Prague (Via London) March 2003

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
What a fiasco! Like a responsible child, I ordered the tickets back in September. Each one was $900 so I wanted to watch for fares to see if they would drop. Indeed they did. We received notification in January that our direct flight from St. Louis to London was canceled and we would have to add another five hours to our trip by going though Raleigh Durham, NC. But the good news was I could save $100 by sending my tickets to Dallas to have them reissued, which I did on 1/14. To make a long story short, I went to the airport this morning not knowing if I had a ticket there for sure but with a promise (after 4 phone calls to American Airlines) that I could fly. Needless to say, I was one stressed out pup. But obviously, we got on and every flight ran like clockwork. Although a couple of bumpy rides made Barbara sick, which is a crummy way to begin a trip?

Thursday, March 13
We arrived in London at 7:00 a.m. as scheduled. After immigration and baggage claim, we took the Gatwick express 30 minutes into Victoria Station where we set out with two suitcases, a box of books and two handbags in search of our hotel. Due to notoriously poor London streets signs, our ten minute walk took nearly thirty. We arrived at 9:00 a.m. pretty whipped. The hotel managers let us in our room right away. It was on the top floor (83 steps - Barbara counted). We set an alarm for and hour and a half. Since it was 3:00 a.m. by our body clocks we thought we might appreciate a little nap. Surprisingly, after only an hour Barbara and I both felt like hitting the streets. We walked over to Buckingham Palace where we were just in time for the changing of the guard. Our bus tour then took us around to the major sites: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament and the Tower of London. We got off at the tower and took a very nice tour, including, of course, the crown jewels. We ended our day with a boat trip down river and a tube ride back to Victoria Station where we made our ten minute walk to the hotel, this time without detours.

Friday, March 14
We had a very full day. Our bus tour continued around Hyde Park, Marble Arch and the shop where apparently the Queen buys her underwear. We jumped off at Trafalgar square where we did a bit of window shopping on our way up to the British Museum. I actually choked back tears several different times for the wonder and amazement of all the artifacts I’ve read about and seen in pictures that now lay before my eyes. We left in time for a 5:00 p.m. showing of "Mama Mia” – what a magical night. We chased that with a wonderful dinner at an Indian Restaurant.

Saturday, March 15
We had a couple of hours before we had to race to the airport so we indulged ourselves with a tour inside Westminster Abbey. My dominant impression – there’s a lot of dead people here! I resisted desecrating Darwin’s tomb. The trip to Heathrow Airport was made more difficult by construction on the tube. Hence we had to get off and take a bus – again luggage in tow. But Jim Barnes met us at the airport in Prague as planned and after a surprisingly calm 30 minute taxi ride through the city, we arrived at the flat where we would camp for the next week. (Thank you Erica Chu for being such a good sport about getting kicked out into a hostel, which turned out to be co-ed).

Sunday, March 16
Jim and Laurie Barnes led us to the International Church were I preached the morning message. It is an Evangelical church composed of primarily Anglo, English-speaking people from the U.S., U.K., and other English speaking countries who find themselves in Prague for missionary work, political posts, business or educational purposes. The pastor had asked me to continue his series on Luke, with the story of Zacchaeus (Lk.19:1-10) and Jesus’ incredible purpose statement: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” While this service was quite Americanized it was still set in an international context making it very fascinating for me. We ate with the Barnes and Erica Chu at a wonderful restaurant downtown called The Louve, after which we traipsed around Wenceslas Square, basically killing time before the evening service at Prague Christian Fellowship. This church is comprised of people from 20 different nations (all of whom speak English). It is a mildly Charismatic Vineyard-type affiliate with strong ties to Dallas Texas through the lead elder, John Mullen and his sweet wife Kelsie who are humble and devoted servants of the Lord. It was a pleasure to preach for his flock. It was a full day of new and old friendships and a great way to introduce people to our lecture series for the week.

Monday, March 17
Barbara and I spent the day touring Old Town. We saw the chapel where Jon Huss ("The Goose”) preached the gospel in his native tongue – such revolutionary behavior that he was burned at the sake for it a hundred years before Luther was alive. This earned him the title "Morning Star of the Reformation.” We also saw the 400 year old clock, the over crowded Jewish cemetery and the magnificent Gothic Tyne Church. It was wonderful to see Tomas Sedlacek again. He is a wonderful translator and a progressive Christian thinker. The teaching session, which ran from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. were attended by 16 participants and went very well. The believers engaged the material and I think are eager to grab hold of Jesus. I was most honored by the presence of Tomas Dietrich who is the editor of the largest evangelical Christian magazine in the country. After the session, Tomas Sedlacek seduced us to dinner at restaurant right on the river across from the castle. I sense our friendship and partnership growing.

Tuesday, March 18
Barbara and I made our way to the International Baptist Theological Seminary where we met with Dr. Parush Parushev, dean of Graduate Studies to discuss possibilities of PhD work. He is an impressive man with two earned Doctorates in science and theology. He was more pessimistic about my studies there than I had hoped The problem would be in finding someone with the expertise to handle my proposed dissertation topic on the Historical Jesus. But after a very nice lunch he said he hoped I would apply . . . and I will. I came back exhausted and slept for two hours before the evening session. The teaching was very good and Tomas and Marketa (along with Luke, Tomas’ brother), joined us in the flat for dessert, which Willard Black so kindly provided. It was a late and wonderful evening.

Wednesday, March 19
We got a late start on the day. I worked on filling out the application for PhD work, made some calls to Charles University about possibly studying there, and had lunch with Daniel Hetcho who is the pastor of one of the most stable and growing Czech churches in Prague. He could be an important partner in the future and it was delightful to hear of his life and faith. On the way home we stopped by the museum of communist—what a sad story of occupation and oppression this nation has had to endure form the Hapsburgs to the Nazis to the Communists. No wonder they have been reticent about evangelism in such a climate. The evening sessions were the best so far. Monday night we talked about the Meals of Jesus, then the Ethics of Jesus on, and tonight was the sociological template of Honor/Shame and how that affects our understanding of Jesus’ kingdom and plan. It was very well received.

Thursday, March 20th
Barbara and Willard and I toured the Prague Castle. It was the first truly cold day but Willard’s presence, of course, cheered us. As expected, the Castle conjures up visions and dreams. It is a great place to think about one’s life, purpose, and significance. My translator for this evening, Pavel Hosek, earned his PhD from Charles University and was able to tell me about the protestant faculty there. Quite an exciting possibility! The session was not as well attended tonight but there were a few new faces. My translator, I think, was as excited about the material as anyone. He is a professor at the Evangelical Theological Seminary here in Prague and this may open up future possibilities for partnerships. It is now 10:30 and time to rest.

Friday, March 21st
I was invited to speak at the Christian High School. The kids were great – very eager to talk and visit after our session. I chose to speak about the great commission and how they could be involved in it. From there we went to lunch with Pavel Hosek and he gave me very good information about PhD work at Charles University and was very encouraging to me. We did a bit of shopping on the way home. This evening’s session was a workshop on how to put together a sermon to present Jesus. I was afraid it would not be as well received, particularly by the seminary trained audiences. Boy was I wrong. The web resources, CD, and books that we walked them through were a bit hit. Then we actually took a text and showed how to develop a sermon out of it. It was thrilling how they interacted. Even my translator jumped into the action.

Saturday, March 22nd
We have absolutely nothing we need to get done today. Willard and Barbara and I banged around the city a bit looking for the Museum of Torture. We finally found it and were kind of sorry we did. It was a collection of devices used to torture people in the Middle Ages with explanations of how they worked. Human beings are horribly cruel. We did, however, have a happy event when we went to use the WC and found the Tyne Church was open. Wow, wow, wow! (Sorry, no pictures allowed in churches). We topped off the day with a wild game dinner near the flat and then a Mozart Requiem in one of the grand old theaters. Yes, it was as wonderful as it sounds!

Sunday, March 23rd - Tuesday, March 25th
We attended Daniel’s church, which was, of course, in Czech. It was beautiful to watch the believers love each other. Pray for Daniel, he may be a key to much of the future progress of the Czech church. Barbara and I met with Tomas and Marketa as soon as they returned from their business in Budapest. After touring their beautifully renovated flat, we ate on the hill right across from the lighted Prague Castle overlooking the city at night. It was a magical way to end our trip to Prague. Monday morning we made our way to the airport and found no delays on route to London, even with the war on Iraq. After arriving at our hotel I whisked over to the National Gallery for a whirlwind tour. I came back to the hotel to pick up my bride for a final evening of Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre. After a wonderful buffet breakfast, Tuesday morning, we anxiously made our way back to Gatwick to fly home to our children. We found them healthy, wonderful, and as active as ever. It is good to be home, of course, but we come back changed.

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