DALLAS TWP. — Teaching English for three hours a day in the middle of summer may sound like a daunting task to both teachers and students, but the experience was one some members of Fellowship Church will never forget.
From July 10 through 26, a dozen members of the Fellowship Church left everything familiar behind as they traveled nearly 4,162 miles to Prague in the Czech Republic to teach English and open up a dialog about their Christian faith with high school-aged students.
“Here (in the United States), we would think it would be a drag, three hours of English class, but over there (Czech Republic) they really enjoyed doing the work,” said Karl Dylri, an associate pastor at Fellowship Church on Hildebrandt Road in Dallas Township.
The Back Mountain congregation connected with an Evangelistic English Camp program through K.S. Prague, a Czaech Christian Fellowship Church by two Americans who reside in the Central European country, Karl said.
The Americans, who receive financial assistance from the Dallas Township church, interact with a religious agency called Josiah Venture that works to raise awareness of God through programs such as English camp, Karl said.
The opportunity was one Senior Pastor Marc Ramirez, Karl Dylri and his wife Quinn, Frank Yamrick, Laura Madeira, Kristian Dyrli, Caroline Thomas, Kayla Hennings Julia Ramirez, Gabriela Ramirez, Joel Francis and Anna Rittenhouse could not pass up.
Once arriving in the Czech Republic, the group met with the Clydes and participated in a prayer walk through Prague.
The next day, Ramirez met with other missionaries while the group was taken to Ceský Sternberk in the Czech Republic for a week of training, Karl said.
During training, the group learned about the people and culture of the Czech Republic.
After training, the parishioners were stationed in Prague where they worked with translators and over 50 students who ranged in age from 14 to 18 for a week.
Evangelistic English Camps are very popular with students in the Czech Republic, Karl said.
“Many students will sign up in particular when American teams are there because they really want to learn English,” he said. “They realize it is very valuable to them, for their own lives, and they want to learn from American groups.”
One student shared with Quinn his perspective on why the American taught camps are so popular.
“The student said his favorite thing about English camp was that he could say what he wanted to and not be made fun of so he felt more free to give answers than in school,” Quinn said. “I guess schools are not fun in the Czech Republic they don’t try to make it fun — maybe even a little harsh.”
The students also surprised the group with so many “deep questions” about religion, Madeira said.
“The Czech Republic it is one of the most atheistic cultures in the world,” Karl said. “We found there is a lot of a general belief (in the country) that there is a God but students are not really sure if he really cares about us or if he is real or knows much about him.”
Madeira remembers students asking her, “Why is there sin?” and “Why are we responsible for sin?”
To answer the questions, Madeira said, “It is something we all choose.”
“I tried to take it (sin) off the Hitler level and bring it down to a personal level,” she said. “We all know we do things that are wrong.”
The students were also “astounded the Bible, which was written over a thousand years or more by many authors, could fit together to make a cohesive, coherent story,” Madeira said.
Karl said the people of the Czech Republic have gone through some terrible things such as Nazi occupation and Communism, which gives them a stoic appearance.
“I think their culture and their history gives them a deeper understanding or at least questioning of things,” Madeira said. “Where our teens will accept things at face value they (Czech Republic teenagers) will think through things a lot deeper a lot more because they faced oppression.”
When the classes ended, the Fellowship Church group found they had formed a friendship with their students.
Quinn said one young man walked with her and Karl on that last day.
“He did not want to see us go,” she said.
The group is very thankful to the church congregation for supporting the mission trip.
The parishioners said they would “absolutely” go backto Prague.