This coming summer will mark a decade since my first trip to the Czech Republic and I will also celebrate four years of calling this country home. When I was writing my first support letter, writing about what God had called me to and inviting people to partner in His work, I remember going through all my photos of the five times I’d been in Czech up until that point. I also went through all the photos I’d been tagged in on Facebook by teammates, hoping to find photos that communicated the need for and the beauty of the ministry I’d be joining.
And do you know what I found? So many photos of me sleeping, mostly on trains or buses, taken by teammates that I’d no doubt snapped sleeping earlier. None of those photos made the cut to go in the support letter, and I’m not going to post any of them here.
But I have a lot of memories of those summer trains – and they’re mostly fond. Running for trains to take us to short term team training, and crossing the country to travel to the camp location. And the sticky summer heat, the gentle rocking of the train, and the squeaks and squeals as it came to a stop at another unpronounceable station.
I don’t often find myself on a train now that I live here, as it is usually more convenient to travel by car, but I’m on one today. I’m heading across the country to Prague, a journey that takes four hours from the little town I call home. And I could be working or reading but I can’t stop staring out the window.
It helps that, although we’ve had a couple of days where the temperature has been above zero, most of the countryside is still snowy. And when I say that it looks like Narnia part of the movie was filmed here, so you can imagine. There are areas of beautiful tall trees, surrounded with snow.
There are long stretches where we’re going fast, 159km/hour according to the sign at the end of the carriage, and buzzing through the landscape that appears rather monochrome with the white snow, black trees, and grey sky. Every so often another train passes us.
We frequently pass little towns and villages, where there is smoke coming out of chimneys and people going about their days. Often the tallest building in those places is the church building and I wonder if it’s still being used, how many people gather there, and what the neighbours think about the building beside them.
Along the way we’ve also passed through bigger cities. This is a fast train so we stopped in only a couple of them to pick up new people. The cities are often announced by the factories we pass on the way in, and the freight trains ready to transport materials.
When we’re out in the countryside it is quieter and I spotted some deer in the fields. There are also little chatas, little huts, by rivers or with little gardens, that are mostly used in the summer months.
When we pass through train stations I can now pronounce their names, usually pretty well, and some of them are even familiar places where I have been or have friends. And at the train station after I bought my ticket I picked up a food magazine to read on the journey. The language that was once amusing and beyond all understanding now also feels familiar as I work my way towards fluency.
I am so thankful for this little country that I get to call home. I’m thankful for all the little ways it feels familiar and I am praying that this fortnight, as I attend a Czech intensive, that I grow in my ability to communicate with people here.