I like stories that unfold slowly, instead of ones that announce themselves with horns and banners, urgent and dramatic. I prefer to discover, like a child who first hears something that delights her, how one thing is connected to others by filaments no one could see when the narrative began.
And that’s how I came to know the story of a man whose passion for the mission God has given him continues to unfold, expand, and touch even more lives.
I couldn’t see where this story pointed when I first met him two years ago on a sunny afternoon in the small village of Štětkovice, an hour south of Prague in the Czech Republic. We sat in the welcome shade of his gazebo, focusing on “macro” things: the world church; the projects needing funding; the causes to which we had committed our lives.
As our business drew to a close, Radim Passer invited me to go walking with him. There was a park on the west side of Štětkovice he wanted to show me, he said, giving no hint that this 40-hectare open space and playground was his gift to his community. Only as we walked the manicured gravel paths and greeted neighbors did Radim’s story begin to emerge.
It was true, he said, eyes studying the gravel: he had made all this—this lovely place where children laughed and couples strolled. We stopped with others to read the large, clear plexiglass tablets on which are scribed the stories of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Yes, he admitted: he had written all the text himself, and funded the construction of the gracious, rolling park in which they stand as silent witnesses to Bible truth. On the eastern margin of the Great Controversy Park, he annually preaches an evangelistic campaign in a classic white tent. There the people of this tiny town find meaning, Bible studies, and companionship.
We wandered a kilometer toward the center of Štětkovice, watching the lengthening shadows of late afternoon spill across a central pond, a small community store, a town office building, and the 60-seat Adventist church. Yes, he had built them all, he said when I pressed him for the story. Around a corner, an amazing “transportation park” lets children in toy cars practice intersections, crosswalks, stoplights, and railroad crossings. A scale train— sized perfectly for children—circles on warm summer afternoons. Beside it, a model train museum worthy of some grand urban mall comes to intricate, detailed life when a switch is thrown, when whistles sound and engines move.
I brought a film crew with me 12 months later. By then, I had read more of the story of Radim Passer’s remarkable life, and sensed there might be even more to learn. I now knew things he would have been reluctant to tell me for fear of sounding boastful. Radim and his company, PASSERINVEST, are some of the best-known names in real estate development in Central Europe. The narrative of his remarkable ascent from a loose-living, would-be football star in Communist-dominated Czechoslovakia to one of the most influential businessmen in his region is filled with moments of both heart-stopping pain and personal triumph. Penniless, he swept the streets of Prague at 24. Today his investment company owns some of those same streets on which high-rise corporate office buildings house world brands—Microsoft, UniCredit Bank, HP, and others. Undergirding all his story is a profound and moving testimony to the grace and goodness of God.
But even in the BB Centrum, the “city within a city ” business park on which he has spent 30 years of his life, surprises wait at every turn. A 160-student Adventist elementary school—with a long waiting list for enrollment—thrives in what was once a decrepit public building. Students at the adjacent Adventist middle school eat lunch in a vegetarian cafeteria some colleges would long to operate. Fountains, winding walks, and rooftop relaxation spots create a small-town feel for 15,000 employees who work in BB Centrum’s corporate offices. A vegetarian restaurant; a complete, well-equipped fitness center; an Adventist Book Center; and a neat, well-designed Adventist church are all within easy walking distance to the thousands who work there five days a week, and the hundreds who live in the business park’s apartments and condominiums.
Yes, he nods, when I press him for an answer: he built it all. “Jesus saved me,” Radim says quietly, “and I hope someone else will find Him too.” Through one of these approaches— food or fitness, education or work environment—someone might be led to seek the God who turned his life around and gave him business success beyond his furthest imagination. “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22, NRSV).*
Film crew members turn to me with gleeful stares as pieces of a story we never glimpsed come clearly into view. “This is bigger than we knew,” they murmur. “How can we tell all of this in just a one-hour documentary?” I shake my head, and pray that somewhere in those 60 minutes God will touch more hearts, inspire more witness, and bring a right-sized mission into view for all who watch.
Few will ever have the reach Radim Passer enjoys, but all will have a story they can tell. It may be written on a tablet in a park, or shared across a pew at church. It might embrace the needs of children, or be focused on the elderly too often left behind in modern haste. A meal may bring someone to Jesus. Others will discover Him in classrooms or in Sabbath Schools.
When mission multiplies, God’s church will grow. “Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47, NRSV).
The documentary we made— Radim’d—a story of loss, redemption, and giving everything to God—will be available to Adventists around the globe this month. Visit www.artvnow.com with friends to watch online: bring open hearts and handkerchiefs. Find Radim’d on your favorite Adventist media outlet, in English and with subtitles in several major languages (Portuguese, Spanish, and French). Ask leaders of your church and region for how it can be shared with those you love, with all who ask, “What can I do for Jesus?”