I had the privilege of traveling with my wife last week to Eastern Europe, specifically Czech Republic. It was my first time “overseas”, and Bethany had traveled some in Europe when she got out of high school. Our son stayed home as we thought the travel and time difference would be a bit too much. We missed him greatly, but it was the right move.
The majority of our trip was spent in a town called Malevonice in Czech. Apparently it doesn’t have any meaning in English, so don’t bother trying to figure it out — it’s just a name. It’s a beautiful place and it reminded me a lot Kentucky, mainly because of all the green. The weather was absolutely beautiful. Mostly sunny and in the mid seventies (Fahrenheit), you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time to visit. Even when the clouds rolled in on Friday morning (shown below), it cleared out by noon and we spent the late afternoon playing football, aka soccer.
You might be wondering what were doing over 6,000 miles from home. We were visiting a missions organization called Josiah Venture. They serve over 11 countries in Eastern Europe and focus on doing youth ministry. Many of our friends have served alongside JV doing summer camps and music tours, so we really wanted to see what they were all about. Our church helped us financially to make the trip over and it was a blessing for Bethany and I to get a better understanding of the work JV is doing. We met some incredible people, ate really good food, and enjoyed attending the JV “Spring Conference” which is for all the missionaries that work with JV across Eastern Europe. All in all there were a total of 207 people attending the conference and it was fun to hear the stories of what God is doing in all of their countries.
Story after story from places like Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Latvia, Albania, etc. shared of great faith and sometimes great hardship for the sake of the Gospel. It really opened my eyes to the global work or God of which I had never really experienced before first hand. These evangelists are doing pioneer missionary work in most of these countries, and some of the work is slow and difficult. I tried to think of the hardest ministry challenge I’ve had in the past year and it probably has something to do with who’s getting the donuts and setting up coffee this week…something meaningless. I wish you could hear the story of God’s work in Slovenia the way I heard it this week, from a teary-eyed missionary as he talked of thousands of people getting to hear the Gospel for the first time at an evangelistic outreach event, and the 10+ years of tireless work they have put in to that country with very little fruit. Or the story of the youth rock choir that was started in a small church in Czech, of which 120 unsaved young people came to be a part of it on the first week it met. There were so many students, and the church was so small (about 20 people in the whole church), that they were asking some to leave because the church couldn’t handle the growth.
Bethany and I both felt that just being with these missionaries convicted our hearts of areas in our lives that Christ needs to sanctify, specifically what am I doing with the Truth entrusted to me? It’s one thing to be around good theology (which we are here at home), it’s another thing altogether to apply that theology in practical ways (which I am convicted about) and have the faith to see God work. God is doing a work in my heart right now of which I don’t fully know the ramifications. I can say that no matter what it is, it’s purpose will be to bring God the glory only He deserves. My eyes were opened a little more last week to a world that not only needs to Gospel, but is ready to hear it.
One final story happened after we left to come home. The director of JV, Dave Patty, sent an email to all the conference attendees about something that happened on the train while they were traveling that weekend. Just so you know who he’s talking about, Dr. Erwin Lutzer was the main speaker at the conference and Scott Willis was a special guest. Here’s the account from that email:
On Sunday afternoon Connie and I boarded a train for a quick visit to Prague with Luzters and Willises. Finding their seats, Dr Lutzer and Scott Willis sat down across from two young women who were listening to music on their I-pods. Dr Luzter introduced himself to the gal across from him, found her name was Jana, and asked where she was from. When she said “Moravia”, he replied, “Oh, I’ve just been learning about a group of Moravians who took the Gospel of Jesus Christ all over the world.”
“What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” she asked.
You can imagine how Luzter enjoyed a question like that! For the next hour and a half he shared that gospel with her. At one point she told how she had fallen off a dock last year onto some rocks, injuring her head, and almost dying. She was in a coma for 12 hours, and experienced leaving her body and looking at herself from across the room.
“I don’t know why I am still alive,” she said.
“Because you are not ready to die”, Lutzer answered. When he asked her if she wanted to pray to receive Christ, she said that she had never prayed before, and asked him to lead her. They did that, right in the train. You could see the change immediately – afterwards she was beaming!
When we all said goodbye to our new sister Jana at the Prague train station she said to Luzter. “Just keep going the same direction. And on behalf of all the people in the world I thank you.”
I have her E-mail contact now and will be working to get her plugged into a fellowship in Prague.