Our little congregation of seventy is facing a big decision this weekend that not only determines the fate of one of our most important ministries but also poses a bit of a threat to the unity of our church. We’d sure appreciate it if you would click through to read this post and pray accordingly. The post is maybe a little long but if you read it you’ll see how God has been at work in our city!
Narnia Elementary School Reviewed
I’ve already written about Narnia Elementary School. Not only is it the school that Elisabeth and Max attend but Jana is the director of English musicals. It’s been a great way of getting to know families from the school. Both of us see this as the primary focus of our outreach efforts. In fact, this school is the main reason Jana and I are excited about the potential for ministry here in Banská Bystrica.
God Sized Plans
Pastor Pat always used to tell me that he didn’t want to be involved in man-sized activities, he wanted to be involved in God-sized ministries and so he made God-sized plans. That’s what Jana’s brother Slavo and his wife Martina did eight years ago when they began thinking about an elementary school. They made a lot of plans, sought the advice of a lot of people, and did a lot of work; but in the end they knew everything depended upon God’s being behind this effort. Over the past six years of the school’s existence they have found this to be the case.
Child Sized Space
One of the challenges they faced was finding facilities for the school. Through God’s provision, they wound up renting one pavilion on the campus of an elementary school that has been dropping in enrollment due to Slovakia’s stagnating population and the rise in the number of private schools. In the beginning, this was an ideal arrangement but as they add a new grade each year they need more space. There are a total of nine elementary school grades and currently they are at grades 1-6.
At the beginning of this school year they took space from an especially wide hallway and converted it to a teacher’s lounge so the teacher’s lounge could be converted to a classroom. Bottom line–this was the last year of squeezing out any available space. Something else needed to be done–and soon.
For more than a year Slavo has been looking for solutions. (Jana’s brother Slavo is the pastor of our church. He’s the entrepreneurial muscle and his wife Martina is the creative genius behind the school.) By the end of 2011 it seemed the best solution was to purchase some property on the edge of town and build.
The Wonderful Hand of God
Earlier this year Slavo had scouted out a particular piece of land and he sent the father of one of the students in our school who is a real estate developer to look in to whether or not the owners would be willing to sell. They weren’t. Slavo kept looking for other opportunities. He received offers for several pieces of property in town but they all seemed less than ideal.
But one of the owners of the property Slavo had scouted out, it just so happens, turns out to be the next door neighbor of our current superintendent. As they engaged in conversation over the fence one day, they discovered the connection and the owner was intrigued with the vision of Narnia Elementary School. She decided she’d talk with her siblings and they’d think it over.
In the meantime, it turns out the city needs some cash and the enrollment of the school on the campus we share is very low. In March the city approached Slavo asking if Narnia (actually our congregation) would be willing to purchase the entire campus.
Naturally, decisions like this must go to congregational vote.
The Wonderful House of God
We held a congregational meeting earlier this year to discuss our options. One of the challenges is financing the purchase of any property.
Apparently, not everyone is a huge fan of the school or at least of the fact that it’s a ministry of our local church. This is made worse by the fact that the elder board has even talked about selling our current building and putting the finances toward the school. The church would then meet at the school. Talk about throwing gas on a fire.
Building God’s House
It might be helpful to understand that having a building in Slovakia is not like having a building in the States. First of all, under communism, where atheism was the official religion, it’s a miracle when you are granted permission to build.
Secondly, there’s no money. The salary of an associate professor with four years teaching experience is $800 per month. Building in Slovakia costs about the same as in the States and the situation was no better and probably worse during communism. So sanctuaries were built by the people in the congregation. In fact, it was a cooperative effort of people from our denomination from all over Slovakia. You can imagine why one lady at our business meeting called our current property “holy ground.” Indeed God was just as much a part of that building process as he is a part of this school.
Building God’s Kingdom
But now that we’ve been given this treasure we don’t want to bury it. God is going to hold us accountable for how we use it. Narnia has been a great way to reach out to the community and it seems to be the best investment we can make in God’s kingdom.
I’m pretty sure we’re not going to seriously consider selling our current property at this point, but there will be some who will say it will eventually happen and so they will likely argue against any proposal to purchase property for the school. It’s fine to have different opinions, but the emotions seem to be running high right now.
Building Unity in God’s Kingdom
Our first concern is unity. Please pray for the unity of our congregation. No matter what decision we make, if we sacrifice our unity to advance our agenda then we have fallen outside God’s will. Pray for wisdom for the moderators who lead the discussion. Pray for an attitude of seeking God’s will together, realizing that when we listen to and address each other’s concerns, then we will come up with the best way forward.
Unity in Building God’s Kingdom
In all likelihood, we will be moving forward with the ministry of the school in some way. Once the decision is made we have the question of how we’re going to finance the purchase. No matter what happens, it will mean a huge investment for our little church. Please pray that our congregation will be united behind the ministry of the school. If that happens, then I believe we will put ourselves in a position to experience great blessings in the process of building God’s kingdom.