This summer GraceLife Church partnered with the ministry of Josiah Venture in Slovakia. We love this ministry and their vision because we too believe that God wants to use the “local church” to reach His people. We got super excited to come alongside a church in Bratislava, Slovakia and help them put on an evangelistic English camp for the high school students in their community; to help them reach their city for Christ.
In the months before our trip we spent a lot of time preparing and praying for the Bratislava church team and the students that we would meet. Photos were swapped between us, names shared so we could pray specifically, plane tickets bought, supplies purchased, English lessons planned... And then 4 days before we were to fly out I got the call that they had to cancel their camp. Say what?? You can imagine how my heart dropped.
What then happened is such a testimony to how sovereign our God is and how perfect His plans always are. With days before their own camp was to start, a church in Kosice, Slovakia welcomed our team, along with a few members of the Bratislava church team and Bratislava students that had signed up for camp, to join them. This meant that one camp would have 2 American church teams, 2 Slovak church teams, and 2 groups of students from opposite sides of the country. To give a little cultural perspective, putting Bratislava and Kosice students together would be like putting students from Manhattan with us Columbia folk. Dissention and disunity were bound to happen... Or so we thought. But instead something beautiful happened. Walls fell, prejudices broke, and a spirit of unity that could come only from God covered the entire camp.
And as the week went on, the Holy Spirit continued to open doors for the Gospel to be shared. Slovakia is considered a “Christian” nation, due to the population overwhelmingly claiming membership to the Catholic Church. But, as we good Southerners know, just because you go to church does not mean you know Jesus. And this young generation of Slovaks has become completely disillusioned with the institution of the “church.” They equate Jesus with rituals and “do’s” and “don’ts” and not as a person who loves them fiercely enough to die for them. During camp their eyes were opened to what a real community of Jesus followers looks like. Students could see that we loved each other differently, which ultimately was more powerful than any of the talks given each evening. They could see we were all different, and Jesus was the common denominator.
I can’t tell you if we had any “conversions” that week. Slovaks rarely can tell you the time and date that they decided to follow Jesus. Instead they see it as a journey, where each experience helps them decipher more clearly whether they want to align their lives with this Jesus. What I can tell you is that steps were taken on these journeys. And not just for the students. We saw the Slovak church teams grow in confidence and leadership; it was such a joy to come alongside them and give encouragement. And us GraceLifers grew so much as well. We were given a fresh reminder that our God is BIG. He is not American or Slovak; He just IS. And we as Christians are privileged to join Him in what He is doing in our city, our country and our WORLD.
GraceLife Slovakia Trip 2014? Yes, please.