In December 2011, Vaclav Havel passed away. A poet, playwright and former president of the Czech Republic, he represented the hope that Czechs had in their future.
Havel was the first president of the Czech Republic and the last president of Czechoslovakia. His was the name the people called in the streets when Russian communist rule ended.
At his funeral in December 2011, the people lined the streets to say their farewell, not only to their former president, but also to their hope.
This was what my wife Martina saw in the eyes of her countrymen as she watched the procession: a lost hope. She felt the pain of lost hope of her people. God used this pain to move her to action.
At this time a friend of mine, who was a missions pastor at another church and fellow photographer, told me about his plans to start photo tours to foreign countries. I was excited about this opportunity for me to pursue and get to travel back to the Czech Republic.
If I could complete an art project involving the Czech Republic, I could raise funding to help me get there for the first review of possible locations for photo tours. So, from two different approaches, God united us to one cause in the Czech Republic – His cause to bring the hope of Christ to the Czech people.
One year ago, we took a vision trip to expose ourselves to what God had planned. We were lead to two different groups.
The first began with a meeting in Thailand back in February 2011 and through another contact lead us to a church in Karlovy Vary.
The second group is IMB (International Mission Board) missionaries working in Plzen. Both of these cities are familiar to Martina and me. Through the Plzen missionaries we were lead to a small town called Blatna.
The church in Karlovy Vary is one that endured communism by obeying their rules, namely, no evangelizing whatsoever. The Czech churches remained inside the walls of their church because of the culture created by communist restrictive regulations.
Now, these Christ followers are eager to reach out to others and yet have little experience at doing so. They asked us to share our church’s experiences in our areas of outreach.
Almost three weeks have passed since the end of our April trip to the Czech Republic.
About three weeks ago a team of eight people from The Church at Canyon Creek traveled to the cities of Karlovy Vary and Blatna.
The elders of the church in Karlovy Vary have such wonderful love within them. Our team connected with them quickly and deeply. It was amazing to see God use our sharing through the first Saturday to deepen that relationship. Relationships became the theme of the day as some team members led a short seminar about building and maintaining close relationships. That theme continued as we shared in weekly activities.
We shared our Texas culture with the community on Saturday evening. Even though the team consisted of a Californian, two Okies, a Czech, an Englishmen, a Kiwi, and only two Texans, we cooked a mean pot of chili while showing our knowledge of Texas through a slide show. It succeeded in starting conversations and building relationships.
The purpose of our time spent in Karlovy Vary was to encourage the Christian believers and help them build relationships in their community. I believe God brought success in both and is honored in the furtherance of those relationships.
Our team fell in love with the people in Karlovy Vary.
In Blatna, a small town in South Bohemia, we also act as catalysts to bring together Czech Christian believers and non believers. Our team serve as native English conversationalists. This helps us build relationships with the students and teachers at the elementary school there.
Only Martina and I spoke Czech from our team. However, one of our team members and a teacher at the school quickly connected. They discovered that both knew Spanish!
The teacher offered to take our team members on short tours of local sites over the next three days when we had free time.
Many stories such as this one happened during the trip including with students from the school. God is good. He put us in a place where we not only served others, but were filled with the joy that came from serving and loving others.
We can see that hope is alive in the Czech Republic, and that hope is in God, not in man.
There is so much more I could share. I would encourage you to look further for more stories on our blog: http://czechministry.wordpress.com