Slovakia Trip Highlights: Summer 2023
By Steph Elliott | June 16, 2023 | Return to Blog
This post is a highlight compilation from the daily prayer updates sent out by GPPD team leader Steph during an amazing week of camp in Slovakia. We have been so encouraged and moved by the updates, personal stories and photos that we wanted to share them with the GPPD family.
Travel and Preparation
After a few days of travel (with a tourist opportunity in Budapest, Hungary), a team of five ladies is preparing for an English camp for youth girls in Slovakia. We praise God for smooth travel, luggage arrival, and a few hours exploring Hungary on the way to Slovakia. Today, we are finalizing camp details to prepare for the girls' arrival on Sunday. We are partnering with The Baldis Family (GPPD Slovakia Associates) for a week of equipping girls aged 10-15 with English skills through Biblical teaching. We are excited to help these girls learn English, but most importantly, we are excited to share the Gospel and show them the love of Christ. Many of these girls are either nominal Catholics or do not understand what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. We are praying for God to transform lives so these girls will love Him with their whole hearts, soul, mind, and strength.
Planning For Camp
We have rearranged furniture, made beds, purchased food, planned lessons, prayed over the girls, and had devotions together. By Saturday night, we were ready for them to arrive on Sunday.
Sunday morning, we had house church with regular attendees and a few guests. Charles Baldis (GPPD Associate) opened and said: We have Slovaks, Americans, and guests from London, and we're all here to worship. A message was preached in Slovak and English. The pastor encouraged us: The Devil has a cunning way to trick us into knowing who God is but not loving Him. You can know the Bible, but if your heart is not in it, it's empty knowledge. We can come before Christ as a stranger and give quality goods to Him, and He will say He never knew us. Or, we can come before Him as a friend and say, Lord, I have nothing to give you, I just want to love you. This is a repentance God is willing to accept.
The girls started arriving around 4pm today. We enjoyed dinner together and started our evening session with songs, icebreaker games, and a lesson about how the Bible is God's Grand Plan and The Great Romance Story. Tonight, the girls are playing games and getting to know each other (trying to remember close to 25 names). Tomorrow, we start our program at 8am. I'm praying for God to break down communication and cultural barriers tonight. With everyone, we represent five ethnic cultures, four countries, and multiple languages. Many of these girls do not understand who God is or how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We are praying God will move mountains this week and that He would use our team to help the girls experience God's love so they can love Him with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.
First Few Days of Camp
Since Sunday, we have lived and breathed Jesus and English camp! The girls have adapted well and everyone is comfortable and friendly with each other. More than that, the girls are not afraid to ask hard questions about God while they study English.
After a group lesson, we split into three small groups for English and devotions based on language level. In the house this week, there are people speaking English, Slovak, Czech, Ukrainian, and a little Russian at times. There are some struggles, but we know God is not a God of confusion, so we pray big prayers for Him to break down communication barriers so His truth can be understood.
We sing songs and play many games to build relationships and practice English. We're thankful for Charles, who is a great sport holding his title as "man of the house" (watching out for 25 ladies) as he joins us for music and games.
Andjenica's Story One of our team members shared her story with the girls about gift of adopting her daughter from Haiti.
"By the world's standards [in Haiti], Andjenica was worthless...because she has Spina Bifida. It's hard to even say that people thought she was worthless because we wouldn’t trade her for anything. She is a testimony of how God cares for His people. I’m not telling you this because we’re great people. We’re average people and God called us to this. Adoption is a beautiful picture of our salvation. Christ says we are joint heirs with Him when He adopts us." -Erin Rich (Andjenica's Mom)
We have had great conversations with girls about what it means to delight yourself in the Lord, follow His commandments out of love and devotion, and be careful following your heart (we are warned: it is deceitful above all things, who can know it?).
Loving God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength
The camp theme (Mark 12:30) is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." We talk about it each morning and evening and discuss it in small groups. We sing about it. We devote each day to a different aspect of the verse. All week, we have asked What is love? (not emotionally unstable fairytale love), What is a heart? (asking Jesus into your heart after the "sinner's prayer" isn't a ticket to Heaven), and Is my conscience in my soul or my mind? (yes).
Our goal is to help the girls understand that God wants us to love and serve Him out of genuine desire rather than motivation by rules. Legalism is trapping these girls into believing they have to earn God's love to deserve Jesus' grace. We are teaching and discipling; but more than that, we are having real-life conversations with them. Sitting and sharing life stories is when walls fall and the Gospel can be practically applied.
Some of these girls have faced adult-sized trauma and trials, so they have reservations about following Jesus. We provided a box to submit anonymous questions for us to answer in a panel discussion. Here are a few of the questions:
- How can you prove God is real without using the Bible?
- How do you know Christianity is the true religion when everyone thinks their religion is right?
- Why does God allow some people to suffer for so long?
- Can you be a Christian and believe in evolution?
Our team has learned that we must "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). Our team also has a new understanding of European missionaries and respect the taxing work they do for the Kingdom.
The Grand Finale
This has been an amazing week to build relationships, teach God's Word, discuss what it means to follow Jesus, and encourage each other through the highs and lows of life. God allowed us to walk through the village, go on scavenger hunts, dance, worship, pray, praise, and study the Bible together. The girls heard a clear presentation of the Gospel multiple times and learned more about surrendering their lives to Jesus. Friday, campers competed in a photo challenge, minute-to-win-it games, and our first annual Talent Show for English Camp. The girls showcased their talents in acting and music - and we even had a magic show!
In our final panel discussion, we spent time answering more hard questions like, Why are the people who are the closest to you hurt you the most? and Can you have tattoos and piercings and still be saved? For quite some time, we discussed these real-life questions and ultimately sought an answer that forces us to think as God thinks.
The Grand Finale
It is about 10pm local time here and we will leave at 4:30am tomorrow to start our journey home. We leave Slovakia with a new perspective of how people in other cultures view Jesus. We leave here with a more well-rounded Biblical worldview. Some of us leave here with burdened minds because of the stories we've heard. Others leave with excitement because of the relationships that were built. Overall, we leave here echoing the words of Janet at dinner: "When God completed His creation - the work He set out to do - He rested and said that it was good. Camp is over and God did amazing things here. We can also rest and say that it was good."