Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Delightful Surprise

When I signed up to come to the Czech Republic, I had no idea what I was getting into. I did read a lot of the statistics about the country, that the nation's population is around 10.5 million people, approximately 50% of whom claim to be atheists. Only 40% claim to be Christian. Another 10% fall into the "other" category (Unitarian, Muslim, JW). When I learned these figures, I began to pray very hard that God would begin to open the hearts of the people He would have me meet, so that I would be able to share the Gospel with willing hearers. I thought that I would basically be surrounded by non-Christians and that every day life as a believer would be a constant struggle, that I would bombarded by challenges to my faith by people who subscribe completely and totally to a post-modern, evolutionist, atheist world-view. Because of the grace of God, the exact opposite has been the case. While I have spent some time with non-believers and while even in the Christian school where I teach there are children who aren't Christians, I am really surrounded by a group of incredible believers. My neighbor/apartment mate, Karin; Pastor Michal Klus and his wife Sarka and their kids; the Polish pastor and his lovely wife; the youth leaders, Jiri & Jana, and Lucasz; the members of the youth group, especially Kristina; my two fellow English teachers; Stephanie Rosburg, my fellow LCMS volunteer in Poland. These people are all so encouraging and have done an amazing job of welcoming me and making it known that I am to be their friend and sister.

Yes, there is a lot of work to be done for the Lord in the Czech Republic. However, this area, Silesia, is kind of the Christian stronghold in the Czech Republic from the days when the atheist Soviets ruled the land. Christianity was suppressed by the Russians, but they could not extinguish the faith entirely (because God is more powerful than any human or human invention, including communists). Yes, there are a lot of non-believers here. Yes, there is SO much work to be done in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to these people. However, I am SO amazed at the faith of those who are believers. I am amazed at the dedication, in word AND in deed of these people to the Word of God. There are meetings here at the parish hall every day of the week of people coming to read the Word, to encourage one another and to pray for one another. It's awesome.

The thing which has impressed me the most in this congregation is their dedication to prayer. Until I came here I had never been with Christians who seemed as though they couldn't WAIT to pray. At home, it is common in group prayer for there to be a lot of silent time when no one is praying aloud, and everyone seems to be waiting for someone else to pray, or for someone to end the time of prayer so that we can get back to the real, important business of conversation with one another or of "normal" life. Frequently, it seems as though people just have nothing to talk about with God. It is the complete opposite here. In group meetings, the leader say something to the effect of "Let us pray" and I can barely fold my hands and bow my head before someone has begun to call upon the Name of the Lord. This person will generally pray for about a minute. When finished, the pray-er says "amen," everyone else affirms the prayer with "amen," and then almost immediately the next person begins. It is awesome. After about three people pray-- unless it's a small group in which everyone prays-- then the leader lifts up his or her prayer, and when he or she says "amen," everyone knows that the prayer is finished. It is awesome.

More than this, the church is having a 24/7 prayer vigil starting on May 24 and lasting through May 31. It is awesome. Out of 168 possible hour time slots for the prayer vigil, as of right now, 10:04:48 PM, Tuesday, May 20, only 53 remain. I am amazed by that. I haven't signed up yet, but it looks like 2:00 to 3:00AM is still open for every day. And I'm young, I can handle that! All I have to do is get up and walk downstairs.

Prayer Requests:
-Pray that this 24/7 prayer vigil would be a great success, that the rest of the time slots would fill soon. Please pray that God would turn His ear to hear our cries to Him for the health of His church and for evangelism and outreach, for the salvation of the people of this community and the world

-Pray that Christians around the world would take prayer more seriously. Pray that God would remind His people that He Himself taught us to pray (Matt. 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4) and that therefore it is of great importance.

-Pray that God would continue to ward off homesickness and culture shock, neither of which I have experienced yet.

-Pray that God would continue to provide for my every need as He has always done and has promised to do. Specifically pray that the last bit of money needed for my support would come in (I have another incredible story about finances to share at a later time- God is SO GOOD!)

-Pray for safety and health for my brother while he and a group of students from Concordia are in Belize for two weeks on a biology study trip.

May you be blessed and encouraged by these things which have so encouraged me here!


Andrew said...

That's kind of funny that your brother is going on that trip to Belize, one of the guys I played basketball with in high school is also going. Small world.

Elise said...

Ashley! I am typing with my new vision. :)

I love you!! I am so encouraged to hear your excitement and your love. I pray God continues to build that in you, so that you can rely on it in any discouraging times as well.

Hooray for playing the trumpet!! That is awesome. I am sure that makes you happy and feel at home.

So how is the Czech?!?! See you soon when you pause back here in the states.