Hello from Vranov nad Topľou! The team has been here since Saturday evening, but our wi-fi access has been minimal, so there is a lot to catch up on!
On Saturday the team traveled by train from Bratislava to Kysak, where we hopped on a bus to Vranov. On Sunday morning, we participated in a very unique worship service. Team leader Phil (with team translator Lydia) gave the sermon at church on Sunday morning, focusing on the body of Christ and the different roles each of us can play in the local, national, and international church. This topic fit nicely with the announcement of the start of camp. After the sermon, we tried something brand new: we told the congregation to imagine themselves as English Bible camp students on their very first day, and we reenacted what an opening and object lesson at a camp would be like. We were concerned that such a reenactment would fall flat and that "audience participation" would be tough to get, but the congregation was open, engaged, and responsive. Normally Slovak congregations are very reserved and straight-faced, so it was encouraging to get the enthusiastic response that we did. After the team introduced themselves, the pastor called the American team up to kneel and receive a blessing while the congregation sang, and the translators came up after us and did the same. In the 5 years we have held a camp in Vranov, this was the largest reception and notice that we have received, and based on the attention paid to the camp during the service, it is clear that the pastor is invested in the work that we're doing.
On Monday morning, camp started! We had 88 kids between 6-17 years old show up to camp! We began the day with a reminder that students should encourage and support one another as they all work to improve their English, then headed off to lead classes and rotations throughout the day. Most teachers were surprised by how forthcoming and open their students were, even on the first day, and our returning teachers were grateful for the children who ran up to them and remembered them from previous years. While not diminishing the importance of witnessing to different areas, these little encounters remind us again and again how important consistency and relationship-building are. Students who are returning campers already have a foundation of trust with the American teams who come, and with the translators as well. This trust allows us to skip some of the preliminaries we might otherwise have to go through and get into deeper, more meaningful conversations sooner in the week.
-Dodo, our main contact person in Vranov, has been laid up with a tweaked back since our arrival on Saturday. Please pray for healing and freedom from pain for him, and pray also for Martin, who is serving double duty as both a classroom translators and overall organizer in Dodo's stead.
-Team member Sarah has a bruised and sore foot after smashing it against a desk, and it makes walking up and down all of our flights of stairs painful. Please pray for quick healing so that injury doesn't slow her down.
-Team member Sheri continues to struggle with back pain. Please pray that collectively we can settle on a good option to help her while we are in Vranov, as she has 2 more camps to go after this one.
-As always, please pray for the children and their openness to the Gospel.
PHIL SCHMIDT & ERIKA MECHSNER are siblings from California. When they aren't leading short-term trips to Slovakia or organizing children and youth events at their church, Calvary Lutheran, Phil is a high school English teacher and Erika is a university lecturer in composition.