Lydia Steinhaus, right, listens to interpreter Asia Piętak during a visit to the Czech Republic in August 2022. Steinhaus was there to consider serving as a missionary for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. (Photo courtesy of Chelsea Irwin.)
Lydia Steinhaus spent a week in August 2022 shadowing missionary Chelsea Irwin, who is serving in the Czech Republic, to explore the possibility of serving as a missionary. Lydia is a student at Concordia University Chicago studying education.
By Lydia Steinhaus
Day three of my journey in the Czech Republic shadowing Chelsea Irwin opened my eyes to the immensity of our God. I have read and learned that Christianity was the first religion to cross-cultural, ethnic and national boundaries, but to experience His Spirit working in the hearts of another culture — and through so many languages — brought me a feeling of community that I never could have imagined.
Language 1: Czech
The day started with a Czech lesson … a little late. There, I met Chelsea’s Czech tutor Miriam, an incredibly sweet and kind woman in her late thirties who is on fire for Christ. She lived and studied in England for a time and speaks great English. She was teaching a lesson to the junior high youth group on intimacy with God later in the day. Simply, she radiated the fruit of the spirit, especially kindness and joy. I immediately felt safe and peaceful around her.
We proceeded to the coffee shop for delicious dirty chai lattes and work. I tried to be helpful by sorting some of Chelsea’s notes into her Google Drive to assist with organization while Chelsea answered emails and prepared for meetings. Hayden Rensner joined us later. It was a joyful and productive time, but one can hardly have a bad time in a coffee shop! Chelsea loves this specific coffee shop and frequents it as a means of forming relationships in the community.
We then went to the grocery store to buy ingredients for pasta salad to bring to the youth group party we would be attending that evening. We ate leftovers for lunch and then made the pasta salad. The time in the kitchen presented opportunities for conversations about missionary life. One of the most impactful things I learned during these conversations was that the Czech culture holds the family in such high regard that one’s family can be one of the major roadblocks to Christianity if the family is not inherently Christian.
Hayden Rensner, left, and Lydia Steinhaus discuss missionary life in the Czech Republic in August 2022. Rensner is an LCMS missionary serving in the Czech Republic, and Steinhaus is a Concordia University Chicago student majoring in education. (Photo courtesy of Chelsea Irwin.)
Languages 2 & 3: Polish & Slovak
During a little downtime before the party, I reflected on my experiences. The party was fantastic. We were in a beautiful home of one of the youth members in a valley. There were beautiful gardens, and the mountains could be seen in the distance.
The evening started with worship. Everyone gathered in a circular wooden cabin in the yard which held a stone oven and fireplace in its middle. There was such a variety of ages gathered together, from the age of 10 up to the age of 30! I was so grateful for the number of university students there who spoke good English. As a result, I felt less outlandish and was able to have meaningful conversations!
During worship, my heart and mind were exploding with praise and admiration for the awesomeness of our God! God was using this community to show me “his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples” (1 Chron. 16:24). We sang songs in three different languages — Czech, Slovak and Polish. We listened to a message on forgiveness which was given in Czech while a university student came and sat by us to translate it into English for us.
Language 4: English (with a Ukrainian)
We moved into a small group prayer time. Chelsea and I talked and prayed with Olya, a Ukrainian refugee separated from her family. She studied English in university, so she was incredibly fluent, and she didn’t speak Czech, so it was nice having that as a shared experience. She told us she was thinking about going back to Ukraine for a few weeks, but she didn’t know if she would be able to cross the border again because they are now keeping women who provide intellectual benefit to the country from crossing. We prayed that God would lead her and make the best path obvious to her.
Finally, we visited with people, and we ate! The food was delicious. Potluck style — there were so many delicious choices. I definitely ate too much. Whoops! The bread is just so good!
After dinner, we saw pictures from two Czech college students who had spent the summer as camp counselors in Alexandria, Minn., just three hours from my home in Fairmont, Minn. I had an opportunity to ask them how it went and what they thought of Minnesota. I liked hearing their outside perspective on my home.
Then, on the way home, I had another lovely, amiable conversation with the girl sitting next to me. Despite the difficulty of communicating with these people as I did not know their native language, God was clearly communicating with me His love for all people, in every place, no matter the language or the culture. Even though I already knew this, experiencing it showed me more of how great and incomprehensible our God’s love is.