Friday, August 8, 2008

Vimeiset Ajatukset...

Moro!

Suomi on ollut mahtava! Haluaisin kiittää ystäviäni ja tukijoitani (te tiedätte keitä te olette). On ollut siunaus palvella täällä tänä kesänä.

Odotan paluutani Suomeen. Haluan lisää. Ottakaa iisisti siskot ja veljet!

Heippa!


P.S. Texas Hoe Down oli upea! Nähdään...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just 9 more days...

It's sad, I have only nine more days before I set foot on Texas' soil.  A bittersweet realization:  I look forward to Tex-mex and knowable faces, but here I am leaving the hardest/best/most memorable summer of my life.  A wise man once said, "You truly have to be called to stay in the country you were born in."  I hope to one day return to Finland, and pick up where I left off:  Excited about ministry and helping win souls for Christ.  I will talk a little more about excitement in a different context later on, but first a recap...

-The week after getting back from camp we had our Monday Night Fellowship "Dodgeball Extravaganza."    Most people had never heard of dodgeball, so when I explained it, the men suddenly became attentive.  Most came for food and fun, but received so much more.  That night we had a total of nine teams each consisting of 4 players.  The "Dream Team"  took first place receiving a bronze ball as their trophy.  We had over 50 people there, It was amazing!
-The next monday night, July 21st, was Carnival night!  Over 60 people came with their families to join in on everything from face painting, carnival games, to the classic sackraces and egg toss.  We had so much fun that night!
-Then the Scavenger Hunt!  Nobody knew what that was either.  Around 8 teams of 5 competed against the clock to outwit their opponents.  It was a camera scavenger hunt (you have to complete as many objectives in a certain amount of time, proving your completion via camera) around Espoo.  With sweat in every corner, teams raced back to the youth center in hopes of victory!
-And this next monday night, The Texas hoe-down will be my favorite and last monday night of the summer.  By God's providence, I have a fellow Texan helping facilitate this fine night!  I look forward to writing about it in the coming days.  
-Interspersed between these mondays were Finnish lessons by my 11 year old teacher (she is great by the way),  correcting/revising a scholarly thesis on dairy building air-quality monitoring systems, working on my online class for DTS, evangelizing, a slew of other things I can't seem to recall, and who could forget the adventures of Shaun and Stew...

These past two weeks, I have worked on this project for a church in New England.  EICF is raising funds for a library, and a gracious church in America was willing to help us out.  So we were asked to put together some sort of fun picture show for the kids during their VBS.  So we titled the project, "The Adventures of Shaun and Stew:  In Search for the Lost Kirja"  It's about these two bumbling pastors/part-time explorers that happen to come across a map leading them to a lost Kirja (Finnish work for book).  What was so funny/sad about this project was that we had so much opposition in making it.  Nothing seemed to work:  our camcorder broke down, our camera stopped working, and everyone just seemed apathetic throughout the whole thing.  It was crazy!  Thankfully, we got it done and sent in the final project, we pray that it will help in funding our Library:  one of the only theological libraries in Finland!  Here are some layouts for you to see:



When it was all said and done, we really had alot of fun!

And one more thing.  Before I unveil this information, I would advise anyone who is faint of heart to not read this next portion (Grandmother, Mom, etc.).  I was invited to go Bungee Jumping this past week, and the offer was too tantalizing to pass up.  No words can justify the this thrill, so you can watch it for yourself:

video

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Till Tomorrow

I am writing tomorrow period:)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Worth every minute...

Can we say, "just a wee bit tight?" Even though the seating arrangements weren't ideal, it was worth sitting next to these guys, two of the cutest kids known to man. This past weekend, I was invited up to middle Finland to help run a children's camp, so I squeezed myself in the leader's car and away we went. This pic was taken about 5 minutes into our trip....

and 5 min. later....



















2 hours of saliva rolling down my arm was only delayed by a quick bite and a much needed jump on the tramp. Where in America would you ever find a trampoline (free of charge) outside a gas station? Only in Finland. Are pregnant women suppose to jump like this? Who knows...


After listening to "Books of the Bible on CD" and Shane and Shane's bluegrass album, we arrived at the camp around diner time. Kids here in Finland normally start to learn English around 10. These kids ranged from three to 12 years old, so of course there were communication barriers. I felt these kids, even though we couldn't understand each other, sensed that I cared and that was enough. There was one troubled boy, were is mother was a believer but his father wanted nothing to do with Christianity or his family for that matter. He had such a sweet heart, but was marred by his father's abuse. Anyways, during free time, I realized that he(Sami) loved to draw and so I grabbed a pad of paper and drew some mountains saying, "sun vuoro" (your turn). Handing him the pencil, he drew a sun, and we exhanged turns drawing whatever came to mind. After about the third or fourth exchange, Sami drew a cross on top of the mountain with a big smile handing me the pencil. Cool, huh? Even though our time that day was incredible, I found out later that he tried to replicate our masterpiece from the day before. Kids, people for that matter, can sense love, and even though I could barely speak a word or two in Finnish, I felt that I was making a difference because I just showed up.

I came to this camp to run recreation, and normally with recreation comes equipment, but we didn't have a lot of money so we improvised. I wanted to make them all bandanas, but they were around 7 dollars a piece (4.50€). So I thought like a mom and went to a fabric shop, making them for around 1€ a piece. Other jobs included leading devotion, sharing my testimony (interpreter included), and running a session on OIA (Observation, Interpretation, and Application). We took a passage in Mark and asked, "what do you see, what does it mean, and what does it mean to you" (Shout out to DTS)? (Note: If you don't use this method when reading the Word of God you should.)

So this is what I woke up to every morning, truly an act of God. Doesn't He reveal himself beautifully in nature? I would wake up early before the others rose, and row out to have my time with the Lord...






Every night we had a campfire chat. It consisted of a songs coupled with a devotion, and who could forget the mosquitos. You think mosquitos in Texas are bad? Just come to Finland. I think they smelled fresh blood when I arrived and went to town!



I had to include this photo in my blog because this picture speaks nothing of the three women featured. It looks as if these women are reserved, quiet, content, but pictures can be deceiving:) They were crazy! The two on the right were the cooks (they prepared 5 meals a day!) of the camp, and were nothing like the reserved Finnish nature. The last one in vihreä was such a joy as well, and when you put these three together it spells trouble.

This game was unique to this camp. It was called kattopallo (roof ball). Everytime you looked out the window, they were playing it: morning, afternoon, and night. No joke. It consisted of one ball and however many players you desire. The one with the ball calls out a person's name while throwing the ball on the roof. It is then the job of the person called to catch the ball before it rolls off and hits the ground. If you don't catch it, that's a strike, and three strikes equals elimination. It is fast-paced and addictive, so I look forward to implementing this when I get home.






This photo was taken minutes before I left on Sunday morning. I am the one on the right in a white polo and khakis, completely out of place (I had to lead a church service in a few hours alright!?). They are all waiving goodbye to me, but hope it's shortlived.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Karaoke!

(to left: Mom and I singing some hit by Tina Turner; below left: words cannot express the awesomeness displayed in this photo)





























(left: The whole fam getting a piece of the action; below left: a Texan, Kenyan, and Brit, singing "Sweet Home Alabama")






























(left: R-E-S-P-E-C-T; below left: finishing off the night with YMCA)
























That one word brings such incredible memories from this past monday night. As I posted in my lasy entry, I revealed to ya'll that I am in charge of Monday Night Fellowship (MNF) for the church. Last Monday we had badminton and bbq and this Monday karaoke. And man it was fun! There truly isn't alot to do in Finland, especially on Monday nights, so we try to have a little fun without the temptations of the world. It is quite cool to put something together where everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Our goal has been to demonstrate Christ's love through fellowship. I beleive the Lord finds great joy in such acts. Anyways, last monday night we had around 25 people show, but this one grossed over 40! I know that number doesn't mean that much to my Dallasinians, but 40 people is huge here. Most churches don't even have that in attendance on Sundays, much less a Monday night thing. So, needless to say, I would deem this occasion a success and look forward to next Monday's dodgeball tournament (These Fins won't know what hit'em:).

By the way, I had a special treat this week. My parents were here! My dad came in for a business trip, and my mom decided to come along for the ride. See my parents lived here in Finland for a year and attended the church I am working with this summer. They were highly involved in the youth ministry ( which is a 15-30 yr. age range ministry) and cultivated many fruitful and lasting relationships. So not only me, but EVERYONE was excited to see them!

I have a prayer request for you guys. Tomorrow I leave for middle Finland where I will help lead a Finnish children's camp this weekend. So please pray that lives are changed by the Gospel, and that kids leave this camp having a greater love and enthusiasm for God's Word. Also pray that no one is hurt in the making of this camp. I return on Sunday to lead worship, so this weekend is going to be fruitful, but hectic. Thank you for your prayers and support and I vow to try and write a more posts than one a week...Talk to you soon!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What a way to pack...

Alright. I know it's the 3rd and I said I would write on this yesterday, but just hear me out. June 2nd, around midday, I received an interesting text message. The lovely lady was returning home to claim her apartment! She decided to cut her trip short due to sickness, so inevitably I had to find myself somewhere else to stay. The family that I was to stay with next, had not arrived back from vacation, so I was in a bit of a pickle. So the Ruokomaki Rescuers caught wind of this, offering a vacant apartment for the rest of my stay. Isn't our God incredible! So after I got settled into my new place it was WAY past bedtime and thought my readers might understand. None the less, I am sorry for my fib, and this is my new address:

Stewart Kouba
c/o Ruokomaki
Kaksoiskiventie 49 F54
02760 Espoo

This weekend I was invited up to Tampere, a city about 120 km north of Helsinki. This place was beautiful. Supposedly, It is one of the top places to live in Finland, which I now completley agree. I went up there for the yearly Finnish Baptist Union Convention. There are about 1,000 Baptists (on paper) in Finland, and around 300 of them showed up at this convention. Shaun (the pastor of EICF) was the evening speaker for both Friday and Saturday night. His sermons were by far the best part of the night because those two hours were the only understandable hours of the convention (they were great as well). Over 10 people were saved at the convention, which no words can describe adequately!

Also, I visited the OM Finland and Wycliff Bible Translators offices. Both were housed in the same building a mosque occupied just a few floors below. Quite the godly hub if you ask me. And I can't forget to thank Katja's mom, Selia, for being our Tampere inn for both nights of the conference. On Sunday morning, I grabbed a train back to Helsinki just before 3:00pm to lead worhip in the afternoon service. A crazy weekend indeed, but it was truly awesome to see God move!

This picture makes me so happy! This gentleman didn't speak a lick of English and I know very few words in Finnish, so we just laughed and did all we knew how to do, hug. That one was for you Grandmother Kouba! This conference was filled with beautiful people I wished I could communicate with, but I am diligently trying to learn the language and hope that my last entry will be completely in Finnish...we will see.





This man is cooking something called "Makkara," the Finish vegetable. I really don't know why they call it the Finnish vegetable because it smells, tastes, and looks like sausage, but I ain't gonna argue with them. This food is a signature piece of Finland, so if you come, grab yourself a Makkara to enjoy.

Update! Hanna just informed me that Finnish wives insist their husbands eat vegetables. So in honoring their wives and their stomachs, the men started calling makkara a vegetable!









This is the face of a man a little stressed. Monday night was the first fellowship night of the summer, in which I headed up. The title was "Badminton and BBQ" and you can guess what we did. This picture was taken about two hours before the big event, trying to round up the last items needed to make it a hit. I now know how it feels to plan for something and wonder if anyone will show. By the Lord's hand and lack of things to do on a Monday night, it turned out to be a success. And yes, that is a list I hold in my hand:)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

My bad

Sorry Guys I haven't written in over a week, I promise to write a good "catch you up" post tomorrow.  With Love, Stewart