Today, Globally Engaged in Outreach missionary Benjamin Helge shares with us about two camps he participated in this summer. Benjamin joined with a fellow GEO, Czech leaders and short-term teams from congregations of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to proclaim the Gospel through English camps.
Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us (Titus 2:6-8, NIV).
Summer camps provide a unique setting for interacting with those in attendance. You live, eat, play, coexist for an entire week. Everyone, everything, everyday. In reading through Titus at the beginning of the summer, I made these verses above my challenge and focus. “How can I show Christ’s love to every student at camp?”
The Czech summer season of camps began with two English camps in the mountains of Písek, CZ. Our camp theme, VISION, focused on how we see things in life. Near-sightedness, far-sightedness, colorblindness and blindness affect the way we perceive things. Our walk with God relates to these types of vision. We often can’t see God clearly in this life, but soon, we will see Him face to face.
Joining together with Pastor Christian Wood, members of Hales Corner Lutheran Church in Wisconsin, GEO Missionary Denise Schlesselman, and Czech nationals, our first week of English camp promoted an intimate family setting of 11 campers. Many of the campers came from local Lutheran congregations and were encouraged through discussions of vision and God’s vision for our lives. Despite the numerous attacks from the devil including broken ribs, baseballs to the face and a day without water, God encouraged us and used our times of weakness to move our camp family closer to Him through His Word and Gospel. As week one finished with “see-you-soon,” the same afternoon a fresh team from the US arrived, along with new Czech leaders for round two.
Around five years ago, LCMS Pastor Kevin Wyssmann and a team of Czech students began these weeks of English camps. This year, Pastor Wyssmann came back to Silesia after a year break bringing with him a team from Bethany Lutheran Church in Overland Park, KS. Week two of English camps brought a high-energy atmosphere with 26 campers. The purpose of English camp focuses of course on practicing English, but more importantly on sharing Jesus Christ crucified. Hiking one afternoon, the Spirit stirred and gave many opportunities for direct presentation of the Gospel along with conversations about the Big Bang Theory and creation. Asking one student, “what do you believe in?,” he responded with “sports.” His response shows a general idea for the area: belief in something of the world or nothing at all. Here lies one reason English camps and so many other camps happen during the summer.
Thursday night allowed for campers and leaders to showcase talents, skits, skills and so on. The week culminated with this event and a powerful presentation of the freedom we have in Christ. One camper, Dave, invited some non-Christian campers to participate in a dramatic sketch he organized using Casting Crown’s song “Set Me Free.” It showed how our sin removes us from God and consumes us. Yet, through the power of the cross and Jesus, we are freed from these chains and live as new people.
God continues to work in the hearts of the campers. I am thankful for the willingness and selflessness of those who came to serve on a team. Through these teams running English camps, new connections were made and conversations that started at camp now continue here with campers, other Czech leaders and myself. As many campers live a train ride away, we meet for hangouts, eating, New Mexican parties and discussions of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. What begins as a week with some crazy Americans teaching English and this person called Jesus, turns into a beautiful partnership in spreading the Good News. Our work defines itself not by the single week of camp, but by God’s constant working in our hearts and the hearts of those we serve. Praise God for His work here in the Czech Republic and around the world through short-term missions teams. Join with me in praying for the campers to clearly see Jesus in their lives. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV).
-Benjamin Helge, GEO Missionary, Czech Republic
- Support Benjamin Helge and his work as a EFL teacher and relationship builder through English.
- Support Denise Schlesselman and her work as a relationship builder through teaching English.
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