Updated: Apr 12, 2019
How in the world does a girl from St. Louis wind up halfway across the world in an often overlooked town in an often overlooked country? I still don't even really know...
"The Czech Republic? Where's that?" "What do they even speak there?" "Oh! Is that where Prague is?" These are some of the things I hear when I tell people that, come this September, I will be moving to the Czech Republic to be a missionary. The town of Litomyšl, to be exact, which is not exactly the Czech Republic's biggest town at only about 10,000 residents. However, you would never realize how "small" this city is since it's quite densely populated...by students. And it's these very students that God has put on my heart to go serve and teach about Jesus, the Bible, and God's love.
But, let's back up a little first, shall we? My name is Christy Šust (That's pronounced Shoost, in case you've never heard it out loud!) and in November of 2018, God quite clearly called me to be a missionary in the Czech Republic. Actually...let's back up even more. My dad, Michael, escaped communism in (then) Czechoslovakia in 1986 and was called to ministry as a worship pastor in various churches over the course of 16 years, including in Houston (where I was born with my sister) as well as St. Louis (where I eventually spent most of my life).
In 1995 (the year I was born...feel old yet?), my parents started a ministry called the Czech Symphony Project where they would arrange for Czech student music groups to come to America on a concert tour of wherever we lived that year, be it Houston or St. Louis, and were housed with Christian families, told the gospel, and often given Czech bibles. Alternatively, they would also arrange for choirs made up of various congregation members and other ministry partners to go on concert tours in the Czech Republic and other surrounding countries to sing gospel music and share the good news with European people.
Needless to say, I was incredibly blessed with multiple experiences of traveling to Europe throughout my childhood since I was a baby. Pretty rad, I know!
God has used this foundation to plant within me a love for Europe and, more specifically, the Czech Republic. Of course, it helped that my dad was from the country and that I have family who still live there, but there really is something incredibly endearing and, dare I say, quirky about the Czech people and their culture. You can imagine that I have always held a special place in my heart for this small country, but in the past few years, I have felt God lay it more heavily on my heart.
You see, in March of 2016, my parents arranged for another group of Czech students to come tour America, this time a choir from -- you guessed it -- Litomyšl called the KOS Choir. The KOS Choir operates under a school that is specialized for students who are interested in becoming teachers and functions as both a high school and a university, though most of the choir students are high school age. To give some context, the Director of this choir, Milan Motl, had come to America some 10 years earlier as part of another choir my parents brought over and, in fact, had come to Christ on that visit so many years ago! And now here we were bringing him back to America, only now he would be bringing a whole 50 member choir of students with him! Talk about planting seeds!
In March, the choir came and, from what I heard, many of them were moved even in the first few days by the kindness and love in the churches they were visiting along the way, as well as the powerful worship on their first Sunday morning there. I myself was still in college studying acting at a school in Florida and, although the choir was touring for nearly 2 weeks, I could only be with them for Easter weekend. By the end of the trip, many of the students had been clearly deeply moved by the gospel, including one girl named Tereza. About a week after they went back to the Czech Republic, Tereza messaged my mom and me and told us she had given her heart to Jesus! And so, Tereza became the first student from the KOS choir to come to Christ! It still makes me smile when I think about it.
I had some involvement with the groups we brought to America, but this group felt...different. For the first time, I felt completely fearless to share my love for God with them and unafraid to approach them in friendship, despite my embarrassing lack of knowledge of the Czech language. "It would be really neat if I could just live there for a little bit, maybe finally learn some Czech and spend some time with my family...but, I'm going to be an actor and have a career in theatre, so it wouldn't really be practical for me to live in the Czech Republic for an extended period of time," I had thought to myself at the time.
Time passed and eventually my parents organized another trip for the KOS choir to return in December 2017. We went on a preemptive visit in October 2017 and sat down with the choir in panel-style discussion to tell them about America and what they should expect there. Many of the students that had been there on the first trip became emotional remembering the power of God (or "energy" as they referred to it) evident in our people and our worship. Already, some of the students who had not come to America yet were asking questions, to us as well as Tereza, who is definitely not shy about her faith!
And so, the KOS choir came back to America and, this time, 2 more girls, Hanicka and Adela, came to Christ and were baptized along with Milan, the Director! We were so excited about this growth and God's faithfulness. Unfortunately, we did not know of any churches in Litomyšl that we could pass our new sisters in Christ off to.
We decided to hold a summer internship at our church, Harvest Bible Chapel St. Louis, in July of 2018 in order to provide an opportunity for these new Christians to be discipled and learn more about what the daily Christian life looks like as well as how to serve in church ministry. In the end, we had 3 students from the KOS choir -- Tereza, Adela, and Alena -- as well as one American college student, Christian, from the St. Louis area. Interestingly enough, Alena had not professed Christ yet when she arrived for the internship; Adela had shared the gospel with her, but she was still seeking in her heart. By the end of the internship, she had given her heart to Christ and was baptized!
At this point, my heart was absolutely bursting with love and a sense of longing for the Czech Republic and, specifically, the KOS choir students. By this time, I had graduated from college with my degree in acting, spent some of the summer of 2017 as a worship intern at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, and then came home to fill a hole in our church staff, first as a media intern and then as the Interim Worship Ministry Coordinator. I was incredibly discouraged because I felt like I was back at square one with theatre since I didn't have any connections in the St. Louis theatre world and was struggling to find time for it while also fulfilling obligations at my church. I felt like a mess and a failure and was asking God what He even wanted me to do. My thoughts were turning toward the Czech Republic and I began to research missionary organizations that serve there, but I was looking at short term trips that only go for a couple months at a time. I never, ever thought God would send me there for longer than that.
By this time, my dad had once more organized a small missions trip to the Czech Republic, Serbia, and Romania in November 2018. I decided to wait until this trip to see if God would reveal how and where He might want me in the Czech Republic. After all, I was going to physically be there; who knew what would happen? Simultaneously, in an answer to our prayers, we had been made aware that there is in fact a bible-preaching church in Litomyšl called Novy Kostel (translates to New Church in English) that the KOS students could potentially become involved with!
Upon arriving in Litomyšl, we met the pastor of this church, Daniel, and praised God together that there is a church where we can send our new brothers and sisters in Christ! As we spent more time with him, he ended up telling my dad that he had been praying for 4 years that God would somehow send an American missionary to the town and work with the church to bring in these students and create a bridge between the students and the church.
Here I am, wondering how God wants me to come to the Czech Republic while also being so filled with love for these students in Litomyšl and God lays the opportunity right in my lap!
...Actually, I'll be totally honest. I didn't really get it when my dad told me what Daniel told him about praying for a missionary. I mean, of course I thought to myself, "Well, that missionary could be me." But, it all seemed...too perfect. I imagine God facepalming Himself and saying, "Ok, I guess I'll have to make it way more obvious for her."
Cut to the next day. We had planned for the KOS choir to actually come to Novy Kostel and hear testimonies from our summer interns and about the last two trips to America their choir went on. Eventually, Pastor Daniel addressed the students and invited them to come to their church or to reach out to him if they had any questions about Jesus or faith. He then proceeded to tell them what he had told my dad the night previous -- that he and the other church leaders had been praying many years for an American missionary to come and minister to them all, be their friend, and become a bridge between the church and them.
My dad then turned to me and said, "So, you want to say anything?"
IMMEDIATE TEARS. Like, immediate. Ooohhhhh, now I get it, God!
So I stood up in front of these students whom I had come to love so dearly, even the ones I hadn't really met yet, and proceeded to share my heart with them -- that the past 3 years, God had been pushing the Czech Republic on my heart more and more until I realized this was where I needed to be. And now, here was the opportunity, the answer to my searching; I would be the missionary Novy Kostel had been praying for.
Nah, I'm just kidding, haha. Phew, that was a long story. This Starbucks seat definitely has a perfect imprint of my butt on it from how long this took me to write. But, I tell ya, there's really nothing like reliving the best moments of your life again!
I promise, not all of my blog posts are this long. However, it was important for me to 1) make my first blog post on here the full story of how God called me to CZ so you can know where all this came from and 2) to record all the build up, emotions, and gradual ways God had transformed my heart and showed me where He wants me, at least for now. If this call had come while I was in college, preparing for my life as a starving artist in the theatre, I simply would not have been ready. But, as always, God's timing is perfect!
Thank you so much for reading my story. I hope you will continue to read it as it unfolds and reveals more and more of God's spectacular plan! Na shledanou!