Over the next weeks and months, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will be sharing reflections from our CBF field personnel serving around the world. These are stories of impact and outreach, Gospel-sharing and relationship building, long-term presence and abundant love.
The following is a reflection from CBF field personnel Jon and Tanya Parks, who serve in Košice, Slovakia. You can learn more about their ministries and support their work at www.cbf.net/parks.
“Well, this isn’t going as we expected…”
As missionaries, we say these words quite often. Being flexible, planning and re-planning, and staying open to the move of the spirit is something we’ve gotten quite used to. But, this year, it seems we’ve all said these things more often than normal.
We’ve been leading English clubs in a local village for a couple of years now. We began to sense God leading us to work more broadly with the village that these kids live in. We got together a group of community development volunteers, and we all discerned that God was leading us to begin building relationships in this village. We had a large community event in the fall and met lots of folks from the Roma settlement.
We were excited about having a team from the states come and help us lead a day camp during July, but with the virus restrictions, we were forced to re-think that idea. Our Slovak team doesn’t have quite the time or energy to pull off a full-blown day camp. So, with their support, we decided to do a weekly time of fun for the kids during July.
The first week of February, we were thrilled to host our first community meeting that would be the jumping off point for community development in the village. The turn-out was great, conversation stimulating, and we sensed a great energy in this village to work toward making some important and real changes in their community. They willingly shared the joys and struggles of living in this village. But, then our world experienced an international pandemic. We had a second community meeting scheduled for the first weekend of our country-wide lockdown. While we said, “this isn’t going as we expected” we sent out videos of Bible stories to the kids and tried to stay as connected as possible through social media.
As the lock-down rules decreased, we began planning for the long-awaited second community meeting. Our group of leaders met and made the revised plan. One of the leaders went to the mayor to make sure it would be okay to meet in one of the town’s spaces. That’s when we got the frustrated and disappointed call from her that the mayor wouldn’t be allowing us to meet in that space due to the pandemic as well as his personal frustrations with some of the actions of the Roma during the lock-down time. “Well, let’s refigure again,” we declared.
On the night we were to have distributed flyers about the community meeting, we instead spent time in prayer for the community and for our relationship with the mayor. We discussed our options and decided that we would do an informal prayer walk through the village that Saturday night. But, when that night came, there were fierce storms that kept us from prayer walking. Each of us spent time in prayer individually for this village, for the mayor, and for our nation.
We are still discerning about the best option for moving forward. We are working alongside a team that has other obligations and often busy schedules. But, we keep moving forward in hope and courage. We keep watching for God’s movement and timing.
We know that eventually there will be a community meeting, possibly a prayer walk or two, kids activities and hopefully much more. So, we wait with anticipation at all God is going to do in that village.
Often mission stories are filled with victories and exciting times, but it’s just as important to see that sometimes living out God’s mission is figuring, re-figuring, and continuing to push in and work hard when things are slow and hard and ever-changing. In this time of crisis, we are all figuring and re-figuring. We are all learning new things about ourselves and about others. May we be courageous to keep working to see God’s direction and plan for our ministries.