Monday, December 13, 2010


i've been in czech for 4 months now, and while i love my parents, friends, and church family back in indiana, my heart is here in ostrava. you might say that being in central europe for a year lends itself to amazing travel opportunities, and while yes, it does, i have found that i don't really want to travel much. in fact, i haven't even been out of the czech republic yet. europe has always held a special place in my heart, and after studying french for 5 years, it has always been a dream of mine to travel all throughout france. greece, hungary, croatia, ireland, england, spain, portugal, belgium, germany, poland, austria, and a trip back to italy are all on my list of places in europe that i deeply desire to visit. but my ministry isn't in any of those places. it's here. in ostrava. in 90% of those other countries, i have no friends to visit...only landmarks. my relationships are here, so why would i want to spend my time anywhere else?

one thing i love about ostrava is that it is not touristy at all. sure, there are postcards available in certain shops, and i've even seen an ostrava calendar. but unlike prague, where there are souvenir shops on every corner and nearly everyone speaks english, ostrava doesn't cater to tourists, especially in terms of the english language. in fact, unless i am around one of the other americans, in class, or hanging out with my czech friends, i rarely hear anyone speaking english. i'm so used to not understanding other conversations around me that when i hear english spoken outside of those situations, it's the strangest feeling. a few weeks ago, i was in my favorite cafe with one of my czech friends, and two guys sat down at a table near us and started speaking english. i became so distracted that trying to maintain the conversation with my friend was nearly impossible. all my brain wanted to do was listen to their conversation.

when i go into a shop, i expect that czech will be spoken and i do my best to communicate my needs using my limited czech vocabulary. therefore, when i can successfully accomplish something (for example, ordering a meal) without 1. the person helping me reverting to english (whether it be to practice their english or to help me out) or 2. feeling like i have a blinking sign on my forehead that says "ignorant american," i feel like i blend in. let me tell you, it's a good feeling. i get a big sense of satisfaction when someone asks me for directions as if i am a local. granted, i also feel a bit helpless because i can't truly help them. however, that's not the point. the point is this: over the past 4 months, i have spent so much time and effort trying to blend in. sometimes i am successful, other times i am not.

in some ways, it is important to blend in. for example, adapting to some aspects of the culture is important. i certainly don't want to do something that would be considered rude or offensive. i also don't want to further the ignorant american stereotype. however, there is one very big part of me that i do not want to camouflage in order to fit in with czech culture: my faith. i may live in a spiritually dark area of the world, but i am not here to hide my light under a bushel; i am here to let it shine. matthew 5:14-16 says, "you are the light of the world. a town built on a hill cannot be hidden. neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. in the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven."

this little light of mine, i'm gonna let it shine.