this point the train was moving! I didn't know what to do...the train would eventually gain speed and it would be impossible for me to get off...so I jumped off the moving train! Whew! The station guard gave me a funny look. I laughed and shrugged my shoulders. When I got all my stuff together and finally put on my coat in the station I learned that it was the wrong one. I got off one too early....all that for nothing. So I waited for the next one.  
morning mist outside my room window
At the retreat there were five native speakers teaching various levels. I taught the beginners. And let me tell you, teaching any beginner class is enough to make you want to pull your hair out. The first few lessons were tough. There was lots of translation by my Czech helper. There were lots of sighs and shaking of the head. There was lots of acting (on my part) and stick-figure drawing on the white board. By the last two lessons, though, we were having conversations and talking and asking questions with one another.

My class was a group of middle-aged women. So we laughed a lot. And we had some funny remarks. One woman said she likes to talk to her husband on the weekends. I asked her if she didn't talk to him the rest of the week? The class roared with laughter. Another woman asked me if I had "boyfriends". I said, "like one, two, three, four?" They couldn't control their laughter. We compared Florida with the Czech Republic and they were shocked to learn that a Florida winter = a Czech summer. They laughed in surprise when I told them that what I was wearing consisted of my "winter clothes".

the walking group, bundled against the elements
The time away from the city was much needed. On Saturday afternoon we took a walk into town to visit a "sweet shop". And when I say a walk, I mean we walked for a while through a field in the middle of nowhere to a town that we could hardly see because of the thick fog. It was cold, but so lovely. I kept thinking of Pride & Prejudice and the poets in the Lake District of England and how walking has such a large presence in history.

In the evening the Czech church hosted a discussion about God. They printed out quotes by people in history, from Marcus Aurelius to Gandhi to Abe Lincoln to Einstein. Each person chose one that they agreed most with. Now, many of the people there were unbelievers and many of the quotes were by Atheists. The discussion and quotes were all in Czech, so my Czech helper translated for me. For the next hour and half I sat there in complete shock. I didn't know whether to run out of the room sobbing or to laugh hysterically at the cleverness of Satan. I heard things like we are what our government decides to we are just a product of the culture we are born into (15th c. people believed in God, but 21st c. people do not) to "we are unimportant people living unimportant lives on an unimportant planet" to churches and Christians are hypocritical and the cause of so much suffering to there are many paths to God.

Yet, everyone was calm and even-tempered. Everyone knew there were both believers and non-believers in the room and they respected that fact. It was a safe environment to share your thoughts in. There were no drastic changes in anyone, nor was there any crying or confessing. I left there with the sole thought that truly only God, only a supernatural being, would be able to right the wrongs that have been committed in humanity. Only through a change of heart, which only comes from God softening the heart, can cause a person to change paths and believe something so out of the ordinary. Satan has confused and lied and has used some big powers on earth to really inflict chaos.

taking walks is good for the soul
I left the retreat with the sole conviction that I need to be praying more often for God to intervene and soften the hearts of his people. In hearing their thoughts about God and the universe I could detect some running themes that are from the Kingdom of God, universal truths that they follow without completely understanding.

It was a powerful discussion, one that really opened my eyes to how the Czechs think and what they have faced over the decades and centuries. This place is steeped in history.
My English class. They were so good to me.
On another note, I was asked numerous times, "what organization are you with?" As many of the other volunteers were full-on missionaries, they assumed I was one too. When I said that I just kind of came to the Czech Republic on my own to teach and to see where God led from there, they were surprised by my independence. One missionary said, "so you're kind of like a 'freelance' missionary." Well, I guess that's one way of putting it.

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