South Norfolk church's faith mission at Czech school
A 10-strong team, all from Hope Community Church Wymondham, has helped shine out a message of hope and faith at a thriving Christian school in the Czech Republic. Sandie Shirley reports.
Children’s worker, Elisabeth Louis, helped mount a life-changing prayer and gospel mission at a city school in Pardubice, 60 miles east of Prague in June. It also paved the way for a possible educational and cultural exchange with a Wymondham primary school after one of its teachers joined the trip in June and pupils exchanged letters.
Some members of the team have been building relationships and sharing their faith with staff and children at Noe (pronounced ‘Noah’) Christian Elementary School for the last three years after a combined Relational Mission trip by Norfolk churches in 2017 and 2018. This summer, two older students from Noe travelled to England for the Christian Newday festival at the Norfolk Showground.
Less than 30 years since the Czech Republic emerged from Communism, there is a growing openness to the gospel and Noe school is building on its strong Christian foundation through prayer and commitment.
“It is a very significant place in the city; it is seen as a school of light with the heart of Jesus,” says Elisabeth.
Birthed with prayer and hard work, it opened nine years ago with support from various established churches in Pardubice. The school began with a class of six-year-olds and a new class has been added annually; now there are 170 pupils up to the age of 15-years and a waiting list.
“For various reasons members from other Norfolk Relational Mission churches could not visit the school this year and a trip looked doubtful but in answer to prayer, a self-financing team of children’s workers from Hope Community Church Wymondham, including a 15-year-old member, managed to continue the work that occurs in the closing week of the summer term,” said Elisabeth.
“We are not strangers anymore and the children remember our names so we could start where we left off,” added Elisabeth who recalls being greeted by a little girl wearing a Union Jack.
As with previous years, the remit was to help the children with their English while engaging them in Bible teaching activities as team members shared their faith. It meant preparing and leading assemblies and classes with Bible stories, using games, craft activities and testimonies as well as sharing their work with parents at the final school assembly.
“Each morning we would meet to pray with staff despite our different languages, which did not matter. The head teacher told us not to hold back with prayer, so we were able to pray specifically for older children when they had concerns in their young lives or had family members who were sick.
“For the first time we were also able to pray God’s blessing and guidance over the older children before they left the school to move onto the next stage of their education; it was the highlight for me,” said Elisabeth.
Friendships deepened as team members – some new and some who had been two or three times before – stayed in dormitories above the school. They lived, worked, worshipped and prayed together during an imaginative programme that included hosting a bumper traditional English tea with 200 scones (brought from the UK along with tea) and jam as part of an outside presentation to parents, family and friends in sweltering temperatures nearing 40 degrees C.
“There were also opportunities outside school hours to hear encouraging stories from the staff, so we prayed with them and for them for what they are seeking to do in Pardubice,” said Elisabeth.
Contact continues throughout the year with teachers, especially Czech-born Michelle Foster who, together with her English husband Pete, helped issue an invitation to the Norfolk Relational Mission churches to build on and encourage the work at the school and the supportive work of the Oaks church which the couple help oversee.
“They have connected and gathered with Christians and non-Christians in the city and accompanied two older pupils to England for the Newday event which is held at the Norfolk Showground each year,” said Elisabeth.
Pictured top, fun and games at the Noe school in the Czech Republic and, above, the Hope team including Elisabeth Louis (far right) and husband Steve (front).