First of all, I apologize for the lack of blog updates this week! I got hit with the doozy of a cold that has been making its way through our team, so I have been conserving energy after the camp days and going to bed as early as possible. Let’s do a quick recap:
The team went to the Puchov Lutheran Church on Sunday for worship, where we did our little introduction and song and Pastor David Breidenbach, executive director of EEMN, preached a sermon on John 14 and the theme of our spiritual family. After the service, we gathered for a barbecue, followed by a time of singing and prayer (pictured above). One of the members of the church shared a short sermon on faith, and Erika reflected on Ecclesiastes 3:11-14, in particular verse 11: “God has made everything beautiful in its time” (more on that later). Then we walked over to the school to set up and meet our translators.
Our camp week went by quickly! We had about 55 students in attendance, including a preschool class that was taught by a German missionary serving in Slovakia for a year. The kids enjoyed making crafts, playing sports (including water football on Thursday), and being with their teachers. If you’ve never taught an English Bible Camp before, it’s hard to imagine what classes are like. Imagine a VBS style class that includes practice with vocabulary, but with interpretation because your kids only understand about half of what you say! It’s a completely different experience and very challenging, but all our team members were rock stars.
We had free evenings on Monday and Tuesday to work on lesson plans, do laundry, and shop. Several team members got hit with a nasty virus that gave sore throats, congestion, and a horribly persistent cough. Those of us who were healthy enough took a trip on Wednesday to Kohutka, an area on the edge of the Czech-Slovak border, where we ate dinner and took a short walk with Slovak hosts, translators, and friends. Despite a little car trouble on the way up and down the hill, we all made it safely back to the hotel!
On Thursday evening we had our joint barbecue and program with the teen camp, which ended that day. We roasted sausages and marshmallows and ate and talked as much as our energy would allow.
Friday was a whirlwind of the final camp day, closing program, and quickly cleaning up classrooms before racing to the train station....only to have our train to Bratislava delayed by 30 minutes. The REAL race came about 2 hours later, though, when we had 10 minutes to run to make our connection to the train to Vienna. You haven’t really lived until you’ve run down a flight of stairs carrying a purse, a backpack, and two 50 lb suitcases in a crush of people, only to run across a hallway and up another flight of stairs. We made our train (with a few minutes to spare, even—we can hustle like nobody’s business!) and collapsed into our seats for the journey to the train station, where we were met by Pastor David in the teen camp van to help us get to our hotel. Two trips, a check in, and a late night dinner later, and we were settled in our rooms!
Today (Saturday) we met for an hour or so of small group debriefing, followed by fun team excursions. Half the group went to Schoenbrunn to tour the palace and gardens, and half the group went to Belvedere to see the art museums.
There will be a final blog post up in the next day or two with photos from our Puchov camp week and Vienna, our final “meet the team” segments, and summative thoughts from the trip!
Meet the Team: Erika & Andreas
Erika and Andreas are from Nevada. Erika is a team leader and leads music in the camps, and Andreas taught Group 2.
Meet the Team: Dan
Dan is a retired chaplain from Minnesota and taught Group 5.
Meet the Team: Bob W
Bob W is a retired pediatrician from California and taught Group 6.
On a 2012 trip to Slovakia, I encountered a Slovak I had met the previous year. When we saw each other, he stuck out his hand and said, “Nice to meet you.” I was taken aback, wondering if he didn’t remember me, until I realized that he meant “meet” in its meaning of “encounter” or “see,” rather than as part of the set phrase “nice to meet you” that native speakers reserve for initial introductions only.
If you’ve never thought about the word “meet,” you might not realize just how many shades of meaning it has. We can meet someone for the first time, or meet them accidentally in the street, or make plans to meet them at 9am for coffee. It can also mean “to touch or join” (the two roads met), “to assemble for a purpose” (the board members met) or “to fulfill or satisfy” (my needs were met).
When I thought about a title to encapsulate the Vranov camp, which ended on Friday, this idea of “many meetings” came to mind (and betrays me as a Tolkien fan, as some fellow Lord of the Rings aficionados may also recognize this as a chapter title in Fellowship of the Ring). Some of the kids and team members were here at their first-ever camp, so there have been some introductions and chances for Americans to practice their simple Slovak phrases: “Volam sa _____. (I am named ___.) Ako sa volas? (What is your name?) Tesi ma” (Nice to meet you.) Many of the kids in camp have been here before, as have many of the Americans and Slovak helpers, so there have been lots of happy reunions as well. We have had many opportunities in the evenings to join our Slovak friends for food, games, and conversation. And, as with all events, there have been plenty of planning meetings, debriefing meetings, and even more planning and replanning meetings.
Moreover, I can safely say that all of our team has also felt fulfilled or satisfied in many ways. Our food is always very filling (more potatoes than many of us are used to!), our Slovak hosts are always quick to do whatever they can to be sure we understand what’s going on or have what we need, but most importantly, we have seen God meet the needs of this area and of the kids who wanted to be at this camp by calling every one of our team members to serve on this trip.
We had 102 kids in the camp this week, and every single one of them heard the Gospel spoken by laypeople from America who know Jesus and want these kids to know Him too, in partnership with Slovaks who feel the exact same way. There is real power in that kind of relationship and shared vision, and we as a team are so grateful to have had this week here in Vranov. Although we may never know what seeds were planted or watered while we were here, we trust that the Holy Spirit is working in and through us to further His kingdom.
We arrived safely in Povazska Bystrica, a town close to our second camp location in Puchov, on Saturday. More updates about our weekend and our first days of the camp in Puchov to come!
- The Slovakia teen camp team, who begin their week of overnight camp today (check out the “Slovakia teens” tab above for their updates).
- Safe travel for Chuck and Laura, who depart back to the US from Vienna
- The church in Vranov and all of the friends we have from there
- The upcoming camp in Puchov and the children and translators who will attend
Meet the Team: Chuck and Laura
Chuck and Laura are from California and team taught together in Vranov.
What was the most surprising thing about this week of camp?
Chuck: The most surprising thing about this week was how well we integrated as a team. We moved together and covered all of the bases. And how quickly the week ended... It seems like it just started.
Laura: Well, I helped start the kids out in craft this year with Bob. For the younger groups or groups that were having some difficulty, I stayed around to help by explaining to the translators and teachers some "tips and ticks" to help their kids complete the crafts. I feel that I missed out a lot in my own class, missing chunks of English class time, so my time was split and I felt torn between my two camp positions. The kids in my class seemed to understand though and I think maybe even appreciate my efforts to help other classes and younger students as well.
What is one story you will tell people back home about this week?
Chuck: The story I will tell is how one of my students sneaked around to get a T-shirt made of me in one of my Messages t-shirts because he believed in my style of teaching.
Laura: I enjoyed working with the translators in crafts and connected well with Zusanka who assisted Bob in all the craft rotations. She was in my class last year and is now an older teen. Her mom said she almost didn't help at camp this year because she is shy but her mom encouraged her to do so. It was really a delight to see her again and work with her in crafts. I tried to make her comfortable with Bob and me. I think the responsibility of helping Bob and me and the other kids in crafts really helped her self esteem. It warms my heart to see the older kids come back to camp to help. God is at work in the hearts of those at the camp in Vranov and I love this!
Meet the Team: Crystal
Crystal and her son Timmy are from Washington, and Crystal is teaching Group 3 at both camps.
What is one story from the first week that you want to bring home with you?
At the gathering for families on Thursday night I met a parent of a former student of mine. She was hesitant at first to speak to me in English but eventually she did. She told me she was so afraid to talk to me because her English skills are not very good but was so excited that we were able to have a conversation.
What is it like to bring your son on the trip with you?
Well..... you still have mom duties on top of your mission duties but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that I’m able to share these experiences with him. His faith has grown deeper since last year on his first mission trip.
Ahoj from Vranov nad Toplou, Slovakia! We arrived here safely on Saturday afternoon and it’s currently Monday, so I’ve got some catching up to do.
On Saturday, we took a train 6 hours east from Bratislava to Kosice, the second-largest city in Slovakia. We were met there by several of our Vranov helpers and our primary host in Vranov, Dodo. After an hourlong bus ride, we settled in to our lodgings, had dinner, and spent the evening getting ice cream and doing laundry.
On Sunday, we attended worship at the Vranov Lutheran Church, our host congregation and the church conveniently located right next to our lodgings. Slovak Lutheran services include a lot of “stand up—sit down—whoops, up again,” so we definitely got our morning workout! We were also invited to introduce ourselves to the congregation and lead them in a song, after which the pastor gave us each a blessing in preparation for the week.
After church, we enjoyed a team lunch together at a local restaurant and spent the afternoon preparing for the week ahead. In the evening, we met with our Slovak interpreters and helpers, one or two in each class and a few to help with rotations and other parts of the camp.
Today, Monday, was the first day of camp. We had 97 students attend! We talked about the story of Moses as a baby and how we can trust in God when we are in danger, just as Moses was saved from danger.
Meet the Team: Timmy
Timmy is from Washington and is on his second mission trip to Slovakia.
What do you like about English Bible Camps?
Meeting new friends!
What do your friends back home think about your trips?
They miss me! I told them I’m going because of God and English.
Meet the Team: Phil
Phil is a team leader and is an English teacher back home in California.
What’s one of your favorite memories from an English Bible Camp?
One day last year during sports, I walked out to the rotation to take photos and a bunch of kids mobbed me, and we ended up in a big group hug. This memory sticks out because sometimes as a team leader, I feel like I’m more “behind the scenes,” so a little moment like this with the kids is always nice.
What’s one of your favorite Slovak candies?
Probably Bon Pari (a hard candy similar to Jolly Ranchers). It’s got more taste than sweetness to it, and they last a long time.
We are all safely arrived in Bratislava, Slovakia! Team members, luggage, good attitudes, and eye bags are all collected together here in the capital city (any photos from today will be taken at a distance!). We had a little adventure with a missed flight, a later flight, and wild midnight taxi ride, but mission trips aren’t mission trips without a few stories to tell.
It is almost 7:30am, and the team will be meeting for breakfast soon, after which we will spend the morning in orientation to Slovakia, the English Bible camps, and each other. Then we’ll spend a few hours walking around town and getting dinner before taking an early night in preparation for our travel to Vranov tomorrow.
More blog posts to come!
Erika, on behalf of the SEBC team
Our ministry partners in Slovakia are actively promoting and recruiting students to participate in the upcoming EEMN English Bible Camps! The poster (above) is being distributed all over the Púchov region, where our second week of camp will be hosted. EEMN Directors, Pastor David & Angela Breidenbach were recently in Slovakia and spent a morning at the school in Púchov to give presentations for several classes of students who are studying English and to encourage their participation in the English Bible Camp, as well as the Life & Adventure Camp for Teens. Stay tuned for more updates!
The Slovakia English Bible Camp team is hard at work preparing for our weeks of ministry in Slovakia this July. Over the past few months, we have been reading, writing, talking, studying, shopping, and planning, and soon we will move into the most "fun" stages of packing and traveling! Our team this year represents many different states:
Dan from Minnesota
Amanda from Texas
Pastor David and Angela from New Mexico
Vic, Phil, Bob H., Bob W., Chuck, and Laura from California
Erika and Andreas from Nevada
Crystal, Timmy, and Sheri from Washington
Most of the team will be arriving in Vienna on July 4 to spend 2 days in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, before traveling east to Vranov nad Toplou for our first week of camp.
While we are on our trip, we welcome any comments, words of encouragement, or devotionals that you would like to share! Words from home are always appreciated.
Here are a few choice photos from past trips to show the beauty of Slovakia that awaits us.....!