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.

Harvest Time

Today is my twenty-ninth birthday, and I am sitting here in my new bed in my new home in the Czech Republic. This, my golden birthday, is the first birthday I’ve ever spent away from my family.

I’ve had a long season at home with my family. I love them a ton and miss them every day. They made me a birthday cake and gave me presents before I left. We even had a cookout for dinner. But still, not being with them on the actual day just feels strange, like I’m missing something incredibly important.

In the months before I moved to the Czech Republic, a lot of people specifically asked me what my mom thought about me going on the mission field. Moms and daughters often have a special bond. What did my mother think about me leaving, about me going so far?

A few weeks ago I asked my Mom to write an answer to that question. I’ve been waiting to release her reply, unsure about the right timing. Well, it was good for me to go back and read it today, so I’d like to let you all know what she had to say.

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The question comes to me, “How do you feel about Caity going to the Czech Republic?”

I feel like a groan is becoming a song.

Caity and I have shared a long season together – 28 years! Who ever said your child should not be your friend? She has been a friend in every way to me. If I had to count the ways, number one would be that she provokes me. She provoked me when she was little; she provoked me this morning.

My first memory of her provoking me happened when she was coming into her tweenhood. Dan and I were resting on the couch watching TV. Caity came out of her room to get something. We hit pause. She knew that routine, of course – a show just for adults. As she reached her room again, she turned around and asked, “Why should you be watching that if I can’t?” 

Boom.

And this morning – this morning I was able to share with her how God had called me to rewrite this guest blog post. Her words about my first draft had proved prophetic and scriptural. 

Boom. Starting again.

Through many years of praying for Caity, I have hoped for this day. She has been raring to go for some time, and yet not – not going. Hard. Waiting is just so, so hard! We don’t see why, we don’t see what God sees. 

God saw that she wasn’t going alone.

And now, after 28 years of running the race together, here comes the fork in the road! This is true joy. The loss only brings the joy, the song, to fullness. This is what my purpose is – to cast my children, to shoot my arrows, into the harvest field.

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

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I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for my family. They encouraged me on every step of my journey, and they never once tried to hold me back from following God’s plan for my life. Yes, we had tears at parting, but we parted knowing this isn’t the end. We still have our whole lives ahead of us, and eternity after. I feel so blessed to go out into the harvest field with so much support from back home.

I love you Mom, Dad, brother and many sisters. You guys are amazing. Thinking of you today!

The Missing Piece

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Hi, my name is Karna Steel, and my husband and I, along with our five boys, have been overseas on the mission field for twenty years now. We just celebrated our 25th year with Youth for Christ (YFC). Eleven of those years were spent working with a military youth ministry in Italy, and over the past eight years we helped establish YFC in the Czech Republic. We are looking forward to having Caity join our team of missionaries in the Czech Republic.

In the past few years my heart has been drawn more and more to the absolute need women have, especially those on the mission field, for community. Over the years I’ve made a lot of moves for ministry, and every time it’s been hard to start over again and re-establish myself in each new area.

I think “community” can mean different things to different people. For me, it means connection, the things which place us on a common ground together, whether it’s a common vision, being married with children, speaking the same language, or simply just loving chocolate.

There’s a quote by Brene Brown that really speaks to this:

A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

That’s some pretty powerful truth! Studies show that women are hardwired for friendship. When life becomes challenging, women seek out friendship with other women as a means of regulating stress levels. Men don’t necessarily need that to the same degree in their lives as women do. When a woman gets stressed, her natural response is to “tend and befriend,” which means that women instinctively tend to nurture others around them and reach out to others.

Women need community. We need to tell our stories, to process our emotional experiences with others, and to receive their aid in moving forward. As one article cited, “We need to build and maintain these important bonds to protect our physical and emotional well-being.” (The Huffington Post, 2013)

After being in the military ministry for ten years, I told my husband I was done. I was done seeking out friendships with other women because people were always transitioning in and out of my life and I felt like my heart was just raw and couldn’t take another good-bye.

He asked me, as he always does, “Have you prayed about it? The Lord isn’t afraid to hear your heart’s cry.”

So I told the Lord that I just couldn’t do it anymore. If He wanted me to have a friend, He was going to have to bring her to me and plop her right in front of me because I wasn’t going looking for her — and He did! I met a family at chapel the next week and found out they’d been relocated to Aviano even though her husband was in the army. I offered to watch her children for her while she received her household shipment, even though we didn’t know each other at all.

The next week, while I was sitting in a parking lot on base, she came up to the side of my van and asked me, “Do you want to be my friend?”

I told her that I just didn’t have it in me at the time, but she responded that it was okay, and that she’d do all of the work. And she did! That was the start of our intense but very short friendship. Nine months later we felt called to move to the Czech Republic, and her husband got orders to move back to Germany to the army base there. I’ll never forget our conversation while we were packing up my house. She said, “I’ll never understand why the Army moved us down here and uprooted our family for only nine months.”

“It was for me!” I told her. “You were the answer to my heart’s cry!”

While there are always positive things wherever you live, there are also hardships as well. Living cross-culturally has its own set of difficulties. When you add separation from family and friends to that mix, I’ve seen a lot of missionaries who’ve left the field early because it was just too hard for them. If they can’t establish community where they live, they cannot sustain life there. It’s just that simple and that difficult. Brene Brown, in her book “Daring Greatly,” said it quite succinctly, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what give purpose and meaning to our lives.” Please pray that Caity will find her place of ministry here in the Czech Republic, and that she will be able to make connections and find her community.

The Harder Option

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(A Guest Post, by Keifer Lucchi.)

Generally, we are taught that we have two choices when it comes to our fears. When our adrenaline kicks in, we have two decisions we can make — fight, or flight.

Our fears either drive us or paralyze us. They either become the force that pushes us on and on, or they are the reason we hide away and do nothing.

For me, fear is usually a driver. I fight with everything. I have to bring resolution to my fears and conquer them. I HATE loose ends. I hate it when there is something outside of my control that I can’t fix. If there is an area that I’m afraid of, I either fight to overcome that fear, or I remove it. I used to convince myself that this was the best choice, the brave choice, maybe. If my only two choices were to hide or fight, then fighting was the better one.

But there are some things that I can’t fight. No matter how hard I try and no matter what I do, there are things in this world that I simply can’t change. I’ve learned this more than ever since I moved to the Czech Republic. Suddenly, things that used to be simple were difficult. When I first got here, I found that activities like shopping for food and cooking were completely different. The “cheap and easy” meals that I knew how to make were suddenly not only expensive — some of them I couldn’t even find the ingredients for. I had to learn new ways to do things that had once been simple. I didn’t know what a good price was for something, or a bad price, or even what I could find. I had to learn to only buy what I could carry because I didn’t own a car. I had to learn how much I could NOT carry — sometimes through the process of dropping things on the ground several times in a row, feeling embarrassed as people walked by wondering why this weird American couldn’t take care of himself.

I learned that I had to ask people for help to do simple tasks, like starting a bank account, getting directions, and teaching a class. And because of the language difference, just talking to someone and trying to be a friend suddenly became extremely hard.

Even staying in the Czech Republic and being allowed to live here was hard. And you know what? I learned that no matter how hard I fought, and worked, and did all of the things I needed to do, there were still things that I didn’t know, didn’t expect, and couldn’t handle. And it KEPT happening. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t strong enough to fight all of the battles I needed to fight. Suddenly, more than anything else, I just wanted to hide. I wanted to disappear.

I mean, if fight or flight are the only options, then flight was my only other choice.

The Bible actually doesn’t agree with this.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).

Wait, so which is better? Fight or flight? If you take verse 28 by itself, it sounds like Jesus is saying to give Him your trouble, and leave all the work to Him. But the very next verse talks about taking on His yoke. It also says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

That doesn’t sound like fight or flight to me. I think that, in reality, there is a third option, a harder option.

Rest.

Now, I’m sure we’re all thinking a little sleep sounds fantastic, especially after a long week, but that isn’t what Jesus is talking about. He’s talking about a different kind of rest. “Rest for your soul.” This means having confidence in the fact that God will take care of us, even when we don’t know how He will do it. This kind of rest can only be found when we give our burdens to Jesus and trust Him to only give us the new burdens we can handle and carry. Every day we give Him our worries, our fears, and the impossible things in our lives, and every day He gives us what we need to carry for that day. He takes care of the rest.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).

Wait. Stop. It sounds like Jesus is saying that we are going to have problems if we follow Him. But He wants us to have peace even when we experience those problems. We are supposed to know that He has already overcome the world.

Not exactly easy. I still have so many problems with this sort of attitude. And, it turns out, so did Jesus’ disciples.

“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’” (Luke 8:22-25 ESV)

Let’s look at what happens in this story. Jesus tells the disciples where they are going, and that He is going with them. Often this is how He sets us on the journey as well.

As the journey goes on, Jesus falls asleep. He gets quiet. The disciples aren’t hearing his voice at the moment. Unless, of course, Jesus snored.

Then the storm comes, and the disciples start to think that maybe Jesus won’t save them after all. The waves get bigger, the wind gets louder, and soon they aren’t looking at Jesus at all. They’re looking at the waves. Jesus, on the other hand, is fully at peace in the storm.

When I first came to the Czech Republic, it was sort of like this. I heard Jesus’ voice telling me to “go across to the other side of the lake.” The lake was bigger, but we have airplanes now, so I wasn’t too worried. I came because I believed, and still believe, that there are people in the Czech Republic who need to know love like the love of Jesus. I believe that God loves each of you individually. I came knowing it would be hard, but that there are frightened people in the Czech Republic who God wants to know, and walk with, and bring peace to.

And, in the end, I’m the frightened one most of the time. I see the waves and hear the wind just like the disciples, and say, “Jesus! Save me! I’m going to drown!”

But Jesus has never let me drown once.

And He won’t let you drown either.


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Keifer is starting his second year as a missionary in the Czech Republic, and he couldn’t be more excited. His ministry to youth and his media ministry are expanding, and his grasp of the Czech language has only gotten stronger. Add in time with friends and ministry “family” and you get just a glimpse of how busy his week is. And yet he still finds opportunities to learn and grow and rest in the Lord. This blog post is adapted from a sermon he recently gave.