Bethany Seventh-day Adventist Church opened its doors in 2009. With the support of Adventist layperson and businessman Radim Passer, the congregation began to meet with just six members.
Passer, a real estate investor who is included in the list of the richest people in the Czech Republic, used his personal witness and connections to raise the profile of the congregation. They began to meet in the state-of-the-art Společenské centrum Bethany (Bethany Social Center). In the same building, the church opened a kindergarten for 40 young children. Nearby, a primary school opened, and a secondary school is also growing in the area.
“Yes, we were just six members,” Passer says excitedly. “Now we are 100!”
Bethany Adventist Church grew with native Czechs who followed a member or pastor’s invitation to study the Bible and eventually were baptized. At the same time, little by little, the makeup of the church membership changed thanks to international students and immigration.
Immigrants have come at different times and from various continents. Most were already Seventh-day Adventists. They came with a scholarship to pursue graduate studies and decided to stay after they were offered jobs as engineers, economists, and IT specialists.
There’s Carlos and Leslie, a young couple from Brazil. Trained as a physicist, Carlos is now working for an oil and gas trading company. Their young son was born in the Czech Republic.
There’s also Ashik, from India, who is pursuing an international graduate program in IT management. And Orville, from the Philippines, who works in the financial sector in Prague. There is also Nasiru, from Sierra Leone, who arrived in Prague years ago and now is an economist for a major software provider. His wife is from neighboring Slovakia, and together they have two daughters.
The church is a safe place, some of them commented, to meet and learn from each other. “No matter where we come from, we are one family here,” one young man says. But even if he hadn’t stated it, it shows. The camaraderie among people with different backgrounds, education, and cultural realities is not unique in the Adventist world, but it shows once more the power of the gospel to unite, they believe.
That wide range of experiences has also enriched every aspect of church life. A well-attended Sabbath School caters to those members who do not feel comfortable enough to discuss the weekly Bible study guide in Czech. It also welcomes visitors from other countries, who usually don’t know the national language.
“Our Sabbath School in English has reached 48 members,” a member says. “And those 48 come from 20 different countries!”
Worship team leaders and special musical items also reflect the variety and richness of talents. On May 13, the special Sabbath of evangelistic meetings, singers hail from the Czech Republic and several African countries. The instrumental ensemble combines Carlos and Leslie on cello and piano, respectively; a young woman from the Czech Republic on the violin; and a young lady, originally from the Philippines, who plays the flute.
“When you look around at our membership, you see many who either arrived or were baptized in the last decade,” one of the ushers shares. As if he wanted to drive the point home, he said it again. “We are one family here,” he emphasizes. “We are only one family in Jesus Christ.”