Spiritual warfare pits good against evil on a battlefield beyond the physical world.
Ephesians 6:12 warns, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (NIV). In the Central European country of the Czech Republic, Kevin Dickson ’04 and his wife, Daniela, struggle against these enemies daily as they serve with Josiah Venture. Their vision: to see a movement of God among the youth of Central and Eastern Europe that finds its home in the local church and transforms society.
“In this atheistic culture, we fight intense spiritual battles against the lies and deceits of the enemy,” said Dickson, who serves as co-director of the EXIT 316 Tour. Together, they lead teams traveling into Eastern European cities, working with local youth groups to share the Gospel in public high schools, constantly combating cynicism, apathy, and wariness that comes from years of persecution. “Churches were allowed to exist under Communism, but forbidden to share outside the walls. Spies infiltrated services to make sure members weren’t evangelizing and inciting a revolution, which bred suspicion of new people and cultivated the mindset that faith is private and not to be shared. As a result, it’s a spiritually dark environment. During one event, we experienced a plague of sickness, migraines, and technical problems. We lost all power, even though our meter showed it was on. It was like Satan stuck his hand in the cables.”
Yet, despite the opposition, Christians in the community faithfully fight the forces of evil and work to restore the country’s rich spiritual roots. “Although congregations feel healthy, they have a definite lack of courage to spread the Gospel,” said Dickson. “We come alongside pastors and share methods that excite teens about the Gospel and evangelism. We encourage them to make friends with nonbelievers. Soon, they realize that the Gospel is cool, and start inviting friends and strangers to afternoon clubs where they tell them the Good News.
“The transformation has been extraordinary. One day, we noticed some of our youth group members looking depressed and asked what was wrong. They said, ‘We were only able to share Christ with one person today.’ That’s how important sharing their faith has become,” said Dickson.
Years of prayer over the youth in this region led Josiah Venture to launch EXIT 316 in 2006. The program began with a weekly, Bible-based TV series that ignited a revival in local towns. “It was a miracle we were allowed to air the program at all,” said Dickson. “We produced 70 episodes of interviews with people on the streets and celebrity testimonies, and trained hundreds of leaders about how to use the show as an outreach, including two years of curricula on topics like divorce, suicide, sex, racism, and drugs.
“Eight out of 10 Czechs are atheists. God has opened the door to high schools for the Gospel. Every year, in at least 11 cities, we have the opportunity to employ the 8-hour program in an average of 30 public high schools. The schools gladly shut down for the entire day knowing we are bringing a proven prevention program,” said Dickson.
Convincing administrators, however, proves much easier than winning over their students. Czech teens rebel against restrictions. “We don’t present them with a bunch of rules,” said Dickson. “We bring them an American Christian rock band, hip-hop artists, dancing, and media. Because music is universal, it breaks barriers and engages the students. Then, we split into small groups for two 90-minute lecture series by certified, accredited staff, and present testimonies about salvation.”
One man from Slovakia, now a drug preventionist, shares about his broken home, drug use, mugging, and former life as a male prostitute. One of Germany’s adult film stars recalled, “Nothing mattered until Jesus.” Now, she talks about purity with girls; and to guys interested in porn, she tells them the other side. A Holocaust survivor, who was rescued out of Czechoslovakia before Hitler closed the border, now talks about racism and calls himself the “twice-saved child”—first from the Holocaust, then by Christ. The weeklong programs culminate with a Friday night outreach concert. Last fall, 15,000 high schoolers showed up. “We saw 269 professions of faith—200 during school hours,” said Dickson. “There were 95 in one school alone. We’ve seen entire classes stand to accept Christ. A headmaster said, ‘I don’t believe in what you’re saying, but I believe in the students, and I see the change in them. Thank you for coming.’”
The change he sees—improved attendance, heightened respect, and happier students—reveals something deeper and more meaningful than the outward signs he observes. It illustrates the power of transformed hearts and battles won. Though the spiritual warfare continues, more and more Eastern European teens are hearing and responding to God’s Word thanks to a growing number of Czech pastors and teens equipped with the full armor of God ready to engage in the conflict, and faithful workers like the Dicksons willing to suit up and face the enemy alongside them.
Posted: July 22, 2013