Friday, 27 December 2013

Photo Friday

Carp is a traditional Christmas dish here (meaning it's what a lot of families will eat for their Christmas Eve dinner, which is when Christmas is celebrated here) so coming up to Christmas carp is being sold everywhere - including out of the back of that white van in a supermarket car park and in the middle of my town square. The fish are sold live and some people keep them alive in their bathtubs for a few days to improve the taste and to keep it fresh.

The fourth Sunday of advent.

Early o'clock at the train station as I made my way back to NI for Christmas - a train from my home town to Prague, a bus to the airport, a plane to Dublin and a coach up to Belfast where my family picked me up!

Christmas Eve involved the dentist first thing followed by seeing lovely people the rest of the day.

A lovely Christmas Day fire!

It was so great to see the Bowmans and spend time with them on Boxing Day!

Waking up to this view at sunrise is something I definitely missed!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas is Crazy

Christmas is crazy.

And I'm not talking about crazy-busy, I'm talking insane. Good insane. 

God was born. Jesus came into the world he created. As a little baby born to a young woman. Born to die on a cross so we could be reunited with Him. 

And it wasn't Plan B. Even before time began God planned for Christ to come and show kindness to us (2 Timothy 1:9). 

Christmas is the story of God with us. The story that was written at the very beginning. The story of a King come to rescue His bride. The story that declares "Love has come our captive hearts to free". 

And this story is the one that changes everything. 

I pray that this Christmas we would again allow this story to change us, that we would know and know deeply how loved we are by the God who entered our world. 

Friday, 20 December 2013

Photo Friday

On Saturday night I was at a concert organised by a co-worker, Terry English (appropriately, he is English!), called "Ostrava Zpiva Gospel". A choir had be formed and rehearsed in the weeks leading up to the concert and the Gospel was shared both in the songs that were sung and in Terry sharing a message. A lot of the singers are not Christians and it was really well attended - even the major came! 

After the excitement of Saturday night, Sunday night was pretty exciting too! I travelled into Poland to see seven Edge football teams compete as they played each other in a tournament. They looked so great in their football strips and it was so exciting to think of the impact of this ministry already.

I had the Yormans round on Monday evening and Kristin brought a gingerbread house to assemble. It was a lot of fun!

I get into the office early (like, 7am) so I am rather productive even before the sun appears.

Instead of a Czech lesson Tamara (in black, my Czech teacher), Kristin and I made Czech Christmas treats. At Christmastime people here will make many, many different types of little biscuit-y sweet things and they're so good!

What my desk looked like on Thursday, my last day in the office before Christmas.

The thing on the left is the Czech treat made on Wednesday and the thing on the right is a mince pie (there is a Marks and Spencers with a small food area in Ostrava, 40 minutes away) - my cultures colliding on a plate. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Cranes and Youth Ministry

Have you heard about a bird called the whooping crane?

Seventy years ago there were only sixteen whooping cranes left in the world. So biologists got to work and there are now over 600 whooping cranes.

The scientists wanted them to live as normally as possible. And part of the normal year for a whooping crane involves migrating from a colder northern state in America to sunny Florida.

The scientists tracked the birds as they migrated. They found that some groups of birds arrived at their destination perfectly and others veered 60 to 80 kilometers off course. Getting that lost is actually really dangerous - adding kilometres to an already long journey means it’s harder to survive.

The difference between the two groups was that the groups that flew straight to their destination had an older bird. The older bird knew the way to go and guided the others there.

At the Girls’ Retreat for my youth group I was asked to share about the importance of mentorship, discipleship, living in community and accountability. It was such a privilege to share with those beautiful ladies about the life God calls us to.

As part of the talk I shared about the whooping crane. And how we are a lot like whooping cranes. We need people around us, people who are wiser and who know what we’re going through to show us the way. We see this throughout the Bible, especially in chapters like Titus 2.

As I prepared for my talk I also found some interesting research from the Barna group. The Barna group conducted research among Millenials (the generation born between 1984 and 2002) and what differences existed between those who stay active in church and those who “drop out”. You can read their results here but there is one factor I want to highlight.

They found that 7 out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly 9 out of 10 of those who dropped out never had a mentor at the church.

Compare that statistic to 28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor. Meaningful relationships seem to be an important factor in whether or not young people stay active in the church.

Now, of course just because those are the statistics doesn’t mean those meaningful relationships completely caused the difference – it may be that because the young person is still in church they have meaningful relationships in that church (rather than because of those meaningful relationships those young people stay in church). Correlation does not mean causation (you can take the girl out of the psychology degree but you can’t take the psychology degree out of the girl).

But, regardless, there is something key about investing in those younger than us. Listening to them, giving them a voice, encouraging them, challenging them. I know that I am deeply indebted to amazing men and women of God who have done those things in my life over the years.

This is all especially true in Central and Eastern Europe where young people may not have Christian parents to model godly living and encourage them in this way. But it is also true all over – and we are commanded to teach those younger than us. 

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6 v 6-7

I pray that God will give us much grace and wisdom as we live this commandment out. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Photo Friday

Mladez (youth group) was all about Thanksgiving and Christmas! It was fun to talk about what Christmas looks like in Northern Ireland!

My street looks all Christmasy and I love it.

10.02pm. It was a long work day! Not that I worked solidly from 7am to 10pm but I had a late night Skype about our training event in January.

Tuesday morning at my desk.

Skypeing in teammates to talk about the logo design for camps in 2014! And we start them young - Stella is only 3 months old!

Working - talk prep - before going to see The Hobbit.

I hopped on a train to Prague for my day off and it was so so beautiful. It has been so busy it was good to get out of my flat so I could really rest.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Two weeks ago the snow arrived and it was so beautiful. It’s gone again now but it’ll be back soon. The arrival of the first snow was wonderfully timed for the start of December.

I love the month of December. It means that my living room has a beautiful Christmas tree with lots of fairy lights on it. There’s something cosy about the nights getting dark so early. And, yes, it’s cold but there are lots of hot drinks.

And it means Christmas is coming!

I love Christmas. Time spent with friends and family. Great food. And a time set aside to remember the crazy, beautiful truth of a baby being born two thousand years ago who was God with us.

And that’s why I love this season of Advent. Advent means arrival and this season is about anticipating the arrival of Christ.

This is at least my third year reading a book called Preparing for Jesus. It starts on December 1st and goes right up to January 6th with four pages or so to read each day.

It journeys through all the different characters and it has been such a great way for me to re-enter this old, old story in a new way.

It is so good to have this season to reflect – especially before New Year’s Eve rolls around.

A question a friend posted on Facebook that is a good part of preparing for Christmas:

"In gut-level honesty, what rules our lives as we prepare for Christmas? What has power over us?" (B.M.)

I’m excited to continue to celebrate this season in this new country and to continue to anticipate the arrival of Christ.

Monday, 9 December 2013


I finally got caught up after a crazy few weeks by uploading three "Photo Friday" posts. They're all under their correct dates (22nd and 29th November, 6th December) so scroll down to see what the last few weeks have looked like for me.

I'm hoping to send my prayer update out within the next week - if you don't receive them please sign up by putting your email address into the box on the right.

I hope you're having a great Advent season!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Photo Friday

My street is starting to look all Christmasy!

I spent Sunday afternoon watching Home Alone, eating a mince pie and decorating my very own Christmas tree in the Czech Republic. It still blows my mind that I get to live and celebrate here, including with my from-Tesco tree and decorations from Northern Ireland, Wales and Czech.

I love the season of Advent.

An important and exciting meeting (including skyping someone in from the States). Tuesdays in the office have a lot of meetings!

And on Wednesday I left with Casey to head down for a meeting in Slovenia. We stopped for lunch and a walk break in the 6+ hour drive in the beautiful Vienna. The Christmas market looked really cute!

Driving through Austria was beautiful!

The meeting was great! I love that the fact my job requires travelling means I get to see the worlds other JV missionaries live and serve in. Maribor, the town in Slovenia we were in, is beautiful!

We returned to Czech on Thursday - perfect timing so we could be back for December 6th which is Mikuláš Day here in Czech - Saint Nicholas! Santa! In Czech that means there is Saint Mikuláš (in the hat with the cross) along with an angel (all in white in the middle) and the devil (the creature in the black fur coat and red wig). If children are good they get a present from the angel and if they're bad they get coal from the devil... If they're really bad the devil will put a bag over their head and take them to hell. This was in my town's square on Friday night! It's fun to learn about new traditions - I guess this is the Czech equivalent of the naughty and nice list!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

God's Grace in the Books of the Bible

I loved reading these two posts which provide a summary of where we see God's grace in all the books of the Bible - both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.