One Big Evidence

When Bárča (pronounced Bar-cha) Klečková met Jesus at Young Life camp, He wasn’t quite what she expected. She imagined a booming voice or maybe a bolt of lightning from the sky. Instead, He worked side by side with her in the kitchen, laughed with her during club, absorbed complaints, embodied kindness and stayed up late to patiently answer her questions.

The teenager was captivated by Jesus before she knew it was Him. She saw Him first in the Young Life volunteers who showed her the Savior through their very lives, moving her toward the Truth that would set her free.

Looking for Answers

Bárča has lived her whole life in Ostrava, Czech Republic. She first heard about Young Life five years ago from her high school English teacher (and Young Life teacher staff), Nathan Crighton, and his wife, Luci, who is on full-time Young Life Czech staff. They were leading the Hladnov English Drama Club, another avenue Young Life uses to reach teenagers in that part of the world.

“Bárča was part of a group we started to hang out with, and some of them joined the drama club,” Luci recalled. “She didn’t come to Young Life club or Campaigners, but I maintained a relationship with her. Bárča and her best friend, Eva, were really on my heart. I cared for them a lot.”

Bárča remembers Luci inviting her to Young Life events, but the whole scene just felt foreign to her. Christianity, she believed, was “not an option.” She grew up among atheists in her home and culture; for Bárča, church was for boring old people.

“I was 16 and going through the rebel chapter of my life,” Bárča said. “I always had something better to do on Friday nights or weekends — mostly going to parties and drinking — than going to Young Life.”

But even as she fought against accepting what these new friends stood for, she admits she knew there was more to life.

“I’ve always believed there is something bigger than us,” Bárča said, “I couldn’t deal with the opinion that once you’re dead there’s nothing more because if this is true, then life has no meaning. I was looking for answers, but I couldn’t find them.”

“Too Unbelievable”

It was the search for something more that compelled Bárča to sign up for summer camp in 2013. Through club talks and cabin times, Bárča heard the story of Jesus.

“It was just too unbelievable for me,” she said. “My two best friends and I were mostly making fun of it, but when I wasn’t joking about it I was really frustrated and angry. I didn’t understand how those people could be so sure that what they say is true. It didn’t make any sense to me and, honestly, I thought the speaker and my cabin leader were crazy.”

Still, Bárča wanted to believe, but first needed to be sure. So during the 20 minutes alone near the end of the week, Bárča spoke to God for the first time.

“I said, ‘OK, God, I want to know you, but I need to be sure about it. So if you do exist, give me some evidence please.’ I expected something would happen right away, but it didn’t. So I laughed at myself and decided there’s no God, and they truly were crazy, and I didn’t want to go to Young Life anymore.”

Back home, Luci continued to pursue Bárča. Bárča kept her promise to avoid Young Life, but stayed involved with Drama Club. Summer came around again, and Luci invited Bárča to be a part of work crew at camp in Croatia. Both confess they had ulterior motives: Luci was looking for a way to spend more time with Bárča. And Bárča just wanted to be near a beach and work with the Americans she heard would be there.

Bárča made herself one more promise before leaving for work crew: she would stay away from “all Christian things.” And she was pretty good at it. She ducked out of some of the Bible studies and kept herself busy to avoid attending most of the clubs. But while she was avoiding the Christian “things,” the person of Jesus made Himself undeniably real in the people around her.

Set Free

Whether it was an after-hours conversation or an attitude displayed while serving others, Bárča saw Jesus everywhere she looked. Bárča said she again asked God for a sign, something to show her He was real. And again, He seemed to be silent.

It wasn’t until the bus ride back that Bárča found her way home.

“I was talking with my friend Domča [who didn’t have a relationship with God either] about everything that happened at camp, and I told her God didn’t answer me again, and I didn’t know what to think about it. Then she said, ‘And don’t you think that the whole camp was just one big evidence for you?’ After she said it, the most amazing moment of my life happened.

“I don’t know how to explain it other than the work of God and the Holy Spirit, because at that moment everything immediately clicked in my head. I was 200 percent sure that everything I had been told about God was true and will always be true. I knew I could never deny this certainty in my life.”

Luci received a text from Bárča that night and knew right away her prayers had been answered. “Prayer is really important,” Luci said. “We asked our friends and donors to pray specifically for Bárča and Eva to accept Jesus as their personal Savior, and a year later they both did. The main aim is to have real relationships with the students. Even though they might not come to club or Campaigners, you can still be there for them and show them and tell them about Christ however you can.”

Last September, Bárča became a volunteer leader at her old high school’s drama club. She’ll be on the program team for summer camp this year and is looking forward to being baptized this fall with her two best friends, Kača and Eva.

Bárča says the love of Jesus she experienced through the ministry of Young Life is perfectly summed up in her favorite verse, John 8:32: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“It was Young Life and the people and relationships in Young Life that God used to open my eyes,” she said. “And it is still very important on my path with God because I learn many things from the leaders and from Luci. I love not only getting but also giving out to students as a volunteer leader.

“I am really grateful for Young Life in my life.”    

Adjusting and Abiding: Young Life in the Czech Republic

Work crew is a Young Life camp service opportunity traditionally reserved for high school students following Jesus. But the culture in Eastern Europe compels the mission to expand its borders in more ways than one.

Al Anderson, regional director for Young Life in Central and Eastern Europe, explains the challenge of doing ministry in one of the most atheistic countries in the world:

“Coming to believe there is a God takes a long time in Czech Republic, because it is a change in the cultural worldview. If kids have had a deep relationship with one of our leaders for many years, and have been to camp several times, then sometimes we ask them to serve on work crew because through service, they get to experience Jesus, not just talk about Him.”

Kelly Gaudreau, regional campaign director for Europe, has served in Young Life stateside and internationally. He says even though some tweaks to methods are necessary for ministry success, the abiding principles hold fast.

“The principles of Young Life are so deeply rooted in Scripture that they work anywhere,” he said. “There are things you have to change in different cultures — even in America with rural, urban or suburban areas. Club and Campaigners are tools we use, but the way we reach kids one-on-one is so deeply rooted in what Jesus did that it works no matter where you are.

“It’s the tried and true idea of pursuing kids, without having an agenda — just loving them where they are.”