Monday, May 18, 2009

Greetings From Prague

Finally, I have internet! It’s been so long since my last update, I know, but I thank you for waiting patiently as I continue my work over here. Last time you all heard from me, I was in Sarajevo. It was so wonderful being in Sarajevo. I really think we did a lot of great things while we were there. We did work in a ministry center which is used by numerous ministries in Sarajevo, taught English to some really wonderful and cute kids, helped a recovering drug addict who is now a believer (great testimony) fix a hole in his roof and paint his rooms and met so many people…it was great. We left Sarajevo for Budapest on May 9th. It was sad to go, but we knew God had more planned for us.

Riding on the train to Budapest wasn’t bad; we arrived later that evening and got to the place we were staying. Budapest is so beautiful. If you get the chance to go there, you should really go. While praying, one of our team members felt led to go and travel to where the prostitutes are and give them flowers so they can know they are worth more than what money can buy and are precious to God. We took the metro to a certain area in the city and split off in two’s and three’s. I thought we would be able to find them rather easily. We took a small back street and began walking. After about 15 minutes and seeing no one, we decided to turn back (my teammate and I). Only problem was, we couldn’t remember which way was back. So, we picked a road and began walking down it, still hoping to find someone to give these flowers to. We finally found the main street and started walking back. We were pretty sure that we weren’t giving these flowers to any body at this point so we just tried to meet up with our team again at the meeting point and not be lost. While we were walking down the street, we saw some blankets flowing off a stoop. As we approached, we saw a small, old lady lying on the stoop, a dirty pillow under her head and a beaten rag of a blanket lying on top of her. She didn’t really notice me but something led me to approach her. I slowly bent down and raised the flowers in front of her (a bouquet of flowers). When she met my eyes, I could see loneliness and sadness, distrust and a caution stirring within. Her eyes fell to the flowers and then back to me, when I watched all of those previous things break. She finally realized what I was doing. Slowly, she reached out and took the flowers, almost in disbelief that I was even real. When her hands touched, her face was stone, not sure what to think, but as she pulled the flowers from my hand, everything in her seemed to melt and hope seemed to shine out of her. She looked up and gave me one of the most heartfelt and beautiful smiles I may have seen on this entire trip, at least since the Serbian woman. As we walked away, we both turned back and looked at the woman; she was smelling the flowers with a wonder and amazement in her eyes. She seemed peaceful and content, even if just in that moment. It was a beautiful sight to see.

After Budapest, we headed up to Kosice, Slovakia to stay with Dayna, one of my mother’s friends and one of my missions’ supporters (who is reading this same email as you and has gotten all the same emails). Slovakia was great. Dayna was such a wonderfully hospitable person and helped us so greatly. Her family will be moving soon to Belgrade, Serbia. Please pray for their move and for their family. They are really amazing people. While we were in Slovakia, we were working alongside US Steel. Half of the team worked in a school primarily made up of Roma children from the surrounding village and the other worked manual labor fixing up a Jewish Cemetery and some other work. I worked in the school. It was a lot of fun being with the children, playing games, speaking English, answering questions and just showing them they are loved. After a few days in Kosice, we rented cars and drove to Krakow (where I had authentic Polish Pierogies…first time having pierogies outside of Pittsburgh). Driving through Europe is a lot of fun. It’s really very beautiful here. Krakow is a lovely place but a sadness still lingers there from World War II. Only about 30 minutes from the city is Auschwitz. It was very difficult to visit a place where so much evil happened. I’ve studied a lot of World War II and the evil’s of the Third Reich, but studying and seeing with my own eyes are two very different things. I don’t remember praying that day while we were there. I didn’t know what to pray. I didn’t entirely know what to think other than questioning how human beings could do such terrible things to other human beings. It terrified me. Afterwards, I couldn’t keep but to pray that this never happens ever again. Ever. Sadly, I know the truth that this is still happening today in so many parts of the world. The Karen tribe of Burma, forced into neighboring Thailand so as to not be exterminated permanently, the Acholi-tribes of Northern Uganda, the Rwandan massacre and Bosnian massacre, both in the 90’s, Apartheid in South Africa, the war raging in the Congo. Why are we ignoring these issues? How can we sit around and discuss the horrors of the past and ignore the present? Why are their 27 million slaves in the world today, more than were transported during 400 years of Trans-Atlantic slave trade? Why are women stripped of their rights and dignity and forced to have sex – and no one does anything?

I guess this is one of the reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing. I can’t sit around and do nothing. I really hope I’m making a dent in making this world a better place, even if just a little bit, while on this trip. We continued onward from Krakow to Prague. Once again, Prague is absolutely beautiful and if you ever get an opportunity to go, you really need to take it. It’s astounding. So much history here. So many beautiful buildings. 14th century homes line the streets in the upper sections of Old Town. Gothic churches, enormous synagogues, more statues than I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s really incredible. Prague used to be in the Top 20 most visited places in the world for sex tourism. While it’s illegal in Czech Republic to practice prostitution, it’s very tolerated. During our time here, we will possibly try, like in Budapest, to meet and talk with some of these ladies, hear their stories and show them a love like they haven’t known, a love that goes beyond human touch and monetary exchange. A love that cannot be bought or sold, but one that dwells within each and every one of us. A love that has been distorted and slowly destroyed by the grotesques nature of mankind as these women are abused and kept bonded within their own hell. Maybe they aren’t all trapped within their profession, but many are slaves – there is no doubt about that. Many, if not most, did not choose to do this but were deceived into such a horrible line of work. While it can be hard for us as westerners to understand how you could fall for something like this, the facts remain and the truth is that a lot of these girls were tricked and for fear of their lives and their families lives, they stay and do what they need to do. I hope we can show them they are worth more than what they can perform. They are worth the entire world.

Thank you so much for your continued support. Please pray for our team who was in Russia, they have arrived in Amsterdam and are working with prostitutes there as well. They know it’s going to be very hard for them and are asking for prayer support as I too ask you to keep them in prayer. The Morocco team is still doing work there, and great work at that. Please keep them in prayer as well. We will be going to Germany and then Amsterdam next. It’s been a long trip but a good one at that. I want you to know that your support has been so crucial to my being here and I can’t thank you all enough for how you’ve blessed this team and me. Though you are not here, you are just as much a part of this trip as I am or anyone else who is here with me, and I do believe that. Thank you for partnering with me in this. I really hope and pray that the Lord will bless you all so very much. I will be back in Pittsburgh this summer and am very excited to share more of my experiences with you all. Thank you again. God Bless.



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