Greetings from Vranov nad Toplou, Slovakia! The team is finishing up their final preparations before our first day of our first camp tomorrow.
Our adventures as a team started on Thursday evening as we huddled together on a packed bus on the Vienna airpot tarmac waiting for hail to stop before we could be transported safely into the airport. If "neither snow, nor rain" can stop the US Postal service, it definitely didn't stop us (or our luggage, which thankfully all arrived safely as well)! We caught a bus from the Vienna airport that took us across the border to Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia), then after some taxi and tram travel, finally were able to collapse into our beds around midnight.
On Friday we spent the morning in team orientation, getting to know one another better and reflecting on the trip ahead of us. We enjoyed a ferry ride on the Danube river to Devin castle, where we clambered up and down stairs and trekked up hills to explore the ruins of this castle that was mentioned as early as 864 (read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dev%C3%ADn_Castle). That evening we had dinner out together and turned in early.
Saturday morning we hopped on a train to eastern Slovakia for our first camp location. The train ride took most of the day, and the team got to go through the age-old team building exercise of hauling 30 suitcases off a train in a matter of minutes. We were met at the train station by some of our Slovak translators and hosts, who helped us get ourselves and our luggage to our lodgings. We were also met by Crystal, Timmy, David, and Angela, who flew in that day (with their own tales of travel woes) after wrapping up camps in Latvia.
Today (Sunday) started with a worship service at the Lutheran Church in Vranov, which is located right next to our lodgings (which are in the school that we use for the camp--convenience all around!). Pastor David Breidenbach, director of EEMN, preached the sermon, team leader Phil Schmidt and team translator Lydia gave a demo of an opening-camp-day skit, and the rest of the team introduced themselves and received a blessing from the pastor. We enjoyed a long and leisurely lunch together before getting down to the real business this afternoon and evening: setting up classrooms, meeting classroom interpreters, and setting up for sports, crafts, and music.
One of the major themes that came out of our team meeting on Friday was the long-lasting impact that these camps can have. Veteran team members all have stories of how participating on a team in the past influenced other parts of their own lives in some way, and we heard some stories of previous students and translators mentioning how meaningful single conversations or interactions were to them years earlier. Our hope and prayer is that through our sharing of the Gospel this week, there will be ripple effects throughout the lives of everyone involved that extend far beyond the time we are here.
Meet the Team: Phil Schmidt, Erika Mechsner, Andreas Mechsner
On each post, different team members will be highlighted. Many of our prayer support partners know only certain members of our team, so this is a chance for you to get to know everyone in the photos you'll be seeing!
Co-team leader Phil has been coming to Slovakia since 2009, first as a team member and then as team leader. He takes most of the photos you'll be seeing during the camp day and also jumps in to assist, sub, or help out wherever needed. During the rest of the year, he teaches high school English to juniors and seniors. Erika, his sister and other co-team leader, has also been coming to Slovakia since 2009. During the camp day, she assists with music and writes these blog updates (sometimes in an awkward 3rd person voice like right now), and in "regular life" teaches first-year composition at the college level. Her husband Andreas is in Slovakia for the first time this year and will be teaching Group 3. Andreas is a graduate student who will be beginning a PhD program in Rhetoric and Composition this fall.
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.