As educators, we give every ounce of our time and energy to our students throughout the school year. By the end of May, we often feel drained and weary. We look forward to the relaxing summer months to rest and recharge so we can be ready to pour into the lives of our new students in the fall. In the past, I was very protective of this time, believing I needed to retreat and relax in order to renew my passion and energy. That was until God changed my perspective a little over three years ago . . .
In the summer of 2014, God called me to attend the Daniel Leadership Institute, a life-changing, 40-day leadership training sponsored by CEAI and Tentmakers. During this time, I spent three days sailing on Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota, discussing ministry dreams with Clint Elliot, Lorie Elliot, and Honza Kuklinek, three other educators whom God had also called to attend the event. Honza was from the Czech Republic, one of the most atheistic countries in the world. He had a heart for Czech teachers and youth. He envisioned God transforming his country through public school educators. Together, Clint, Lorie, and I prayed for Honza, dreaming that one day we might join him in his vision.
According to God’s plan, I was given that opportunity in the summer of 2017 when Honza invited me to the Czech Republic to help continue the work that he had started three years earlier. He had already helped establish a network of 400 Christian educators in his country, hosting four Daniel Weekends where teachers were connected, encouraged, inspired, and equipped to live out their faith in their schools. But, these educators wanted more. Subsequently, Honza developed a week-long experience for educators he called “The Daniel Week,” and he wanted me to be a part of it.
During the inaugural Daniel Week that summer, Honza, Clint, Lorie, and I found ourselves sitting on a mountain in the Czech Republic surrounded by amazing educators who loved Jesus and their students. These teachers had the same hearts and desires as Christian teachers in the U.S.—to impact others for Christ. But sadly, many of them were raised during the Communist occupation of their country. During this regime, faith was wiped out of the culture, and schools became places of propaganda and humiliation. They were not places where students experienced meaningful relationships with their teachers. These teachers desperately needed an opportunity to hear from God, an encouraging Christian community, relational skills to help them create bridges with their students, a place to dream, and the skills to put together impactful action plans. It was such a blessing to minister to these weary educators.
For the past three summers now, Clint, Lorie, and I have found ourselves spending our time ministering to Czech teachers. As we have encouraged them in their identities in Christ and the eternal impact they have in the lives of their students, we have also been encouraged. We have learned that we don’t always need to retreat and rest in order to feel rejuvenated. When we pour into the lives of others, God uses that time to fill and rejuvenate us.
So, where is God calling you to invest your time this summer? Is it to go to another country like the Czech Republic? Is it to take time away from the typical use of your summer to learn and grow in a new setting like the Daniel Leadership Institute? Or is it to serve in some other ministry or dream God has placed on your heart?
Whatever your ministry, CEAI can help. CEAI has encouraged and supported me as I have followed God’s lead. And, they can offer you support and prayer as you offer your time to serve others in Jesus’ name.
Heather Kohnen is a wife, mom, educator, coach, and friend. She loves to encourage others to follow their God-given dreams in order to live full, inspiring lives.