Today I'm continuing my theme of playing catch up on my blogs. Last week I started the week in recovery mode from XcamP. Because it was such a long week and because I had gotten sick, I really treasured the chance to have a few days to myself to relax and recover before moving on to the next thing. On Sunday I was blessed with an invitation to have Sunday dinner with the Samiec family. Two of the children in this family and I have become friends throughout the course of this summer, and I was excited to have the chance to meet their parents and spend the afternoon with them. Not only did I get to come over for dinner, but I even got to help in the preparation a little. Maybe eventually the women here will collectively teach this "kitchen incompetent" how to cook.
After a relaxing and fairly uneventful Monday and Tuesday (except for teaching my three English classes), I went on Wednesday to Budišov nad Budišovkou to join the last two days of our church's English camp. I took the train (my first Czech train ride!) from Třinec to Karvína by myself. In Karvína, I met with a doctor who is so renowned here that everyone simply calls him by his first name, Bendito. I actually have no idea what his last name is. He is originally from Angola, but he moved to the Czech Republic 25 years ago to attend University in Brno. He's lived here longer than he lived in his home country. Anyway, he and his wife, wonderful people both, picked me up at the train station and the three of us drove the rest of the way to Budišov. It was a very pleasant ride. Bendito and I spoke with each other in English, but more of our conversation was in Spanish as his Spanish is stronger than his English. At one point, he said a sentence to me that was trilingual. That's right, in one sentence he switched between Czech, English and Spanish. And the funny thing was, I understood him! I tried my Czech on his wife, and I have to admit that it was pitiful. But they were both patient with me, and they taught me a few new words on the way to the camp. The reason that Bendito and his wife were going to the Children's camp was that every evening, a non-Czech had been invited to speak about his or her home country. Wednesday was Bendito's appointed night, and once we arrived and the time came for him to speak, he gave a presentation about the continent of Africa with the most beautiful slide show that I've ever seen. When he was done speaking, I was dying to go to Africa and see EVERYTHING. When Bendito was finished speaking, he and his wife went home, and I stayed at the camp until Friday when it ended.
On Thursday, the entire camp went for a six hour trip to the top of the mountain above Budišov. On the way there, I was blessed to walk with so many children who wanted to be my friend and who wanted to teach me Czech. I learned more words and phrases on the way to the top of that mountain than I have learned in any other single WEEK that I've been here. More than that, I developed a couple friendships with some wonderful children from my congregation. I also had the first time in my life to pick blueberries. Parts of the mountains here are carpeted with blueberry plants under the trees, and by the end of the afternoon, my hands and my mouth were purple. It was wonderful. At the top of the mountain, there was a meteorological station where we spent about an hour learning about the machinery and equipment for weather prediction.
That evening it was my turn to talk about my home. I had been told that I should talk about Cowboys and Indians because children in the Czech Republic love the American Old West. So, I made a presentation about Plains Indians and Cowboys. It went over so well with the children that the next morning, when they were asked what their favorite part of the camp was, many of them said "Ashley!" I have a sneaking suspicion that they said that because it was the most recent event, and therefore the thing they remembered the best, but who am I to say? At any rate, the two days when I was at our children's camp were two of the best days of the last month. Seriously. It was wonderful.
The only other really noteworthy things that I have done since Children's camp include hiking up Javorovy (a local popular "mountain" hiking/ biking/ parasailing location) on Sunday with two brothers from the church. It was one of the most exhausting and fun things I've done in a long time. After we reached the summit and rested for a little while, we took the opportunity to run down the face of the mountain. That's right. We ran down the treeless parasailing strip from the summit to about 2/3 of the way down. From there we got onto a significantly less steep trail and jogged for about 10 minutes back to their home. What a rush. Another 'noteworthy' activity was a solo cycling excursion where I took my lunch and a book and went to the forest for an afternoon of reading, relaxing, and berry picking. I came home with about a half a pound of blackberries with a few raspberries and blueberries in the mix, and not a few scratches on my arms and legs. These bushes are vicious!
In other news, I just finished reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis. I highly recommend it, especially the final chapter, "Charity." Lewis always amazes me, at his depth of insight, and his incredible ability to draw such incredible, often funny, analogies. Also, if you haven't read another wonderful book by Lewis: The Great Divorce-- and you probably haven't-- DO. I am really excited about that book. In it he does an incredible job of painting a picture of how small and forgettable and impermanent is everything that we live for here in light of the bigness and unforgettability and permanence of heaven. It's awesome. While I'm on the Lewis bandwagon, I also highly recommend The Screwtape Letters, but enough of the book review.
One of the joys which I've recently enjoyed is devouring an entire book of the Bible in one sitting. Paul's letters are particularly conducive to this and every time I have finished one lately, I wonder what it is exactly that keeps me from doing this every day. This amazing letter is my spiritual daily bread, the Word from God's mouth by which a man lives. Why do we not read His Word with hunger? Because it is our daily bread, when we don't read it on a daily basis, we are spiritually starving ourselves as Christians. We often convince ourselves that we don't need to read it because it is "boring." But God's Word is ANYTHING but boring. Honestly. As they used to say on Reading Rainbow: "But don't just take MY word for it, read it yourself!"
-Please pray for our upcoming children's English Camp (Aug. 18-22):
*1) Story-telling to children of 5-8 years is one of my decided weaknesses-- pray that God would be strong in my weakness!
*2) Five of our 20 registered children are from families that are not from our church-- pray that we would faithfully proclaim God's Word, that these children would be receptive to it, that He would create faith in their little hearts based on our faithful witness.
-Please pray for the upcoming school year, that my students would be ready and willing to learn English, and that I would be ready and willing to teach!
-Please pray for my friend Stephanie Rosburg, LCMS missionary in Poland. She's taking an intensive Polish course and has basically no time to relax, even though she just returned from a month in the US. Pray also that she would be prepared as the beginning of a new school year quickly approaches.
-Pray for the other new LCMS Eurasia team members, that they would get their visas in time to be in their fields for the beginning of the school year (Sept. 1). Also, pray for the new LCMS missionaries preparing to go around the world. Many of them are behind where they would like to be on their support raising, and their departure dates are quickly approaching.