Category Archives: Czech Republic

Missions Monday #11 – CZ Testimonies

by Hanka Rodgers (and other contributors)

I have been to so many English Camps by now that I can’t keep all the people and years straight. The only team I remember vividly is my first English Camp in 2001 that I went to as an unbeliever. Most of the people who were on that team are now not only married with children, but serving as leaders of the church. I still remember Patrick telling me about his desire to become a pastor (I guess he was trying to evangelize me?); being in awe of Brian Chan’s and Peter Park’s (now in San Jose) piano skills; Angella and Hansol Ahn being the cutest dating couple ever; Jin Lee getting a floss through his nose and mouth; and being completely confused about Jane Min dating Min Kim (I thought maybe when Asian people date, the girl takes the first name of her boyfriend as her last name?). In some ways, I am the perfect product of what Lighthouse believes missions is. The Camp of 2001 had a profound effect on how I thought about Christians and God, but it was the perseverance of the church members in Ostrava that God eventually used to save me. The LBC team did what they came to do – they shared the gospel clearly and made me think. Then they left and the local church took over. Add God’s grace and His sovereignty and you have a perfect salvation story.

Throughout the years, there were more stories of salvation, though perhaps not as many as we would all wish to see. But saving souls hasn’t been the only way that God has been using these missions trips. We have compiled a few testimonies from different people and asked them how they benefitted from the LBC Czech mission. Two of them are from the Czech church and the other two from San Diego. It’s obvious that these trips benefit the Czechs, but God also chooses to work in the lives of the team members. Even though our church doesn’t believe that the primary reason for going on mission should be to grow spiritually, I think it’s foolish to think that the team members only serve others and don’t learn anything from the trip. Jin Lee’s testimony below is (and should be) an exception, but missions often expose things we haven’t seen before and challenges us to grow in areas we need to grow in. Christian life in the Czech Republic is usually not as comfortable as it is here (especially when it comes to the number of Christians they get to fellowship with) and it’s often encouraging to see Czech Christians persevere.

Enjoy reading a few paragraphs about how God has used your financial support and prayers to work in people’s lives – often in ways that they themselves never imagined He would!

Meinolf Mellwig (church in Beroun)

I have the privilege of having seen about 15 lighthouse teams come to Czech to serve with our church.

There are many areas in which Lighthouse teams have been a huge blessing for me and for my family.

Through one of the first English camps, Jirka got saved who later became our son in law. Also in the life of Anna, our daughter in law, English camps have played a big role in bringing her to Christ. The same is true as least for one of our children. These have been very personal blessings for our family.

In addition, Lighthouse teams have played a fundamental role in shaping our church. This is true in terms of theology as well as practical issues on how to run and lead a church. The many books and commentaries that the teams have brought over the years have contributed and enforced this influence.

The teams have always been a testimony to our church members in terms of commitment, attitude and desire to serve the Lord and see people to get to know the Lord. They have been always very well prepared and their servant heart was clearly visible to everyone. Through their intensive ministry to the campers many hearts were touched and directed toward Christ. The ultimate fruit of their selfless ministry will be seen in eternity. In both churches, Ostrava and Beroun there are church members who got saved and added to the church because of the impact of English camps.

Another personal blessing has been the precious friendship with Patrick and John. Many hours of good, deep talks have helped me personally to grow and think through various spiritual areas concerning ministry and church as well as personal issues and family matters.

To wrap it up in just one sentence, for my personal life as well as for my whole family the connection to Lighthouse is one of the strongest and best influences in our spiritual walk with the Lord.

Pavla Nawratova (church in Beroun)

When I look back and remember all the times I had a pleasure to meet members of each team there is one thing that comes to my mind: astonishment. How big must be the love and passion to serve Christ that brings people who could spend this time according to their heart desires, to invest this time in other people and tell them about God. This is something that amazes me every year since the first time I met people from Lighthouse. This happened twelve years ago and I am so happy that I can look forward to the thirteenth one. Apart from these “spiritual” thoughts there are also fun memories of Hagoo times and also of those “The most smelly shoe and the longest armpit hair” contests. Also, when I was a kid I had no chance to meet Asian people. We all thought that they look same and are very serious. No way, they look totally different (some of them) and are really funny (most of them). Yeah and they think we all look the same too. So to close up, I would really, really, really!!!, like to thank all of you who are willing to come to this small strange country and serve. You are all very much needed.

Jin Lee (LBCSD)

Wow! What can I say. Our God is almighty and sovereign! I decided to go on the Czech Mission Trip in 2001 not to do missions but more to “Czech” out and travel around Europe. Almighty God was able to take my selfish motives and use the mission trip to confront me with a decision I had to make. At the fork in the road, God made it very clear that I could not call myself a Christian and continue to live in sin. Either I needed to stop calling myself a Christian and do what I wanted to do, or live my life as a Christian in total obedience. He allowed me to see how powerful the Gospel is with right living. God, rich in His mercy called me to submit my life to Him. God used the 2001 mission trip to save me. I can’t remember if we had anyone else come to know Christ in 2001 in Czech Republic but I came to know Christ for which I will forever be grateful.

Thank You Lord Jesus!

Kevin and Mabel Tse (LBCSD)

“Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.” (John Piper)

Dear LBC family,

We wanted to share with you all how missions to the Czech Republic back in 2006 was a blessing to us, and how even today (over 10 years later) we continue to see the spiritual fruit being born out of that trip. The goal of missions is not necessarily to make “converts”, but rather to make disciples. As part of the call to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), it is our belief that missions ought not to be done apart from the local church. That doesn’t just mean being sent out by a local church (with all the accountability, support and prayer that comes with that), but also partnering with a local church in the area that we send missionaries to. In the case of the Czech Republic, those local church planters are Meinolf and Martina Mellwig. The Mellwig’s warm friendship over the years has been an encouragement to us, even to this day. This same kindness and love is shown through the members of the church, who treated us like family from the moment we got off the plane. It’s an interesting idea when you think about how one Gospel and one Truth really tie all true believers together – so much so that complete strangers on the other side of the world can treat each other like best friends almost instantaneously. This too was an instant blessing for Mabel and me to experience, and still is an encouragement to us today as subsequent teams report the same experience year after year, without fail.

There is also the blessing of seeing people come to faith. The English camps have been used by God to bring about true, genuine salvation to the lives of many. When we were there in 2006, we met many people who had been ministered to by LBCSD team members from previous years, and by Meinolf’s church after we leave each year. Mabel and I recall feeling like we weren’t just part of the 2006 Czech missions team, but that we were also a part of a bigger “mission” – one that didn’t just span the two to three weeks we were there, but linked us to previous (and subsequent) missions teams that were sent to the Czech Republic.

In Heaven there will be no missions because there will be no need. In the meantime, we are called to make disciples of Christ. Whether that occurs locally/domestically or overseas, the goal is the same – to make disciples of Christ and to see Him being worshiped everywhere including places where true worship had previously not existed. Being able to be a part of the summer missions team to the Czech Republic has given us front row seats to the demonstration of His abounding love as He calls His sheep from around the world to come into the family of God.

Missions Monday #9 – CZ Multimedia

by Stephen Rodgers

Back when I studied creative writing, I remember being on the receiving end of the literary admonition to “show, don’t tell.” So, in the spirit of getting out of the way of the story of missions, here’s a rather wide-ranging variety of links that you might enjoy related to CZ missions!

TEXT

  • It casts a rather wide net, but we have a category of articles here on the Beacon devoted to the topic of missions.

AUDIO

PHOTO

WEBSITES

  • KSB and KSOP are the churches in the Czech Republic that we’ve worked with over the years.

Missions Monday #7 – English Camp

by Hanka Rodgers

Ever since LBC started going on missions to the Czech Republic, the main focus of the summer trips has been week-long English Camps. It seemed then that the best way to share the gospel with the Czechs would be to offer to teach them English and share the gospel while doing so. That’s because he Czech Republic has about 10.5 million people, and that’s about how many people in the world speak Czech! That’s why every Czech needs to learn a foreign language, which is often English due to its universality. All kids have to take foreign language classes in elementary as well as high school and often even in college.

Sixteen years after this initial decision, not much has changed. Czechs are still very aware of the need to speak at least some English and are often willing to spend time and money working on their skills. English teachers in Czech schools are usually Czechs and even though today’s young people watch a lot of American TV shows (that’s also why they might think everybody in southern California surfs and looks good), personal interaction with native speakers is usually rare and for the most part is in demand.

That’s why a big part of the day at the Camp is spent learning English and interacting with the team. There are four hours of English classes in the morning and one hour of optional English conversation in the afternoons. Team members are assigned a class level to teach and all the campers are divided into classes depending on their English level. Seeing the same group of campers every day for at least four hours really helps not only with teaching English, but also with building closer relationships.

However, when Czechs are invited to these English Camps, it’s clearly stated that they are organized by a Christian church and there will be evening programs with Christian themes. When I was first invited to the first LBC English Camp in 2000 as an unbeliever, this was enough to deter my sister and me from going. We liked English just fine, but we wanted nothing to do with Christians. That’s how I missed the first year of the American and Czech church partnership. In 2001, due to some circumstances that year, I decided last minute that I would go to the Camp despite it being run by Christians. Thankfully, God often brings people that wouldn’t otherwise be interested in attending a church-organized event.

The Czech Republic is sometimes ranked as one of the most atheistic countries in the world. I think that in general, people dislike religion and the church more than they dislike the idea of God or a “higher being.” Whatever it is, most Czechs grow up in a worldview that the Christian God is not real and that the idea of a Christian God is an irrational crutch for people who are weak and uneducated. Even though some people think about God more than others and have a different level of understanding of the Bible, people generally don’t rush to repentance and don’t run to churches right after hearing the gospel. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I was 16 when I first heard the gospel clearly and even decided it might make sense, but becoming a Christian still felt like too much of a change compared to what I had believed the first 15 years of my life. It took months before God softened my heart completely and I repented being willing to deal with all the implications of my decision. The Czech Republic is definitely not one of those countries where people are eager to hear the gospel and believe in Christ.

This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to come to these English Camps ready to genuinely love the people God places in our lives. Even though we want all unbelievers to be saved more than we want anything else, they are not a project we get to work on. They need to know, see, and experience that thanks to God’s love for us, we can love others like ourselves. We want to show them that we care about them, not just about having another tally on our “evangelism list” and we want to share with them that life with God is better than the life they are used to.

As you can tell, this is no easy task. Please join us in prayer for God to soften hearts this summer and for unbelievers to be miraculously saved. Please pray for the team as a group of naturally selfish people is trying to share God’s truth in love with unsaved people. We are working hard to prepare, but we are ultimately so grateful to know that it’s by God’s grace that lives are saved, not by our own doing. Let’s plead with our Father that He saves Czech souls this summer.

Missions Monday #4 – Introducing the Czech Team

Patrick Cho

I have served as the senior pastor of Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego since 2010. My wife Christine and I have been married for almost twelve years and have three beautiful children. I am thankful to have been involved with our summer missions trips to the Czech Republic since we first started going in 2000. Working with Meinolf Mellwig and the church there has been a wonderful blessing, and it is a tremendous joy and privilege to go back each year to build on the relationships we’ve established and to assist the Christian Church of Beroun in the work they’re doing to reach the Czech people. It is also exciting to work with this year’s team. I am looking forward to see how the Lord will use them and cause them to grow through our time together overseas. Some of my hobbies include singing, cooking, watching movies, and playing volleyball. One fun fact about me is that I smile a lot. Even when I honk at bad drivers (I’d like to think very, very rarely!), I do so with a smile.

Christine Cho

I am a stay-at-home mom to three adorable children. Eden is eight, Ezra is four, and Emma is currently four months. I’ve been married to Patrick for almost twelve amazing years! We have a lot of fun together as a family. Some of my interests include singing, playing / watching football, watching movies / shows with Patrick, and all things Disney. I also love fruit, animals, and bargain shopping. I have a Mary Kay business on the side but am a bit undisciplined with my own skincare. I think flowers are beautiful but don’t care to receive them. I don’t mind washing clothes but dislike folding and putting them away. I’m excited to go to the Czech Republic again to partner with the church in Beroun, see familiar faces, and meet new ones! Praying for the gospel to impact those who attend the English Camp!

Eden Cho

I am eight years old and currently in third grade. I enjoy riding my bike, going to the beach, doing coding on my school computer, taking taekwondo lessons, and watching Netflix. Some of my favorite shows are Pokemon, Ninjago, My Little Pony, Shopkins, and Home. I also love to read (especially spooky stories) and recently started reading the Harry Potter books. I love to eat carbs and dislike any kind of sauce. I have no problems singing and dancing in front of others, but acting gives me stage fright. I’m excited to go back to the Czech to see my friends and attend the English Camp!

Ezra Cho

I am four years old and currently attending Pre-K. I love going to school, playing with my friends, riding my Plasma Car, and playing ABC games. I know how to read but I’m not super interested in books. I’d much rather draw or write letters to people. My current obsession is whatever the latest movie I watched. I recently switched from a Moana obsession to Trolls. I love to eat fruit, sugary cereals, and noodles. I’m excited to be reunited with my friends in the Czech!

Emma Cho

I am four months old! I love to be held. I’m not the best daytime napper, but I make up for it by sleeping well at night. I enjoy making loud, high-pitched noises while Papa is trying to watch TV. I also enjoy sucking on my hands, playing with my toys, and recently discovered my feet! I haven’t tried solids yet, but my mommy is hoping I’ll enjoy it. I’m excited about my first plane ride and my first trip to the Czech Republic!

Stephen Rodgers

I currently work for a medical device company as a technical analyst and developer.  I’ve been a member at LBCSD for twelve years, and have been going on missions trips to the Czech Republic since 2008. I actually met the woman who would become my wife while on one of those trips, which was a bit of a surprise for both of us. God has used the Czech Republic and the church family there in profound ways in my life, and I always look forward to returning to work alongside them year after year.

Hana Rodgers

I have been a member at LBCSD for almost six years, but I have known the church and some of the church members since 2001 when I went to my first LBC English Camp in the Czech Republic as an unbeliever. In fact, I met some LBC members, whose children I have the privilege to teach in Sparklers now, when they were only dating! I am a third grade teacher at a Christian classical school, which is one of the many blessings God has graciously sent my way. I love the Czech Republic, the Czech people, and the Czech church and I am so grateful I have the opportunity to work alongside my Czech and American brothers and sisters to share the gospel there. I truly see it as a privilege and thank God for a church that considers missions important.

Curtis Yee

Hi! I am a graduating senior at UCSD studying both cognitive science and literature and I hope to find a career as a UX designer or journalist once I graduate (stark contrast, I know). I really enjoy photography and taking pictures with friends!

I’m extremely excited to serve in the Czech Republic with this year’s missions team. Recently I have been particularly convicted by the reality that the gospel is necessary for everyone, not only my friends and relatives and those in my social circles, but every single person on this earth. Truly caring for the lost means caring also for people whose lives and cultures and languages I had no connection with. This is why I chose to go on this missions trip, because even though I don’t know these people and may have little in common with them, we are all sinners in need of a savior.

Eugene Park

I’m currently a middle school math teacher in the San Diego Unified School District. It’s hard to believe, but this is my twentieth year teaching in the district. And I think I can honestly say I enjoy teaching more and more as each year goes by. One interesting thing about me is that I’m just about the most un-Korean Korean you’ll ever meet. I don’t like most Korean food, my Spanish is better than my Korean, and I don’t hang out on Convoy. This will be my fourth time going to the Czech Republic and one of the things I’m looking forward to seeing the people of the church again and hopefully support and encourage them in their ministry.

Hansol An

I am a husband to Angella and father of four boys, ranging in age from four to ten years old. I work for a professional services firm as a manager while also being active in business development. Though I don’t readily admit it, I used to be into comic books to the extent that in high school I contemplated becoming a comic book artist. God had other plans, and so did my very Korean mom who would never let that happen. In 2001 and 2003 I went to the Czech to serve as a member of the missions teams sent by LBC. Since that time, God has placed a strong desire in my heart to return but due to life circumstances I wasn’t able to until now. Now I’m looking forward to working with the Mellwigs again and the church in Beroun to reach the lost.

Richard Shin

An electrical engineer by trade, I currently work as a patent scientist for an intellectual property law firm, and I am planning to attend law school this fall. I have been at Lighthouse for almost eight years, and this is my second time going to the Czech Republic for missions. One fun fact about me is that I grew up in Korea for most of the 90s. So when people bring up a 90s pop culture reference, I usually smile and pretend like I know what they’re talking about, hoping they will move on. My cultural ineptitude notwithstanding, I am thrilled to go to the Czech Republic this summer because I get to partner with my Czech and German brothers and sisters in sharing the gospel to unbelievers. I am looking forward to reconnecting with the church in Beroun and enjoying our union in Christ!

Chelsea Preslar

Hi there, church family!  I am currently a full-time student and part time barista at my favorite San Diego coffee shop, Copa Vida.  Aside from my knack for pouring liquid art in the form of frothy caffeinated beverages, I love talking to strangers everywhere I go (sorry mom and dad).  Hearing about other people’s lives brings me tremendous curiosity and joy, and many opportunities to share about the life I have in Christ!

I am very excited to meet our church family in the Czech Republic, but more importantly, I’m looking forward to being a part of a team that works diligently to fulfill the Great Commission, to see lives turned over to God, and making our big church family just a little bit bigger!

Cindy Chu

During the day, I work as a business analyst at UCSF School of Medicine. At night, I am a mother to my fur-baby (dog). If you ever talk to a former roommate of mine, you will learn that I am an amazing storyteller…in my sleep. I am known for having one-sided conversations, telling jokes (while laughing), and giving instructions in my sleep. Unfortunately I have yet to remember any of my dreams. I am going on missions this year because I have a better story to tell (one that we cannot forget). This will be my fifth trip to the Czech Republic, but my reasons for going remain the same: proclaim the name of Jesus wherever I am (UCSF, LBCSJ, Beroun, etc.). In short, this is an opportunity to be faithful in another part of the world, continue building on relationships from past trips, and reflecting Christ through my life.

Joyce Kang

I teach second grade at a classical Christian school in Valencia and am also a graduate student at The Master’s University. One unique fact about me is that I am a health nut and yet I have a serious weakness for desserts, especially ice cream or anything with dark chocolate. This will be my fourth trip to the Czech Republic with LBC and my reason for returning is two-fold: I love Christ as well as the people there. The Lord has called us to make disciples wherever we are and summer missions is just another context in which we can practically live out this commandment. I’m excited for the opportunity to share the Good News with the people we’ll meet at the English Camp and for the time we’ll have to encourage the church there.

Joyce Tai

Hi! I’m currently a fourth-year at UCSD studying human biology. I’m planning to graduate this spring before starting to hopefully work as a nursing aid and stay in San Diego! One interesting fact about me is that I enjoy learning about coffee and tea brewing. For me, there wasn’t really any particular reason I wanted to do missions in specifically the Czech Republic, nor am I personally drawn to short term missions. As Joel James (Master’s seminary alumni) has said before, “Missions is your ecclesiology armed with a passport.” Likewise, I view this trip more as an extension, though different structure and location, of ministry here in San Diego, but I also have the specific vision of being an encouragement to LBC and the Mellwigs as we come alongside their church to support their work in making disciples of Christ throughout the nations. May our Lord’s name be proclaimed by all peoples.

Kara Kim

Hey y’all! My name is Kara Kim, and I just recently graduated from The Master’s University with a degree in Communications. I’ve been keeping busy with job hunting and wedding planning, and plan to get married in the spring of 2018. I have undying love for boba, white chocolate mochas, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, and the entire Harry Potter series. And even though I’ve been to the Czech Republic for summer mission trips more than a dozen times, I am returning this summer because I believe in the work Lighthouse and the church in Beroun are dedicating their time and energy toward. The precious relationship that’s developed over the past seventeen years is invaluable to me as I have grown up with the Mellwig family since I was four years old. I believe in the power of the Gospel, the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and the paramount importance of the church. As long as I have breath in me, I will share the good news of the Gospel with anyone who cares to listen, whether that is in the Czech Republic or any other country in the world.

2014 CZ Missions Report

by Stephen Rodgers

If you had an opportunity to come to one of the three Missions Report Nights that were recently held, the 2014 CZ Team wanted to thank you for your support. And while we hope that you enjoyed hearing about how God’s working in the Czech Republic, we realize that a single presentation might not answer all your questions.

So, we’ve put together a booklet to help describe in even more detail the events of the 2014 trip, as well as the thoughts and reactions of various team members. We hope that you’ll enjoy it, and thank you once more for all your love and support.

LBC Missions Send-Off

by Pastor Patrick Cho

Hello LBC family!

I wanted to send a quick reminder email for those who wanted to see the Czech Missions team off this week. You’ll have three opportunities to do so.

  1. You could swing by the church on Monday evening (June 27) between 6:30-8:00 PM. The missions teams will be having dinner together, but you’re welcome to come by and see the Czech team off.
  2. You could come by the church between 7:00-8:00 AM on Tuesday morning (June 28). The team will be leaving around 8:00 AM for LAX.
  3. You could see the team at LAX. We hope to get to the airport by 11:00 AM and the team will probably go through security around 12:30 PM. If you need flight information, please contact me.

Let’s all be praying for our Czech team as they head off to minister in Ostrava. And please don’t forget to also pray for Stephen Rodgers as he also travels to the Czech Republic (apart from the team) to pick up his bride-to-be! =) It certainly already sounds like it will be a very special trip for our team!

In His grace,

Patrick

A Letter from Hanka

by Hanka Tomáškova’

Editor’s Note: As you know, we recently had the joy of having Hanka visit us from the KSOP church in the Czech Republic that we partner with for missions every year.  While she was here, she gave her testimony to the church.  I asked her if she would be willing to write it out for us as well, so that we could post it on the Beacon.  She agreed, and what you find below are her own words, completely unaltered.  I hope you will be as encouraged by them as I was.

My name is Hanka, I am from the Czech Republic and I am really happy I can be here, standing in front of you, sharing my testimony.  Lighthouse people have been a very important part of my life and I am so happy I can tell my story here.  I actually think I have imagined this several times before, since though it was only a few LBC people in 2001 who changed my view on God and Christianity, I have always wanted the whole church to hear it and see how God was using their church to reach me.

To help you understand a little more, I should start in the beginning.  I was raised in a kind of Catholic family.  My grandma is a strong Catholic, but the rest of the family was basically trying to make her happy and attended the church because of her.  When I was a child, I enjoyed going to church and probably even believed in God, but at certain age I realized that all I was doing was only because I saw other do it and because somebody told me to do it.  I did not have a real reason for neither believing in God, nor going to church, which slowly became a problem when I was growing up.  At school I heard about evolution as the only possibility, and my friends there sometimes laughed at me when they heard I was going to church.  I had no reason “being a Christian” anymore and I wanted to quit with the church, but I was not allowed to.  I gradually started hating the church and even hearing the word “God” and though eventually we stopped going to church, my grandma did not give up and tried to make us “return”, which made me hate the “whole Christianity” even more.  That was why my closest friends, Lucy and Lenka, knew they could not really talk to me or my sister about God, we not only did not listen, we hated it.  They tried something else though.

Lighthouse started sending their teams for English Camps in Czech in 2000 and I remember that was a camp I was invited to.  One afternoon Lucy and Lenka came over, brought an English Camp flyer and invited me and my sister for that camp.  After they left, my sister and me looked at the flyer, then looked at each other and said: “No way” and we started laughing, since we did not understand how they could think we would come to a camp that is organized by a Christian church.  We did not even think about it, we saw the word “Christian” and “Christian evening programs” and said “no” right away.  So that was why I missed the first camp and why I do not know some of you.  I was invited, but never accepted the offer.  But God did something else to make me come next year.

The girls get back from the Camp really excited and I heard a lot about the team, saw some pictures and heard how much fun it was.  But I was still pretty glad I did not come, since it was Christian, plus, the Americans looked more like Asians.   😉

I do not remember exactly, but I think Lucy and Lenka tried to invite us again next summer, in 2001, and we probably said “no” again.  But right before the summer I was invited to one English class in the church that was taught by Canadians, and I loved the class – it was English and it was fun.  Lucy and Lenka told me that English Camp is even more fun and made me sign up for the camp, though it was actually pretty late and they said they had to make an exception.  So I went to the Camp, only because of the Canadians and only because of English and fun, and I planned NOT to come to the evening programs (since they told me I did not have to).  But there have been a lot that I have planned since then and God decided He would “ignore” my plans.  Anyway, Lucy and Lenka asked me to go to the first evening program and decide after I see it if I want to come again.  So I went there the first evening and then came back every night.  The evening programs turned out to be very important for me.  That was where I found out that I have a very distorted view of Christians and Christianity.  When listening to the messages about evolution and other topics, I realized Christianity is not that illogical and irrational.  When watching the team dancing and singing, I realized Christians can be really, really funny.  And when talking to them, I saw they are not even that stupid.

I was shocked.

I thought all Christians are older people going to the Catholic church, believing in God only because it is what they were told and they do not know any better.  I saw Christians as people who are not smart enough to make their own logical decision not to believe in something so irrational and stupid like “God”.  But the team showed me I have no idea what real Christianity is about.  That was the most important thing that they could do at that time.  I did not convert right away, I did not pray to accept Christ at the Camp.  Honestly I do not even remember I heard the gospel…though I am pretty sure there were people trying to tell me.  I actually did not care that much about Jesus then…for me the first step was to realize that people who believe in God, are not crazy and have good reasons for that, which was exactly what the team did.

Anyway, while at the camp, I started thinking about God and Christianity much more seriously and towards the end was pretty sure there is something worth more thinking.  But already then I also saw what becoming a Christian would have meant and what would have changed.  I knew I would get busier going to church, reading my Bible, praying. And I also knew my family would not understand and some of my friends might laugh at me.  I did not really want any of those and decided I do not want to go to church again after the team leaves.  But again, as the Proverbs 16:9 says: ” The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  The day the team was leaving I overslept and almost did not get to the train station on time, but I did, and when I was saying “Bye” to Jane Kim, she hugged me and made me promise I would come to church again.  First I pretended not to hear her, but she did not let me go, so I did promise it…the next Sunday I went to church only to keep my promise but I never stopped coming out since then.

I still took my time, had a lot of questions, talked to Meinolf, Lucy and Lenka.  I think Meinolf said that he thought I would not even make the decision, since I was thinking for too long, but eventually I did.  I was reading a book and at the end there was the author’s testimony and a prayer I could pray to accept Jesus.  With all I already had in my head and with all I had seen and heard, I could not do anything but pray and accept God’s forgiveness.

It has been already almost eight years since then and God has been working in my life as visibly as he was before I became His child.  I started serving in my church and also helping out with the camps.  First, I only helped with games or little stuff, but gradually I could help more and the more I knew about the preparations, the more encouraging it was for me to see people who really love God and want to serve Him, and to see God bringing together different people with almost the only thing in common – desire to serve Him.  I really like your church, but in some ways you are really different, our cultures are different, but at the Camp every year I could see how it did not matter, because we share the same faith in the same God who we want to serve (Romans 12:4-5).

I love my church and there are not many reasons I would be willing to leave it for, it is my home and my family.  Before I went to college, I was praying that God would let me stay in Ostrava and that no colleges in other cities will accept me, because I could not imagine I would leave my church.  And then I came here and felt almost like home.  It is not the same, but I do feel like I came to visit my family.  It is amazing when I think about it – I did not know you in 2001 and I did not understand why everybody was trying to talk about Jesus.  And when I got some emails from LBC people then, the parts talking about God or Bible were my least favorite ones…and now we have been working together to help people see God’s love.  God really is good and though I cannot always see it, His ways are much better than mine.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The last thing I would like to use this opportunity for is saying “thank you” to the whole church.  I know it is not only the team that works hard before the camps, and I know the team would not be able to go without support of the people at church, both financial and prayer one.  God has been using the team and the whole church, and I am really glad I could tell you my story that is a proof of this.

An Interview with Martina Mellwig

by Grace Wu

Editor’s Note: Before the Mellwigs touched down in San Diego, Grace Mao Wu got a hold of Martina and had her share some thoughts about Lighthouse’s big anniversary, their visit to the States and life as missionaries.

How have the Lighthouse missions trips been helpful to the church and to your family?

Of course the main reason Lighthouse and our church got in contact was because of the language. We did one with another church in Ostrava 13 or 14 years ago, and we found it a great opportunity to naturally share the gospel. People over here are very eager to learn other languages since Czech is only spoken here in the Czech Republic. So we were delighted when Peter Smith introduced John Kim to our church 10 years ago. Over all those years looking back there are so many ways Lighthouse has been helpful to us. First of all, as I already mentioned, is the English camp. Through all those years you came over to teach, even if you weren’t teachers. You came to help our church in ministering to the people here in the Czech Republic. You folks came over, spent your free time and vacation time serving the Lord – every single year! This is truly a great encouragement to our people and to the unbelievers as well! You faithfully prepared for the lessons, classes, activities, games, church meetings. You sang, you preached, you shared, you tried hard even with the Czech language. We visited convalescent homes together, did street evangelism, sang in the hospital and so on. You purchased so many good and useful items to our church like the guitar. And most of all you loved us! In the beginning maybe our and also your goal was to serve the Lord and to witness to other people. But I have the feeling that over the years by God’s grace we became true friends with the same mind and the same goal and the same love for the Czech people. We truly appreciate that! Not only have we seen people coming to Christ through the English camps but also been encouraged by your faithfulness and loving spirit!

What are you looking forward to the most about the visit to USA?

First of all we want to thank Lighthouse for their gracious invitation. We had always wanted to come and visit Lighthouse but couldn’t afford it. So again THANK YOU to all of you!

For me, it is a privilege to be with you in your home country. Visiting your church, sharing a bit of your time here, seeing how you live, what your normal life looks like. Being a German missionary in the Czech Republic is already an adventure. But for you coming abroad and serving in another continent must be totally different. You were brought up differently, many quite normal things over here work differently and life’s challenges may be different as well.

Then of course we are delighted to be with the Kim family and have the opportunity to stay with them and spend time together with John, Angela and the girls. They are like family to us (even if we don’t look alike)! The next thing is that we also hope to be of little help to your congregation. We pray that Meinolf’s messages might be an encouragement to your church and that we might have the opportunity to serve your church as well.

And then we are thrilled to meeting all the former team members who had already been over to Ostrava, spending time with them, meeting their families and renewing our friendships. And of course we are looking forward to getting to know all the other people in Lighthouse and getting to know this year’s team members!

What are your thoughts about Lighthouse’s upcoming 10 year anniversary? You have been partnered with us for a long time, so what changes have you seen in the years partnering with Lighthouse?

This is a hard question. Because we had never been here before, we can’t compare things over here how you do them now or handled them ten years ago. For us the main change probably is your tremendously growing number of church members! You have seen by God’s grace coming so many new people to Christ and to church that to us it is truly God’s Hand in this! It is encouraging to see your church grow so quickly and constantly. It is a witness to the world that true Bible believing churches can still be attractive to people and that especially young people are not always necessarily looking for fun . But that true believers even young at age and maybe young in faith are longing for a good foundation of faith. And that people especially nowadays are looking for a church with strong leadership, good Bible teaching and caring fellowship who wants to serve and worship the one and only God.

How did God call you two into missions?

That was not long after we got saved. Meinolf and I had the feeling we could do more for God and maybe something different with our lives. We started with some Bible courses over a period of approximately 2 years. It was when we already had 2 children that Meinolf attended a missions meeting in our home town in Germany where he got the calling from the Lord into missions. And I at once could see God’s guidance in this because Meinolf never did (and does) things so spontaneously! We started to prepare, Bible school and talking to church elders and leaders of mission agencies. And the Lord led us to the right people who gave us good and helpful advice. We got in contact with SEND International which is to this day still our mission agency in combination with the DMG, German Missionary Fellowship. And they actually introduced to us the thought of serving in the Czech Republic. It was truly God’s wise guidance because the more we see ourselves at the place where He wants us to be.

What are important characteristics of being a missionary? What advice would you give to someonewho wants to be a missionary?

Another hard question!

People are different and so are tasks in life. We ourselves, like I shared before, had the calling into missions quite early. We were born again Christians maybe only for a year or so. But by then we at the same time felt quite insufficient, inadequate to be missionaries. As I said we got good and wise advice from our elders or other godly people. We had missions training for almost 4 years. But first of all we started to pray for God’s guidance in our lives and for our future. And at the same time we became involved in ministry in our church and served together with them for a couple of years. I myself can’t imagine anyone becoming a missionary without ministering and serving in his church where he lives, grew up or became a Christian himself. I think it is necessary to first help and serve in the place where you are and where the Lord put you. And then if even others can see your faithfulness, your willingness and your longing to serve the Lord it may come the time to pray for different tasks.

I have been told the Czech language is one of the hardest in the world to learn. Tell me your experiences learning the language.

Yes I have the same feeling; the Czech language must Be the hardest in the world! But by God’s grace even this one is possible to learn! If He calls you here, you’ll make it!

Marek and Pavla (CZ08)

by Sarah Hu

Meet Marek, Pavla and their rambunctious baby, Kuba, who never sleeps. They have been attending the church in Ostrava for 3 years. Although most of their communication with each other is accomplished by “what exactly do you mean” stares, here are some highlights of the interview.

How did you become a Christian?

Marek: I grew up in a Christian family so I had heard about God and Jesus when I was young. But when I was 17 or 18 years old I had to think these things out for myself. I knew that all that I had learned was true and important for my life so after I asked it someone could baptize me and asked Jesus to lead my life.

Pavla: I did not grow up in a Christian family. When I was at the university I met Marek. When a group of us were eating together I thought in the beginning Marek looked sick. It turned out later that he was praying. To be blunt, after I fell in love with Marek, he didn’t want me and I didn’t know why. Later he told me about God and what he believed in. After, he went to Scotland to pick strawberries for a year, I decided to a go to church—a different one than his because I wanted to be sure I was not doing this for him. There I learned about God and later about Christ, and I decided sometime after to become a Christian.

What have you learned about marriage?

Marek: I have leaned that there is a lot of compromise. Also when you live with someone you learn what will drive them crazy, but you have to be careful not to use those things because they will hurt the other person. In the beginning it was very difficult to live with each other—we argued a lot but with each month we got better.

Pavla: The first year was pretty difficult. I don’t know how we would have done it without God. I am always reminded of the verse [Ephesians 4:26] to not let the sun set while you are still angry.

As new parents, what have you learned about parenting?

Marek: It’s is a big responsibility to have a child. I have read some books, asked other men in the church what they would do in certain situations but mainly I ask God to teach me how to be a good father.

Pavla: Children are such a blessing but if you don’t have a good relationship in the beginning where you learn to compromise and work together it is very difficult. I feel that Marek and I have gotten stronger because you have to be willing to compromise even more and be more patient.

How would you describe Kuba in 3 words?

Pavla: Blessing, blessing, blessing.

Marek: God’s gift, responsibility, joy

How did you find this church and why did you decide to stay?

Pavla: We had heard good things about Meinolf and the church. When we went, we enjoyed the worship and felt it was the most similar to Marek’s old church, so we stayed.

Marek: Three years ago there were only 4 men at the church to preach and lead. I saw an opportunity to help serve since I knew Meinolf and Olesh (elder) were already so busy.

What is your favorite thing about church/church family?

Pavla: I love the sermons and also the closeness of the people—I can see that we are unified in Christ

Marek: I feel that the members at this church feel comfortable to worship God freely. There is also great friendship and encouragement from people in the church. It is a great thing that the church is growing but I do feel a little more fearful as I start to know less and less people. It’s hard to find out what people are genuinely thinking or how they are doing.

How have you seen yourselves grow spiritually in the past few years?

Pavla: It is hard to say because when I feel that I have grown in a certain area, I still see that there is still so much more to learn.

Marek: When I first went to the church I was given a lot of responsibility due to the lack of men. So I read many verses for guidance and I grew a lot. But because there are more men now it is more difficult to continue pushing myself. Meinolf tells us that after every service we should make a decision to make some change in my life and carry it out that week. Otherwise you will never change. I am trying to do that every Sunday although it is very challenging. The Thursday night Bible study has been a blessing. I realize this group has made me more sensitive to other people’s hardships.

Is there anything you would like to say to Lighthouse?

Marek: I would like to see some of the past years’ team members come back!

Ales and Eva (CZ08)

by Angela Kim

I had the distinct privilege of interviewing an awesome married couple from the Church in Ostrava, Ales (pronounced “Alesh”) and Eva Novotna. I first got to know them during our second mission trip to Ostrava back in 2001. From the very first time, I knew they were very special. Individually and as a family, they stood out because of their extreme gentleness, kindness, love, and commitment to live completely for the Lord. Their love for one another, their children, and even to “strangers” is so clearly evident in how they treat one another, the fun activities that they do together as family (just ask them about their spontaneous excursion to Southern Italy), and how they give up their own beds for us when LBC team members come almost every summer. Now after many years, my initial love and appreciation for them only continues to grow. I hope you will get a glimpse of who they are and their heart for God through their responses to my questions.

How did you two meet?

Ales: We actually knew each other since we were young, around 15 years old. Our families knew each other. Our grandparents were friends. It was before we became Christians. We started dating and after a few years we broke up when Eva became a Christian.

Eva: It was kind of funny because actually it was Ales who gave me the Bible as a gift. Then a half year later, he became a Christian. [Ales has a big sheepish grin on his face.]

So, how did you both become Christians?

Ales: Through a student ministry called “Students for Christ” on campus when we were in school—University in Ostrava. It’s similar to Campus Crusade for Christ. A friend shared the gospel with me. I was 21 years old.

Eva: Same for me, through this student ministry in the university.

When and how did you come to this church?

Ales: It was one year after the church started in 2000. We were part of another church but moved to this one. Just prior to getting married, there was a Bible study that had begun meeting at Yarka’s house. It was during that time that Eva happened to be renting a room in Yarka’s house to attend school in the area and she would often join their Bible study. And then soon after we got married, we decided to move to this one.

In what ways are you currently serving in the church?

Ales: I preach every 5-6 weeks, teach children’s class, and help organize things for church events.

Eva: I also teach the children and pretty much support Ales in…everything he does [they both laugh]!

What kind of work do you do, Ales?

Ales: Well, I’m in the middle of a change right now. [Ales & Eva look at each other; they smile] Actually, my last day of work at my job was this past Friday. I resigned. I was kind of the head of controlling department, middle management… Recently, one of third of the employees got laid off. They kept on letting people go around me and I was about the only one left in my department. So my work got busier and busier and they kept promoting me to higher responsibilities. So I wondered if I should stay or go. I wasn’t able to spend much time with my family any longer and Eva and I have been talking about this for the past 2-3 months. We prayed about this for a long time. So when we decided that I would quit, it was a surprise for everyone. But I was so thankful that everyone at work wanted to know why I would leave this kind of a job. People thought I was crazy for leaving such a high position. And I wouldn’t get any severance pay. For the seven years I worked there, I tried to share the gospel with my colleagues but they didn’t want to hear much about it. Now, because of my decision, everyone wanted to know the real reason for leaving and why my values were different. My boss asked me “So, why are you leaving?”. I said, “Do you really want to know why?” He said yes so I said, “Can you give me 20 minutes?” And then we talked for a real long time. I started with Creation and we went all the way to the gospel!” [they both laugh again] And my colleague in Hungary even called me to ask the same thing. So I got the chance to explain to him everything as well. Because of this, I got to share more about the gospel the past few weeks than the whole time I worked there. Before, no one was interested in hearing me share about God. Now, everyone was curious and wanted to know why I would make such a decision. I even got to give a Bible to 6 people.

So, how would you summarize your reasons for leaving?

Ales: First, this job was taking so much energy and time from me. I wasn’t able to give much to my family and church. Often, I would have to miss attending events and I haven’t been able to have much family time. Also, I thought that my time at my job was fulfilled. There were many changes in the structure. It was the right time for me to leave.

Eva, how are you taking all of this? How do you feel?

Eva: I’m happy to have more family time. We both talked about this a lot and prayed for God’s direction. [smiling big] It’s okay. Ales: I will look for another job…but later, maybe to start in October. Next month, we have a church camp so after that.

Wow, that’s incredible. I’m sure God will provide the perfect job for you. What do you do, Eva? What is your day like?

Eva: I take care of the children and the home. I also homeschool my children. It’s been mostly for Misa, but Eliska will begin this year.

So, what do you appreciate the most about each other?

Ales: How she cares about me and the children. She supports me with ministry and work. I’m always encouraged by her words like when she says that I’m a “good husband” and “good father”.

Eva: His patience with me, with everyone. And he has also a good…how do you say, [they say something in Czech] practical care for the family and the home.

Would you share your prayer requests with us so that we may keep you in our prayers?

Ales: Thank you. That we would both have unconditional love for our kids and for their salvation. Also for our marriage, for our relationship. We have Friday date nights – we play games, talk, ask questions to one another and talk about them. And also for a new job!

So, let’s faithfully pray for our Czech friends, Ales, Eva, and their 3 children. Ales is truly Meinolf’s right-hand man at the Church in Ostrava and serves as one of the church leaders there.