16 April 2014

Goodbyes in Prague

For six years now, I (Shane), have represented CBF on the Board of Trustees for the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS).  IBTS is a fully-owned and operated institution of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) with the goal of providing theological education.  The relationship between CBF and IBTS has been close and significant: the initial group of missionaries to be hired by CBF served at IBTS; hundreds of CBF-related volunteers contributed thousands of hours of labor at the IBTS campus in Prague when the school relocated from Ruschlikon, Switzerland; some CBF-related individuals and churches continue to support IBTS financially through designated gifts through CBF.  Our shared roots run deep.
The beautiful Prague campus
Last week the IBTS Board of Trustees held our final meeting on the Prague campus of IBTS.  This was a bittersweet meeting in many ways.  The first meeting with John Weaver, new trustee chair; the new Rector, Stuart Blythe, attended; the announcement that Lina Andronoviene had accepted a position at another institution; being reminded of the sacrifice of so many as I read the list of volunteers, saw the photos of the reconstruction efforts, and listened to the splash of the fountain which sits in the middle of the main quadrangle. 
Radka is on the right in this photo
Through a very thoughtful and deliberate process of re-imagining how to provide for theological education, the EBF has approved the sale of the property in Prague in anticipation of the founding of the International Baptist Theological Study Centre in Amsterdam (IBTSC).  The move was precipitated by several factors. Ultimately, it was the ongoing desire by the EBF to continue to offer quality theological education which motivated the search for an appropriate location for IBTSC.  Already some academic events have been held in Amsterdam as the transition from the Prague campus to a location in Amsterdam proceeds.

The brief conversation I had with Radka was perhaps the most meaningful for me personally since it is likely the last time our paths will cross.  Radka works as housekeeper at the Prague campus.  For years now, I always looked forward to greeting her when I saw her at breakfast or in the halls near the apartments.  I recall asking her once about volunteering for a project I was working on and I needed a native Czech speaker.  She refused, but politely and with her generous smile.  Working on an English-speaking campus but only speaking Czech, I suppose Radka also enjoyed our brief Czech/Slovak conversations.

Selling the campus, relocating the library, and embracing a new future embodied in IBTSC Amsterdam are signs that the future of theological education by the EBF is moving into its next phase.  At this last goodbye in Prague, I was thankful for the opportunity to wish Radka a good day and happy Easter holidays.  I do wish her well.  And I invite you to pray with me for the future of IBTSC Amsterdam.