Razorbacks for Christ
Before the dream of a team ever entered our minds, most of us were already friends in the Razorbacks for Christ campus ministry. Our interest in missions grew under the influence of campus minister Scott Karnes and while involved in RFC missions efforts in Arkansas and throughout the world.
Serious talk of forming a team began in the summer of 2001 during a two-week survey trip and missions seminar in the Czech Republic. The trip was initiated by Scott Karnes and conducted by Prague missionaries Allen and Laurie Diles and Galen Harrill. It proved to be a valuable encouragement—further inspiring interested individuals, introducing them to the stages of preparation for foreign mission work, providing an opportunity to visit four of the country’s largest cities and imagine ministry possibilities there, and, most importantly, instilling an even greater desire for sharing the word of Christ our Lord.
On the heels of the survey trip, several attendees returned to school intent on coming together to form a mission team. During interest meetings and informal conversations a few other friends expressed a desire to join, and, after prayer and consideration, the group took initiative from God to make a commitment to work together in Olomouc, Czech Republic, beginning in the fall of 2006.
Soon after our initial commitment, members of the team began to graduate from the U of A, and as a result, we were separated geographically. This slowed our preparation, but—praise God for his faithfulness—did not put out our fire. During these years we did the best we could to prepare individually and to develop the dream via email and during occasional meetings.
More regular meetings could begin in early 2004, when God orchestrated the Keen’s move from Virginia to Texas. Spread out between Fayetteville, Fort Worth, and Abilene, we made the Keens’ place in Fort Worth our central meeting spot and tried to meet there once every one or two months.
Application to MRN
In the fall of 2004, we decided to seek the assistance of Missions Resource Network in preparing for our work in Olomouc. MRN’s application required the submission of extensive biographical information, three letters of recommendation, three short essays, and academic transcripts.
Assessments and Workshops
Once the initial applications were approved, we all completed a body of psychological instruments. Psychologist Dr. Steve Allison analyzed these instruments and met with each teammate individually as well as with each couple to discuss the results. It turns out that we are crazy enough to be missionaries, but, thankfully, not too crazy.
Following this assessment, MRN facilitated several workshops for our team—workshops on team missions, interpersonal relationships, fundraising, Czech history & culture, and church planting. They also facilitated workshops to better inform our families and supporting churches on what exactly life on the mission field involves.
History in the Making
On October 28, 2006, we made the big move to Olomouc!
Our first few months here involved getting our bearings, finding apartments, and buying furniture. We also enrolled in a professional Czech-language learning course for one year in order to establish a foundation for good communication with Czechs.
Soon after the end of our first year in Olomouc we began shifting our daily focus toward evangelistic efforts.
The Beginning of a Ministry
The beginning of our ministry was marked by a great focus upon serving, learning, and initial relationships. We volunteered to help various service or teaching organizations in the city. We learned from others and from our own experiences about how to effectively minister among the Czech people. We made our first friends and began to feel more “at home.”
Soon God blessed our evangelistic efforts with people searching for God or else open to hearing about Him. He blessed us with solid foundations in our ministries among youth, university students and young adults, and young families. He began raising a small but close-knit community of those seeking to believe in, trust, and follow Jesus Christ. He brought about the beginning of a church that serves Him in worship, praise, service, and evangelism. To this day He continues to bless us with great friends and many wonderful opportunities to learn from, teach, serve, and encourage others as together we walk a path of faith in God!
Celebrations and Changes
On October 29, 2011, our team celebrated its five-year anniversary of living in Olomouc! We were thankful for God’s care in keeping our original team together through its initial commitment period. As well, we gave thanks for the many amazing things He had shown us and allowed us to participate in over the previous five years.
In November 2011 we experienced the first major change to our original team structure when the Keen family returned to live in the United States. In September 2012 we underwent the second change when Graham and Terka Kervin left for study and work in Scotland. Then in November 2013, Christie Shockley returned to the United States.
In 2013 and 2014 we were joined by new teammates Conor and Alyssa Kirkman, Kaylee Hartman, and Madison Swain, with the former three returning to the U.S. in 2015 and the latter in 2016 following their time of service.
In July 2017 the Beall family returned to live in the United States, leaving behind Mitch Anderson as the last remaining original teammate. He and his wife Monika, however, gained additional team support in August 2017 when the Starnes family joined the effort.
We thank our dear friends and former teammates for their wonderful friendship, faith, and love for us since our journey began together!
A New Era of Servants
In recent years our focus has turned from being a “team of missionaries” towards being a “church of missionaries.” Thanks to the numerical and spiritual growth of our church, the ministry is shared with and cared for by others. Our dreams of Czech and other local servant-leaders stepping forward with a similar vision and calling have become a reality!
This journey could still be far from over. May God glorify His name and bless His church through us and the Czechs!