Authenticity

I’m a very honest person. I’m not stroking my ego with my previous statement. Being honest has gotten me in trouble. A lot. Often with females but everyone in general too. If I know you well I am liable to tell you (in general) what I think, good or bad, nice or mean. My overriding concern is generally not “will what I say be helpful?” but “will what I say be true?” For me, truth is of paramount value. It’s in my personality and it’s how I was raised too.

Our society (in America) does not value truth as it once did I think. As a college professor once declared (erroneously) to my class, “You are all relativists.” What works for someone might not work for everyone (or anyone) else, but if it makes that person feel happy or right inside that can be truth for them.

I want to be nice to people. I want people to like me. I want to show people love in this world because our world is hurting in a brutal fashion. I think the word that sums up what I want to be the most however is authenticity. I long to be authentic.¬† I am not a salesman. I’m not trying to suck anyone into my worldview. I don’t want your money or support or time. I merely want to be real. I want to discuss things that matter. And I want to share what I believe to be the truth that can dramatically change anyone who wishes to be changed.

All that stuff in the Bible? It really happened. All that stuff Jesus did? He really did it. It matters whether it is true or not and it is important to consider what it means for your life. I’m not out to force a decision on or from anyone. I just want to give whoever I happen to meet an opportunity. An opportunity for true life, real life, life life. It cannot be found completely in anything else.

Call me close-minded, intolerant, or backwards if you want. Just don’t reject Christianity out of hand because of something superfluous. It’s important, it’s awesome, it’s amazing. It’s truth.

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A Little Czech goes a Long Way…

I have a class in my Basic School that if forced to describe them with a funny name it would be “The Super Beginners.” They have all of one year of English under their belts and are only halfway through their first-year book appropriately called “Project 1.”

At training we were told that just by speaking English it helps the students learn and not to use dictionaries much at all because things don’t always translate nicely and I agree. However about a week ago my school got an ENORMOUS English-Czech/Czech-English dictionary that now sits proudly on my desk at school. And it has been useful.

Last Tuesday with my super-beginners I decided to translate a few words just to make sure they understood the categories. I then said one of the words I’ve picked up recently, “Rozuminte?(Do you understand?)”, after explaining the topic for the day. Let’s be clear. I CANNOT speak Czech. But my students LOVE it when I try and throw words out to them.

My main point is this. There’s a girl in my class named Dendy. Sits in front row, seems like a nice girl. But for most part she doesn’t come off as that great of a student. Doesn’t volunteer much, seems like she is usually struggling in general with the material. After my brief foray into Czech however, her entire countenance changed. When I asked her questions she would say the sentences confidently. She was raising her hand. She was trying. She was smiling. It was a near 180-degree change in classroom behavior.

I’m not a great teacher. I don’t enjoy every lesson and neither do my students. But good things are happening, students are learning and God is working in the small things. I don’t think I can ask for more than that.

Really?

This is another entry about Cheb’s English club, the last entry was getting too long.

One of the great things about the whole evening was to have students you could actually talk to and have them understand you back. Their grammar and syntax might not be all there but you can have a conversation. It’s awesome. After the hoedown fun (see last entry) we settled down to listen to two students give their account of a trip to China they got to take last summer. They went as part of a Czech Physics team and competed in an international competition near Beijing. It was cool to hear about.

After the talk people were mingling and one of the presenters, George, asked me about colleges near Boston (I had introduced myself and said where I was from to the group earlier). Soon him, me and his girlfriend are all having a nice conversation. And then he asks the question. The one that I want to hear so much but dread at the same time.

So why did you decide to come to the Czech Republic?

Here it is. An opportunity to talk to a Czech student about things that matter. It’s amazing how you get to the purpose of being somewhere and then you almost freeze. I did marginally better than my flight in July but still only so-so. I talked about wanting to teach and how I’m interested in why so many Atheists are here but that was about it. They seemed politely interested but then we talked a bit more about other things.

In any case I am thankful for opportunities no matter how I might botch them up. A final note about getting to know students is that after the presentation two other students came up to me and asked if I knew “The Big Bang Theory”. I asked if they meant the theory or the show and they said the show which I really enjoy. They than informed me that I remind them of the character Howard which, if you have ever seen the show, is a hard compliment to take. All I have to say to it is:

Really?

God has a Sense of Humor.

Last night my flatmate, Derick and I had the opportunity to help out with the English Club at Cheb that a few ESI teachers were having. This is a common ministry here that allows us to meet and hang out with students outside of school, speak English and have a fun time. They were expecting close to 30+ people so they asked me and Derick to come to help as native speakers of English.

It ended up being around 20 but still a really big group and it was a lot of fun. We had tons of cookies, crackers, drinks and other snacks to chow down on and I got to meet a bunch of students who speak English stunningly well. Being able to carry on a conversation with a person here is a precious thing that I do not take for granted.

So a funny historical quirk of our area is that during Communist times, even though the Czech Republic is 94% ethnically Czech, they invited people from Vietnam, a fellow Communist nation, to come and live and work in the country. So now there is a small but noticeable minority of Vietnamese in town and in our school. Many of the students who came last night were Vietnamese.

I don’t know how it started but everyone started trying to teach the group various dances at the beginning of the evening. We got started with some country “Cotton-Eye Joe” stuff, took a detour to waltzing and Czech dancing, and eventually settled down to learn “Hoedown Throwdown” straight from Hannah Montana. So I got to watch a bunch of Czech students learn this dance and do this last night as it was being taught by a Vietnamese student.

All I have to say to this is God has a sense of humor that makes me look like an old stiff.

Having an Impact Elsewhere?

Hello my friends. Last friday the internet went out in our flat. It was expected but getting it back up has been, well, slow. Welcome to a land where you can’t speak the language. Anyway, it’s been a bit since I last blogged so I hope you enjoy.

At the start of the year we had a one day retreat in Prague. During it, we were asked to write a prayer for our year and ministry on an index card. Short, simple, to the point. I wrote “Lord, give me an opportunity everyday to talk to someone, somewhere about anything important.”

I’m in the Czech Republic. I want to be here and meet people here and get to know them and even share Christ with them if the opportunity presents itself. However, why limit myself to just people here? We are blessed with the internet, something that truly makes our earth a village. In an average day I have been able to talk to someone I know in places as far afield as Vietnam, South Africa, Hungary and the US. Pretty cool.

Last week I was asked by a former intern (who is now staff) from  Thrive Africa to write a short promo for the internship I did in 2008. It was recently put on their site. You can see it here.

Even though my new year here is in full swing I’m still being given opportunities to hopefully impact people elsewhere. It is a blessing and a challenge. It is good to think everyday however, “Where am I having an impact?”