Amanda Strayer teaches vocabulary in English class with Monika, her interpreter, at an English Bible Camp in the Czech Republic in July 2023 during a short-term mission trip with her congregation (Redeemer Lutheran Church, Gorham, Maine). (Photo courtesy of Timothy Sandeno.)
By Rev. Timothy Sandeno
When you travel several time zones to the east, rising early feels almost natural.
Following a couple of days of orientation, our English Bible Camp (EBC) team from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Gorham, Maine, looked forward to five days of sharing the Gospel with children at the mission congregation of Havířov in the Silesian region of the Czech Republic. The camp was organized by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the LCMS Office of International Mission.
Here is a look at a day in the life of an EBC volunteer:
- 5:00 a.m. — I wake without an alarm before 5:00 a.m. and begin my day with morning prayers. Then after some reading, I shower and dress for the day.
- 6:00 a.m. — With time before breakfast, I review the day’s material and my lead parts (openings and closings) and once again read the Bible narrative for the day’s lesson. I rehearse the sequence of the opening and what I will say and do. I also use this time to prepare for the coming Sunday’s sermon.
- 7:30 a.m. — Not all of the team members rise as early as I do, but around this time we gather together for breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant where words of encouragement are offered to start the day.
- 8:30 a.m. — A short walk to church allows for a stretch of the legs and time to play games before start time with the children that have arrived early.
- 8:45 a.m. — Prior to the start of the day’s EBC, the church staff, translators, volunteers and our LCMS team gather for a time of prayer.
- 9:00 a.m. — EBC begins with an opening program that includes a prayer, the presentation of the day’s theme through a Bible reading, an object lesson that amplifies the theme, and singing a portion of the theme song, then a fun song.
Lisa Sandeno leads the music rotation during an English Bible Camp in the Czech Republic in July 2023 during a short-term mission trip with her congregation (Redeemer Lutheran Church, Gorham, Maine). (Photo courtesy of Rev. Timothy Sandeno.)
After the opening, the children divide into two groups based on age and our day continues with alternating sessions of Bible and English classes.
The Bible class looks more closely at the lesson and its connection to the theme. The English class involves various exercises and games to teach about ten words each day. These words are found in the Bible narrative, and several relate directly to the theme of the day.
Before finishing Bible and English lessons, everybody enjoys a wonderful snack together.
As Bible and English are divided by age, so too are Music and Crafts, with the first session before lunch and the second after.
Lunch is the primary meal of the day in Czech Republic. We enjoy a soup and then a main course. The main course often includes a meat with gravy.
Henry Berthiaume teaches the Bible lesson “Jesus Frees Us to Praise” with Philip, his interpreter, at an English Bible Camp in the Czech Republic during a short-term mission trip with his congregation (Redeemer Lutheran Church, Gorham, Maine). (Photo courtesy of Rev. Timothy Sandeno.)
One day, the main course was something called “sweet lunch.” It included bread and a gravy that tasted something like a warm vanilla pudding. The bread was used to soak up the gravy. It was like having dessert for the main course.
After lunch, the groups enjoy Music and Crafts as they make a creative keepsake and test their lungs in praise of God.
The final session — Games — is played outside where loud voices and fast feet are prized. With Games ended, there is time for an afternoon snack before the closing.
The closing reviews the theme of the day and the theme song to remind the children of God’s grace and how “Jesus Frees Us.”
- 3:00 p.m. — Following the closing, we play games with the children as we wait for parents to arrive. Many of the games involve learning additional English words. These games also allow more time to get to know the children. As the parents come to collect their children, time allows for a few conversations with them as well.
- 4:00 p.m. — Once all the children leave, the LCMS team and local volunteers debrief on how the day went, discuss necessary changes and improvements for rest of the week and then do one of the OIM-prepared On the Field Devotions. Then we prepare the rooms and lessons for the next day.
- 5:00 p.m. — Supper is held at church and prepared by members of the congregation.
Rev. Timothy Sandeno learns to count to six in Czech at the mission congregation of Havířov in the Czech Republic in July 2023. Sandeno and a short-term mission term from his congregation, Redeemer Lutheran Church in Gorham, Maine, were in the country to volunteer at an English Bible Camp. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Anderson.)
- 6:00 p.m. — Evening includes a social outing with the teen and twenty-something volunteers of the congregation, such as bowling.
- 8:00 p.m. — Before retiring to our rooms for the evening, our LCMS team gathers in the outdoor seating of the hotel for casual conversation and a cooling breeze.
- 10:00 p.m. — The day ended and with prayers complete, bed is a welcome respite in anticipation of the next day.
Consider forming a team from your congregation to serve internationally. You can always find our current opportunities to serve at servenow.lcms.org. You can also download the English Bible Camp curriculum, Jesus Frees Us, for free to use in helping new neighbors practice English.
The Rev. Timothy Sandeno serves as the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Gorham, Maine. He and his wife, Lisa, served on a team from his congregation in Havířov, Czech Republic, in July 2023.