An Amazing Venture
Members of the Eagle River Grace church pose with their Czech counterparts during an English Camp this summer in the Eastern European country. The religious and cultural exchange program offers participants language skills and the ability to learn about different cultures.
Courtesy Linda Williams
The world has changed much in the decades since Soviet dominion in Eastern Europe. In this area of the world, one can trace through generations the legacies of atheism, oppression, communism, and hopelessness. The church, which over the centuries was the center of life, is now tiny, making up less than one third of one percent in a country of 10.5 million. Most Czechs have no religious affiliation.
Still, there is a renewed interest in spiritual things, especially among young people. There is a new movement making its way across Central and Eastern Europe as young men and women are being touched by the message of Jesus Christ. A new generation of leaders has arisen since the revolution, and their efforts are bringing significant change to the spiritual climate of the country. This summer, for the third time, a group of nineteen youth and adults from Eagle River Grace Church traveled to Eastern Europe to join with a local church in Havlicuv Brod, in the Czech Republic, to build bridges of friendship and spiritual outreach.
Eagle River Grace has been working with a wonderful organization called Josiah Venture. (www.josiahventure.com) Each American team is assigned an Eastern European partner church. The team works with that church for a minimum of three years. Together, the two churches present an English Camp to help high school and college students improve their English—a highly marketable skill. Josiah Venture works with American churches to present camps devoted to English instruction, and then in the evening offers optional messages about Christianity. Because the camps are built on relationships, our youth get personally involved in the lives of the young Czechs. As a result, almost all of the Czechs come to the evening classes to practice their English and to learn about God and Christianity.
The camps form the basis of a partnership with the local Czech church, as people from the local church will keep in contact with the students during the school year and invite them to different events in Havlichkuv Brod. Returning each year with a core of previous teachers, and with some new ones mixed in, is the basis our church has for an ongoing relationship. Here in Alaska, social media options like Facebook and twitter keep channels of communication open throughout the year with the churches and the campers. This year, two of the Czech students will be coming to Eagle River for several months, to renew friendships and to help the 2013 Eagle River Grace team prepare to return to the Czech Republic.
We are looking forward eagerly to next year!