Pregnant, and Far from Home

I know it’s been a while since I last posted, but ever since I found out I was pregnant it’s been difficult to write. Not because I’ve been super busy — I’ve been the same amount of busy — but my brain has struggled to take my emotions and put them into concrete words. I’d hoped I would be one of those women who naturally share countless stories and pictures from their pregnancy, but it’s felt like swimming against the tide.

However, today marks ONE MONTH until Baby Lucchi is due, and I finally feel like I’ve stored up enough words to sew together into a coherent post.

Ten years ago, I could clearly picture what starting a family would be like. I’d have a loving Christian husband, a big house for us to grow into located close to my family (preferably in or near the countryside), our own accumulated library of novels and homeschooling books, and a nursery all prepared for the little sprout’s arrival. Even five years ago I hadn’t given up on this dream, though I could see my life starting to take a different turn, and had started downsizing my belongings in preparation for God’s call.

And now? Well, I do have the loving Christian husband, and for this I am super grateful, but everything else is different. We live in an apartment, in the city, in Europe, far far far from my family. We do have books, but so far they’re squeezed onto only one bookcase. Not quite the library I’d envisioned. We don’t have space for one of those gorgeous Pinterest nurseries, but we’ve managed to squeeze baby’s crib into our bedroom and set up a changing station in the living room. Small apartments are a great training ground for maximizing space.

Do I consider myself to have lost something by choosing to start a family of my own on the mission field? Yes, I do. I lost the sense of security that comes from watching your life play out the way you’d planned. I missed the opportunity to spend my pregnancy with my family, to laugh together over my growing belly, to go “baby shopping” with them, and to have them all be around after the birth. I also gave up the security of my own culture, like shopping at big box baby stores in a language I understand, never having to wonder whether my doctor could speak English, or ever considering whether I have what it takes to raise a bilingual, cross-cultural child.

Perhaps that sounds strange, even silly. But it’s honest. Sometimes the knowledge of what I’ve lost keeps me awake at night.

The silver lining? Where I see loss, I also see gain, for myself, and for my child. In choosing to set aside my security and plans, I’ve found a life of risk, of adventure, a new piece of God’s heart and a new side of His character that I would never have known otherwise. And because I’ve experienced it, I’ll be able to pass this knowledge on to my child someday. In surrendering my close proximity to my family, I’ve gained new friends and brothers and sisters. My child now has such a host of uncles and aunts that I wonder how she’ll ever keep them all straight, or keep from getting spoiled. 😉

Perhaps I didn’t experience the convenience of having all my needs met by Wal-Mart’s baby aisle, but we still have all we need for baby, and more! Despite my fretting, we’ve never gone to a doctor who doesn’t know at least a little English. And though the jury is still out on what kind of cross-cultural parent I’ll make, well, there’s definitely some wisdom in letting tomorrow worry about itself.

The Christmas story this year had special significance for me. After a rocky start involving angels and a virgin pregnancy, Mary was all settled in, her “nesting” phase complete, the nursery ready, her family all at hand for the big day … and then the census occurred. Who wants to ride a donkey all the way to Bethlehem during their third trimester? Imagine it, sitting there, your belly bulging painfully, your body aching with every jolt of the donkey, and your bladder throbbing with no rest stop in sight. Did Joseph ever complain about how many times they had to halt so she could find an available bush? And when they did reach Bethlehem there was no available room at either hospital or hotel. Her birthing room became a stable with a pile of blankets and hay. No proud family members were there to take pictures, and the carefully prepared nursery was far away.

Yet after her baby came screaming into the world, miracles started to happen, stories she would always treasure.

I’m sitting writing this on my comfy couch in my comfy apartment. There’s food almost ready in the crockpot, the cold winter weather is kept at bay by solid walls and windows, and everything a newborn could possibly need (like diapers diapers diapers) is close at hand. My unborn baby is happily kicking my rib cage, probably wondering why I’m so quiet and and still and where her noisy, exciting father has gone. (He’s at work, but we’ve noticed in the last week or two that she often gets very active when she hears his voice. Daddy is apparently the fun one in the family. 😉 )

Pregnancy may not be what I expected it to be. It may not be what I had planned. But when I feel those little feet pushing against me and see the odd bulging of my stomach, I know that this pregnancy has been more amazing then I could ever have hoped for.

Maybe, soon enough, I’ll have some miracle stories of my own to tell, and to treasure.

Our God is Healer?

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There are times I really like reading the Bible. When I am discouraged, I love to go to my favorite passages of scripture and let them heal my weary soul. I especially love the Psalms in those times. However, other times the Bible makes me very uncomfortable. Take this verse for example:

23 “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.'”  (Luke 9:23-24 ESV)

I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but this doesn’t make me feel warm fuzzies. It isn’t that I disagree, or think it’s wrong — I just don’t like it. Or at least, I don’t like the implications. Honestly, this sounds hard. While I like a challenge, this feels a little too … I don’t know … permanent?

I grew up in the Christian community. I’ve been to all sorts of churches, and those churches made all sorts of assertions concerning the nature of God. Lately, I’ve been pondering, what I believe to be, one of the boldest assertions of them all — “Jesus always wants to heal.” Often this is shortly followed by a quick proof text:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

And it sounds nice, but I’ve always had a hard time with this statement. Partially, because there are things I still haven’t been fully healed of in my own life. I know, sometimes far too intimately, that I’m still a work in progress. I have my own counter arguments from scripture … chiefly the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). In this passage, Jesus and the disciples walk by a pool where lay a “multitude of invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed” waiting to be healed by the water of the pool. Jesus could have healed all of them. It wouldn’t have been difficult. Instead, He singles out one man who it says has been waiting for 38 years for healing, and asks the man if he wants to be healed. The man  doesn’t seem to know who Jesus is.

“Sir,” he says “I have no one to put me into the water.”

Jesus replies, as he often does, “take up your bed and walk.”

It wasn’t this man’s “great faith in Jesus” that healed him in this situation. He had no idea what was going on. The other people who were there had the same faith that he did, and yet none of them were healed. Maybe I’m far too aware of the fact that this man had to wait 38 years before healing came. I’m also aware, in the case of Jeremiah 29, that this verse is in the context of God sending the entire nation of Israel into exile for 70 years. This 70 year exile is part of God’s plan to give Israel “a future and a hope.”

I really like the idea of serving the God who always heals, always protects, and always provides. And in truth, I believe He does do those things. But I’m also far too well acquainted with the God who also allows His people to go through suffering, hardship, and pain. His disciples seemed to be as well. Even His own Son was sent to earth to die on a cross.

Paul talks about it multiple times:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

8 “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ESV)

Peter and James also join Paul in opening letters with warnings about hardships:

6 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)

2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)

You know what’s weird? All of these passages seem to point to trials, hardships, pain, and even death not as negative things, but rather as a way to grow faith. We are actually told to count these negative things as “joy” in our lives, because they will produce “steadfastness” and “genuineness” in our faith. Suffering and pain are expectations for those of us living on the planet earth, Christians and non-Christians alike. Jesus, and his disciples, seemed to think that Christians would get the short end of the stick here as well. Not because God isn’t a God who heals. Because we have so much more to be healed of than we think we do. 

I am concerned with the obvious things that bother me in daily life. God is concerned with the deep rooted issues I’m not even aware of. Sometimes the things that God doesn’t heal are there because He is working on something deeper. Sometimes those things make us doubt, and question our own faith in a loving God. You know what? I don’t think that’s wrong. “Steadfastness” is listed among the results of trial and suffering. But so is “genuineness.” Genuine faith isn’t always pretty faith. It certainly isn’t a perfect faith. But it’s a step in the right direction. Our faith is in the process of being refined “by fire” so that our genuineness may be found to “praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I think that when we are able to say “I’m not there yet,” that’s okay. I like to follow that with the sentence “but God and I are working through it together.” One of my pastors back in Kansas City once said “I’m not totally sanctified, but more and more each day.” Isn’t that the essence of the gospel?

Our God is a healer. He doesn’t heal everything — at least not all at once — but more and more each day, as we follow him. One day that work will be complete. Until then, as Jesus said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Summer Camps 2018

After a bit of a hiatus, it’s good to be blogging again! We’ve been so crazy busy with summer events that it seems like time has just flown by. Now, with the start of another school season at hand, it’s nice to look back over the summer and see how much we’ve accomplished. For those of you who’ve been following our work, thank you for your prayers and support! Here is a look at the camps we’ve led over the past few months.

Business English Camp

Towards the middle of May, this good looking team converged upon ValMez to help us run our first camp of the season, Business English camp. Coming from different parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and America, this group of dedicated leaders, interns, and translators came prepared to teach, play sports, lead activities, and connect with the students in whatever way possible. This was Keifer’s first time as the camp director for Business English camp, and my first time being his assistant leader and creative director. With Max’s help, we’d been preparing for weeks before the camp started, and we were understandably nervous about how the week would go. But as soon as the team arrived, they came together behind us like one big family, and with their help we knew we were ready to go.

Camp ran for six days, from May 20 – 25. The first day was mostly focused on setting up the camp at the campsite, the arrival of the students, and then our opening session and some “get to know you” time. The rest of the days fell into a natural rhythm. The students had business sessions for the first part of the morning, where they learned important business principles in English through interactive learning. The rest of the morning was spent practicing Business English through interactive games and team challenges. Lunch was followed by special forty-five minute workshops that changed each day and which ranged from beginner’s piano to poetry, from barn dancing to coffee making, and from beading to photography. Afterwards, the students trooped down to the sports field to engage in American sports taught in English, such as flag football one day and baseball another. After break and dinner we had an evening talk and discussion time, followed by fun activities until lights out.

I learned a lot about leadership while I was at camp. I learned that it’s easy to let all the things you have to do and all the little details you need to sort out distract you from really connecting with students. And it’s easy to try to put the focus on yourself, instead of building up your team and helping them to lead the best way that they can. Leaders, in the business world or otherwise, do well when they remember the servant-leadership model of coming under your team to help lift them to new levels and greater heights. We watched our team, and many of the students, lift each other up and model good leadership throughout the week. I couldn’t be prouder of our Business English crew.

Business English Camp Leaders and Students – Silly Photo!

Fusion Arts Camp – Theater Track

After a bit of a break in June, we started preparing for our next big project — leading the theater track at a Fusion Arts Camp. A team of three girls flew from America more than a week before the camp to assist Keifer, Max and I with the preparations. We talked through plans, gathered props, learned dances, and grew together as a team. After the week of prep, we launched into camp up at an old hotel in the mountains. As well as leading in the theater track, my sister-in-law, Cati, taught the contemporary dance workshop, my OYAN friend, Laura, taught the musical theater group the song and dance for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and my adopted sister, Maggie, went from group to group, leading and assisting every way that was needed.

Our script for the theater track was a shortened version of The Princess Bride, which the students learned and performed in English, adding their own twist to it by providing humorous translation for their audience of parents and family. During the week we held auditions, students practiced their lines, and learned key theater skills through a variety of games and exercises. The boys especially loved learning stage sword fighting under Keifer, often practicing in their spare time. I spent the week creating props for the play (like stick horses, and a rather large tree), helping where I could during class, and fighting off bouts of first-trimester nausea. I’ve always been a good eater, and it was a struggle for me some days to keep going with a positive attitude while being too sick to eat. But the team stood behind me, making sure I got rest when I needed it and food when I could. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Theater Team!

Two days before the end of camp and the big end-of-camp show, two of our students got sick, and one hurt her knee so that she couldn’t dance. In order for the show and musical theater performance to go on, we leaders stepped in to fill the roles. Laura, Maggie, and Max all stepped in as dancers, and I stepped in to quickly memorize and perform the part of Vizzini. Now, while I like memorizing, I am no actor. If I thought I was nauseous before, nerves made me even more so. I remember botching all of my lines in the rehearsal and wondering how I would ever get through. But the show was amazing. All of us actors were on fire, giving our best performance ever, and the musical theater group and the contemporary dance group drew great applause and praise for their performances as well. The camp ended right after the show, and there were many heartfelt goodbyes. The bravery and talent I witnessed among our students and leaders was a true inspiration to me. I came away wanting to be more brave and loving myself.

After a wonderful summer with a lot of important lessons learned, I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Until Next Time!

Introducing the Team!

Hello friends! The month of May is the start of a special time for us — Camp Season! From May 20 – 25, Keifer and I will be kicking off camp season by running our very own Business English Camp for teenagers in the Czech Republic. We are excited to be leading this special program, and excited to be bringing together our own unique team of Czech and American volunteers to help us run the camp. Our American team has been working hard to prepare materials and raise the money to join us, and I wanted to give them a chance to introduce themselves to you. Please pray for the American team as they finish their preparations and prepare to fly, and for all of the leaders and attendees at Business English Camp. We are excited to see what God is going to do! — Caity Lucchi

Addison Lucchi — Business Team Leader

“Serving at Business English Camp in the Czech Republic this May has been the #1 event I’ve been looking forward to this year (especially now that I have all of my lesson planning done!​ 😉 )​ I am so thankful for this opportunity to work with my awesome brother and sister (in an awesome country) and use what I have learned to help others. I’m especially looking forward to getting to know the Czech students throughout the week, and to seeing how God works both in them and in us. I would love prayer for sustained energy, health, and wisdom as I teach and serve, and as I’m preparing! My greatest goal for this camp is to be a light to these students, and to demonstrate Christ’s love in my teaching, in my service, and in all else — it’s definitely going to be an adventure​!”

Emily Meissner — Sports Team

“I am very excited to be able to participate in this Business English Camp. This will be the first time that I have been overseas, and I look forward to seeing the world and the people that God has put in it. I had the chance to visit Mexico on a mission trip in high school and the thing that I remember about the trip was having a hard time wrapping my head around the greatness of God — that He was still the exact same God in that place, that the songs they sang praised the same God, and that the relationship they had with Him was just like mine. With this trip, I want to be able to grasp how God is the same great and awesome God everywhere, and to be able to serve him in the Czech Republic by loving His people there.”

DJ Meissner — Sports Team Leader

“There are many things I’m looking forward to about going to the Czech Republic: international travel, riding on trains through the countryside, and doing street photography in a different country. But the thing that I’m looking forward to the most is building relationships with the team that I’m going with and the people I will meet.

“Jesus, before he ascended into heaven, commanded his disciples to, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV). I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, and as such I have been commanded to go out and make disciples. What does making disciples look like? It’s all about building relationships. It is about following God together, living life together, learning together, and waiting together for the Lord to return. I am going to the Czech Republic so that I, through the way I live my life and through my words, proclaim the truth of scripture — that our sins can be forgiven.”

Cari Meissner — Business Team

“I am excited for Business English Camp because I get to have so many new experiences. I’ve never been out of the country, even though I love traveling, and now I get to go to Europe to see my sister and brother-in-law! I’ve done many summer camps before, so I am happy to be able to help with this one, specifically with the business part and a coffee workshop. I’m hoping to reconnect with some friends and meet new ones while learning more about the Czech culture and language, and some ways to better pray for the people there. Please pray for us as we do something so new and crazy!”

Christy Meissner — English Team

“Ministry has been an important part of my life ever since I was young. Over the years, I’ve gained more experience by volunteering with different organizations and acquiring the tools necessary to run and lead youth programs. Youth ministry has become more and more of a passion for me, and I think that out of every aspect of ministry relationships are the most important to me. I am so excited to help with the Business English Camp and connect with the youth of the Czech Republic. Please pray that all of us on the team will be able to overcome the language barrier and create relationships with the students as we seek to show them the love of Christ.”

Winter Camp – February

On February 17, Keifer and I went to a weekend camp run by Josiah Venture. This was the first camp that we’ve attended since being back in CZ, and it showed me just how much I’ve grown over my time in the Czech Republic.

Friday night we packed our bags, and in the morning we headed to the train station, where we met up with the students and other helpers. Together we made our way to the campsite in Frydlant. I was a leader in the girl’s cabin, and Keifer was a leader in the guy’s dorm in the main building. The theme of the camp was “Upside Down.” Each of the evening discussions was about how the Christian life often seems “upside down” to others, and how Christ calls us to do a lot of crazy, upside down things. I thought this was humorous, since moving to the Czech Republic has been a crazy, upside down kind adventure for me, far removed from anything I ever thought I’d do on my own. It was fitting that my first camp of the year would celebrate this. God’s ways are amazing. 🙂

Teaching English at Winter Camp

Each day at camp, Keifer and I taught an English class. The groups of kids were different each day, so we were able to use the same lesson plan and tailor it to the needs and skills of the students. Keifer’s favorite way of teaching English is through interactive gameplay that gets the students talking and builds their confidence while also allowing them to have fun. We played two different spy themed games, and also a game where the players created different inventions and had to “sell” them to another player. The inventions the students came up with were super creative, and I loved how they adopted the role of salesman. After each game we discussed the activity with the students, and any vocabulary that was new to them was written up on the board and defined. I think I had as much fun each day as the kids themselves.

One of my favorite parts of camp was the creative games that the entire group did every day. The first day was relay races, involving toilet paper snowmen, balloon antlers, and ping pong balls passed back and forth with spoons. The second day was full of outdoor adventures, like “swimming” through the snow, pulling people uphill on a sled, and breaking a secret code. The last day was a round of winter “olympics,” from building a cardboard bobsled to skiing on cardboard skis, as well as a very competitive “balloon stomping” tournament. Our team managed to win the winter olympics, and we were called forward in front of the other groups and honored with a candy prize. You can see by the looks on our faces that we were pretty excited.

Another of my favorite parts of camp was when the music started playing for the “camp dances.” Now, I am not a dancer myself. I don’t know the first thing about dancing. But the kids LOVED the camp dances. Whenever the music would play, the kids would rush to the group and start doing the moves along with the leaders. The freedom and camaraderie they had to just “be themselves” together made my heart glad. It was like a little taste of heaven.

I caught a cold on the last day of camp. It came on strong and lasted for several days after we were home. I was pretty miserable, but it gave me a chance to compare my experience at camp with a similar camp experience last spring. Looking back, I can see how much more confidence I have now than I had last year. I’m less afraid to meet new people, more comfortable in new situations, and able to actually do some teaching now instead of just helping. It’s encouraging to see growth, and even more encouraging that I’ll be able to learn and continue to grow here. By this time next year, who knows how far I’ll have come!

Until Next Time!


New Look, New Team, Same Mission

Hi everyone, and hello from the Czech Republic! Keifer and I have been back in the country for three weeks now (yay!) and we’ve been busy settling down into our life here.  A lot has changed for both of us since we got married. We’re living in a new flat, adjusting to a new schedule, and working on doing ministry, not just as individuals, but as a couple. Since this is the first blog post of the new year (yay!) I’d like to talk about how some of these changes affect the blog, and how God is moving us forward.

New Look

I’ve been working on giving the blog a “new look” since the beginning of the year, and I’m pretty excited about the changes. I’ve updated the site’s look, and we have a new address  — — which should make us more accessible and easier to find. I’ve also created an instagram account to share photos about our work here. You can find it in the sidebar, or on instagram @cslucchi. It’s given me a chance to practice my photography, and to share glimpses of the life that I love.

I’ve also updated the site’s pages! The “About Us” page and the “Partnering with Us” page now have information that reflects our life as a couple. 🙂 Feel free to check them out.

New Team

The biggest change of all (for me at least) is that Keifer and I are now officially a team. 🙂 It’s been awesome to have a husband I can work, pray, and minister with. He encourages me in all of my hard, culture-shock moments, and helps me reach goals I wouldn’t have reached before. I have been truly blessed.

Being part of a team means that Keifer and I will be sharing tasks we originally did on our own. I’ve asked him to share posts on the blog from time to time, so hopefully you will see more of him here. We’ve also decided as a couple to move most of our newsletter information over to our email newsletter, which Keifer will be running. This will give me a chance to write blog posts that are focused less on news and more on specific stories and details from our work here in the Czech Republic, something that I know I will enjoy. If you are not connected to our email newsletter yet, and would like to be, please let me know! We can get you connected as soon as possible. And if you’re already connected, you’ll be able to find blog updates both through the email newsletter and through my Facebook page.

Same Mission

The good news is that, even though many things are changing, our original goal remains the same. Both Keifer and I have a strong desire to love the people of the Czech Republic the way that God loves them. We are both passionate about working with teenagers and young people, and we want to partner with Czech Christians as well in as many ways as possible. We both love teaching, whether Bible stories or English lessons or just everyday life lessons. And we both want to make sure that all of you are able to remain connected to our ministry through formats that work best for you. Knowing that you care about our work and are praying for us is a huge encouragement. We couldn’t do what we are doing without you.

I’m looking forward to being able to share stories with you throughout the year!

Until Next Time!

A Traveler’s Tale

I was asked by Caity to write a few words about the time I spent in the United States this fall. I guess you may have heard of me, know who I am, where I am from, and why my English is so good. Some of you might have even met me. If not, here is a little bit of an introduction: My name is Max, I’m 21, and I’m helping Keifer and Caity with their mission work here in the Czech Republic (now known by the horrendous name “Czechia”).

I was invited to travel back to the United States for a month and a half with my dear friends Keifer and Caity Lucchi. Keifer wasn’t sure whether the trip was going to happen or not, since I needed a fairly big (by European standards) amount of money, but God provided for me and for all the expenses I was going to have. We flew from Prague to Frankfurt and then to San Francisco, where we were supposed to attend a conference organized by Keifer’s mission organization. At one meeting several missionaries from around the world were speaking about their service in different countries, and I got to help Keifer and Caity share more about the Czech Republic.

After the conference we all took part in a minister’s retreat in Mi-Wuk village, where I played *the air golf thing* (disc golf) for the first time. At this point I was jet-lagged and experiencing culture shock. I have been in the States before, but this was a whole new level of experience. It was nothing like the time I was there before. During the retreat I got to know the people who run the mission organization better, and I got to walk under the stars, talk, and worship with them. One of the most thrilling things I got to do during the retreat was to visit Yosemite National Park, which that day was open for free — what a coincidence. God is good and He spared us some money. I got to see Bridal Veil Falls, and Keifer and I went climbing up towards the falls and here is some good advice: don’t climb waterfalls when you’re tired and on jet-lag. The results of climbing were Max and Keifer 0, waterfall 1. I got all wet and Keifer hurt his rib at the top of it, but we both agreed it was worth it. Long story short, I liked California a lot, and I’m thankful for all the people and experiences and growth I experienced during that time. And one more very important thing — in California I tasted my first street taco. It was an instant love that lasts to this day, when the taco-trucks appear only in my dreams. 😦

“Max played all the worship songs at my wedding and he did an awesome job.” — Caity

After the conference in California we flew to Kansas City, where I was to spend the rest of my time in the US. I attended another ministry conference, met a lot of cool people, and, last but definitely not least, attended Keifer and Caity’s wedding. I stayed most of the time with Keifer’s brother Case and his roommate Kyle. Case introduced me to his cooking skills, which I greatly enjoyed, secretly being thankful that I don’t have to live with them forever since his food is really delicious and just irresistible. Case, Kyle, and Keifer showed me several coffee shops and introduced me to barbecue, for which Kansas City is very famous. In Kansas City I experienced more growth, and the whole time I was learning how to do what God wants me to do at the moment and learning how to abide in the Lord. I got introduced to a lot of people, some of whom I had heard about long before I actually met them. Let me recognize at least a few of them. The Schwabauers, who are awesome people, how awesome I don’t even fully know yet. Some other cool people from the OYAN (One Year Adventure Novel) community, who have the word “STORY” written all over their faces without even knowing it. I got to meet Keifer and Caity’s families, and I’m happy to say that I have gained new brothers and sisters in them. I’m thankful for every single one of the people I got to meet and talk to. At one point I was asking God about the purpose of the trip, because I didn’t want any more goodbyes in my life, or more people that I am going to miss. But still, I went, and God knew why He wanted me back in America, even though I still don’t fully understand yet.

Long story short, it was a blessing to be back in the US for a while, whether we are talking about the spiritual side or the physical side. I’m very blessed and I hope that somehow God used me as an instrument of His good will, because that’s what matters.

May God bless you all and may His face shine upon you.

Mission Update – October 

Hello everyone! 🙂 October was quite the month for Keifer and I. Not only did we celebrate our first month of marriage (yay!), but we also got to make a two week trip to the Czech Republic. We had so many adventures in CZ, from paperwork to puppies, from moving into a new apartment to “mountaintop” experiences in Slovakia. If you enjoy stories and pictures, then keep reading. I’ve included some fun ones.

Establishing Ourselves

So why two weeks in CZ? Well, our most important reason (though perhaps the least exciting…) was that we needed to report our marriage to the Czech government within a short period of time after receiving our marriage license. Keifer, Max and I spent an entire day running between seven different government offices in three different cities. Even though we didn’t have one particular paper they needed, we received grace and favor from the government official to bring it back with us in January. We felt really blessed.

Our second reason for returning to the Czech Republic was to establish ourselves as a married couple there. When Keifer and I returned to America to get married we still had two separate apartments in two different parts of ValMez. We were living like single people with separate lives. Well, we still have two different apartments, but now we have two right next to each other on the SAME floor in the SAME building. We will be living and doing ministry in one, while the second, smaller flat (which used to be mine overlooking the river) will also be used as a ministry space and guest apartment. We are excited about this big new step, and the chances it will give us to grow our ministry. The way it all came about was truly a gift from God. Not only did the apartment open up at just the right moment, but we were able to see it and agree to it in just the little bit of free time we had before coming back to America for our wedding. We have the most awesome landlady who has been super kind to us. She consulted me about paint colors on our trip back and is even planning to remodel our kitchen while we are away. She, and all the friends who helped us move Keifer’s furniture to the new place, have been such a blessing. We couldn’t have done this without a huge amount of help and love.

View of ValMez from the New Apartment

Friends, Great and Small

Since our apartment wasn’t livable right away, we needed a place to stay. The Steel family, now temporarily back in America, let us stay in their home  until ours was ready. When we reached their house in Hostašovice, we found their two small dogs, Bianca and Sophia, waiting to greet us. Bianca and Sophia have always been an important part of my trips to CZ. They love to cuddle, and during the worst bits of my culture shock they’ve always been there to minister to me by curling up in my lap and letting me stroke them. But this time it was my turn to help. Both dogs were very lonely without their owners around all the time, so I took it upon myself to pet and cuddle them as much as possible. I jokingly referred to it as my “puppy ministry.” But it actually became an important part of my trip. It’s easy for those of us who minister to only want to do the big, exciting things that get us noticed and sound good in our newsletters, but often true missionary work is paying attention to the small things (in this case, small dogs) that need our love and attention.

Towards the end of our stay at the Steel’s house we decided to travel with Max back to his home in Slovakia for a visit. Since we couldn’t leave them alone, we took Bianca and Sophia with us. If you had told me a few years back that I would one day be taking a train through Europe with two fluffy dogs on my lap, I would have said you were crazy. I mean, I still think it’s crazy, but as you can see from the above picture, that’s exactly what I did.

Slovakia is a gorgeous place to be in Autumn. The leaves were just starting to turn colors and the weather was gorgeous. Max’s family lives on one side of a town nestled in a valley amidst a ring of hills. You have to climb down one hill from the train station and climb up another hill to get to their house. It was great to see Max’s mother, sister, and brothers again. They’ve become family for Keifer and I as well.  Max took us on several walks around his home, showing us the cultural heritage of his town. My favorite place was the “Jerusalem Hill” overlooking the city. You could see for miles all around, and there were signs pointing out particular sights. One sign, though, was pointed in the direction of Jerusalem, a reminder for me of ancient times and of Christ’s desire for us to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” The spot was beautiful in the daytime, but also at night, when the clouds blew aside and gave us an awesome view of the stars. I remember praying about my time back in America, and that God would bring me back to this same place again someday. If He does, I know I’ll be able to look back and see the many ways He’s been changing me. This became my “mountaintop” experience.


Our trip to the Czech Republic would not have been complete without our Rock Solid family. 🙂 Since we left, the Rock Solid Club had changed locations from their rooms in the nearby school to a different building they’ve named the “Aquarium” because of its windows all around. We had a wonderful time seeing the young people again, and seeing how much the club seemed to be flourishing since moving to its new location. I loved helping with games and practicing my Czech vocabulary, and Keifer taught the Bible story one night through a translator.

Keifer Teaching and Hanka Translating

The next day, several of the Rock Solid leaders showed up at our place and prepared a huge feast. Since we couldn’t have our wedding in CZ, they saw to it that we had a wonderful Czech reception instead! Other leaders and friends from church and a bunch of the Rock Solid youth showed up after everything was ready. We played games and talked and ate, and they even gave me a bouquet they had made to look just like the one I’d carried at my wedding. Before everyone left they prayed for us and our marriage and for our time in America. Saying goodbye was hard, but it is good to know we will see each other again. There are many more adventures ahead.

From CZ to Iowa to Kansas City

I cried the morning we boarded the train and waved our last goodbyes to Max. I hate leaving family behind, and Max is a truly wonderful brother. Keifer and I traveled by train to Prague, and from Prague to London and then Chicago. A wonderful friend let us stay the night with him in Chicago, and the next day my siblings picked us up and took us back  to Iowa. From there Keifer’s brother and sister picked us up and carried us back with them to Kansas City, where we will continue to live in temporary quarters until we move back to the Czech Republic in January. Please continue to pray for us as we adjust to marriage and prepare ourselves for life on the mission field. Pray that we could connect with our friends and family and supporters while we are here, and that I could move forward with my Czech language lessons as well (I’ve started Duolingo’s new Czech course and I’m pretty excited!)

I hope to keep you all updated in future posts.

Until Next Time!

Mission Update – August and September!

Hi everyone! The last two months have been busy, and I wanted to catch you up on what’s been going on. 🙂 Since my last newsletter at the beginning of August, I’ve traveled between three different countries, attended two conferences, changed my last name, and settled into a temporary home in Kansas City (a place I’ve always wanted to  live.) If you want details and pictures, then keep reading. I’m excited to share all that God’s been doing.

Kids, Camp, and Family

I left Ireland on August 16 with mixed emotions. On the one hand I was excited about seeing Keifer and all my friends in the Czech Republic. On the other hand I was really sad about leaving my friends, the Marriotts, in Ireland. Their love for me and the way they’d opened their home for me during my time in Ireland was such a huge blessing. In such a short period of time they’d become my family, and leaving yet another family was hard. (It’s still hard.) I hope to visit them again someday. Part of my heart now has a home in Ireland.

I know many of you had been praying for my visa to come so that I could return to the Czech Republic. I posted on Facebook that I ended up having to cancel my visa application. There was no horrible reason for canceling, so please don’t feel bad. The amount of time it had taken to get my paperwork together and apply, coupled with the quick approach of my return to America and my upcoming wedding, meant that I simply did not have enough time to keep waiting for my visa to come. I canceled my visa knowing that I would be able to apply again after marriage. Thank you all for your prayers and support during my time in Ireland. Even though God didn’t bring me my visa in the way I’d hoped doesn’t mean your prayers were wasted. I still need a visa, and I’m trusting that, the next time I apply, I will receive what we’ve been praying for.

I landed in Prague on the 16th with newfound confidence. My time in Ireland had made me much more comfortable traveling alone. I felt like a new person as I took the bus to the train station, found the ticket office, bought my own ticket, found the right platform and boarded my train. Instead of heading to ValMez, I took the train to Brno, where Keifer picked me up and took me to the last half of the Rock Solid Camp. I spent all of Thursday and Friday at camp, plugging into the activities wherever possible. I helped peel potatoes and bread zucchini for lunch, helped blindfold kids during a game and guide them around obstacles, and I twice played the villain’s henchman, once in a game of hide’n’seek tag, and once in a game of paper ball war. I loved being with the kids and seeing how much they’d grown and changed over the summer. And I was there at camp the evening four of the girls gave their lives to the Lord. What a blessed time!

One thing I loved was seeing how all the kids crowded around Keifer whenever he was working on the camp video. Each day he would film different parts of the camp, and each afternoon and evening he would add the clips together into the music video he was making. Whenever the kids noticed him with his computer and heard the music playing they would crowd around to watch him work and see what new funny videos he had taken. At the end of camp he showed the movie to everyone at once. Seeing everyone gathered around Keifer’s computer, watching them smile and laugh as they saw themselves and other friends in the movie, is a moment I will always treasure. We were one big family. I remember crying, knowing that in just two days I would leave them to return to America.

I have family in many place now: America, Ireland, and the Czech Republic. I can’t be with them all at the same time, and every leave-taking hurts. But every time I leave, I know I’ll see them again someday. Family is forever.

Travel and Conferences

Keifer and I left the Czech Republic for America on August 21, and we brought our friend Max with us. Max has an amazing heart for the Lord and for Christian service, and an incredible English vocabulary. 😉 Keifer’s supporters generously pitched in to help Max afford the trip, and we were excited to take him with us to our Grace Covenant conferences, and introduce him to our friends and family in America.

After an eleven hour flight, we landed in California, where we spent the next few days at the Grace Covenant Mid-year conference, and then at their minister’s retreat. We enjoyed the chance to worship and receive ministry from our fellow leaders, as well as share with our ministry family in California about what the Lord is doing in the Czech Republic.

At the end of the conference we returned to Kansas City, and a few days later I got to return to Iowa and see my family. It was a joyful homecoming, a little pool of calm before the craziness to come.

After all, I only had two weeks left, and I still had a wedding to plan……

Our Wedding

I wish I could say I was very calm and collected before my wedding. I wasn’t. I have never been more nervous in my life. But with massive amounts of help from friends and family, our wedding day was amazing. I loved being a bride. I loved seeing everyone. And I loved doing it all with Keifer at my side. Our relationship has been quite the journey. We’ve come through long-distance between two separate countries while we each made innumerable life changes to follow God’s call to missions. Our wedding was a celebration of the love, friendship, family, and perseverance that brought us this far. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend, everyone who sent us gifts, and everyone who prayed us through to this point. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Upcoming Plans

After a short honeymoon in Missouri, we came back to Kansas City to begin settling into temporary lodgings and to attend Grace Covenant’s Ignite conference. We will be living North of Kansas City until we return to the Czech Republic in January.

But before we move back to the Czech Republic, we get a chance to visit! Keifer and I will be making a two week trip to the Czech Republic at the beginning of October. Keifer has important paperwork to do regarding our marriage, and we’ll also be using the time to reunite with friends and work on our apartment. Max will also be traveling with us, and will stay in the Czech Republic when we return to America. He has been such a blessing to have with us. He never misses an opportunity to lead worship (he led worship during our wedding!), and he’s always ready to help when needed. I will definitely miss him.

Please pray for us all as we travel, and pray for Keifer and I as we move forward together into life as a couple. We’re excited for this chance to work together and find out what God’s vision is for us as a team ministering in the Czech Republic. I’m hoping I’ll be able to share some of our combined vision in my next post.

Until Next Time!

Update – Northern Ireland

So, I’ve waited until now to post this in the hope that my visa might show up and I’d have good news to share, but since the week is almost over and I haven’t heard anything from the embassy yet, it’s time to move on and share with you some of the adventures I’ve had over the past month. 🙂

Czech Embassy – Dublin

In my last blog post, I’d just returned to Ireland from the Czech Republic with the three papers I needed to fulfill the requirements for my visa. I arrived on June 29 and spent the weekend with my wonderful friends, the Marriott family, at their home in Mullingar. On Monday morning I took an early train to Dublin to revisit the Czech Embassy. I was super nervous. I kept wondering whether my paperwork would be enough this time, or if something would be wrong and the whole process delayed all over again. As I walked from the station to the embassy I prayed that God would go with me and direct my steps. And while I was praying a van drove past with the words “Gotcha Covered” printed on the back window. I laughed so hard! I can’t claim that it was a direct message from God, but it made me feel calmer inside. My reception at the embassy was much better than the previous time. The woman I’d met before received me kindly, had no fault to find with my paperwork, and even told me she hoped my visa would come quickly so that I could attend some of the camps with the kids this summer. I left feeling so encouraged. I know a lot of you were praying during that time, and I’d like to thank you. Your prayers were definitely heard.

Drop Inn Ministries – Northern Ireland

The next day, Independence Day, I traveled from Mullingar up to Portadown in Northern Ireland to connect with some friends of Keifer’s and spend time volunteering for Drop Inn Ministries. Drop Inn raises money to help those in need around the world through thrift stores, coffee shops, and donations. There are even some Drop Inn centers located in my home state, Iowa (though it took coming over to Ireland for me to learn that…). Over the next two weeks I helped at several locations in Armagh and Portadown. I worked in two different thrift stores in Portadown, organizing, cleaning, helping customers, and running errands. One of our biggest projects was sorting through donated clothing, putting aside tattered and stained items for recycling and hanging new and like-new merchandise out on display. My favorite project was the day we received several boxes of books which had to be organized and put out on the shelves. But whether I was dusting, sweeping, or organizing, my favorite part of the job was seeing the many people who loved the thrift shop and found exactly what they needed at prices they could afford.

Along with working in the thrift stores, I also helped at two different coffee shops, one in Portadown and the other in Armagh. I have coffee shop experience from my time in America, and it was fun to get back into the familiar atmosphere. I loved all my fellow workers at both shops, and I even started recognizing some of the regular customers after just a few days. Washing dishes and restocking the pop fridge were all jobs I was used to. Something I wasn’t used to was arranging vases of fresh flowers for every table. But while I was there I did it twice and loved it. It really brought out my creative side. 😉 One of my favorite experiences at the shop in Armagh was when we carried drink samples outside and set up a little stand to attract passersby. It was a cold gray day, but I think we made some lives a little happier. If I have the chance someday, I would definitely go back and do volunteer work for Drop Inn again. The experience I had was invaluable for my own ministry career, and the friendships I made are some that I hope will continue even while I’m gone.

Ballyards Castle – Armagh

Prayer Room at Ballyards

While volunteering for Drop Inn Ministries, I was able to make my home base at Ballyards Castle. I stayed in a dorm space with two other girls, attended morning prayer times in the castle’s special prayer room, and attended meal times with the other people living at the castle. While I was there I got to meet Ronnie and Carolyn Dawson, the founders of Drop Inn, and their family. I also made friends with the other volunteers and interns, some who had come from as far away as Brazil or Belarus to work with the ministry. There was even a fellow Iowan there, Jesse, who, with his wife Anastasija, helped me settle into the program and saw that I never wanted for work or a friend to talk to.

Fun with Matt 🙂

But it was Matt who made my time at Ballyards really special. We bonded over movies and books and a whole host of other nerdy topics, and our friendship took off from there. Matt is a great conversationalist, super informed and thoughtful. The amount I learned from him about Northern Ireland, the Irish people, and about Ballyards Castle itself helped me get a better understanding of the culture than I would have had on my own. His joy in pathfinding and the tour he gave me around the woods and grounds at Ballyards will always be a favorite memory. It isn’t often that I meet someone and we become best friends instantly, but it was that way for me with Matt. I’m really thankful that the Lord took me to Ballyards. It’s an experience I will never forget.

Special Visitors – Belfast

On July 18, Keifer and his friend John flew over from the Czech Republic to Belfast to visit me for two days. It had been three weeks since I’d seen Keifer last (which, when you’re engaged with a wedding coming up, feels like forever), and I cannot begin to express how thrilled I was that both of them would spend the time and money to come and see me. We didn’t really do many touristy things while they were there except walk around Belfast, but we had a blast just being together. I’m really grateful for friends like Keifer and John, and I can’t wait to see them both again. 🙂

Future Plans

Several people have asked me recently what will happen if my visa doesn’t come in before I go back to America for my wedding. If the visa doesn’t come, we will have to cancel my visa process and try again after the wedding. I will still be able to fly back with Keifer and Max to America on August 21, but I will NOT be able to be in the Czech Republic for the last Rock Solid Camp of the year, say goodbye to my friends, pack up my stuff, or try on my wedding dress to see if it needs alterations. For now I am waiting in Mullingar, praying that my visa will come in within the next week so that I can finish up strong in the Czech Republic. If you would continue to pray also that God’s will would be done, I would very much appreciate it.

Thank you to all of you who have been reading about my adventures and supporting me on this mission trip! I will continue to keep you updated on Facebook about my visa, and the next monthly mission update I write will be written from America!

Until Next Time!