Thursday, August 13, 2009

Children's English and Dorost Camp

The final week of July-- the 27th through the 31st-- was my final English camp for the summer. During this week, a few women from the church in Trinec, a few American volunteers, some Czech youth volunteers and I worked together to do an English day camp for children at the parish hall of our church. For 5 days, from 9 to 3, we basically had a VBS in English for the Czech kids, ages 7 to 12. Some of the children were from our church, but a lot of them were from non-Christian families who have a strong desire for their children to know English. Our activities included singing, story time, Bible story time, snacks, crafts, 2 English lessons, lunch, and outdoor sports everyday. We used last summer's CPH VBS materials (the leftovers from my home congregation), and so our theme was all about friendship, what kind of friend Jesus is for us, and how we can be good friends for others because of Jesus' friendship for us. My favorite part of the day was working with my students to learn their Bible memory verses every day.

For me, the greatest blessing of the week was getting to know one of the women on the American team. The American team was composed of three people, two were my World Mission field coordinators, David and Radka Fiala. The third was a dear Mrs. Carlton from Michigan, the widow of an LCMS pastor who has an extensive background in overseas missions and who has spent the majority of her summer in Poland and the Czech Republic, serving her neighbor in Jesus' name at English camps and laboring for Habitat for Humanity in Poland. This woman was such an encouragement and blessing to me in so many ways, and her love for her Lord and the people He died to save was inspiring.

Bright and early on Saturday morning after the Children's English camp ended, I was on the road to go to a 7 day youth camp with the youth group from the Trinec congregation. About 5 adults, 25 youth, and I went to a sort of retreat center just outside of the village of Čim, which is about 50 km south of Prague. The area was surrounded by woods and hills, with a creek flowing through the camp's grounds to a nearby lake. We spent the week hiking, swimming, boating, and running around after dark playing games in the woods. We also spent part of one morning rolling down a hill in our sleeping bags and playing other great sleeping bag games. Two times a day we met in small groups for discussion of our daily topics, Bible reading, and prayer. In the evenings, we had a speaker each night to teach us from Scripture something related to our camp theme.

The theme was "Two Ways" and we talked about this in two contexts, the first, the difference between the Two Ways that people live, with and without faith in Christ. The second context was in decision making in the Christian life and what kinds of things in our lives we often struggle with that can either draw us nearer to Christ or draw us away from Him. The topics included laziness, peer pressure, loneliness and fear, among others.

The week was a great time for me to get know the youth better and make great friends of a few of the girls [younger sisters, at their request :) ]. It was also a good chance for me to deepen my friendship with some of the teen leaders of the youth, as well as expand my Czech vocabulary. It was also a very fun, relaxing week, a good one for my last week in the country before a month-long vacation at home in the States.

Please pray:
-for the kids who learned about Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and promised return for the first time during the children's English camp: pray that the Holy Spirit will grow the seed of the Word which was planted in them during the camp, giving them faith in Christ and salvation in His name
-for the youth group: that these young people will continue in their faith, growing and following Christ, not being distracted or discouraged from the Lord by the things of this world. Pray that the young men will grow up to be strong men of faith, understanding what it means to be a man of God, spreading the Gospel to those all around them, growing to be leaders in the Church. Pray for the girls, that they will grow up in their faith, finding joy in the Lord and strength from Him, and learning who they are as women in Christ.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Xcamp was from July 18 to the 25th. It is a huge youth gathering organized by people from my church here, SCEAV. It is a big tent, week-long evangelism meeting. The teenagers stay over night and have small group discussion/Bible studies, attend fun workshops and seminars on different Christian topics in the mornings. In the afternoons adults (and young people not staying on-site) come to hear the evangelist speak, to sing, to have supper, and then attend a concert in the evening.

Xcamp by night.
The teens slept in the tents in the background.
All the meetings happened in the big tent on the right.

This year was my second year at the camp, and I have to say it was far superior to last year. This year I wasn't lonely because I'd spent the whole year getting to know people who were at the camp. It was a lot easier for me this year, because my Czech has really improved, so I wasn't lost all the time. The evangelist was an American, too, so that didn't hurt, to be listening in English (and also paying close attention to the translation, too).

Xcamp by day.

This year was wonderful for meeting new friends, and I was especially blessed to have some pretty extensive, deep, hard conversations with some non-Christians. The most memorable was talking with a young man who'd been invited to the camp by one of our mutual friends. We spent a very long time talking about God, what kind of a being He is. My new friend, R., is the most honest non-Christian I've ever met. He knows and believes that God exists, that He sent His Son to die for the sins of the world, but for him none of that matters because he hates God. That's right, those are his words. He admitted it. It's important to note that most people who hate God (i.e. everyone who hasn't been given the gift of faith in Christ Jesus-- the Bible describes all of us before faith as God's enemies) won't come right out and say it. They'll say they don't believe He exists, that He's just a fairytale. Or they'll say that they don't know. Or they'll say that they hope that they are well behaved enough to get into heaven, even if it probably doesn't exist (figure out THAT logic...).

No, R. is honest. He knows God exists. He also knows that because of his own rebellion against God, he deserves hell. He kicks against this, it chafes on him, because he knows that there are only two options: believe, trust and worship God or go to hell. He doesn't want either one. He says, "It's not fair. God didn't ask me if I wanted to be created, and now I have to love Him or suffer." He says that God is evil because in spite of the fact that He knew before creating the world that there would be sin and that His creatures would not believe Him, that they would go to hell, He still created them. And He still created them with the possibility of sin. "Why didn't God just create everyone in heaven with no sin to begin with?"

As you can imagine, it was a very long, very difficult conversation to explain to someone who hates God, who thinks Him evil, that He's really good, that He defines good. And how to explain the "WHY" questions: Why did God still do it? Why is there evil? Why did He create ME, knowing that I wouldn't want to exist? I had my work more than cut out for me. My concern for R. and that God would shower His grace on him, snatch him out of his sin and rebellion and hatred for God, has been hard on my heart in prayer. It pains me that someone can confess that my God is but so COMPLETELY miss who He is and what He has done, the nature of His altogether lovely and irresistible wonder, goodness, and holiness.

*Interesting note that God's nature is so hidden from and unknown to R. This year's Xcamp theme was "K neznámému Bohu" or "to an unknown God," from Paul's visit to Athens in the Acts of the Apostles. We spent the whole week talking about God's various attributes...

I had another conversation with a girl, B., who sort of grew up in the church, but now she doesn't think she really needs "that kind of thing." She was at the camp because she had been visiting her grandmother, attended church with her, was caught by the kids in the youth group and insistingly invited to come.

Of course I had a number of talks with fellow believers which were of untold encouragement, conversations which magnified Christ's goodness and glory, the wonder of His atoning death. In short, it was a great week and I'm looking forward to attending the camp again next summer!

My Xcamp group
Ashley Angerman (center, in white), the other LCMS missionary in the Czech Republic, and I led it together.
The photographer wasn't concerned with making us look good...

Please please PLEASE pray for R. and for all other people like him who are at such all out enmity against God. Pray that God would make His own glory great by conquering such a rebellious heart and making him to be a worshiper of Jesus Christ. If the Lord can save a sinner like me, He can surely do the little thing of rescuing R. from his sin and rebellion! May the Lord open R.'s eyes to His own infinite mercy, goodness, and love to him through Jesus Christ and give him joy in living eternal life before the throne of the Almighty!

Please also pray for B. that she will see her need for the Lord and believe that Jesus has died for her sins, to make her His own and to be her treasure.