This month, the Eurasia Blog Missionary Profile also serves as a welcome for new Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Globally Engaged in Outreach (GEO) missionary, Benjamin Helge. Ben is from Albuquerque, New Mexico and his home church is Christ Lutheran Church in Albuquerque. Ben will be serving in Havířov, Czech Republic and the surrounding areas. Ben is set to arrive at his final destination in the Czech Republic on February 1, 2014.
Once in the Czech Republic and settled into his new home, Ben’s duties will include teaching conversational English at a few local schools in the area. He will also be working with students that attend the local Lutheran church, and he will help to develop after school activities to share the Gospel. Of teaching English in the schools, Ben says, “This will be a means for me to meet students, connect with them, and share Christ’s love with them.”
Benjamin graduated from Concordia University, Irvine, CA with a B.A. in Music with an emphasis in education. Ben plays the piano and sings. He also studied Worship Arts. Ben earned his teaching credential from the State of California, as well as his Lutheran Teacher Certification. As someone who studied education, Ben will be ready to make use of classroom techniques and create lesson plans, so, as he says, he’ll be “directly implementing” that part of his studies once in the classroom. Additionally, Ben hopes to make use of his music degree possibly by “starting a choir or leading musical activities at the area church.”
Ben says that the desire to serve in overseas missions was not impacted by any one specific moment, but rather by several experiences he’s had. He writes:
God has led me to many places around His glorious world. His creation, people, diversity, and beauty have all impacted my decision to serve as a missionary abroad. I can’t say there is one specific time that made me want to become an overseas missionary; however, my travels to and service in Hungary, China, and nine countries over nineteen weeks all contributed to my desire to serve our great God in this way. God has shown me it isn’t an exact location that His Gospel needs to be shared. It is everywhere. So in everything I do I am a missionary. I am excited that God is choosing to use me in a new and different culture.
Ben served on short-term mission teams in Hungary and China during his time at Concordia, Irvine. He also served on short-term mission trips to Mongolia, Thailand, India, Ethiopia, and Bolivia, among others. These short-term experiences have helped to prepare him for overseas missions now as a GEO missionary. GEOs serve a term of 1-2 years in the mission field, while short-term mission teams generally serve for 1-2 weeks.
Ben is anticipating many joys in his work as a GEO in the Czech Republic. One of those, he explains, is meeting and working with new people. He says, “Everyone is created different and unique in the sight of our Creator. What could be more joyous than this? In addition, other joys I expect to encounter are even that of culture, food, and, of course, music.” Ben does expect that language will be an initial challenge. He says, “I have been learning some Czech while here in the States, but I look forward to this challenge soon becoming a joy.”
Likely the biggest challenge Ben anticipates, though, is “the challenge of facing a culture that has been highly impacted by a belief of atheism.” Like many other European countries, the once historically Christian Czech Republic is now extremely atheist in its outlook. According to the CIA’s World Factbook page for the Czech Republic, 10.3% of the residents identified themselves as Catholic, 0.8% identified themselves as Protestant (which includes Czech Brethren and Hussite), 54.6% marked other or unspecified, and 34.2% marked none on the 2011 census. The pervasiveness of apathy, mere “ethnic Christianity” and atheism in this region of Central Europe is one of the reasons that the work of GEOs in the region is so important. As Ben says, “In this region I believe God is using His people to help revive and bring back to Him people that have once so well known His saving grace.”
In this task of reaching those who were once so historically Christian, but have now become atheist or agnostic, Ben will work with the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (SCAEV). The SCAEV have approximately 49,000 members in 20 congregations and 36 preaching stations and extensions. The SCAEV is a Lutheran Church body with which the LCMS cooperates in mission and outreach efforts, as well as mercy work, and which the LCMS supports by sending short-term teams, GEO missionaries, and translated theological literature to assist with theological education programs. Ben says that as he works with the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, opportunities to share the Gospel will hopefully abound. He anticipates that
As the Silesian Evangelical Church begins and continues to work in areas of the Eastern Czech Republic, I will have the opportunity to share and strengthen the faith of youth and students already professing Christ as their Savior, whether this be in devotional, game based, or educational settings. The same applies to those outside of the faith. As details begin to finalize with schools in the area, there may be many an opportunity to share the Gospel with students through English teaching and conversations outside the classroom.
Ben’s service is slated to last for a one-year term. Most GEOs serve for one to two years with the possibility of extending their service, which Ben would be willing to do. If you are interested in serving as a GEO or have ever thought about serving in missions in some way, Ben advises: “The fact that God has brought you to this consideration speaks of your understanding of His call in your life. Whether it be in a foreign land or your current neighborhood, may you never ignore this task at hand for you will be used wherever you may be.”
Fun Facts about Ben
- Ben sings and plays the piano
- Ben loves hiking, running, yoga, and volleyball
- Ben’s favorite TV shows include classic 90s fare like “Full House” and “Boy Meets World”
- More recent TV favorites are “White Collar” and “The Big Bang Theory”
- His favorite movie is a tie between “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Home Alone”
- His favorite verses are 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 and 1 Corinthians 16:13–14
Welcome to the field, Ben! God’s blessings on your work!
- To learn more about Ben and support his work, visit his Support Page.
- Pray for Ben as he travels to the Czech Republic and begins his work at the end of this month.
- Pray for the people of Havířov, Czech Republic, that their hearts would be prepared to hear the Gospel.