July 10, 2020

Renewing the vision

Written by  Jan Heindel
The girls at a lookout on the north coast of Ireland where they went on a spiritual retreat. From left to right: Lucie, Rachel, Johanka, Eva, Jan, Danca, and Bety. The girls at a lookout on the north coast of Ireland where they went on a spiritual retreat. From left to right: Lucie, Rachel, Johanka, Eva, Jan, Danca, and Bety.

In January 2016, I returned to Prague after a year in the U.S. to find Petra, a young woman new to our church, leading a Bible study and mentoring three to four young women. Prior to this, there were many young families in the church but not a lot of youth. But then, larger groups of teenagers were coming into the youth group, and ministry was expanding for those coming in from outside the church but there was a lack of discipleship for the girls already in the church. So the church leaders invited Petra to serve in this capacity.

An exciting start

And so Petra stepped in; first hanging out with the girls and inviting them to sleepovers. This led to a Bible study and mentoring several of them. The girls were eager to grow and were attracted to Petra — her heart, her care, and her discipleship. My heart is for discipling girls as well, so I started to attend the Bible study to connect with the girls. I saw the impact she was having and the way she connected so naturally with the girls. The group doubled in size. A couple of girls came and went from this group Petra led and discipled, but essentially this was the beginning of something new: girls’ ministry at our church. And it was exciting.

But after a year and a half, Petra got married and moved to Ireland. For the girls and for me, this felt like a huge loss. A lot of girls felt deeply connected to her. We knew that we had to continue encouraging and discipling the girls, and so we made a plan: a couple of the girls who had been discipled by Petra would start Bible studies for those who were interested. I joined with Eva to lead a Bible study and we invited several of the younger girls who had recently moved up to youth group to join us. I offered to meet with the girls who now found themselves leading in some capacity, to encourage and mentor them. 

These girls had vision! We would have regular activities for girls where we could also invite nonbelievers. We planned numerous activities to connect; any holiday (especially American holidays) was a cause for a party: Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and more! We would hang out, build relationships, and encourage each other. We had a craft afternoon and picnic in the park after summer English Camp, inviting all the girls who were at camp. With my friend Eva, we planned two spiritual retreats, which worked great as an intimate group to share and grow together. We organized a Sunday lunch for youth girls and women from the church to connect with more experienced, mature believers and to try to facilitate more intentional mentoring relationships — attempting to connect each girl with someone.

A time away

However, sometimes life and responsibilities get in the way; and growth and multiplication take a backseat. Many of the leaders had been feeling weary this past year, and felt they needed a break. At this point, Petra, who had stayed connected with some of the girls, stepped in and organized a February retreat! It was a reminder that often a “retreat” is a necessary part of spiritual rhythm and is needed to recoup and refresh. 

So in February 2020, six Czech girls and I boarded a flight for Belfast, looking forward to a retreat weekend which Petra graciously organized for us. For two of the girls, it was the first time they had flown. For four of them, it was a re-connection with the woman who had discipled and mentored them five years ago. For all of us, it was a much-needed rest and renewal weekend that included reflection, solo time, group study and sharing, praying, relaxing, nature time, encouragement, and being pampered with treats and gifts. These girls had been leading other girls in some capacity for the past couple of years and some refreshment was due!

These young women all had impact in multiple lives and I see much more potential! I see their creativity in their ideas and the events they plan for; I see their joy in being together and sharing together about what’s truly going on in their lives and what God is doing in the midst of it. I see their desire to know God and to want to serve — sometimes hindered by insecurity or wandering, trying to find their place, yet other times coming forth with a dedication to move forward. Now, in the midst of coronavirus, there are changes as all activity came to a halt and none of us wanted more Zoom meetings. As our restrictions have opened up, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time one-on-one with several of these leaders and their hearts and vision are evident. I believe that God is refreshing and renewing their vision to continue the multiplication process. I have a continued vision to disciple them into women who disciple and impact others — within their own contexts in ways they can do way better as Czechs with Czechs than I ever could as a foreigner!

This article appears in the Jul/Aug 2020 issue of Missionary MessengerSign up to receive more inspiring stories like this one in our magazine.

Published in Articles, Worker stories

Eastern Mennonite Missions

PO Box 8617, Lancaster, PA 17604-8617 US
450 N Prince St, Lancaster, PA 17603-3010 US
toll-free: +1 (844) 891-3939
phone: (717) 898-2251
fax: (717) 898-8092
office hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. EST

Email us