Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tattered Tiaras

A good friend of ours, Kimberlee Moran, has launched a dynamic organization, Tattered Tiaras, that will bring positive change to young girls across Canada and internationally. Currently the Aviva Community Fund is searching for community initiatives to invest in. You can be a part of this change by voting for Tattered Tiaras [click here]. It is quick and simple and you can vote once everyday.

For more information about Tattered Tiaras visit their website.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

EMERGE Women's Conference... COMPLETE!


Over the past year I (Amber) have taken on the role of European Conference Coordinator for Next Level International's WD (Women's Development) department. The goal of WD is obvious, to develop women in leadership across Europe. This is done through three phases of the EMERGE conference where women are encouraged and challenged to be exactly who God made them to be and fulfill the calling that God has placed on their lives.

I had the privilege of working alongside Marta Tóthová (a member of our lead pastoral team here in Nitra) while planning this conference. We chose the hotel, picked the food, handled all the registrations and finances, had pages of teaching material translated, and even more pages printed. We hosted the Short Term Missions team from the U.S.A. together and we also both had the opportunity to teach a workshop. Working alongside Marta has been one of the many highlights of our time here in Slovakia. She's an incredible woman and a great friend.

As mentioned, I taught a workshop at the EMERGE conference. Anna Armitage and I lead the workshop on the "Fundamentals of Influence" together. It was a great chance for both of us to further hone our teaching skills and a fun opportunity to collaborate. The workshop went well, garnered positive feedback, and I'm finding that I'm gaining confidence in my teaching ability with every opportunity I have.

I did find it quite challenging to plan the conference and write a workshop simultaneously. It turns out that two very different parts of my brain are used for these two purposes and I found it hard to engage them both at the same time!

I count it a privilege to be involved in the EMERGE conferences. It's so amazing to see women come together for the purpose of seeking God, His plans, healing, and relationship. To be a small part of what God is doing in the lives of women in Europe is an honour.

There are 5 EMERGE conferences planned for 2010. I can't wait to see what God is going to do in and through the women that gather.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We've Been Rev'd

The annual Eurasia Regional Conference is a time for international workers to get together, talk shop, build community, tackle some house keeping matters, and encourage one another. It is a highlight for us every year and being part of community is a high value for us. We know that for some workers, in isolated contexts, this conference is even that much more life-giving.

This year the conference was held in Tunisia - the Slovak contingent was spoiled with a flight time of 1 hour and 45 minutes and no time change. There was a different feel this year as our Regional Director was not able to attend for health reasons (from which he is recovering nicely) and several big personalities have transitioned into the newly formed region for workers in restricted access countries. Moreover, Tunisia is a highly Muslim country and the law forbids religious activities outside of religious facilities. So while at the hotel we had to limit our Christian-speak (which is OK with us), but it did limit our ability to share and worship together. Bibles and schedules had to be hidden, even inside our hotel rooms. The reality of this was driven home when the religious police came to ensure we were adhering to the rules.
30 minutes on a bus not only showed us how people actually live, but got us to the nearest place of Christian worship: a Catholic Church. The acoustics were bouncy and the murals plentiful, but this was the site of our ordination. We were both ordained in one service - apparently it is a rarity for husband and wife to do this simultaneously. It was remarkably encouraging and we were thrilled to be surrounded by friends and people who genuinely want us to succeed.

Sincerely,

the reverends Price (we have to milk it while it is still novel)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Revolution

Today Slovakia celebrates, with a national holiday, the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the end of Communist rule in what was then Czechoslovakia. The Gentle Revolution, more widely known by it's Czech name, the Velvet Revolution, began on November 17, 1989 when a group of students gathered to commemorate the murder of Slovak students (50 years earlier) on International Students Day. The Communist government responded harshly and their use of force catalyzed a sentiment that had long been brewing. In the following weeks peaceful protests and mass strikes led to the resignation of the regime and the first democratic government in over 40 years.

During our time here in Slovakia people have shared with us what it was like before the revolution - the secret police, the informers, the shortages, the air raid sirens, the hiding of faith. They have also shared with us what it was like to stand in the main square of Bratislava in 1989 and sing songs, join hands with people, waive flags: what it was like to change history. The look on people's faces - the refusal to actually let the tear run down their cheek - as they describe what it was like to sing songs about Jesus publicly for the first time in their lives.

As a Canadian it is a reminder that freedom is precious.

Today the Slovak Central Bank issued a unique 2 Euro coin bearing the words "17 November. Freedom. Democracy. Slovakia." with a picture of keys on it. During the protests people jingled their keys to symbolize the unlocking of freedom.

For more about the Gentle Revolution visit The Slovak Spectator, Wikipedia or for images from the protests visit a website dedicated to the day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rozhodnutie (yes, it's a Slovak word)

Decisions.

This is not going to be a ramble about how to make the big decisions in life.

Keep an ear open to God. Communicate honestly. Move away from thinking that His will is something He holds in a closed fist that you have to pry open. Keep listening. Read the Bible (we cheapen our intentions when we say we want to "hear from God" and then ignore what He's already said). Trust that you are never taken through a process to come out in a worse condition. Have confidence that when you put God first, everything else will be put into place.

Sooner, rather than later, we owe the Powers that Be an answer to the question, "what comes next?". For a while it felt like we were staring down the barrel of this loaded question, but we now have an extreme confidence that we will know what we need to, when we need to.

We are not afraid of missing the "will of God" (aka the plan that He knows is best for us), because we invest a lot of time and energy in pursuing it and He has a lot to say. Our focus is on living it with excellence.

Clocks are ticking. Fuzzy things appear in greater focus.

Pray with us.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Irish Food for Thought

In keeping with the video theme we seem to have going, here is Bono's speech that he gave to the NAACP.

It is food for thought.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NLI EuroSummit 2009




Last week we attended NLI's biannual EuroSummit Conference in Spain. The conference is designed to promote what NLI is doing throughout the 48 nations of Europe. We've linked two of their videos to this post which capture both the need and what NLI is doing in Europe (admittedly, they are commercial-esque).

There was work to be done as Amber serves as the European Conference Coordinator for EMERGE (women's development), but it was great for us to connect with people working across the continent. Though there were many North Americans and Australians, there were nationals from France, Bulgaria, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Poland and more. It was eye-opening to have such a comprehensive perspective on Europe.

It was a great reminder for us that mission originates with a spiritual need. Often, as Westerners, we associate mission with assisting the impoverished and disenfranchised; and though meeting physical needs is a divine imperative, our practical aid must come from a spiritual origin. There is a dangerous misconception surrounding Europe that it is not a valid place for mission - oh sure, maybe in the poorer Eastern countries, the formerly oppressed block, or in the Balkans, the birthplace of modern war, but not in the rest of Europe...they're too rich for mission.

The response to this mentality is simple - where there is a spiritual need there is a need for workers, spiritual investment and steps toward change. Europe, more than ever it seems, is at the frontline.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mozaika - the Host with the Most!


The Apostolic (Pentecostal) Church of Slovakia [ACS - the acronym works for the Slovak and English translations] holds an annual conference for all of the ACS churches across the country. This year Mozaika was selected as the hosting church - a huge show of confidence in our growing church. With programs prepared, a hall rented, speakers from the Czech Republic and the UK, and a host of details attended to, Mozaika welcomed over 700 people to Nitra (more than we thought would come).

The afternoon session was broadcast live (an interesting logistical experience) on Slovak Televsion [STV]. It was amazing, powerful and simplistic, to hear people speak of how a meeting like this could have never taken place just 20 years ago. The church in Slovakia has grown from secret meetings and Bible smuggling to a nationally televised broadcast and a strong representation of local churches; but this conference was not focused on where we have come from, but where we must go.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This is Not One of Those Stories

We're not sure how much we have mentioned this, but for the last few months we have been babysitting a friends car as they are out of country. Like all babysitting gigs this has come with some sweet perks - like mobility, an easier time grocery shopping, the ability to help others be mobile and hauling a variety of things for Mozaika - and a few moments of stress.

This morning we took the car in for an oil change. To be completely transparent, neither of us knows that much about cars or feels super confident strolling into a garage and knowing what needs to be done...toss in a whole new set of Slovak vocabulary that we certainly do not use on a daily basis. With the aid of a cell phone, two friends and the internet, we now understand that our simple oil change has grown into a list of essential repairs.

This is not one of those miraculous stories from overseas workers where the skies open up and a new car (with Matthew sized leg room and excellent fuel mileage) falls from the heavens.

As we left the garage (over six-and-a-half hours ago), Matthew asked God to keep the price range around a specific number we knew we could handle. From our estimations we are currently over double that number. Here's the kicker - recently we were given some fun money from friends and family. We had squirreled it away and Matthew started to dream enjoyable, memory making methods to spend it; Amber however had tucked away a previous lesson learned (yes, Amber is often a step ahead). Past experience has taught us that when we get a little disposable income it usually means there is an unforeseen expense coming our way. Even with the use of our fun money, this repair bill will still end up being a "put on the credit card and pay off in installments" kind of scenario - but we are not broken.

We are learning that God does care about our dreams and the small perks that enrich life; but beyond what we want, He is taking care of what we need - even before we know we need it.

So, is this a miraculous story? Yes.

Will Hollywood make a movie of it? No.

Is it a foundational lesson in trust? You better believe it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Love my City Report - Klokočina Fair and Kids Programs

The Klokočinský jarmok (Klokočina Fair) is one of the 3 largest annual events in Nitra and it is estimated that 10,000 people attend each year. The I Love my City team went bright and early (like very early) on Saturday morning to clean the entire fair grounds of Friday's garbage. The organizers were shocked that we actually showed up to do this, despite our repeated promises to be there. With the grounds cleaned and skies beginning to shower, we set up our I Love my City booth - in prime territory right next to the main stage. We were ready to go with hundreds of hot dogs and drinks to give out for free (paid for by Convoy of Hope), free coffee donated by Nescafe and free food parcels for families in need (provided by Convoy of Hope). We also had face paint and balloon animals a plenty for the kids. ACET, an AIDS and drug awareness program, was also present and had a display at the booth. We were ready - and so was the rain. It poured for the first portion of the day, but the show must go on!

We had been given a 1 hour time slot on the main stage and so Mozaika put on a kids presentation that talked about Jesus as our friend. Later that day the skies cleared and the crowds came. The hot dogs, drinks, coffee and food parcels all made it to the masses. On Sunday we were given another performance time on the main stage and then rushed to the Main City Park where the performance took place again as part of the city's summer kids program. The weather was in our favour on Sunday and the time in the park was a highlight as it was not transient foot traffic, but people came specifically to see the show and stayed for the whole presentation. We are excited to see where these new connections take us.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I Love my City Report - Connecting Points


Making a visible impact on the city was a high priority but having points of connection was equally as important. We built in times where people from the teams and people from Mozaika could build relationships with people from the community. We ran ads in the local newspaper, put posters on doors, had posters placed on the city events boards, handed out flyers and had a press release for the radio advertising two big connecting points. One of the ways in which we connected was by hosting a Canada vs. Slovakia sports night. Slovakia emerged the victor by a single point in the soccer match (for which Matthew played for Team Slovakia...though with his lack of skill it might have been more helpful for Team Canada). We were not flooded with people, but there were new relationships made with the people that did come.


The other community connection point was a Picnic in the Park evening. We hosted this in the main city park near the stage (where later in the week we would put on a kids performance). Again we were not overwhelmed by people, but there were new connections made with those who did come and we are so thrilled by this - we do not base our success on numbers. Past experience has taught us not to underestimate these first steps.



Following our week of prayer we kicked-off the project with a night of praise and prayer. We had worship in both Slovak and English and there was such a sense of energy, excitement and fullness in the room. It was one of those moments where it was impossible to be still. On the Sundays Pastor Kim (from Liberty Pentecostal Church in Bowmanville ON) and Pastor Ryan (from Bethel Community Church in Edmonton AB) shared honest and encouraging thoughts with Mozaika. We appreciated what they had to say. The Alberta team was also able to plant a Maple tree in the main city park to honour their friend and youth leader, Mike Abma, who passed away shortly before the project. As they shared stories about Mike we felt like we were benefiting from his influence on the team.

Another large aim was to build Mozaika's connection with the City. Through our service at the Community Centre and our assistance at the Klokočina Fair we made quite a splash with city officials. The most notable was the Vice-Mayor of Nitra who surprised us all by attending Mozaika last Sunday. Considering we had trouble getting a meeting with City Hall last year, the growth in this relationship is amazing.

I Love my City Report - Work Project



Komunitné Centrum (literally Community Centre) is an organization that serves as host to several social programs housed in one building. With their municipal funding completely cut over a year ago, the two directors have faced many challenges to keep the facility running. Located in Klokočina, Nitra's most populous sector, this facility is surrounded by apartment blocks full of children and young families. The actual building and grounds have fallen into disrepair as the majority of this former school building is completely abandoned and has become a place where drug users, homeless people and kids who are bored and want to smash stuff come to spend time. Matthew was given his own private tour of the building by two local boys, Adam and Peter (maybe 8 years old), over broken windows and bottles, around needles, through the part they set on fire, and stealthily through the part where the homeless people live. The surrounding yard and play spaces were overgrown with thistles and tall grass, not to mention the garbage, glass and needles. With Mozaika looking at buying property in Klokočina, it seemed like the perfect place to start building a relationship.



We did a little pre-work before the teams arrived to make sure there was some usable outdoor space before the kids camp began on Monday. The teams then set to work, everyday from Monday to Friday, making this space a usable one. There was garbage, glass and needle clean-up. Followed by weeding (which turned into only getting the ones with spikes once we realized how many weeds there actually were). There was a lot of weed whacking (until both weed whackers died...and then we kicked it old school with 2 sheaths) to get the grass down to a manageable height. It then took at least two runs with a lawn mower to get everything to look like a lawn. The holes in the yard were filled in with dirt. There was also the trimming, and sometimes accidental removal, of trees. This all sums up nicely, but it took 15 people several days to do this.



With the yard ready for action, we were also able to smash out the broken windows (admittedly, it was fun to break stuff) and then board up those windows and doorways to make the area around the yard safer. We also painted lines on the basketball court and put the Mozaika logo at centre court (we love the fact that it is the only place in Nitra where our logo is permanent and sealed with 3 coats of varnish). The teams brought some colour to the centre by painting a large portion of the fencing and the events board. We also dug up the play structures and poured cement bases for them to prevent further theft. The inside signage for the centre was also given a new look by the team.



With our bright blue "I Love my City / Mozaika" shirts we attracted a lot of attention (we had quite the audience from surrounding balconies). With our event banner prominently displayed there was no question of what was going on. It was empowering when people would stop and express their amazement at what was being done. The directors of the centre repeatedly expressed their thanks. The Vice-Mayor of Nitra even visited and got involved in some of the work. One of the goals of this project was to gain visibility for Mozaika: check!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Love my City Report - Kids Camp



The kids camp, entitled "A Journey Full of Adventure", ran daily from Monday to Friday. The core team running the camp were people from Mozaika. Each day some of the Canadians helped out and did English lessons. Attendance peeked at just over 30 children, which is excellent seeing as Mozaika is 50 people. It was a good mix of children from the church and children from the surrounding apartment blocks. There were games, stories, crafts, face painting and a fun introduction to Jesus and the Bible.

On Thursday and Friday, Athletes in Action came with their inflatable bouncy castle and we transformed the yard into a series of games and challenges. With music and invitations to join the fun playing from our speaker system, there were lots of smiling faces. There was also a dance workshop and the kids had a chance to perform at the final event on Friday. With parents there to watch it was a great chance for Mozaika people to connect with families by giving out info cards and through conversation. Overall, it was an activity filled afternoon for the campers and kids from the neighborhood.

On Saturday September 5th, Mozaika hosted a follow-up event at the community centre. We have committed to doing a monthly kids event there in order to keep building on the relationships made during the I Love my City project. 16 children came to this event including 2 new children from the apartment blocks.

The school year has already begun here in Slovakia and we are glad that we have built new connections through this camp and we are excited to see how they grow throughout this year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Love my City - it's go time!

As this is being written we have unleashed the teams for the Amazing Race: Nitra Edition. We're hoping they have lots of fun and become more familiar with the city (we're also hoping we see them again in a few hours).

After all of this planning, praying, and organizing, it is all happening and Thursday night at prayer we were reminded of one more key thing - we have taken this as far as we can. It is now up to the Holy Spirit to take us the rest of the way.

The project is just beginning, we admit to being tired already, but we have this confidence that something great is going to come out of the next 10 days.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Love my City Prayer Week

With all the big things in place, these past weeks have been full of details. Our days have sped by propelled on little detailed-sized rockets!

Tonight marks the start of our week of prayer. With teams arriving at the end of this week and the I Love my City project beginning on Saturday, Mozaika will be praying nightly for the success of this initiative (6pm in Slovakia is 12 noon in Toronto and 9am in Vancouver). We welcome you to pray too.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

She Remembered Us

We met Joan Gimson only a handful of times; her daughter and grandson have been great friends since our college days and we went to the same church in Ft.Langley.

Having served in Africa, Joan was a champion for missions. Within the walls of her British body was quite a passion for people and a belief in the power of prayer. At the end of last month, Joan passed away rather unexpectedly.

Joan assured us that she prayed for us often; and we never doubted that. While assembling Joan's things, Joanne (Joan's daughter and our friend) found a small note attached to the bathroom mirror that read "Matthew and Amber". When we received an e-mail about her small reminder to pray, it was a simple, yet meaningful moment.

Whatever we accomplish is undoubtedly a result of God hard at work, but he has decided to include us in the action. We are all in this together - regardless of what continent we are on. For as much time as we contribute here on the ground, we are so grateful for people around the world who put time in through prayer. It is essential.

So, we take a moment to remember all that Joan did for us, even from the other side of the world. Her contributions will continue to build a legacy for years to come.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Love my City Update

The I Love my City Project is just over 2 weeks away now. We're working hard to be as prepared as possible, but it's becoming more and more clear that there needs to be some serious prayer to back up our actions here on the ground.

Last Tuesday we had a great meeting that started with an hour of prayer - really good, God speaking, honest conversation. Please continue to pray for this project - we have a genuine feeling that God has more planned for it then we do.

Please also pray for the people involved with ILMC. There has been unexpected loss as one team coming from Edmonton, Alberta had a team member pass away last week through tragic circumstances. Pray for the family, the team and the church as they celebrate a friend and youth leader. They have decided to still come and we are honored to have the opportunity to serve with them. Here in Nitra there has been challenging circumstances as Sheldon and Anna Armitage, our missionary mentors and part of the team for this project, had their car stolen and Anna's grandfather passed away. We're not out to overspiritualize, but we need to be praying not only for the success of I Love my City, but for strength, protection and excellence for everyone involved.

For as hard as we are working on the ground, we are convinced that prayer will be a determinig factor this month.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Milujem Moje Mesto - I Love my City

If you get our e-newsletter [the Ongoing Adventure of Matthew and Amber] or follow this blog, it is likely that you have heard us talk about the I Love my City (ILMC) project. With the project starting one month from today, we would like to share with you more about this project as we believe it is already serving as a turning point for Mozaika.

Throughout our first year here we found that the leadership team here often dreamed about what we would like to do in the city, but we were limited by our lack of visibility, influence and permanent address. We could keep this pattern going, but it is obviously time for a change. ILMC is the bombastic beginning of that change. ILMC is a city-wide project with a focus on children and families that is designed to increase Mozaika's visibility within Nitra, build new relationships with people in the community, and increase our connectivity with city hall.To do this we have several international teams and Slovak volunteers from surrounding cities coming to join Mozaika. We will be running a kids camp in the most densely populated borough of the city rife with wee ones looking for summer fun. In conjunction with the City Works Department, we will be sprucing-up parks and public spaces across the city. In partnership with Athletes in Action we will be hosting 2 Family Fun Days. We have been given a performance time at the main stage in the city park for the summer kids program. ILMC volunteers will assist with the running of the Klokočinský jarmok (Klokočina festival where an estimated 10,000 people attend), performing on the festival stage and running a free BBQ and food parcel distribution provided by Convoy of Hope. Also, there will be events that allow Christians and non-Christians to connect in neutral spaces such as the Picnic in the Park evening and Foreigner vs. Slovak sports night (at which we expect the Europeans to dominate in soccer).
The project will be preceeded by a week of prayer. Already we have seen the benefits of this project as City Hall has expressed their amazement at a church wanting to do something for them (and not the other way around). We believe that by serving the city we will see their mindset towards us grow into that of a partnership (click here to read more about the city's shift in perception).

We want as many people as possible praying for the success of this project - we invite you to be a part of ILMC from wherever you are in the world. Check this blog during the event for updates. You can also join the Facebook group "I Love my City - Milujem moje mesto", to get current information and show your support.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Slov-insert-name-here

Not to be outdone by the universally popular "euro" prefix (euro-trip, euro-style, euro-chic etc.) or the rapidly innovating "i" prefix (iPhone, iPod, iLife etc.), we would like to draw some attention to the nationally popular "slov" prefix.
  • Slov-air: was a national airline for Czechoslovakia but dissolved in 1990
  • Slov-matic: a soccer club in Bratislava
  • Slovakryl: a company that manufactures acrylic paint
  • Slovnaft: a chain of gas stations
  • Slov-Alex: a company that produces custom rubber stamps
  • SLOV-CHLAD: a refrigeration company (everything from freezers to ice rinks - it should be noted that "chlad" means "cold")
  • Slov-Energia: is an energy and natural gas consulting firm
  • SLOVinteriér: builds custom made wooden doors and window treatments
  • slovLED: specializes in L.E.D. technogies
  • Slov-forest: we looked at their website, but we sill aren't sure what this group does....we think they are Slov-enviromentalists
  • SlovMAD: a freight business specializing in shipments between Slovakia and Hungary (the Slovak word for Hungary is "Maďarsko")
  • Slov-TAT: custom car painting company
  • Slovaktual: sells doors and windows

Monday, July 6, 2009

All Things Mozaika

It has been a while since we have given a thorough update on the life of Mozaika, and there are some pretty great things that we would like to share with you.

On June 21st Mozaika hosted a "Church Day". The people from the Nové Zámky church, the church that planted Mozaika, joined us here in Nitra for a great day. Together we filled our current meeting location with 120 people. The two main highlights from the day were water baptisms and a BBQ. We also played a soccer match from which Mozaika emerged the victorious, yet humble, winners. The day was a lot of work on the organizing end, but it was worth it. We really want there to be a collective sense of community between the two churches and time spent together is an essential part fo the bonding process.

We are generally excited for the things happening at Mozaika. Though the city is more quiet with the school-year concluded, there is good momentum to church life: national kids and youth summer camps are about to begin, a couple from Mozaika are moving to another town to step into a pastoral role, a young man involved in the Teen Challenge program has concluded a prison sentence and has returned to Mozaika with quite the testimony, and City Hall seems to favor us like never before as we prepare for the I Love my City project in August.

Within Slovakia most evangelical churches, being small, do not own their own space. Here in NItra, as the seat of Catholicism for Slovakia, the Catholic Church owns more property than the city does within the city limits. As you know, not owning our own space has been an adventure for Mozaika this past year as we were evicted from one place, transitioned into a persons home, then into a business facility which kept the heat off all winter and now into a Brethern Church in between their services. As if this was not enough nomadic experience, small churches around the country learned a valuable lesson when a church in the northern town of Martin lost their meeting place (and pastor's home) to the ambitious plans of their landlord.

Owning a space not only creates a stable venue through which to connect with people, but delivers a strong message to the surrounding community that we are rooted here too - we are a part of this community together.

In Nové Zámky they have been renting part of a larger building for approximately 12 years. They have done renovations, run a Mother's Centre and maintain the adjoining city kids park. The owner had announced his intention to sell and the church won the bid to purchase the building. This process is still ongoing as financing for the bid is not fully resolved (churches must be creative as banks will not provide mortgages for non-profit organizations), though through a course of events it looks as though they will be able to purchase the building for 300,000 Euros less than originally expected. Furthermore, the church is set to acquire occupancy of the rental space next to theirs (within the same building) by the end of August. This will be an answer to over 10 years of prayer as a night club has been the tenant. Pray that the financing will be completed soon.

Red Dot = location of our apartment
Yellow Dot = location where Mozaika currently meets
Green Dot = location of potential property

For Mozaika, the city architect has offered Mozaika a piece of property on the edge of Klokočina (pronounced klo-ko-chee-na). This borough of Nitra is home to over 30,000 people and is currently dominated by apartment blocks. The city is wanting to expand in that direction and has scheduled the construction of family homes and starter homes. By setting roots in this area of the city, Mozaika would be surrounded by families. Talks are still very much in the beginning stages, so please pray that Mozaika would have wisdom and keen insight as we make decisions about where we will call home. We do not simply want to jump on the first opportunity that comes our way.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You DO NOT Know Intense Until you Have Been to a Conference with 100 Spanish Women


I (Amber) had the opportunity to travel to El Espinar, Spain to be part of the Salem Church's annual womens weekend.... and what a weekend it was. The Spanish are a passionate, loud, intense, life-loving people and I love them for it! As this was not my first time working with the Salem church, there were many familiar faces and lots of catching up to do. All this talking and laughing was done over wonderful food at unfamiliar times. Breakfast was at 9am, followed by lunch at 2pm and the evening wound up with dinner at around 9:30pm - our days were long, but enjoyable. I am also amazed with the Spanish womens ability to NOT SLEEP. They were laughing, talking, crying, praying and singing into the wee hours of the morning (approximately 2:15am). They would then all arrive early to the morning devotional at 8:30am looking rested and wonderful... I don't know how they do it!

Aside from building relationships, I was asked to speak in one of the general sessions. I talked about the importance of mentoring (having a mentor and being a mentor) and the need for awareness regarding the people you surround yourself with. The process of putting my thoughts together was revelatory as it made me examine my own life and relationships. I have been blessed with SO MANY incredible women in my life (my Mom, all of my Aunts, great teachers and amazing friends to name a few). I am so grateful for each of these unique relationships - they have helped mold the person I am and the person I am becoming.

The weekend was also unique in that I was traveling without Matthew - a first! While I fared well, I missed him very much and it was nice to return home again!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Vinegar Day

A proof-reader is a great thing to have here. While making father's day cards for the dads that attend Mozaika, Matthew, thinking he was following grammatical rules that we will not even attempt to explain, changed the word "father" into "vinegar". Fortunately, the mistake was caught before the cards went to print.

We trust you have a happy vinegar's day!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Our 2 Year Anniversary

Today we celebrate 2 years of marriage and look forward to many more.

video

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Time with the Tribe

Within 48 hours of our return from the Czech Republic, Matthew's sister and mother joined us here in Slovakia. 4 days later Matthew's father arrived from Ukraine where he had been on a missions trip. It was great to have family here. It makes it so much easier to share stories over the phone when there has been shared experiences. Proximity is not a luxury that we have, so time together is always of great value to us.

Not only was it good for us, but Chuck (Matthew's dad) was able to speak at our church plant and teach at an afternoon seminar on the Holy Spirit. It was a great time and people are still saying very encouraging things about it.

So overall, time with family = a good thing.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The OMEGA-bites



OMEGA is a 1-year discipleship course based out of Summit Pacific College (our Alma mater). Amber did the program and then was an intern for 3 years while completing her studies. Matthew interned for 1. We were both challenged and encouraged by our time with OMEGA and believe that it is a dynamic blend of academics, hands on experiences and personal development - so when the director, our friend, asked us to serve as overseers for the 3.5 week trip to neighboring Czech Republic, we were eager to jump on board.

Heading off to Prague on April 26th, our prayer had been "God - make them like us more than they should". Upon our arrival we hopped on a bus with a group of 20 students which were divided into 2 teams of 10. Our 10, who dubbed themselves Team Fusion, sat there jet-lagged staring at the Czech countryside as it whizzed past; and so it began.

Throughout the following weeks we were blown away as the teams did Canada classes in high schools to make connections with students, played sports to meet new people, ran kids programs, and presented their experiences with Christianity and God through media, drama and speaking. Though that all sums up into a few sentences, there were long days, moments of vulnerability, acts of courage, and instances of self-discovery that fueled our time together.

Unlike Slovakia's return to Catholic roots, Czech people proudly tote their nation as at least 80% atheist. People's resistance to or genuine lack of knowledge of Christianity was surprising. The misconceptions surrounding evangelical churches even more astounding (and sometimes entertaining). The teams did a great job of being relational and in our opinion one of the greatest compliments they received was "you Christians really are normal people". We believe that these altered perceptions are the beginning of something exciting.

So after being in Ostrov nad Ohři, Karlový Vary, Strakonice and Praha (Prague), we returned home to Slovakia 2 days ago. Though we were gone for a long time, it was absolutely worth it. God answered our prayer and gave us great friendships with people. People made decisions to live as Christians. New connections were made between local church-plants and their communties. Not to mention - we had a lot of fun.

AND - as a total bonus, Matthew's sister Rebekah served as an intern for OMEGA this year and so there was some family time had at the end of the trip in Prague.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The World is Just Awesome

We are wrapping our time with the OMEGA students here in the Czech Republic. It has been awesome and we will share more details once we are back on Slovak soil. We have met new people, seen new places and been a part of a plan larger than ourselves. It reminded us of a commercial we used at Potichu Nahlas a few weeks ago.

The world, and the God who loves it, truly is awesome!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Life Moments

Today, Matthew's sisters will graduate from college. They have worked hard, contributed to student and community life and had fun while doing it.

We honestly could not be more proud.

Distance has become a regular part of our lives; an element of this lifestyle that we accept as reality and simultaneously fight (armed with Facebook, cell phones, Skype, e-mail and even regular mail...like with paper and stamps). Though we will see pictures and hear the grand retelling, they cannot replace an excited hug in the moment, a smile caught across a full auditorium or a hand reddened by vigorous clapping.

When God asked us to embrace a missional life, we know He factored all of this into His plans and though there are still wishful moments, it is good to know this has not been overlooked.

So if you happen to be at Summit Pacific's graduation ceremony in Abbotsford, BC and you see two radiant graduates - give them a hug for us!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Slovenija - Slovinsko - Slovenia...however you say it, that's where we went

Life is a comedy...or at least one has to choose to see the humor in it. As we've mentioned, there was to be a training conference in Slovenia that we were going to help with. This presented a great opportunity to see some friends in Ljubljana we made last August while speaking at the Slovene young adults camp (birthplace of the now infamous "ička" event). So we made our way down last Wednesday, two days ahead of the conferences Friday start date.

We had an awesome time with our friends and it was energizing to be around an eclectic, vibrant group of young adults and young marrieds (don't they look awesome). We even got to sleep at a friends apartment which has "two rooms and no doors" (a bonding experience for sure).

On Thursday we got a phone call saying there had been a miscommunication and that the conference is actually taking place this coming weekend (which helped us understand a lot of the puzzled looks we had received when we told people why we were down). Catalyst is also this coming weekend and Sheldon and Mark, our Catalyst teachers-in-arms, are teaching in Slovenia and so we will be running Catalyst solo. We're prepared and have been praying for the students as we tackle a heavy-hitter of a subject: character!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Traditions

One of the most enjoyable aspects of living in another culture is the exploration of new traditions. Slovak culture, being steeped in Catholic traditions, focuses strongly on the 4-day holiday that surrounds Easter (Velká noc). On Easter Friday (Veľkonočný piatok) people do not eat meat to symbollically connect with the suffering of Jesus on the cross. On Saturday mass is held at 9:00pm to mark the resurrection of Jesus; not on Sunday as is common in North America (we suspect that time zones may be a factor...). Most people leave the city and make their way to "the nature" for time with friends and family; thus Nitra has been empty of people but filled with church bells.


The real fun comes on Veľkonočný pondelok (Easter Monday) when traditionally women stay at home and men don their best attire and go door to door armed with a korbáč (a whip woven from several tree branches and tied with brightly coloured ribbon), water and perfume. The men chase after the women and hit them on the legs with the korbáč and splash water and perfume on them to cleanse them and make them pure. The man should then give the bottle of perfume as a present to the woman. In return the woman gives her Easter assailant a decorated egg or some chocolates.

Matthew, in an attempt to be culturally sensitive, embraced this new tradition...

video

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Lieu of the Salvation Army Store

When we first moved to Nitra 14 months ago we were told about how to make good will-esque donations. There is no thrift store that we know of, but there are dumpsters outside of the apartment blocks. In order to make a donation, all one has to do is leave the item (old clothing, appliances or furniture) near the dumpster. Local gypsy families keep an eye out for good finds.

This system seemed a little loose to us. We occasionally see people in our dumpsters early in the morning, but there is no ongoing surveillance - but we tried it out. Putting some clothes in a bag we left it and went to our language lesson. Two-and-a-half hours later we returned to see a gypsy couple, about our age, trying the clothes on. Our clothes made it to someone who needed it = the system works.

Though spring may be late in coming here, we're turning on spring cleaning sights onto our clothing and then onto the dumpsters. Just another little facet of life in Nitra.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Door Prizes


One of the unexpected perks of living here in Nitra is the occasional, and often creative, store give-aways. Let's not forget METRO's Christmas offer of a free carp and bottle of champagne. Earlier this week we picked up a few household items from BauMax (similar to a Home Depot). Since we spent more than 20 Euros we were given...

...a bucket of high quality planting dirt.

It was a first for us, but highly practical as the season for gardening approaches.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Exciting Developments in the life of Amber

An amazing door has been opened, and I have decided to walk through it. I have accepted a temporary position working for the Women's Development department of Next Level International. I will be helping to plan and execute the EMERGE Women's Leadership Conference happening right here in Nitra this year. I have the privilege of working with a great team of women from NLI and beyond, as well as the chance to partner with an amazing team here in Slovakia. I'm thrilled about this opportunity and feel like it is a great fit for my gifts and something I can really sink my teeth into. Please remember me in prayer as I learn the ropes, build relationships and begin working in this new capacity.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Breaking and Entering

Our apartment door comes with a unique feature: to lock it from the inside there is no knob; you must use the key. If you leave the key in the lock, you are unable to lock or unlock the door from the outside - yes, two keys makes for potential trouble.

Today, as we left for our language lesson, we did the unthinkable and left a key in the lock. After brute force failed us, we sought out resources from Sheldon and Anna. When our attempts with screw drivers and bobby pins proved equally ineffective, we turned to our building manager for help.

Using nothing more than a tiny screwdriver and a long piece of thin metal, he had our door open in 2 minutes or less. VICTORY! Though we were greatly relieved, we now question the security of our door. We figure that since we live on the top floor and there is no elevator, if any thief gets away with our stuff then they have earned it!

6 Days in the Old Country

We returned to Slovakia on Tuesday evening after spending 6 days in BC. Amber's cousin Courtney got married and Matthew was asked to perform the ceremony (a first, and a true honour), and we were both asked to be the MC's. Amber's bloodline teems with ambition and so her uncle reached into his bag of tricks (and by that we mean travel points) and pulled out 2 plane tickets. Life in Slovakia does not come with a pause button and since we had been in Canada in November and the PAOC conference in January, we had to make this a quick trip.

With such limited time we tried to focus on connecting with friends and family, but even still we missed so many people. Each time we're back in Canada we learn more about balancing our visits (though appointments, traffic and shopping runs seem to consume valuable time). We returned to Nitra quite physically tired, but stocked-up on some great new memories.

We've received positive feedback from the wedding and reception, but there was nervousness going in. At one point during the ceremony there was a bit of a mix-up with kleenexes camoflauged amongst a white bouquet that led to flower petals and the kleenex hitting the floor - Matthew will admit that his first thought was "oh, I'm so happy it wasn't me who made the first mistake". He later acknowledged that the day was not all about him.

We also had the chance to share at ET Family Church in Nanaimo. We felt very welcome there and the warmth of the people was tangible - as in Matthew did not bring a coat, was wearing a white shirt on a cold, rainy day and so was given a loaner jacket for the day. We talked about how mission is something we, as Christians, are all required to engage in. As such, it then becomes a matter of the attitude we bring. It was a healthy motives check-up for us too.

So now we are back in Nitra missing the sunshine of BC, but happy to be home.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

There's Nothing Like the First Time

We are in process of settling into our newest church home. Mozaika had it's first service in KZ last Sunday. There are some technical aspects to work out, but nobody could deny that it was good to meet in a building that had the heat on!

In some ways it is tempting to relax because the immediate pressure is off, however there is more than a mailing address to be gained by having a permanent home. Stability and a presence within the community are still things we are working towards. The journey goes on...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Another New Home

We just got off the phone with Miro (the local church planter we work with) and he had some good news....insert suspense.....

As of last Sunday, Mozaika had nowhere to call home. Since the Turbulencia conference was happening, it was not a big concern. Though we still do not have a place to call our own, the local Brethren Church, Kresťanske Zbory (KZ), has agreed to rent us their facility (pictured above) for the time being. Our Sunday program will start at 11:11am following the conclusion of theirs at 10:30am.

Located near the downtown their building has an auditorium, a kitchen facility and room for kids programs. We will be moving Mozaika's stuff from the VBC into KZ this Friday. This will be our home for now, but the search for a permanent facility for Mozaika continues.

Thank you for praying with us. Even though the immediate stress is gone, please continue to pray for us as we journey towards establlishing roots in our community.

Turbulencia

Turbulencia is an annual conference hosted by the mother-church in Nové Zámky (which originally planted the Mozaika church here in Nitra). The conference saw people come from across the country to start the year with worship, preaching, teaching, workshops, panel discussions and kids programs. It was exciting to see so many Slovak Christians come together to celebrate their faith.

We missed the first night of Turbulencia as we were still making our way back from the Global Business Development Conference (nothing says fun like travelling for 24 hours and then plugging into another conference 12 hours later). The conference was well organized and we felt bad that we had not been there to help more....

Amber has been sick since our return to Slovakia and so was unable to attend. Matthew had the chance to serve as part of the hospitality team. Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to share the vision for this coming year.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A First

We returned home to Slovakia on January 30th after spending 6 days at the Global Business Development Conference (aptly named for those working in restricted countries). There were services, workshops and some practical business meetings. It was the first time in the history of the P.A.O.C. that every worker came together. Attendance was mandatory, but we are so glad that we were a part of this event.

As cross-cultural workers we know that we are part of a larger, global team that is involved in many initiatives around the world. Knowing this is completely different than actually being able to see everyone all together. It was exciting to see the scale of what we are a part of. Being able to switch off the translation portion of our brains and engage in teaching and worship in English was energizing. We were also able to connect with great friends who are life-giving and meet new people and listen to their stories. We're not trying to make ourselves out to be so different, but there is such great connectivity amongst people who have walked a similar life-journey (it's hard to discuss culture shock with someone who has only moved Pickering to Ajax or Maple Ridge to Langley).

The conference took place in Indonesia (a brief 48 hours in transit round-trip). When people are coming from all over the entire world, there are going to be travel winners and losers. It was interesting to be exposed to another culture and it was Amber's first time in Asia. It was a good reminder to us of how diverse our global team is. What we do in Slovakia would not work there. How one lives out there faith would look so different there - how one lives in general would be so different. Amber's gratitude for living in a cockroach-free country was repeated several times by the end of the week! There was also a lot of crispy flesh on display as Canadians are not accustomed to sub-equatorial sun...

It was super-fantastic to be a part of this!

Monday, January 19, 2009

On the Road Again

For us (Amber and Matthew), yesterday was the last time we would ever be a part of Mozaika in the VBC Business Centre. The church still has one more Sunday in this facility, however we are going to the PAOC Global Business Development Conference. On Sunday February 1st our church is part of a regional church conference; giving us an additional week to find a new location.

Currently there are a few applications to which we have not received replies. There was a prospect for one space, but a neighboring business complained that we would be too noisy. Beyond just looking for somewhere to rent, we have asked the city if we could purchase an old cinema building (Palace Cinema) near the downtown. It is infrequently used for film festivals. Before we moved to Nitra, the church had inquired about purchasing this building, but the city insisted they had plans for it. Over a year later, it stills stands empty most days.

We appreciate how much energy and prayer has been given in support, and we, along with the people of Mozaika, ask that you keep praying with us.

Our desire is to be a rooted element of our community and we believe that a building is part of this process.