In 1989, what was then Czechoslovakia had their “velvet revolution” in which they shed the oppressive regime of Communism and developed their own multiparty democracy. The revolution was “velvety” because it was bloodless, there was no war or conflict or martyrs. 4 years later, in 1993, came the “velvet divorce” as, in similar fashion, the Czech Republic and Slovakia each became their own independent nations without conflict. As I was recently told, 2 leaders from each country simply met for several hours one day and hashed out the terms of this divorce, which remain to this day – as velvety as ever. Nearly 30 years later, over 10 million Czechs are experiencing their longest stretch of unencumbered freedom in hundreds of years, and that on the heels of occupation by the most oppressive regimes in human history – Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. The Czech Republic is, by all means, one the most thriving countries in central Europe. A member of the European Union with a thriving economy and low unemployment and low crime.
However, in a sense, the freedom and prosperity that Czechs are experiencing today remains as vapid and fleeting as ever – if not more. Over 71% of the population identifies as “non-religious” according to Operation World, Jason Mandryk’s thorough and “definitive prayer guide to every nation”. More specifically, only 1.88% of the population identifies as Protestant. I’ve frequently heard the country described as the “most atheistic country in the world”. Hyperbole aside, the darkness there is indeed tangible, the need for Gospel light is great.
When I first set foot in the Czech Republic it was in 2013. I found myself leading our team for the annual trip to serve at English Camp with our sister church, Majak (meaning Lighthouse in the Czech language). At that time, I was most notably impacted by what felt like a deficit of faithful leaders. If I am not mistaken, Majak, located in the town of Vsetin, was then the only church in our network. I learned quickly that the few Pastors and leaders there were carrying significant weight. All the burdens of leading and growing fell to these few men and women. Like never before, I understood how plentiful the harvest was and indeed how few the workers were.
Just last Tuesday, July 25th, my wife Brittany and I returned from another trip to the Czech to visit our brothers and sisters in what is now Majak Church and the Majak Network of churches. We were right on the heels of another outstanding English Camp where a team from Mountain View, led by Caleb Patty, served faithfully. We knew just how great their impact was as we heard countless stories from that week. You’ll hear from them at our services this Sunday.
The 2 of us were there for another camp. This one for families from across the network. We taught English ourselves, and sough whatever opportunity we had to be an encouragement. There were over 90 people (adults and children) at this particular camp! A great deal of them non-believers.
Our experience from this excursion felt drastically different than my first in 2013. Namely because what once felt like a deficit of leaders, is now an abundance. A year from now the Majak Network of Churches will graduate its first class of 12 men from their Pastor’s and Leaders Institute. They will, reportedly, begin the next 2+ year term immediately because of demand. Among them are at least 2 full-time interns working within the Network who will one-day, Lord willing, pastor existing churches or new church plants. We also had the privilege of staying a night with Dan and Lisa Bartol who have now been in the town of Olomouc for a year after moving to the Czech Republic from Denver. They have left friends and family to give their lives in service of the Kingdom!
There are now 6 churches within the Majak Network, 5 in the Czech and 1 in Slovakia. This coming week, Windsor Community Church is sending a team to serve at another English Camp with one of these churches. In September, The Crossing is also sending a team. There is no denying that God has been extremely gracious in answering prayer for this country and this people group. He has been faithful to build the house which these faithful few have been laboring at for years.
Still, countless needs remain and we must continue to be watchful. We as a church can intercede for our brothers and sisters in the Czech in these things:
1. Pray as the leaders seek a good children’s ministry curriculum that they can use across the network. As new churches are planted and adopted children’s ministry is a responsibility that is initially shared. The pastors are hoping to find a curriculum that they can embrace and teach other churches in the network as they grow and take on their own children’s ministry.
2. Pray for the growing youth ministry – “Club Majak” - in Vsetin where the original Majak Church meets. Pray also for the multiplication of leaders.
3. Pray for Bedrich and Lenka Smola who recently moved from Vsetin to Olomouc. Bedrich (aka Freddy) serves pastorally in some capacity at each church in the Czech.
4. Pray for wisdom as Majak in Vsetin hopes to plant an additional church in Vsetin in the next year or so.
5. Pray for Dan and Lisa Bartol as they persevere in learning the language and face the countless challenges of cross-cultural missions.
6. Pray that the Pastor’s and Leaders Institute can regularly equip leaders who will serve the mission of planting healthy, reproducing churches.
7. Pray for God to lead and send 3 and 6 month interns from the U.S. to go and serve on a continual basis (and consider going yourself!).
One of the ironies of visiting the Czech Republic, which has a reputation of being a “godless” country, is seeing the enormous statue of Jan Huss in Old Town Square in Prague. Jan Huss was one of the earliest reformers of the church, even predating Martin Luther and John Calvin. He was martyred for his efforts at reformation in 1415. He was once a national hero. His statue stands as a monument, not only to Jan Huss, but also to the rich history of the church and the faithful that existed in the Czech Republic - if not an emblem of the same faithful Christians there today.
Huss’s statue stands tall and steadfast, surrounded by the modern and the secular. Among other things, it has Huss’s famous motto written around its base: “Seek the truth, hear the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, hold the truth and defend the truth until death”. That legacy exists today amongst our many brothers and sisters who labor there faithfully.
It’s a joy to be able to participate in this partnership we have in with these churches! As the Majak Network of Churches seeks, hears, learns, loves, speaks, holds and defends the truth of the Gospel in the Czech Republic, let’s stand with them however we can, it begins with prayer!
Thanks for reading,
MVCC Missions Deacon