History of PCF (the original arlicle from the March 2004 PCF Post, “In the Beginnings” by Larry Winnes, has been adapted here)
When my wife, Janice, and I first went to Prague in March of 1987, it was to take some teaching tapes of Derek Prince to a leader of a cell group in Prague. Incidentally, a young British student named John MacFarlane started this particular group in 1969. They had continued to meet for 20 years.
Members of that group introduced us to the thriving church of which they were part. It was known simply as Maniny. It was pastored by a young man, Dan Drápal, who had been sent by the ecclesiastical authorities to close the church. There were only between twenty and thirty active members when he took the church’s reins. The communist authorities thought it would be only a matter of time before the church’s doors would be closed as there were no youth in it.
In that little church were three or four Believers who often spoke to Dan about salvation. For Dan, spiritual things were hidden. He was not even sure that there was a God. His favorite texts were drawn from Emanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche, an atheist and existentialist. But Dan’s personal life was in crisis. One night in his kitchen, he got down on his knees and prayed to the effect, “God, if you are there, forgive my sins, come into my life, and save me.” Immediately, Dan knew that God had heard him.
The church knew, as well. Dan’s preaching changed. People began to hear of Dan’s conversion. The church, instead of dying, began to grow. It doubled in size within a few months. Within two years, by the time Jan and I came to it early in 1987, it had grown to 250 baptized adults plus numerous children. The small place where they were meeting held four meetings on Sunday. God was working through Dan, bringing life to a church that the ecclesiastical authorities had assigned for failure.
We continued to travel to numerous places, meeting Believers throughout what was then the Eastern Bloc. But our hearts were always drawn back to what was then Czechoslovakia. There were many outreaches from Christians in the West to other countries, but it seemed that precious few were coming and meeting the needs of the Believers in the Czech lands. At this time two Czech pastors came to Switzerland for a conference. We met them in Bern. They warned us to be careful about bringing in any more literature, because one of them had been brought to the police and asked about someone named Larry who had visited their church. From that point on, when we went to Czech, we went to encourage rather than bring in literature.
Janice and I spoke with Dan about the needs of the church in Prague. He saw the need for a marriage seminar. We made plans to have a seminar for about 70 couples which would be taught by a missionary couple from France. However, the authorities would not grant permission for the seminar to take place. Thus when we arrived on November 16, 1989 for the seminar, it was held clandestinely in an apartment just a few blocks north of Wenceslas Square. The next night the demonstrations would begin there that would change the course of Czech and Slovak history.
It was a thrill to be in the country at this time. The Berlin Wall had just come down in the last few weeks. The thought was put forth very boldly that perhaps within the next six months the communist government in Prague may fall, although we all thought it too wonderful to believe. What a thrill to be with Christians in Timisiora, Romania, on November 24, just one week later, when radios picked up the news from the West that the communist government in Prague had fallen.
In 1990 many, many Christians from the West came to the former Eastern Bloc countries who had never visited before. They came bringing many promises with them. One night in the spring, I received a call at our home in Germany from Dan. He said that he only trusted the people that had come during the times when it was difficult. He said that in the last six months he had been promised 4 cars, 10 copiers, and 11 fax machines. Not one promise had been kept. Others had promised to do an “English camp.” They, too, had gone back on their word. Dan asked if I could get a number of teachers together to do the English camp. They had 25 people sign up for it. It was a thrill to go and do this camp on the Czech-German border.
Not too long after that Janice and I were invited to come and work with Maniny, the church as it was still known. We went back to the States for a year of furlough to raise support. In August of 1991, we moved to Prague, where we would make our home for the next six years.
It was an exciting time. The economy was changing from being centrally managed to free market. The infant infrastructure meant that there were often shortages. The church continued to grow. By now it had almost a thousand people. Growth like this is virtually unheard of in all of Europe. Surely, God’s hand of blessing was on the church.
Many people from the West were moving to Prague. They were starting businesses, coming to teach, or just to experience the intrigue of Prague. Dan held a Bible study on Tuesday evenings in a basketball gymnasium, just below the bridge beside the Culture Palace. There would be anywhere between 300 to 500 mostly young people there from all across the city and country, persons from many different backgrounds. It was not unusual for there to be so many English speakers there that there would be the need for 2 or 3 interpreters.
During that first year, we were in Czech language school trying not only to learn Czech, but also teaching English in a school sponsored by what had now become Křesťanské společenství Praha “KSP”. I became a sort of liaison between Dan and the many people who were contacting him from the West. I would often be their “tour guide” and answer for Dan. Three different times Dan approached me to start a church for the many English speakers who were coming to Prague. The first two times I said, No. The last time he said that I had promised to do whatever he asked me. So, with little or no pastoral training, we began the odyssey of starting a church.
First, we had to find a place to meet. Dan’s father was the director of the YMCA. So with that contact we began making plans to have our first church service in the Y’s main conference room. It did not have the warm fuzzies that one would have liked. The entrance to the room was “fragranced” by the rest rooms that were adjacent to it.
We put a notice in the Prague Post and our first meeting was held Sunday, October 11, 1992 at 6:00 PM. Our first service had 19 present. We chose to have an evening service, because many of those coming also wanted to go to different Czech churches in the morning. We also served sandwiches and beverages after the service. It was a great time of fellowship. We met there for about a year.
One of our regular attendees was Dr. Miloš Jokl. He taught at the engineering university which owned Bethlehem Chapel. Because of Dr. Jokl’s excellent contacts, we moved the evening service to Bethlehem Chapel. To meet in that place, with its history of blood, was a sobering experience. Every time we met there, we were reminded of the high cost many who had preceded us had paid to follow “the Truth” of which Jan Hus so eloquently spoke.
However, that was one of the most sought after meeting sites in Prague. Its acoustics were such that orchestras loved to play in there and we ran into more than a few scheduling conflicts.
After a year there, we began to have two meetings on Sunday, both a morning and evening meeting. We met at a Brethren church in the morning after they had their services and at a Baptist church in the evening. There was always something special that God had for us. Finally, we moved to the Methodist church on Ječná street where we met on Sunday afternoons. We met in the smaller of their two assembly halls. It was always a dream to expand into the larger hall. We can only praise God that now, under John’s and Kelsie’s leadership that the church has grown to that place.
(It is interesting that the larger of the two halls where the church now meets is the place where the first “Christian Conference” took place in 1988. Eighteen of the nineteen denominations that were in Czechoslovakia at the time had representatives there. As the singing and preaching went out the open windows, an office worker from across the street heard the good news of Jesus and came and prayed with someone for salvation.)
Back in the fall of 1992 John Mullen came to Prague with a Vineyard missions team to work with KSP. In the fall of 1995 we meet John Mullen on his way back from a missions trip in Siberia. After hearing his heart and spending a week together, we asked him to seek the Lord about coming to Pastor PCF. We turned the church over to David and Linda Snell (as interim pastors until John arrived) in January of 1996. David and Linda turned the church over to John and Kelsie Mullen the last Sunday of 1996 (although David remained as an elder for some time). John and Kelsie have continued to lead the church since.