Mission Outreach

LITOMĚŘICE UMC Mission Partnership

By Pastor Mel

 

Beginning June 6, 2010, many of us here at Cross in the Desert prayed:  “Lord, prepare a guest room for our congregation with the hope that we will share in the harvest of the Kingdom of God”.  This was in hopes of starting a Church-Mission Partnership with a church in Central Europe.  I know that many of us were faithful in our prayers and by October of that year, our District Superintendent provided us with a list of churches that could be potential partnership churches.  Again, after much thought and prayer, we selected Litomerice United Methodist Church in the Czech Republic.  

Litomerice United Methodist Church is located about 40 miles north of Prague in the Ústí nad Labem Region which is often called the “Garden of Bohemia” thanks to its mild weather conditions and it’s good growing conditions for crops, fruits and grapes.  The city has a population of about 25,000 people and is one of the oldest Czech towns, being established in the 10th century.  In the Czech Republic, Methodist Churches are known as the “Evangelical Methodist Church” although they are a part of the world-wide United Methodist Church.  Litomerice UMC’s web site can be found at http://www.ecmlitomerice.estranky.cz/  You will notice that the site is in the Czech language; however you can use the Google Language translator and translate it into English.

Visit to Litomerice UMC

Our first real contact with Litomerice was Christmas of that year when we sent cards wishing their congregation a wonderful Christmas season.  They, in turn, sent a card with a picture of their congregation in mid-January wishing us a blessed New Year.  After that we exchanged prayer requests a few times, but real contact did not occur until of 2011 summer when I was able to visit the congregation between July 7th and the 12th and it truly was like a home-coming!  On Sunday, July 10th, I shared with the Litomerice congregation our story of prayer and let them know that truly, in a very metaphorical sense, we had found our “guest room!”  Their hospitality to me was very gracious.  Pastor Zdenek Borž and his wife, Stephanka, are wonderful gifted and caring people.  The congregation is about 50 to 60 in size and most of those who attend are probably 40 years and younger with children.  They have wonderful musical talent in the congregation, workers from all walks of life, youth, children, and most importantly for us, several people who are able to translate..  

The congregation hosted a Softball Camp for a week after I left from July 17th through the 22nd.  It was a team led by John Bolton from Tennessee.  This was their third year of this outreach program.  It connected with about 80 children and youth.  John Bolton and I have contacted each other with the possibility of pooling resources and thus making our joint ministry there more effective.  Although the team from Tennessee has been there for three years they have not officially formed a Church-Mission Partnership like the one we have.

Before I left for Litomerice, our Mission Committee allocated funds towards the purchase of an audio-visual projector for their congregation.  I took the money with me and Zdenek and I were able to purchase the projector on Monday, July 11, just in time to be used in his prison ministry the next day!  This projector will be a valuable aid for their ministry.  He plans on using it often; in small groups, his prison ministry, and during special times of the year in the town square. Zdenek  wanted me to make sure that I thanked our congregation of Cross in the Desert for this special gift,  You as a congregation are to be commended for supporting our Missions programs through the buying of gift certificates which makes funds available for projects such as this.

A Holy Moment

While in Litomerice, I was blessed to be able to attend Zdenek’s prison ministry with him, and this was a special day because one of the prisoners had become a believer and asked to be baptized and Pastor had arranged for it to happen while I was there with him.  The prison is only a few minutes walk from his home.  It has around 325 beds.  Zdenek ministers to and disciples several groups of young men there; probably all under the age of 25.

Upon entering the prison the Chief of the prison asked to see us.  He quizzed Zdenek on his motivations, to which he gave a wonderful witness of his faith.  Then, he asked me similar questions!  It was interesting that he asked some very pointed questions about Jesus – it reminded me of the kind of situation that Paul encountered before Agrippa and Felix in the Book of Acts.

We then went to the “chapel”.  We first ministered to two different groups of men and had conversations about faith, God, Jesus, etc., with them.

It was now time for the third group.  Tomaš Lance came in with joy and enthusiasm on his face.  You could see it and knew he was anticipating it.  He was allowed to bring his Bible with him.  Honza (Jon) came with a guitar and we sang some contemporary Christian songs.  After that Zdenek had a brief sermon to be followed by the baptism.  However, there was no water.  Zdenek tried to get the attention of the guards to get us some, but the door was locked.  Apparently it was usually open, but because I was there it was locked and the guards did not come.  Fortunately I had a bottle of “bubbled water”.  I told Zdenek to use it for the baptism.  He poured it into a small pitcher and then Tomaš knelt before a simple cross on the wall.  Kneeling, the water poured over his head, ran down his face and ended upon the floor.  For me, this was a very emotional, spiritual experience. It was a holy moment.

No one moved and tears started to stream down everyone’s face.  Then as Tomaš got up, seven grown men cried together and hugged each other (unusual because Czech men don’t hug).  We sang more songs; the joy which was present was truly a breath of heaven.  

The projector that our Missions Committee had sent funds for was used for the first time.  We all watched the movie “Most” (Bridge), which had a powerful message.  Needless to say, we left floating on a cloud!

Future Visit to Litoměřice

Visiting our Mission-Church Partnership in Litoměřice, Czech Republic is an important step helping to provide support for both of our congregations. We all need to pray for the Lord’s leading in this further step in our partnership with Litomerice UMC.

Pastor Mel