Ballet for Refugee Kids in the Czech Republic
In the summer of 1995, Greater Europe Mission’s president, Ted Nobel, visited GEM workers Greg and Debby Nichols in Odesa, Ukraine. As they walked along the beach, Debby told him about her crazy thoughts and dreams of organizing an evangelistic concert at the Philharmonic Hall of Odesa. President Nobel said, “But what if those are not ‘crazy thoughts’ but rather the still small voice of the Lord prompting you to move ahead with this dream?” Those words still ring in Debby’s ears today. That was the beginning of three yearly outreaches reaching thousands of Odesans.
Fast forward to 2022. The Nichols now live in Prague, Czech Republic where part of their work has been with refugees over the past six years. When the Ukrainian war began in February 2022, the Nichols jumped in with both feet to minister to their hurting friends. After many years of practicing listening to the still small voice, they are quicker to discern. And yet, it still surprises them when God invites them into ministries that only he could think up.
As they personally provided help to over 50 refugees who journeyed out of Ukraine, the Nichols sought to bring Christ’s healing in varied ways to the bodies, minds and souls of the displaced Ukrainians. Out of this sprang the idea to create a ministry Center in Prague from which to better operate. As Greater Europe Mission sought to maximize its efforts toward the Ukraine crisis, GEM focused resources on two main areas of refugee ministry –Bucharest, Romania and Prague, Czech Republic.
As the Nichols looked at their resources (physical, human, financial), they heard that still, small voice inviting them to offer a summer ballet camp. Nineteen little girls attended a camp where they learned how to dance, made crafts, and enjoyed yummy snacks. But most importantly, they heard the redemption story as they went through the wordless book during the week. Seeds were sown.
After the camp, the girls had a strong desire to continue the lessons. Thankfully, the ballet teacher (another missionary in town) was excited to continue teaching. And so, in early December 2022, 12 little girls finished a whole semester of ballet lessons. The core team, consisting of the Nichols, GEM worker Jessica Linderman and Ukrainian refugee Dasha, added more volunteers and some activities for the moms. Every week, 10 moms or grandmas would come to drop their children off for ballet lessons and the team would sit with these lovely ladies and get to know them. Sometimes Greg would give a devotional or one of the Ukrainian team members offered a craft. Once, one of the moms offered an art class. During the past three months, the ballet lesson venue has become a safe place where children can dance freely. It has become a safe place for moms and grandmas to talk freely about their difficulties and a place to hear words of hope from the team and God’s word.
Ballet lessons are only one of many ways in which the Prague Hub ministers to the bodies, minds and souls of displaced Ukrainians. They have grown in their awareness that God can use anything and anyone with a willing heart to bring a foretaste of the Kingdom of Jesus. No thought is too crazy for God to use. No situation is too broken to be redeemed. No one is unseen by God.
Please pray for the Prague Hub Team as they continue to reach into the displaced Ukrainian community and share Christ and His salvation with them. To God be all honor and glory.
About the authors:
Debby Nichols and her husband Greg serve with Greater Europe Mission in Prague, Czech Republic. Since 2015, Debby has been actively working with refugee families seeking to build up the body of Christ in Europe through multiplying disciples and growing Christ’s church.
Jenny Garrity is a storyteller with Greater Europe Mission. Jenny and her husband Kim joined GEM in 1984. They have served in Germany, Belgium, and most recently, Greece in response to the refugee crisis.