This story was written for the Eurasia Blog by Benjamin Helge, Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) Missionary serving in The Czech Republic. Ben is serving as an English-as-a-Foreign-Language teacher (EFL) among other duties, such as helping run a youth club and more. Ben works with The Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (SCAEV), a church body supported by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) through the sending of missionaries and translation of Lutheran materials. Here, Ben shares about a recent retreat.
Reflecting on peace, hope, joy, and love, around forty individuals from Albrechtice Evangelical Church relaxed in the Malenovice mountains of The Czech Republic while encouraging each other on as the body of Christ. For four days, February 15–18, the Dorost (youth group) from Albrechtice retreated to the mountains as part of an annual get-away. The retreat coincided with the school holiday allowing many students to attend. I was blessed to be adopted into this group and attend the retreat as I had recently arrived to the area.
Chatting, worshipping, messages, testimonies, and many games helped to structure our time, but it was an opportunity to be surrounded by Christian fellowship and provide a much needed refueling. In addition to this Christian fellowship, the retreat presented me the perfect setting to meet many of the youth and young adults from the church as well as the leaders. Playing games that force you to tackle someone to the ground really helps you to become comfortable with others in a short period of time.
Each day began with a devotional thought, singing, prayer, and some sort of breakfast, with my mom’s recipe for banana bread being a crowd pleaser. Thanks mom! The afternoons were filled with wild games, walks, new board games, and conversation. And in the evenings, a guest, pastor, or member of the group shared a message centered on peace, hope, joy, and love. Some individuals stayed the entire time, while others came and went as they were available. Sunday brought many new faces and excitement as four non-believers joined us from some different clubs the Albrechtice church sponsors.
On Sunday evening, I presented a devotional thought on hope reminding everyone, including myself, that Christ has overcome death and while this life may be difficult, we have the assurance of what is to come, heaven. So often we focus on faith and love, which are wonderful things and we should focus on such things. Yet, I feel we often forget that Christ is one day returning so we may be with Him in eternal glory. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3, “We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” I love Paul’s last line here that this hope provides endurance for God’s people. Through hope we take comfort and know what lies before us.
By the end of the retreat, both physical and spiritual renewal were seen among the group. I had some mini Czech lessons with youth, learned both Czech and Polish songs for worship, and was shown God’s blessings through translation, laughter, and conversation. Now having been back for a few weeks, I am part of this Dorost, this family and body of believers. The retreat provided the foundation for new friendships and support as we encourage one another in spreading the Gospel and sharing the reason for the hope we have.