Monday, July 1, 2019

New year. New challenges. New chances.
“How did you start the new year?” – Well, I spent the first day of the new year in trains and trams... After a great Christmas Holiday and the celebration of New Year’s Eve with my family back home in Germany, I wanted to go back to Most as soon as possible! It was nice to see my family again, but Most is the city I belong to right now - at least my home till August. Here there is work waiting for me and a language to learn, Bridges to build and Walls to break. Here I face challenges, learn about the Czech culture and meet new friends!
After an 10 hour journey I finally arrived back in my apartment, and the very next day I spent the afternoon playing games at Café Most; I absolutely enjoyed learning new board games and playing it with kids from the city. They taught me some Czech words and were very patient with me!
Often times I am asked what my daily schedule looks like; It’s quite flexible and I’m not playing board games all the time, although that is an important way to make connections with the locals!😊 Getting to know people and the culture as well as learning the language are very important parts of my daily schedule. As well, I am in contact with other people who are involved with the Atlantic Bridge project here, such as my Project Coordinator and youth leaders from some of the local churches. Together, we work together to organize youth exchanges and other events; for example we’re currently working on a youth weekend in Dresden with Czech and German youth in the up and coming months!
Last week, three friends from the Mennonite Church in Dresden and a guy I met here in Most came to help me with painting the apartment! We had such a good time together and I am really grateful for their help! 😊 I am looking forward to the weekend in Dresden when we will all meet together again!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Peace Weekend in Dresden

Tine Look reporting from the Czech Republic

As an EVS Volunteer for Atlantic Bridge, I am used to the term "Building Bridges" - but how can this idea come alive? Last weekend (29th to 31th March) I  experienced it with a group of 20 people from all over the world. 
A team of youth leaders from the Mennonite church Dresden and Ian and me (volunteers of Atlantic Bridge) organised a youth events for Czechs and Germans! Moreover, two Chinese and one Japanese joined us, who are studying at the university in Dresden! We called it "The Peace Weekend"._ 

On Friday evening I arrived with four czech youth in Dresden. The German youth group already had prepared a great meal for us and while dinner we had some time to get to know each other. For the evening we prepared some games with the theme of  *"Peace between cultures".* Next, we used the evenings on Friday and Saturday for worship songs and hearing a small devotion about the day's theme. 
The topic for Saturday was *"Peace between God and humans"* . We started the day with the story of Brother Andrew, a Dutch man, smuggling bibles throughout communist europe! - but we didn't just hear the story, we also made it come alive, because the leaders from Dresden prepared a really cool city game in the Old Town of Dresden!! The idea behind it was that we had to smuggle bibles in small groups from one historical place to the other. On our phones we got questions and hints about where the next place would be!! This game was a big success, also because of the wonderful weather God gave us! :-) 
In the evening we cooked a traditional czech meal: Svičkova!
On Sunday we used our chance to present some pictures in the Sunday service of the Mennonite church. 
All together it was a successful weekend, even though the language difference was a barrier sometimes and we had to sleep in sleeping bags. We as leaders learnd more about leading intercultural groups and also the youth gave a good feedback for the weekend. A czech said :

I wish I can be on more events like this. It was super exciting and encouraging.

Friday, March 15, 2019

My guest home weekend in Ouddorp

Guesthome in Ouddorp

Ouddorp is a small coastal village on the island of Goeree Overflakee, just below the big city of Rotterdam. Very nice people live here and many of them go to church. My task on this island is to find out about youth in the churches, what they think, how many youth groups there are and if they are interested in building bridges.

On the 17th of November i went to my lovely host family in Ouddorp. It was quite adventurous to get there from Kruiningen but I succeed. Almost. The buttons in my last bus didn’t work so when I wanted to leave the bus I couldn’t because even if I pushed the buttons three times just to be sure, it didn’t stop. I couldn’t be sure. So I went to the bus driver who was very helpful and kind by the way even if he didn’t really speak English. So he stopped at the next bus stop and I was just thinking how to get back to the other bus station when fortunately Elma (my host mother) just appeared from her car. It turned out that she was waiting for me to pick me up at the bus station so when the bus came, she saw me on the bus and she just followed the bus by car till the next stop.

When I got to their home, I met with Hannah who was their 18 years old daughter and later Jaïra who was their youngest daughter (basically they are 3 but the oldest girl doesn’t live with them anymore). Anyway, so after that we sat down around the table and talked a little bit about myself, what am I doing, and why, and about the tasks what I’ve got from John for the weekend. Later me and Hannah went to the supermarket by bike and bought some ingredients for my oat cookies as we planned to bake some. It was very fun. As soon as we got home and started to bake everything became more fun. I turned my Christmas playlist on and then we did the cookies together with Hannah while we were chatting. I really enjoyed it. And everyone enjoyed the cookies what made me quite happy. As the night came we started the Posthuma family’s Saturday night routines. The father made some fries with croquettes (as I couldn’t eat that he made me fish. It was delicious.) what we ate next to the tv as it was a family movie-dinner night. The food was very delicious and it was nice to watch a movie together. After the movie they told me a little bit more about Santa Claus and that how Dutch people celebrate it. It was quite new for me as here it is almost like a pre-Christmas but in Hungary it’s just only one night. You get some chocolate and that’s it. At home it’s mostly just a celebration for the children. Here in the Netherlands they also have an own Santa Claus TV channel. After that they almost told me everything, we sang some Santa Claus music together then they asked me to bring  my shoe in the living room next to their shoes so maybe the Santa Claus will also give me something. At this point I felt a little bit embarrassed as I felt like I am bothering their Santa Claus celebration but I also knew that if I don’t put my shoe there then I would maybe hurt their feelings so I did it. After we were chatting a little bit but I went to the bed quite early because it was a long day.

Next day we woke up early, ate our breakfast and got ready to the church. And the Santa Claus also came so we checked what we got. I am very grateful to them for involving me in this and That they bought me sugar free chocolate. It was so nice how they tried to do their best. As soon we got ready we went to their church together. They had a very nice service. This service was a special one where the pastor mentioned the people who died and the people who were born in that year. I had the opportunity to speak with the youth leader of the church thanks to Elma and later with the pastor as well what hepled me a lot to be done with my tasks what I’ve got from John. I had a very successful talk with the youth leader and the pastor as well. They both liked the idea and the pastor even said that their church is always open for Bridge Builders. After the service we and played some board games with the girls. Later we ate Lunch together, then we went to the beach to collect the plastics together and to walk a little bit. I enjoyed it so much That we collected plastics. I am personally quite worried about the nature so it made me feel very good that we made something useful like that. We also collected some sea shells and saw two seals. It was cool.  I mean you can’t just see randomly seals in the nature anytime a few meters away from you. After that we went back to their place. Everyone was quite tired so we just took a rest and had nice conversations. The dinner of the last night was gluten and lactose free lasagna. And I can’t even tell how delicious it was. The girls also mentioned that I should come more times if they are always going to prepare these tasty foods. Well I definitely agreed with them. After dinner we continued what we did before: taking a rest and just talking, have some nice time together. I went to sleep early again as I had to go to teach next day. The morning was very slow. I mean I was quite slow as I was tired but I got ready in time. I even took a picture with Elma and Hannah before I left so I can have a nice memory of them. Unfortunately the others were still asleep so they couldn’t be on the picture.

I was so glad to be a part of that family even if just for a weekend. They were very nice and hospitable family. I very liked how I could always feel how they like each other. I can’t even imagine how big love there can be in their house during the Christmas Eve but if I’d have to describe it, i would say a super huuuuge endless love. And I would like to wish that kind of love to feel to all the people on earth for Christmas because this is what that is about: showing your loved ones how happy you are to have them in your life and spend some gold time together.

Dinner at the Grey Cat in Antwerp

There is Tine on the left, Maikel in the middle and me!

Dinner at the Grey Cat in Antwerp

by Kincsö Horvat

The next stop of the tour of the region was Antwerp. We visited the Grey Cat community. 

I had the opportunity to prepare Hungarian lens soup for 24 people. Moreover this is the only soup that I know how to prepare so I didn't leave a choice for anyone.

That Friday seemed very adventurous and I couldn't wait to meet the Grey Cat community. I really like them, they are very kind people and also the city where they live is a quite cool place.
However, we wasn't really in a hurry in the morning. We woke up, had a meeting, then an hour rest. I don't know what happened to me in that moment but I just had the mood to bake a cake and surprise myself with it so I just started to make my brownie. During that, Michael, my cooking mate arrived and we went together to the supermarket to buy the groceries for the dinner in Antwerp.   An hour later we were ready to the departure with John, Micheal, Wim, Tine and Ian. As soon as we arrived in Antwerp I've got a small heart attack as I realised I forgot the most important ingredients like paprika powder,  and gluten free flour (i know i was so silly) for the soup. So yes.... The moment when we had to leave the house was so sharp and hasty that i just simply forgot it. Thanks to my memory as soon as we arrived to Antwerp my first task was to hunt a supermarket and buy the special ingredients for the soup. I very enjoyed walking and exploring the streets of Antwerp all by myself. The workers in the supermarket were very kind and super helpful and i went back to the bridge builder team with a big success. They were waiting for me in the Koffieklub where they met the owner of the Koffieklub who even told the special story of that place. The Koffieklub of Antwerp gives a second chance for women who used to sold their body but would like to stop. They have the chance to find a safe place in the Koffieklub where they can start their life again next to a normal job. Personally I very respect these kind of places and appreciate those people who make these places possibly.

  Later we quickly went to a little sightseeing. We saw the old protestant church and the Saint Jansplein market. The Saint Jansplein market was built on the 8 of october 1868. It's located to the north of the city and it is the one of the biggest squares of the city. There are also weekly markets on Wednesdays and Fridays. It used to be a place where those women lived who's husband died in the war. The conclusion after the sightseeings and my personal little discoveries in the city was that i just started to like Antwerp the more and more. After the sightseeing we went to the Grey Cat Community's main place and me and Michael started to prepare the vegetables for cooking. It was very fun to cook together. John, Ian, Tine, and Wim helped us to cut the vegetables and everyone had the opportunity to show their potato peeling talent. The cooking was a little bit stressful because it took a long time for the water to boil up but besides that everything went fine. Me and Michael had a good time cooking together and talking with the members of the Grey Cat. Unfortunately the end of the cooking was a little bit stressful as I started to run out of time but thank god the people could wait a little bit more.

I was very happy that my soup didn't kill anyone and that the people liked it. After the soup I ate my life's first stampot. Stampot is a traditional Dutch dish with  the combination of mashed potato and one or different vegetables. This stampot was made from mashed potato, bacon, salad, and usually there is also cheese in it but thanks to my lactose intolerance I couldn't enjoy that part.
There was also 'jus' next to it which is a brown sauce. For dessert we had a super big cake as it was the birthday of José. She is also a member of the grey cat community. We spoke and had a lot of fun during the dinner together.

It was real honor that John had so many trust in me that he let me prepare the soup for the dinner in Antwerp. I very enjoyed my time there.

I really do hope that in the future we are going to have more activities with them.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Big Picture 2.0

The Big Picture 2.0

Earlier this week I received an email from my sending organisation; they were asking me to write my mid time evaluation. Really? Already half of my EVS time is over? I almost couldn’t believe it, but well, they were right. 5 months are over, 6 months are still to come. So I guess it is time to take a look at the Big Picture again!
Out of these 5 months I have been living in Most for only 9 weeks. The other three months I spent on the music tour or for other activities with Atlantic Bridge in the Netherlands, but still – 9 weeks of living independent and on my own in Most! This I surely know: God is painting His picture and nothing can hold Him back from doing it!

A time full of experiences
I visited churches and youth groups and started to build up friendships. I got to know Most and visited cities like Prague, Carlsbad and Pilsen. I painted my apartment and visited other volunteers. I built up contacts with schools and churches and right now I am planning on some smaller activities and big events. Sometimes I meet youth to practice their German and my Czech and once a week I have my Czech lessons... Every two weeks I teach english for a mixed group of old and young people. I started to regularly meet a friend and his grandma in the next village and I hope that the old lady will teach me more about the Czech culture (for example how to cook Czech food) - but my absolute highlight so far was an international futsal tournament in Prague I participated in! Some friends from Germany came and we played together as the representative team for Ambassadors Football Germany!
I am sure that all these things are only possible through God's power and strength, as we read in Isaiah 40:29: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. And when I look on the small and big events that are still going to come I am sure that God will bless every work that praises Him – but let’s be honest: How often do we look back to the cross? How often do we really live for Christ’s sake, knowing that all good things come from Him? My opinion is that here are two aspects that hold us, and that hold me, back from intimacy with Christ: comfort and volume – We don’t feel a need to speak to Him and we are too busy.


Friday, October 5, 2018

GRAVESEND: 28,29 September 2018

BEFORE: We are Kinsco, from Hungary, Ian from Texas USA, Steve from New Zealand and Ainsley from Australia and we are here in England on a mission to build bridges. Already as our little travel group we represent four countries four cultures and three language groups. We will be working with a youth group from Emmanuel Baptist church in Gravesend, England which is headed up by Wanda Barnard who came to England with her husband Chris, from South Africa 15 years ago. The youth group, in the centre of Gravesend, is a multicultural community with representation from more than a few Language groups.

We are here to inspire these young people to live by the laws of bridge building, to see the potential there is in meeting and making friends with others from different cultures: a lesson it seems they will very well be able to teach us.

Gravesend is an English town with ancient roots, going as far back as early stone-age settlements. For recorded history, the name Gravesham(which is the common name used by the townsfolk to this day) is found in the Domesday book of 1086, when it belonged to Odo, Earl of Kent. How the name came about is still a subject of uncertainty amongst the locals, with one bit of folklore saying it is where the London graves ended during the Plague, but there is no actual evidence to this claim. Most people agree it probably came from a Saxon farmer by the name of Gerevesend, who owned the land before it came under Kent.

The town is home to one of the oldest surviving markets in the country, with its earliest charter date being 1268. Located on the Thames is one of the oldest pubs in Kent, the Three Daws; famous for its smuggling tunnels leading directly to the river, providing a hasty means of escape for those flying under the law! Gravesham was also home to a smattering of notable figures, including author Charles Dickens, who attended and allegedly taught at a sailors church located right on the river and was used for those just coming off from their voyages.
Perhaps more interestingly, St. George’s is the final resting place of Rebecca, better known as Pocahontas. She was on her way from London to the Commonwealth of Virginia, with her husband John Rolfe and two year old son Thomas, when she became fatally ill near Gravesend. Her body was taken ashore and buried under the chancel of the parish church on the 21st of March, 1617. However in 1727 the church was destroyed by fire, so her exact resting place is unknown. Today you can find a statue of Pocahontas in front of the current church of St. George, and in recent history a group of Native American representatives from various tribes visited the grounds to issue formal acceptances of past grievances, and also to honour the memory of Princess Pocahontas.

The leader of the youth group, Wanda Barnard who was the kindest and most people oriented person who I ever met took care of us while we stayed there. At night we slept at a very kind and an amazing host family. They were very nice and it was a pleasure to meet with them.
Next day after saying goodbye to the family we went on sightseeing with Wanda. For first we visited the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara what is the one of the biggest Sikh Gurdwara in Europe.
We went into an old church what wasn't used as a church anymore but as a musicians practice room. We met with great people there who played music for us and Steve had also the possibility to try the electronic guitar. We saw a little event which was organized for the memory of the Second World War. We had so much fun that day. In the end the Bridge builders team had a picnic with Wanda, on a little hill in Gravesend where we had a great view to the town and the sea. After the picnic Wanda took us back to our car and we said goodbye to her. On the way back home we were all very tired and a little bit sad that we had to leave such a beautiful place behind. If I'd have to describe this travel in one world than I would say it was magnificent. The concert couldn't be better than it was, the kids were really lovely, and I can't be happier that I had the opportunity to meet with such a good people like Wanda and the host family. Gravesend was also an amazing place. I hope that someday I'll get back there.

What an amazing time we had with our kind, generous, knowledgeable and wise host. Wanda fed us according to our various dietary requirements, gave us a very special tour of her city (among them a visit to the very beautiful Pocahontas statue, and the Marketplace of 1263, still used today), and introduced us to her youth group where we shared a little of our music and stories and encouraged her young people to do the same. This is a thriving multicultural community which brings healing, inspiration, strength and support to young people growing up in often difficult circumstances, in a city fraught with poverty. The church community is strong in Gravesend, with the churches across the city working together several times each year to put on community events, bringing the gospel to life in a very real way.

-Steve and Ainsley Apirana, and the 2018 AB Intern Team.