Friday, August 15, 2014

The Final Camp

As I am sure you guessed, our third and final camp of the summer was amazing. Each time I sit down to update you lovely individuals, I am at a loss for what to say, simply because there is so much. I went into the week expecting to teach beginner level English speakers. If you are anything like me, you may have observed a pattern in the universe where things do not go as planned. Given the distribution of students, we needed more teachers of advanced English, and since I had done that at the previous two camps, up to a university class I went, and that class was such a blessing.

We sang, we danced, we dressed up as pirates, we hiked, we cooked sausages over a fire. It was a lovely week. I will share with you a couple of my dearest memories, one more serious than the other.

Story #1: On hike day, we hiked to a lake where a few of us swam and the rest of the group (if you read that as “party poopers,” I wouldn’t argue) rested. In what was perhaps an over-ambitious move, I swam across the lake, to the Shore of Grazing Sheep and an old man who informed us that swimming there was prohibited. By the time I drug myself back to the group, a crisis had occurred. My dear friend and teammate Petrunda had lost her nose ring at the bottom of the lake and had, in its place, a giant pearl earring.

I knew all too well the pain of losing a nose ring. Just a month prior, my piercing had come out, and while the hole in my nose closed up, a hole in my heart developed in its place. When we got back to the camp facility (after Petra took a little nap on the concrete, as only she could), I found my nose ring. After much prayer, time, effort, and skills of a seasoned nose ring wearer, my nose ring found a new home in Petrunda’s nose. It’s the classic story of sacrifice, friendship, and life coming out of death. If it isn’t in my nose, there is nowhere I’d rather have my star-shaped stud than walking around the Czech Republic with my pal Petra.

Story #2: At English Camp, we have strict bedtimes. Students come to learn, and as many years of standardized testing have taught us, the keys to learning are a healthy breakfast and a good night’s sleep. The last night, however, there is no curfew, for there are no more English classes. Since it was my last night at my last camp, I endeavored to stay up all night.

In this process, I drank my first ever cup of coffee. It was tolerable. I also "swam" in six inches of cold river water, watched YouTube videos of screaming goats and punk rock bands, and participated in karaoke. I took a walk at 4am, ending at a picnic table where I played Heads Up with friends and listened to the horses and roosters waking up. The best part of the night, though, was the sunrise. The rising of the sun itself was nice, but not all that. However, I got to watch it with two camp friends who had both decided to follow Jesus that week. We got to talk about our faith and the significant week behind us and if the sun was ever actually going to rise above the trees. I can usually be a bit of a grandma when it comes to bed time, but that was the most worthwhile all-nighter I have every pulled (out of all approximately three of them).

Here are some of the lovely faces from our third term camp team.

After camp, we had time to debrief and a few final days of fun and team time in Prague. It was an amazing summer. I saw beautiful landscapes and wonderful people and cultures. I slept in 15 beds in 10 weeks, never staying in a city for more than a week at a time. I laughed and cried and laughed until I cried and learned and danced. I saw God answer prayers about weather, about nose rings, about travel logistics, and about human hearts, including my own.

“And there are many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”
John 21:25

Love always,

Jenna B.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

English Camp, Round 2

In just about every way, our second camp was different than the first, while still following the same structure and still being great. 

Our American team was much smaller at only 3.5 people. I know in math when they teach you about counting they say that people are to be counted in whole numbers, but that is overly simple and this is not math class; it is my blog and I pick the numbers. That being said, 0.5 is a lovely missionary from the American church living and serving with the church in Olomouc, hence making her half a person for each team. The Arkansas team was composed entirely of graduated from college adults and they already had strong connections with the Olomouc church. Because the American team was small, we got to work with intern Team Lenhardt, our Ostrava roommates and beloved other half. 

I got teach with Chuck, the youth pastor from Arkansas, and we had a lot of fun co-leading discussions and English lessons. Our group spoke good English and we got to focus on learning new vocab and conversations. In our group of 9 students, all were Christians, which is a super rare environment for this part of the world. We were able to spend sweet time talking about our faith and encouraging each other. 

On our hike day, we were blessed with unexpected and beautiful weather. Since we were only about 5km from the border, we hiked to Slovakia, which was way cooler to the Americans than Czechs, and which may not sound cool to the many back home who still have yet to recognize that Czech and Slovakia are separate countries these days. 

The trail and view at the end were beautiful, and there was only one berry casualty. They warned us about how seriously berries are taken, but I never imagined they would require a dear fellow intern getting four stitches. Dan tripped in his excitement to run and share, holding tightly to the blueberries rather than breaking his fall. 

This church has been doing camp for years, but this was their first time doing it with JV, so we got to introduce new tools and structures. It was a great week filled with unity and fun between our intern teams, awesome conversations, lukewarm fruit tea (always the lukewarm fruit tea), and a rad dance party. 

We are now at training with our short term team from Chicago for our third and final camp. Time is flying these days and dragging us along with it. 

So there is just a glimpse of what I've been doing. I hope to write to all y'all very soon about more details, fun stories, and the many things I've been learning. 

Much love,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Camp 1

What do you write about one of the most amazing weeks of your life? That is the question I've been sitting on all week, and here I am, still unsure, but feeling I owe it to you to try to answer it.

For our first week of camp, we partnered with a church from Hradec Kralove and a group of 3 leaders and 10 high school seniors from California. I got to live in a mobile home. Though my feet didn't fit on the bed and the mornings were near refrigerated, the living room was a great, homey space for English class.

The students and translator in my English class (pictured below) were all around my age and all spoke excellent English. Their wish for class time was to have opportunities to talk, since in school they spend class reading and writing. This was a perfect fit for me, since talking is a gift of mine. We got to do all kinds of fun activities and games. Our English class was also our discussion group. After a Christian evening program, we got to talk about life and faith and God together. The theme for the week was about how Jesus presents a lot of ideas that are "Upside Down" and invites us to be part of an Upside Down Kingdom

Throughout the week, we had other team building opportunities. The 8 of us went by "Team Punishing Train" due to our signature dance move (as displayed in my FaceBook cover photo) and rocked the hula dance contest at the Hawaiian party and a dramatic reading/acting of "Friday" by Rebecca Black at the talent show. 

I got to have great one on one conversations with some of my group as well. We talked about faith, family, partying, eternity, Jesus, and all kinds of things. I got to share what I believe about a God that loves us all SO MUCH and listen to other perspectives. It was a blast.

In addition to English classes and evening programs, we played sports, did ice breakers, went on a four hour hike, made friendship bracelets, played forest games, and did other very camp appropriate things. I got to talk with students who knew English and smile at and just enjoy the presence of those who didn't.

It is crazy to think that I'm more than half way through my summer here in the Czech Republic and exciting to realize we still have two more camps!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

When You Give A Mouse an Offer

Team VW finished our first English camp of the summer! You may rightfully have some questions about how that went. But first, I have a very important story from my evening. 

Tonight, after consuming about 4 pizzas among the four of us, we watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower. All of the feels. Then, to lighten the mood, a mouse ran across the floor. As big brave missionaries, none of us panicked at first, but then Andrew wielded a broom and tried to smack the creature dead. At this point the three of us girls started yelling appeals on behalf of this rodent that suddenly became the most valuable being in the room as our nurturing natures kicked in. 

Andrew set down the broom and we sat by as the mouse scampered by several more times, eventually going to the hall. When that location shift happened, Andrew and Petra went outside and seized a local cat that hangs about and trapped it in the hall with the mouse. However, walls and doors mean nothing to mice and before we knew it the mouse was back in our presence. 

Andrew, who will be sleeping in this room tonight, had had enough and again determined to slaughter the beast. "No!" we begged. "We will capture it! At least give it til we leave." He graciously conceded and went to Skype in the other room. 

At this point I had used several trapping tactics. First, obviously, I let the mouse know that I was on her side. I told her, "I know how bad this looks, me here with this plastic bag, trying to trap you, but I really want the best for you." I sang her "I Can Be Your Friend" from the classic days of Veggie Tales. I even rewrote the parts that didn't make sense so that she would understand ("if your skin is bald or furry/we can have lunch, I'll share my curry"). Along the way, Alyssa had joined my efforts and we realized that this mouse probably didn't even speak English. 

Petra popped in through the window for long enough to tell us the Czech word for mouse (which we shall call miš, pronounced mish, even if that is not quite correct) and for not long enough to help any more. Thus we took to calling our small friend Miss Miš. We had her confined to the back hall/room and bathroom area, which was progress, and I prayed for boldness to catch this mouse panicked and went into crisis mode and began misquoting the scripture about "becoming all things to all creatures so that by any means possible we may save some."

Eventually the elusive Miss Miš escaped to the bathroom and we hurriedly closed the door. Jumping up and down in excitement, I knew this quest was about to get real. We trapped ourselves in the bathroom with Miš. After cornering her 7 million times, Alyssa and I had Miš trapped between the shower, a trash can, and two bags. I saw my opportunity, yelled at Alyssa to hand me her bag, and watched in unbelief as Miss Miš RAN INTO THE BROWN PAPER BAG and I scooped her up, yelling in excitement. 

I closed the top and ran barefoot to the park alone yelling "I'M SORRY, I'M SORRY, I'M SORRY!" and dumped her by a bush in the middle of the park. 

VICTORY IN JESUS, Miss Miš is saved!


(This is the only photo I got in the whole 30+ minute intensive capturing extravaganza.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul

Hey dear ones!

I know it's been a while. Terribly sorry. Unless you felt like you needed a break from my frequent updates. Then you are so welcome. 

Since I've last written you, dear general public, I've been up to all sorts of shenanigans, as I'm sure you can imagine. 

Between shenanigans, however, I've had quite a bit of free time. Being the hyper, adventure-hungry extrovert that I am, this has been a bit of a challenge for me at times. One of the biggest things I'm learning this summer is to exchange restlessness for rest. 

During my down time, I've gotten to spend lots of time getting to know other beautiful souls. I've also gotten to spend lots of time getting to know my king, Jesus, reading his love letter and talking with him. I'm learning to recognize that time spent building relationships isn't wasted. This is what I was made for and these are the things that impact eternity. 

(Here are some places I've found rest on the past couple days)

The first half of this summer has been less about doing and more about being. Don't get me wrong, I've been privileged to do some amazing things, but the pace has allowed for so much rest. It has allowed me to daily offer myself as available and flexible to do what needs to be done and smile when plans change. I looked back at my journal from the beginning of summer at intern training. My team had shared things we had learned on the amazing race that we wanted to remember. One of these insights was that "God uses walking." The first day of the race, we had pushed ourselves, trying to run everywhere. Quickly, we found that this wasn't sustainable or enjoyable, and adopted a slower, but still intentional pace. This is a beautiful picture of the last month, working together, walking, being intentional. I am so full of God's love and overwhelmed with his grace and faithfulness. 

Tomorrow is a turning point. Tomorrow the campers come, and this summer will never be the same! Life is about to pick up speed and may not slow down much til I am on the flip side of this internship. I am so excited to spend my energy teaching, learning from, talking with, and playing with students. And I am so grateful to be so rested going into it. 

Glad that God uses walking and ready to run full speed ahead into camp,


He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul

Hey dear ones!

I know it's been a while. Terribly sorry. Unless you felt like you needed a break from my frequent updates. Then you are so welcome. 

Since I've last written you, dear general public, I've been up to all sorts of shenanigans, as I'm sure you can imagine. 

Between shenanigans, however, I've had quite a bit of free time. Being the hyper, adventure-hungry extrovert that I am, this has been a bit of a challenge for me at times. One of the biggest things I'm learning this summer is to exchange restlessness for rest. 

During my down time, I've gotten to spend lots of time getting to know other beautiful souls. I've also gotten to spend lots of time getting to know my king, Jesus, reading his love letter and talking with him. I'm learning to recognize that time spent building relationships isn't wasted. This is what I was made for and these are the things that impact eternity. 

(Here are some places I've found rest on the past couple days)

The first half of this summer has been less about doing and more about being. Don't get me wrong, I've been privileged to do some amazing things, but the pace has allowed for so much rest. It has allowed me to daily offer myself as available and flexible to do what needs to be done and smile when plans change. I looked back at my journal from the beginning of summer at intern training. My team had shared things we had learned on the amazing race that we wanted to remember. One of these insights was that "God uses walking." The first day of the race, we had pushed ourselves, trying to run everywhere. Quickly, we found that this wasn't sustainable or enjoyable, and adopted a slower, but still intentional pace. This is a beautiful picture of the last month, working together, walking, being intentional. I am so full of God's love and overwhelmed with his grace and faithfulness. 

Tomorrow is a turning point. Tomorrow the campers come, and this summer will never be the same! Life is about to pick up speed and may not slow down much til I am on the flip side of this internship. I am so excited to spend my energy teaching, learning from, talking with, and playing with students. And I am so grateful to be so rested going into it. 

Glad that God uses walking and ready to run full speed ahead into camp,


Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Last Time I've Done Something for the First Time

My family has gone to some crazy and far off places together, but my favorite family vacation was when we went to Michigan three years ago. On that trip, we came across a quote we've often since referenced and which makes me think of my dad every time: "When is the last time you've done something for the first time?"

Here is a list of some of my firsts from the past two and a half weeks:

-became an intern 
-swam in pants (twice)
-went to Slovenia
-went to Czech 
-went to a castle
-ate horse that actually admitted openly to being horse
-went creek stompin in Chacos (seriously so much better than flip flops)
-watched Wes Anderson films (and loved them)
-tried to slack line
-tried svickova, Kofala, and other Czech foods and drinks
-actively tried to enjoy mashed potatoes 
-made my foot bleed playing ping pong
-made my foot bleed playing ninja
-rode business class on a train 

I've met tons of new people from all over the United States and all over the world and getting to know all of these beautiful souls tops anything else on the list. I love adventures, but more than that, I love the ones with whom I share them and the God for whom I take then. I trust that this both this list and I will grow a lot throughout the summer. 

This is for my dad: a fellow adventurer and my supporter. To the man who consistently made sure I was planning to study abroad, to the man who encourages me to try new things and explore new places. To the man who I blame for my legs anxious to walk new paths, my mouth ready to speak to new people, intertwining stories and lives, and my heart seeking daily to know the heart of my Savior more fully. Happy Father's Day.  

Jenna "Gina Marie" Pinkston

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Another Swimming Adventure

It was another fabulous day here in Ostrava, planning and meeting and spending some much needed alone time. 

This evening, after Daniel and I cooked way too much meat in way too little pan for Taco Tuesday and Alyssa and I spent some great quality time with a local cat praying, the night was still young and we had no plans. The rest of the group was playing a card game. Not to bash card games, but I hate them. This one in particular sounded miserable, as there are no winners or losers. If there is one thing I hate more than games it would be a game where there is no shot at winning. Winning is the only good part of games. 

I wasn't the only restless one. We got out the colorful map of the city speckled with pubs and museums and aquariums and other establishments given to us by our hosts. After a hot week of joking about finding water to jump in, we pointed at the river. I don't know how serious that suggestion was, but I dropped the map and started walking out of the house. 

Petra and Dan, the Czech interns from Team VW and Team Lenhardt respectively, and I trekked across town, on railroads and tram roads, through trees, and past threatening stinging nettle until we made it to the river. 

After crossing a bridge that didn't look like it wanted us to cross it, we discovered that the river quite shallow. So in we waded and had a most glorious time swimming in the sunset, having underwater flip and handstand contests, swimming right up to the edge of the man made waterfall of death, and other mature things. All the while we ignored the lovely no swimming signs that probably didn't apply to me since I couldn't read them. 

And so it is the summer of wonderful, nontraditional swimming experiences. So next time you get bored, grab a couple pals and waltz on over to the river. Also, next time you pack for a summer abroad, bring two towels. 


Monday, June 9, 2014

Kids and Faith and Slack Lines

I currently dwell in Ostrava, our home base city, until Wednesday. The couple of days we get here between city visits are spent "nesting" (commence debate on how ok or not ok that term is), prepping, meeting, and resting. Among the perks of being here is the fact that we get to pair up with another team of four. 

This afternoon, after a brief chat with my beautiful mother and sister, I walked over to the park, which is smack dab in the middle of the missionaries' apartment where a couple of the guys are staying and the old church building where the rest of us are staying, sitting at a lovely 2 minute walk from either location. Jonathan, one of the guys living here full time, had set up a slack line. I have been trying to be cooler and towards that end, think it would behoove me to learn to slack line proficiently. 

Soon after getting to the park, the children came. A group of little ones approached on the right and teenagers meandered in on the left. I got to play with these awesome people, about 10 kids ranging from 7-14 years old, for about three and a half hours. I don't know the last time you took several hours to just play outside - toss a frisbee, kick a ball, play hide and seek and tag, swirl some kids around - but I would give it a 10/10 recommendation. 

In the Bible, Jesus commands followers to let children come to him. He celebrates their faith. These kids in the park were such an example of faith. They didn't know me and could barely communicate with me enough to swap names and ages. But they trusted me to hold their hands as they walked across a slack line and jumped as high as their little legs would let them. And when things didn't go as planned, when there were scrapes and blood and scary times, they trusted that their pain was not my intention, but just part of the process. Hugs and fist bumps covered a multitude of hurt. What if we could see how much God is on our side and ready to give us hugs and fist bumps and get us back on our feet and off on our adventures?

In Czech, there are greeting words that can be used for both hello and goodbye. So, like my wonderful little pals practicing their English, I will leave you with a great big "hello!"


P.S. I may not be able to communicate much, but when I say "selfie," these chicos know exactly what's happening. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

How We Got on Czech TV

Today, we joined the local youth group in going on a hike from a village. If you are like me, please prepare to expand your current definitions of "hike" and "village." Lots of kids in the schools and youth group have said they live in villages and commute to school and I had no category for what that meant. And after the walk, the best way I can describe a Czech village to you is that they are like neighborhoods surrounded by fields and not cities. There are lots of lovely homes with yards and gardens, a couple of restaurants and shops, and a train station. 

When I picture a hike, I envision forests and dirt paths and creeks and hills. We walked through the paved streets of a village, into an old church, between flat fields, and up the 182 steps of a lookout tower. Or 183 or 185, depending on who you ask. I have training in counting (#ElementaryEducation) but the other girls were Czech and the steps were Czech so it's really a close call. 

After our very flat hike with almost no shade in the lovely sunshine (and after awkwardly and accidentally crashing a community Olympics event), we sat down at a restaurant to drink Kofala, a delicious Czech soda. As soon as we sat down, a cameraman arrived on the scene. 

Why not? We looked so fab. They were doing a report on what people do when it's hot. It was 80 degrees. In June. That was the story. 

I think it was a cover. Surely they just wanted footage of our beauty. Or they are undercover spies trying to track down a different group of hooligan youths  who are involved in the stealing of precious gems or the defacing historical wonders or the kidnapping of local pets. Or perhaps a normal, warm summer temperature was really all that was going on in the village today. At any rate, the good people tuning in were blessed with our faces and commentary on the weather. 

And that is how we got on television. Feel free to bask in this fame with me. I couldn't have done it without you. 

Sunburned and smiling,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Coffee and Corks

I type to you from a lovely flat in Hradec Kralove. It has been a quick transition from being surrounded by 100 other interns in Malenovice to it being the four of us on my immediate team. This is where we get down to business, and I couldn't be more excited. 

After a day speaking in classrooms promoting English camp and in meetings, we met up with people from the local youth group at a cafe/restaurant. We sat around somewhat awkwardly, communicating in minimal English and sitting and sipping our beverages. 

My tea came with sugar packets. I take my tea black. I know, I'm extremely hardcore, but I need you to refrain from intense admiration and listen to this story. I look across the table at Vendy, a 15 year old, and at my unused sugar and say, "Here's the game. I flick the sugar and try to get it to hang off the table without falling." It's a pretty normal waiting around game. 

Soon, sugar packets are sliding from all angles among the 12ish people at the long table. Then, before you can say "Jenna-is-a-bad-influence," sugar packets are flying across the cafe paper football style. As our serious looking waiter approached, I stopped and avoided eye contact like a puppy full of shame. 

The waiter came back shortly bearing gifts. He brought corks and a metal bucket: the finest toys in all the land! We had a ball tossing corks into the bucket, at each other, and into each other's drinks. 

What had started as a sugar packet slide turned quickly into the waiter using an umbrella as a golf club to hit a cork into a bucket. A restaurant full of young adults was all at once filled with the wonder of five year olds. 

Sometimes language barriers work to your advantage. What a beautiful evening filled with joy and laughter and being taught words for flowers and medieval weapons in Czech. 

Love and giggles,
Jenna B.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Waterfall: Take 2

Yesterday, I wrote to you about my journey to The Waterfall. And how we didn't actually find it. 

Today, I write to you about my journey to The Waterfall. 

For the second day in a row, come free time, I set out into the woods. This time, I was so much more prepared: I had a towel, ziploc for the phone, shorts, and a larger group of companions, including menfolk. This can also be read as "Jenna crashes Poland time and invites Melanie: a tale of redemption." The Poland team is great. Through living situations and the magnificent Becca Carmer, I've gotten to know a few of these people, and it makes me long for the days when technology will enable me to simultaneously spend a summer in Czech and Poland. 

When we hit the first road off of camp/hotel grounds, my hopes and dreams faded as yet again my daring co-adventurers seemed to lack direction. However, soon we passed the waterfall of yesterday and I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. 

We continued on the path and other, intuitive paths, until LO AND BEHOLD we actually happened upon what HAD to be The Waterfall. Some of my pals immediately plunged in, but my heart had to go on. Too much creek was left un-stomped. The group split roughly in half, as some stayed at the fall then turned around, some of us (including my friend Mel you may remember from yesterday's misadventure) went onwards, and one of us (oh hey JT) took an adventure that was described using Gollum as a visual, which is always a good sign. 

We walked and grinned through and by and around and over and not under the creek. I walked until my feet were numb from the cold water and I couldn't walk 5 feet without clumsily stumbling. Given the immanence of country time meetings, we turned around, jumped in at the base of the fall, and scrambled/ran back to the cabin with minutes to spare. 

We talked this week about how we connect with God and rest. Three of those ways were through relationship with other people, through nature, and through being active. I got a three in one with this adventure, and my soul smiles sleepily and contentedly as I type. 

May your days be filled with ice cold water to and friends to mock you when you can know longer stand. And constantly ask if you're alright (oh hey Simon) just so you don't think all my new friends are mean. You're probably worried enough already, my dear mother and whatever other reader happened upon this.

Tomorrow, we are off to a new city and a new adventure. Get pumped. 

Love and hugs,

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Dumbest Thing I've Done All Week: A Narrative on the Best Part of my Day

I found out that basically everyone here has been hiking without me. Statistically, that is likely inaccurate, but it is still unacceptable. Today after lunch, two fellow Czech interns mentioned they were going to The Waterfall and I immediately and figuratively jumped on that.

One of the girls planned on getting in the water and the other did not. I opted to join the one who would not. Among my reasons were the fact that it is 50 degrees here, creeks are cold, and they would have to wait for me to change. 

We set off into the woods, following directions that were passed along by word of mouth and, as my co-adventurers later admitted, half-heartedly listened to. After completely redirecting, I suggested we just hop down into the creek and walk upstream until we found the waterfall. I was a delighted camper, given that this was my first crick stomp in Chacos (so much better than stompin in flops), crick stompin is one of my all time favorite pastimes, and neither of my new friends judged me too hard for calling it crick stompin.

When we reached The Waterfall, Mel was ready in her swimsuit and Amy was content to take off her boots and put her feet in the water. I went into a subtle panic as both the mermaid and junior higher in me absolutely could not let this beautiful pool of water go un-jumped in. 

You know when you make a promise to yourself and break it? Like "This year I will be more organized than cramming all my notes in one notebook" or "This is my very last cookie?" Well, a mere four days ago I promised myself I would never swim in pants again.

But there I was, with minimal prompting, plunging into the base of a Czech waterfall. For a brief moment, I was unsure if I knew how to swim, what life was, and if I would be able to resurface. It was that cold. I floundered about, making it to the surface and awkwardly pushing and falling and pulling myself out of the water and scrambling up the bank. Based on both of my swimming experiences so far, it's safe to assume no one here knows I'm a competent swimmer. I make myself feel better by thinking of it as my secret weapon which will eventually and surely come in handy.

These are the uncomfortable, numb-footed, ear-to-ear grinning moments I live for. And this summer's adventure is just beginning. 

Oh, and it just so happens that we didn't go to The Waterfall. We went to some other one on accident. I think I know what's next on the adventure list.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Amazing Finish

I believe I left you at the massive amount of horse meat I consumed. Terribly sorry about that. 

After that, we scrutinized an outdoor photo gallery, located a World War II bunker, charted with a Slovene couple, and I took on a ridiculous calligraphy job. After finding things that begin in Slovene with all but one letter of the alphabet, we ended in second place AGAIN at the end of day 2! Hashtag killin' the game. 

Friday, after waking before 5am, when most of you Indiana folk were probably still awake despite our 6 hour time difference, we took a train to Maribor, where we helped at a local youth center before starting the last leg of the race. 

The first task led us to the top of a hill. Disclaimer: for the rest of this post, this Indiana girl will likely refer to the hills of this city as mountains. All of the locals, literally every single individual in the whole city (besides one confused lady), sent us to a hill with a chapel at the top. Or the second day in a row, we had an early morning steep uphill hike. We finally made it to the top with another team hot on our heels. Two more teams arrived, but no race helpers were to be found for our next clue. We all simply knew there bad to be some mistake. After all, these were bit just any teams, these were the top 4 teams, the best of the best. We called to ask if we beat the helper there. We didn't. We climbed the wrong mountain. 

Some men doing landscaping kindly pointed us along a path to the next hill over, where we found the elders while another team had turned around and had to hitchhike and climb over 400 stairs to get to the same place. That in itself was a victory. 

We passed vineyards, went to a wine museum, met at a wine cellar, took communion, and in the process managed to drink no wine. 

I also have a question for y'all. It's about swans. Are they not solitary/couply creatures? I have never seen more than 2 swans together and yesterday I saw SCORES of them together paddling their elegant selves down the ever. Slovenia is a magical, magical place. 

The rest of the race involved obstacle courses, choreographed ballroom dancing on the square, public surveys, and translation and geography lessons. Early in the afternoon, we sprinted off, backpacks bouncing to the finish line at a gazebo. 

For the third day in a row, and once and for all, team VW got SECOND PLACE. Such consistency and excellence is unmatched. We are blessed, and we are fierce. 

Peace and blessings,

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Time I Ate Horse Two Days in a Row

I am here! For all y'all keeping up with my journey, I am safe, enthusiastic, and running on adrenaline and van naps (it's my energy plan for the summer) in the Czech Republic! How did I get here, you ask? Well, beloved children, gather around my metaphorical rocking chair, for my literal one is in Bloomington and no offense, but if you all gathered around it, you'd frighten the sweet girl subleasing my room. You also wouldn't hear my story.

On Tuesday, I embarked on my journey. On my long flight, I bonded with a girl going to study abroad in Germany over the Lego Movie, as we laughed about 3 seconds apart despite our best attempts at synchronization. I arrived in Munich Wednesday morning with maybe an hour of plane sleep to claim for the day. Along with a billion or maybe 50ish other interns, I hopped on a bus to drive through 5 hours of beautiful scenery and the Austrian Alps to Slovenia. 

When we arrived in Slovenia, we started THE AMAZING RACE. I don't know if you've ever seen the show The Amazing Race, but I saw part of an episode once a couple of years ago and am an undeniable expert. 

The first challenge was at GORGEOUS Lake Bled to swim to a buoy quite close to shore and grab a key. So this is why they told us to bring a swimsuit, I thought. I CAN DO IT RIGHT NOW, I yelled, thinking of how light my breezy, loose Indonesian pants were and what a piece of cake it would be to swim in them. Out of all 19 teams, probably to no one's shock, I was the first one to dive in the lake. I am a decent swimmer. But I made a crucial mistake. Never, ever, ever swim in pants with yards and yards of extensive, flowing fabric, for they will turn on you. First, they will try to humiliate you by falling down, leaving you horribly indecent, especially considering your very Christian audience. Next, when you resist that, they will try to drown you. I overcame  these perils, however, it was unfortunately the slowest, most pathetic looking swim of my life. And that was how my team started our Amazing Race.

After a rowboat challenge and a bridal shower game gone physically demanding at an island chapel, we took a train to Ljubljana. This train ride evened the playing field, since we all ended up on the same train. In Ljubljana, the overwhelmingly charming capital of Slovenia, we located, learned, and performed in public the Slovene national anthem, finishing the day in an impressive 2nd place out of 19 teams.

In the morning, we awoke to a day of fresh fruit at the market, a hike up a steep hill to a castle, a frustrating Lego teambuilding challenge, Andrew jumping off a bridge into a river, and going to a cemetery. After a decided a penalty was great for snackie time, we headed into a FOOD CHALLENGE. I was at first relieved to find that we were to eat a horse burger. That is real food. However, the sheer amount of food and unwanted toppings made this challenge super...well...challenging. But we did it. And you know what? It tasted exactly like our dinner the night before, so that is the story of when I ate horse two days in a row.

I'm getting kicked out of WiFi land, so this is TO BE CONTINUED.

Love you all,

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Summer 2014 Bucket List

That’s right friends, it’s time. Time for the annual Jenna B. Pinkston summer bucket list – a list of all the wonderful activities I will attempt to do while school is out. As two of my favorite fellows, Phineas and Ferb, so eloquently state, “There’s 104 days of summer vacation ‘til school comes along just to end it. So the annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to speeeend it.”

Good news, though. I have 107 days of summer vacation (I just counted), so that gives me some cushion (sorry high schoolers). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to complete more items on this list than I do. If you do, you will win a prize. (Prizes are negotiable.) Here is the list:

1.       Step one: make a summer bucket list
2.       Burn some homework (Reusing school work as campfire fuel is a most satisfactory form of recycling)
3.       Create a summer playlist and listen to it too many times
4.       Go crick stompin’
5.       Make a new friend
6.       Learn a Bible verse in Czech
7.       Get a window seat on an airplane and be fascinated by how small everything is
8.       Blast country music with the windows down
9.       Eat Handel’s ice cream on the wall
10.   Watch fireworks
11.   Write a letter to a friend in a different state
12.   Write a letter to a friend in a different country
13.   Catch up with someone I haven’t seen in 2+ years
14.   Write an ode to summer and publish it somewhere, even if only on the refrigerator
15.   Read a book about a topic that I know nothing about
16.   Blog, blog, blog
17.   Make a strawberry pie
18.   Watch the sunrise
19.   Make a perfect s’more
20.   Hike
21.   Try to like watermelon again (it’s kind of an annual thing)
22.   Go laser tagging
23.   Make homemade ice cream
24.   Learn to locate a new constellation
25.   Give someone a happy Wednesday gift
26.   Go barefoot
27.   Water fight
28.   Ultimate Frisbee
29.   Learn a good campfire song on guitar
30.   Try to like iced tee
31.   Climb a tree
32.   Try new foods
33.   Go to a state park (I have an annual pass so I am pretty important in those places. Seriously, such a great investment.)
34.   Stay at a park until it closes
35.   Babysit
36.   Play outside with someone under the age of 10
37.   Road trip
38.   Practice my henna skills
39.   Get a library card for the county my parents live in
40.   Send a postcard
41.   Get a new stamp in the passport
42.   Find a baseball mitt and play catch
43.   Sit outside and read Ecclesiastes
44.   Watch the sunset over water. Probably take a picture that looks 3.4% as majestic as it does in real life.
45.   Make homemade lemonade, but make it fancy. Put raspberries or cucumbers or something in it.
46.   Make limeade. Some parts of the world don’t even have separate names for lemonade and limeade. I learned that from experience (SURPRISE LIMEADE). But they are very different, so they count and two different things on this list.
47.   Watch a baseball game and eat overpriced concessions
48.   Go to a farmer’s market
49.   Eat a snow cone, then probably become sad as you realized you could have spent that money on ice cream
50.   Try skiing again, even though it is one of the most frightening things on Earth, given you could do the splits and die
51.   Do a craft
52.   Make a piece of hemp jewelry
53.   Make a friendship bracelet
54.   Challenge someone to a kayak race
55.   Freeze fruit and eat it
56.   Eat one of those icy freeze popsicle things that taste like sugar water, just to be festive
57.   Go to a concert
58.   Skip a rock at least three skips
59.   Tie dye
60.   Sit around a bonfire with friends, even though my hair will smell like smoke to infinity and beyond
There it is. An abbreviated list compared to years past with some old ideas and some new. If you exhaust these ideas, find them lame, or are just curious, check out these lists



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You're Invited on an Adventure

Ahoj! That is Czech for hi, but you’ll be delighted to know that is pronounced like AHOY, like a pirate, just like you hoped it would be.

As you likely know, dear ones, I’m going on an adventure this summer. As you may not know, you are invited. Several of you have asked to tag along in my suitcase and NO that is not even kind of what I meant. What a terrible thing to wish upon oneself. You do not mean that so do not even say it. A suitcase is terrible traveling conditions. You don’t want that. But you will want to join me, because this is going to be awesome.

I will be writing on this here blog throughout the summer to keep you in the loop and engaged in the journey. How exciting is it that we have words to connect us to each other and technology that lets us do that from across the world?! It is probably old fashioned how excited I am about that.

So basically, pretty please be part of this with me. You can give (one week until my deadline!), pray, read, and ask questions. I am so excited. I don’t know what to tell you to expect. When I went to Ecuador, I was able to blog every day. I can’t promise this, but I would love to do that again. I don’t know all the places I’ll go, the people I’ll meet, or the things I’ll do, but here are the basics:

What: Trip to Czech
When: May 27-August 7
Where: All over the Czech Republic. And other places
Why: To teach English. And because I know Jesus and He gave me life and I would love for the young people in Czech to be part of all that goodness. And you too, I would love to share in this lifelong adventure with you.
No RSVP necessary. But you so can. Formal RSVPs in abundance would make my day, and it's a good day, so that is significant.

Thanks for reading this. You are the best, you know that? I really appreciate you, wonderful reader.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Why I Love Bullies

I am an Elementary Education major, which you probably know because I don’t shut up about it 1. Because I’m passionate about it and 2. Because I don’t shut up. As you also likely know, bullying stands as one of the hot topic issues in elementary schools. Bullying is wrong and should be stopped, yes, of course. However, often, this issue becomes not anti-bullying, but anti-bully, and this is where I have a problem.

I was doing a bit of research today and watched far too many anti-bullying videos on YouTube. Far too many of them ended with the victim shaming or attacking the child who was bullying. A victim attacking the person bullying them does not stop bullying; it shifts it to a different location. If we attack bullies, verbally or physically, and not their actions, we promote bullying, and move it to a position of greater power.

This is why I love bullies:
Because they are people

Whether misunderstood sweethearts, genuinely mean, or somewhere in the middle, people who bully are people with stories and souls and favorite animals and feelings and futures. My value is not dependent on my actions and neither is the value of people who are mean. In special education, we use person first language (example: “boy with autism” instead of “autistic boy”) because the disability does not define the student. I’m a fan. Some may think it’s picky, but I think it’s a fabulous way to use language to convey meaning that is closer to what we are trying to say. Choosing words is important. I propose a similar use of language in the arena of bullying. I have seen this in practice, but far too rarely.

Let’s position our kids, not against bullies, but against bullying behavior. Let’s give kids who have been harsh towards others a second chance instead of a label. Let’s not propose “befriending the bully” as a solution of self-protection and charity. Let’s love, and encourage love from students.

Maybe this won’t make bullying go away. Maybe bullying won’t ever go away. But it gives students the freedom to not become their worst actions. I believe in believing in kids, and I love kids who bully.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Hello beautiful people! One of the most fun and most difficult parts of college is the inconsistency of schedule. (Some people don’t think it’s fun at all, and that is fine, they just have less fun.) I get that. So, this is especially for my small group ladies who, for one reason or another, were unable to join us in small group shenanigans. I am going to begin posting on a weekly basis what we discussed and learned in small group, and you, dearest reader, are welcome to join in the fun.

It is a New Year, a new semester, and the beginning of a new series, of which the first discussion, fittingly, is about being new. This series is about the identity that is found in a relationship with Christ.

Paul wrote to the Roman church in Romans 6:1-4,
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

When we discussed what it means to be new, words and phrases like “changing” and “a work in progress” were thrown out. The dictionary application on my telephone (which has been used dramatically less in the past few days due to a sudden decrease in how much I play Boggle since coming back to Bloomington) tells me that new means “being other than the former or old; made or become fresh; different from one of the same category that has existed previously; of dissimilar origin and usually of superior quality.”

When Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come, he did not mean to tell us that being in Christ begins gradually changing us. We are NEW. We are other than what we were. And while my behavior may be slowly changing and a definite work in progress, my person, the core of who I am, is secure in Christ and a new creature. The change was radical and immediate.

Galatians 2:20, which happens to be my favorite verse, says that I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” This is the explanation of what happened to the old creature implied in 2 Corinthians 5:17. It was crucified with Christ. It is dead. There is no turning back. I am irrevocably new, and all by the doing of my loving Savior, Jesus.

I am not new because it’s a New Year or I have started a new diet or a new routine. I am new because Christ has given me new life, a new heart, and a new mind. The pressure isn’t on me. And the pressure isn’t on you.

If you have any questions or things you want to talk about, I’d love to chat. Know that you are loved!

Made new,


Thursday, January 2, 2014

On New Year's Resolutions and 5th Grade Yearbooks

As it is merely the second day of 2014, tons of posts cover social media on the topic of New Year’s resolutions, ranging from “I’m already perfect, so why would I want to change anything?” to “I want to change everything about myself.” Given that the smart people who write books and speak at conferences suggest that successful people set and pursue achievable goals, I’m not sure that either of these extremes is completely healthy. But what I want to address is the same issue that has plagued me since about 5th grade.

The last day of fifth grade, all of the people in my class mingled about in the fifth grade hall area signing the yearbooks of the people you had been in class with for the majority of elementary school and people you had never met before. At a private school of that size, there wasn’t much of an in between. This was the year that people learned that signing yearbooks could be a time to do more than show of your penmanship and super mature looking signature. You could impart wisdom or a heartfelt message to your closest friends and strangers.

And thus, H.A.G.S., the heartfelt wishing of a wonderful break upon every other student. H.A.G.S. on H.A.G.S. So much H.A.G.S. But apart from H.A.G.S. and all its variations, and extended deep into even high school, was the troubling message “Never change.”

This could not have been more bothersome. At the end of every year, I would come home burdened by the curse of my classmates. “Never change.” In reality, their thought process may have looked like this: Jenna is nice. I would like it if she stayed nice.

But my thought process was, as usual, much more impassioned: Never change! What a terrible, evil thing to wish upon someone! Sure, I’ll just not change. No big deal. I’m sure 7th grade Jenna will have great success making friends in high school, getting the grade in college, and landing a job to teach people no less mature than herself. (I blame this curse as the sole reason that I look the same as I did in 8th grade.) And beside all of those practical things, wouldn’t it be great never to be more patient or joyful or gracious? No. I was having none of that. I am still having none of that.

I recognize that change is scary. But scarier is stagnancy. I’m not about just any change. Change is not good for the sake of change. I’m for growth. My trusty dictionary app, which I probably use more than any other proud owner of a dictionary app, says that to grow is “to spring up and develop to maturity.” I want that.

In Christ, I have been made whole and justified in the sight of God, which is reality, and which provides great comfort. As a human, however, I get to experience the frustrations and joys of developing and growing in reflecting this truth and growing in knowledge and wisdom. I want to chase and enjoy these experiences. I want to change, and not just because it’s a new year. I want to be more loving, more understanding, bolder, more well-read, kinder. And I believe that it is okay to be content in the process, so that’s where I choose to live.

For these reasons, I hope you always change. I hope and pray that whatever 2014 brings, whatever your stance on resolutions and goal-making, that this year would not be one void of the change necessary to bring more beauty and meaning to your life. Friends, I hope to love you right where you are at every step of your change.

In process,