Saturday, 8 July 2017

Ten years!

Ten years ago today I stepped off an airplane and onto Czech soil for the first time. I was eighteen years old, had recently finished my A-levels and was hopefully heading to Cardiff University in September to study psychology.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Or letting myself in for.

I remember the epically long journey from Prague to Malenovice, and staying in a hotel further up from the conference centre because it was full with the number of teams serving that week. I remember snippets of short term team training, mostly how God revealed Himself to me.

I remember our wonderful team from NI and England, and meeting the team we were serving alongside from Washington – Jarrod would be my helper for the week, and Katcha, his wife, would be our translator. I remember the evening videos from the London Underground. I remember the camp dance and the repeating "I can't hear you" chorus.

I remember my class. Pavel who took smoke breaks from class, possibly more than he was in them. Tereza, Eva, and Miลกa who were all so patient with my poor pronunciation of all things Czech, including some of their names. I also got to share a room with Tereza during the camp.


I remember the forty-degree weather on the day we hiked and getting so very lost on the way home. Then there was all the incredible and new food – blueberry dumplings and marlenka stand out as favourites from the very beginning, and while I still don't like sparkling water I have learnt to love Kofola.

I remember the staying up all night of the last night of camp, writing notes for the postboxes on our room doors, and going outside with our duvets wrapped around us, watching the huge thunderstorm roll in across the valley.

But more than all of those things I remember the crazy faithfulness of God and all the ways He showed Himself that week. Ten years later and I still have friendships that started at that camp. One of the people who came to Christ that year is now leading that same camp this summer. I was able to have dinner with Jarrod, Katcha and their family when I was in Prague for my Czech intensive in February. And those new and foreign places now feel like home – I spend around four weeks a year staying at Malenovice for various conferences, and my office is in the town where we welcomed students off the train.

Eternity is different because of what God did in that week at Malenovice. And I think it is so crazy kind of God that He invites us in to His work. He is the author of salvation and the harvest is His but He invites us in - to plant, and to water. He gives the growth - and graciously allows us to see glimpses of it!

If you'd asked me in August 2008 about my trip to Czech I'm not sure what I would have said - I would have talked about what I saw God do in this new-to-me country, and, maybe how I saw Him bigger during those two weeks. But I think I would have been non-committal about returning the following year, and if you'd told me that ten years later I would be celebrating four years of calling here home I'd have thought you were nuts. But here we are. All because of His grace.

Ten years on, and this summer we're doing one hundred and twenty-two camps across thirteen countries in central and eastern Europe. Czech remains one of the most atheistic countries in the world, but there is an incredible openness to the gospel now. Ten years ago we worked our way up to sharing about Jesus but now we can boldly dive into who Jesus is from the beginning and invite students to share who they think He is and what He means for their lives.

Ten years on, and I cannot do anything but sit in awe of God - of all that He has done, of how He has shown Himself to be so much bigger, of how He is changing lives and nations, and that He invites us into this joyful work.

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