HORIZON WEST At a camp in Malenovice, Czech Republic, local students gather every summer to improve their English. English is considered an important language to learn for business.
This summer, for a second time, a team of young adults from Harvest Bible Chapel in Horizon West will be there to greet them. This year, 16 students will participate in the trip. Many are looking forward to returning and building on their relationships with the students.
“We had such a great time,” said Kelsey Vincent, who is going to the Czech Republic for the second time. “I’m looking forward to spending time with them when we go back and building off that relationship, especially just the chance to see them again. I know that some of them have never heard about God or Jesus.”
The camp started about 25 years ago, when Czech Republic missionary Dave Patty formed a relationship with a local high-school principal to teach English at the school. The principal asked him to teach English to the students and permitted him to share his faith in God while teaching. The parents of the students were so pleased that they asked Patty if he would continue teaching their children over summer.
The camp was born.
Each summer, students from the Czech Republic attend English and sports camps at the retreat. An organization called Josiah Venture pairs American churches with churches from the Czech Republic to serve at this camp.
The Czech Republic has fewer than 1% evangelical Christians and is coming out of a time when it was characterized by Communism. The students are open to hearing new and different ideas and considering new faiths, though many people have not heard about God.
During the camp, the teams hope to help the students from the Czech Republic better their English, as well as tell them about God without pressuring them to decide to follow Jesus.
The students and teams live together during the camp. In the morning, the teams hold sports and English classes.
They then break for lunch, do activities in the afternoon together and participate in team-building exercises. After dinner, everyone gets together for a time of worship and a short message, where students can learn more about the Christian faith. After, they gather back into their class groups to talk about the message, and often the students ask questions about what they heard about God.
“This is a very open platform,” said Kathleen Pittman, the wife of the trip leader Mickey Pittman. “It’s not
forcing anything down to anybody. It’s just open conversation to begin the thought process of what God is offering, what He has done for us — and what they can do with that.”
At the end of the week, the camp holds what is called a “labyrinth” night. Students are able to walk through a setup of what they’ve heard about Jesus all week and are asked what they want to do with that information.
Many students return to camp for several years before they fully understand the message being presented to them because it is new information to them. But for those who decide that they would like to follow Jesus, the team is able to follow up with them when they return home.
During the week following the camp, the Harvest Bible Chapel team will return to the town where many of the students live. Students are given the option to ask team members to stay in their homes with them.
There, the team is able to connect the students with a local church there where they can continue to grow in their faith once the American team has gone home.
This year, the team looks forward to reconnecting with friends they met last year who are still part of the church.
One of the students Nima Nasser met last year returned to the camp for her second year last year and persisted in asking questions to Nasser. On the last day, she decided she wanted to follow Jesus.
Through social media and other forms of modern technology, the team has been able to stay in touch with her and the rest of her youth group throughout the past year.
“It was amazing for us to see people we walked with were still at the church one year later,” Nasser said.
The team is looking forward to reconnecting with her upon its return.
Before and after the team arrives at the camp, Josiah Venture briefs and debriefs both members of the American team and the team serving from the church in the Czech Republic. The organization prepares them to serve together, then hears about what happened while the American team was there so they can follow up with the students.
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].