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04 March 2014

The Proposal

For those of you who know Joanna and I, you know that our engagement was a long time coming! We've been best friends for years, were in and out of each other's lives throughout the last decade (three years of which we had virtually no contact), but were ultimately brought back to each other in a way that neither of us could deny God's involvement.
Over nine years ago in Waukesha, WI // #BabyFaces

Here's the story of our proposal. I knew we'd be telling this story the rest of our lives and that Joanna deserved an awesome proposal. It turned out to be such a fun and special night for the both of us! 

After my short visit to the US for Christmas, it was confirmed in both of our minds that we wanted to get married. Once we discussed getting married sooner than later and began to plan the wedding, we realized how much easier it would be if we were on the same continent. :) I had originally planned to return from Slovakia in late February, but got permission to change the departure date to early February, without Joanna knowing of course! I then began planning the proposal and wrapping up my time in Slovakia, all the while pretending I was leaving much later and trying to keep people who knew from spilling the secret.

I arrived in Chicago on February 6th at 12:30 pm Chicago time (7:30 pm Bratislava time). By the time I got to my friend’s house, it had been almost eleven hours since I had contacted Joanna. I thought she would be suspicious since I usually text her throughout the day, so I had told her that TWR had a global call to prayer that would last all day. Upon arriving, I told Joanna that everyone went to dinner afterwards and that I had just gotten home. Ha, it was all made up, but she bought it!

I told Joanna goodnight at 5 pm Chicago time and then went to a theater to talk with the owners and practice how the proposal would go the following night. All the plans were set, so I went home and slept (and set the alarm at 3:30 am—10:30 am Bratislava time—to leave a deceitful message for Joanna to pretend like nothing was out of the ordinary).

On that Friday morning (February 7th), I made all the final arrangements and continued to send messages and pictures that would throw Joanna off just in case she was at all suspicious. I got to the theater at 5 pm to do a volume check for the video, set up a video camera, tape a box below a seat, and hide. 

At 5:30, Joanna came with her friends thinking she was coming to support a friend at a dress rehearsal for an upcoming performance. There was an isolated chair in the middle of the room in front of a big screen. Her friends told her to sit down. She was so confused, but then the theater tech guy started playing a video, and she said, "I love this song!” Then her friends left, and I came on the video explaining that since we couldn't be together for Valentine's Day this year, I wanted to do a little something to make up for it. 

The video had a bunch of pictures of us together from years and years ago along with our favorite songs. After the slide show, I came back on the video and told Joanna the things I've always loved about her, how grateful I am that God brought us back into each other's lives, and how it has become evident that I couldn't imagine living the rest of my life without her in it. Then I told her that I got a Valentine's gift for her, that I give it to her with all the love in my heart, and that it's actually right under her seat. 

 Back in '07

I was hiding behind the screen in the actor's dressing room, waiting to come out at the right time. The gift below Joanna’s seat was a box with a note in it that said, "This type of gift is better when given in person”. When I saw that she had read it, I came out and walked toward Joanna. She was speechless and crying. I got on one knee and asked her to marry me. Joanna could barely talk because she was so surprised, but she said "Yes!" and "What are you doing here??" 

Throughout the proposal, our favorite song by the band Straylight Run was playing. It was such a special occasion, and thankfully Joanna loved the ring! Then we sat there and watched some more photos I had compiled for a slideshow. 

Last October in Bratislava on the night we started dating

When we left the private theater room to go out to the lobby, many of Joanna’s closest friends were outside waiting with champagne glasses raised to congratulate her! She has such a great group of friends here, so I wanted to involve them in some way. 

Joanna was so happy, and everyone was so happy for her and us. After talking and hanging with everyone for a while, we went to a restaurant called the Pump Room. It's considered one of the classiest restaurants in Chicago, and neither of us had been there before. The atmosphere was awesome, and the food was incredible. After food, wine, dessert, and cappuccinos, we were very pleased to say the least. Some people in the restaurant found out that we had just gotten engaged and many congratulated us and gave us marriage advice. :) 

It was a fun and special night that neither of us will ever forget!

31 October 2013

Shortcut Film Night

Inspired by Global Short Film Network's ministry, Shortcut exists to bring people in Bratislava together for a relaxed evening of spending time with friends, meeting new people, watching thought-provoking short films, and having discussions that lead to considering life's deep issues.

For instance, here was one that we watched on October 24th. This French short film "Carn" deals with topics like sacrifice and betrayal. Warning: it's a tad graphic.

This was our third event in Bratislava's Obývačka Cafe. We reserve the part of the top floor with a projector. The atmosphere is perfect for this sort of event. Here's a video clip to give you a feel for the evening.

Along with Facebook events, posters are used to help promote the event. Here was the latest such poster.

Overall, there seems to be a growing interest among people in being a part of these events. Last week, one of the attenders told me that we need to do this more often as he couldn't wait another two months for such an event.

We continue to make changes each time in order to make things as smooth and enjoyable as possible. Hands down, this last event was the best. Clearly, having good movies is crucial. A team of three watches upwards of 100 short films to find ones that are high quality and will intrigue the viewer. They tend to be subjective so that people can draw their own conclusions. Once the films are chosen, we come up with 5 - 10 questions that will help lead the discussion. 

Here, watch Bet She'an, and I'll include the questions we used for the event below it to give you an idea. We try to make the questions move from general observation to personal application.

1) What was happening to all the people? Why was it happening? 

2) What was this man sculpting? Why? 

3) How will people in the future remember our generation? What sculpture or artwork would best illustrate this? 

4) How are we adapting to our changing society? For better? For worse? 

5) Have you ever fought to hold onto something that you saw others leaving behind? 

6) If you, after death, could be remembered for one thing, what would it be? What would you want to leave to represent that?

If you'd like to start a short film discussion event in your city, don't hesitate to contact me. Below are some pictures from our latest event.

30 July 2013


What is Eurovision? It is a cultural experience to say the least. Here’s a brief Wikipedia overview:

The Eurovision Song Contest is an annual song competition held among many of the active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Each member country submits a song to be performed on live television and radio and then casts votes for the other countries' songs to determine the most popular song in the competition.

The contest has been broadcast every year since its inauguration in 1956 and is one of the longest-running television programs in the world. It is also one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world, with audience figures having been quoted in recent years as anything between 100 million and 600 million internationally.

Back in May, a number of people gathered at our TWR headquarters (where we have a projector screen) to have a Eurovision party. Tasty snacks were consumed and bizarre performances were viewed. To give an example of such, watch this performance by Romania’s Cezar.

After a seemingly endless amount of performances that lasted well over three hours, the votes were cast all across Europe. Denmark was crowned the champions with Emmelie De Forest’s “Only Teardrops”.

All in all, watching Eurovision is something you have to do once, and once only is all I’d recommend. :)

24 July 2013

Thank You Video

There are so many people that have contributed to me being here in Bratislava. I was grateful that I had a chance to say "Thank you!" in this video. A group of college students from South Carolina put together interview videos for different missionaries here in Slovakia.

This was originally filmed in early April.

03 June 2013

Denmarking It Up

To "Denmark it up" is to engage in any activities whatsoever within the confines of the national borders of Denmark.

Early in the year, I was asked by TWR Europe's Danish Partner Norea Danmark to speak at a conference on their behalf about effective ways to use social media for ministry. I gladly agreed.

The Danish Lutheran Mission conference was well-attended and featured guest speakers from all over the world. I spoke at an afternoon workshop on the second day. It was encouraging to receive a positive response from the listeners and the members of Norea.

If you'd be interested in seeing the PowerPoint used or my notes used for the speech, just let me know and I'd be glad to send them to you.

Sights of the conference:

This was my first time in Denmark. It was cool getting to know the people better that work there! They are such kind and gracious people. Here are some photos inside their studio and the guys I spent the most time with (Ole and David).

They surprised me with a gift on my last day in Denmark by purchasing a pass to the Legoland theme park and a night's stay at Hotel Legoland. Legos are originally from this area of Denmark. It was a lot of fun! I included some pics for those of you who haven't been to a Legoland theme park yet. There are a number of them all over the world.

Overall, it was a great experience, speaking at a conference for the first time and seeing a Nordic country for the first time. I'd love to go back someday!

21 May 2013

A Man's Dream Fulfilled!

Below is the progress (as depicted via my sister's Facebook updates) of a man in need of funds to fulfill a dream. I had a fun time creating the graphics for the updates and being a part of a great cause!

1. April 5, 2013

Make Estevão's Dream a Reality! 

My (Abby Kitchener) amazing friend, Estevão Gomes from Mozambique, has had the dream of going to a Bible school in Brazil to better prepare him for missions and Kingdom work. Now, he has the incredible offer of four years of Bible school in Brazil completely FREE if he can purchase a round trip flight. He unfortunately does not have this money.

He needs $2100 by the end of by the end of April to not miss out on this opportunity! Could we join with our brother in Mozambique and play a role in making his dream a reality by praying and supporting him? Whether you know him or not or can support him or not, please share this post to spread the word! Thank you!

2. April 20, 2013

10 Days Left to Make Estevão's Dream a Reality! 

3. April 30, 2013

Today is the last day to help make Estevão's dream a reality!

UPDATE: Incredibly, it looks like 90% has come in! Thank you to everyone who has shared previous posts and donated. In case you don't know what this is all about:

4. May 16, 2013

God did it!! Estevão from Mozambique is Brazil-bound and on his way to living out his dream! Because of your generous donations (all the way from the US, Canada, the UK, and South Africa) not only was our goal of $2100 met, but the amazing sum total of $2208 was raised! Praise God the Provider! THANK YOU for being a part of making Estevão’s dream come true of going to Bible School in Brazil to be further trained to more deeply impact the world for God’s Kingdom!! God bless you all!!!

13 May 2013

The Newsletter Post

Part of the joys of being a missionary is writing newsletters. :) Since people tend to receive a lot of these, I try to at least make them visually appealing. It's fun but can be time consuming. I think the key to a good newsletter is keeping it to one page. 

With that short introduction, you can read and/or download my latest newsletter by clicking the picture below:

If you were fascinated by this newsletter and feel compelled to read more of my quarterly creations, I don't want to hold you back. Ha. My previous three newsletters are below.




Who knows what will happen here in Europe during the next three months, but you can count on it showing up in my August 2013 newsletter. :)

Complete TWR Newsletter Archive

15 April 2013

The Story Behind 2012's Most Powerful Song

"Rearview Memories" by To Speak of Wolves was one of the most powerful songs of 2012 in my opinion. Levi and Bree McAllister contribute monologues containing transparent thoughts that pack an emotional punch.

lost his battle

You feel their hearts burst through with each gut-wrenching word as Bree dialogues with God and Levi reads a letter he's written to his father. You see, when they were young, their father, a Christ-follower involved in ministry and devoted family man, eventually lost his battle to depression, left their home one day, and committed suicide.

rearview memories

I'll let the song do the talking. You can follow along with the lyrics (opens in separate tab).


I was really moved by this song and was interested in hearing more about the story. It turns out that To Write Love on Her Arms made a video last December that gives the complete story behind the song. I think you'll appreciate it.

Levi McAllister is better known as Levi the Poet. He is a spoken word artist that gives his albums away for free or donations at

05 April 2013

Make Estevão's Dream a Reality!

My sister Abby’s friend, Estevão Gomes from Mozambique, has had the dream of going to a Bible school in Brazil to better prepare him for missions and Kingdom work. Now, he has the incredible offer of four years of Bible school in Brazil completely free if he can purchase a round trip flight. He unfortunately does not have this money.

He needs $2100 by the end of April to not miss out on this opportunity! Could we join with our brother in Mozambique and play a role in making his dream a reality? Whether you know him or not or can support him or not, please spread the word! Thank you!

To support Estevão, click the link below. IMPORTANT: Under the Additional Information part, where it says “Enter OM Missionary Name/Comments,” write: “Estevao Gomes—OM Mozambique—airfare”.

29 March 2013

Bring Me The Horizon

Meet the British metalcore band Bring Me The Horizon. Formed in 2004, they got their name from the final line of the film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, in which Captain Jack Sparrow says "Now, bring me that horizon."


When I first heard them, I was drawn to the passionate vocals and their aggressive, energetic sound. Despite explicit lyrical content, I sensed their frustrated, yet focused pursuit of truth. In their song "Crucify Me", lead singer Oliver Sykes screams, "There is a Hell, believe me, I've seen it! There is a Heaven, let's keep it a secret! No one needs to know! I am the ocean; I am the sea. There is a world inside of me." Josh Scogin, singer for Christian metalcore band The Chariot, sings guest vocals later on in this album.

After numerous awards, an exploding fan base, multiple millions of YouTube views, and headlining various tours and festivals, BMTH is poised to release their next album on April 2nd--Sempiternal. Unfortunately for the band, the album leaked online a couple months ago. I was really looking forward to seeing the direction they went, so I checked out the songs. I had high hopes. Musically and vocally, it was incredible. Lyrically, it was beyond disappointing. 


Keep in mind: regardless of your thoughts on their music, BMTH didn't get their massive following by accident. They are talented musicians with nearly four million (more than the entire population of nearly half of the countries in the world) Facebook fans and 400,000 Twitter followers that back up that claim. Their top five videos alone have fifty million views on YouTube.

What's sad is that this immense, adoring fan base of primarily fifteen to twenty-five year olds is being pounded with a message of hopelessness. The very first song "Can You Feel My Heart" sets the tone: "Can you save my busted soul?...I long for that feeling to not feel at all. The higher I get, the lower I'll sink. I can't drown my demons, they know how to swim."


His despair turns to all-out hatred in the very next song, "House of Wolves". It appears that they have had horrible experiences with the church as Sykes belts out, "Show me a sign, show me a reason to give a solitary **** about your ******* beliefs...What you call faith, I call a sorry excuse. Cloak and daggers murder the truth...The house of wolves you built will burn just like a thousand suns. So when you die, the only kingdom you'll see is two feet wide and six feet deep!"


There is a glimmer of hope that comes through in arguably the best song on the record, "Sleepwalking": "My skin's smothering me. Help me find a way to breathe...Wake up! Take my hand, and give me a reason to start again." You can watch the recently-released video for this song below.

Their song "Shadow Moses" is the theme song of the album as it repeats the three words over and over (nearly twenty times) that sum up Sempiternal: "WE'RE GOING NOWHERE". It is heart-wrenching to hear Sykes repeatedly and hopelessly scream, "Can you tell from the look in our eyes? We're going nowhere. We live our lives like we're ready to die. We're going nowhere!"


The music is so powerful that it is easy to get drawn in, but the pervasive message is one of emptiness and leaves you hollow. Each word is dripping with deep-seated pain, and whether these guys believe it or not, they need hope. Their fame has brought them no joy. Thousands upon thousands of their worshiping fans singing their songs along with them each night has brought no peace to their souls. They need something more--just like the rest of us. They need new life.

The last straw for me was their song "Crooked Young". Sykes mocks believers: "**** your faith. No one's gonna save you. **** your faith. There's no hope for us." He later adds, "Believe in no one but yourself. The faceless won't save you. The clouds won't hear your ****ing prayers!" As a believer in Christ and the hope found in Him, it was tragic hearing BMTH's disillusionment with faith. The song ends with apparent ridicule of Jesus Himself: "Hallelujah! I say it's a miracle. Thank you, Jesus! Hallelujah! I say: **** your faith!"


This is just one band. There are countless others like them that have differing levels of success, but promote a similar message of despair and disillusion. Every night at shows and each moment via headphones, the massive and ever-increasing fan bases of these bands hear their idols spout "There's no hope for us!" ("Crooked Young").


Will anyone reach out to them? What if some of these band members found rest for their restless souls? What if their passionate message of hopelessness became one of hope? It would immediately influence thousands and in some cases like Bring Me the Horizon's, millions. Imagine the potential for changed lives. It's something to think about. 

23 March 2013

To Athens and Back!

I need to get caught up on this blog! One of the highlights of 2013 thus far was having my friends Daniel and Emily Schuring come to visit. 

Unfortunately, they came right in the middle of one of Central Europe's biggest snowstorms in recent history. We had no choice but to go south in search of acceptable weather. After getting the go-ahead from TWR to use some vacation days, we planned an eight-day trip in a matter of hours.

What initially looked like a short trip to a neighboring country ended up in an adventure we will never forget that took us through Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, and then all the way back to Slovakia in my recently acquired '99 Peugeot 206.

We made a blog that we updated throughout the trip with photos and videos. You can see that HERE. It includes tales of being pulled over by police, being stopped at the border, hitting an owl, breaking down in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere in Albania, and much more. :)

 Dubrovnik, Croatia

 Mostar, Bosnia

 Istanbul, Turkey

 Athens, Greece

Zagreb, Croatia