Monday, 27 May 2013

Safely Arrived!

At midnight last night I landed in Krakow, waited for my bags to appear (and, gratefully, they both made it with all my belongings intact!) and walked through security to receive a huge hug from my friend Martina. After a two hour drive we arrived in Česky Těšin.

Today we will join a lot of other missionaries, intern leaders and interns and travel up to Krakow to hop on an overnight train to L'viv. On Tuesday night we will be on another overnight train to take us to Kiev for Wednesday. 

On Wednesday all the interns serving across Central and Eastern Europe will arrive in. They will split off into their teams and the Amazing Race will start, three days of intense team building where teams will complete challenges and make their way back to the Josiah Venture training facility, Malenovice, in the Czech Republic, for Friday.

It will be a busy few days! I will be one of the people giving the teams the challenges. I'm kinda glad not to be doing them again this year! And I'm excited to be serving these people as they head out to serve this summer. The Amazing Race is such a great way for teams to bond and to see who they are under stress.

Please do be praying for safety and for God to unite these teams in the coming days! That He would equip them and give them a great start to their summer.

On Friday intern training starts - interns will receive teaching and will be equipped for their summers.

I am very grateful to be back here, in a place that feels so much like my home, a place that hopefully will become my home over the next few months. It's so great to see wonderful friends again, in real life instead of over Skype. And I popped my Czech SIM card in my phone this morning to discover it works and still has credit!

I'm excited to see what God has in store for the days ahead!

Friday, 24 May 2013

Photo Friday

My animal neighbours.

Easily the best ice cream in the world: honeycomb ice cream made by a Northern Irish company.

A wonderful hot chocolate and time spent with a wonderful godly lady and friend on Monday night over dinner!

Helping dad in the garden.

When Paul Bowman wrote the reference for my JV application back in September this was his price.  They're sort of homemade Reese's Peanut Butter treats.  I finally got round to making them and delivering them on Wednesday.


On Friday night we had our last night of the.element, our youth club, for the year!  A team from Youth For Christ came with a cage football set up and it was a great night.  I have adored serving at the.element over the years.  One of the weird things with it is there are now young guys who go whom I remember from when they were 4-8 years old in another ministry I served in years ago.  It makes me feel old!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Photo Friday

Saturday - an amazing dinner with amazing friends at Villa Italia in Belfast.  These profiteroles were pretty great!

Sunday - I stopped the car to document the sunset!

I love these trees.

My favourite flower!

I love technology that keeps me connected with friends - I'm referring to the lovely lady I'm talking to, and she was showing me the dog she was looking after!

I also love this kind of daffodill!

Friday nights at the.element!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Photo Friday

Saturday - fulfilling a "bucket list" item for Amy's birthday - playing Hide and Seek, followed by Sardines, in a certain Swedish store.

Sunday - it was an honour to share what God is doing in central and eastern Europe in a local church.  I was so encouraged by the congregation there and it was beautiful to be able to walk along the shore at White Rocks after the service.

Monday - a bank holiday!  So where else to go but a garden centre to debate herb buying choices.

Tuesday - I am so grateful for a very flexible job that is close to where I live and that doesn't mind all my frequent travels.  And it was a gloriously sunny day so I had my lunch and read outside!

Wednesday - getting emailed shopping lists for a Czech friend, so today involved buying shampoo at Tesco.

Thursday - writing by the fire!

Friday - I got to go to the Ulster vs Scarlets match!  It was so great to see Ulster win!  On to the final.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Community of MTI

One of my favourite things about MTI was the community of people there.  There were slightly different groups for both courses, although there were also a lot of people who were there for both courses.  It was such a joy to get to know and be around people who love Jesus and who are heading out all over the world to serve Him, in a million different ways.

We were all different.  Different denominations, backgrounds, accents, with many different passions.  And yet we had all been called by God to head into cross-cultural mission full time, whether for a couple of years or until we retire.

CS Lewis wrote ““Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  Those moments were frequent in these groups of people as we talked about the yay and the yuck of leaving those we love for places and people we also love, the yay and the yuck of support raising, and the many other facets of life that are unique to people in our particular situation.  Those “me too” moments, that deep understanding that comes, even without many words sometimes, through shared experiences were so encouraging and reassuring. 

I am so thankful for the people I got to meet and build relationships with while I was at MTI.  It was wonderful to hear how God called these people and the work they are joining in various ministries across the world. 

I am especially grateful for the deeper relationships I was able to build in my time there – with the incredible ladies in my growth group as we wrestled through tough topics and spoke into each others lives, with the wonderful families and the various couples and individuals. 

Being a part of this grace-filled community of people, along with the dedicated and experienced instructors and coaches, was a large part of why MTI was such a blessing for me.  Being able to process hard things, discuss tough topics, worship God and rejoice together was a beautiful, beautiful thing and I am so grateful.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Photo Friday

Saturday - it was fun to have some Czech students with us and they shared about their beautiful country at Elevate!

My sister's cat loves people.

Sunshine in Northern Ireland!  So much that I needed sunglasses!  Crazy!

I'm starting to realise the little, random things I'm going to miss when I'm in Czech.  Tuesday involved lunch with a dear friend - definitely going to miss all my friends who I get to see throughout the weeks! And also random things, like rhubarb yoghurt.

Wednesday - I've started selling off a lot of my possessions!  Exciting, hard... mainly exciting.

Thursday - time with the travel nurse getting some vaccines for my time away!

Friday - I adore getting to spend my Friday nights at the.element, my church's youth club.  And it was such a privilege to be able to share the Gospel, and the incredible life-changing love of God, with students the past couple of Friday nights.  


The next three weeks at MTI were spent doing SPLICE. Again, this word is an acronym:

Endure / Enjoy

It was a full on three weeks! Thankfully getting e.coli only led to me missing the first full day and a half.  I don't think I really knew what to expect going into the course but it was an incredible and transformative experience. Here's just a taster of what we looked at:

Spiritual - we spent time looking at our spiritual lives and how to continue to cultivate a strong relationship with God, even in the midst of stress, transition into a new culture and busy ministry.  This included looking at how to rest well and how to have Sabbaths and how crucial those are to our spiritual, and therefore ministry, vitality.

Personal - we all have values that we hold dear, that shape how we live, and some of those are good and even Biblical but some are simply cultural. We spent time identifying our values and how that may affect how we enter new cultures.  We also looked at how to manage stress and grief and loss.

Lifestyle - we looked at our life style choices, what transition into a new culture looks like, and team issues.

Interpersonal - this included looking at conflict and different ways different personalities approach and handle conflict.  This was incredibly practical and very informative!

Culture - how to enter a new culture, how to learn about culture, language acquisiton...

Endure / Enjoy - being a missionary is full of paradoxes.  There are things that are amazing and things that aren't so great.  At MTI we had a "pair of ducks" (say it quickly and you'll end up with "paradox") - a yay duck and a yuck duck.  It was great to be able to process the paradoxes we'll face and tools that we can use so we can endure, and even thrive, even with yucks.

As well as a lot of teaching on the above areas and more we spent time with a personal coach each week and every couple of days you would meet in with a group called your growth group to discuss some of the different topics we were learning about. I am so incredibly thankful for my time with my coach and for the wonderful women in my growth group.

There's going to be another post on the community of MTI itself but I left MTI after SPLICE knowing that every visa form and the money involved in paying for MTI was worth it.  The things I learnt at MTI, by God's grace, transformed me and will hopefully help me serve and live well in the Czech Republic.  

Thank you so much for your support as I went to and received training!


The first two weeks of my time in Colorado were to do a course called PILAT, an acronym that stands for Program In Language Acquisition Techniques.  This means for two weeks from 9-4 I spent my time learning how to learn a language.

We spent a lot of time doing phonetics drills which trained our ears to hear the difference between different sounds, and trained our mouths to say them.  I am grateful that God is the one who created language and our mouths which means, in theory, all those sounds can be perfectly articulated.  Some of them I definitely struggled with, and am very grateful that a lot of those sounds don't exist in Czech! I also became very grateful that Czech is not a tonal language - in some languages whether your voice gets higher, lower or stays the same can all lead to different word meanings!

We also spent time learning different techniques for learning language, with lots of different techniques we can incorporate into our lives that will help us learn.  I will admit that I was really rather skeptical about some of the techniques as thy were so foreign to me, and so unlike how I'd learnt French and Spanish in school.  However, my skepticism disappeared when we spent three mornings (three hours each time) learning a language. I was in the Russian group which was fun and a lot of the sounds and even some of the words were similar to Czech.  It was encouraging to see how much Russian I was able to understand at the end of that time.

All in all, PILAT was a very practical time and I left it feeling like Czech might actually be something I can learn, especially with the tools I was equipped with during the course.  I know that it will still be a long road, and I'm sure there will be future blog posts dedicated to the hilarious mistakes I make but I'm excited to be learning Czech.