Thursday, May 22, 2014

Visitors



We are praising the Lord for sending a new family our way. Jana and Josef live here in our village. We were introduced to them by one of Debra’s English students. Debra has also witnessed to this particular student many times yet she remains a staunch Catholic. She knew, however, that this other family might be open to the message of the gospel so she introduced us. Josef and Jana, along with their two young daughters have been with us for two consecutive weeks. We met with them again in their home to answer any questions they may have. Please pray for them to come under conviction and trust the Savior.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Meeting Room

 
 
We are praising the Lord for providing an even better room for our church services. After a couple of scheduling conflicts with the room on the ground floor, the owner approached me to offer a different space one floor up. This is a location where we can leave our chairs set up for church. We don’t have to rearrange everything every week. There is better ventilation as well as a small countertop with a sink and two restrooms. This is a great deal for a space we only have to pay for on Sundays. Pray for the owner, Nikolaj, that he may also be saved.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sad Statistics

I have written in the past about Lenka. She is the English teacher in the middle school in our village. Debra has been tutoring her in her advanced college English course. She is the one responsible for getting Debra and the boys into the classroom to speak to the students. She was sharing some very sad statistics with Debra the other day. Out of 23 students in her class, only 7 have both a father and mother that live at home with them. That means that only 30% of Czech children are being raised in a nuclear home. This was not at all the case under communism. Adding freedom to an already secular society has only accelerated the deterioration of the family. Even this English teacher can see the problems associated with this trend although she sees no way to reverse it. Praise God, we know the way, Amen?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What is Easter like where you are?

Czech Republic Easter Symbols
Many Czech Easter symbols are related to spring and the beginning of new life. Some of the best known are:
• Easter Eggs and kraslice
Czech Easter EggsThe hand-painted or otherwise decorated egg (kraslice) is the most recognizable symbol of Czech Easter. Girls decorate Easter eggs to give them to boys on Easter Monday. There are many Easter egg decorating techniques and the more elaborate ones require a certain level of skill. Different materials can be used, such as bee's wax, straw, watercolors, onion peels, picture stickers. The most common designs are probably geometrical patterns, but you can also see flowers, leaves or snowflake patterns in a whole range of colors. There are no limitations to creating pretty, colorful eggs.
A nationwide Easter egg contest is held in Prague and other Czech cities around Easter time.
Easter pomlázka• Pussywillow and pomlázka
Young, live pussywillow twigs are thought to bring health and youth to anyone who is whipped with them. An Easter pomlázka (from pomladit or "make younger") is a braided whip made from pussywillow twigs. It has been used for centuries by boys who go caroling on Easter Monday and symbolically whip girls on the legs. In the past, pomlázka was also used by the farmer's wife to whip the livestock and everyone in the household, including men and children. There would be no Czech Easter without the pomlázka.
Boys used to make their own pomlázkas in the past. The more twigs, the more difficult it was to braid one. This skill is not widespread anymore and pomlázkas can be bought in stores and street stands. Some men don't even bother and use a single twig or even a wooden spoon!
• Baby Animals - Lamb, Bunny Rabbit, Chicken
One Easter tradition is to bake a lamb. In the Czech Republic, real lamb is usually replaced with one made from gingerbread.
• Dousing
Dousing a girl with water has a similar symbolic meaning as the pomlázka.
• The Color Red
Red and other bright colors symbolize health, joy, happiness and new life that comes with the spring.

The Days Before Easter Sunday
The following is based on my experience of Easter in the Northern Moravia region.
Children finish school on Ugly Wednesday (Škaredá středa), which is a good idea because they need to spend some serious time on making Easter what it should be. In the evening of Green Thursday (Zelený čtvrtek), every boy in the village equips himself with a wooden rattle (řehtačka), which is specially made for the purpose, the boys form a group and walk through the village, rattling their rattles vigorously, so the noise can be heard from afar. The meaning of the rattling is to chase away Judas. The same procedure repeats on Good Friday (Velký pátek) and one more time on White Saturday (Bílá sobota) when the boys don't only walk through the village but stop at every house in the morning and rattle until they're given money, which they then split between themselves.

Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday (Neděle velikonoční) is a day of preparations for Easter Monday. Girls paint, color and decorate eggs if they haven't done so already, and boys prepare their pomlázkas!
In my family, decorating Easter eggs is a simple affair: dip some hardboiled eggs in water filled with boiled onion peels and then place store-bought Easter stickers on the eggs.

Easter Monday
Easter Monday (Pondělí velikonoční) is a day off, the day of the pomlázka.
The origin of the pomlázka tradition (pomlázka meaning both the whip and the tradition itself) dates back to pagan times. Its original purpose and symbolic meaning is to chase away illness and bad spirits and to bring health and youth for the rest of the year to everyone who is whipped with the young pussywillow twigs. Boys would whip girls lightly on the legs and possibly douse them with water, which had a similar symbolic meaning. An Easter carol, usually asking for an egg or two, would be recited by the boy while whipping. The girl would then reward the boy with a painted egg or candy and tie a ribbon around his pomlázka. As the boys progressed through the village, their bags filled up with eggs and their pomlázkas were adorned with more and more colorful ribbons.
This tradition is still largely upheld, especially in villages and small towns, although it may have lost its symbolism and romance and is now performed mainly for fun. Some boys and men seem to have forgotten that the whipping is supposed to be only symbolic and girls don't always like that. The reward has also changed - money and shots of plum brandy (slivovice) are often given instead of or in addition to painted eggs and candy. So by early afternoon, groups of happy men can be seen staggering along the roads... All that aside, Easter remains one of the most joyful holidays on the Czech calendar.
Happy Easter! - Veselé Velikonoce!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Prayer and fasting


This month (March and April) we are spending extended times in prayer and fasting. We are asking the Lord to answer some very specific requests. We are also asking the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest. There is so much work to be done and the laborers are so few. Won’t you pray with us for the Lord to do great things in these last days?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Blessings of the New Year



We praise the Lord for what He is doing already this year. John Reaves and I have been working together handing out tracts. One week he travels to Brno, the next I go to Olomouc. We have been distributing tracts in the outlying villages surrounding both of our cities. The added benefit is the on-going encouragement and sharpening of swords. We both look forward to our time together. I know I have been greatly helped and encouraged by the fellowship. We are excited to report that a man we have been praying for finally came to visit our services. Jarek, pronounced Yarek, is the husband of Alena, which was saved a few years ago. Jarek was raised in a Catholic family and became very bitter against God and all things religious. God gave me great liberty to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jarek listened intently to the message and at times seemed to be under conviction. We pray the Holy Spirit will work in his heart to bring him to repentance. Others have promised to come and have asked questions each time we meet with them, however have not yet been willing to attend church or to do a Bible study. Pray for Ladka and Martin in this area.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Passion or profit? - Czech opinions on Valentine's Day


Passion or profit? - Czech opinions on Valentine's Day
14-02-2006 14:39 | Chris Jarrett
    
     Despite the fact that St. Valentine's Day only became known relatively recently in the Czech Republic, it is continually increasing in popularity, and the familiar merchandise which accompanies it is gradually appearing more and more in shop windows. As a consequence there has been lively debate regarding whether or not companies and retailers exploit the festival in modern times for commercial purposes, thus tarnishing its true meaning for many people. Radio Prague takes a look into how Czechs perceive the day.
     As shops all over Prague began their annual displays of oversized cuddly toys and heart-adorned greetings cards, it is plain for all to see that Valentine's Day - called Valentyn in Czech - is once again upon us. As we have seen, the real historical origins of the festival remain extremely mysterious, containing remnants of both ancient Roman and Christian traditions, yet the modern commerciality of St. Valentine's Day is often seen to mask its significance. Although a well-founded tradition in Britain and other European countries, which, as a widely-celebrated event, dates back to the seventeenth century, it is very much a new phenomenon in the Czech Republic, having gained popularity only within around the past ten years. I asked Martin Horalek, a spokesman for the Czech conference of Bishops whether the festival retains its religious meaning nowadays:

"I think it's a pretty significant day, as it is the feast of love, and love is one of the most important things in the Christian faith at all, so certainly the significance is pretty big. A tradition is beginning on this day that we celebrate a mass, for all people of goodwill, and all people who love somebody else, in the Basilica in Vysehrad."
So you think that on a practical scale the Czech people do see a religious significance in Valentine's Day and not just a commercial one?
Photo: CTK
Photo CTK "It's not easy to say. Certainly the commercial one is more common in our very atheistic society."

     Whether St. Valentine's Day is seen as a religious or a non-religious event, there seems to be differing opinion regarding whether it's merely used in modern times as an excuse to sell merchandise. A spokesperson for the Neo Luxor bookshop on Prague's Wenceslas Square explains how they've been going to special lengths because of the festival:

"The St. Valentine's Day festival is becoming ever more popular in the Czech Republic and therefore the Luxor Book Palace has also endeavoured to do its part for the celebration. For example, each customer in the fiction department may pick up a free gift, such as a novel for women. I believe that our enterprise has been successful and that we will continue in the same vein in future years, since the younger generation especially enjoy this festival, and its popularity is increasing."
    
     I also spoke to a few people in the centre of Prague, who felt strongly that St. Valentine's Day is now centred on the commercial world:
 Young woman 1: "I think it's only commercial. It's very important for business, for shops with flowers."
Young man 1: "It's more about business for me. I think it doesn't have any tradition here and that's why it's a little bit foreign for us."
Young woman 2: "Everybody's buying something just because its being advertised everywhere."
Older man 1: "I think it isn't our national holiday and its mainly good business."
Middle aged man 1: "I just think it started as a commercial project it wasn't non-commercial from the beginning."

     Yet, despite debate regarding modern society's business-like approach to St. Valentine's Day in the Czech Republic and indeed all over the world, it remains for many a day specifically devoted to one's loved ones, something which no amount of commerciality can erase.