Flight. Flight. Bus. Train. Train. We arrive in the small town of Frýdlant nad Ostravicí. Our team rolls their luggage from the train station to the small bed & breakfast we’re staying in for the week. It’s dark outside, and we head to bed knowing the next morning we begin classes at BMA, (Beskydy Mountain Academy) the Christian school we have come to serve.
Our program for the week centers around the idea of experiential learning. During each class, we split students into small groups of 6-8 and begin with a game. Afterwards, we spend the remainder of our hour debriefing our experience. As group leaders, we use metaphors to connect that experience with reality. Perhaps in one game, the experience we share centers around trust. During our debrief, we might explore what role trust plays in our lives. Who do you choose to trust/distrust? How is trust built? How does trust change a situation or experience? Experiential learning is all about the moment where learning connects with life.
Picture with me, a group of students standing in a circle, all holding tightly to a circular rope. They are told as a group to take one step in, and lean back, trusting each other (and the rope) to hold them from falling into the somewhat muddy ground below.
Students laugh, some raise eyebrows… Then, they each lean back, trusting the rope, and the rest of the circle to support them...
This action is perhaps the reason we enjoy this program, and the students at BMA so much. Sure, for a few moments you are strangers playing a game together, but then there is this moment where everything changes. Suddenly, you are sharing an experience, barriers come down, cultures fade. From a distance, this group might appear crazy, but inside this experience, there is belonging.
This to me is a wonderful representation of the Gospel. We begin as strangers to grace. We look on as outsiders and see a faith that (if we’re being honest) looks a little crazy, but then there is this moment where we understand. We experience this grace, freely given, and we belong. Walls come down, cultures fade, healing begins. As members of God’s family, we belong.
Making a decision to follow Christ in Czech is different than here in America. Here, there is a “moment” of decision, where we choose to enter into a relationship with Jesus. Maybe you have a date written in the front of your bible, or you can recall a conversation where you made a decision. There, entering into a relationship with Christ is less “decision” and more “journey.” Most students who end up becoming Christians go through a process of asking and seeking out what faith really means first. That process takes work, thought, and time; sometimes years. This “seeking” of the truth, on the part of Czech students we have met, is perhaps the most refreshing part of relationships that we have formed there.
Sure, we may sometimes disagree on matters of religion, faith, or worldview, but each of us come to the table having spent the time to think through our viewpoint. “Seeking” is not limited to the process of coming to faith either. Those students who have made commitments of faith are active within their communities and within conversations with other students.
For this reason, the word we would use to describe our time in Czech is refreshing. Sure, after 20 hours of travel, and hopping between different small groups each day, the prevailing feeling amongst the team was exhaustion, but watching students care, and take ownership of faith so real carries our hearts beyond exhaustion and into hope.
Our program and our American lives are shared for but a week in the life of a BMA student, but the belonging formed in each experience we shared together, sets the stage for conversations, and the truth of the Gospel to continue.
OTHER HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR TRIP:
Brand new school program “What’s There In Your Hair” written for use in Czech and in the US.
Concepts of experiential learning, our school program, and our recovery program shared with over 200 Czech teachers in partnership with Josiah Venture.
Student leaders from advanced years trained as small group leaders.
Original school program “Voices & Choices” entirely translated (and designed) into Czech.
Encouraging results from the launch of our pain & addictions program “Regroup” within BMA by one of our ministry partners.
Encouraging time spent building previously formed relationships by repeat-members of our team.
Multiple students at BMA telling us about decisions of faith since our visit last spring
A great week spent serving together as husband & wife!
Friends, Family, Financial Partners; Thank you for supporting us! Because of your generosity and time, our relationships continue, new friendships are formed, and the Gospel continues to be shared. - Evan & Bri