Exchanging the toy camera from the nursery for a real one from who-knows-where.
“I want a biscuit!”
The very sincere pout-whimper combo came from the corner where stood a troubled child who did more to sanctify me in a week than a whole semester of college. We’ll call him Vytek.
Eileen, the lovely woman running the nursery program for English Camp in the šumava mountains, would wrap Vytek in her arms and instruct him, “Say, ‘I don’t want to obey, but Jesus will help me obey.’ Jesus will help us to obey.”
“I want to be obeyed,” was his opinionated reply.
Vytek is four years old and though I don’t like to diagnose children with disorders, I think it’s accurate to say he has more difficulty sitting still than the average munchkin. He also speaks very good English. British English.
It took me, Eileen and our translator Pavlina about an hour to figure out that “biscuit” means “cookie.” It did not take us long to figure out that this little shish-ka-bob also spoke very good Czech (like most kids with at least one Czech parent…). He’d switch in between the two languages like gears in a car so that even Pavlina could not keep up.
I’m not especially great with kids. That is to say, I don’t mind watching 0-4 year olds play for 45 minutes during church service but working an organized program for 3 hours where the children are supposed to listen, learn and occasionally sit still is more than I tend to have the patience for. I regret to say my attitude at the beginning of that very long week may not have been entirely Christ-like even if I managed to fake it pretty passably.
“Learn the language,” my Dad said as we drove towards LAX beneath rumbling gray clouds. “Aside from sharing the Gospel, learning the language is the most important thing you can do over there.”
Every year for Christmas and my birthday my Dad gets me another book of Czech language guides or maps of Prague (except for last Christmas – he got me a “Basics to Cooking” DVD series and I can’t help but think it may have been a reaction to some of my less-than-successful holiday baking). My Dad loves words and languages and he not only passed the word-worm to me but has gently pushed that worm into a rabid, man-eating insect. I’ve become obsessed with learning as much Czech as I can as fast as I can, at the expense of regular conversation.
Of the many awesome things I have and will get to do to help missionaries Jerry and Marilyn this summer, English Camp is one of the highlights. For three years I’ve heard about how awesome English Camp is – ten days of English lessons followed by crazy games, outlandish skits, day hikes and tons and tons of wonderful people. Jerry and Marilyn prepare for it all year and by the time I arrived in June they had already begun “the sweat shop.” Seven of us stapled, folded, stacked, sorted and hole-punched enough paper in three days to make a significant dent in the rain forest. Jerry was good enough to keep me sufficiently drugged with authentic Czech chocolate during the process.