A Change in Perspective

(This post was written shortly after our return from Slovakia in July. I’ve hesitated posting it as it felt – still feels – quite personal to me. However, today I received a note from Bohdan Hroboň, President of the Center for Christian Education. He was writing me about something else, but shared about a huge financial challenge they’re facing. And, once again, they’re facing it with the same faith and trust I wrote about in this post. I’m encouraged by these friends of mine. All the time.)

Change. I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite word – or thing to experience. While change is often a good thing, it’s been tainted by those times it’s not so much. However, I’m trying to learn to embrace the changes that happen in life AND ministry – even the not-so-fun ones.

This year in Slovakia was filled with change. We had a different schedule, a different location, different lodging, different student skill level (way more advanced than in past years), different teachers, a different student demographic, etc. Our friends at the Center for Christian Education were pulled in different directions, hosting multiple churches from various cities, all at the same time. (And, through heroic efforts, they completely pulled it off.) This year was different… and most definitely filled with change.

And, to be completely honest, I didn’t exactly embrace it.

I missed the “quaint” little school, the kind of community we’d experienced previously, the relationships, the….sameness…of our past nine summers here.

Then one day, as I sat in our “office”, I looked out the window and saw this:

This is the church in which we worship. A church that has stood the test of time. A church that has weathered communism and tyranny. A church which was one time pastored by a man who said no to the communist regime and continued to do what God had called him to do – show God’s love and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ – in spite of the threats of those in power to both himself and his family. This is the church one of that man’s sons pastored and another still attends – the one who began the Center for Christian Education. This is the church that supported the dream of creating a school that would help two lost generations discover the freedom that can be found through faith in Christ.

I had never seen the church from this perspective before.

Why not – and why did this new perspective matter?

I took this photo in a building that, up until the fall of communism, was the largest publisher of communist propaganda in Slovakia, whose sole purpose was to tell an entire nation that all they’d believed about God was untrue; that only idiots believed in God; that there was no God.

Its location? Purposefully located in the center of the city and next to this church in Martin. And when communism fell? It became a publisher of pornography – in the shadow of this beautiful church.

But now? Now, incredibly, this building is owned by the Center for Christian Education and is home to the fastest growing Christian educational institution (Lutheran Academy of Martin) in all of Slovakia – one that consistently ranks in the top 10 of ALL schools in the nation. Now, it’s filled with students who hear – freely – about God’s love for them and the Good News of Christ and that God is very, very real. Now, it’s a “miracle” building in the town of Martin. Now, it’s a reminder of God’s continued faithfulness in this beautiful country.

As I looked out the window and viewed the church from this new perspective, I found my perspective changing, as well. I was struck by the realization that all of the differences and changes we’d experienced were the result of the faithful work of a small group of people who believed God would do great and mighty things – if only they would trust Him. (And they have.) They were the result of a faithful God who is very much here, always in control, and most definitely has a plan.

I don’t know why the Lord has allowed us – me – to have even a minuscule part in what He’s been doing here over the last ten years, and I have no idea what the next 10 years will hold, but I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the changes, for the differences, and for the opportunity to see first-hand what happens when we trust a great God to do big things with our impossible-without-Him dreams.

And I’m grateful for a God who can change our perspective in unexpected, but beautiful, ways.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

“Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait in expectation.” Psalm 5:1-3

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you where you go? Josh 1:9

Shelly Johnson
Women’s Ministries, New Heights Church

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6 Responses to A Change in Perspective

  1. Charlotte Mosqueira says:

    Shelly… thank you for your insightful update to our beloved mission in Martin, Slovakia. I am thankful that the school has been able to move forward and grow. I have wonderful memories of my 5 summers that I spent time in Martin. Lifetime experiences. Blessings to you and your continued involvement in Martin bringing God’s love and the story of how much we are loved.
    Charlotte Mosqueira, Fresno, California

    • Shelly Johnson says:

      Charlotte – So good to hear from you! I very clearly remember our paths crossing in Martin, and miss seeing our Californian brothers and sisters in Christ. Praying you are doing well. God’s blessings to you.

  2. Susan Nielsen says:

    I don’t always read the posts on the website, but the intro in parentheses grabbed my attention and I wondered who would be writing this reflection. Thank you Shelly, for sharing as you did. I cherish the summers I spent in Martin also, working alongside this group who have inspired me by their faith and their dream of working for and making God’s kingdom real in the here and now. Thank you for your faithfulness in this ministry as well!

    • Shelly Johnson says:

      It really is amazing! You would be amazed to see, first-hand, all the Lord has done, even in the past few years, and incredibly encouraged as you hear the stories from our friends at the CCE.

      We miss seeing you! Praying the Lord allows our paths to cross again. Blessings to you, Carl and your family.

  3. Don Swanson says:

    Thank you, Shelly, for this insightful and inspiring message of your recent observations of the great progress that is being realized with the Center for Christian Education in Martin. God has provided support through the many volunteers, donors, and followers of this great ministry. God has provided the courage to the leaders of this ministry to dream big and believe in those dreams. What is happening in Martin is without a doubt a true miracle. Commitments have been made to the students and their families that “if you join with us, we will have the next grade, classrooms, supplies and teachers to allow you to continue”. Those commitments have been met and the CCE now opened its doors with classes through the 4th year of high school. Only one more grade to go to finalize the complete Christian Academy. Think of what we have all been able to do together. Now is the time to draw our focus on the completion of this new beautiful, God honoring facility and finish our work. We must all pray about what God is asking us to do in this place and at this time. The financial needs are great and we must answer this call. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Luke 12:48

  4. KJ (Olson) Bach says:

    Shelly,
    You’ve managed to eloquently put into words the feelings of many of us who have been a part of this AMAZING miracle in the CCE. I, too, have said ‘why me’ so many times on being a part of God’s plan in the middle of eastern Europe. Seeing the courage and conviction of the leaders of the CCE has given me courage to reach out to others to get them to enjoy the same feeling of being a part of a miracle. Thanks for sharing your tho’ts and convictions, Shelly. Peace and JOY ABOUND… KJ

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