I’m going to share some shocking news with you, so prepare yourself. Wait for it … here it comes. We have mission co-workers in Europe! I know, you’re shocked, aren’t you? So often in the church we think of mission work in Africa or Latin America. In many parts of the world people are flocking to the church and often our mission service involves helping to prepare and train people there to meet the spiritual needs in their own nations. Other mission work also involves medical assistance and support. So often we don’t think about Europe as a place that needs mission support. Everyone in Europe is like us, right? Why would they need mission support from the PC(USA)?
The central reason for having mission personnel in Europe is that we have been invited. Since we do mission in partnership this invitation is crucial. The Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB), our partner in the Czech Republic, requested that the PC(USA) send a mission co-worker to “facilitate and develop relationships between the PC(USA) and the ECCB at all institutional levels, so that these two churches can mutually share and support one another in faith, learn from each other, and jointly contribute to the growth of the Kingdom of God.” This profile created by the ECCB goes on to say: “The PC(USA) mission co-worker will be capable of transmitting the theological emphases and spirituality of the PC(USA) to the ECCB, and conversely, of acquainting the PC(USA) with the spiritual life of the ECCB, so that these two churches may understand one another better and mutually take part in the gifts of the spirit that God, in his mercy, has given to them. The mission co-worker will serve as a bridge and an intermediary whose work will benefit the relationships of both parties and the church universal.”
As a mission co-worker here in one of the most beautiful places in the world I am blessed to live and work in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. I live and work in a city famous for its river, the Vltava, and all the beautiful bridges, the most famous of them being Charles Bridge. In this city of bridges I have a lot of visual images for my sense of calling as a bridge between the ECCB and the PC(USA). A central part of my ministry is working with ECCB and PC(USA) congregations that have partnerships. So a lot of my ministry here involves travelling to various congregations around Prague and the Czech Republic. We have almost a dozen congregations here that have partnerships with congregations in the PC(USA). Often I preach and help with worship and get to meet members of these congregations. I hear stories of the many ways in which the relationship with their partners in the U.S. has impacted them. A theme I often hear is gratitude. Many Czechs are grateful to know that they are not alone is this highly unchurched country. The knowledge that Christian brothers and sisters in the U.S. remember them, pray for them, and sometimes visit them provides indescribable encouragement. In the congregation in Letohrad one widow tearfully described the encouragement she received from their partner congregation, First Church in Annapolis, Md., when her husband died. She felt loved and supported at a very painful time in her life and hopes to provide that same experience to others on both side of the ocean.
One congregation that I have been able to visit a few times since my arrival in 2010 is Milič z Kroměříže in the southern part of Prague. This congregation has a partnership with House of Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Paul, Minn. In many ways their partnership is typical. They have been connected for over 10 years but the relationship has gone in fits and starts. The two congregations worked closely in the early- to mid-2000s when the Czech congregation was building its new facility. The dedication in 2006 was attended by one of the pastors, Rev. Tom Forster-Smith, and members from House of Hope Church. Over the next several years the relationship became less active due to changes in leadership particularly of the Czech congregation. In 2012 Pastor Forster-Smith made a trip to the Czech Republic and he and I visited the pastor there, Michal Šourek. Interest on both sides was renewed and over the past couple of years there has been more contact. Like many congregations, they are actively discerning ways to be connected and they are exploring ways to deepen their relationship together. When visiting the congregation in south Prague this year I heard a lot of excitement and interest in nurturing and deepening this partnership.
I am so blessed to have the opportunities I have to travel and share the Good News of God’s work in the Czech Republic. It is a reminder that the church is active all around the world, even in the most unlikely places like Europe. I invite you to come along with me and our brothers and sisters in the Czech Republic, even in this seemingly unlikely place of Europe, through your constant prayers, correspondence, financial gifts, and if possible, your visits. Through partnership we can bring about God’s reign in the Czech Republic, the U.S., and throughout the world.
Please continue to pray:
- For the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) as we work in partnership together
- For the PC(USA) and ECCB congregations that have partnerships
The leaders of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren (ECCB) want to realize more potential for expanding the church’s ministries. Karen Moritz helps to help build relationships and facilitate mission work with Christian denominations of other countries.