Missionary Chelsea Irwin tells the account of Daniel in the lion’s den during an LCMS International Mission English Bible Camp in the Czech Republic in July 2023. (Photo courtesy of Mark Winterstein.)

Story 4 of 6 — Spring 2024

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of International Mission has compiled a series of six commentaries about the experiences of short-term mission volunteers who served during an English Bible Camp in the Czech Republic in July 2023. The fourth commentary is below, and all of the stories are available in the series archives.

Crystal Potts, LCMS Short-term Mission Volunteer

The sending service for the volunteers in the Czech Republic on July 8, 2023, was a momentous event. This was the moment when, after months of preparation at home and three full days of instruction and orientation in country, our five teams of teen and adult volunteers were “sent” away with their local partner church teams.

Rev. Dale Kaster, pastor of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Prague, joined us to deliver a message at the Na Skale retreat center in the Beskydy Mountains outside Hradek, Czech Republic.

Rev. Kaster’s message focused on the standoff that took place between the prophets of the false god Baal and the followers of the one true God at the top of Mt. Carmel. More specifically, he focused on the exchange that followed when Elijah, having become a bit too full of his own piety and hubris, called on God to acknowledge him alone as the one true, remaining a follower or “prophet” of God.

Pastor Kaster drew a parallel between this moment in Elijah’s relationship with God to the temptation for an international volunteer to feel that, “I alone made this sacrifice. I alone gave up the hot dogs, hamburgers, and fireworks of July Fourth in the U.S. to come here and serve.” (Obviously, Pastor Kaster said this with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.)

In all seriousness, though, the accepted thought regarding how we view this mark of pridefulness on Elijah’s previously pristine record is that, sometimes, the weary must be strengthened to help prevent their fall. Elijah was tired. He forgot that his good work was for God and that any comparison to the behavior of others was extraneous. He let his humanity get the better of him.

God responded to this small faux pas by gently reminding him that he remained in control of the situation; that there were, in fact, 7,000 more prophets; and that Elijah’s hubris was far from justified. Even now God levels all things by bringing the proud to their knees and bringing the humble to their feet. This is not to say that we should not have pride in the work that we do, but only that we must mitigate our pride with the knowledge of who and why we serve.

We are here in the Czech Republic to do God’s work, not our work. We are here to hold up the prophecies of Scripture and share the message of God’s love. We are here to celebrate our oneness in Christ regardless of country of origin. As we are reminded by Galatians 6:4, “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”

Even throughout the late nights and early mornings for the American volunteers this week, we must remain intentional with our thoughts and words and not forget that we are only a part of God’s greater plan.

With the conclusion of this message, communion was given, we were installed as short-term missionaries and sent out along with the words from 1 Corinthians 15:50 to “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Is God inviting you to labor internationally? Explore opportunities to serve short- and long-term at servenow.lcms.org.