Now that we have settled in to our lodgings outside of Puchov and are looking toward beginning a second camp week, I can take a moment to give an update on how our week in Vranov went overall!
On Wednesday afternoon we took a trip to Bardejov, a small town just a few kilometers south of the Polish border. Bardejov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its medieval city center, open-air museum of folk homes and churches, and spa area with mineral water springs. Our translators joined us in walking through a little of the city, exploring the folk architecture, and enjoying dinner together. We always appreciate any opportunities we get to talk to our translators outside of camp, when we are all able to relax and get to know one another.
On Thursday evening we had a short presentation for children and parents in the church. We showed some photos from the week and introduced the Americans and Slovaks helping with the camp. Afterwards, we shared in a huge potluck of snacks, sweets, and s'mores with ingredients brought from the US.
Friday afternoon was our closing program. Each class performed a song or skit they had practiced throughout the week, and at the end, Slavo Slavik, the director of our host ministry here in Slovakia, gave a short sermon aimed at the parents in the audience. Normally the closing program is just about the kids, but this year he wanted to try something different, as many of the parents attending the program are not part of the church. The feedback from parents was very receptive, and we're grateful that while our goal was to reach the children and connect them with the church in Vranov, parents were also presented with the Gospel through the camp.
On Saturday morning, we jumped on a bus, then a train, to travel from Vranov to Povazska Bystrica. We settled into our lodgings and had dinner with the American team who will be leading the Slovak teen camp at the same time as the children's camp (be sure to click on "Slovakia/Bulgaria Teens '17" above to keep track of both camps during this week!).
Today, Sunday, we attended church in the nearby town of Solov, where Phil again delivered a sermon with Lydia's translation. After church, we enjoyed lunch in an outdoor garden area, went on a short hike, and headed to the school to set up classrooms and meet translators.
It is always strange to end one camp in one location and begin a new one the next week. In the same way that we will have mixed feelings to leave Slovakia and come home soon, we feel excited to be in a new place with new people but sad to leave those we have become close to. As part of the wrap-up of Vranov, here are some thoughts from a few team members about their first week of camp. More words from individual team members will be coming this week.
Mariah, Group 1: I learned to communicate with my little ones through English, Slovak, and hand gestures. It was really amazing to play a game with a student and think "I'm playing with this kid and we don't speak the same language, but we're still communicating."
Cameron, Group 3: Something that stuck out to me is instead of trying to cram several things into the children's mind, try to teach them one simple thing so that they can retain that information for the rest of their lives. Also, I'm always surprised by their generosity in hugs and small gifts.
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.