The following article was featured in the latest issue of fellowship! magazine. Click here to read more from the October/November 2013 issue.
By Aaron Weaver
Devastating floods wreaked havoc on Central Europe and its economy this past summer. Persistent, heavy rains throughout May and early June resulted in significant flooding in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic along the Danube, Elbe, Labe, Vltava and several other rivers. More than a dozen people lost their lives in the floods and damages have topped $16 billion, making the Central Europe floods the costliest natural disaster so far in 2013.
The Czech Republic bore much of the brunt of this disaster, losing a significant portion of its vegetable crop to the floods and an estimated 125,000 acres affected in the western province of Bohemia. Martin Pycha, the president of the Czech Agricultural Association, emphasized the seriousness of the flooding, noting that many Czech farmers do not have flood insurance.
Czech churches were affected too. Litmerice Baptist Church has more than 60 displaced families. Litomerice was one of the hardest hit towns. Another Baptist ministry – a homeless shelter called Nadej (which means “hope”) – saw its facilities inundated.
The Czech Baptist Union, a small denomination of about 40 churches and 2,500 members, responded with an offering to meet the immediate needs of those individuals and families impacted by the floods in towns like Litomerice.
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel Dianne and Shane McNary and Rachel Brunclikova responded to this request with a $2,500 contribution to the Flood Relief Offering on behalf of CBF.
“We are honored to support our sisters and brothers in the Czech Republic as you minister to those impacted. May God’s Kingdom grow through your efforts of being the presence of Christ during these difficult times,” read the letter from the McNarys and Brunclikova to the Czech Baptist Union.
The McNarys and Brunclikova serve on CBF’s Romany Team. Commissioned as CBF field personnel in 2004, the McNarys are based in Slovakia where they coordinate ministry among the Romany people in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Brunclikova, a native of Sonora, Texas, who has ministered in the Czech Republic for nearly 20 years, serves as a liaison there between existing Roma ministries and partnering churches.
In 2012, the Czech Baptist Union caused a stir in Central Europe when it refused – due to their commitment to the Baptist principle of the separation of church and state – to accept 228 million crowns (or just over $11.6 million) as restitution payment for having their property confiscated during the communist era.
All of the member churches and denominations of the Czech Ecumenical Council – except the Czech Baptist Union – decided to accept government compensation. “The Baptists are the only church which took part in the property restitution negotiations that eventually refused to sign the agreement,” reported Radio Prague.
At the time of this decision, Tony Peck, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, wrote a column expressing praise for Czech Baptists. “I think it took some courage of conviction for the majority of churches in a small Baptist union to turn down a considerable annual grant from the state, which might have enabled new initiatives of the union and its churches.”
The McNarys and Brunclikova agree. “Their decision to refuse the restitution money made me very proud to be associated with the Baptists here in the Czech Republic,” Brunclikova said.
According to a 2013 survey conducted by WIN-Gallup International, the Czech Republic trails only China and Japan in population percentage that self-identifies as atheist. The survey indicated that 30 percent of Czechs identify as being a “convinced atheist,” while 48 percent view themselves as not being religious. Only 20 percent were willing to describe themselves as being “religious.”
“This is an opportunity to not only respond with Czech Baptists in a crisis but to stand with them as well. In addition to their strong church-state stand, the confidence of our Czech sisters and brothers that God provided for them in the past and will continue to provide for them is an inspiration,” McNary said.
“I see this contribution by CBF towards the offering to respond to the flooding as an encouraging act of solidarity with the Czech Baptists, just as their courageous decision about the restitution monies was an encouragement for many Baptists. Czech Baptists have a lot to teach others about life in community, ministry as a minority faith and how convictions should not easily be swayed by pragmatism.”