(Christine Barnes of Cornerstone OPC, Houston, TX, served on this year's English Camp team in the Czech Republic). And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
The ceiling of a white tent hovers over the heads of young and old seated on wooden benches and chairs as joyful voices mingle in the air and waft into the cool evening:
We believe in God the Father.
We believe in Jesus Christ.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
And He’s given us new life . . .
So rang out the voices of the English Camp short-term mission team in the Sumava Mountains who joined in service this past July to share the good news of the gospel with the families of Czech Republic. And in this group we could clearly see the body of Christ at work, each member sharing God’s word and his love.
It was clear from the first evening in the home of missionaries Jerry and Marilyn Farnik, along with their children Autumn, Havalind, and Jared, that we were a diverse group — Californians, Texans, Mainers, Arizonians, New Englanders, teens, oldsters, married couples, singles, sports enthusiasts, singers, nurses, businessmen, homemakers, baristas, teachers, pastors, elders, lay people. But as the Lord’s work unfolded before us, it was even more clear what united us — Christ, our Lord and Savior. The work required each of us to use the gifts God has given us as we organized materials and set up the camp, taught our classes and led sports competitions, ate lunch with new friends, socialized around the campfire, answered questions about our faith, hiked trails, climbed ropes in the trees, and sang songs of praise to our God.
English Camp is a special mission field because of the many opportunities to share our Christian faith both with believers and unbelievers. Sometimes this sharing comes in the classroom during discussion of Bible stories such as the Prodigal Son. Other times, Czech friends pose big questions about who God is, the theory of evolution, or the Christian life while gathered around the evening campfire savoring traditional roasted Czech sausages. And at this year’s camp, following several nights of viewing the film Chariots of Fire, there was a hearty discussion about how Christians honor the Lord in the use of their gifts and time.
This summer I was assigned to teach English and Bible stories to an adult intermediate class of eight students. One of my students was a gentleman who was attending English Camp for the first time and who was on his own — a bit uncommon for English Camp participants who often come in family groups, sometimes even with several generations of family. At our team’s morning devotional, we prayed for this young man, that we would join in fellowship with him. So throughout the day we invited him to sit with us at meals, team up for the famed cornhole competition, and chat about the day’s activities. And every evening of the camp, there he was, sitting in the crowd, listening attentively to Pastor Roger Wagner’s evening Bible messages. May the Lord bless the hearing of his word!
Another special aspect of English Camp is the fellowship and camaraderie of Czechs and Americans. Because of the language gifts of the Farniks, our Czech translators, and others, we were able to hear deep Bible truths and personal testimonies that fed us with rich spiritual food, both for those who do not yet know Christ and for those who are walking in faith. I was able to see clearly how God’s grace and mercy is working in the hearts of American and Czech Christians whose lives have been changed by hearing the Word, repentance, and regeneration. In their stories I heard my own story — hopelessly lost and graciously found, being made new in Christ, tempted by the prizes of this world, but with God’s mercy running the Christian race and “press[ing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). My brothers and sisters in Christ are Czech. They are Chinese. They are Ethiopian. God is building his church. Praise his holy name!
I am thankful for the opportunity that the mission work in Czech Republic has provided for us as Christians to “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). I pray, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) raising our voices to heaven in prayer and praise, singing —
Let the lost be found and the dead be raised!
In the here and now, let love invade!
Let the church live loud our God we’ll say,
We believe, we believe!
PHOTO: Christine Barnes and a young friend in the Czech Republic
Visit www.opcstm.org for more testimonials from those who have served as short-term missionaries in the OPC!