Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Current "Campground"

We have a home - Rumunska 14!  Although it's lacking a few several comforts of home, we're very thankful to have found a place to live which is so close to the school, and so close to our budget. Now we're praying that our container will clear customs without any further delay, so that we'll finally be able to sleep in our own bed again. We've gotten several mixed messages concerning the delivery of our belongings, but we're hopeful that our things might arrive before the start of school next week.

Here are a few pictures of our new place. Please excuse the mess - we're still trying to determine where we'd like everything to go.
Our entry way - big enough to be a room!
This is our current "bedroom" - we're futon-sitting for some colleagues headed on furlough.

While our kitchen came with a stove, oven & even a dishwasher, it did not include a refrigerator. We're currently borrowing one from the school, but we will have to purchase one in the near future.
Our kitchen - refrigerator not included.

The frig & microwave graciously loaned to us by CISP

Here's Baby B's future room! We're very grateful that we've been loaned a crib and a changing table for this year.
Baby's room - some assembly required

Our bathroom has it's own boiler (no more summers without hot water!) but it did not include a washing machine.
Shower & washroom on the left; toilet & sink on the right.

We had not planned to have to buy two major appliances right at the start of our term, so we are praying for the Lord to provide not only affordable equipment, but also the additional funds we'll need to pay for delivery and installation.

We do not have internet at home. Christiana initiated the process of trying to get us connected, but it will be another week before they even send a "technik" to evaluate our flat to see what sort of a set-up we can have. The next big step is to put all of the utilities into our names, and to get an affidavit from our landlord stating that she has the legal right to rent us this place. Once we have those documents, we can apply to be legally registered in Prague 2, which will pave the way for us to eventually have our visas extended.

Please continue to pray for the safe delivery of the contents of our container, as well as for all of the tasks we still have to accomplish to be residents of Prague.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What a Week!

We've been in the Czech Republic exactly one week. In this time we have:

  • Celebrated at a colleague's birthday party
  • Purchased sim cards & activated our phones
  • Attended an international worship service
  • Looked at apartments
  • Acquainted ourselves with the tram network
  • Registered our visas with the foreign police
  • Looked at apartments
  • Visited our new OB and received a clean bill of health for mommy & Baby B
  • Signed more documents for the shipping company to deliver our container
  • Looked at apartments
  • Started orientation at CISP
  • FOUND an apartment
  • Checked out the metro system
  • Investigated a thrift store
  • Registered ourselves for "Open Cards" (the Prague transportation cards which will also double as library cards)
  • Signed the rental contract for our new home
  • Celebrated our first week in Prague with a date night, and somehow ended up on the wrong tram home

The biggest praises this week are for the very encouraging doctor's appointment, and the location of our new home! While this apartment did not come "fully equipped" as we had hoped it might (it's missing a refrigerator and it doesn't have a washing machine), it is a very good-sized apartment, and it's only a ten-minute walk from school. It's also one of the only buildings we looked at which allowed a stroller to roll right in off the street - no two flights of stairs before we even reached the elevator. 

Even though it doesn't have a single stick of furniture in it yet, we're moving in TOMORROW, and we appreciate continued prayer for the safe & hassle-free delivery of our container. It's supposed to be here next week - we'll see whether that materializes or not.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Time Well Spent?

It's been a rather long day for us. We left the place where we're staying about 8:25 this morning. Here's how we spent our time:

8:25-8:30 - Walk to the tram stop; just miss the 8:30 tram
8:40 - Catch next tram
8:40-9:10 - Ride the tram; view Prague from the windows
9:10-9:15 - Walk from tram stop to school
9:15-10:25 - Make more inquiries about possible apartment rentals; only 1 out of 4 phone calls yields an appointment
10:25-11:00 - Find our way from school to the designated meeting point with the person who will help us register our visas
11:00-11:22 - Take public transport to the foreign police office
11:22 - Receive our number for our place in "line" to see visa registration official
11:23-12:00 - Wait for our number to be called
12:00-12:30 - Wait for our number to be called
12:30-1:00 - Wait for our number to be called
1:00-1:13 - Wait for our number to be called (Hey, it could have been worse...)
1:14-1:35- Have number called; meet with visa registration official & receive appropriate stamps in passports
1:35-2:40 - Make our way BACK to school
2:45 - Leave school to go look at apartments
3:00-6:30 - View possible apartments with mixed results; the one with the best location had the least amount of space and virtually no kitchen; the one with the most incredible space was listed at one price, and the realtor asked for another. Hmmm.
(Not all of these appointments were back-to-back, so we're making ourselves acquainted with various coffee shops around Prague. We're VERY thankful for our colleague, Melodee, who not only helped us set up appointments, but also went with us to
6:30-7:10 - Make the return trip to our current lodgings
7:15-present - Continue to pray that TOMORROW will find us finding the perfect place to live!

Will you join us in prayer for our apartment? We're looking for something that's not too far from the school (or from the hospital), something that has at least 3 rooms, and a building with an elevator (if we're higher than the first floor.) We'd also really like to find one that included all appliances, since buying things like refrigerators wasn't really in our budget. We know that God has the perfect place for us to live - we just need Him to help us find it!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Safe Landings

This was us, approximately 24 hours ago. At least, we think it was 24 hours -it's hard to tell. We've been awake for a very long time.

You'd think we were moving to another country or something...
We have landed safely in Prague, Czech Republic, and miraculously, so did ALL of this luggage! (If you know Phil's history with lost bags, you'll appreciate the significance of this.)

We are very, very tired, but we are so grateful to be here. The next few days will be spent registering our visas, getting Czech sim cards for our phones, buying transportation passes, and most importantly, signing a rental contract for a place to live. Please continue to pray for all of the details to fall into place for our housing & the arrival of our shipment.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Down to the Wire

We're about 36 hours from our anticipated departure time. There is still so much we need to accomplish, and we need your prayers.

One major issue looming over us is the fact that we do not have a rental "contract" for a place to live once we arrive (we have a housing agreement - apparently not good enough). While we're not too concerned about it for ourselves this is a big deal for getting our shipment delivered. We've been trying to get the necessary paperwork in order, but it's not happening as quickly as we would like. Please pray for all of these details to fall smoothly in to place. Pray that we'd be able to sign a "contract" even on the day we arrive!

As for getting ready to go, here's our "To Do" list for the day:

  • Attempt to scan & send the additional paperwork to clear our shipment for delivery
  • Send final financial documents to RCE
  • Confirm our airline reservation & our tickets
  • Double check to make sure our passports, visas & letters of service are in a safe place
  • Make one last trip to Wal-Mart for the toothbrushes, pain relievers, vitamins and the other random things we forgot to buy
  • Re-sort all of our belongings & baby gear - even with the extra bag allowance, we're not sure we can get it all into the suitcases.
  • Call our bank & credit card companies and remind them that we'll now be accessing our accounts from outside the US
  • Get last-minute haircuts
  • Call various insurance agencies and make sure everything is in order
  • Call family members "one more time"
  • Try to get a full night's sleep before tomorrow's departure
We are so excited about all that God has in store for us in the Czech Republic - we just have to get there first! Please continue to agree with us for a smooth departure.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Counting the Cost, Part Two

Here's another set of Q&As about raising support. To read the first installment, click here. (Yes, these are all real questions which we've been asked as we've been traveling around the country.)

Q: You're spending so much time traveling - why is that necessary?

A: We wanted to connect with as many churches, small groups and individual sponsors as possible to share with them first-hand about the ministry to which we've been called. We've found the expression "out of sight, out of mind" can be all too true. It's important to remain in contact with everyone who is a part of our support network.

Q: Will you have to do this type of support raising every year?

A: Truthfully, we hope not. While we love having the opportunity to reconnect with family & friends, it is physically and mentally exhausting to keep up that sort of pace every summer. Plus, it takes us out of the very country we feel called to serve! This is one of the reasons that we have sought continued monthly support - you can read more about that here.

Q: Your budget is more than twice what it was when you lived in Moscow. How do you justify that?

A: To understand the difference in our support needs, you first need to recognize the change in our circumstances:
  • When we lived in Moscow, we were both single. We shared flats with 2 or more people (Phil's place housed 5 during his last year), which meant that we weren't shouldering the full responsibilities of rent, furnishings, utilities, or bloc fees.  We're now married - all of these payments will come out of one support account.
  • When we were both single, we gave very little thought to things such as life insurance or emergency funds. However, we're expecting a child - we have to consider the needs of a family.
  • This budget is about the same amount of what we would need if we were going back to Moscow. The difference is, when we lived in Moscow, we received stipends from the school at which we taught. These stipends covered 30-40% of our total monthly costs, so we didn't have to raise the full cost of living. The school in Prague cannot afford to offer us ANY financial support at this time. We're now responsible for 100% of our funding.
  • It's been almost two years since we last lived overseas. Our budget is larger because the general cost of living has increased.

Q: MY family lives on less than half of what you've set as a budget - why should you need more than the average family?

A: Please keep in mind that A) we must not only cover our basic costs of living, but all of our employment taxes, premiums and service fees, and B) we're moving to a metropolitan city, which costs more than if we were living in a rural town.
As for the total amount, our budget is based on recommendations from colleagues in Prague and our own research for international costs for a family of 3. These estimates include housing, food, clothing, visas, transportation, and the like. These are our best estimates, broken down by percentage:
  • 28% has been budgeted for rent, utilities & bloc fees
  • 34% will go toward food, clothing, bus fare, language study, tithes & everything else for a family of 3.
  • 21% will go toward taxes & service fees
  • 17% goes toward health & life insurance (NOTE: This does not include the $1000 annual deductible for which we are also responsible.)
Financial matters are a sensitive area for any family, and this is true for us as well. We are willing to share these details with you because we believe this is part of being accountable for the funds given to our ministry.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Monthly Matters

Yesterday we announced that we were nearly at 90% of our monthly support goal. After recalculating, it turns out that we're just above 85% in pledges. It's not a huge difference, but it is a difference. Our support account has a positive balance, but we are still in need of the last 15% of monthly support.

Why does it matter whether or not we have 100% of our support in regular pledges? Great question. Here are some answers:
  • We are required to submit a total estimate of our financial needs, based on a monthly budget. This budget is then used to structure our "salary", which is paid to us at the end of each month. 
  • Should our salary be more than the total amount of pledges received, this could eventually lead to a serious account deficit, which might require us to return to the US sooner than expected.
  • If we receive a gift which has no commitment attached, we have to count it as a one time gift, because there is no indication that the contributor plans to support us in the future.
  • Although we have been given some very generous one-time gifts, we cannot always count these as part of our total monthly support because inevitably this money will be used to cover donations which were forgotten to be sent, or regular commitments which were cancelled before the end of our term.
Another very positive thing about donations sent as regular pledges is that for that moment, we are very much in someone's thoughts, which frequently prompts them to pray for us. This prayer support is every bit as vital as the financial gift.

We're continuing to trust in God's timing and in His provision for all that we need to serve in Prague for these next 4 years.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

End of the Road-Trip

We've made it! After six weeks, 16 states, 20 different beds, and more than 6,000 miles, we're back in the DC area.

The Brande Support Tour of 2013
This was a long trip, but we were so blessed by the opportunities we had to connect with dear family & friends. We were grateful for every speaking engagement, and we appreciate every opportunity we had to meet with a supporter or a sponsoring church. Most of all, we are tremendously thankful for everyone who opened their homes to us along the way!

So after all of this travel & talking about our calling to missions, we are almost to 90% of our total monthly support needed. Our sending agency would prefer us to be at 100% - we still have 72 hours in which God can work.

Over the next four days, we will:

  • Wash clothing & pack all of our suitcases
  • Weigh and repack our suitcases
  • Complete the additional documents required to get our shipment through customs
  • Print out all of our travel documents & confirm our flights
  • Reweigh (and possibly repack) all of our bags
  • Continue to trust in the Lord to provide for all of our needs
Please continue to lift us up in prayer!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

We were given the gift of a photo shoot before we left Missouri. This picture pretty much sums up our summer. (Photo credit - Holly Hyde & Posy Creative)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Up, Up, and Away!!!

For many, many months now you all have been praying with us ...from the start of our making the decision to move to Prague, through all the craziness of visas, and on the winding roads (some literally) of support raising.

We are very happy to tell you that our support level has risen enough to the point of getting permission to buy tickets, and God blessed us with an incredible price through a "missionary fare."  Today we received our tickets to leave on August 15! We are excited and at the same time taking very deep breaths as we realize that we are leaving in less than 10 days.

This does not mean that you should stop praying.  Please continue to pray for:
1.) The last leg of travel -- We are in Minneapolis now and will be making our way back to DC this week, arriving Saturday evening.
2.) Continued support provision -- We are trusting that God is going to provide the rest of what we need to meet 100%.
3.) Physical strength and energy -- It's been a long month of travel and we are very tired!
4.) All the details on the other side -- Apartments, dr. appointments, shipment of our container, start of school.

We are so grateful that you have stayed with us on this journey, and we look forward to having you with us on the other side of the ocean as well.