First of all, sorry for the pun but isn’t it just fantastic?
So by now, faithful blog reader, you likely are aware that I am out of the hospital and back home in my trusty flat in Sokolov. I could give you a lengthy moment-by-moment account of my time in the hospital but frankly that is just boring so I’ll do this instead.
The hospital was boring. Pretty much no one besides the doctors (who I rarely saw, remember I was kind of incapacitated in the operation room) spoke English. The nurses enjoyed giggling though when they tried to tell me stuff. Apparently the best time to have your temperature taken is 4:45 IN THE MORNING. They did it both nights I was there. The operation was pretty quick and about 24 hours after it was done I was released from the hospital. I would of died of boredom if I had to spend another day in there. However I did manage to meet one person.
His name was Jaroslav and he was a few years older than my dad. I know this because at the end of our beds we have handy clipboards with our name and year of birth on them. Anyway the first afternoon he asked if I wanted to play chess. And by ask I mean he held up the board and sort of looked at me. After confirming they were chess not checkers pieces I offered to play that evening in halting one-word Czech/English answers. He agreed and that night he plopped the board on my bed and we played Chess. He promptly destroyed me. However he enjoyed helping me with moves. Over two days I realized how woefully inexplicable Czech is to me as I heard everyone around me speak it. But Jaroslav and I were able to to play chess together and that was cool.
Over the next day after my operation he helped me understand a few things with his very limited english. That night we played chess again. He was excited about my “training”. I know this because he kept saying the word training. Again he helped me with my moves while still beating me pretty badly.
The next morning I found out I could go home but when I left I said good bye to Jaroslav. He said “Good Luck…to you…in life…everything!” I wished him the same and bid him goodbye in Czech “Na Sheldanou!” He seemed happy about that.
God truly knows what up. He knew my nose would be a challenge but he provided a way to have it fixed with minimal interruption to my start of the year. He raised up SO MANY people to pray for me and cover me with love and support (Thanks Everyone). He allowed me to connect with another person in the hospital even just a little bit, language be darned. This entry is already too long but I’ll end with this: in the last 48 hours I been realizing that slowly, almost inexplicably, relationships are happening here. Lives will be changed. And my nose will soon be back to its good old self. Don’t worry, God’s got it covered…
I have been impressed with the amount of construction going on in Sokolov in the past few weeks. Building after building has scaffolding on it, including one side of my flat building and the middle school that I teach at. The scaffolding though isn’t the cool part. The cool thing is that in only a few short weeks I have seen buildings go from drab, gray, construction sites to bright, colorful and exciting. Sokolov, at least on a superficial outward level, is being renewed.
I think this idea of renewal is a great metaphor for our own lives. Of course I think we all want to be renewed, especially on a daily basis. We want to jump out of bed, pull the curtains, let the sun in and just thank God for the day. It doesn’t matter if our eyes are still crusty or we are wearing the giant stinky T-shirt that we have slept in for ages. We feel renewed.
I don’t think renewal is an easy thing though. The buildings in Sokolov are not being changed overnight or by any simple process. Many, many workers are putting in full days, doing what they have to do to prepare and paint the buildings that they are assigned to. We can’t force ourselves to be happy. We can’t mumble a simple, memorized prayer and expect to be refreshed. It takes effort. And hope. And faith. It is not a paint-job on the surface, it goes deeper to our very souls, our core being.
I want to be renewed. I want to wake up everyday with the thought that, “If God is for me who can be against me?”, no matter what my circumstances might be. And I want to see Sokolov renewed as well. I want to see people’s hearts be as radiant as the colors I am seeing spring up all over town. I want the church I attend to grow so much that when I leave it is thinking about planting another. I want my students to feel the love and purpose that only a relationship with God can bring.
It won’t be easy. I better start praying now.
Being in a small town is certainly different than living in the big city. Generally most everything shuts down at noon on the weekends in Sokolov. On Sunday after church you can walk downtown, see next to nobody and have lunch in a restaurant by yourself.
And then sometimes small towns like to have giant festivals. Hornicka pout 2009 (Mining pilgrimage?) came to Sokolov this weekend and it was rocking.
Sokolov has some large mines near it and they used to be (and some I think still are) a large part of the economy here. This weekend was a festival to celebrate the town’s mining heritage. Each square (we have a “new” and “old” one) was packed with people and tents filled with food, beer, colorful wigs, cheap toys, colorful gingerbread and neat handicrafts. Stages were set up with live music and dancing throughout the day. Tons of display owners were decked out in medieval clothing. On the edge of downtown next to a park, a massive fair was set up with carnival rides and more food. There were at least three full size bumper car arenas.
My roommate, Derick, our fellow teacher Kathryn and I walked through and experienced it all. It was pretty awesome to see our fairly quiet town bustling with crowds and activity. One cool part was I ran into quite a few of my students. While at this point we aren’t much beyond the “Hello, how are you?” point of things it still nice to see faces you recognize in a foreign land. So that was a cool weekend in Sokolov.
Two entries in two days is a lot for me but such is life.
Derick (my roommate) and I were walking back from the grocery store this afternoon. As we entered our apartment building we passed two boys but said nothing. As we waited for the elevator I suddenly here my name, “Mat-chew, Mat-chew” being said in a heavily accented Czech way by one of the boys.
I turn and think for a second. This boy wasn’t in my classes today but he may have seen me in school. I say my Basic School’s name, “Zakladni Skola Sest(6)?” He nods and smiles.
After that we expressed how I speak English and he speaks Czech and soon the elevator had arrived. It was a brief, fleeting, moment of recognition but it made me feel a lot better about being here.
I’m going to get to know students. They are going to get to know me. And I think it’s going to be pretty cool.
Over a year ago in South Africa I wrote an entry about relying on God. You can read it here.
I’m generally proud of what I write and rereading it again I think it made sense in my situation in South Africa. But compared to where I am now it seems rather naive and simplistic.
Relying on God isn’t this super fun, happy, awesome thing that you only get to enjoy when you are overseas. It’s not a monthly, weekly, or even a daily thing. It’s a moment-by-moment commitment of surrendering yourself to God. It can be hard and it won’t always (or even often) make you feel better when you do it. But it is necessity.
I’m facing things here I have never had to face before. I’m starting a new and daunting job in a country I have only been in two weeks. Comparing South Africa to the Czech Republic, the language barrier here is like the Great Wall to SA’s small little creek that you can simply jump over. I don’t like to think of myself as overly negative but the past two weeks have been a struggle with simply finding contentment with being here. It is difficult to explain.
I will say this though. God is here with me and he is what I need to lean on. I will be healed, I will teach my classes using awesome lesson plans that I create. I will get to know my students in awesome, profound ways. I will have opportunities to share Jesus with others. I will feel profoundly blessed when this year is complete.
It won’t be easy.
But I’m relying on God no matter what happens. It’s really all I can do.