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LitNet! News September, 2015
posted by David and Sharyn Curtis on 2015-09-23 14:40:58
 
Dear friends and family,
We are here in the apartment in Znojmo, enjoying every moment of every day, it seems. The flights from Kalispell to Prague went without a hitch,
and we had a wonderful three days in Prague exploring the oldest part of this beautiful city. Walking is the best way to start to make sense of the winding cobblestone streets and great stone and brick masonry buildings. While we were there, we explored parks, watched the famous mechanical
figures in the old town square, ate some delicious meals, and marveled at the architecture of magnificent churches, synagogues, theaters, and public buildings.
On Saturday, we took the bus to Znojmo (about 3 hours), where our friend Jarek picked us up at the station. With three suitcases and two bags, we appreciated the ride! Since then, we have spent our
time settling into the apartment and visiting with friends.
On Sunday afternoon, we went for a short hike with friends and built a bonfire to roast sausages. I brought home some apples and plums from the
orchard (natural forager that I am).
Monday, we mostly set up housekeeping. I love our cozy little kitchen with its poppy red wall and sunny window overlooking the central courtyard.
It was a perfect day to wash bedding and towels and hang them out in the windy sunshine. In the courtyard there are clotheslines and flower gardens
with fruit trees behind them. To the back of the yard is a low stone wall with trees above.
Behind the trees and a fence is a school playground.
We love hearing the sound of children’s voices as they play during recess! Wednesday, September 23
Today was cooler and threatening rain, so we went for a long walk through the old town, down past the castle wall to the path that leads to the river below the city. It is always amazing to us that just
a ten minute walk leads to a place that seems completely remote. Except for the sounds of birds singing and calling, and the occasional swish of squirrels, it is peaceful and quiet. The path is steep, but the switchbacks are well kept; there is
a remarkable absence of litter. Last year, we took these paths and ended up far from our original destination! This time, we had a better idea of when and where to turn. I am always aware of these paths having been traveled by countless feet over the centuries: milk, vegetables and fruit being carried to market stalls, children sent to search for nuts and berries, lovers meeting, hunters pursuing birds and wild pigs, and later, tourists tramping under the leafy boughs. In earlier days, apparently the lovely valley wasdevoid of trees to make it more defensible… invaders couldn’t sneak through the undergrowth to surprise the city.
The area has been inhabited
since Stone Age times, and received a grant to be
incorporated as a city of the king in the 1200’s .
Above the walls in these pictures is a rotunda
(round church) that has been there for over a
thousand years! It’s one of the oldest of its kind
remaining in the Czech Republic.
The trail follows the brook at the bottom of the
valley, and the brook flows into the River Dyje
(say “Dee’-yah”) just below a massive dam that
provides flood control. In years past, the town
was frequently plagued with massive floods.
The footbridge at left leads across the river to Kravi Hora(Cow Hill), where the livestock used to be
taken daily to graze. Our friend Eva fills in as a shepherd on this hill occasionally during the summer months. Now, the road leading up is mainly lined with garden houses.
The bridge provides a lovely view of the Znojmo skyline (above), and the railroad bridge (below). We were marveling at the engineering skill involved in the construction of this bridge as we listened to fish and frogs plop in the water, and watched a family of ducks swim by.
The hike back up was invigorating...the location of the town (as you can see) is high on the stone bluffs to ensure its ability to ward off attack. Most of the people we see here are really fit!
Well, I wanted to give you a little picture of our lives in the Czech Republic for the month. On our walk, we picked out the restaurant we will go to for David’s 70th birthday on Sunday.
***
(The preceding narrative is an excerpt from a letter to my parents in Nebraska)
While we were in Prague, we were most impressed, I think, with the Jan Hus memorial (Google for images and info). We were housed near Bethlehem Chapel, which was his main place of preaching. He has been associated not only with a Reformation that preceded Martin Luther by nearly a century, but with Czech nationalism and the Czech struggle for independence.
Truly inspiring. Check it out.
We are happy to be here; we are moving forward with the completion of this book; we are thoroughly enjoying renewing and deepening relationships with our Czech brothers and sisters.
Meanwhile, in Uganda, Annie and Bibian are traveling north to Gulu to do training and to hopefully find teachers who are willing to join us for at least a year to do School in a Briefcase teacher training in that area. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers, please.
This will stand in the gap as a LitNet! newsletter for the month; August was a crazy busy month! We send our love from afar. We enjoy getting email!
Sharyn (who wrote)
and David (standing by)
[traveling the road less traveled]
“The journey is the destination” —Don Burleson
 


LitNet! Newsnote June 2015
posted by David and Sharyn Curtis on 2015-07-02 14:22:33
 
Dear friends and family,

The news in Kalispell has been mostly the weather—hottest and driest on record, with crops a month advanced in comparison to other years. We are happy to stay in the coolness of our office most afternoons, working steadily towards the completion of our part of the “Czech book” for children. We are collaborating with a faithful few in Znojmo CZ, to publish Stories from the Shepherd in the near future.

We are thankful for email contact with these Czech friends as we look toward our travel there in September, but we mostly look forward to “face time” with them.

Annie, Bibian, Juliet, and Cathy continue to meet with and train fellow teachers in Uganda. We look forward to sharing some of their updates and adventures next month, plus pictures of how the vision of LitNet! in Uganda is being transferred to the next generation. This is truly exciting!

So, thank you to all of you who are figuratively joining us on this journey… none of us could travel with out you. Thanks to those of you who responded to last month’s newsletter by purchasing copies of Alphabet Animal Stories for the next generation here on this side of the world.

May God bless your journeys and your resting places wherever these summer months find you!

Love and many blessings,

David and Sharyn

David and Sharyn Curtis for LitNet!
P.O. Box 913
Kalispell MT 59903

LitNet! is a registered nonprofit organization.
Donations are tax-deductible.
visit
 


LitNet! News April 2015
posted by David and Sharyn Curtis on 2015-04-28 15:10:25
 
Dear friends and family,

Thunk! My hoe struck a solid, clod-sized something in the soft earth. As I stooped to retrieve it, the shape was odd, but somehow familiar: flat, palm-size… A mango pit! Here in our Kalispell garden plot lay a buried mango pit!
Like all seeds, that mango pit’s goal was to produce life. We have grown a surprising variety of fruits and vegetables here in northwest Montana, but a mango tree would be doomed. The irony was not lost to me.
These past few weeks, much of our time has been divided between the yard, the garden and the office. It’s a busy time of year, a season of thatching and tilling—cutting out dead growth and cultivating new growth—outside and in.
Last month, as we prepared to publish another 50 Alphabet Animal Stories, primarily for a North American audience, I was haunted with doubt. Would this LitNet! book, which has been so well received in Africa (Uganda-published version
pictured at right), grow and thrive in a northern culture? Or would it languish like a
mango pit in Montana soil? Is it really useful to families here?

Annie and Bibian sent wonderful pictures and reports this month of yet another enthusiastic group of Sunday School teachers and parents who were introduced to AAS and received training to use it with children in Uganda.

(at left, Annie demonstrates use of Animal Alphabet Stories as a resource for developing a Sunday School lesson. After instruction, seminar participants have a chance to practice what they have learned.)

Our two LitNet! Uganda teams continue their School in a Briefcase and AAS seminars every month for 10 months of the year. The fruit is obviously thriving in a tropical climate!

Regarding the books’ use in other settings…encouragement often comes just in time. We received “reviews” of the U.S. version of the book from 2 young moms who had used it with their children. Comments follow:

-We have used the stories to learn about animals, learn about the character traits, we memorized the Scriptures together and learned the songs...we also colored the pictures together...some of the animals were not applicable to the US but it was interesting to learn about animals in Africa too.

-We enjoyed the Bible stories along with the factual information about the animals as well as the memory verses...we didn't use the reproducible illustrations or the mini books at this point....

-Downloadable songs would be great so that they could be downloaded onto smart phones and then played as an mp3.  I would love to have the chords to the songs...

Another friend and missionary mom wrote this glowing report that REALLY encouraged us:

We used the songs to first learn the character traits and alphabet, wherein I discovered WOW kids can have letter-animal-character trait matched in their wee little brains much faster than I can, and accessible many years after I forgot.  You have a sort of magic potion going on with those short ‘n sweet songs. 
I also used the CD for bedtime music to put them to sleep.  Then when not playing the CD I sang the songs to remind them of a character trait I was expecting from them at the moment.  And they in turn would liberally sing the songs to us parents, pointedly, to remind us of a character trait we needed to display at the moment.
If you ever want to make more tiny books, they were a big hit with the kids.  Like a meal with a chocolate treat…they ALWAYS wanted to know if “this letter has the tiny book?”   I printed or copied and helped them make them, and my kids ended up making other tiny books themselves, too, after learning the pattern.
Matching character traits and animals –   Because they learned the names of (I forgot the number –31?) character traits, many of which were new words for my kids, in order to practice seeing and understanding those character traits we often had a bedtime game of naming people we knew with particular traits… Who is resourceful? (name and example)  Who is hard-working?   etc. 
Two more versions of this game which we still do:  1) at bedtime prayer time, you name a character trait (or two) that you need more of, and we recognize all the good character traits come from God, and we ask God for particular traits. It is surprising what kids will admit to needing and ask for prayer for. A real window to the soul.      2) As a safe way to complain about someone else or express hurt feelings, I encouraged my children to name the character trait they think the “culprit” needs, and to ask God to give it to that person.   Usually the “culprit” is sibling or parent…

Later, as we “went to press” with this U.S. version of the book, another friend ordered 2 for his grandkids, and our son ordered 2 for his pastor’s wife to use at home and in Sunday School. Our new publisher was also very encouraging, and had some suggestions for expanding its appeal. (More news about that at a later date.)


Simultaneously, our website is being updated and revised (call it seasonal digital thatching, if you like); East African Alphabet Animal Stories —pictured above —is now available online at .

Proceeds from the purchase of this book help make it possible to publish and distribute teaching materials in Uganda. Please help us spread the word. Plant some seeds that will bear lasting fruit!

Love and blessings,

David and Sharyn
David and Sharyn Curtis for LitNet!
P.O. Box 913
Kalispell MT 59903

LitNet! is a registered nonprofit organization.
Donations are tax-deductible.
visit

 


LitNet! News February 2015
posted by David and Sharyn Curtis on 2015-02-28 12:59:28
 
Compenetration...huh??

Dear friends and family,

One of the challenges of getting older is to maintain a physically, mentally and spiritually active lifestyle. Our bodies, minds, and spirits need disciplined activity in order to be healthy and strong. This has been especially true since Sharyn and I retired. Without the rigors of working 9 to 5+ jobs, it’s easy to slip into a more passive mode of living.
Sharyn and I love to read books. At the end of the day, curling up with a novel from a favorite author is relaxing and entertaining. We have also determined to read non-fiction books which require more thinking and effort. It’s been challenging but rewarding to read about new ideas and vocabulary that flex our brains and thinking.
One of the books that I am presently reading is John of the Cross, Selected Writings (Kieran Kavanaugh) . Honestly, I’m still in the introduction, and need to have a dictionary close at hand to wade through it. Here’s a new word that I had never read before: “Compenetration”. The book reads, “Thus we find in John (addressing his quest to understand both natural and spiritual realities) the experience of their compenetration.” Stay with me a little longer, I’ll get to the point…
New ideas and vocabulary are only relevant if we can apply them to our lives, and we are impacted by them. Compenetration describes the fusion of a natural and spiritual reality. Words, objects, symbols, and even parables help us to understand and internalize what is spiritual.
In the late 1970’s I attended a men’s retreat at the St. John Cathedral in Spokane, Washington. During that weekend I had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. I surrendered my life to Him. He said to me, “I will make you a fisher of men.” There are many ramifications to these words. Many years later I came to realize that Jesus was commissioning me to minister in other nations. Jesus used the word “fisher” to describe a spiritual reality in my life.
Over the last eight years Sharyn and I have made multiple journeys to Znojmo, Czech Republic, to minister with our friends of the Znojmo Christian Fellowship. Znojmo is a lovely and ancient city. There is evidence of continuous human habitation since the Bronze Age (3000 BC)!
One of the oldest structures in the city is the rotunda that is pictured here. As an American it’s hard to get your brain around living in a place with a building that is over 1,000 years old. Originally, the rotunda was built as a place for Christian worship. Over the centuries this structure has been used for many things (wood storage, pigsty, pub, basket workshop, and presently museum). The rotunda is an ancient legacy from the Znojmo Christian community. It provides evidence of deep Christian roots to the believers who live there.
Sharyn and I have discovered that meaningful Christian ministry flows out of relationships of love and trust. In 2006, while living in Kalispell, we formed a lasting friendship with Jarek and Ema. Jarek and Ema came to the U.S. to work as Fulbright Exchange Teachers at the high school in Whitefish, MT. After returning to the Czech Republic, they invited us to visit them in their lovely home city of Znojmo. Sharyn and I traveled to Znojmo in 2007 and have returned several times since.
While in the Czech, I am always struck by a profound sense of the rich spiritual heritage that our Christian friends enjoy in Znojmo. That isn’t to say that living the Christian life has been easy. Our friends and their families have lived through a history of occupation, suffering, and repression wrought by Nazism in the 1940’s and subsequently Communism until the Velvet Revolution of 1989.
Yes, there is a Christian heritage, but it has been buried. Most of our friends in Znojmo are first generation Christians. They are in the process of discovering how to live victorious spiritual lives. And that is why Sharyn and I believe we have something important to share.
We are partnering with local friends, Don and Ruth, to offer our Znojmo friends practical input and encouragement about the Christian life. Don and Ruth are living in Znojmo for the next six months. They have made frequent journeys to Znojmo, living there for extended periods of time. They are respected as Christian mentors, impacting the lives of students, singles, husbands and wives, as well as the church leaders.
Since Sharyn and I are educators and teachers by profession, we are focusing our efforts on Christian education for children as well as supporting Christian marriage for couples. We will be returning to Znojmo in Sept., and remaining for six weeks. Currently we are writing and illustrating a children’s book of fables and Bible stories. It will be bilingual, with text in both Czech and English. We are hoping to have the rough draft completed in time for our return to Znojmo in September, 2015. This illustration is from the story about Pogo, the sheep dog and Auntie Ewe. Pogo’s love for the sheep protects them from harm. As parents read this story to their children, we hope they experience a compenetration of natural and spiritual realities.

Love,
David and Sharyn

David and Sharyn Curtis for LitNet!
P.O. Box 913
Kalispell, MT 59903
 


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