Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Moving On...

It is 3am in Slovakia on January 1, 2009 - making it 9pm in Toronto and 6pm in Vancouver on December 31, 2008.

It is like this post has traveled through time!

We rung in the new year with a service at Mozaika and then at a friends house. As the clock struck midnight we were standing on Zobor (mountain) looking down over Nitra. There are no laws governing fireworks here and so in addition to the cities fireworks display, pyrotechnics exploded from house windows, parks, street corners, cars and apartment balconies. The whole city was alive with color, light, smoke, cheers and the echo of booms careening through apartment blocks. Firework shells were literally raining down around us. We have never experienced anything like it.

And with the tick of a clock so much has changed: 2009 has begun bringing with it the end of Slovakia's national currency (the koruna or crown), heralding the arrival of the Euro, and marking Slovakia's Independence Day.

Though we do not know what this year will bring, we do know of one change coming soon. The VBC administration has told Mozaika that January 25, 2009 will be our last Sunday in their facility. They still have not turned on the heat so we use this rocket-man-esque propane heater to warm up the space (jackets and gloves still required).

We have talked to the city about buying land, but this is obviously a more long-term goal. Pray that we would find a facility that meets our needs (1 room for adults, 1 room for children, storage, weather appropriate, within the city and willing to sign a contract at a reasonable price). More than that, pray for the people of Mozaika as so much transition can take a toll on people's mentality. We want to be stronger at the end of this.

2008, with all of it's challenges and all of it's victories is behind us, and we look forward to new adventures in 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wrapping Up 2008

On December 20th we had a program for kids from our church and the surrounding community. There were also some new families who came from the nearby social assistance housing. We decorated, had snacks, music, games and prizes. Every child that came got a gift that had been provided to us by Samaritan's Purse (so a big thank-you if you were someone who filled a Christmas box this year). It was a fun afternoon. Part of the program was sharing about the importance of Christmas. Even though it was oriented towards children, the adults in the room were captivated. The presenter, Martin, kept saying "the way the adults looked at me - they just stayed focus". All together it was a great relationship building time.

Then on December 21st we had a Christmas lunch for the entire church-plant. Again it was a fantastic chance for people to take the time to get to know one another better. There is something about Christmas time and food that make people more social, and more bonding as a church family is something very important right now.

On the 25th we had a Christmas service. Slovak's celebrate on the 24th so really it was only our Christmas morning that was a bit thrown off!

We celebrated Slovak Christmas on the 24th in the village of Obsolovce with the Armitage's and their Slovak family. It was especially nice for us to be in a home setting this Christmas. We got to eat the traditional meal (for the record, carp is ok). Then after dinner a bell rings to signify that Ježiško (little baby Jesus) has snuck in and put gifts under the tree.

On Christmas Day we stuck to our Canadian roots. Amber cooked a fabulous meal and we had Slovak friends over for dinner. It was our turn to watch as people were exposed to new holiday foods: sweet potatoes were a mixed success, pumpkin pie was met with forced smiles and murmurs of "how can pumpkin be a dessert", and stuffing was thought to be a little gross by some "you cook it inside of the dead bird?". We called our families and finished the night with a viewing of The Muppet's Christmas Carol. We got to repeat this fine Christmas meal on the 26th as the Armitage's celebrated Canadian style.

A great first Christmas in Slovakia.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Vianoce

Slovak's celebrate Christmas on December 24th with gifts and a large meal. Traditionally, this meal is kapustnica and kapor (cabbage soup and carp). Today we will have church in the morning and then practice some of our Christmas traditions (this may include, but is not limited to, the over-consumption of turkey, the unwrapping of gits, the Mariah Carey Christmas Album - to be followed by the declaration of "I cannot listen to anymore Mariah" - and of course the viewing of a Muppet's Christmas Carol).

This is our first Christmas as a married couple onour own and so we are excited to see what traditions of our own we innovate.

So wherever you are, whatever you are eating and whoever you are with - we trust you enjoy this day tot he fullest.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Veselé Vianoce (Merry Christmas) a la Slovak

This is our very first Christmas here in Slovakia - and there is so much to learn!

Some aspects of the holiday are very familiar - people getting together for example (but with a much stronger emphasis on family). Big meals will be had and gifts opened on December 24th. Shoes, like stockings, have already been enjoyed earlier this month.

The traditional Slovak Christmas meal is kapustnica and kapor = cabbage soup and carp. Not every Slovak is keen on this meal, but it is the traditional food of choice. We've already had kapustnica and it is very good (the carnivore in us was satisfied by the pieces of salami and ham). We are preparing ourselves for the carp; which we will be experiencing tomorrow...

The whole carp process is quite something. Shops have set-up large plastic tanks outdoors brimming with carp (at least 1 is open 24-hours). While shopping with a friend Matthew got to be a part of the carp-purchasing process:
-the store we were at had a deal: spend 2,999 crowns before tax and receive a carp and bottle of champagne FREE
-we spent enough money and then waited in the carp line
-when you get to the front, they hand you your champagne and a live carp in a plastic shopping bag (no water)
-we drove to my friends house (carp making himslef known in the back-seat)
-we filled up the bathtub and introduced the carp to his last earthly home
-since carp are river fish, people allow the carp to live in their bathtub for 2-3 days to allow the fish to clean itself in fresh water
-the fish will be killed, cleaned and served on the 24th (there is a big emphasis on having fresh carp for Christmas)

We named this carp Pan Večera (Mr.Dinner)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Leadership Conference : Spain

We just returned from assisting at NLI's 3rd ORGANIX conference at a monestary (pictured above) in El Espinar, Spain. This conference saw over 100 leaders come together from across Spain for a time of teaching and connection. We taught a seminar twice on the role creativity and problem solving plays in strong leadership. Also, we helped facilitate a team building activity on following and leading (picture of people with their eyes closed). Amber also shared in a workshop about women in ministry - this topic apparently made a big impact on a lot of the women who attended.

It was great to be a part of this event. The leaders who attended expressed how they view this conference as an integral part of their ongoing development as a movement. On a smaller scale, it was amazing to connect with people over meals (which take at least an hour-and-a-half in Spain) about where they have come from and where they are going. It was a real treat for us to be able to sit down with young couples who, like us, are learning about marriage and ministry simultaneously.

Thank you for keeping this event in your prayers - it was a success!

*wrote this post just after we returned, but posted it late

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a Little Chocolate Devil

Meet Čert (Chert).

Our language tutor taught us about a rather interesting tradition: Today, being his Name Day, many European countries celebrate Sväty Mikuláš aka Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children. Traditionally, on the eve of December 5th, children would polish and set out out their shoes in anticipation of Saint Nicholas' arrival. That night St. Nick would arrive by horse drawn coach and leave children either a gift or a lump of coal, depending on behavior per annum naturally. This all sounds quite familiar so far (and you thought Santa Claus was an original idea...).

In Slovak days gone by, Sväty Mikuláš was accompanied by Čert, the devil, and an angel. The devil would come rattling chains and dealt with those children whose behavior was lacking over the past year while the angel was for those more well-adjusted kids. Google and Wikipedia have loads of interesting tid bits about this tradition that is rich in history and is still practiced, in different forms, all across Central, Eastern and Northern Europe.

As is the way with most traditions, this one has grown into something different now. Today family and friends will exchange little chocolate Saint Nicholas figures. As you can see there is also the chocolate Čert option if you are wanting to deliver a clear message to a misbehaving kid, but rest assured, the child's therapist will probably here about it one day!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jet Lag...We Meet Again

The secret is out - we snuck in a power visit to Canada.

The catalyst to the whole trip was Amber being in a friends wedding. From there it grew into an action packed 3 weeks of seeing friends, going to the doctor, spending time with family, visiting the dentist, meetings, speaking engagements, random appointments and stocking up on some goodies for our first Christmas "abroad". It was full - in a good but exhausting way.

To add to the logistics of it all we tried to surprise people (see the video) which made for even more juggling. Facebook is quickly jeopardizing the longevity of the secret!

By no means did we accomplish everything on our list or get to see everyone we wanted to (which is sad). Being on Canadian soil was not a vacation, but was still energizing. For starters, we only had to think in 1 language. The real goodness came from being able to connect with friends and family while sharing cow meat (yeah Alberta steak), Starbucks, sushi and indoor carpeting. Thanks to everyone who took some time out to see us.

We returned to Slovakia today and have encountered another old friend - jet lag. This blog is 1 part overdue, 1 part an amends to everyone we did not see, but mainly 8 arts an attempt to stay up until at least 10pm...

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Friday, October 24, 2008

Amber's thoughts on Emerge: Women's Leadership Conference

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be a part of Next Level International's first ever Women's Conference. Linda Howell, director of Leadership Development & Women's Development for NLI, has a vision to see 1 million women across Europe to be equipped and challenged to move into leadership. This was the first step towards seeing her dream become reality. Sheldon's connection with NLI was my in, and so I had the chance to help out where I could. I was working alongside the other women from NLI and a team of American women - we had a great time!

Perhaps what surprised me most was how much I was impacted over the weekend. There was a fabulous worship band and for the first time in 10 months, I was able to worship in English.... it was incredible. I believe I've taken my ability to worship God forgranted. After 10 months of struggling through worship songs in Slovak, where I'm so focused on getting the pronounciation of the words right, let alone understanding what I'm singing... I was able to worship God effortlessly. It was such a gift.

In addition, I was able to connect with one woman in particular that really spoke into my life. There are definitely times when I feel that at 25, I am in WAY over my head. Through a one hour conversation I was able to gain perspective, peace and the realization that I'm not the only one to have gone through a challenging time.

This weekend once again proved to me that God often does incredible things in a person at the most unexpected times.

The all Slovak, all girl worship band!

In the front row the 3 main speakers: Linda Howell, Gabrielle Reinas & Judith Green (from left)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Whose Laughing Now?!

This past Tuesday evening I (Matthew) was helping at a discussion club our church hosts for university students. It's called Potichu Nahlas (Quietly Outspoken). As part of an icebreaker game everyone had to make up a story about the person to their left. So my friend got quite a few laughs at my expense as they told tall tales about me...of which I understood enough to know that I was getting razzed pretty good.

Then it was my turn. Speaking in front of a group of strangers in a language in which they are fluent and I am not is a humbling experience at best.

Though I struggled with my grammar, I got in a good joke. People laughed at what I said and not just how I said it (or mispronounced it). I've missed being funny. It was a good feeling.

That said - there is still so much to learn!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Our Migratory Church

This is the VBC Business Centre located within Centrum (downtown Nitra). It has a large "congress hall" that has sat empty for years now - until last week. Church family went in and washed, scrubbed and cleaned away years of dust to get it ready for Mozaika. You can read more about it at (there is an English option in the top right hand corner).

The facility includes a dedictaed foyer, a large meeting hall with chairs and a stage, and a space behind the stage where kids programs can take place. It is everything Mozaika needs and it has been promised to us only for the month of October. We have had our past two Sunday services there and there are already ideas swirling around of what we could do with this space if it was ours.

So we are thankful that we have this space and very much appreciate all your prayers BUT we still need your support. The VBC administration has told us that there is another business interested in renting the space. This other business is willing to rent the room 24/7 (thus pay more) while we can only afford to rent the room on Sundays. We are not sure whether this is a business tactic to pressure us into signing a 24/7 contract (afterall, what are the odds of 2 businesess wanting the same spcae in the same week after it has sat empty for years). The VBC will make a decision regarding who gets the room by the end of the month. So for now we know we have a space to meet in until the end of October.

The Mozaika family would really like this space. Not only is it in a good location and a good facility, but the VBC intends to remodel the room in 2 years time as part of a larger building renovation plan. As such we could renovate the room however we want since they will demolish it all anyway. So we could build multiple kids rooms, paint, post community bulletin boards etc.

So keep praying with us.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Work in Progress

Though the VBC said they would get back to us last Tuesday with an answer....they haven't. Miro, our church planter, called them once and they affirmed that they would call us, and not the other way around.

So we wait and we pray and we trust.

This past Sunday we returned to the family home in Ivanka pri Nitre. The church family here is fasting and praying. We know that many are supporting us in prayer. We ask that you keep praying.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Church a la Village

It's Sunday afternoon and I am happy to say that we did not have to have church in some back alley this morning (which is good seeing as the temperature has dropped over 20 degrees in less than a week - but that's a whole other story).

The searching this past week did not offer up many possibilities for today. So a family in our church opened up their home. They have a huge house in the nearby village of Ivanka pri Nitre. Though different from our usual Sunday times together, it was absolutely great! The home setting really seemed to draw people together. There was talking, laughing and singing. It had the genuine sense of family about it - complete with the sounds of kids running around in other parts of the house!

Mozaika started as a home group and then grew into a church from that core family. This has been the first crisis that the new, larger family has faced. In group settings, challenges have a way of either scattering or gathering people. Today felt like we bonded more as a community.

Miro, the church planter, has made a good contact in a local office facility called "VBC". They have a meeting hall and are open to ongoing renters. It would see Mozaika move closer to the town centre and also comes with the possibility of office space. Monday is a national holiday so we will not have a decision from VBC until Tuesday. We ask that you pray for favour for Mozaika.

Friday, September 12, 2008

See You Later

Last night we got a phone call letting us know that Amber's grandfather, Herman, had passed away. Grandpa Herman had been ill for some time now and it was his desire to be making eye contact with Jesus, rather than nurses. It is almost one year to the day since Amber's Nana passed away.

We have missed many weddings since moving to Slovakia (much love to our very understanding friends), but this will be the first funeral that we cannot be a part of - all part of the adjustment process to living away from family.

Born on German soil to Polish parents who were fleeing the advancing Russian army, Herman was a strong man, a source of support, and encouraged us whenever he could. Though we did not get to say goodbye in person, we were able to have a letter read to him on our behalf. After hearing it he said that though he may not see us again on earth, he'll see us in heaven.

Until then...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No Room in the...Dorm?

Life sometimes offers up moments that take you entirely by surprise and give you little, if any, chance to process before forcing you to move on.

Yesterday was one such moment.

Mozaika, the church-plant here in Nitra, meets in a student hotel (like a dorm) for our Sunday program. The managers of the facility have never been fans of the troop of children that arrive with great zeal every Sunday. In the absence of fondness for little people, we were never able to secure a contract gauranteeing our time there. They reprimanded us for being too loud or too messy - so we tidied and hushed as best we could.

This past Sunday was Mozaika's official launch service to kick-off the new school year. We have a new operating model, a new family-friendly service time, new multimedia and a shiny new ad in the paper. The sky was blue and the room was bustling with people....apparently to our detriment.

Monday afternoon, still rosy in Sunday's afterglow, brought a sharp change in pace for us. The student hotel called to inform us that we had left their facility a "huge mess" for the last time. Effective immediately we have nowhere to meet.

So today there were flowers given to those building managers to show how much we appreciated our time with them, and then there was searching. Evangelical churches are viewed as cult-esque and so renting a facility is just flat out difficult. It took over 20 applications last time to find this place.

As a team we feel we can either laugh or cry - we had a good laugh about it this afternoon.

Pray that we find a place and that the laughter continues.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


After a few false starts to our trip and some last minute changes, we ended up making the 5 hour drive (rather than the 9 hour train ride) to Ženavlje, Slovenia. We were running late and had no idea what we were looking for as we followed directions from a text message. As we drove into town we rolled down our windows and listened for music...the unmistakable beat of a Hillsongs tune guided us to the camp.

Though we were told it was a youth camp, the age bracket was more young adults. As the week went on the group grew from 30 people to 70 (as the weekend allowed more people to come). People were incredibly welcoming and the level of spoken english allowed for good times and great conversation. Slovenia itself is beautiful and it is hard to imagine it was once part of Yugoslavia as signs of modernity and progress are everywhere (from architecture to the way people think).

We had the opportunity to do some speaking and some teaching, which we did together or Matthew did solo. We could understand bits of what was being said in Slovene as Slovak and Slovene are both Slavic languages (is that a tongue twister?). To listen to them though, Slovene and Serbian sound much more alike - Slovene has a touch of Italian cadence to it.

While speaking on the Friday night (full house) Matthew decided to do some mixing of English and Slovene in an attempt to wow the masses with his linguistical skills. In Slovak and Slovene, you can add the suffix "ička" (pronounced "ee-ch-ka") to make nouns small or cute. Matthew was talking about how rabbi's were the movie stars of early Jewish society and so everyone wanted to be just like them. They were the Brad Pitt's of their day (because what guy doesn't wish he had Brad's hair). So if you are just like Brad, a "mini me" of sorts, then you could be a Brad Pitt-ička. Well at this the whole room, including the interpreter, burst out laughing in a manner not proportionate to the joke. The interpreter refused to translate the statement and would not tell what it meant. So we pressed on....

After the service, with some coaxing, one camper finally broke down and told us what had been said. Let's just say that word is the name of a certain female body part...but even worse, it is not the anatomically proper name for that part, but the street slang.

Things you never thought you could say in church...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Time Warp - back to youth camp we go

Keeping with our theme of different approaches to time, we are getting ready for a last minute trip to Slovenia (it's the red one on the map). Milan, a pastor in nearby Nové Zámky, was stuck for someone to travel with him to Slovenia where he is the main speaker at their youth camp. Our names got mentioned, we got a phone call, we agreed, it was confirmed and by Monday evening we'll be in Slovenia...not bad for a Friday afternoon.

Because of conflicting schedules we will not be able to chat with Milan until we are actually on the train - good thing it is a 9 hour ride.

The central theme for the week is discipleship. We will be doing some of the teaching and we want to bring high quality material despite the not-so abundant amount of prep time. We do not really know Milan, we speak zero Slovene and have never been to Slovenia before - but man are we excited!

1 Slovak, 2 Canadians, 6 days and 70 campers - look out youth camp, here we come!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hang Pictures or Life Chunks

Time is an interesting concept that is currently under scrutiny in the lives of the Price duo. One such reason for this review on all things chronological is that Slovaks and Canadians tackle time in two distinct manners. With the strengthening of the EU, Slovaks sense of time is beginning to match those of traditional Westernized nations; but it's not quite there yet. Spending time with family, friends or extended lunches often pushes back other regularly scheduled events. Though this may smack of Pleasantville-esque greatness, try inserting two type-A personalities into the mix who scheduled a meeting for 1pm sharp...

It is a blow to the tick-tock superiority of the clock, but we're working on it!

Time is a lens through which we filter nearly every element of life. For us it has been quite easy to compartmentalize life thus far: childhood - elementary school - high school - college - apprentices in Canada - apprentices in Slovakia. Even on a relational level we can fragment our time together: 3 years of dating in college - 1 year of engagement - 1 year of marriage completed. This divide-and-conquer approach to life could go on and on and semesters - seasons - work contracts - years - months - weeks - days. And then we wonder why we can only look at things as pieces rather than as an element of a whole.

In talking with friends the other day we realized we have allowed our worldview to be centered around pieces of time - life chunks. We are in our 7th month here in Slovakia and there are times when our thoughts dwell on the reality that our apprenticeship will conclude in 17 months and then God only knows where we will be (literally). Of course, we often have these thoughts right after our language lesson! The potential for the temporary nature of our time here changes how we think (and maybe how people view us - why invest if it is not permanent?).

When you move into a new place, one of the last tasks is to hang pictures. Something about putting a hole in a wall makes every transition feel more lasting. So it is true - we may only be here in Slovakia for a maximum of 2 years, but we are where we are supposed to be. We must inhabit our time here, settle in, branch out, take possession, grow to feel at home and of course, hang pictures.

PS - for the record this is very metaphorical, our walls have been well decorated since week 1

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Misery thy Name is Depreciation

Does anybody else wish the the dollar would stabilize? When we first moved to Slovakia 5 months ago, the Canadian Dollar (CAD) was getting us a lot further with the Slovak Koruna / Crown (SKK). Where 1 CAD used to bring in 22 SKK, it now fetches only 18.5. We think there is a bit of a tag-team effect taking place. The CAD has developed a bit of a limp after a good run (racing neck and neck with our friends to the south for a bit). Meanwhile, the SKK, much like the 50-year-old who goes skydiving on their birthday to demonstrate their tenacity, has gotten it's last wind. Set to be replaced by the Euro in just 6 months time, the SKK is going strong; and by that we mean inflating so that people adapt to the cost of living once the Euro arrives. The problem is we are now putting out more CAD to meet our SKK needs.

We're asking God to give us wisdom and money management skills well beyond our age bracket and experience (especially as we've only been married a year). Finances are a stressor, but we have confidence in God because we know him. So join in on our prayers that God would make us domestic financiers extraordinare!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Life...Just Add Water

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Today I'm Wearing Red and White

July 1st - happy Canada Day!

We have a feeling that we will not be seeing any fireworks tonight. Instead we are off to a nearby village to meet up with friends who are planting a church and be a part of their small group meeting.

A different kind of spectacular!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"You Call this a Cappuccino!"

There is nothing like a roadtrip in Europe. Most foreigners navigate through the Scottish highlands or the Dalmatian Coast, but the Armitage-Price team blazes a trail out of Slovakia, through Hungary and straight on to Serbia! It was an odd experience leaving the EU and actually having to present our passports to cross a border. We want to thank you for your prayers, not only did the rental car make it in it's entirety, but Matthew developed a love for "driving a la Serb". There is general concern amongst his peers...

The conference went well and, as in so many cases, we feel as though we have walked away having learned more than we taught. It is amazing the collective learning that takes place when people come together to share ideas. Sheldon did a fantastic job of facilitating the conference and we feel we learned a great deal by observation. It was wonderful to see trainers from Canada, Wales and Bulgaria interacting with Serbian church leaders. The value of strong leaders is just so apparent when you fill a room with them.

A personal highlight for us came on the final night of the conference. We were asked to pray for anyone who felt a calling into mission. For Serb's this is quite something for God to ask them to do as visa requirements still greatly limit their mobility. We really appreciate the chance to pray for people and God confirmed thoughts and ideas in ways that only he can.

Overall, it was a great week of learning. We were even able to teach 3-year-old Mia Armitage a valuable life skill. While discussing what princesses say, she asked what a modern day princess might say to someone. After some thought we imparted this wisdom: snap your finger, wave your hand over your head and say "you call this a cappuccino!"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ideme do Srbsko (we are going to Serbia)

At the crack of ridiculous-o'clock tomorrow morning we will begin our drive down through Slovakia and Hungary to Serbia. We will be assisting Sheldon as he facilitates the third, and final, NLI Organix Conference (leadership development). So if you think of us over the next few days, you could mention these things to God:

-that the conference would be a success in every sense of the word (spiritually, educationally, financially and relationally)
-that we would make it there and back safely (we've rented a car to save money on flights, but we're not sure if we're savvy enough to share the road with Serbian drivers)
-also that the rental car would make it safely too...
-this request may be odd, but stick with us: that we could share a room while at the conference. The sleeping facility (dorm) is booked quite full and we may have to sleep in separate rooms with people we do not know. It's just always nice to be able to have a place to share our day and thoughts together...and wander around in our pajama's!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lumen Festival

Lumen is an outdoor event hosted by the Catholic Church of Slovakia. Last week we made our way into Trnava to catch the concerts. We saw a number of bands from Slovakia and the UK. In truth, we were really there to see the band Delirious. One line from a song grabbed us: "every soul needs a savior". Admittedly, a basic truth. There we stood in the town square, which had been converted into an outdoor concert hall, surrounded by hundreds of people (side note: most of whom were sweaty / wet from rain and were rubbing against us....).

And then the moment took on a meaning of it's own. 11:00pm - sound system booming - Delirious singing - hundreds of people filling the center of town - all declaring our need for a savior. Interesting how the most simple truths are the most powerful

Friday, June 6, 2008

OM Comes to Town

Yesterday, Operation Mobilization (OM) brought their mobile bookstore to Nitra (pictured here parked outside of TESCO alongside a busy pedestrian walkway). Mozaika hosted OM's day in the city. Alongside other members of our church we handed out flyers, welcomed people on to the bus and got to meet the OM crew. The bus provided people with access to Christian materials that they may have otherwise been unable to obtain. We believe that books have the power to shape thinking and we trust that the books that went out yesterday will be part of a larger change process.

A big thanks to OM and the team who spent the day in Nitra!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Did you Know the Slovak Word for “drain” and “oven” are the Same?

To add to the ongoing saga of Price-neighbor relations, we humbly submit this episode:

Three days ago Amber decided to try to unclog our abnormally slow drain. She fiddled with the drain and loosened it. Little did we know that our plumbing was in poor condition and the drain doubles as an anchor for the entire pipe. We tightened everything again and thought nothing of it - until the next morning. Matthew showered and then Amber showered and then there was a knock on the door. Still sporting a towel Amber made a dash for the bedroom while Matthew opened the door to reveal a never before seen neighbor (wearing a house robe, slippers, bed head and a scowl). He spoke quickly, then realized that Matthew speaks English, rolled his eyes, and spoke slower: "water is pouring into my apartment".

Minutes later our building manager, who insists we are German and speaks to us accordingly, was rummaging around in our pipes. He turned our water off and told us that a repair man would be here by 1pm. Edmund, our repair man, arrived at 1:30pm sharp!

A few moments after that came another knock on the door. Matthew opened it and found a lady who looked familiar. It took a moment, but then he realized - she was the lady who screamed at us over the Great BBQ Fiasco of 2008! She then greeted Matthew with "hi" - a distinctly English greeting. She then began to explain, in nearly fluent English, that we were leaking water. This whole time she spoke English!

The next morning, at 7:15am Edmund arrived at our door ready to work. He chiseled away the tiles encasing our bathtub and exposed a very broken pipe dangling from the wall above our very own indoor mini lake. The next 3 hours involved Edmund muttering continuously from under the tub, 2 trips to the store for parts, 6 comments on how many stairs he has to climb to get to our flat, 11 words that needed to be looked up in the Slovak-English dictionary, 3 requests for assistance (which landed Matthew in the tub pulling pieces of pipe through the hole where the drain used to be) and 1 repaired drain pipe. Apparently he will be back this week to do something else – we did not understand what…

In an attempt to squelch the building gossip about the ridiculous foreigners on the top floor, we bought boxes of chocolates for the three apartments for whom we had provided new shower facilities and for the building manager. Each gift was accompanied by a card saying sorry and that everything is fixed (our language tutor helped us as to ensure we did not say something that would offend anyone beyond the initial property damage). On Saturday we spent the day assisting at Catalyst (local leadership development program) and returned home to distribute our appeasements. Here is the score:

-2 different families pretended not to be home (though we could hear them inside, saw their cars on the street and noticed the shadow as they looked through the peep hole)

Strikes 1 and 2. So, we left the gift on their doorstep.

-1 family may have been home, but we are not sure – either way no one answered the door

Strike 3. Not out yet.

-1 family was legitimately not home, and after leaving their gift by their door, we passed them in the hall. They accepted our apology and thanked us for the chocolates.

It felt like a tie game.

When we got home last night there was a note on our door that simply said “thank you” with a smiley face. We do not know the name signed to it, but it felt like a home run.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Teams x 3

These past few weeks have been focused on short term teams. Along with the Armitage’s and Christina, we worked with three teams: one was from the Alberta District’s women’s ministry, one was from St.Catherines Ontario and the other was a prayer team sent by NLI with representatives from the UK and the USA.

For us this was an introduction to the hosting aspect of short term trips. We learned a lot! It was exciting to meet new people, share stories and have others grasp Canadian humour. Even more interesting was to hear people’s observations of Slovakia. Different people provide such varying perspectives and t is surprising what has become normal to us (apparently our J-Walking skills have hit an entirely new level).

The added people-power of the teams helped us take positive actions. The teams were involved in a variety of valuable activities: multiple speaking engagements, hosting a regional women’s event, being a part of our university outreach discussion club, volunteering in a mother’s centre, helping us build influence with a local university by volunteering at the dorms, construction (or more like destruction) on a building being used by a church plant, strengthening our ties to other churches by helping with some spring cleaning and of course, lots of prayer!

One of the more valuable contributions from these teams were the relationships they helped us build. While walking around the city praying with a team, a young couple stopped us. Intrigued by this large group of English speakers, we began to talk. It turns out they live very close to us, were married the month after us, have just moved to Nitra from eastern Slovakia and would like to have a newlywed couple as friends. Just like that we had a new connection into our community. Also, through our work at the university, the team was able to introduce us to one student. This one student works for a university student exchange program and through him we have been able to connect with young adults from around Europe who are living here in Nitra. We are so grateful for the teams willingness to connect with new people.

The NLI prayer team took time to visit several cities around Slovakia. They would meet with workers in that city and then pray together. We were so pleased that people understand the value and power of prayer. We are big believers that lasting change must start with prayer. This has us excited for the things that have already begun.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Plight of Standards

We were just watching the BBC and a spokesperson for the European Space Agency put out a Europe-wide call for new astronauts. Apparently they are down to 8 and need a team of 16. The real attention grabber here is not the fact that they are casting a very wide net, but the requirements to apply. They are as follows:

1) applicants must be between the ages of 25 and 30

2) must have a masters degree in mathematics, physics, earth sciences etc. OR be an experienced pilot

3) interested applicants must have a "keen sense of adventure"

Does this not smack of a singles add that should end in "enjoys long walks on the beach"? It seems as though a lot more Europeans may be achieving their childhood dream of being an astronaut after all.

These are the little things that help us better appreciate our life in Europe.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Serbia or Bust

After spending more time getting to the airport than I did sitting on the plane, I stood in Belgrade's airport and took a final moment to wonder what I would experience in Serbia. Only weeks before my arrival I had watched on the BBC as people took to the streets surrounding a declaration of independence by Kosovo. Belgrade embodied the pattern of so many European cities in this region - there were old neglected structures giving way to new modernized buildings.

Exploring Belgrade revealed a city teeming with energy: people speak loudly and drivers maneuver their cars in ways that North American's only wish we could get away with at speeds we fear. Just like New Yorker's retreat to Central Park, Serb's and foreigners alike make their way to Kalemegdan, sitting atop the banks of the Sava and Danube Rivers (pictured above). Though I saw very little armed presence in the city (and the American Embassy is now sporting a fresh coat of paint), I am not going to pretend that I grasp the complexity and volume of issues that fuel life in the former Yugoslavia.

We traveled to Kraljevo to meet with a local pastor who helps facilitate the leadership development conferences in Serbia. He is not someone you just meet, but rather experience. Though much shorter than I, he is bursting with life. There was work to be done, yet I feel as though my greatest learning came not via the execution of this work, but through observation and conversation. He took us to his small church (a really packed house) and showed us the window through which rioters had thrown a molotov cocktail. A visual lesson in itself.

3 buses, 1 plane and a 20 minute walk later I returned home to Amber. She greeted me with news of a bee she had trapped in the bedroom under her slipper which needed my immediate attention...yes, she loves me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

In Your Face Nancy Drew!

While bringing the laundry in off the clothes line today, I noticed the resident Lexus pulling up. Sticking my head over the balcony I saw the lady who yelled at us re the BBQ. In a moment of international-man-of-mystery proportion I ran to get a broom and dust pan...

I took off into the main stairwell and began to sweep around our front door. As I swept I kept an eye out to see where the yeller lives. Naturally I ducked back occasionally to avoid detection. Wouldn't you know it, the people in our building who dislike us the most happen to live directly beneath us! Now the question has become do we stomp around or tip toe?

Now that we know where she lives, maybe we can works towards amends.....

Sunday, April 6, 2008

BBQ... What BBQ?

So we went off to church this afternoon leaving our house guest Rod to man the fort. While we were gone another neighbor paid us a visit. There came yet another knock on our door, this one of the angry, pounding variety. Rod calmly answered the door with his biggest smile and politely tried to explain in English that he does not live in this apartment and the people who do aren't home. The man was trying to get in and kept talking about the "Balkon", "BBQ" and "Policia" - this is not a good combo. Anyway, in the two hours that Rod was at home after his experience with one of our neighbors... the police never showed. It just seems so odd to me that someone would come yelling at our door 48 hours after the "incident".

Needless to say when Matthew and I found out about yet another visit... we were both sick to our stomachs. When we arrived home the BBQ was promptly dismantled and loaded into four plastic bags. As I type, it is being walked over to our friends house... she is receiving her new BBQ. There is no evidence that a BBQ ever lived on our balcony.

I know that at some point in the future we are going to laugh at this whole experience... but right now it just seems terrible.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

When BBQ's Fail

So yesterday morning we were still quite grieved by our BBQ experience. We decided to do something to show the whole building that we were sorry for all the fuss. So with broom, dustpan, bucket, bleach, cleaner and two cloths in hand we cleaned the stairwell for the building. While cleaning we got to meet a nice family we had never seen before.

Later that day Matthew was cleaning the balcony as charcoal sludge had poured out of the BBQ following the previous nights dousing of the grill. This led to us meeting our downstairs neighbor as water was dripping onto his balcony. Once he saw we were cleaning, he was okay with the situation. So the meeting of the neighbors continues - in one fashion or another.

BBQ's = Not the way to Make Friends

With summer approaching, we have turned our sights to our balcony intending to make it our summer escape. We have visions of herbs and flowers growing on the balcony rail, 2 patio chairs and a small charcoal BBQ. Last week, inspired by the sunshine, we began to make this dream a reality when we bought a very small charcoal BBQ that would fit our good sized balcony.

We had some concerns over whether BBQ's were allowed on balconies, but none of our Slovak friends protested the idea, and in fact at one friends house (who has a yard we should add), people were burning leaves and wood in giant oil drums. So, we thought we would be okay.

Last night we invited over four friends for the inaugural lighting of the BBQ. Well, shortly after lighting the BBQ I noticed neighbors whom I've never seen before with their heads out their windows. I waved and smiled nicely. A few minutes later our friends arrived. Before they even got their coats off and moved away from the front door, there was a loud, rushed knock. My friend opened the door only to be blasted by a lady, on a cell phone, wearing a house coat and slippers. She spoke too quickly in Slovak for us to understand so our friend intervened and got the the brunt of: "are you idiots? do you think you are in the park having a picnic? I should make a false report of a real fire to the fire company and have you fined. My neighbors called me to say my building was on fire. YOU ARE IDIOTS!". With that we decided the BBQ was not to be.

Matthew went out to pour water over the grill as people were yelling at him from the street. More knocking on the door. This time Amber answered it alone as our company had already been subjected to enough. Two men stood there very angry, but once they realized Amber was foreign they became much nicer and told her we "cannot grill on our balcony" - we were painfully aware of that fact by that point.

So we ate baked chicken instead and had a good evening with our friends, though every time we heard sirens we all paused to see where they were going. Come bed time both Amber and I were feeling a bit heavy in the heart department. We were up until 2:00am unable to sleep. Because our language skills are limited, we have been very deliberate in building relationship within our neighborhood any way we can. We say hello and smile, we hold doors open, we help people carry things up the stairs (no elevator in our building) and the list goes on. It would be awful if this one small event undermines our time here in this apartment building - how awful to be categorized as the foreigners who tried to burn the place down.

We are looking for a way to make amends - door to door apologies are not really an option. Until yesterday we had never met a lot of the neighbors who came swarming and we do not want this first impression to last. Please pray that God would somehow make this whole situation a way for us to build good relationships in this apartment community, especially with the people we never before yesterday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Po Slovensky

Language acquisition - a true adventure. Our greatest asset in language study - each other! Amber has a great ear and so her accent is much better. Our tutor constantly tells Amber she sounds "Slovak born" while she asks Matthew to repeat the pronunciation of Slovak's soft consonants. Matthew however has a greater ability to remember words and so has a larger vocabulary. So when out and about, Matthew thinks of the words, but Amber says them! Here are some of our more interesting linguistic observations:

Sometimes we English speakers get confused as familiar letters make different sounds in Slovak:

English Letter - Slovak Pronunciation
I - E
E - A (like “eh”)
C - TS
U - OOO (like in Google)
R - You have to roll the R
CH - CH counts as one letter and is pronounced like a very guttural H

Some words of interest:

Slovak Word - English Translation
smely - brave
holy - naked
sväty - holy (pronounced like "sveaty")
fakť - the infinitive form of the verb "to look", but when spoken it sounds a lot like an attention grabbing four letter word in English
svorka - pack of wolves
svokra - mother-in-law (Matthew has made a few GENUINE mistakes with these)

It has also been fun introducing ourselves to people. People are able to pronounce Matthew's name because it has a Slovak translation - Matuš (pronounced "Matush"). It is also common to make someones name sound "more cute" once you are friends; so Matthew also gets "Matko" or "Mať " (pronounced like "Matay").

Amber's name is a whole other story! Women's names commonly end in the letter "a" in Slovak: Ludka, Edita, Evka, Katarina, Anna, Zuzka, Betka. You may have noticed that Amber does not. People often add the "a" to make it easier to say: "Ambera". The direct translation of Amber's name into Slovak is "Jantar". We think it loses a little something in translation. Also, because we are so close to Hungary, we have learned that in Hungarian "amber" means "human being". Nothing could be greater than walking up to someone and saying, "Hi, my name is Human Being".

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Complete Guide to Surprising Amber and Matthew

This video post is long overdue. It all took place in November of last year while at FUSE Young Adults Gathering in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

God Speaks - With and Without an Accent

So this is my very first post. I usually leave the writing to Matthew, but he's convinced me to try my hand at it. We've been in Slovakia for a little over three weeks now and I can honestly say that the transition to a new country, culture and language has been a good one. We were able to secure an apartment before we arrived, so we moved in two days after we landed. A friend here introduced us to Miriam, who is now our language tutor that we meet with twice a week. We've learned how the transit system works in Nitra, and even managed to get ourselves all the way to Bratislava one day! We decided to get involved with the young adults small group at the church and have made friends quickly. All in all life is good and we are happily adjusting to our new life here.

While I say all this, it doesn't mean that there haven't been moments where Matthew and I have looked at each other and said... what are we doing here?!

Well the good Lord was listening in on our little conversation. At small group this last Tuesday night the girls and guys split up for some prayer time. While many of the group know some English, the majority of the evening was done in Slovak, which makes sense. Anyway, one of the girls named Ludka was praying fervently and then all of a sudden broke out in fluent - not even an accent - English with a word from the Lord... for me.

The words she spoke were ones of confirmation and encouragement. That Matthew and I are in the right place, at the right time; we aren't in Slovakia by accident. The words Ludka spoke were exactly what Matthew and I both needed to hear.

Today, Matthew and I are more sure of what God has called us to do than ever. We begin our life here in Nitra with a great sense of courage and strength, knowing that God goes before us.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Going, Going - Gone!

Buckle Up - here is the last month in a few paragraphs....

On January 7th the pace of our life was completely re-defined when we were given official permission to go. Within 24 hours we had booked tickets to Toronto and made our travel plans on to Slovakia. We found ourselves moving quickly to pack and purge our belongings and wrap up all the details of life in Canada - we soon learned that the little details compile a long “to do” list. All the while we were telling ourselves to slow down and enjoy this season of transition...

In our minds we did not think we were overly stressed, so our bodies had to start sending us signals - for the first time ever, Matthew developed a twitch in his left eye, for example. With the clock counting down, we took the unhealthy option and kept working hard (Matthew often working with one hand as he held his eye with the other). A toe-sock wearing missionary friend of ours had told us that our emotions would be running high and fast during our transition and that we would experience everything on an intensified emotional level. They were right. The perfect example of this came on our final night in BC. We came home, looked around our then empty room, hugged, and at the exact moment that Matthew burst out laughing, Amber began to cry. So we stood there, hugging, crying and laughing.

Our time was also filled with many celebrated moments with friends, family and church family. We do not believe these were “good bye’s”, but rather a change in the proximity of our friends. Relationship is based a great deal on communication and so we will now rely more on Skype than Starbucks to stay connected. Some “see you later’s” were weepy, some were light hearted while some felt somewhat numb as it was our 28th “see you later” of the day. With each “we’re so happy for you”, “we’re praying for you”, and every “we’re so excited for you” we felt that God was confirming that we are on the journey He has planned for us.

With life squeezed into 5 bursting suitcases, 4 more bags that we passed off as carry-on appropriate and 3 plastic totes (which are still in transition), flight AC1130 transported us from Vancouver to Toronto a brief 2 weeks after we booked our tickets. With only 6 days in Ontario we were not able to see everyone we wanted to, but we took some time to recharge with family and a few friends (we even did a belated Christmas dinner). It was a wonderful 6 days.

After stressing about over-weight charges we, boarded our next flight that would take us to a new chapter in life. It seemed fitting that we should look out the window at Canada fading behind us - a tangible moment indeed. We arrived in Slovakia jet lagged but running on pure excitement. After one night in a hostel we were able to move into a flat that we are renting. It made us feel that God is really providing for us. The flat is located in a part of Nitra called Chrenova, is close to several stores and puts us within a 20 minute walk from downtown. Our building has 5 floors, of which we live on the top, and no elevator. Between the stairs and our lack of a car we intend to be super-fit in no time.

Alas, this entry has become too long and so more thoughts will be shared on another day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Somewhere Over the Atlantic

Intense, rapid, fleeting, encouraging, exhausting, whirlwind, fun, stressful - all descriptors of our last few weeks in Canada. Now, we call Slovakia home. We arrived safely at the end of January and have been moving quickly towards getting settled. Internet access is still a work-in-progress, so for now we just wanted you to know that we are good and off to a great start. We'll post more - I guess this counts as a cliff hanger ending....

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

We're Leaving on a Jetplane

Though we got our un-official approval yesterday (to which there was much jubilation expressed in the forms of hugging, screaming and jumping around), it was made official today.

We've been given the green light to go ahead with our transition to Slovakia!

All missionaries with our organization need to raise at least 75% of their total budget before being sent overseas. We were worried since we are still shy of this mark. Hooray for special permission!

On January 22nd we will depart British Columbia to spend some time with friends and family in Ontario before leaving for Slovakia on the 29th. Until then, we have a lot of work to do. In so many ways we are ready to go and it feels as though life has been waiting for this moment of release. We are finally going. We are actually doing this. Years in the making; what an honour to be going.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

"2007: The Year of Britney Spears"

I saw this headline on MSN news. Upon reading it my stomach convulsed, skin crawled, hair stood on end and my body displayed other such signs of nausea and revulsion. To me, there is no way the year 2007 is synonymous with the antics of Miss Spears. For me, 2007 is the year of my marriage. 2008 will be the year we move around the world.

Now that's a headline: "Large foreign man takes up residence in unsuspecting Slovak town".