Thursday, December 18, 2008

A look back at the Czech....

Most of us woke up on the morning of September 26th trying to convince ourselves that we completely understood the trip we were about to take. With the exception of Zach, none of us had ever been across the pond to the Czech Republic before. A couple of us had only just learned that it was no longer called Czechoslovakia (which it hasn't been since 1992, so it's high time to know that everybody :).

We didn't know that what we were about to be immersed in was the kind of journey that would lift all clouds from our minds, justify all missteps along the road, and bring reconciliation to relationships which had become estranged along the way.

Our trip lasted a total of 51 days, 49 of which were spent inside of the Czech Republic. We knew 3 words of Czech, which were enough to communicate to Czechs that "We don't speak much Czech." We were told that we were traveling to 6 cities, to wake up at 530 so we could play at high schools 3 days a week, with a weekend concert at the end of it. We were provided with sound equipment, lighting equipment, and stage equipment, all carried in the back of a giant blue Peugeot eurovan, which we called the "gear van." Also we had one almost ancient light blue VW Eurovan with 7 seats which we called the "man van."

We played 7 shows, with great attendances up to 600, played at 21 or so high schools usually twice each, led 30 "cultural lessons" about life and culture in America, unpacked and repacked the gear van over 60 times, attended about 40 afternoon activities, played concerts with 2 Tensing Czech choirs (see photo), watched about 25 sunrises (which are absolutely gorgeous in Eastern Europe), met or played for or hung out with about 3300 kids, ate about 400 of these delcious buttery bread sticks that are great with meat and cheese or just plain, drove countless Kilometers, got pulled over by policemen holding lollipops at least once, rode exactly one office that is actually an elevator (think, Wonkavator), and did all we could to share the love of God at each moment of each day.

But back to the beginning: two days of meetings, greetings, and rehearsals after our arrival, 8 Americans (5 Dizmas plus Joey, Larry, and AJ Gib) and 5 Czechs (Daniel, Daniela, Milan, David, Mekke) embarked to only God knew what.

Please enjoy the photos and memoirs as you join us on this look back at the best tour Dizmas was ever a part of.

From Zachariah:

Dear Friends,
It is difficult to choose and share a particular story from our recent trip to Czech Republic when so many wonderful things occurred. To describe particular things God did in lives around us, much more our own lives, would take an eternity. I will however attempt to share what encouraged me most on our trip to Czech Republic.
Near the end of our trip to Eastern Europe I was told that many Czech youth see Christ as a glorified holiday character like, Santa Claus. Though, Jesus is acknowledged to be a religious figure in Czech Republic, his name is predominantly coupled with Christmas and is spoken most frequently during the exchanging of gifts on Christmas Eve. So, as you might imagine, the name Jesus wouldn’t find much relevance in the life of the Czech youth much less in the spiritual musings of a Czech’s mind.
As you can imagine, for dizmas to get up on stage in front of a culture that has never seen Jesus as Lord and proclaim that very truth was quite stretching. Essentially, in regards to their culture, we were declaring their version of Santa Claus to be humanity’s salvation. Imagine for yourself, some foreigner walking up to the pulpit at your local church proclaiming that you are a sinner, and that sin separates you from God (if you believe in God in the first place). Then, he proceeds to share the ridiculous idea that the old man, with flying reindeer, in flashy red pajamas, that you know as Santa Claus happens to be the savior of the world and all you have to do is confess your sins to him and believe in what he did for you and you will go to heaven. How crazy would that seem to you? Would it have any effect, or influence for that matter, on your life? Probably not, right? I mean, you might share it with your friends and make a joke of it later on but would you immediately find it to be true?
The thing that’s crazy is dizmas spent much of the fall sharing a message that must have seemed just as absurd to our audience in Czech Republic. Yet, we continuously saw the message of Christ infiltrate the hearts of a country. Night in and night out we saw lives being changed instantaneously as the truth was not only heard and vigorously investigated but also accepted by Czech’s half our age. It was miraculous! When you consider the culture and what we were proclaiming in it, the fact that people were even listening past our proclamation of Christ as Savior was beyond us.
Since our return, I have heard many reports of unbelieving students attending local churches and what’s more, Czech students are accepting Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. I must say, that God is moving in a tremendous way through Eastern Europe and it is proof that there is power in the name of Jesus. For as we know Jesus, unlike Santa Claus, is God and He is able to change the hearts of men.

Josh’s moment:

One of my favorite things about our trip to the Czech was seeing how he stretched each one of us as individuals. One of the most stretching moments for me took place in Havirov.
We had been working with choirs throughout the whole tour as part of the ministry. We would teach them a Dizmas song, and then a song that they knew by Linkin Park, and they would sometimes even sing these two songs with us live. We had split into two groups, because they needed us in two places at once. Zach went with the other group to represent the band, while the other four of us went to what we thought was a normal choir rehearsal.
We arrived to find that they wanted us to play a concert!? We didn’t have a lead singer! Before the trip, we probably would have just said no, and with good reason. But we talked it over, and decided to give it a shot. We played a few Dizmas tunes, and a few worship songs with me singing lead vocals. God taught me a new meaning of flexibility in ministry that day.


The Czech Republic was really great. I went there to play shows and be willing to do anything else God wanted. The shows were amazing - some of the best I've ever been a part of! But by far, the thing I'll never forget about the Czech is the people and the friendships we made during our 7-week tour. I had a really great time talking with a new group of aspiring guitarists after every show. They were always nervous to approach me, but I was like, "Come on! Come up here on stage!" We would play around with all the different effect pedals and take pictures with all of the gear. Often, we weren't able to communicate with words because of the language barrier, but riffs were exchanged and friendships were started. I'm still e-mailing a few of them! I know all of the guys in the band found it a little humorous when people would treat us like rock stars. I mean, we had been living in a van for the past 4 or 5 years! Rock stars? No, no. Looking back at our trip, I'm encouraged that Christ calls us to a life of loving God and loving people and simply THAT. God's love is the reason we sing and the reason that we were even in the Czech. I quickly realized that I should just do my best to not get in the way of Christ, and I believe that had more of an impact than anything a "rock star" could do.
I saw how God had trained us over the past few years in humility and a heart for people. I believe God did with us exactly what He wanted, during this tour and during our career. So, praise Him. He is good. And our band motto still rings true, "If God can use us, He can use anyone."
- Jon

From the desk of Clay:

The first few weeks in the Czech were really hard for me. Being in a new culture, experiencing so much change, and not able to run to anything familiar was pretty shocking. One monday a few of us went to hike a nearby mountain called Pustevny. There were so many things running through my head, dealing with so many things at once, trying to find God in all of it. We continued to hike for about an hour, until we reached the end, which was a church. This church had been constructed over a hundred years before, and that had to be no easy task. We were at the top of a very high mountain, and this had been built before the advent of trucks, cranes, or any other type of machinery. This place had been constructed out of a place of reverence and respect for our creator, and from this place you could stand in awe of his creation. And at that moment i was reminded of how unfathomable the enormity of our father is, and that all of these things were minute in comparison. There is peace to be found in how small we are, and how infinitely huge God is.

And lastly,

When I would imagine what would happen over a long period of time on foreign soil in a different culture, I would picture a lot of fun, a lot of music, a lot of us Dizmases having moments of unspoken understanding, and accompanying those moments, unuttered laughter. I expected glamorous sights, fascinating sounds, and moments of inner peace and solitude. I did not, ever, expect that rifts that had existed between personalities for years would be mended.

For me this was the most surprising thing about the trip. Now you have to understand that when a number of different people work, eat, and live together for upwards of 80 percent of each year, there will undoubtedly arise things which separate individuals. To a degree, this is totally normal and maybe even healthy, but I learned in those years that these discrepancies, pet peeves, let's call them "potholes," left to themselves can very easily turn into trenches, and even into faultlines. To us Californians, that word is a very big deal. The two sides of the lines will press against each other, increasing pressure, and on a long enough timeline, they will collide violently, causing an earthquake. In the aftermath, both sides of the faultline are left marred and the destruction spreads across much larger areas than just that specific point.

So. It's kind of like that. Or at least it was.

How I saw God in the Czech Republic was through a few relatively brief, but gigantically important conversations between friends that play music together. When I went to Europe, I expected these previously mentioned lines to be deeper than ever, but something was different. Whether it was us feeling extremely useful in what we were doing- having a clear purpose to be a light to the darkness (The Czech Republic is about 94% atheistic), enjoying each day immensely from sunrise (literally) to about midnight, making many new friends and seeing a few good old ones, having amazing shows each week, or maybe it was the inner warmth of the Czech people. I have to say it must have been a combination of everything that led to this incredible healing of old wounds in each and every one of us.

I think everyone can feel me on this. Sometimes, you just end up looking people who are close to you in life for one reason or another and thinking. "man, they really, REALLY don't get it." By the end of the trip, I looked into the eyes of each guy and saw that they, too, truly felt that we had been a part of something incredible. Something 10 years in the making, but still once in a lifetime. And God was so there, and we all met Him there.

By the end, we all got it.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Videos galore...

Here are some live videos from our trip to the Czech so far....Thanks to all the kids who have posted them!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Czech Update - Weeks 3 & 4!

Ahoj (Hi)! I missed last week's update and I apologize for that! Things haven't stopped since my last update. We rolled right through last weekend and today is our first day off. Soooo, here is the condensed version of the latest happenings:

We spent last week in Havirov, Czech Republic. There are about 83,000 people in that city and the kids we met were AWESOME! An interesting point about Havirov is that the Communist party still exists and thrives there, being one of the largest represented in the city. An election actually took place during our week there, and the concert hall was where the ballot counting occurred - during our concert! I picture it just like a scene from a movie...A dark, smoky, room with ballots everywhere... Czech and Russian being spoken at the same time... The Communist plans to take over the world floating in the air... and the soundtrack of Dizmas shaking the ceiling! I'm sure that's exactly how it went :) The longer version has me and the rest of the guys dressed up as secret police and kicking down the door, etc., etc.
Anyways, the response in Havirov was really great. We hung out with so many kids almost all day long. We added a few new afternoon activities to the schedule in this city. One was called The Dizmas Factor (not named after our YouTube video series), and it was a chance for kids to come sing in a choir that would perform with us during the concert at the end of the week. We had two practices with about 30 kids. It was so interesting to see who showed up to sing! Occasionally there would be some guy heckling us a bit during the morning concerts at some of the high schools. We usually took the "heckling kid" on as a mission during the day. One of those guys was named, Martin. He slowly warmed up to us as we singled him out a bit and got to know him during our lectures and time in his school. We invited him to The Dizmas Factor, not expecting a "cool guy" like him to be interested in a choir. That night, though, Martin showed up and was the life of the party! For both songs he chose to sing the female Soprano part, which was just way too ridiculously high for him. We were DYING with laughter! It was amazing. He had even brought a friend, and the next night of practice - he brought 3! Martin and his friends became some of our best friends on this trip, particularly for Joey and Larry.
The concert on that Saturday was so awesome! Over 600 kids came out. The choir sang with us during our encore on the songs, Redemption, Passion, Glory, and What I've Done (Linkin Park). Redemption was especially emotional for all of us as we worshiped with a bunch of voices ringing behind us...They sang, "What love is this, that you would die for me?" over and over and it was a sweet, sweet sound. I just can't describe how amazing that was. I'm sure I will never forget that.
We ended the weekend with a musical workshop. I taught electric guitar, Clay taught drums, Nick taught bass, and Josh taught acoustic guitar.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we started our morning and afternoon concerts and lectures in the schools of Ostrava, Czech's 3rd largest city. On Tuesday, we left in the evening for the city of Vsetin, which is about an hour and half away. We finished this week in Vsetin and will head back to Ostrava during the upcoming week. Vsetin was a blur! The schools asked us not to lecture, so we just played our sets, promoted Exit 316, and shared about the concert. The afternoons were great, though. Nick, Clay, and I taught musical workshops on Wednesday and Thursday. Kids packed into small, sweaty rooms to learn some riffs and jam with us. Not many people spoke or understood English, so we used translators. It's really cool to see something as big as a language barrier be swept away by music. There were definite moments when we all understood each other through just a few notes on a guitar. We played, we laughed, and we became friends.
One highlight of the week that I have to mention is...Mexican Food! We've all been craving it. Some missionaries from Josiah Venture had us over to their apartment and cooked us some legendary tacos. Soul food.
So, that brings me to the concert last night - another one of my favorites! There were about 500 or 600 kids there again and pure chaos. We were able to spend a long time with them after the show. We gave away a ton of Bibles, signing them with some verses to read, and asking the receiver to really read the book. Hopefully they will! It's something we can all be praying for...

Thank you for your continual prayer and support...We are all so thankful for it.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Day Fast food Came to My Rescue...

So we are coming up on our month anniversary of being in Europe! With this realization comes an excitement but also a homesickness. In my devotions every morning I was praying that God would take away these thoughts, allowing me to focus 100% on ministering where He has placed me. This relief came in a way i did not expect.

I have never been more excited to see a Mcdonalds in my life! In the states I dont even like the sight of those golden arches, but here it feels like home. I don't know what that says about America, but i know what it means for me here. So, though i never thought i would say this, it now seems appropriate.

Thank you Lord for Mcdonalds. :)


Monday, October 20, 2008


Hello. I have the great privilege of sending the latest on our tour in Czech Republic. Let me start off by saying thank you to all those who have been praying for us. We see your prayers being answered every day as God has been doing miraculous things in our lives and in the lives of many Eastern European teenagers. We couldn't do this without you.

Real quick, I thought I would share a quick story with you. To preface my story, I must remind you that we are ministering in a predominantly atheistic country that has continually been betrayed by their closest allied countries and taken advantage of for centuries. Needless to say, because of their dark history, it takes time to build relationships with many Czech people. Many conversations seem to be one sided when I introduce myself to a Czech but often turn into deep, meaningful dialogues as my patience is stretched and I spend time with them. I have found the Czech people to be a very meek and humble people. With the understanding, that they are often skeptical and intorverted, you might imagine the joy I felt when a teacher blatantly asked that I talk about God and my religious beliefs in a class meeting the other day. With hesitation, from the shock I had just experienced, I began to share my testimony with 15 to 20 Czech students. I challenged them to look beyond the walls of their households and what they see on T.V. and open their hearts to a heavenly father that sent his own son to die in their place. I spoke of sin and how it separates us from God while explaining that Christ could end that separation if we just believed in Him. Before I knew it, I had shared the core of the gospel message and had kids jumping at the chance to hear more. I was blown away at what God had done in that moment and couldn't believe how open most of the kids were to something they hadn't, really, ever heard before. After class, the teacher thanked me for being so open with her students said she hoped that we might be able to come visit their school again and speak to more of the students about our lives. I new in that moment I realized I had experienced something extraordinary.

After leaving the students I had met with I bumped into Jon and Nick who were talking about how a very similar thing happened in their classes and then bumped into our friend Scott who said he had experienced the same thing. It was unbelievable! I was in awe of what God was doing through this small group of musicians from the U.S.

I must say, I couldn't imagine things going any better than they have been. Every single member of this group (dizmas) is doing an amazing job. I am extremely blessed to have such great friends and I am excited to see what else God will do in the weeks to come.

We miss you all!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Making Friends and Winning....

One day in Cesky Tesin, probably my favorite day in Cesky Tesin, Clay, Nick, Zach, and myself got the chance to play in a futbol and basketball tournament. You have 6-7 players a team. Which if you do the math, like I did, we needed 2 or three more players. I managed to find and ask the only english speaking czech guy, Vetia, and his two friends to join the USA team, and form team USA-CZ.
There were 4 teams total in the tourny, including us. We played 3 games of futbol, and 3 games in basketball. Best record of wins vs. losses wins each tournament.
First our basketball games. We started off confidently in basketball with a 50-8 victory, and a 38-6 win. We felt like we had it wrapped up only to find that we played the best team last. We barely squeaked by with a 16-10 victory. It got heated at times, but ended with hugs, and a trophy to team USA-CZ! Yes they had an actual trophy for us! Which i had the honor of giving to the best player on the other team.
Then onto the tourny that we were worried about, futbol (aka soccer). We started with a very tough game, but managed to squeeze a 4-2 victory out thanks to our czech team mates. We then played the best team in the tournament, who just so happens to be 6 pieces to a real soccer team in a league in the Czech republic! :) Our czech team mates informed us that we would probably lose to them badly.
The whistle blew, and we were down 2-0. It was a long, hard fought battle that ended in a 3-2 victory for team USA-CZ!!! This game turned almost strangers into friends. When the final whistle blew we were hugging and jumping for joy with our czech team mates. It was a victory that will not be soon forgotten. The 3rd game was a forfeit, because the team we were supposed to play lost 8-0 to the team we just beat. They just told us congratulations, and took off for home. We received another trophy which we kept.
I am happy to announce that we represented America well, and couldn't have done it without our new found friends, and team mates Vetia, Zdenik, and Thomas. Most of the guys that played that day were at the concert, and heard the gospel preached. God works in mysterious ways. Keep us in your prayers.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fall is here....

So these past two weeks have been crazy, but also incredibly rewarding. We are still maintaining the wed-fri 5 am to 11 pm schedule, which is nuts, but great at the same time. All of us are having to rely on God as we make our way through the days, as we are tired physically, but know that we can do all things through Him who gives us strength.

We have had some time to relax as well. Our location has allowed us the opportunity to see much of the Czech countryside. We are staying at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, and are surrounded by the forests that run along there faces. Fall is in full swing, as autumnal colors are everywhere, from vibrant reds and oranges, to the last touches of green, signaling the full change of the season. Recently we went on a hike along one of the nearby mountains. As we walked along the ridge we had the cloud covered hills of Slovakia to one side, and the green valleys of the Czech to the other. Its amazing to see God in these places, and know he is everywhere you go.

Please continue to pray for us, and If you would like to further support us you can through the Josiah Venture website.

I hope this finds you all well,