Living to serve; Church group teaches English in Czech Republic

By Paris Walther | Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012

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WISE COUNTY IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC – Jennifer Dorsett, Laura Hammack, Hannah Walden, Keygun Beaver, and a student from the English camp, Ivana, tour through Prague. Submitted photo

Clicking through photo after photo on her computer, First United Methodist church youth pastor Laura Hammack recalls different memories from her trip to the Straznice church in the Czech Republic.

The Methodist church of Decatur asked Hammack to travel across seas to help teach an English-speaking camp along with Alvord junior Keygun Beaver, Boyd sophomore Hannah Walden and her mother, Jennifer Dorsett.

“We have a sister church in Straznice,” Hammack said. “With the relationship we have with that church, we send two youth and two adults there every other year. It’s to strengthen our relationship with them.”

During the first week, the group spent their time teaching natives to learn and read English.

“It felt fantastic to know that I could help them learn something that would possibly help them later in life,” Walden said. “I had a good time reading books like Dr. Seuss to them.”

Coming from all different age groups and backgrounds, the pupils attending the camp came for one reason – to enhance their second-language skills.

“The incredible people we met came from all walks of life,” Hammack said. Some spoke English, and some were barely fluent. It was just about building relationships with people across the world.”

As she spoke and taught the curriculum, Dorsett felt grateful for her everyday blessings.

“I just feel really blessed to have everything that I have like my health,” she said. “It just makes you realize the non-essential stuff you have.”

Toward the end of the camp, the small group began to realize the impact they made during the week.

“On the last day of the English camp, everyone was hugging us and giving us gifts and just saying thank you,” Walden said. “You wouldn’t expect so much from people you hardly know. I cried, Laura cried and Mom was even tearing up.”

After spending a week teaching, the preacher from Straznice, Petr Spirko, acted as their guide on a whirlwind trip through Europe.

“I feel I have a new sense of adventure,” Hammack said. “We went off the beaten path a few times, which was sometimes a little scary, but it was always worth it.”

Traveling to Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany the second week, the group began to see subtle differences between Europe and America.

“This trip made me think about how we live over here,” Beaver said. “Everyone is really serious and stressful over here, and people are more laid back over there.”

“Here we are all so busy,” Dorsett said. “It’s like we live to work, and they work to live.”

Finding a true love for the people and landscape, Beaver loved seeing the entire experience.

“I liked teaching English, and I love Prague. If I had the chance to live there, I would,” he said. “My favorite place was Switzerland because of the mountains and just being outside.”

As the second week began to draw to a close, Hammack felt that the small group grew closer and stronger in their faith.

“I think after you spend two weeks teaching and traveling together, you definitely develop a pretty fantastic bond,” she said. “We were able to grow together as teachers, Christians and foreigners in a new place.”

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED – The English-speaking camp students finish their last day of the program. Submitted photo

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