March 2002

Dear Friends,

I suppose you can practically set your clocks by this letter I send out every year! Sure enough, for the NINTH year I will be going to the Czech Republic this July to teach English at a camp for young people. It will be a little different this time. The location at a school on the outskirts of the small town of Hronov is the same, but the congregation in the Czech Republic sponsoring it is different. Instead of the Czech Brethren Church in Náchod, we will be working this time with a new congregation in Nové Město nad Metují which is being planted by the Náchod church. This is the congregation with which Park Street Church is partnering by helping them to build a church building, so we know some of the people there, but the local team helping us to run the camp will be different. Two of them have been to Park Street camps in the past, but not as leaders. It will be a new challenge, but we are all looking forward with anticipation of how the Lord will use our efforts.

We do this each year because there really is an opportunity to help the church in Central Europe touch people's lives there for Christ. Even though there is a rich history of Christianity in their land, especially during the Reformation, the modern secular world and forty years of communism have all but erased their attention to spiritual matters. The Reformation itself often confused faith and politics, communism brought them back into focus but at the expense of persecution for faith, and the modern world often just doesn't care. But fortunately there is no longer persecution; the remaining church is small but vital, and intent on reevangelizing their people. Their task is great.

One very good way of reaching a lot of educated young people is to help them in their study of foreign languages. The Czech Republic is in the process of joining the European Union, so even more people than before will want to learn German or English for business. It is actually fairly common there to hold summer language camps, both as a fun activity, and as a serious way of improving linguistic skills. Many of these camps are organized by the local churches, and they are especially attractive if the instruction is provided by native speakers of the foreign language.

Here we are! Park Street sends a group of volunteers every summer at the invitation of the local church to teach English for ten days. We try hard, giving four hours of classroom instruction each day, and also we help provide a fun environment. We get to know the students, who are mostly young people. We become friends and talk with them. And as we work together with the local church, we show people a functioning community of Christian believers. We show them that spiritual things are real, and that faith is not irrelevant. We help them to think. And through this the local church gains respect in the community, and it is better able to reach people with the Gospel.

For us it is fun and a great joy to be part of the Lord's work, but also it is wearying, not only because of all the teaching, but also because the camp must run on Christian community and our constant cooperation with each other and with the Czech church team which is responsible for most of the camp logistics. We can't just collapse after the classes are over for the day. We are constantly talking with people, sharing our lives with them, encouraging them in their struggles, and sometimes talking very seriously about our faith. We start with a prayer meeting at seven each morning, and rarely get to bed before midnight. It's exhilarating and exhausting.

With all we have to do at the camp, it's often hard for us to keep up with our own spiritual needs. We prepare, but it's tough anyhow. Every prayer that anyone else offers for our support is valuable. Please pray for us, for the local Czech camp team, and for our students, especially during the time of the camp from the 8th to the 17th of July, and also before we leave on the 4th. Through your prayers, you will become an essential addition to our team in spirit.

I'm really asking you only for this prayer support, but of course there are also financial needs. The cost to Park Street Church will be around $20,000 for the entire project, which includes not only our airfare and camp materials, but also a subsidy for the student tuition. The team is not expected to raise this amount directly, but we hope that by publicizing projects like this, we can indirectly increase contributions to Park Street's missions program to cover their costs. If you want to help in this way, you can send a donation to Park Street Church. Put a note on your check saying "missions - Czech Republic". And if you really will pray for us, and especially for me at least from time to time, then also put my name with the note. It will be a great encouragement.

Thank you, and may the Lord be with you.

Dick Howell