(Written in first-person by Jonathan Lobel and edited for length)
My journey to the Czech Republic started in 2005 when a friend working with a tiny Czech high school focused on sharing Jesus with students invited me to join him for a year-long internship. I’ve been here ever since, not only as a teacher, but now as the school’s assistant director.
When we talk about what we do, especially in the United States, my wife and I try to encourage folks to rethink what “missionary” means. If we are followers of Jesus, that means that we are all missionaries in our local context - at school, at work, in our neighborhoods and in our families. As Americans, it is easy to think that we have all the solutions for the world, but in reality, we have a great deal to learn. Here, we want to be part of what God is already doing as partners with our Czech brothers and sisters, learners and teammates. We talk to our children about living as immigrants and how it is an honor to be adopted into another cultural family (and now we are officially Czech citizens!).
With all that in mind, we have a vision in the context of partnering with Czech brothers and sisters in our local church and school. We desire to see lives transformed by Jesus in our region and in the rest of the country. Our school is a bridge to the community where students come for a strong academic education. While they are with us, we read and discuss the Bible and extend the love and care of Jesus to each student. Each year students trust Jesus and get plugged in to our local church, and so we see that transformation taking place.
I never thought of the Czech Republic as a final destination, but I guess God had other plans. That one-year internship turned into fifteen years and counting. But now my heart beats for this country that has adopted my family.
Similarly, NCS Winston member Voyta Sailer and his wife have adopted my family when we are in the United States.
I met both Jay Helvey and Voyta, at while attending a national NCS retreat with my father, who runs NCS Albany. We found some common Czech roots (Winston-Salem was founded by Czech Moravian missionaries in the 1700s). It’s quite ironic to be now sharing what God is doing in the Czech Republic with folks in Winston-Salem.
Voyta was born in what was once known as Czechoslovakia. I was very surprised when I met Voyta and found out that he knew exactly where I lived, as he grew up near my town. Lots of people have no idea where the Czech Republic is or they think it is still called Czechoslovakia. Voyta clearly had more interest than many folks because of his experience in the region as a kid and then his return visits to find family members. That meant that we immediately hit it off and hand a lot to talk about.
His family made their way to the US as refugees during the failed revolution in 1968 before the Soviets occupied Czechoslovakia. While he arrived in the US as a child, he still remembers some Czech and has now revived family connections. He even has an uncle in the town next to mine. And he also reapplied for his Czech citizenship last year. So, we have a lot to talk about together and definitely share a passion for seeing God changing lives in the Czech Republic.
I have never met anyone in the US who was born near my Czech hometown. And sharing a passion for Jesus and the Czech Republic together is pretty fun!
Since meeting, Voyta and his wife Laura have been an amazing support to us. They have invited us to stay with them whenever we visit the US. We share a similar outlook on life - education, faith and family. In many ways, they have truly adopted us and go out of their way to bless us. They have partnered with us in our school ministry, they pray for us and communicate regularly. We continue to be refreshed and encouraged by their love for Jesus and for people.
Openness, authenticity and acceptance are things attract guys to NCS. Voyta and his family have embraced us with those values, and that has made for a very meaningful friendship.