Little did I know when I started my job last November in the Department of Communications at The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters that God would give me the opportunity to travel the globe again and interact with those He loves in Eastern Europe. But here I am, just weeks away from boarding a plane to the Czech Republic for a much-anticipated writing assignment. I look forward to seeing firsthand the fruits of many who have gone before me in ministry to this former Communist country.
The Wesleyan Church has a vibrant ministry presence in more than 80 countries and 230 missionaries around the world through their missions arm Global Partners.
The Czech Republic is no different. Currently, Wesleyan ministries exist in both Prague, the capital city, and Brno. Made up of career and short-term missionaries and national staff, the Church’s ministry focus consists of outreach, discipleship, and church planting.
The Church’s presence in this Eastern European country formally began in 1994 when a group of church leaders met with the Brethren Church leadership in Teplice and the United Methodist Council in Prague. Global Partners’ role in the Czech Republic became two-fold: assist the national evangelical church and establish a Wesleyan work in the city of Brno.
- In 1992, Wesleyan World Missions, under newly appointed director Don Bray, teamed with the Central New York District. (The Czech ministry field opened as a result of the district’s involvement in the country.)Two missionary families were recruited to provide personnel support for the project: John and Shanda Croft moved to Brno in November 1994 to assist the Methodist Church, and Preston and Donna Edmonds arrived in Děčin in January 1995 to assist the Brethren Church. Later, the Edmonds’ moved to Brno to work with the Crofts.
- In March 1996, Maják ministry center (which means “lighthouse” in Czech), was set up in a rented property in downtown Brno. Ivo Vobejda, a young Czech believer with whom John Croft worked closely, was hired to work at Maják. In order to assist the national church, the ministry center set up a Christian resource library, and the center served as a meeting house for the Methodist congregation on Sunday mornings and office space for the pastor. (See photo)
A ministry goal of the Crofts’ was to establish credibility for both themselves and The Wesleyan Church. Shortly after arriving in Brno, John had the opportunity to become coach for the Brno Alligators, a team of young men in the city who play American football. As their coach, he worked closely with the team and individual players, establishing a relationship of friendship and trust.
English classes proved to be another path for reaching people. With the arrival of several GO-NET (Global Opportunity Network: short-term missionaries who serve two years or less) volunteers over the next four years, the English program grew to include classes for different age and competency levels. Conducted at Maják, these classes provided a natural contact for reaching young people who might be interested in attending the first English camp held in the summer of 1997. Since then Majak has continued to conduct the camp now known as EuroCamp with special emphasis in teaching English and American sports.
Now held yearly in Brno, EuroCamp is an evangelistic English and sports camp. A team of Americans (predominantly young adults) travels to the country to build relationships with Eastern European youth who attend the camp. EuroCamp is an integral part of the overall ministry philosophy, allowing missionaries and national staff to build upon developed relationships resulting from the week.
- In January 1996, circumstances seemed right for planting a church in Brno. A group of church leaders met with the Methodist Council in Prague to discuss their plans, and Methodist leaders gave their unconditional blessing to the proposal.
- The Czech Wesleyan Church began holding monthly services that next spring, and later that year, services became weekly. Thus began the Czech Wesleyan Church.
- In October, 2000, property was purchased in Lesná, an area in Brno with approximately 40,000 people, where no organized churches existed. Situated on approximately three acres of land, the property included two connecting buildings with 20,000 square feet of space. The amount of land seemed to be the perfect place on which to develop a sports ministry. In November 2000, Maják moved from its previous location to the new buildings, and the English program continued to prosper with as many as 125 students.
- Construction began in February of 2001, and continued through the summer. Basketball and beach volleyball courts and a mini soccer field were built, and the entire building endured complete renovation.
Nearly 1,000 short-term workers have helped reconstruct the facilities or assist with ministries through their hard work and generous giving. Their ministry has helped–and continues to–accelerate the Church’s presence in the community.
The Brno national staff consists of Pastor Ivo Vobejda (pastor of the Wesleyan church that meets at the Majak ministry center) and David Magyar (manager of Majak). In Prague, Pastor Marek and Jana Fajfr are church planting with the support of Global Partners missionaries.
The English as a Second Language program (two semesters a year, plus additional activities and intensives) is another active ministry in Brno. Missionaries and nationals minister to the community through such ministries as a coffee shop, backyard sports fields and playground, and organized activities for all ages. The numerous ministry teams hosted annually help to enhance these ministries.
Again this year, a team of nine Americans will travel to Brno in August to help administer the 2009 EuroCamp. Two staff members from The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters will join the group consisting of college students and young adults from across North America. To follow the team’s EuroCamp adventures visit http://czechtrek.wordpress.com.