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VBS Day One: Jesus Gives Us Hope

July 12, 2016

Our first day of Vacation Bible School went…wonderfully well! We started the day with a bit of trepidation. Were we ready? Would we be able to communicate across the language barrier with these Slovak children? We were sure something would go wrong; we just weren’t sure what it would be.

Well, we were wrong about things going wrong! The day went off with nary a hitch, with 200 Slovak children singing songs, playing water games, painting rocks, and learning about Jesus, the light of the world. The theme for the first day was, “Jesus Gives Us Hope.” We should’ve known not to doubt! I even discovered that I would have a partner in leading the music. She is an amazingly gifted young pianist named Gabi and she was (of course!) one of Erika’s first graders all those years ago.

After all, we’re in Martin, Slovakia, a place of miracles. It doesn’t seem that way to everyone, perhaps. Out walking yesterday, Erika and I encountered a young woman who heard us speaking English. She asked us where we were from, and marveled when we said, “Chicago.” She looked at us, bewildered: “Why are you here?” Oh, to help out with Vacation Bible School at the Lutheran School. “But why are you here?!” Well, we explained, because we love Martin, its people, its natural beauty, and the work of God in this place. She was unconvinced. “Stay here a bit longer; you’ll understand why you don’t want to be here.”

Such cynics are everywhere, of course, and I pray that she encounters some of the people from the Center for Christian Education. For there is hope in this town! Most of the people we’ve encountered are filled with hope through the Spirit and pride in their town. They know what God is up to in this place, and we are blessed to experience it alongside them.

The story of the CCE is one of hope, and it’s a story that many of you know. You can learn more here. It began with a dream to revive the work of the Spirit in the years following the breakup of the Soviet Empire and the oppression of the church. Christians were oppressed officially, and many of the clergy were on the payroll of the KGB. Two generations grew up without a real opportunity to come to faith in Jesus Christ. But in Martin, the Spirit is on fire, and it is a wonder to behold.

It has been hard work over the last two decades, creating a Bible School, a Lutheran elementary school, and now a high school, along with other ministries. There has been opposition from without and moments of doubt within. But as Bodhan Hrobon, the President of CCE, told us, “What else should we use our freedom for?” Sure, there are challenges even now. Three more classrooms need to be completed in the next six weeks so that the high school can accommodate its students. Based on where things are today, it looks impossible. But they’ll make it. They always do. Bodhan knows they’re “not prepared. But God is. And he can use even us.”

Jesus gives us hope, indeed. Hope to believe in small beginnings, mustard seeds that grow beyond our capacity to dream. But not beyond God’s capacity to accomplish.

A few pictures from Day One:




From → Slovakia 2016

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