Our family went grocery shopping on December 23rd, which is like going on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the US, as the Czechs really celebrate Christmas on the 24th. It was a mad house. We were collecting items for green bean casserole (what we came up with was a little off) and lasagna (also fairly off). We were low on milk, so as our herd approached the checkout line I sent Rebekah back to the dairy section for milk.
This was a risky request, as it was only our second time trying to buy milk. She came back with a container that had cow markings on it but definitely different words than the first time we bought milk. We were in a hurry and now at the front of the line so Mark and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and threw it on the conveyor belt.
The next morning as Mark went to serve himself some milk, what we bought plopped out of the container in clumps. We translated the label: soured milk. You can buy that stuff? Like on purpose? Someone wants that?
Well, you know how the saying goes, “When life gives you sour milk...make a chocolate cake for your neighbor...” You’ve heard that one, right?
We Oshmans traditionally make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas and I thought I would make one for our neighbor this year, too. Our neighbor is also our landlord. I’ve heard from multiple sources that Czechs do not socialize with their neighbors. So I knew reaching out to this family would be weird for them. But I figure we’re the weird new American family anyway and once they know we love Jesus they’ll think we’re really weird, so why not go ahead and get that party started?
At church on Sunday I perused the welcome table and found a variety of printed and audio resources in Czech. I asked our pastor’s wife which item she thought would be best to give a neighbor on Christmas. She recommended a CD of the Psalms (steering me clear of printed material so I wouldn’t appear to be a Jehovah’s Witness--such a good point). I thought a Jesus Birthday Cake, plus a CD of Psalms, plus a card from our family would potentially be a decent way to start our relationship with them.
I found a recipe online for chocolate cake, which required sour milk. I made it and it tasted delightful. I frosted the cake, put a bow around the CD and Hannah and I marched it over there this morning. Our landlord/neighbor family consists of a husband and wife about our age and a son (3) and a daughter (6). They all answered the door and seemed genuinely pleased with our gift.
I wonder what they thought when they read, “Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, Ježíš” (Happy Birthday, Jesus in Czech) or if/when they listened to the CD? Will you please pray with us that this simple gesture will be the beginning of a good friendship--even a sweet and deep friendship that leads to loaning sugar, playdates, grill outs, and spiritual conversations that God uses to welcome them into His family?