A Better Story
Sep 21, 2023 | 4 min read | Erin Bowman
For many young people in Central and Eastern Europe, September marks a return to the classroom…
As a history student studying at Durham University (England), I will also return to the classroom, hefty textbooks and large-amounts of coffee in tow! I am excited for many of the things that this next academic year holds, but, most of all, I am excited for the things that I will learn. It would be a gross understatement to say that I am interested in history. The stories, events, and people that shaped the past have always fascinated me. During my time at Durham, I have had the privilege of studying everything from the material culture of the late antique Mediterranean, to the centrality of dance in South Africa’s apartheid regime. That being said, nothing has been more captivating to me than the history of Central and Eastern Europe.
Since high school, I have taken every opportunity to learn about the region’s complicated past, dutifully memorising facts pertaining to the rise of communism in post-war Europe for my end of year exam. This summer, as an intern with Josiah Venture’s International Communication Team, I was afforded new opportunities to learn about the history of Central and Eastern Europe. At Mission Team Training in Riga, Latvia, we toured the KGB headquarters, witnessing the brutal reality of Soviet occupation. In Estonia, we attended the National Song Festival, immersing ourselves in an awe-inspiring history of passive resistance. I used my free time to dig deeper, slowly working my way through a biography of Czech President Václav Havel, even squeezing in a visit to Prague's National Museum.
At this point, I imagine some of you are concerned that I’ve confused the Josiah Venture blog with some sort of travel guide for history nerds. I’m guessing that others are questioning the relevance of history to an organisation focused on reaching young people. The reality is that the history of Central and Eastern Europe helps us to better understand the spiritual climate of the region. While any good historian is conscious to avoid making generalisations, there is no doubt that decades of communism suppressed religious freedom, devastating the church. This relatively recent history continues to shape the young people of today, contributing to the creation of a generation of youth in desperate need of Jesus.
I believe that history is fundamentally about stories. The young people of Central and Eastern Europe have inherited countries marked by complicated stories of oppression, corruption, and violence. As Christians, we believe in a better story. Jesus Christ stands at the center of human history, and his life, death, and resurrection offer us this better story. No history is beyond his redemptive purposes; no person is beyond the reach of his restorative power.
Join me in praying that God would continue to write a better story in Central and Eastern Europe; pray for the restoration of his church; pray for hope where there was once hopelessness. As the school year begins, pray for young people returning to classrooms across Central and Eastern Europe; pray that they would encounter the gospel; pray that they would grow into disciples who write better stories for their countries.
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