The past couple months have witnessed a great deal of miles covered by team-wide activities and travels

. In mid-August we hooked up with our friends in the Prague church for a day split between girls' and guys' activities. The girls traversed Prague in style, soaking up opportunities for shopping and leisurely touring, while the guys rode a series of train and buses up to Ceske Svjcarsko (Czech Switzerland), a quaint little tourist town nestled right on the border with Germany.

After a hot summer taken at breakneck speed the days are beginning to shorten and the temperatures are becoming less decisive,letting us know thatfaH is at hand and that ourtenure here in Olomouc is approaching its first anniversary. It's hard to believe that in just one month we will be celebrating the one-year mark of a straggly, jet-lagged group of friends stepping off a train and onto a rain-soaked platform in their new home, but what a truly remarkable 11 months it has been!

For instance, it has become a team-wide pastime to disabuse ourselves of feelings of competence in our assimilation into Czech life, particularly with the scope of our language abilities, but despite our momentary lapses here and there, we have made quite heartening progress. We have actually reached points where we can cut up with waiters and waitresses, can almost hold sustained conversations with people in the gym and around town, and can read or make educated guesses about most things that we come across. And sure, there are those moments when I mean to ask one of my language professors how many months old her newborn daughter is and ask instead "Kolik ta stoji?" ("How much does she cost?"), but those kinds of blunders are bound to come, and they certainly help break down barriers in unorthodox ways .. Eva, the lovely purveyor of goodness at the Pizza Pronto around the corner, continues to greet us warmly when we pass by her shop, engaging us in extended conversations even after our carry-off dinner has cooled down. And the gym remains a hive of activity for Mitch and me as we repeatedly exhaust ourselves as much mentally as ph¥sically. But perhaps the most resonating feature of this gym is how uri-Czech it seems. Formalities are encoded deeply In Czech

And even though occasional rain showers hung persistently over our paths, they didn't inhibit us from traipsing all over scenic trails that led up, over, and through the mountains, valleys, and rivers that wound all over the landscape. For those of you who have seen The Chronicles of Narnia, much of this region of the Czech Republic lent its natural beauty as the setting for the children's travels. We even found a few bottles of Dr. Pepper, which we toted home like conquering kings.

• After our weekend at Ceske Svjcarsko, we returned to Olomouc with our eyes already set on our next destination. Without even skipping a beat, us guys simply dumped out our bags and refilled them with fresh clothes,food, and outdoor gear for the camping trip we would set out on the very next morning. Invited by several of the members from the church in Bratislava, we took off for three days to the mountains in Western Slovakia, surrounded by some of the most beautiful

envi ron rnent of sweat and t<!W exe man, it a ppea rs .... that the standard civilities are laid aside and everyone enters on the same familiar, amicable ground, And we're most grateful for this exemption from formality berauseit enables us to speak more openly and with less inhibition to Czechs we might otherwise lose time in getting to know for all of the conventional red tape. We might net understand all the heavy doses of slang or mediarelated refers nces being tossed arou nd as we chat ' with people, but I like to imagine ourselves skipping little stones of comprehension across a great lake: though we don't recognlze everything being said, we can retain the general direction of a conversation whJle breaKing the su rfaee j n enough places to keep the stone moving and dipping deeper into the water with each successive skip. So with all of this ground covered in th~whirlwind of months since arriving here, we each feel rather accomplished when we take a moment, look out, and survey the great distance we have traveled,

In the meantime, though, we have undertaken an incredible amount of traveling, slaloming from one side of the Czech Republic to the other with hardly a pause. In mid-Augustwe spent a weekend in Prague, with the girls heading for the city and the guys heading for the woods ofCeske SyYcarsko, and a day later three of us guys made our way to Slovakia for several days of camping with Christians from Bratislava. When we finally resettled in Olornouc we celebrated the climax of an awesome summer with our largest church service to date. Several members of the missions committee at Mitch's home church were here for about a week to acquaint themselves with our work thus far; Sarah Beall's parents, Greg and Cindy Dunseath, were visiting for a couple of weeks; and my own adventure-loving parents, Mike and Shirley Kervin, had cast work aside for a

scenery we have experienced since our arrival in Europe. Soaring peaks, lush valleys, ruinated castles at every turn, and a perfectly located stream near our campsite set the stage for a wonderful few days of fellowship with our Slovak brothers and sisters. Despite Corey's sudden eye infection and a tent whose name can only be applied loosely. the trip went as smoothly as we could have hoped, and we look forward to making this an annual event.

couple of weeks of dOting and traveling, so witn. this addition of 7 OUT worship doubled in size. But even more than our beloved stateside visitors, a loca Christian fam.ily, Rich.ard and Jarmila, added a wonderful Czech flavor to our liturgy, belting out our few Czech songs with authority and contributing thoughts and Scripture readings while we seven did our best a translate for the slightly puzzled others. And despite occasional language barriers, a remarkable sense of spiritual community and intimacy carried the service, which continued on with a picnic style dinner afterward that allowed for extended conversation and quite a few laughs.

.After months of planning and preparation my parents, Mike and Shirley, flew over in August for an epic family vacation. I met them in Vienna before escorting them back here to Olomouc, and aside from a few laughable hiccups with luggage we were able to storm Vienna, Prague, and much of Italy in an astonishingly rapid couple of weeks. Armed with Rick Steves' guidebook and the sum of my years of experience between Italy and the Czech Republic, we had a wonderful trip pune-

Richard, Jarrnila, and their two daughters have been instrumental for us since our first couple months of arrival. They have been more than proactive in seeking to engage us in the treasures of the Czech countryside and culture, escorting us on trips to natural caves, stately castles, and even rock concerts we would have missed otherwise. We have gathered for meals at each others' homes numerous times, and our proficiency in conversation would not have progressed nearly as far had they not insisted on meeting regularly for language exchanges and setting "No English" rules during mealtimes. We are much indebted to this gracious family, whoin their own words - have taken us under their wings as the objects of spiritual support, seeing us as a blessed opportunity for them to serve and provide for others who seek to do the Lord's will here in Olomouc. Which in itself is an interesting twist of fortune, for before coming over we had intentioned to be blessings for others in the things that we "do" - our coupling of outreach and service, but it would seem that already we have begun to change lives and restore purpose by the simple fact of being here,

tuated by terrific weather, delicious food, and more stair climbs up church towers than I can begin to recount. So with a final coin toss into R.ome's Trevi Fountain and a prolific meal of Thai food, we parted company with a rather sleepy farewell at 4:30am in Rome as I caught a series of planes, trains, and buses back to Olomouc and on to the Central .European Retreat, the annual event at which Team Olomouc were the keynote speakers.

being available in an almost passive state for Christians already in place. We are thankful for this happy farnilv and their overflowing hearts, and we look forward to many good years to come with them.

So with such a heartwarming service to see us off, I and my parents took off traveling. But time flies when you're having fun, and after a blur of days [ parted ways with them in Rome for the Central European Retreat in early September. The retreat, held at a camp in the sleepy Southern hill country of Moravia, drew over 50 Christians from such distant points as Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and other churches here in the Czech Republic. ln between animated card games,lazy walks through the woods, and a campfire dampened by rain, the three of us guys (Joshua and Sarah had returned stateside for a few weeks while she underwent tests for nagging health concerns) headed up a series of lessons under the banner of "Why Not To Be a Christian." But to be honest, [ was less excited about getting to the retreat in order to deliver some insightful messages than simply being near the same crowd of Christians that attended the retreat at Easter.

What I've noticed more and more since beginning to interact with these other churches is the strong sense of camaraderie that binds these resilient congregations together. When tragedies strike or Joys abound, eager signals go out among the churches in the region appealing for both prayers of petition or shouts of praise to the lord. [ suppose we can chalk it up to the "defensiveness" of the church in Europe, in that these scattered Christians ought to band together for encouragement and strength of

• Adapted from a worship service one us had engineered a couple months earlier, our rather unorthodox series - "Why Not To Be a Christian" - at the Central European Retreat laid bare the clear objections that get in the way of a person wanting to fully embrace the Christian life, such as feelings of personal inadequacy, unchosen situations in life, unworthiness because of past mistakes, or simply not wanting to resist a worldly lifestyle. But to dispel initial uncertainties as to how our

topic might be received, we were met with overwhelming affirmation from our audience. According to the comments people kept making to us, the disarming and confessional ways in which we spoke about the very real challenges to faith touched a great many hearts, and we enjoyed a number of conversations throughout the weekend that delved deeper than they might have otherwise, even with some people we had never before met!

purpose, but I am struck by the overwhelming joy and prolonged e.xcitement that I and my other brothers and sisters draw from being together, sharing Iives,laughs, and struggles with one another as long time friends. This isn't an atmosphere created out of necessity or survival but of genuine concern and love, fostered by a hope in a common vision for this part of Europe. Afloat on the mighty currents of the Spirit, these churches are scripting their own chapters in the unfinished story that begun in Acts, and I am excited to be a part of such a grand-scale writing project.

And so we wind down the last few days of summer. Language school resumed on Tuesday with the same teachers and the same kind of schedule we left in June. And I didn't think I would ever allow these words to leak from my mouth, but I think I'm ready for the studies, the homework, and the hours of mental battery to begin again. Though we have made an honest effort at studying over the summer we can feel the joints of our Czech stiffening, and we are all ready to close down camp and keep moving up the mountain. So keep us all in your prayers as we steel ourselves toward meeting our last semester with patience, comprehension, and stubborn resolve; if not for us, then at least for all those unpriced babies out there!

Address:

Graham Kervin Mozartova 33 Olomouc 779 00 Czech Republic

Email: onehandhigh@gmail.com

Websites: www.teamolomouc.com www.grahamkervin.net www.flickr .. com/photos/onehandhlgh

Ph.: (+420) 607 967 055

The Fairfax Church of Christ in Fairfax, VA, is curently overseeing Graham's work in Olomouc. Any questions, concerns, or financial support may be directed to the Distance Missions Committee at:

Fairfax Church of Christ 3901 Rugby Road Fairfax, VA 22033

1 Hiking along the immaculately-kept trails at Ceske Svycarsko with our friends from Prague

2 A beautiful morning in the woods in Slovakia

3 While stili technically a tent, I've seen bigger backpacks; my head is against the back wall here!

4 Mitch and I enjoying the finest in trail mix technology along our hike in SI.ovakia

5 The Slovak crew, keeping us entertained during a lunch break in the woods

6 Corey showing off his Czech singing abilities to Jarmila during our biggest worship service to date

7 The Kervins soaking it all in during a lazy gondola ride in Venice

8 In loving service to her teammates, Sarah writes out several copies of discussion questions at the C.E.R.

9 Christie and Branyo, a Christian from the church in Bratislava, chatting during some down time at the C .• E.R

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