Czech Mother’s Center introduces Christianity
By Sandra Brands
May 6, 2013—For most mothers, worries about how to be a good parent overshadow the joy of parenting.
“There are many young families with small children, and they cannot spend time together in any other organization in our town,” said Miluše Šálková, a member of the Provitin United Methodist Church in the Czech Republic.
“They have no place to share about the difficulties they experience while staying at home with children. Sometimes, they feel like they’re being bad moms, but if they could share their feelings, they’d realize that others have the same feelings, and it helps them understand.”
Not long ago, Šálková, a new mother, was looking for a way to invite people in the surrounding community to look beyond their prejudices against Christianity and visit the Protivin United Methodist Church.
After discussing her ideas with the Rev. Filip Jandovsky, she started the Mother’s Center, which meets at the church. She serves as director. The center holds weekly meetings. For the first hour, children and parents sing Christian songs, hear Bible stories and work on arts and crafts projects. Another hour is for parents alone, giving them a chance to talk freely or take computer, English or dance lessons.
“In the beginning, it was not easy to encourage mothers to come to the center,” Šálková said. “They were afraid of Christianity, of prayers and of being pushed.”
Through the friendships formed over shared experiences of motherhood, however, Šálková introduces nonbelievers to Christianity in nonthreatening ways.
“We try to make programs where we can talk about God and God’s unconditional love, and about accepting without harming one another,” she said. “They hear the gospel and Bible stories, and the mothers and children get to know about Jesus and what it means to be Christian.
“We share faith through educational programs, and I share my personal testimonies of how God helps me or acts in my life or family,” she said. “The most important goal is to bring (people) to Christ and to show them that Christians are not silly, weak or fanatical as people often think they are.”
Modeling unconditional love
Once a month, the mothers attend a four-hour meeting called the “School of Love and Family.” An educational project, the school is designed to help people build relationships based on unconditional love, Šálková said.
“In this awareness program, we help people to forgive their parents and understand them,” she said. “We teach couples to express their emotions without offending the other. This is the love Jesus has for us. He does not love us only if we obey, but also loves us with our mistakes and disobedience. That’s the way we should accept each other.”
Though operated independently, the center rents space from the church for a nominal fee, and church volunteers help cook and make refreshments for parties, camps and other outreach programs.
Other volunteers have come from In Mission Together partnership churches in the United States. According to Dick Arnold, IMT coordinator for Eastern Europe and the Balkans, In Mission Together teams from Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee have assisted the center.
In the autumn of 2012, Arnold toured the Center with Šálková while visiting Provitin. “The Mother’s Center works with eight to 12 nonbelievers, meeting once a week,” he reported about his visit. “The annual budget (excluding her salary) is about $7,000, which comes from grants she writes from city hall, businesses, foundations and individuals. Mothers pay some fees; $1/session, if their families are members, and $2, if not.”
Support for the center’s operation comes from a variety of sources, including the church’s In Mission Together Partners. The Czech Republic’s government partially underwrites Šálková’s salary. That funding will soon end, she said. “We are all afraid of that. In the future, The United Methodist Church will not have the money to support my work, so I pray about what to do and must find ways of getting the money for my salary.”
Building relational partnerships
For Dr. Verne Hoshel, a lay member of First United Methodist Church, Brighton, Mich., the center is an important part of the church’s mission. “If you’re going to evangelize,” he explained, “(the center) is the way to do it. Miluše looks at this as being a very critical part of evangelism. That’s why she works with young mothers and tries … to draw them in so they can establish relationships with Christianity and the Christian church.”
Hoshel and his wife, Agnes, whose parents were from the Czech Republic, have frequently participated in Volunteers-in-Mission trips to the Center since they first visited in 2004.
“The Czech Republic is the second most atheistic country in the world, second only to North Korea,” he said, because of the Nazi and, later, Communist rule. “The generations lost Christianity, and churches were boarded up. The Czech populace is very suspicious of spiritual things.”
That is why, he noted, the Mother’s Center is so important. “They are working with young people, children and youth,” he said.
Since that first trip, Hoshel said, the First, Brighton, congregation at has been in relationship with the Provitin United Methodist Church and its outreach programs. During multiple VIM trips, participants have helped with building construction and repair. They’ve also taken an active role in congregational life, sharing in potluck meals and worship.
“We become part of that congregation while there,” he said. “This is consistent with what these (In Mission Together) partnerships should be. They’re relational.”
Learn more about the work of the General Board of Global Ministries, its ministry with the poor and opportunities to collaborate in mission with a global church.
*Brands, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Albany, N.Y.
Contact: Melissa Hinnen, public information officer, 212-870-3833, MHinnen@umcmission.org
The Mother’s Center held at Provitin United Methodist Church in the Czech Republic offers activities, classes and support for young families and their children while introducing a largely nonbelieving population to Christianity and the United Methodist Church.
Courtesy of Belmont United Methodist Church
Miluše Šálková is the Director of the Mother’s Center at Provitin United Methodist Church.
Courtesy of Belmont United Methodist Church