Sunday, January 9, 2011

As I sit down to write this update, I begin in much the same place as always – wondering which story, out of all the stories from the past ten days, to share with you.

I could tell about my first days of school, which included subbing for another high school teacher with about twenty minutes’ advance notice, or I could tell about getting yelled at in Czech today at the store, because I didn’t have the back of my debit card signed. I could talk about sharing salad and bread and personal goals at the Bible study last Wednesday, or my first pilgrimage through the rain to the Prague castle on Saturday. My goal, however, is to share a story that captures three things for you: the Czech experience, the school community, and the spiritual life here, and so I have chosen to share about my second Sunday here in Prague.

Like many teachers at the school, I attend the International Church of Prague (ICP), and in many ways, my church here reminds me of the various churches I attend back home. This morning, the service opened with a variety of songs, continued with a confessional prayer and then the sermon, and concluded with the Lord’s Supper. Also like many U.S. churches, ICP finishes the service with a time of fellowship and coffee, which is a good chance for newbies like me to meet new people and hang out with brand-new friends. Incidentally, it was also a good place for me to get coffee today: I just moved into my apartment and, with no microwave, electric kettle, or working stove, had no hot drinks for the previous forty-eight hours.

However similar to an American church, however, any international church has a few key differences which make the experience particularly special. Perhaps the most superficial was simply the ride to church. Much as I like Kansas, the trip in from my country home to church cannot compare with the one here in Prague: from the Metro station near my home, I took a tram down the hill towards church, winding along the narrow cobblestone roads and looked out over the red roofs and church spires that have stood there for hundreds of years.

Later, I discovered something else special about this church community: they take to heart the concept of community – a concept that I believe is too easily overlooked in Stateside churches. After the service, a couple from the school invited several other teachers over for pancakes (taking to heart the pastor’s encouragement to celebrate the Sabbath with yummy food!). My original plan for the day had been to return home for a little lesson planning and unpacking, but who can resist pancakes? And so, a friend and I made a brief stop at Tesco and picked up an electric kettle (which I just now used to make a cup of tea!), and then we trekked on over to Kate and Garrett’s for a really late lunch.

Normally, my Sunday afternoons during the school year include a fair amount of work. As a freshman in college, I once resolved not to study at all on Sunday. That resolve lasted about two weeks, until all the homework hit. This afternoon, however, I took a rare break from my solitary place in front of the computer and spent the day with fellow believers. Kate made chocolate-chip pancakes, seriously good with little pieces of melting European chocolate in them, and we spread peanut butter and bananas on the top. Later, we played ‘King and Scum’ for an hour, and much later, we sat and discussed the various forms of worship in the church today. So far, most of the work I’ve done today has been writing this blog, and most of the time I’ve saved from work has been spent in the company of fellow believers.

This sort of company is under-appreciated (or at least, I didn’t appreciate it enough) in Stateside churches. Part of the reason, of course, is the sheer number of English-speaking people in the States: When everybody speaks your language, it is not quite so necessary to hang out with church people. Here, very nearly the only English speakers I know are people who attend my church, and so I am thrown together with them by necessity. Still, I think perhaps that the community I have by necessity here is just as necessary in the States, simply more easily overlooked.

Here, we draw together because of our unique similarities in a foreign country. Each of us speaks English in a Czech-speaking nation; each of us is a Christian in materialistic Europe. What this boils down to in the end is that each of us is a stranger in a strange land. Essentially, this is exactly what a Christian anywhere is: Christ tells us that we believers are ‘strangers in a strange land’ – people temporarily living in a material world, tied eternally to a spiritual home. In reality, the States is just as foreign to us as the Czech Republic is to me right now; it’s just easier to forget how foreign America really is because of all the signs in readable English. And yet, each of us – even in Kansas, or in the Bible Belt of the South – is just as much as foreigner as I am here, and just as much in need of regular fellowship with believers. My new resolve is to work less on Sundays, to spend more time with believers while I am here, a resolve that I hope will both better prepare me to build relationships with students and also one rub off on fellow believers.

Speaking of students, I do have a few new prayer requests for you all. I’ve begun teaching 9th and 10th grade English, and I’ve discovered how different the academic needs of high schoolers are from those of college students. Please pray that I will adjust quickly to my new responsibilities. Also, please pray I will be able to establish strong relationships with the students: I am impressed with these students and excited about getting to know each one of them.

A final note: I discovered this morning that pictures need to be 8 megapixels or less to post on the blog. Most of my pictures are 10 mp, and so no pictures quite yet. There are some on Facebook, so you can check there or send me an email to get photos.

No comments:

Post a Comment