Friday, May 3, 2013

#201: The SUV

Last year, due to circumstances beyond our control and the fact that SOMEONE hasn't got a proper licence in order to drive a vehicle with a funny stick thing that you move around in the shape of a gate that sits in between the driver's and passenger's seat, we bought ourselves an SUV.  This involved a long discussion at Frankie and Benny's over dinner.  Notes on napkins were made, figures were put forward, figures were outwardly denied, a head (mine) was held in hands (also mine), the seven seat discussion was put forward, and then a reluctant acquiescence was reached.  It was, after all, a Volvo.

Which, for some reason, has its emblem in the shape of a sperm.  I have no idea why.

For Canadians and other exotic species of the planet that drive four-wheeled monstrosities that carry their own postal code, this may not be such a big thing.  The SUV thing that is, not the emblem thing.  In the UK, British roads are not noted for their impressive width, nor do they all run in straight lines, since they were all joined up with ley lines in between Little Chefs.  This makes driving a 4x4 all the more interesting in the UK, especially when the mountain-climbing, vine-swinging, Amazon-deforesting, monkey-worrying Volvo makes its way down the A14 to Asda in Kettering.

The car is brilliant.  I like the high driving position, the fact there's space for everyone, the car seats and the dual pushchair.  Joseph loves staring down at Smart cars and Dacias in particular for some reason.  I like the power, the nice calm drive and the feeling that if an idiot decided to drive into the back of the car, I would be able to get out to assess the small ding while the other guy's crying about his write-off.  I also like the fact that it's cost us a lot less than the VW Passat we had in Slovakia, since that Italian-speaking German car basically financially crippled us at the time, before we got wise and went local.  Volvo is a lot like IKEA, except for the flat-packing.  They come from Sweden and they shouldn't cost very much, unless you're exceptionally silly and want everything in a colour like chartreuse.

What an SUV makes you here is a social pariah.  People look at it, call it a 'beast' and ask about how many miles it does to the gallon.  Nobody lets you out of junctions, everyone tries to cut you off on a roundabout and parallel parking is not fun.  I parked in the aforementioned Asda next to a car with a couple of socialist teenagers in it who had obviously been taught at school recently how evil such cars are to bunnies and rainforests the world over..  This one lad stared at me, his gaze burning through the panes of glass that separated us, and gave me a look reserved for people who fart in a funeral.  He shook his head and I turned away, my British reserve melting under such fearsome loathing.  It was a scarring moment, so I had some ice cream later.

In this country, it makes no logical sense why we should own one, and that's why I like it, since I've found it to be very useful.  And if you're worried about the environment, go shoot a cow.  That way you can stop that nasty methane and then have steak afterwards.  But just make sure that it's not mad, or part-horse.

Monday, April 23, 2012

J&C #200: Not quite done yet...

Hey, 200 posts!  We're definitely not finished yet in Slovakia, as Christina got asked to make a little video for the upcoming YC Slovakia event in July.  Somehow James got involved with it as well, and so did Joseph at a couple of points (like taking the mouse away and trying to eat it, giving us a break)...

Anyway, here it is!  Full screen it and play it loud! :-)

YC Slovesko 2012 upútavka from BratislavaCityChurch on Vimeo.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time For a Transition!

James and I want to thank you for your support over the last few years as we have engaged in God’s mission through the PAOC in Slovakia. 
However, we do need to let you know about some news about our mission work here. In mid 2012 we will be resigning from the work here and moving to the UK.
For the past number months, James and I have felt God releasing us from ministry here in Slovakia.  As we prayerfully considered this, we did receive confirmation from other Godly men and women, that yes, God indeed was moving us on.  It took us quite some time to come to terms with this, as Slovakia has been our home.  For me, Christina, this has been especially hard, as I have spent the past 7 years here, investing my life into those around me. I have many dear and close friends, as I have been building enduring relationships that should last a lifetime.  We feel that the Lord would have us in England for this next season, but we feel that this is only the next step, not the final destination.  We want to be obedient to the Spirit of the Lord and to follow Him, even into the unknown.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. 
God has already been so faithful to us in opening doors. James went to the UK in the beginning of Feb to find work and within three weeks of landing, he started a new job there. With rising unemployment in England, the job market is currently rather grim, so this by itself was no small miracle.  I, on the other hand, am still in Slovakia with Joseph, as we go through the process of selling our house, which is another miracle – the second couple to view our house wants to buy, after only being on the market a couple months!  I am also waiting on my residency visa to the UK, which could take another couple of months.
Until my visa is processed, it is hard to say when we will be making the move, but my last day with the PAOC will be May 30, 2012. I have decided to resign and to step down from formal ministry.  As we are expecting our second child, I really feel the need to focus on my family, especially our children, in this short period of time when they are young. We will still be active in ministry, for that is who we are and what we are called to do by Christ as believers.  We also want to continue supporting the church in Šaľa financially as well, and we plan to come back to visit, encourage and celebrate breakthroughs multiple times a year.

We do want you to know that your support has not been in vain and we want to celebrate with you God’s goodness in the following areas.
Over the last 7 years, together:
·      We have planted two churches and seen them come to health
·      We have seen many people come to the Lord
·      We have encouraged and discipled a number of leaders, many who are still in ministry today
·      We have seen dozens of youth in Šaľa take the next step in faith and engage in mission in their city.
·      We have touched the hearts of many and have made an impact in the lives of those in Nove Zamky, Nitra and Šaľa.

On a practical note, we would ask for you to support us as we complete our time in missions so that we can end well, and not with the deficit that we are currently carrying.   Our support end date is August 30, 2012, though if you are able to support us until year end in order to ensure that our deficit is cared
for, that would be great.

We do hope that you will consider transferring your support to other
PAOC global workers.  If you would like to do that, and are wondering whom you could support, please contact Darcy McAlister at
Thank you again for all the years of prayer, love and financial support that you have offered us over the years.  We hold you very dear to our hearts, and hope that we can continue this journey together as God leads us in a new direction.
May God richly bless you.

In Christ,
James, Christina,
Joseph and Baby Clapham

Friday, November 4, 2011

J&C #198: Bridging the Viking Invasion

We've had a bit of a name change within the last few weeks in regard to our church.  The Slovak word for "bridge" is "most", and this was all fine and dandy, until a certain political party decided that it wanted the same name as well, without even bothering to consult us.  The cheek!  (Just kidding!)  After that little incident occurred, our fearless leader Mark had to explain every time he met or was in contact with somebody new to us, that no, we're not affiliated with any political party, and no, we have no idea how that happened either.

Obviously, God wants us to be cooler.

So, we went with the youth-oriented decision that in Slovakia English names are more... interesting.  After a fair amount of debate about a logo and whatnot, we finally advertised ourselves as a church, with the new, simple name change to "Bridge".

Ok, now that's out of the way...

This week in Sala we are hosting a group of young international students from a Danish Bible school (proper name to be added here once I can find the right symbols for the letters..!) and they bring with them a lot of talent in quite a few areas, including worship and drama.  They'll be going into schools in and around the Sala area, and we'll be having a slap-up meal (translation for Canadians and other exotic species: multiple course dinner) on Sunday before church actually starts.

This evening's Friday was an overall success, with new friends being made and stories being shared.  Invites had been sent out to schools to come and see them at the newly-renamed Bridge church. We also even had one come forward to give their life to Jesus, and as Mark pointed out, the angels are having a party because of that right now.

They'll be visiting more schools and sharing stories throughout the area next week too, so please pray for this group as they continue their invasion!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

J&C #197: The Shopping Mall Story

Shopping centres (or "malls" for those of Canadian, American and other exotic species) in Canada would really be called "small towns" in England due to their size and the fact that they can fit just about everybody and everything in.  They are large, sprawling affairs where you can easily get turned around in, eat Indian food at, and get a small child so hyper-sensitized that he won't be sleeping for the next five hours or so (sorry, Joseph).

During our latest shopping trip, we came across, or more exactly Christina's eye came across since she's more drawn to this certain manufacturer than I am, an Apple bag sitting on its lonesome on a sofa.  We took a sneak peek and there was an iPad 2 inside along with complimenting blue cover.

"Hallelujah! The Lord has provided!" we did not say.

Instead, we did the right thing, since faith and behaviour really do have to go together (shout out to our Catholic friends), and took it to the customer service desk to get it checked in.  After that, we sat on the same sofa as we found the package and waited while Joseph had his type of filtered food.  We also waited out of curiosity, to see if someone would come along sooner or later.  Indeed, not too long after, a rather flustered young man came to ask if he had seen anything on the sofa in an Apple bag.  We pointed him out to the customer service station, and in his mild panic went instead to a charity stall that was giving away a $48,000 Lincoln in a competition.

Since I don't like to see people struggle, I got up and directed him to the service desk.  I think the guy said thankyou to us about fifteen times.  And then said it again on his way back.

Warm fuzzies all round.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

J&C #196: Re-taking Canada One Step At a Time

Last time I (James) was in Canada in 2009, we were seeing so many people and so many places that it was completely overwhelming to me.  We were seeing up to four different people every day in all sorts of places and restaurants.  We were traveling somewhere every single day, if not around Edmonton, then somewhere in the next province or on the other side of Canada.  We were in BC for family, Edmonton for family and work and Toronto for friends and work.  But in all of this, Christina's friends were her friends.  Christina's extended family was her family.  I had some rest and some fun inbetween, as I was taken out a few times to different events, but in all it was too much and there wasn't enough rest, there wasn't enough time-outs for us as a new family.  Somewhere along the line, we kind of lost focus on that, probably because our eyes were watering from exhaustion.

There were also a few points on the trip that made me see Canadians in a darker light, with the flagrant beggars, the way-too-close-to-the-bone "humour" that some have, the way a lot of them drive, the slices of racism that sometimes crop up, the amount of distance traveled to get anywhere and the way how a lot of social injustices are given a one-sided shrug... it didn't want to make me move there any time soon.

Before the death threats start coming in, let me remind you that this current trip we are on is a lot different.  We are not going to restaurants, we are focusing on meeting in people's homes.  We are not focusing on ourselves per se in raising funds, we are instead focusing on Slovakia and how people can help us raise funds so that we can help carry out much-needed work there in the first place.  We are not traveling everywhere in the country, burning petrol and making Greenpeace knock on our door this time around.  Instead, most of our time will be in the Edmonton area, with Christina and Joseph going to Calgary for a week later on, then BC after that.  

This has, in all, made Canada a much more enjoyable experience where we can take our time at that dinner appointment without having to suddenly rush off somewhere.  This makes it more laid back, for people to pass Joseph around a bit more, for Christina to regale stories, for me to insert rubbish jokes every now and then.  I nervously gave my first ever sermon at Fort Saskatchewan Pentecostal Assembly, we had an on-stage interview by our friends at Bethel Community Church and Christina shared in class and Chapel at Vanguard College.  Joseph has discovered the game Fetch, whereby he stares at us and then very slowly releases whatever toy is in his hand onto the floor, then gives us a big grin, knowing in his devious genius baby mind that we are nothing but pawns to his commanding will.  Either that, or he just likes the noise of a dropped toy.

Best of all, after a three-week separation, we re-discovered ourselves as a family that is always on the go.  We will always be moving forward, but we'll still have a rear-view mirror to see where we have been.  Christina did an amazing job of traveling by herself with Joseph for the flight over and then with the battle with 'flu that put both of them in bed for a couple of days during their first weeks.  It was certainly one of many items to give over to God, including the time on Saturday, when we drove Joseph to the hospital for another suspected fever, but after he got prodded and poked at, and then cooed over by most of the doctors and nurses (he is a handsome fella, after all), he was given the green light.

We still have a long way to go in our time here, but at least we'll be getting the rest that we all deserve.  It even feels homely sometimes.  Until someone else cuts you up on the road, that is...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

J&C #195: Pancakes are a wonderful thing

Christina and Joseph left on Sunday for Canada and arrived safe and sound by all accounts, leaving me with... well, just leaving me.  *sniff*  I have the bunnies, the house and the garden to look after, plus the occasional stray cat and babka to fend off.  And for those out there who are wondering who is cooking for me, then I am going to give this answer: me.  I am cooking for me.  It might not be much, Gordon Ramsey will not turn up at my house to swear at me uncontrollably, I will win no awards through my cooking non-expertise.  But I will survive.  Just about.

Right now wifey and son are able to communicate (they have a phone!) and they are able to travel because a very nice, wonderful, awesome person has lent them a car to drive around for the time being.  So far, so good.  They'll be visiting family, friends and churches, and I should be joining them in October for a couple of weeks, hitting the ground running. 

It's a busy time over there, but it's a busy one over here too, as we start on the new school year minus a few of our 'regular' students, since they've gone off to boarding school.  Our new church building's landlord is putting in new windows so that we won't freeze during the winter time, Vilo has given his first sermon last Sunday, Mark and Liz will shortly be heading off to England and the amount of lessons I have as an English teacher has gone up.  Teaching teens is... interesting... to say the least.  The teaching methods here are a lot different to what we would deem as 'normal', in that the teacher speaks at the front, and the class regurgitates it later, without really thinking too much about it.  Canada and the UK do things differently, encouraging the student to think and so it's just another thing that we take for granted.  By asking what a teenager thinks about something, you'll get a response, but not when the same question is directed at a group.  Discussion and arguing your case just doesn't fly here, so as a teacher there is a steep learning curve which also seems to include embarrassed silence.  And there have been ones that refuse outright to do anything and talk happily away in L1.

Yeah, ESL teachers have lingo too.

It's difficult, but then, it wouldn't be fun if it was easy.  That's kinda another reason why we're here too.