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Posts from the ‘Christianity’ Category

*Halloween, Reformation Day, and Pamiatka Zosnulých.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Halloween.  I liked it when I was seven or eight years old and it meant lots of free candy, but as I’m too old to go trick-or-treating and don’t even want to eat that much candy, it’s not a “holiday” I get excited about anymore.  That being said, Halloween is not commonly celebrated in Slovakia, and I wasn’t the slightest disappointed to miss it this year.  (Okay, okay, the costume part is kind of fun, but it’s not like anyone needs Halloween to dress up).

It turns out that Halloween isn’t the only holiday celebrated on October 31st though.  Raised Baptist, the little I know about the Reformation is what I learned in history in school, but among Lutheran churches (perhaps particularly among European Lutheran churches), Reformation Day is still celebrated each year on October 31st.  (This is the day that Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses for church reformation to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517).  So yesterday, instead of donning some sort of costume and heading to a party, I went to an evening church service with my friends Miska and Milotka.  The service was similar to a Sunday morning service in a Slovak Lutheran church and quite beautiful.  Although I often miss the praise bands and simple services that I’m used to, there is something about liturgy and ancient hymns that reflects the beauty and holiness of God in a much more profound way.

After the service, the girls introduced me to another holiday I had never experienced before, Pamiatka Zosnulych, or All Souls’ Day.  I’m familiar with the name of the holiday (the English name, at least), but I recognize it mainly as words on a calendar, not as an event or something to celebrate.  In Slovakia, this is a day to remember deceased family members, and it is often celebrated over several days.  As Milotka explained to me, it is similar to “Homecoming in America,” because family members living in different places often travel home to be with their family.  Families visit cemeteries where their relatives are buried, and cover the graves in flowers and candles.

Perhaps “graves covered in flowers and candles” doesn’t sound especially spectacular to you, but the reality of what this looks like is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.  After the Reformation Day service, Miska, Milotka and I walked to the nearby cemetery.  This did feel a little bit like Halloween, but as the idea of a dark, empty cemetery at night sounds terrifying to me, there’s no way I’d usually venture there on Halloween night!  However, the cemetery was neither dark nor empty.  Can you imagine a cemetery set on a rolling hill full of people, old and young, blanketed in candlelight?  I was amazed at how many candles there were, and how beautiful it looked!  (I really don’t think of cemeteries as pretty places, but it truly was)!  I’ve included a few pictures so you can get idea, but they really don’t capture what it looked like.

I was glad to get to experience this, and it was fun to experience a part of Slovak culture that I’d never seen before.  All in all, it was a unique “Halloween.”

*Second photo from http://subory.hnusta.sk/udaje/Objekty/obrazky/2008/cirkev/pamiatka-zosnulych-03.JPG

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*Josiah Venture 2X3 Campaign

Vodpod videos no longer available.

JV is planning a cross-country US tour to provide information about the ministry as well as to find new supporters, etc. I have no idea what JV’s connection to Washington is, but the first tour stop is here in Bellevue (Seattle area)!

I’m really looking forward to the event, and, I’m really curious to see which country has missionaries from Bellevue. My curiosity is piqued, but I guess I’ll have to wait a few more weeks to find out what it’s all about!

For more info about the tour (and to see if it’s coming to a city near you), click here.

“For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?”
-Romans 10:13-15a

*Disaster Relief.

One of my former neighbors from The Duplex in SC, Matt, does design work for Samaritan’s Purse.  He asked me to help spread the word about opportunities to help with disaster relief in the US (and beyond?).  Through Samaritan’s Purse you can sign up a team to help provide aid in the aftermath of hurricanes and similar disasters.  If you know a group that may be interested in participating in something like this, check out their website here.

*Slovakia 2008.

I just got back late Saturday night from my most recent trip to Slovakia. This year I was there for two weeks, helping out at the Prešov KECY. Prešov is a beautiful town in eastern Slovakia:

I was actually a little nervous about this camp because this was the first time I’ve ever been with Prešov before. Three of the last four years I’ve been at the Bratislava KECY; the other year I was with a small town called Lučenec, but I was in Lučenec for a month before the camp began. I felt like I was going to Slovakia for the first time all over again, since I knew so few of the Slovaks (and Americans) that would be at the camp.

In reality, however, this was one of the best KECYs I’ve been at yet. The Slovak team from the church we worked with was amazing, and the American team was great too. It was a unique camp because instead of a group of Americans coming over together from one American church, we had five small groups of Americans (two teams of interns in SK, another intern team from CZ, a couple from Tennessee, and then Bethany, Claire, and me) join together at camp.

The atmosphere was relaxed and the students were a lot of fun. I think everyone had a good experience, and there was a great turnout at the first post-KECY meeting. It was cool to be a small part of what God is doing in Slovakia. After camp and a couple of days in Prešov, Bethany, Claire, and I traveled to Žilina and Bratislava to visit friends in those cities. We also spent an evening in Vienna before our flight left the next morning.

All in all, this was a really nice trip- it was good to have a short break from work. I’ll post pictures soon.

Church.

Visiting new churches by yourself is not a lot of fun.  People are always really nice, but, in my experience, after the standard “Hi, how are you?” the conversations often end, leaving you to sit by just another stranger.  (A nice stranger, but still a stranger).  I’m sure Jesus didn’t intend for this to be the experience that first-time visitors to a church have, but, I’ll just chalk this one up to human nature.

That being said, I visited my fourth church in Seattle this morning, and had a totally different experience.  (Thank God, literally).  I visited a church in NE Bellevue called Blue Sky Church.  I had found the church on the Internet over the summer like several of the other churches I visited, but got tired of visiting a new church each week before I had a chance to try this one.  (I visited several churches quickly when I first got here, sometimes going to more than one service a day so I could visit more).  Anyway, last night I decided I didn’t want to go to church today at the one I had been going to, so I decided to visit Blue Sky after all.

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I walked into the church lobby and immediately a lady walked up to me and introduced herself.  (She wasn’t even an official greeter).  She asked me if it was my first time here, and when I said yes, she offered to introduce me to some people and show me around.  She showed me where I could get coffee and a croissant, introduced me to several of her friends and the pastor’s wife, and invited me to sit with her during the service.  She showed me where the information for weekly Bible studies were and even tried to find a couple of the leaders who had studies during times I could attend.  After the service she invited me to stay for the church’s 3rd Anniversary party.

The worship and the sermon at this church were both good; the worship and sermons at other churches I’ve visited, however, have also been good.  I’m pretty sure that next week though, I’ll be going back to Blue Sky.  It seems like a long time since I’ve been new at a church (freshman year of college); now that I know what it’s like to visit churches alone, you can believe that once I’m settled in here, I’ll always be on the lookout for new visitors who have shown up alone!

Greetings from the other side of the Atlantic!

Hello from Vienna! It’s hard to believe that I’ve already spent two weeks in Slovakia and left. The Shandon group flew out of Vienna early yesterday morning and I took a train to Linz, Austria to meet Carla. We’ve been together since yesterday afternoon and spent today relaxing in Vienna. Tomorrow morning we’ll hop on a train and head to Budapest.

Camp in Slovakia this year was great, other than one small “detail”: a virus was going around Slovakia and Czech, and it hit our camp hard. At least half of the people there felt bad at one time or another; I was sick for about four days, spending half of each day in bed and the other half convincing myself that I felt well enough to hang out. (And I normally did feel fine by bed time, only to wake up the next morning feeling worse than I had the day before)!

I don’t have a whole lot of time to write about camp now, but hopefully I will be able to write more soon. I’ll leave you with some pictures from camp and Vienna:

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Team Building in Zilina.

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Students relaxing at KECY.

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The girls on my sports team.

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My English group.

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Lenka and I got to know each other well while we were lying sick in beds across from each other.
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Toni can’t jump 😉

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Me and Baka at Aupark in Bratislava after camp.

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St. Stephens in Vienna.

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Vienna.

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Electronic Polaroids in Quartiere 21 in the Museum Quartiere in Vienna.

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These kept us entertained for a while!
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…and walking down the street with a beer just because I could 0:)

Three Weeks, and Counting.

Three weeks from today I’ll be in an airplane somewhere over the Atlantic headed towards Slovakia. If you know me, you know that Slovakia is one of my favorite places on the face of the earth; however, if you happen to be reading this and don’t know me, I’ll explain briefly.

The college ministry at my church here in Columbia sends a group of students to Slovakia every summer to work alongside a Slovak church and its youth group to hold an English camp for high school students. The camp is always a week long and located somewhere in the beautiful mountains of Slovakia. I have gone on this trip each summer of college, for as short as ten days and as long as ten weeks. This summer marks my fifth trip to Slovakia, fourth time at camp, and I can’t wait to be there!

This year I’m not just going on the trip, but am co-leading it with my friend Robby. (Robby also just graduated and this will be his fifth trip to Slovakia too). Robby just got back from spending about three weeks in Slovakia on a post-graduation trip, so we met this afternoon for him to fill me in on some camp details and to finalize more of our plans. Every time we get together to talk about the trip I get even more excited than I already am!

I think this year’s camp could very possibly be the best year ever. Our team is great, the Slovak team is even more amazing, and everyone involved seems super excited and dedicated. During the summer of 2005 Robby and I spent ten weeks in Slovakia as interns with Josiah Venture, the ministry that we work with each summer who helps to put on the camps. Two other girls from our church (Laura and Heather) were interns that summer too. Laura moved to Slovakia in February and will be one of the camp directors this year. All three of us (Laura, Robby, and I) will be speaking this year during the evening programs.

During the next three weeks we have a lot to do. There are supplies to buy, activities to plan, and details to work out, but I have no doubt that all of this will get done. I just hope everything we have to do will make these weeks fly by! If you think about it, please remember me, Robby, our team, and all of our Slovak friends in your prayers as we prepare- and don’t worry, there are sure to be plenty of pictures and stories posted on here at the end of the summer!