This Explains A Lot

Steven Wendel on July 6, 2018

Gavin was recently gifted for his birthday a building set from a Czech friend.  His father explained to me that these were the building sets that they grew up with and were very popular during communism.  Gavin started the project alone, but soon needed some assistance from Dad.  We worked on the set together for a couple of hours.  I learned more about Czech culture in those couple of hours than I would have learned in about a year of ministering here.  I was left thinking to myself, “This explains so much.”    You see, the set was a series...

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Flowers for Mordor

Steven Wendel on May 25, 2018

I’ve been observing the localized devastation of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano in recent days.  The images emerging of the eruption and flows of lava devouring forest and piling into the Pacific ocean are both terrifying and mesmerizing.  Some of these images brought to mind a reference I made in Day #1 of this blog series to the scorched lands of Mordor (from the Lord of the Rings series).  Mordor represents a land that is devastated, fully under the control of Sauron, the personification of evil.   As we look upon the island chain of Hawaii, we see a land that has...

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9 Dots and a Draft Horse

Steven Wendel on May 24, 2018

The Belgian draft horse is one of the biggest and strongest horses in the world.  Pulling competitions are held with these horses, and on average, one Belgian draft horse can pull about 8,000 pounds.  If you harness 2 Belgian draft horses together, how much do you think they would pull? 16,000 pounds of course! But wait, that is incorrect. Interestingly 2 Belgian draft horses harnessed together can pull 20,000 to 24,000 pounds! If these 2 horses are accustomed to working together, over time they can pull upwards of 32,000 pounds.  That’s 2 horses doing the work of 4!    The...

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David and the Dancing Goats

Steven Wendel on May 23, 2018

Coffee. It holds a sacred place in the Wendel family. It was at Starbucks that Cari and I first met, and our relationship grew and developed over countless French presses of the finest coffees that Starbucks could procure, back in the day when they were only supplying a handful of stores on the west coast.  Conversation or study over good coffee established itself as a hallowed space in my soul.  To this day, Cari and I religiously enjoy our morning cups of coffee together, albeit our mornings are filled with haste and commotion as we escort 6 kiddos off to...

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I Asked for a Window

Steven Wendel on May 22, 2018

Thanks for journeying with us! For the last week I’ve been attempting to paint a picture or at least give a glimpse of what ministry in Czech Republic looks like, so that we can be praying together more effectively.  It is also an attempt to give some context to some of the more personal things that I would like to share with you in the next several updates.  As missionaries we try to walk a fine line between professional and personal.  We are always mindful of what people might be thinking, the impressions that we give, putting on a face...

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Head Down

Steven Wendel on May 21, 2018

A couple of months ago, our son came home red-faced and too upset to talk. After a long interval of coaxing him to a reasonable state of mind we were able to debrief the school drama.  It wasn’t long before I shared his outrage and frustration, trying to come to terms with what had transpired.  His class was in the gym, engaging in various ball games, but in particular dodgeball.  During the course of the idle time between games a handful of the boys began bullying another boy in the class who has some special needs, both physical and mental. ...

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It's Worth It

Steven Wendel on May 20, 2018

The question has been asked, and it’s a fair one, “If the Czech Republic is such an atheistic and unreceptive people, why not go somewhere else where evangelistic efforts are more productive?” In abbreviated ‘Christianese’, “Why don’t you shake the dust from your feet(Mat 10:14)?” This is an honest and gritty question, that as missionaries we need to be able to answer.  The answer, in kind, can be no less honest and gritty. Nearly every summer throughout my childhood, our family would drive up to Sequoia National Forest and stay for a week at our friend’s private cabin.  It was...

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Steven Wendel on May 19, 2018

Perhaps they see the silliness of their parents’ faith in esoteric mysticism, or it would be hard for them to miss the hypocrisy and corruption of the Roman church. Maybe they resent absolute truth claims, or maybe they just haven’t heard anything that compels them. Whatever the case, the youth of the Czech Republic are the least religious generation in Europe today.   According to recent research by Saint Mary’s University, Twickenham, among 16-29 year olds, Czechs are the least religious in Europe, with 91% reporting no religious affiliation.   It might be helpful to know that Czechs have a...

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The Loneliest Loneliness

Steven Wendel on May 18, 2018

We have to distrust each other. It’s our only defense against betrayal. -Tennessee Williams Having been betrayed and abused and subjugated by every government over the past 400 hundred years(during the reign of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Czech language itself was forbidden to be spoken for over 160 years), suffering major betrayals from Western Europe and America pre and post WWII, combined with the horrors and corrosive effects of communism on the family and society for the latter half of the 20th century, it’s not hard to understand why, in general, Czechs are an untrusting people.    It’s relatively easy to...

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Peanut Butter Bacon Burgers

Steven Wendel on May 17, 2018

I don't see the world completely in black and white. Sometimes I do. -Benicio del Toro Historians and philosophers have long understood the importance of a people’s history and the influence that it has on the way a person thinks and acts.  It’s been said at various times and various ways what famed cosmologist Carl Sagan recapitulated, “You have to know the past to understand the present.” However, even with a knowledge of the rich, complex, and varied history of the Czech lands, few to none have been able to synthesize and comprehend why exactly Czech culture has evolved into...

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Call to Prayer

Steven Wendel on May 16, 2018

As I sit in my hotel room for a week of meetings in Pristina, Kosovo I hear the call to prayer echoing from the minarets piercing the skyline. An old man steps onto his balcony and begins chanting the call as well, like a neighborhood crier, calling his own little community into submission and obedience to the mandates of Islam.  I wish I had a little old man that would step to his balcony five times per day and reiterate a call to bowed knees and submitted hearts in my own neighborhood, albeit to the true and living God rather...

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The Underdog

Steven Wendel on February 28, 2018

Ester Ledecka came to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang for the purpose of competing in the women’s giant slalom snowboarding competition.  However, coming into the Olympics she was rated a respectable, but distant from the podium, 43rd in the world rankings for downhill skiing, which qualified her to compete in the women’s Super-G event.  Competing in both events would make her the first woman to compete in both disciplines in the Olympics, so she figured she would go ahead and do both and make her distinctive mark in the Olympic annals.  To further illustrate just how ‘not expected to...

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A Man Died Next To Me

Steven Wendel on January 30, 2018

We loaded all 8 of us onto the British Airways flight with much exhaustion, heading home after a very busy but blessed time with family over the Christmas holiday.  We had managed the typical airport hurdles: rental car return, boarding passes that only partially printed out at the kiosk, overweight bags redistributed, additional security checks and body scans for most of us (seriously we’re a magnet for additional screening), and last-minute potty emergencies.  Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes....

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Jesus, Mary, and Joseph

Steven Wendel on December 12, 2017

The pungent smells of mulling spices, frankincense, roasting meats, and trdelnik have returned to Bohemia as the Advent markets and their many charms and delights have signaled the inauguration of another Christmas season.  If it weren’t enough to alert us to the fact, the various concerts, school plays, and performances in which our children are participating have managed to fill our first weeks of advent with either enjoyment or endurance, or maybe both.   Last Sunday we stood in the icy evening consuming rye bread spread with lard and topped with fried lard and onions while sipping fruity tea, desperately trying...

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Pickled tomatoes and Promising partnerships

Steven Wendel on November 29, 2017

Yeast soda, pickled green tomatoes, quince compote, and chocolate-covered dried melon; just a few of the delicious tastes of Moldova I was privileged to enjoy earlier this month. Well…the yeast-flavored soda maybe not so much, I do prefer to eat my bread rather than drink it carbonated, but who could resist a taste?  While some of our taste palates were expanded considerably, we had gathered for the purpose of training, connecting with, and encouraging mission-minded pastors and leaders from Central Europe to Central Asia. It was simply amazing to hear what God is doing in various places, through various instruments,...

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Fall Fusions

Steven Wendel on October 30, 2017

As I was observing our boys’ basketball practice, I was surprised to run across our dentists (husband and wife) who were also previously our neighbors.  We found that we shared a mutual connection through basketball with the other missionary family in town with whom we cooperate in numerous ministries.  This has happened several times in the past year, as we’ve seen our spheres of influence frequently converge.  The dentists were also surprised that we shared the mutual friend, which got them to be curious about how they know 2 American families with the same professions.  We had an interesting talk...

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Summer Fruit

Steven Wendel on September 14, 2017

It’s a cool 57 degrees and raining as Autumn already resolved to descend on Southern Bohemia in the latter part of August.  We’re left wondering where the Summer went as we sent all 6 of the kids back to school on Monday.  This Summer was perhaps the most demanding season of ministry we have experienced in our tenure in Czech Republic.  While in our spirits we feel poured out, and are currently seeking a time of both physical and spiritual replenishing, we simultaneously rejoice with you who have been praying and partnering with this ministry, for it was a very...

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Slow and Mysterious

Steven Wendel on July 6, 2017

The Pew Research Center recently released findings in regards to religious belief among 18 central and eastern European nations.  Not surprising to us, it found that the Czech Republic was drastically different from all of the countries around it, being distinctly atheistic and non-religious in almost every measurable way.  For example only 29% of Czechs affirmed some form of belief in God.  This stands in stark contrast to the median of 86% in the region.  I would encourage you to read the findings for yourself linked HERE.  Of particular note to us, 79% of Czech parents are raising their children unaffiliated,...

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Daydream Beautiful

Steven Wendel on May 23, 2017

Sometimes I daydream about people I know; about who they would be, the potential impact for God’s Kingdom they would have if they believed and were born-again. I ponder on what their quintessential and perfected self on the new earth would be like and how fulfilling our friendship would be in that context with Christ as our true center…if they would only turn and follow Him.  I assume other people must have similar dreams about their friends and neighbors, but admittedly I could be weird. Earlier this month, we spent a weekend camping and hiking in a national park named...

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Steven Wendel on April 26, 2017

I’ve recently returned from a week of leadership meetings in Berlin, where in addition to discussing relevant regional leadership issues, we were treated to a series of excellent lectures on Luther and the Reformation by Dr. Michael Wittmer.  At some point it struck me how a multitude of reform-minded theologians came together at a critical time.  A Martin Luther in isolation would most likely not have had the effect on Christian history that he had.  He was in fact contemporary with numerous like-minded theologians who were simultaneously effectual in their own geographical locations in addition to interacting with and sharpening...

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Battered Dreams and Broken Elbows

Steven Wendel on March 23, 2017

We adults were enjoying some uninterrupted conversation as all of our children happily recreated in the large indoor playground to celebrate Zuzka’s and Evicka’s birthdays.  We enjoyed hearing about our neighbors’ new jobs and family updates, plans for the summer, and we shared our upcoming events at the ministry center.  Gavin burst into the room with tears streaming down his face and cradling his arm.  “Those boys jumped on it! They jumped on my arm and broke it!” As we tried our best to unravel and comprehend the source and gravity of his injury, he continued his lamentations: “I knew...

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Where's the beef?

Steven Wendel on March 2, 2017

“Dad, my friend Danny is coming over tomorrow, and he’s bringing steaks.” “Um, okay, and why is he bringing steaks?” “Danny’s parents say that Americans know how to cook the best steaks, and they want you to teach him.” With 4 inches of snow on the ground, and the grill stowed away in the garage, it was hardly the time to ask me how to cook a steak, as grilling is the only method I’m familiar with.  So I did what any reasonable person would do…I turned to YouTube.  I watched intently as Gordon Ramsey cooked steaks in a pan...

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2016 In Review

Steven Wendel on January 19, 2017

As I briefly reflect on 2016(I emphasize ‘briefly’ because there are few things that afford me more than a fleeting moment of reflection these days), we have much to be thankful for.  Here are some of the highlights, first personal and then ministry-related, that came to mind as I write this: Personally, we had the greatest joy of baptizing 3 of our own kids as well as several new church members.  Additionally, Gavin placed his own faith in Jesus, and demonstrates a tender heart toward the things of God.   We could not be prouder of our children’s acquisition of...

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You Don't Fear Death

Steven Wendel on December 9, 2016

From the Minecraft shooting gallery to the apple pie making station, Tree of Life Center was packed to the gills with people having a great time on November 12.  I was so busy I didn’t have time to count how many families and kids came and went, but this Harvest Festival was certainly the most people we have hosted at any one time.   The highlight of the night for me was watching a little boy named Honzik who irregularly attends our English classes and youth group.  I encouraged him to hit the fishing booth first, as there he would...

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Steven Wendel on November 10, 2016

Anyone who has attempted to drive a van in Europe might empathize with my predicament.  Cari and I entered the underground parking structure, passing the dangling clearance marker with but millimeters of distance between the roof of our van and the pvc bar.  “No worries,” I thought, surely they are demarcating the lowest point of the underground structure, which we just nearly cleared, so we should be fine… We crawled nervously to the first free parking space we found as we watched the pipes and fire sprinkler valves pass within centimeters overhead.  Relieved at our successful navigation, we traipsed off...

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Kingdom Glimpses

Steven Wendel on October 17, 2016

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”                -Revelation 21:3-5 Occasionally I catch glimpses of what I think the kingdom of heaven must be like. ...

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Forlorn Francesco

Steven Wendel on September 21, 2016

Last week we were enjoying a lovely afternoon with another missionary family, strolling through the center of Trieste, Italy.  While admiring the grand canal we happened upon an aging gentleman named Francesco who took an interest in the Americans touring his city.  He proudly reported that his dog companion was also American, and as we chatted she set to work begging snacks from the children.  Francesco set to work investigating our purpose and interests and thus pointing out the various historical churches we might find of interest in his city.  After making a few complimentary observations of his canine companion...

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No Greater Joy

Steven Wendel on August 22, 2016

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.  3 John 1:4 After wrapping up our camp, I was looking forward to a couple weeks of calmer days and just catching up on various administrative tasks and household projects that had assumed their positions on my never-ending ‘to do’ list.  Immediately however, I got a call from our good friend Honza, asking if I would be willing to preach and teach a week of English for a satellite camp that Word of Life would be hosting in partnership with our local church in Ceske Budejovice. ...

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We love M's and N's

Steven Wendel on July 29, 2016

“If you could ask God any question, what would you ask Him?” I posed the question, and received some of the responses that I would expect.  One boy we’ll call ‘N’ however, chimed in with, “What exactly are you doing anyway?”  I could see that he was hoping to have in some way offended me with his honest response.  As the week progressed, while never rude, ‘N’ wore his skepticism on his sleeve about this whole Jesus thing.  On Friday, in keeping with our theme of “GAME ON”, I challenged the campers to “give God the controller” of their lives. ...

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Desert Flowers

Steven Wendel on May 31, 2016

DESERT FLOWERS As I made the rounds of greetings and introductions at a large evening get-together we were attending, I came across a young dating couple whom I had never met before.  As we got to know each other a bit I was encouraged at how uncharacteristically open they seemed.  Noticing that the young lady was wearing a cross on her necklace I asked if she was a believer.  To my surprise she was, as well as her boyfriend who was studying theology at the local University.  As I tried to unravel exactly what their faith looked like, I came...

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What will the neighbors say

Steven Wendel on May 5, 2016

Honza was meeting with a long-time business contact to discuss some projects.  He met the man at his home in Borek rather than at his usual work site.  Knowing us from church, Honza asked if the man was familiar with some Americans that live in the area.  “Oh yes, Steve and Cari, they live just a few houses down the street.”  “What do you think about them?” Honza inquired, not revealing his own connection. “They’re wonderful people.  They do some programs every week and my kids love going over to their place.  The only thing is that they are members...

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The Electrician

Steven Wendel on March 2, 2016

After multiple phone calls I eventually reached an electrician willing to come same-day and address an electrical issue we were having.  An electrical issue I really didn’t have time for between English lessons and camp sermons to prepare, visa paperwork to organize, and a birthday party to set up and decorate.  He was at our house within the hour, and had the problem fixed in about 4 minutes.  I was relieved that it wouldn’t be an ‘all-afternoon’ type of a project, and I would be able to efficiently transition back to my pressing duties.  However, to my slight consternation, the...

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Dad! They Just Shot Us!

Steven Wendel on February 15, 2016

We had just finished a lovely but extensive hike through picturesque Czech wilderness with some dear friends.  We decided to take a lesser travelled route back home which wound through forests and over creeks and meandered through a number of small villages.  As we cruised through one small village we noticed a crowd of people gathered near the road and garbed in jarringly bright and festive attire.  As we slowly wheeled past the procession our minds were all equally grasping for interpretation of what we were witnessing, when…WHAM!  A deafening blast shuddered the van and jolted us into a next...

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By this they will know...

Steven Wendel on January 26, 2016

As I made my daily rounds to pick up Adelaide and Jonas from pre-school, their teacher stepped into the hallway with us seeking an audience with me.  I was immediately filled with dread, awaiting what report or rebuke might be coming.   To my surprise, she began praising their progress in Czech language.  She then reported, “They are so kind to each other and the other students.  It is obvious you have a very loving home.”  It was just the encouragement we needed at that moment. Since then, one of Adelaide and Jonas’ classmates began attending our English and Bible program...

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Christmas Miracle

Steven Wendel on January 1, 2016

WARNING: This blog post is a bit longer than I prefer, as I like to pack as much info into as few tidbits as possible.  So much has been going on, I just can't do it effectively.   But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.                                                                - Genesis 50:20   We’ve faced much opposition from the administrator of our local school as we’ve been submitting registrations for the following school year.  The school is currently over-enrolled,...

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Tree Culture

Steven Wendel on December 12, 2015

Christmas is in full array with Christmas markets, decorated street lamps, and the aromas of the many hot holiday beverage vendors occupying their stalls.  We’ve also noticed a pronounced increase in the number of family homes donning Christmas lights and LED decorations this year.  What you scarce may find however, is a Christmas tree.  Though they are being sold in tree lots all around the city, much the same as in the USA, Czech tradition dictates that the tree wait to be erected and decorated until Christmas eve.  We were eager to assemble our own tree this year as we...

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The Spirit Calls

Steven Wendel on November 25, 2015

This week I had the tremendous of joy and privilege of sitting down with a man and hearing his story.  For a number of years he had been seeking “something above” through philosophy, Eastern religions, and he would even spend time just sitting quietly in cathedrals, hoping that the divine might reveal himself or that he could somehow absorb God’s presence.  He knew though, that the priests that served there seemed to serve a God that was far away, and he didn’t see that their methods could bring him the peace he was seeking.  For a number of years he...

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Little Lights

Steven Wendel on November 8, 2015

It’s the season for the traditional Lantern Parades here in the Czech lands.  The history and tradition of the lantern parade goes back a thousand years or more and has been associated with both Christianity and paganism, with Communism and liberty, with St. Martin’s day and All Souls Day and Halloween.  Whatever the original intentions were, for nearly everyone now, it is simply a reason to make a lantern attached to a stick and join with your local village or neighborhood for an exceedingly charming stroll under the stars by candlelight.   In our youth group and young Bible classes...

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Answered Prayer!

Steven Wendel on October 16, 2015

Answered Prayer!  I got a call this week that our visas/residence permits were approved and are awaiting our collection in Warsaw! English Classes have begun and our students and parents are having a great time! We launched a tween/teen youth group and a children's Bible club!  Tomorrow we launch a totally new children's program in the local church.  On October 30 we will hold a Harvest Carnival at the Tree of Life Center!  Looking forward to a great time and opportunity to connect with more in our community. Prayer Points 1. A safe trip for Steve as he makes the arduous journey back to Warsaw...

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Steven Wendel on September 30, 2015

I recently made a 27 hour round-trip to Warsaw in order to submit all of the documents for our visas.  This was actually a true answer to prayer, as no embassy in our immediate vicinity was willing to accept our applications due to the high volume of foreigners requesting residence at this time.  I did make the unpleasant discovery however, that while Poland is in the process of building a very lovely new highway infrastructure, they haven’t marked any of the required detours, which wreaked havoc on both my GPS and travel-weary brain!  I drove hundreds of kilometers in the...

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I'm Not A UFO

Steven Wendel on September 10, 2015

This week I was watching a short TV documentary about people of various faiths in the Czech Republic.  There were brief interviews with Jews, Muslims, Catholics, and one young Christian girl.  She related to the interviewer how whenever she identified herself as a Christian, people would immediately suppose her to be Roman Catholic.  She said that when she identified herself as an evangelical Christian, “People look at me like I’m some kind of UFO.”  I still remember a similar experience with a neighbor several years ago when he was interrogating me about my faith, “So you’re really like…a firm believer?”...

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Steven Wendel on August 25, 2015

We’re learning to live Czechishly.  As we’re still on the hunt for a family van, we’ve been constrained to public transportation since we arrived on August 12th.  Public transportation is good here, that’s not the problem.  The problem is that it’s been a rough adjustment from driving from point A to point B, to walking from point A to point B, taking a bus from point B to point C, walking from point C to catch the next bus at point D, and then walking the rest of the distance to our destination.  Reverse and repeat to get home.  If...

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Glowsticks, Goodbyes, and Going

Steven Wendel on August 9, 2015

The thunder penetrated our walls and windows like a divine electric bullwhip snapping so loudly that every single person in the house was immediately jolted awake.  An epic Kansas storm was roaring through, and we all had a front row seat in my parents’ living room.  The lightning was a continuous barrage of flash and boom.  This might have been almost lovely if this was not 5am and the room were not the one in which all of our children were sleeping, or now more accurately quivering, crying, and cowering.  The electricity died, and the darkness accentuated the fear and...

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Folks on the Fringes

Steven Wendel on July 28, 2015

We were enjoying the buffet-style dinners at our conference in Washington D.C.  At each meal time, we would serve our own plates with food from the buffet and seat ourselves in a large atrium at round tables. Our 3-year old Jonas was mesmerized by the white-gloved servers who glided around the room reclaiming buffet plates with diligence and efficiency.  For reasons inexplicable, Jonas developed an immediate affection for one of these servers, and required that at each mealtime we seat ourselves in her ‘jurisdiction’.  Jonas watched her intently and cherished their exchanges of greetings.  Of the many other missionaries, childrens’...

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Standing Guard

Steven Wendel on July 13, 2015

Pat is one of our faithful ministry partners and a woman of prayer.  At 93 years old, she recounts that in this season of life there is little more to do than pray, and that is now her primary occupation.  Pat stands guard and has upheld our family and ministry in prayer for many years.  What a precious gift it has been!  I’d been looking forward to my visit with Pat for several days, and I made the long drive into the Sierras to visit her in her mountain home.  She had moved since I had seen her last, and...

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Beware Freshly Baked Bread...and other fables

Steven Wendel on June 16, 2015

We retreated into the shopping mall for some desperately needed relief from the summer heat on the street, and made our way up to the second floor coffee shop.  Pictured on the menu boards were deliciously icy frapp­es and blended coffee drinks.  Cari ordered the closest looking drink to a frappucino and I watched the “barista” closely as she began pouring milk over the shot of coffee in the blender.  She then pulled out her tongs and carefully grasped one cube of ice, dropped it daintily into the blender, and began pulsing it to a froth.  Anticipating the problem beforehand,...

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The Buddy System

Steven Wendel on June 2, 2015

Every school day across the Czech Republic, kindergarteners are walking two by two, hand in hand, draped in reflective safety vests.  Rain, snow, or shine, the daily walk is an essential element of each day in skolka (the Czech name for kindergarten), and Gavin built up quite the walker’s endurance over the course of his year.  He also picked up a few habits.  One of which, is that now whenever we are walking somewhere, Gavin will sidle over, reach up, and grab my hand.  It’s just part of his training.  If we’re walking, he’s holding a hand.  I must say...

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Messy Meetings

Steven Wendel on May 20, 2015

Ministry can be messy, because people are messy.  The journey from agnosticism or atheism to saving faith in Christ can be a winding route.  As people called by God to be the bearers of the glorious Good News, it is our great joy and privilege to come alongside those on their own Emmaus Road.  We have developed numerous friendships and have been laboring to lead these individuals into a saving relationship with Christ, and we see the process.  Often it can be frustrating to see people come a certain distance on their journey, and then be distracted by cares or...

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Cold and Abrupt

Steven Wendel on May 1, 2015

It wasn’t that I was surprised to see the principal at school, I just didn’t expect to see him today of all days.  His mother, who was a frequent substitute teacher for our daughters’ class, and very active in the school programs, had passed away only one day prior.  Yet, there he was about his duties, jauntily greeting parents and checking in with various staff members.  One parent approached him and offered her condolences on his loss.  “Well, life must go on,” he replied.  Visibly relieved by principal’s stiff upper lip, the parent even seemed encouraged and repeated the principal’s...

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Fishers of Men

Steven Wendel on April 15, 2015

I gawked incredulously at my brand new South Bohemian region sport fishing map and regulations.  I had just completed the gamut of steps necessary to obtain first my fishing permit from the Department of Agriculture, and then paid the exorbitant fees in order to obtain my fishing license from a local fisherman’s union.  My packet of regulations, maps, and reporting cards was my reward.  I even paid the extra fee to be licensed to angle for trout and grayling.  The extensive map before me delineated every waterway in the region, and each were segmented every couple of miles with color...

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Plan B is the new Plan A

Steven Wendel on March 31, 2015

We’d stuffed over 500 plastic eggs, hard-boiled hundreds of real ones, created and set up numerous carnival games, stocked craft tables, prepared a gospel message, and had dozens of sausages ready for the grill.  We were expecting a large turnout for our Easter Celebration and Egg Hunt.   As if on cue, it rained.  It rained the kind of rain that shows no sign of relenting, and makes one desire for a cup of tea, a warm blanket, and the hearth at home.  To complicate matters further, our friends who were coming to lead music and help with the program,...

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I Know a Guy Who Knows a Guy

Steven Wendel on March 17, 2015

I plastered our neighborhood and dozens of city bus stops with advertising flyers for our upcoming season of adult English classes.  In a city where native English speakers are a rarity, and the English classes that are offered at the language schools typically run up to $20 per hour, I was convinced that our free English offerings would be an instant hit.  I’d also contacted a couple of people that we knew personally who might be interested in the English class.  As we opened the doors of the small rented classroom on Friday evening we eagerly anticipated our new class...

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Puppies, Poopies, and the Process

Steven Wendel on March 2, 2015

While our children have had to make extra efforts to succeed in the subjects of Czech language and Social Studies while attending Czech school, one area they have easily excelled is in their English classes.  Frequently the neighbor children would come over to complete their English homework assignments with help from their conveniently located American classmates.  During one particular English lesson at school, the teacher was mispronouncing a certain word that drove our daughters wild with delight.  In Czech, the letter ‘U’ is always pronounced with a long vowel sound.  So as the teacher was teaching a unit on animals...

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The Missionary and The Milkman

Steven Wendel on March 2, 2015

Our neighbor arrived unexpectedly early in the morning with his galvanized pail clanking at his side.  “It’s time to go get fresh milk,” he informed me in our doorway, as Cari and I exchange the kind of glance that encompasses an entire conversation and arrives at a foregone conclusion before any words need be spoken.  I don my boots in an air of both mild inconvenience and curiosity, but striving to communicate nothing but gracious excitement to my self-appointed milkman. We trudged to the edge of the village where we entered a stereotypically cluttered farmyard and approached the barn.  The...

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Waste not, Want not

Steven Wendel on February 3, 2015

Know well the condition of your flocks, And pay attention to your herds; 24 For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations. Proverbs 27:23-24 Paying your garbage bill in the Czech Republic is a yearly affair, as you pay for all of the garbage service for the subsequent 12 months in advance, and in cash.  It involves going down to the village magistrate, reporting the family members in your household and paying your fees accordingly. Why report the family members in your household? Because your garbage collection fee for the year is based on how many people...

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Steven Wendel on January 19, 2015

I was investigating an issue we were having with our driveway gate.  It seems that as the weather cooled to a constant state of freezing for the winter months, the gate had shrunk, and the batwing-style panels no longer connected in the middle.  Our neighbor across the street noticed my investigation of the gate and leapt into service.  He got my attention, gestured to make sure I would stay exactly where I was at, and in 2 hops and a jump was coming to my aid with welding torch and tool belt in hand.  The scene was a familiar one...

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Day 31: How About a Cup of Coffee?

Steven Wendel on December 31, 2014

 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.   Philippians 4:17 A classic Czech game that we love to play is called “fishies and fisherman.”  It’s a simple ‘tag’ type game where the ‘fisherman’ begins alone, but each ‘fishie’ he catches must link arms with him and the tagging entity becomes larger and larger.  Only players on the end may tag, while the rest of the group must hold the links tightly so as not to break apart.  The gameplay boundaries are always narrow, so that by the time there are a good...

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Day 30: Reap Where You Sow

Steven Wendel on December 30, 2014

You can't expect to reap a harvest that you're not willing to plant. We had done the camp one year prior, and while it was beneficial, it was utterly exhausting.  Immediately following the week of camp, we faced a season of discouragement and spiritual oppression like none we have ever known.  I was well aware of where this opposition came from, but our Enemy comes when we are weakest.  The attacks were severe, persistent, and enduring.  The message was clear: Do not attempt this ministry again.  When we began planning this year’s camp I was excited for the opportunity to...

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Day 29: Rain Delay Redemption

Steven Wendel on December 29, 2014

Our God loves to redeem things.  No matter the circumstance, setback, or failure, our great comfort is in knowing God can use it for His purposes.  The greater danger may be in having life just as we planned it. Crack! Lightning struck the power pole just yards away from our house and everything indoors went black.  Outdoors weren’t any better, as the sky went dark and began dumping torrential downpour unlike anything we had ever seen.  Sheets of rain created streams flowing from every potential watershed.  Honestly, I might not have minded.  However, this was the night of our big...

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Day 28: The Seeds of Misfortune

Steven Wendel on December 28, 2014

Unless seeds are planted, there can be no harvest. Gavin excitedly announced, “Daddy, I lost a tooth!”  Unfortunately, Gavin was only 4 years old, and he wasn’t due to lose any teeth, especially a molar.  What he was holding in his hand, was in fact a crown which we had paid $1,000 for only one year earlier while living in California, after the dentist insisted that the cavity was too deep to fill. It just so happened, that our former neighbors were dentists who had opened a new practice in town.  I located their office and entered to find the...

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Day 27: What you need, When you need it.

Steven Wendel on December 27, 2014

God is pleased continually to vary His mode of dealing with us, in order that we may not be tempted to trust in donors, or in circumstances, but in Him alone, and to keep our eye fixed upon Him.  -George Mueller Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.   Proverbs 3:5 We had spent months in preparation for our summer English camp.  We were expecting the biggest group of students thus far, and we had a team coming to serve from Texas, led by our new team mate arriving to minister full time.  Preparations were...

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Day 26: The Evils of Coca Cola

Steven Wendel on December 26, 2014

There is very little 'of course' when it comes to custom.   -Janet Kagen Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.   -Proverbs 21:2 I was standing in line with my cart at the grocery store.  Someone pulled in behind me with their cart, and soon my ears started tingling, as I could sense that the people behind me were murmuring about me, though I couldn’t figure what about.   It was a family, and the cart they were jockeying was filled exclusively with crates of beer, about 5 dozen bottles by the...

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Day 25: Christmas Surrogates

Steven Wendel on December 25, 2014

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  -Jesus Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.     -Anais Nin It was January of 2006 and I was visiting the Czech Republic for the first time, seeking to discern if this was indeed the place that God was calling our family to serve.  On that trip, I spent a day with a man named Daniel.  He spoke not a word...

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Day 24: The Christmas Carp

Steven Wendel on December 24, 2014

It’s interesting that while Czechs are the least religious people in the world, when it comes to celebrating Christmas, they are very religious.  Czech Christmas traditions are as unyielding and socially unifying as the deepest held religious convictions.  Christmas is celebrated on the 24th, but it begins about a week before that when many Czechs buy their Christmas carp.  Often it is purchased live from one of the many carp vendors, and will occupy the bathtub until Christmas eve.  On this fateful day it will be butchered and prepared for the Christmas meal.  Butchering carp is not for the faint...

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Day 23: Fiasco

Steven Wendel on December 23, 2014

“That’s how stories happen — with a turning point, an unexpected twist. There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.” ― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore Elisha had been looking forward to this beautiful and sunny Spring day for quite some time.  It was the day of the annual May Day hike, when the whole school takes a picturesque hike to a hilltop nature spot and sings songs and roasts sausages around the campfire.  Elisha had his bag packed with his favorite...

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Day 22: The Tao of Dishwasher Repair

Steven Wendel on December 22, 2014

After suffering long enough with our dishwasher out of commission, and exhausting my attempts at repairing it myself, I called the repairman.  A surprisingly clean cut guy about my age showed up ready for the job.  After chatting for a minute, and discovering that we were foreigners, he welcomed the opportunity to practice his English.  I found him to be a surprisingly open fellow, and we talked all about his family, why he’s repairing appliances rather than following his true passion of graphic design, and our opinions of Czech culture.   The discussion shifted to what we were doing living...

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Day 21: Vietnamese and Vito Vans

Steve Wendel on December 21, 2014

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed this question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”    -Martin Luther King, Jr. What goes around, comes around We were all driving to church, running just a hair late, as usual.  En route, we drove past a vehicle broken down on the side of the road, with a Vietnamese man standing by it.  I rarely if ever stop for broken down vehicles.  Mostly because in this...

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Day 20: Worth it

Steven Wendel on December 20, 2014

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.                          -Mick Jagger If I had to blow up one more water balloon, I think I might pass out.  It’s a good thing I had those years of tuba practice. I don’t recall how many times last year I blew up hundreds of balloons for dart throws, but it was often, and it was worth it. Cari, dressed as a cupcake, was hustling around filling jars with candy, labeling booths, arranging tables, prepping food, and doing everything else that a Harvest Carnival demanded....

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Day 19: Chocolate Fish

Steven Wendel on December 19, 2014

Living cross-culturally can be tiring.  One is in a consistent state of heightened awareness, interpreting data, trying to catch cues, hanging on to every word in a short conversation, agonizing over inferences, in general just trying to live without making a fool of one’s self.  I’m so proud of how well our kids adapted, but it wasn’t an easy process.  All of the stresses were at times compounded for our kids, being in school.  As an adult, doing something embarrassing is just part of everyday life.  You live, you learn, you do it better next time.  For our kids however,...

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Day 18: Hello Uncle!

Steven Wendel on December 18, 2014

A twig may bend to any form, but a grown limb will not bend.    -John Flavel Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.    -Jesus We had recently moved into a new neighborhood, and it was full of children!  A happy change from our previous 2 locales.  The children roamed freely from yard to yard, and addressed all of the adults as either "Aunt" or "Uncle".  We had never observed this phenomena in any of our previous neighborhoods, though it is more common in villages.  Of course, being...

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Day 17: Through the Waters

Cari Wendel on December 17, 2014 Comments (0)

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. The day started out much the same way as all days start in a large family of eight…hectic, and I had already hit the ground running.  At the time, we had two in public school, two homeschooling, and two in diapers.  We were beginning some home Bible studies in addition to the English classes.  We were blessedly busy and excited about the ministries...

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Day 16: Dead Dogs and Deepening Friendships

Steven Wendel on December 16, 2014

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace.”  ― Czech Author, Milan Kundera We’d been looking for a puppy to add to our burgeoning household.  The kids were forlorn at the fact that we had been forced to leave their beloved kitty with relatives in the U.S. due to logistical factors.  They didn’t let us forget it.  We settled upon a pug as an ideal new member to...

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Day 15: Kafkaesque

Steven Wendel on December 15, 2014

Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.  –Franz Kafka The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Czech bureaucracy is infamous, so infamous, that in describing its bleak, complex, and bizarre spiral of despair and hopelessness, a writer was posthumously made famous.  In turn, a new word was coined in the English language paying homage to said writer, and the bureaucracy which he described.  Therefore, to describe the experience of Czech bureaucracy as ‘kafkaesque’ is as one who stands in the freezer and states that it is cold. It would be difficult for our American friends...

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Day 14: Community Rituals

Steven Wendel on December 14, 2014

People often ask us what we miss most about the Czech Republic while we’re home on furlough.  While that’s a hard question to answer, one thing that we miss very much is what I would call the ‘quaintness’ of life in the Czech Republic, especially around Christmas.  There is something enchanting about the fixed and founded traditions of Czech Christmas rituals that reinforce the community.  Sure, we have traditions here in the U.S., but they are not nearly as defined and universally celebrated as a community, as in Bohemia. There really isn’t any American equivalent to the picturesque, old-world charm...

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Day 13: I love my Mummy

Steven Wendel on December 13, 2014

And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? Elisha's guitar teacher was encouraging him to try his hand at songwriting.  When he was having a hard time coming up with an idea what to write a song about, his teacher told him, "You should write a song about your Mummy."  Of course, what a 7 year old fails to interpret is that "Mummy" is the British English equivalent of "Mommy".  Elisha wrote a thrilling ballad of an...

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Day 12: Not Alone

Steven Wendel on December 12, 2014

One of the more difficult things about being missionaries is the loneliness, especially when working in a more pioneering context such as ours.  There simply isn't very much to gain encouragement from.  Opportunities for fellowship with other believers are few, and there are so few believers to fellowship with.  Add in distance from family and a major holiday, and there are some very lonely times on the mission field. Our local church did not have any Sunday School or programs for children, so we decided that we would do something ourselves.  If for nothing else, to have a time to...

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Day 11: Moving...or being moved.

Steven Wendel on December 11, 2014

“What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  -John 13:7 I was standing on the ladder hanging Christmas lights on the eaves of the home we had only recently moved into in order to accommodate our expanding family.  A young couple approached the gate and got my attention.  “Can we come inside and look around the house?” the young man asked.  “Excuse me? I don’t think I understand,” I replied.  “We want to look at the house, we are interested in bidding on it.”  Studying my face, they could see that I wasn’t...

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Day 10: Get To Know Your Local ICU

Steven Wendel on December 10, 2014

It was just a few days after Christmas in 2011, and Cari's mom was in Czech visiting with us.  All the kids were in bed for the night when we heard a piercing shriek from the girls' room.  I hustled in to investigate to find Adelaide in the midst of a seizure.  I scooped her out of her crib and we called for an ambulance.  Her fever was off the charts and she was seizing violently as we waited for the ambulance to arrive.  We painfully waited over 15 minutes, and I began to fear that perhaps I had miscommunicated...

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Day 9: Alien Invader

Steven Wendel on December 9, 2014

I was awakened past midnight to the sound of footsteps in our attic.  Convinced that there must be a burglar or intruder, I grabbed the poker from my fireplace tools to investigate.  I looked out the front window to see if any suspicious vehicles were parked nearby.  There weren’t.  I heard it again, footsteps moving from above the landing to directly over the girls’ bedroom.  Since we kept no valuables in the attic, and there was only one access into the house from the attic, I was content to keep a close guard and see what would happen.  After a...

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Day 8: Do The Work

Steven Wendel on December 8, 2014

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.  -Nehemiah 4:6 “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.”   ― Thomas A. Edison “It's hard to beat a person who never gives up.”     ― Babe Ruth I was meeting with the national leader of a successful campus ministry in the Czech Republic.  He had been leading this ministry for a number of years, and his organization had the reputation of leading a significant number of...

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Day 7:How blessed are the feet that are properly attired

Steven Wendel on December 7, 2014 Comments (1)

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good long as they're appropriately attired. Czechs have an obsession with footwear and the etiquette that applies thereto.  As a firm rule, no shoes may be worn in the house.  Shoes must be checked at the door, but barefoot is never an appropriate option either.  Rather one must wear bačkory, best translated "house slippers".  Any thoughtful host will have a supply ready for his guests as they enter his home, yet any Czech visitor will be sure to bring their own.  Czechs always have their footwear at the ready.  This...

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Day 6: 'Tis the season for...demons?

Steven Wendel on December 6, 2014

Happy Saint Mikulaš Day! You’re 7 years old, sitting at your desk in your grade school classroom.  There’s an undefined uneasiness in the air today, and it’s making you nervous, but that’s nothing new, you’re always nervous.  You’ve been nervous every day since you immigrated to this faraway place, where people don’t speak your language, and where they do nearly everything just a little bit differently.  The way that they talk to the teacher, the way they play on the playground, the way that they hold their utensils in the cafeteria.  It’s not that they are strange per say, just different. ...

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Day 5: Fear vs. Faith

Cari Wendel on December 5, 2014 Comments (0)

Most of us, however, don’t win our spiritual sight in a moment; it comes or goes in fractional increments. –Gary Thomas   I thought if I could help people without being in vocational ministry, I could avoid the fears of my heart.  The sacrifice of exiting the secure realm of the secular work force, and entering ministry had no pull for me.  I had grown up a PK (preacher’s kid), and regularly observed a side of church that would harden even the softest of hearts.  I thought a degree in psychology and a dip in the pool of helping foster...

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Day 4: The Handyman

Steven Wendel on December 4, 2014

For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all   -1 Corinthians 9:19 I was a freshman in high school when I first heard the still small voice.  It was Easter break, and our youth group was on a mission trip in Mexico building simple housing structures for inhabitants of a small town ravaged by natural disaster and poverty.  I learned 2 things that come to mind on that trip: 1.    I lack a fundamental talent for building, carpentry, and general handiness that will serve to humble me throughout the course of my earthly life....

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Day 3: Fools for Christ

Steven Wendel on December 3, 2014 Comments (0)

We are fools for Christ’s sake  -1 Corinthians 4:10   Cari and I were sitting down in our office with our language tutor for our daily Czech lesson when I asked her for some clarification.  We enjoyed having a private tutor rather than a teacher in a formal class because in addition to language teaching, we also had a cultural guide.  The intimate setting of private tutoring allowed for a level of interaction simply impossible in a classroom.  Almost daily we would ask her advice on everything from how to manage the waiting room at the doctor(a system much different than our...

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Day 2: Baptist Bumper Cars

Steven Wendel on December 2, 2014 Comments (0)

We must always behave with good manners, realizing that the Lord is present. –Clement of Alexandria Context: The Czech Republic is the least religious, most atheistic nation in the world today.  We serve in partnership with the Czech Baptist Union.  Baptists represent approximately 0.02% of the Czech population. It was August of 2011.  We had arrived back in Czech in June with our 5 kids and Hilary our short-term nanny who came along to help with our transition and the birth of Wendel baby #6.  Cari was VERY pregnant, and we had temporarily relocated to Prague for the birth of...

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A Journey Observed: Day 1

Steven Wendel on December 1, 2014 Comments (0)

  Hello Friend, For the next 30 days, we’re going on a journey.  We want you to come with us.  Don’t worry, it won’t require much from you, not if you don’t want it to anyway.  The burdens of time, effort, and planning for this particular pilgrimage lie squarely on our shoulders.  A pilgrimage, yes, a sacred journey.  A diversion from the churning noise of life, toward a purposeful, succinct, and clear end…a mission.  A mission to remind ourselves of the goodness of God, His mercies toward us, what He has done in us and through us, and what He...

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Havel Denounces "Atheist Civilisation"

Andrew Brown on October 13, 2010

Vclav Havel made a perfectly extraordinary speech yesterday, condemning ours as "the first atheist civilisation", which "has lost its connection with the infinite and with eternity". Havel is not often thought of as a defender of religion, and the Czech republic is by some measures the most completely dechristianised part of Europe...>read more

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One Nation Over With God

Christian Falvey on October 10, 2010

One Nation Over With God Statistics about Czechs often seem to me to come from some other country I don?t know. But there are two popular ones that I can vouch for: that Czechs drink more beer than anyone in the universe, and that 81% of them are atheists, agnostics or non-believers. The rationale behind either of those is a question for a longer discussion, but both of them seem like rather obvious positions to me. I like living in a place where there is lots of beer and no god...

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Prague Overrun by Friendly People...When Will it all End?

Christia Falvey on August 22, 2010

Prague Overrun by friendly people Some people say that Czechs are unfriendly. Obviously, such people are simply not in the right place at the right time. Try any central Prague metro exit or the top of Wenceslaus Square for example, where I have been stopped by the friendliest Czechs imaginable every day for the last two months now...

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Starbucks comes to Prague, Czech Republic

Carolyn Wendel on January 31, 2008

Cesk rozhlas 7 - Radio Praha,By Rosie JohnstonThere was a media frenzy surrounding the opening of the Czech Republic?s first Starbucks on Friday. In its new branch on Prague?s Malostransk nmest, the world?s largest coffee-shop chain promises to ?enrich people?s lives, one cup of coffee at a time?. It remains to be seen whether Starbucks will live up to its promise, and attract Czechs to pay more than the average for a mug of premium coffee. 

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