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Month: October 2007

October came so Fast

October came so Fast

DSCN0308.JPG
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia. I can’t believe it is already October.

I want to again thank all of you who have and continue to support me through prayer. It helps to know that we are together in the Lord despite however far apart we may be. Please continue to pray for me and the other young adult volunteers around the world.

I have been writing some other updates on this Blog and I also have many more pictures available at http://flickr.com/photos/themoltron

Having been in Vrbovce for about 2 months, I am starting to become familiar with the people and customs. I feel like I have a place in the village.
Here is a small list of things I enjoy about living in Vrbovce.
– Seeing many of the same faces all the time
– The music and announcements over the village loudspeaker system 3 or 4 times a day
– When ever you are invited anywhere you will have some Slivovica (Plum Brandy)
– Delivering lunches to the old ladies most everyday in the old car
– The made up language I have with the other volunteers. Oliver and Flo, a mixture of Slovak, German and English

As I struggle with learning the language one word that I keep hearing and repeating in my head is “Pomaly” or slowly/gently. The word has made me think a lot about how I think about and do things. We all have a tendency to want things fast and in a hurry. I am enjoying the slower pace of life and learning how to enjoy the small moments and experiences. I am learning to spend time with people, listen even if I don’t understand very much and take things as they come instead of trying to stick to a schedule. I am reminded of one occasion when Oliver, Flo and I were on our way to the school to eat lunch when one of the neighbors needed some help. So we stopped and helped her haul several bags of potatoes. It was a rather small favor. She then invited us for Kava (coffee). Not being masters of the language we couldn’t politely say we had to go eat lunch at the school. So we had coffee, which then turned into lunch. I am often overwhelmed by such kind and random hospitality. I can see Christ reflected in the small things, like being invited for coffee and it turning into lunch when we didn’t even do very much to deserve it. This is only one of many such stories.

I have never been a huge fan of wearing sweaters. As the weather gets colder I am finding the layer system quite wonderful, which often includes sweaters. One of the big things in Vrbovce is the Cultural Hall. Every village in Slovakia has one. The one in Vrbovce is rather run down and is right now being used for storage of the many things donated from Germany or other parts of Europe. These items include useless medical equipment, beds, furniture, lights, and clothes. We are often asked to move things or thrown things away as the process of cleaning up and renovating the culture hall is starting to take place. The villagers are appreciative of any work that we do and often give us cookies, cakes or Slivovica. Many fun times have been had looking at old junk and sometimes taking things for our own use. One time we made an imaginary car from some old junk and proceeded to make fun of our daily lunch run. Many things are rather ridiculous but, a warm sweater is a warm sweater and a nice couch is a nice couch. I look forward to helping in the renovation process and seeing what will happen.

As part of getting to know the culture I have joined the local futball team (soccer in the US), We practice once or twice a week and I have made many friends and I am getting to know and use the language. I am not that greatest at futball but, the rest of the players appreciate my efforts and we often joke about it. I have enjoyed the exercise as well as the opportunity to have a more active part in village life. I also sing in the Choir, which has been a very much enjoyable language lesson. I may not understand all I’m singing but I’m learning to pronounce it correctly. We sang one of the songs we have been practicing during the birthday of the church, “Mam Velkeho Moceneho Krala” which means …I Have A Great Mighty King

I teach once a week at the local school where I assist with 2 English classes and I am teaching some of the local village youth how to play drum set. Both have been an interesting experience. I am struggling to understand and communicate with the children but I am understanding and speaking more everyday. Many of the kids try to joke around with me and are interested mostly in learning “Dirty Verbs” as they call them. I try my best to teach them proper and clean English.

There are 3 girls, Monika, Dominika and Veronika (they happen to be triplets) who on occasion spend some time tutoring me and the 2 other Germans volunteers in Slovak. It has been nice making new friends and learning to have more detailed conversations in the process. I have made 2 observations in regards to dealing with the village kids. 1) All kids are the same: Silly, Loud and Mischievous 2) Simple is always better

One weekend Vrbovce had its annual Jarmok (Market). The center of town was filled with many people and vendors were selling things on the streets. Clothing, Food, Handicrafts, etc. I saw many familiar faces from the school and from church. The night before we had decorated cookies with the youth group which were sold at the market. I had the opportunity to buy some raffle tickets from the school. I didn’t win anything but; standing in the cold weather surrounded by tons of people listening for my number to be called in Slovak was exciting.

I look forward to sharing many more stories with you as the year unfolds.

One of the things I have been asked to write about is how I see my role as a Missionary. I have been reading some essays by a theologian Thomas Morten. I have found a quote that I think sums of what mission is:

“Christ has planted in the world the seeds of something altogether new, but they do not grow by themselves. Hence history has never yet really had a chance to become a Christian creation. For the world to be changed, man himself must begin to change it, he must take the initiative, he must step forth and make a new kind of history. The change begins within himself.” Thomas Merton

As much as we want to change the world we must first let Christ transform us. God has chosen US to be a part of global transformation. It isn’t easy; it is never easy to change. Christ’s ultimate goal is that hearts are transformed by his grace. We start by learning to really love others and ourselves as Christ loved.

I am here in Slovakia not to change the people around me but, to let Christ change me so that his love may be shown to those for whom I am called to witness.

“This is real Love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But, if we love each other, God lives in us and his love has been brought to full expression through us.” 1 John 4:10-12

Learning to Be Loved and To Love. Learning to see Christ in others and ourselves. Dying to sin and being Raised again to Live in God’s Mercy. That is what we are called to as Christians. That is our Mission.

God’s unbounded love be with you.

Your Fellow Servant and Brother in Christ
Serving in Slovakia

Mark Molter

Culture Shock!!! Part 2: Language Barrier

Culture Shock!!! Part 2: Language Barrier

Shocked - as only a muppet can be.
Shocked Muppet
Originally uploaded by MegaGoosey.

So here is part 2 of an ongoing series about Culture Shock!!! In this particular entry I would like to address the Language Barrier issue.

The Language spoken in Slovakia is Slovak. During my first 3 weeks in country I spend 2 weeks in the village of Velky Slavkov studying Slovak. I learned a lot about conjugating verbs and declining nouns (which is very difficult if you’ve never done it before.) The course was very fast passed and I thought that I would be able to pick-up enough to get by. This was not the case. I found when I arrived in my village that I was back to square one. Simple phrases that I thought I’d be able to understand or speak we’re difficult.

Much of learning a language is based on context. I am learning new words everyday and forgetting them just as fast. It is a lot to absorb and it takes real effort and practice to get the basics. With a new language I am finding that I do more listening than talking. I can usually pick-up a small fraction of a conversation based on body language and expression. Being is this context my language skills are reduced to that of a child. I feel like I should be understanding some of the simplest things. It is difficult to have in-depth conversations, which is frustrating for me. I am meeting many members of the village from Children to Older Adults who are fascinating. I only wish every-time I see them that I could understand and communicate with them better.

One of the most difficult things for me to deal in regards to the language barrier is participation in Church. I am very fond of liturgy and music, I find the many words and phrases help me to understand and worship God. It is difficult to participate in something such as worship without really knowing what is being said or what I am singing. I often zone out because paying attention when someone is speaking and you have no idea what they are saying is difficult. (The average Slovak 2 hour church service is daunting enough). I have this intense desire to understand but, there is no magic pill or formula to solve the problem. Only time and study will help.

I look at this difficulty as a challenge and opportunity to expand my faith. I can only imagine what it was like for the early church trying to assemble a fledgling faith in a time and area when they were vast amounts of languages and cultures. The thing that gives me hope is that despite this challenge God send his spirit to help break the barrier. We read in the very first part of Acts how the holy spirit descended upon the apostles so they could speak in many languages. I am confident that despite my lack of Slovak language skills God will give me his grace, patience and understanding to eventually understand share the Good News.

So ends Part 2…Check back later for Part 3

The joys of playing with Junk

The joys of playing with Junk

Car Ride
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Hello, this is will be a quick post.

Recently Flor and Oliver (the germans living with me) and I were getting rid of a lot of junk around the parish. They were having thier once a year large garbage pick-up in Vrbovce. We came across some stuff and we got bored. So we made this pretend car to pass the time. It was very funny and I felt like a kid again.

Here is the link for all the pictures I took
http://www.flickr.com/photos/themoltron/sets/72157602497904053/

Culture Shock!!! Part 1: Distraction

Culture Shock!!! Part 1: Distraction

What could it be that is shocking this man?

Shocked
Originally uploaded by liber.

As my time in Slovakia grows with every passing minute, I would like to share with you some of the things that are happening related to Culture Shock!!!
I am hoping to make this an ongoing series of entries. So I guess this would be “Culture Shock!!! Part 1”

Culture shock by definition “is the feeling of disorientation when someone is suddenly subjected to to unfamiliar culture, way of life or set if attitudes”- Oxford American Dictionary. Needless to say I am feeling a little disoriented. I have been in Slovakia for about 6 weeks. I am still getting used to the language and to life in a small village but, I am enjoying my time. There are of course times when I ask myself “Why am I here?” or “How much longer is this year going to last?”

When you are in a somewhat disorienting experience such as Culture Shock, you tend to cling to the things you are familiar and comfortable with. These for me have been Books and Television. I brought many books and several episodes of my favorite TV shows on my computer. These can be blessings when you use them occasionally and in moderation. For me though I have been finding myself going beyond moderation and into mild obsession. I don’t spend all my time reading or watching TV but, I am missing many opportunities. When I think about what I’m doing, I realize that I am not using my time to study the Slovak language or to spend time getting to know the people I am living with. I am escaping from my reality to be in a familiar one. So, I realize I have a problem. And the old saying, “The first step toward recovery is recognizing you have a problem.” is starting to ring clear in my head. It also helps that during ELCA missionary training they drove many of the culture shock symptoms into our heads.

In many ways I am distracting myself and refusing to answer the many question I have for myself. “What exactly is my mission?”, “How can I be more effective in demonstrating the Gospel when I am a fish of water?” The more I ask these questions, the more I am realize I am dependent upon God’s grace for any glimmer of an answer. I am challenged to receive the hope He gives and learn how to share it ways that seem foreign, frustrating, and without immediate results. And of course this reminds me of one of many words I am learning in Slovakia, “pomaly” or gentle/slow. Learning to do things slowly with patients and focus. What can be more true, God’s grace is an amazing gift, we sometimes distract ourselves from it because we just are not feeling it, or feel like we don’t understand it right away, or because God’s grace can seem so distant and foreign to us. We must learn to be gentle and patient in understanding God’s grace. It is something we must remind ourselves of and learn to how to live by everyday.

In the end and by God’s grace I can put down my books and turn off my computer to take the opportunities He has given.
In the words of Saint Francis “Always Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” It is hard to do that alone in your room.

On the brighter side of things. The more time I spend in Slovakia the more I see the similarities. I can drive down a road in the Slovak hillside and see cows in a field and it looks very similar to many fields I’ve seen in my home state of Virginia. I can teach and play with kids and realize they act the same way in any culture or language setting. It is a blessing to realize they God’s in control. Despite that fact that I’m in a different culture and far away from home God is in the details. He is in a laugh that sounds the same whether it in the US or Slovakia or in the green grass in Slovakia that looks so much look a hillside somewhere in Virginia.

So Ends Part 1…Check back later for Part 2