We will continue our partnership with Josiah Venture in the Czech Republic, whose evangelistic English camps have proven to be an effective tool to help local churches reach young people. This team will partner with a Czech youth group to provide a camp experience for believing and unbelieving Czech teens, with the team members serving as English conversation partners.
Most of (but not all of) the Czech Team
Updated Wednesday, July 28
With the Czech team's safe arrival at LAX this afternoon, this year's ministry in the Czech Republic has drawn to a close. Thank you for praying our team through a powerful and fruitful time in Easter Europe.
Please be sure to mark on your calendar the date of our Summer Missions Celebration: Sunday, September 19, at 6:00pm in the Worship Center. You'll have the chance to hear directly from the Czech team, as well as the other teams that have taken grace to the nations this summer.
Updated Monday, July 26
The English Camp has come to an end and as always the week has flown by very fast. Our time at camp is filled with activities, English lessons, games, hiking and developing relationships with students. The busy schedule makes the days fly by.
For those of you who remember our camp last year, you know that we faced a lot of challenges and obstacles at that camp. This year Victor (the youth leader from the Cheb youth group) and I sat down and talked about all the changes we needed to make to avoid having another year like last year. All of the changes we made played a major role in affecting the atmosphere and organization of this camp. We are always learning and seeking ways to improve the ministry here in Czech.
Well, the Lord blessed our planning and preparation and this year turned out to be a wonderful camp. Here are some highlights from this years camp:
1. The camp was smaller this year and it allowed the atmosphere at camp to be much more intimate and open. Many of the Czech students connected in a profound way with different members on our team. Having my father (now known as "Tata Rick") along with the Merrell family created a family feel that allowed students to feel more comfortable to share and feel like they were accepted and loved.
2. The Czech youth group and the American team worked really well together this year. Both teams had great communication and cooperation throughout the whole camp. There was a strong bond and sense of unity between the two teams.
3. During our Labyrinth night (see updates below) 30 of the 40 students who went through the sections lit a candle signifying that they took a step closer to God or deepened their relationship with God. This was a very powerful night and there were many great conversations.
4. That same night we had two girls make a decision for the first time to start a relationship with Christ. Both of them made strong connections with the Cheb youth group and will get connected with the youth group once we leave. Praise God for two new sisters in our family!
5. Strong unity within the American team. This year was a very encouraging year but it was also physically demanding on our whole team and yet we stayed positive and supportive. There was very little complaining or tension among the team members. We were all tight and supportive of each other.
Well, home team, I am honored and humbled to report how God has worked through this team this summer in the Czech. Thank you again for being apart of this team through prayer. We can celebrate all of this great work for the Kingdom together.
Updated Friday, July 23
Last night was probably one of the most amazing nights of my life. Landen presented the gospel message through the story of "The Woman at the Well." And then the students were released to go through a "labyrinth" where there were five stations they had to go through. Station one was where there were cut-out trees and the students had to write what influences them and then what they influence. Station two was writing a letter to themselves saying what they liked about themselves and also things they would like to change about themselves...along with other things. Station three was a place where students would pick up a pebble and on one side write someone they need to forgive and on the other side they would put as many marks to represent offenses they want forgiven. They would then throw the pebble out into the trees. Station four was a hand washing station. The students would get their hands dirty and then some people from the American team would wash and dry their hands for them. There was also someone who put baby oil on their hands after they were clean. They then walked a long a candle lit path towards a cross that was made out of candles where they could light a candle if they wanted to change their life. Most students lit a candle.
There were then a few people (including me) who were off to the side and there to talk and pray with anyone who wanted to talk. This part was so incredible for me. So many students wanted to talk. I had the opportunity to talk/hug/hold them while they cried....with about four students. I got to share the gospel, share my testimony, and wipe away their tears.
It was a very emotional experience for the American team who was spread out throughout the stations. For me, I got to hear about lives that were hard...things we would never have to encounter or deal with in America. It was so humbling. Sharing my testimony made me realize more why certain things were allowed to happen to me...it was so I could in turn help someone else. I'm still in awe of last night and I will never forget it as long as I live. My heart experienced emotions that have really impacted me and I wonder how I will be when I return home. I hope I change for the better.
God has been so good. My team is amazing and I love all of them so very much. I have also fallen in love with Czech all over again. I remember this feeling from last summer...and now I'm dreading all the goodbyes to our dear friends that we have grown so close to. Czech will always have a part of my heart and I probably wont ever get it back. I cant wait to tell you all everything when I get home :)
Thank you so much for praying for our discussion groups and evening talks. A few nights ago my group had one of the best discussions I have experienced. The group was interacting with the subject matter and asking some tough questions. It was a blessing to sit and listen.
The evening talks have been amazing. Landen, Ron, and Rick have done a great job of blending personal stories and stories from the Bible to introduce the students to themes from the Bible. Last night Landen shared the good news that Jesus wants to have a relationship with everyone, especially those who live on the outside of normal society. Instead of discussion groups that night we ran a labyrinth to allow them time to reflect on things we have talked about during the week. The labyrinth entails taking a walk through different activities that provoke thought into one's life and the different spiritual themes we covered. Once they entered the labyrinth they were not allowed to talk and were asked to at least look at each activity before they moved on. I ran a station where each person was asked to write a letter to themselves looking at a few things within their lives. It was amazing to see them deeply think about the letter. I was able to sit quietly for about two hours praying for each student as they passed through my station. Jenny told me that she was able to pray with two girls last night at the end of the labyrinth about starting a relationship with Christ. Please pray for these young women as they start their relationship with our Lord.
A few things to keep in prayer for the rest of the trip:
1. With one day left of camp, pray that our team has wisdom with every moment of the day in our conversations with each student. Tonight we will discuss the importance of having the right community around you. We will also have Mary and another Czech believer share their testimony during the evening talk. Pray for them as they prepare to share their personal story about how Jesus has affected their lives.
2. Pray for safety in travel tomorrow as we head to Cheb for follow-up and have the opportunity to continue these relationships with the students at their homes. We will be in Cheb till Monday and then head to Prague to finish out the trip.
Thank you all for your continued prayers
Meghan writes (on her Facebook status):
Last night at camp was absolutely AMAZING!! There are no words to describe it!! God was really working and you could really feel the Spirit!!!
Updated Tuesday, July 20
As I am writing this e-mail, I'm sitting at a table near two boys in my English class who are sitting and talking. Their names are Vojta and Michael (aka Doktor) - one of them is an atheist and the other believes truth is relative to the individual. We have been having great discussion at night after the evening talks and these two guys have been on my heart and mind a lot this week. They are the two people I am trying to reach out to the most.
Everyone on our team could list two or three Czech students who they are reaching out to, praying for, and having great conversations with throughout this week. Camp creates such a great atmosphere for relationships and deep conversations.
Last night Ron gave a monologue about Joseph and his brothers' betrayal of him. It was a powerful night and many students shared how the talk really impacted them. The discussions group questions were all about forgiveness and redemption. There were many great conversations talking place after last night's talk.
Here are our prayer requests for the next two days:
1. Rick is talking tonight about the story of Ruth. Please pray that God would continue to work on students' hearts through the talks, discussion groups and one-on-one conversations that take place at camp.
2. Hike day. Tomorrow we will go on an 8-mile hike and this is a great time to have conversations with students. Please pray that our team would be filled with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit as we have good conversations with students on this hike.
3. Discussion groups. This is the time we get to unpack some deep themes relating to our spiritual lives. We have been talking about redemption, forgiveness, faith, and more.
4. Strength, health, and endurance for our team as we get into the tail end of our trip and start to feel the energy level get lower and lower, especially after all our running through the forest and going on an 8 mile hike.
We are so thankful for all of you who have been faithfully praying for us on this trip. We have felt the support and are so grateful for all the intentional prayers. Keep it up!
Updated Tuesday, July 20
God is moving so powerfully here in the Czech. Been some significant breakthroughs and good seed planting going on for the gospel. Our team is incredibly unified and serving so sacrificially here. Landen and Anna are ridiculously good leaders! The length of the trip has brought some expected bumps, bruises, and low grade sicknesses but God is so faithful! Braddock and Brody are stretched to their limits but have been the most amazing little troopers ever.
Be praying for our team - especially for Meghan Graham, who is sick today and for our boys' endurance (and ours, haha). And be praying for the final days of camp as the spiritual conversations and messages turn up several notches. I've got a boy named Denny who is heavy on my heart.
One week to go!
Updated Sunday, July 16
Megan Ehlen writes:
It is so good to be back in this beautiful country. I have seen many friends and already started to make more. Traveling went smoothly and Malenovice was a sweet time to spend time with Jesus and bond with the team and the Czech youth group leaders.
The travel to camp was a bit different than what we Americans are used to. We started off taking trains and had to take 4 of them. Then we had to walk two miles through the middle of nowhere (we walked through a forest , river, wheat field, etc.), and it was raining with thunder and lightning. But we made it to camp about an hour and a half before the students who also had to walk through the rain which was coming down harder by that point. It is STILL raining very hard here.
All the students made it here safely and I got to see my good friends again!! Magda (Jenny's sister) and I get to be roomies again :) But there is one prayer request I would like to ask of you - last night at about 1:30am, one of the campers sleep-walked and fell out of her window (about 8 feet) She was taken to the hospital and she is stable now and they said she is going to be OK but they need to run some more tests. So please pray for her.
Otherwise God has been SO good and the location we are at is breathtaking. My English class is full of outgoing students and I am excited for them to hear about Jesus along with the other students this week!
Updated Friday, July 16
I have to start by thanking you all for praying for the Merrell boys and family. I am very excited to report that the boys have been sleeping through the night the last two nights and have been having a blast exploring the Czech country side. Today they hiked to a waterfall with the rest of the team and enjoyed splashing around in the creek for hours. They have been the constant entertainers of our team. So thank you and please keep praying that they will feel well and sleep well while on this trip.
Tomorrow we are leaving Malenovice and will be traveling to our camp in Chotebor in central Czech. It will be a long day of taking five different trains during a full day of traveling. Once we arrive at the camp we will be setting up the camp facility and getting ready to receive the students who will show that evening.
I am also excited to report that the team is doing great! We have become very close over these last three days. We have spent a lot of quality time together as we have gone through camp training, prepared our English class material, danced, gone for a hike to a waterfall, had team devotions and spent a lot of time praying for the camp and students. We are all feeling well rested, prepared and even a little anxious to start camp. This training has been one of the most effective trainings we have had yet here and it feels great to see all the team members bonding and encouraging each other.
Here are the prayer request for the next few days:
1. Safe travel tomorrow as we head to our camp cabin.
2. For the program on the first night. This is a critical time as we will meet the students for the first time and make those initial impressions. This day sets the tone for the rest of the week.
3. English classes. We have several new teachers this year who are excited but a little nervous and not sure what to expect. Please pray that the students will be engaged in the class time and that the teachers will be able to lead fun, engaging classes.
4. For the Holy Spirit to go before us and be preparing the hearts of the students to receive the gospel as we live it out and share it with the Czech students over the next week.
Thank you all for keeping us in your prayers. We have felt them and have a confidence knowing that there is a whole team of believers back home covering us with prayer.
Updated Friday, July 16
Meghan Graham writes:
So I am here in the Czech!!! We have been here for like 4-5 days, and it feels so good to be back! Of course it feels like home! The team is really bonding together, it is awesome to have such amazing team unity, something that is definitely vital on a trip like this. I have learned so much already and feel a complete peace about me, the Lord is definitely working in my life and it is so evident, I wish i could explain it more in a simple note. I am looking forward to heading to camp tomorrow and seeing everyone and getting ready to teach english and lead discussion groups! Please be praying for the team, both American and Czech, that we will have safe travels to the camp and a fruitful time at the camp!
Updated Wednesday, July 14
We have arrived safe and sound, no lost luggage, no lost team members and no major transportation challenges. We are now here at Malenovice doing our three days of team training, cultural training and Camp training.
This hotel is a beautiful place that is a spiritual retreat allowing us to prepare our hearts and minds for the camp that we will be running in the week to come. Our first full day here consisted of worship, devotions, bonding with the Czech leaders from Cheb, learning about Czech culture and doing our camp song. Many of our team members have been sharing that they are having quality time listening to God and being able to hear Him more clearly in this place.
Tomorrow will be another day of training and bonding for our team. We are looking forward to using this time well and gearing up for English camp. Here are a few prayer requests that you could be praying over us for the next two days:
1. Pray for the Merrell boys. They are having a hard time with the time difference and have not been able to sleep through the night. Please pray that they will be able to get adjusted to the new time and be able to get on a normal schedule. The family is doing well but are lacking sleep.
2. Pray for the Cheb youth group leaders. We are getting time now to bond with the leaders of the Cheb youth group and it is a great time to invest into them and speak love and truth into their lives. The leaders are young and passionate but lacking wisdom at times. We really want to help them grow and mature as they are learning how to lead a youth group.
3. Pray for Boldness. We want to step out in bold faith these next two weeks as we get to spend time with many non-Christian students who have grown up in primarily atheistic homes. Pray that we would be winsome and loving as we share the good news of Christ with them.
Thank you all for praying for us and supporting us while we get to serve here in the Czech.
Updated Monday, July 12
Our team has arrived safe and sound in Prague, resting up from the trip before starting a couple of days of orientation and training with our hosts Josiah Venture. Thanks for praying for them as they prepare to start the Outreach English Camp with the youth group from the Cheb church later this week.