Update #5 – Czech Republic

Hello everyone! Jon here! Welcome back to the next thrilling installment of our heroes’ epic journey through Prague!

 I’d like to take a moment to thank my friends, my family, the family of my friends, and the friends of my family for taking the time to read this blog post. And viewers like you. Thank you.

Now, for those of you who enjoyed the length and detail of our last update, brought to you by Paul, you’re in luck! If not, well, I apologize, but I’m really not all that sorry because I’m about to share an equally long update anyway. So please silence your cell phones, buckle your seatbelts, and keep all hands and arms inside the vehicle –  you’re in for a bumpy ride!

Alright, we return to find our heroes where we last left them – Monday afternoon! That evening, we went to an open-air market for well-priced souvenirs, but none of us ended up buying much more than the odd scarf or trinket.

And now on to Tuesday morning! On Tuesday, Andrei and I joined Paul and Jeff at a technical high school in Kralupy (I had to *Czech* the spelling on this before we posted) alongside George, another member of Jeff’s church, and a young man from Detroit named Isaac. (Isaac, I discovered, attends a church named Remedy in the Czech town of Poděbrady. Those of you from my home church may recognize this as the church of another pastor I’ve worked with in the past, which was a very pleasant surprise!) I’m a Computer Science major myself over at Jessup, so needless to say I was excited to talk about geeky stuff like computers and video games with these students! (If you’re into that kind of thing, by the way, they specialize in networking – setting up and maintaining computer networks, etc.) It was a long day filled with fun discussion, and we returned to find the rest of the team (Becky, Krista, Lana, and Miraya) working in the library. While we were away, Lana and Miraya had been helping Meredith with a program for a local public school in the morning, while Becky and Krista covered books and began the monumental task of cleaning all the bookshelves in the library. That evening we made breakfast for dinner back in the apartment, with Krista, Paul, and Miraya taking the forefront on cooking French toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon (that may or may not have actually been ham). Afterwards we enjoyed a pleasant evening of watching the first half of “Father of the Bride” before going to bed to get ready for the coming day.

Wednesday morning, Miraya and Krista joined Paul and Jeff in Kralupy while Andrei and I remained with Becky and Lana in the library. Before the day began, though, Andrei, Becky, and I joined Laurie to pray with members of her church for Prague and the Czech Republic in front of the National Museum at O’ Dark Thirty (actually 6:15). It was amazing to see all that God has been doing already before we ever set foot in Prague, and humbling to realize that I get to play a part, however small, in God’s plan. The day mostly consisted of our respective routine library tasks – Becky spent the entire day scanning documents into the library file system, Lana performed inventory of the craft supplies in the children’s closet, and Andrei worked hard to finish painting the upstairs flats’ doorways. (Huge shoutouts to Becky and Andrei, by the way, for sticking with those all day, as tiring and tedious as they may have been in the moment – they were a huge blessing to Jim and Laurie, and Andrei had been painting since last week!)

Wednesday evening, Jim, Laurie, and Meredith took the team out to dinner at Olše, a restaurant where most of us tried the classic Czech dish of Svíčková, which is steak in a special sauce with bread dumplings, topped with cream and cranberries. It was delicious, and afterwards we all went out for gelato! The team that had won Monday’s scavenger hunt (Paul, Becky, and Krista) received their prize – a second scoop of gelato! It was fantastic. I got a scoop of lemon, which tasted strangely like Chick-Fil-A’s lemonade. We also saw a few buildings that were relics of the Communist era along the way – powerful reminders of the pain that Czechoslovakia suffered before its liberation during the Velvet Revolution during the late 80s. That was also when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia; they split peacefully after student protests in 1989 forced the Communist government to relinquish power, and—Wait, what? You want to hear more about us? Well, alright…we returned to the flat to play a few games of Village Idiot, a card game Krista introduced us to that we’ve been playing pretty much whenever we have free time. We taught Jim and Laurie how to play, and we can probably teach you how to play too if you ask! Anyway, after a dramatic finale in which Jim soundly bested me, we all hit the hay.

Thursday rolled around, and Becky and Lana took their turn with Paul and Jeff while Miraya and Krista stayed behind at the library with us. Krista and Becky continued cleaning shelves and covering books, and Miraya and I continued working together on a project – but first, some backstory:

Every summer, Jim and Laurie host a huge book sale to generate extra funds for the library – they devote two entire rooms to setting out boxes for patrons to browse, which requires tons of effort for setup and teardown. So this year, they want to post the catalog digitally so they can simply retrieve the requested book when someone wants it rather than putting out all those boxes at once. This is where Miraya and I come in – we were tasked with photographing and inventorying all the books in all the boxes for the booksale. We had a pretty good system down, too: we get a set of boxes, Miraya opens one up, takes a book out, puts it on a stand, takes a photo, and moves on to the next one. Then she gives me the SD card with the photos on it and I transfer them to my laptop so I can label them with their titles and authors, and organize them into folders by box. While I’m doing this, Miraya keeps snapping away until I’m done with the previous batch, and then the cycle repeats. It took many long hours over both weeks, but Miraya finally finished photographing the last of the boxes Thursday afternoon! She cranked out a total of 69 boxes over the two weeks, each containing 20-30 books on average, almost 30 of which she finished Thursday alone! She was super excited to finally be done with it – and I was only 16 boxes behind with the labeling and sorting (which is less than it sounds like).

Thursday evening, Becky and Andrei had a romantic date night around Prague (which I’ll let them keep to themselves), while us students (Krista, Lana, Miraya, Paul, and myself) finished souvenir shopping at the open-air market we visited Monday night, then joined Meredith to hit the local mall, Flora, for food and more shopping! Paul, South Asian by blood, was excited to finally have Indian food, and the girls shopped for clothes after dinner. Our shopping wasn’t over yet, though – we visited the mall’s Albert (a Czech grocery store chain like Safeway) to get more food and souvenirs in the form of sweets! We rounded out the night with more Village Idiot with Becky and Andrei, and then went to sleep once more (as humans are wont to do).

Alright, on to Friday! Yesterday was our last day of library work, so (after taking a much-needed group photo) we got our rears in gear and busted a major move to finish cleaning everything. Members of the team were hard at work dusting, vacuuming, cleaning windows, and otherwise pouring elbow grease into every corner of the library. I mostly focused on labeling and organizing those 16 boxes’ worth of photos, and finally caught up to Miraya. After cleaning the library, we went to lunch at a delicious Kebab restaurant that we had visited earlier this week. (But I don’t remember when, so this is where I’ll mention it!) Jim took us on a walk to the National Memorial on Vítkov Hill, which famously hosts a huge statue of Jan Žižka mounted on a horse, as well as a tomb dedicated to unknown soldiers who died in WWII and some of the best views you can get of Prague. After the walk, we all went to the mall to get some dinner (and so the ladies could fit in some more shopping). That evening, Meredith took us to her church’s youth group, Youth Praha, for their monthly “The Drop” event, which is a hangout and an open mic night! (The ladies may or may not have taken an entire bag of McDonald’s, plus McFlurries, onto the metro on their way to meet us. Paul and Lana would like to remind the audience that carbs don’t count overseas.) Paul and I competed with two students in a Karaoke competition, and during the open mic the students showcased some serious talent. They were busting out songs, guitar solos, some spoken word – heck, the youth pastor himself rapped from an album he’s releasing! After Youth Praha, we returned to Meredith’s flat to help her prep kebabs for a children’s picnic she’s hosting on Saturday – where I began writing this post!

Even though it’s been a fun week with lots of good food and fantastic sights, it’s been so much more than just that. We may not be able to see the direct results of our work yet, but we know that God can use even something as small as library work to do amazing things. Our goal was to assist Jim and Laurie in the library and bless them, and at the end of the day, that’s what we’ve been doing. The rest is up to God!

And this, sadly, is where tonight’s story ends. Join us next time for the thrilling conclusion to this epic saga! It’s the grand finale that you definitely don’t want to miss! Peril! Danger! Excitement! Relative safety! Heartfelt discussions! Divine revelation! Elephants! Who knows what’s in store? Find out in a few days, same bat-time, same bat-channel!

Anyway, thanks for hanging in there for another novel of an update! See you all soon,

-Jon

P.S. – Due to complications (i.e. time crunches) at the time of publishing, we’ll be sending the photos for this update with our next post, but here is one of Paul doing a classic faceswap to tide you over until more photos can be posted.