EXIT and other things

Hello and blessings from the Czech Republic!
This post is a LOT longer than what I usually write, but I really felt it was important. I appreciate you taking the time to read it through!

What Sundays look like at our church

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote and I feel so blessed and privileged to bring you up to speed on how the Lord has been working and pouring out His blessing here in The Czech Republic.

God has been so good and shown His favor. Recently we completed “EXIT Tour”; which is a massive program where a team comes for a whole week and partners with a local church or group of churches to reach the youth of the city. What they do is they get a band and go to schools, put on small concerts, play games with the students, and have seminars where Christian principles are talked about. All of this culminates in a Friday Night concert that the students are invited to where the gospel is shared. This time around, our church decided to take full the responsibility on ourselves, which means that our church provided food and volunteers for the entire week.

EXIT Tour here in Liberec

One of our church members (Thankfully not me) was the primary contact person between EXIT and us, and my role was to be the “crazy American” and manage our volunteers. We went to 4 different schools where we played games and talked with students. Every day, we invited them to come to an “After Party,” where they would get a chance to meet the band and talk with us and get free food (always one of the best ways to attract students).

Friday EXIT Concert

Very few students came to the After Parties, which was a little discouraging, but the final night, Friday, there were TONS of kids that showed up – I believe the last count was 215. The band played the concert and shared the gospel, to which over 50 kids responded and surrendered their lives to Christ. WOW, such an amazing display of His love.

Just to remind you, Czechia is the second most atheistic country, right behind Japan. People don’t usually react in droves to the Gospel.

Northpoint – an event that we started to bring together the youth from the whole Northern Bohemia Region

After EXIT, through December and January, we had a lot of follow up activities to maintain the relationships and try to get the kids plugged into the youth group. One of these activities is Discovery Bible.

Discovery Bible is where we simply invite students to come to our home, we prepare a meal for them and just do life together – we tell stories, laugh, joke, and we read a story from the Bible, then comment on it.

The greatest thing, though, is that some of the students that attend are NOT believers – they are open and curious about Christ and Christianity, but have not yet made the commitment to make Jesus Lord of the lives. We are believing and praying, though, that through these informal meetings, they will come to know Jesus as their friend, brother, Savior and King.

February, though, was very different and started off with a bang.

Just to backtrack a little, In January I was contacted by one of the head leaders of EXIT and asked if I would like to go with them to a small town called Náchod. I was told that they needed another American (a lot of people really want to meet Americans and are usually pretty excited to try speaking English, so it gives a lot of opportunities to foster relationships). I said I would pray about it.

I was kind of worried because, as many of you know, Lucie and I are not fully-funded missionaries, and Lucie is a student. Because of this, I teach English to make up the difference, and missing a full week of work was not very appealing to me.

Finally, I decided to go and to trust God, that he would provide for us. The same night I wrote my response, I was contacted by one of our supporters saying that they were increasing our support. God is so good!

So I went to Náchod. I met LOADS of students, and I was able to share a lot with them. I won’t go into all of the details of how this EXIT Tour was different, but I will say that the Americans were the main attraction – the band didn’t come until the very last night.

At one of the schools, though, during the discussion time, the conversation led to my group sharing what was one of the hardest things that we have ever dealt with in our lives (to make a long story short, I was asked about my tattoo, which has a lot to do with my testimony). As we went around the circle saying our stories, my heart was breaking for these kids. One boy’s brother died. Another had an uncle, whom he was close to, die. Another’s childhood friend died. The culmination of it all for me, though, was a girl who I’ll call Kate. Many people died in her family as well (her grandmother, and father, among others – by the way, she’s only 15). She also told us that, while her dad was still alive, he was an alcoholic. In an alcohol-induced rage, he threw Kate’s pregnant mother down the stairs, permanently injuring the unborn child.

Kate, because of all of this death and destruction, said that she didn’t believe that there is a god. She said that, if God were real, then, “… he must not have any time for me.”

My heart broke. This fifteen-year-old girl has dealt with so much heartbreak and loss that it has stolen her joy – her hope – entirely.

After the discussion groups, I went over to her to talk to her. I told her that I know she said she doesn’t believe in God, but I do, and I know that He loves her and that He cares for her. I asked her if I could pray for her, and then I did – right there in the gymnasium, right before she was supposed to go to the next part of the program.

Later that day she wrote me a message, saying, “It meant a lot for me to be able to share what I did today and not keep everything all bottled up inside. … Because of you, I may be starting to believe.”

Kate, her friend, and I after the EXIT program at their school

Needless to say, I cried again. God cares for each of us so much, and I fully believe that it was God’s divine and perfect plan to get me to that small town just so I could speak to this girl.

Friends, please pray for us. This is the reason I came to the Czech Republic, and this is what I am here to do. Teaching English is fine, but it’s not the most important thing going on – some people need to meet Jesus, and our heart is to make that happen. Thank you for the support and prayers – we value all of you so much! Please consider helping us to be able to cross that threshold into full-time ministry. We are about 40% of the way to being fully funded. We would need an extra $1,200 a month to be able to minister full-time. Please pray that we reach this!

Again, I want to thank you so much for your prayers and your love. Because of you, God is doing great work through us. Thank You!!!

Much love,

Justin and Lucie Holden

Freshpoint//It’s been a minute…

Hello, everyone! I am really, really sorry that I haven’t been so great at keeping up with our newsletters. After reading this one, though, you will hopefully be able to see that there is a reason for it. :)

These past season had been quite a challenge as Lucie was finishing up her Bachelor’s Degree. However, God has provided for us and blessed us in many ways. Personally, we are doing well – I have taken a new role at the school where I teach English that has allowed me to give more time to the ministry. Lucie has begun her Master’s Degree and we are doing what we can to see God glorified in the Czech Republic!

We have also seen some great growth in our youth. It is amazing to see how when you work and put in your effort, God gives the growth. Some of the kids have matured so much, both in faith and in their behavior. Some are sharing their faith more and more at their schools – and that is no easy feat. People are more distrusting of religion here and –students especially – can be pretty hostile within the school. One girl is trying to start a Christian group at her school, another girl shares her faith with her friends, despite being made fun of for it, and nearly all of our students actively help in some sort of ministry, either within the church or at the national level.

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This summer, we also facilitated a rap concert on the main square in Liberec. The rapper, a native from Prague, though his music, spoke of God and Christ and the change that Christ brought to his life. We are really excited, because the Gospel was preached and we believe that a lot of people were affected by it.

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Shortly after that, we had Kristfest, our summer youth festival. There was a great speaker from London, an awesome atmosphere, but even more important than all of that was the presence of God. The theme of the festival was “Fearless” and we wanted to leave the students with the courage to go out and be the generation that brings Christ back to the Czech Republic. There were some difficulties and outright attacks from the enemy against us personally before and during Kristfest, but that was just more confirmation that we were right where we needed to be, doing exactly what we needed to do

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This past summer Lucie and I had also hosted a high school graduate who wanted to come out and see what it was like on the missions field. He stayed with us in our home for about 2 months. We organized some speaking engagements for him and he helped us do many different things – at our church offices, for the rap concert and for Kristfest.

After Kristfest, I went to America for a month to visit some supporting churches while Lucie stayed home to finish up her Bachelor’s thesis and tests. On my way back i made a stop in England to guest speak at a youth conference in London called WAVED Conference. It was a hard, fun, exhausting, and amazing month, but Lucie and I were so happy to be reunited in September.

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September was the start of the new school year, so that meant a new kickoff of Freshpoint and a lot of preparation for Sjezd, the conference that we put on at the end of October. Lucie has a larger hand in this, organizing guest speakers, counselors, prayer teams, and what seemed to be a million other things. For this conference, my largest contributions are graphic design for all of the media and taking care of the main speaker. This year, or main speaker was one of the campus pastors from Hillsong London, a wonderful man of God named Phill Kyei.

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While we were getting ready for Sjezd, on the home front we had two guest speakers back-to-back. Jason Vana, the founder of Ignite Ministries in Illinois and Doug Pitman, a pastor and missionary from San Antonio, Texas, both came and ministered to us and encouraged us to go in the direction that God is calling us, even when we can’t always see what the next step holds, and trusting for the harvest.

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Also, while in the middle of getting ready for Sjezd and having guest speakers, we as a church were looking for a new place to have our Sunday services. The location that our church had met at for almost 7 years had decided to use the space for something else and we were required to move out. God is good, though, and we found a new location that I believe will be an even greater blessing to us.

Now, as I write this, we have literally been home for just a couple days from Sjezd. God has really moved and I feel that He has some great things in store for us. We are currently getting ready for the next big thing – an evangelistic ourtreach to students in schools called EXIT Tour. We will go into schools with a band, play songs and games, then invite the students to what’s called an After Party, where we will be more free to talk about Christ. Later on in the week we will invite everyone to a concert that the band will play and it’s there that we can really present the Gospel. Please be praying for us as we get ready for this!

Friends, we want to sincerely thank you for all you do to make our ministry possible. It is hard being on the field – there is so much that I personally miss out on, but Lucie and I believe that God wants us here, and that He is with us; we see it all the time. We are blessed that you have been called to support us and to pray for us, and we sincerely and humbly think you for your obedience (and for your patience with my forgetfulness when it comes to sending update letters). We love and thank you so much!

If you would like to know how to pray for us, please pray that we continue to follow His voice and go where He goes.

Please pray for our students, that they will be bold.

Please pray for the harvest to come in.

Please pray for the lost to be found.

Please pray for our protection and encouragement – the enemy has been working so hard to discourage us and take us out.

Thank you, once again, for your care, giving, praying, and especially for your love.

Take care and God bless,

Justin and Lucie

P.S. – Here are just a few more photos from this time period. :)

FreshPoint//To this point

Hey!

So much has happened these past few months, and I am so glad that I can share with you what has been going on. The last time I wrote, Lucie and I were just about to get married… and now we are! We have had nearly a year together and no one has died (yet…). We absolutely love it that we can live, work, and serve together as a team – Marriage is awesome!

Because so much time has passed, I will just give the highlights.

Kristfest
kf 1.jpgKristfest gets better each year. The theme was “Radost” which means “Joy” in Czech. This past year we had record attendance (over 300 students!) and many either gave their lives to Christ or they renewed their relationship with Him. What a joy, right? So many students came to know what it means to have joy in the Lord and in the presence of Jesus. Lucie and I were so proud, too, because our youth group had a large hand in making everything happen. We had people working at registration, translating, serving and setting up for seminars, and even setting up and taking down the tent. We were so busy! God is so good, though. I believe that it gave us good momentum for the year ahead of us.

After Kristfest, Freshpoint took a short break as Lucie and I went to the States.

trip to America

It was our first time traveling as a couple, living out of suitcases for a month and a half. It was exciting and an incredibly blessed time, if not dificult, at times. We were able to visit good friends, serve both in youth groups and in churches, and we had a chance to encourage and be encouraged. Lucie and I both preached at different churches, and we had an amazing time with many of God’s greatest people (we’re not biased or anything…). Towards the end of the trip we were excited and ready to be back home. We came back to the Czech Republic right at the start of the next school year.

getting back/hardships with Freshpoint

IMG_1909.JPGComing back home was really great and we were still riding that Kristfest “high” a little, but we started to see some difficult things in Freshpoint. All of a sudden it seemed that some people had stopped coming and some people were just less enthusiastic. It wasn’t like we were having a crisis or anything, but it just felt kind of “flat”. Something that we noticed was that it was certainly time to pass more responsibility on to people who had shown that they could handle it. After meeting with our new team and trying some new things out, we started to find our bearing again.

new vision and new life

Over the past few months we were able to refresh the ministry and the youth group has been growing both in number and in spirit. We have a very strong core team of amazing young people who have taken responsibility and who help us greatly. It is amazing to see them grow stronger in God. We also see them serve on the national level in worship, administration, and organization – we are very excited about them! Many things have been going on (our youthgroup is often invited to speak, lead worship, or hold a whole service in many other towns nearby), but one thing that we are very proud about is how this past weekend we hosted a weekend retreat (“víkendovka” in Czech). A few young people from other churches and even unbelievers attended. It was a great time of building relationships and strengthening those bonds, and when it came to the time to focus on God, many were deeply touched and affected by the Holy Spirit. It was great!

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In addition, our students are open about God and their faith in Him, and talk about it with their classmates. Some of our students even invited them to some of the events we have had. For example, one of our student’s classmate was completely against church and God. However, through the friendship and our student’s heart, she is now open to Jesus and has already attended two of our events!

what’s coming up

kfThe upcoming season will be exciting for various reasons. We are going to have a concert with a Slovak rapper who talks about Christ during his concerts. If everything goes well, it is going to be in the very heart of the city. In July, we will be at Kristfest again. The topic this year is Fearless. Being in the core team, I am really excited about this and we are expecting great things to happen! Also, in the fall, we will host an outreach called ExitTour (this is the same outreach that I was a part of when I first came to Czech and when God called me to be a full-time missionary here). There are a lot of great things, and we are excited that our youth group is a large part of making things happen!

how you can pray

In our region, we are praying for better relationships among the local churches. The vision is to meet at least four times a year and to have a huge youth meeting together. We strongly believe in this and pray that God will be glorified through it – please be praying with is that God would continue to grow his church in our region and encourage the youth to take a stand for their faith!

Also, I am going to the USA this summer after Kristfest and I am going to visit churches and, unfortunately, Lucie has to stay in the Czech Republic and study for her final exams at university. A great thing, though, is that on the way back, I will have the opportunity to speak at a very large youth festival in London. Please be praying for me as I prepare for this trip, pray that God would provide the resources as I travel, and pray that He would speak through me.

So, that is it in a nutshell! Thanks for taking the time to read through this; we really value our prayer supporters and our family in the States – without you guys, this would be a lot more difficult.

We’re praying you would be blessed in our Saviour and that he would bring you encouragement, just as he has been encouraging us!

Much love,

Justin and Lucie

FreshPoint//Winter

Hello!

It has been a while since Lucie and I have sent an update letter, but I have finally been able to take some time to let you know what is going on; many things have happened! From outreaches to regular FreshPoint nights, structure changes and introducing new elements, FreshPoint has undergone some “spring cleaning.” We are excited to share the news with you!

Outreaches and events

In November we celebrated Thanksgiving, (not a Czech holiday) and we had around 30 people in attendance. It was a great night of playing games, getting to know new people, and enjoying good food; just like Thanksgiving ought to be. Some new faces showed up and have been with us ever since. Also, around November we were trying to get an international, English-speaking group going at the University. While that is still in development, some good things came from it mainly that some of those students have started coming to FreshPoint or meeting with me regularly during the week. We will continue to build relationships with the students we have now and try to engage more people in devoting more time to it.

New Years and Christmas
SV Challenge accepted.jpgOne of the things about FreshPoint is that even though we are about average in size, we are influential across the Czech Republic. We helped organize and put on “Silvestrovská chata,” which means “New Year’s Cottage.” It is a retreat that lasts for three and a half days over the New Year’s holiday. The event is relatively small, consisting of youth groups from all over the north-western region of the Czech Republic, but it was a fantastic time where we discussed the challenges that we face daily in our walk with Christ, and how important it is to meet them head-on with Jesus.

Lucie and I were involved in many things, but most importantly we worked with discipling the guys and girls. The retreat lasted about three days, but they were three days of enjoying the presence of God and each other as we opened the new year, ready to pursue God to the fullest and meet every challenge head-on with Jesus.

January: pause and refocus

In January, I was blessed to be able to kind of just “attend” FreshPoint (in truth I was doing other things in the background, but I didn’t need to speak from the front so much, which was great!). We had guest speakers, and we continued the theme of meeting our day-to-day challenges with faith and an attitude of “This, and everything I do, I do for Christ.” In January we began to have some “experimental” changes with the main one being how we would come up with themes for each month. In an attempt to get students more involved, we decided to discuss what people deal with and how we can learn to face these things as Christians. It was a sort of “elective” and “democratic” way of discipleship. In some ways, it was a great idea, and in others, it had its shortcomings. One big positive, though, was that more students began to take responsibility for FreshPoint and the inner workings of the ministry.

The final Thursday in January was Family Night and, usually, we all spend a fun evening together in an environment that is easy for people to invite their friends. This time, however, we had guy/girl’s night, where we still had our “regular” activities and games. However, we also had a slightly more focused discussion on what it means to be a man or woman of God, what that means for our relationships, and how we should carry ourselves.

Relationships and love

February is the month of Love, right? We talked about the various types of relationships we have in our lives and how we, as followers of Jesus, ought to act and respond to each situation. feb.jpgStan and Jiřina talked about dating, Simona and Jaromir (small group leaders in our church) talked about how to have Jesus as the center of a relationship, and Kirk McAteer (an Australian pastor from Birmingham, England) spoke on the importance of sharing the gospel with people around us.

On Family Night, we watched the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and we talked shortly about “seeing the impossible” and “expecting more from your life.” It was a great set-up for our topic in March!

Living differently: Life to the full

život naplno bible app.jpgJust this past month we talked about living our lives to the fullest. To be honest, I was looking forward to this month more than all of the others, partially because I would be speaking to FreshPoint again after a 2-month “break.” Even more than this, though, I honestly believe that our lives with Christ should make us more active, more creative, more productive in everything with the root motivation for this found in the JOY that we have from knowing Christ.

Also, on March 28th I and some other people from various churches in Liberec decided hosted to have an event English movie night on the university campus at the university dorms. We hosted an English movie night on campus, and this alliance is through Young Life. The idea is to build relationships with students and show them the love of Christ. Honestly, I was quite surprised to find out how many of the college students I know and how much influence I have been gaining with them. For the moment, the idea is to continue with these English movie night outreaches, then in September to have a slightly more gospel-oriented yet “seeker friendly” program.

How can you pray for us?

As you can see, we have been and are working very hard. We would be honored and so grateful if you would join us by praying for two main things:

1. As Lucie and I prepare to get married (it’s coming fast, May 27th is just around the corner!), we pray that God would help us to put each other first, but also that he would use us for his Kingdom and his glory.

2. We have seen a decline in attendance in the last month. While this is due to a myriad of things (sickness, activities, trips, etc.), we are looking for ways to better our service. We have implemented some of our “experimental” changes in some areas, and “gone back to the basics” in others. Please pray that God would give us His favor, wisdom, and an open door. Also and that He would lead us to the right people while leading the right people to us.

Thanks for taking the time to read this! I know it is a lot, but I appreciate it that you have stuck it out this far! It has been a long time since I have posted, again I apologize, I will do better in the future.

Have a great day and be blessed!

Justin

Making Strides

Hello, all!

Who knew October could be so busy?

All in all, things have been going great here in our neck of the woods. FreshPoint is doing well and has some great opportunities, the church is growing, and Lucie and I have received some excellent opportunities to speak into the lives of many students from all over the country.

First off, I have to say that FreshPoint is in such a healthy position. We have recently gone through some leadership changes, but they were definitely God-ordained; I believe that this has lent to the smoothness that we experienced during this time of transition. We are in a phase of building our leadership core to accommodate more students, and we are working with our student-serving team to give FreshPoint an unbeatable atmosphere where students can seek God wth all of their heart.

This concept was brought to life just this past Thursday when we met. We started off with some mingling, snacking, and chatting; then we played a game to kind of break the ice. When we got to the Word, though, it was just so powerful and impactful to talk about the greatness, magnificence, and sheer splendor, with which God loves us. If no one else was, I know that at least I was greatly touched, both when preparing the message and while presenting.

Then we had a time of prayer where the students went after God with everything they have like I have only seen at conferences. People were praying together, encouraging each other, worshipping with all of their hearts – and we didn’t even have a band playing! God’s presence was remarkably tangible.

And each week it gets better. We have honestly seen a growth in our student’s passion for God and their involvement with bringing His message of love and hope to their day-to-day lives.

The church here is doing excellent as well. We are kicking off some new small groups this week, of wich one will be specifically aimed at reaching the community of foreigners that are living in our city. This group is especially exciting for me, as my dream since moving here has been to start an evening service that will be in English.

As a foreigner myself, I am quite familiar with the intimate details of living in a country where the culture, language, and habits of the people are all strange and particularly difficult to learn. Our goal with this group is to reach those that already believe and give them at the least a temporary home where they can freely worship God, as well as to reach out to those that have no community. Jesus was all about bringing those that were considered by the rest of society to be outcasts to the table and doing life with them – showing them that they matter to Him. We want to mirror our Lord’s actions with this endeavor. Please join us in praying for these people and this group!

Finally, as October draws to a close, so draws near the annual, national youth conference, Sjezd. Lucie and I have been working tirelessly with the core team to bring fresh ideas, new methods, and engaging messages that will impact this generation. From deciding on seemingly-insignificant details to putting together activities meant to lead the students into a deeper realization of who Jesus is, we have done our best to make this a great program.

You can join us by praying that not only this Conference is a hit, but also by praying that we minister as Jesus would minister and that we speak as Jesus would speak. Sjezd an incredible moment where we will come in contact with students from all over the country, and we will have the opportunity to talk to students both individually and in group settings. Our prayer is that we may walk in humility and honesty as we use our influence to help make way for Jesus to walk into their lives.

That’s what we’ve been up to! God is doing mighty things, and we are incredibly busy, but we are so excited that we can be a part of what the Lord is doing in the Czech Republic! Please do not forget to pray for us as we move forward, and please pray that the Lord uses us to bring his Kingdom to Earth. May His will be done!

Much love to all of you! May our Father bless you out of His abundant love.

P.S. – Don’t hesitate to drop a line! We’d love to hear from you!