365 Czech Republic

Spring Conference Day 4

It’s weird that Saturday feels like Thursday. I’ve been thrown off with the days all week because the conference started on Wednesday night and the days have been full. Today was probably the fullest day yet, but it was another good one!

Last Full Day of Conference (5/9/15)

Today was just non-stop with two main session in the morning. During the first session this morning our friend Tanya Miller who serves in Poland did this incredible recitation of Scripture called The History of Redemption in which she literally was just quoting a series of Bible verses for at least twenty minutes straight, all set to music and accompanying artwork. It was a very moving and rich time of just listening to God’s Word being recited. The verses are all organized in such a way that it goes from Creation to Revelation and walks through the redemption story. Towards the end when she was reciting from Revelation I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the room including her own. It was an incredible thing to witness and both Bethany and I were in awe of the amount of work that must have taken, but more importantly with the truth of the Scripture.

After lunch today I went from rehearsal to a meeting and then to a larger “Communications” meeting that I spoke at. As the director of the communications team for JV I got the opportunity to speak to a number of different communication areas and get the whole JV family excited about different things we’re working on and serving them in. I had fun with them and hopefully they enjoyed the meeting and left with a few things that are helpful to them in the future.

Last Full Day of Conference (5/9/15)

Tonight we had a special worship night in the big tent that we’re meeting in and I again had the privilege of playing the drums and being part of leading people in song. It was a family-focused event and so all the kids were with us and I got the above photo of them singing and playing in the front of the room near the stage. A little later they all congregated on the actual stage and we sang worship songs that were for kids and then for everyone. It was a sweet time tonight and I had a lot of fun.

Bethany has been having a lot more discomfort today than previous days in this pregnancy. She has been an absolute trooper with taking care of the kids and other things while I have been involved with various things at this conference. I have been so impressed with her this week and she heart has not been one of complaint. She’s a model of sacrificial love to both me and the kids and that couldn’t have been more true than today.

I really haven’t had much sleep this week, but I believe the Lord has really sustained me and given me the energy needed to serve the Josiah Venture family this week. It was one of my joys to serve and support others and I have been blessed this week just to be part of the conference. I go to bed tired tonight but hopefully that’s because I spent my energy on others and not on my self. As I’ve heard said by others, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

365 Czech Republic

Our First Thanksgiving in Czech

Our First Thanksgiving in Czech (11/27/14)

Above is the view we woke up to this morning. We’re staying at what is called Hotel Malenovice. This building has a story of it’s own, but it’s basically the Josiah Venture training center where all of our major training events are held here in Czech. As I type the sun has gone down, and this view has turned in to sparkling lights over the city. We just finished our big Josiah Venture family Thanksgiving meal downstairs and it was a wonderful time. Dave Patty, president of JV, led us in a little devotional out of the Psalms and we spent a few minutes sharing with each other how God has been faithful this year to each of us. Before we started eating, Dave also led us in prayer and the singing of the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Here’s a little video I took of us singing.

The food today was incredible to say the least. It is a rare moment where you can gather so many people from so many different places and enjoy home made food from each family. Most of the people here this week are American missionaries so they all brought their own family’s traditional dishes and let’s just say I did a little sampling. Oh, and the turkey…amazing. There’s a local guy here in Czech that cooks the turkeys every year for JV and they are delectable. I don’t know how many turkeys it takes to feed 100+ people, but here’s one of them in it’s glory.

Our First Thanksgiving in Czech (11/27/14)

I also got this photo of Bethany and the kids as we were finishing up our meals. Clearly, Avery is not finished yet.

Our First Thanksgiving in Czech (11/27/14)

Here’s a couple photos of the kids playing outside today. Avery loved the swingset, and you can see Titus with his toy light saber while playing with the other boys (who were hiding from him).

Thanksgiving in Czech (11/27/14)

Thanksgiving in Czech (11/27/14)

What you’re seeing in the photos and video above are about as much as I was involved in today’s events (actually less because Bethany took the photos of the kids playing outside). Pretty much every other moment I was laying on the bed in our room. Even though I went down for breakfast in the morning, I came right back up and slept. I remained in bed right up until we went down for the Thanksgiving meal at 1:30. Today was just the worst of my sickness. I’ve got antibiotics working their magic, but the sinus pressure and overall energy sap really did me in. It really bummed me out and I was sad to miss the football game they had outside and just spending time with my family and other people. In some ways, I feel like I missed Thanksgiving and that’s definitely not fun.

The night ended with a talent show put on by all the third culture kids (TCKs), where they performed and sang in front of everyone. Think of it like a recital, but not as serious. The kids were great and there was a lot of amazing talent up there and definitely a lot of laughing going on. Our kids were pretty tired afterwards so we rushed them upstairs to bed where I’m finishing this post while they are fast asleep.

Besides being tucked away in bed most of today, I’m thankful to have been here. It really is a special time where a lot of families can just be together while they are so far away from their own families. That’s really just a testament to God’s grace for bringing so many like minded people together, in a land far away from their own, to share the Good News of Christ to such a dark place like Central and Eastern Europe. God has a big vision for bringing more people in to his family which involves all of the families here today. Now that’s something to be thankful for.

365 Czech Republic

Fall Conference: Day 1

Today was the start of the Josiah Venture fall conference, which is what my team and I have been preparing for for a few months now. Tonight, at 7pm, we had our first session complete with an introduction to the theme, a time of worship, and even a few games. After the session, all the attendees met in their assigned small groups for some discussion.

JV Fall Conference: Night 1 (9/22/14)

It was an exciting night with tons of energy with people from a lot of different countries. For me, it was my first time experiencing all of the leaders from Josiah Venture and their teams. Josh Patty, the country leader in Slovenia, led tonight’s session on why we’re naming the conference “Re-Jesus” which is really just about going back and looking at how Christ did ministry and modeling our own ministry after his. Even though I couldn’t be in the big meeting tent for the entire talk, what I caught I thought was great and am excited for those who will be here this week.

These are long days during conference for me, and Bethany and the kids are back at home. I’m driving to and from the conference to be home at night with them. Bethany said the kids and her had a good day today and tonight they had popcorn on the couch and watched a movie together. Titus has been wanting to eat popcorn for a few days now, so I know he enjoyed that.

Kids Eating Popcorn (9/22/14)

It’s late, so I’m cutting this blog short tonight, but wanted to say thank you for many who have prayed for us. My health is improving, but still not 100%. I’m hoping I will get better as the week goes on. It’s actually a blessing that I got sick last week and am recovering, than being full sick now while trying to help run a conference!

Christianity Personal

Eastern Europe and the Gospel

Cathedral of St. Vitus
Cathedral of St. Vitus. © 2011 Shay Thomason.

I had the privilege of traveling with my wife last week to Eastern Europe, specifically Czech Republic. It was my first time “overseas”, and Bethany had traveled some in Europe when she got out of high school. Our son stayed home as we thought the travel and time difference would be a bit too much. We missed him greatly, but it was the right move.

The majority of our trip was spent in a town called Malevonice in Czech. Apparently it doesn’t have any meaning in English, so don’t bother trying to figure it out–it’s just a name. It’s a beautiful place and it reminded me a lot Kentucky, mainly because of all the green. The weather was absolutely beautiful. Mostly sunny and in the mid seventies (Fahrenheit), you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time to visit. Even when the clouds rolled in on Friday morning (shown below), it cleared out by noon and we spent the late afternoon playing football, aka soccer.

Hotel Bezruč
Outside of Hotel Bezruč. ©2011 Shay Thomason.

You might be wondering what were doing over 6,000 miles from home. We were visiting a missions organization called Josiah Venture. They serve over 11 countries in Eastern Europe and focus on doing youth ministry. Many of our friends have served alongside JV doing summer camps and music tours, so we really wanted to see what they were all about. Our church helped us financially to make the trip over and it was a blessing for Bethany and I to get a better understanding of the work JV is doing. We met some incredible people, ate really good food, and enjoyed attending the JV “Spring Conference” which is for all the missionaries that work with JV across Eastern Europe. All in all there were a total of 207 people attending the conference and it was fun to hear the stories of what God is doing in all of their countries.

Story after story from places like Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia, Albania, etc. shared of great faith and sometimes great hardship for the sake of the Gospel. It really opened my eyes to the global work or God of which I had never really experienced before first hand. These evangelists are doing pioneer missionary work in most of these countries, and some of the work is slow and difficult. I tried to think of the hardest ministry challenge I’ve had in the past year and it probably has something to do with who’s getting the donuts and setting up coffee this week…something meaningless. I wish you could hear the story of God’s work in Slovenia the way I heard it this week, from a teary-eyed missionary as he talked of thousands of people getting to hear the Gospel for the first time at an evangelistic outreach event, and the 10+ years of tireless work they have put in to that country with very little fruit. Or the story of the youth rock choir that was started in a small church in Czech, of which 120 unsaved young people came to be a part of it on the first week it met. There were so many students, and the church was so small (about 20 people in the whole church), that they were asking some to leave because the church couldn’t handle the growth.

Jan Hus Memorial
Jan Hus Memorial. © 2011 Shay Thomason

Bethany and I both felt that just being with these missionaries convicted our hearts of areas in our lives that Christ needs to sanctify, specifically what am I doing with the Truth entrusted to me? It’s one thing to be around good theology (which we are here at home), it’s another thing altogether to apply that theology in practical ways (which I am convicted about) and have the faith to see God work. God is doing a work in my heart right now of which I don’t fully know the ramifications. I can say that no matter what it is, it’s purpose will be to bring God the glory only He deserves. My eyes were opened a little more last week to a world that not only needs to Gospel, but is ready to hear it.

One final story happened after we left to come home. The director of JV, Dave Patty, sent an email to all the conference attendees about something that happened on the train while they were traveling that weekend. Just so you know who he’s talking about, Dr. Erwin Lutzer was the main speaker at the conference and Scott Willis was a special guest. Here’s the account from that email:

On Sunday afternoon Connie and I boarded a train for a quick visit to Prague with Luzters and Willises. Finding their seats, Dr Lutzer and Scott Willis sat down across from two young women who were listening to music on their I-pods. Dr Luzter introduced himself to the gal across from him, found her name was Jana, and asked where she was from. When she said “Moravia”, he replied, “Oh, I’ve just been learning about a group of Moravians who took the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world.”

“What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” she asked.

You can imagine how Luzter enjoyed a question like that! For the next hour and a half he shared that gospel with her. At one point she told how she had fallen off a dock last year onto some rocks, injuring her head, and almost dying. She was in a coma for 12 hours, and experienced leaving her body and looking at herself from across the room.

“I don’t know why I am still alive,” she said.

“Because you are not ready to die”, Lutzer answered. When he asked her if she wanted to pray to receive Christ, she said that she had never prayed before, and asked him to lead her. They did that, right in the train. You could see the change immediately – afterwards she was beaming!

When we all said goodbye to our new sister Jana at the Prague train station she said to Luzter. “Just keep going the same direction. And on behalf of all the people in the world I thank you.”

I have her E-mail contact now and will be working to get her plugged into a fellowship in Prague.

Praise God!!!