March 25, 2012

When Partnerships Thrive: Warehouse Church and Common Grounds

In July of 2003, Warehouse Church sent a team of volunteers to help provide music and help with the youth. The camp was a huge success and our team came home with stories of how God had used them to build friendships and have conversations that pointed people to Jesus.

  • Partners in Faith

    Pastor Randy Schoof (left) was excited to host Czech student Dominik Rans (center) while Dominik served at the Riverwoods summer camp in Aurora, Illinois.

  • Summer Exchange Student

    The partnership between Warehouse Church and Common Grounds led to Czech student Dominik Rans coming to the US for a summer.

  • Sharing Music

    The Warehouse Church band played at an English conversation night at Common Grounds; Ron Regnas on bass and Bob Madden on guitar.

In 2002, I went with Mike Cochrane on a trip to Europe. At the time, Mike was the European Director for TEAM. My knowledge of the Czech Republic was very limited then.

All I knew is that it was a very atheistic country and a former part of the Soviet block.

We arrived in Czech, and soon were at the home of TEAM missionaries Tom and Elaine Sampley. I immedi­ately felt a connection with them, and could sense their deep love for Jesus and for reaching the Czech people. Over the next week, I had many conversations with Tom and Elaine about the work that they had begun a few years earlier and of their dreams for the future. We struck up a great friendship, and we all sensed that God was up to something special.

Warehouse Church is non-denominational, so we don’t have an existing network of missionaries to support. We do believe that God’s mission for every local church is to be actively doing the mission of Jesus, whether it’s around the corner or somewhere across the globe (Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8). So we trust that God will con­nect us with the folks that he wants us to partner with. It was clear to me that this new connection with the Sampleys and the work in the town of Revnice, Czech Republic, was go­ing to be significant to all of us.

I asked Tom and Elaine, “How can Warehouse Church serve you guys?” They went on to explain how their big annual event was an English camp, where Czech folks spend a week in a ski resort town learning English from native Eng­lish speakers from America. The camp is staffed by volunteers from Common Grounds (the name of the coffeehouse/English conversa­tion center in Revnice) along with volunteers from a few American partner churches. The prior years of English camp were good, but they needed help with the music part of the camp program. As it turns out, Czechs are big fans of American rock ‘n roll and country music.

I let Tom and Elaine know that there are many things that Warehouse Church doesn’t do well, but we do have a lot of good musicians. We’d be glad to partner with them to build the music part of the English camp expe­rience, as well as teach English to the high school stu­dents and young adults.

So in July of 2003, Warehouse Church sent a team of volunteers to help provide music and help with the youth. The camp was a huge success and our team came home with stories of how God had used them to build friendships and have conversations that pointed people to Jesus.

Tom and Elaine invited me to visit Czech that November. I spent a really productive week meeting with and en­couraging the Common Grounds staff and spending time with the Sampleys. I also was able to tell the story of my life transformation at a Czech prison, at a local school, and at an English Conversation Night at Com­mon Grounds, all very receptive audiences.

One of the highlights of that trip was the time spent with the Common Grounds youth group. Tom and I prayed about what I was to share, and it seemed right to tell the teens how Jesus had changed my life — from being a messed-up drug addict, to someone with peace, joy, and a relationship with God. That was a fantastic night of great conversations about God and answering many questions. A month or two later, Tom let me know that God used that time with the youth group productively be­cause many of the youth made a commitment to follow Jesus.

The next year, 2004, there wasn’t an English Camp. Common Grounds needed more space to grow their programs, and God had provided an estate house six blocks from their previous loca­tion on the town square. This new location that Common Grounds was leasing was full of poten­tial, but needed a lot of work. So Warehouse Church sent a team of volunteers to do landscap­ing, clean-up, rewiring, scraping, painting, and more.

Some of the women on our team painted a border in the large meeting room of Common Grounds. The border contained “I Am” statements of Christ. It’s great knowing that in years to come, many people will be experiencing the truth of who Jesus is because they have a place to meet. It was a week of hard work and fun, be­cause in the evenings, we were a rock and blues band that played a few shows in local pubs, introduc­ing people to Common Grounds. That was a blast!

We’ve been privileged to send teams to help staff the Common Grounds English camp most years since. There’s been much value in consistently building relationships over the years. Some of the young teens that we met in 2003 are now young adults who are faithfully serving Jesus. It’s re­ally rewarding to know that our church partnership has played an important role in that!

It’s been great to see the ongoing friendships that our Warehouse team members have built over the years with our friends from Czech — not just the Common Ground staff, but the Czech friends from English camp. Email, Facebook, and Skype make it easy to stay con­nected. This also allows us to pray for each other.

Since our friendship began with Tom and Elaine in 2002, Common Grounds has grown into a church. It’s so exciting to know that every Sunday afternoon, Czech believers meet for a meal, teaching, prayer, and conver­sation. It’s been great for me, as a pastor, to encourage and support the Czech church leaders who are really good friends of mine. That makes Acts 1:8 come alive to me.

Our partnership with the Common Grounds church is truly reciprocal. Some of their leaders have visited us in Aurora and taught at Warehouse Church. One summer, we had a few of their teens stay with us for a month. For the last two years, the Common Grounds church has sent one of the teens, Dominik Rans, to serve at Riverwoods, a local camp that serves youth from under-resourced housing com­munities in our area. Last summer Dominik’s sister, Carmen, and her friend, Kristyna, also served at Riverwoods. It’s so cool to know that they sacrificed their summer, raised funds, and invested their time to show God’s love here in our community.

So, yes - I would absolutely recommend this kind of inter-cul­tural relationship for your church. There are huge benefits all around, and a big win for the kingdom of God!

For Jesus and those he loves,
Randy Schoof
Pastor, Warehouse Church

[Originally published in TEAMHorizons, March 2012]

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