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Year: 2008

Chicago Here I come!!!

Chicago Here I come!!!

Foggy night in Chicago

Foggy Chicago @ Chicago & Michigan Ave.
Originally uploaded by doug.siefken.

So here is an update… As you may or may not know I’m moving to Chicago. It is sorta a last minute thing although, I’ve been thinking about it for awhile. The fact is that I just need to get out on my own.

I love my parents and I like being home but I need a change of geography. I tend to procrastinate and feel unmotivated when I’m home.

So why Chicago? At the moment Chicago is where I know the most people. So in the next week I’m gonna look for an apartment then go home pack, Go to thanksgiving with family and hopefully be in Chicago for good in December. As for work still working on that. I have some leads and hopefully the economy bucks up and smiles upon good ol’ me. God has a plan I just need to get off my ass and do something about it. I’ll give an update when I sorta settled. ?au for now!!!

Last Newsletter from Slovakia…for now?

Last Newsletter from Slovakia…for now?

Last Photo in Vrbovce before I said Goodbye

Last Goodbye
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia.

I apologize for such a long delay in my newsletter. A lot happened in June, July and August. Summer is a season where more than just the temperature and daily routines change. It has gotten warmer and my usual routine is being replaced by many summer activities. I had my final seminar, done some traveling, finished teaching English in the school, and helped with youth camps. It was rather exciting and at the same time realizing that my time is quickly coming to an end faster than I wanted. And then my leaving came and went. As I reflect on this past year, I have lasting memories of places and people I will never forget.

I also have many more pictures available at
http://flickr.com/photos/themoltron

In the beginning of June I had my final seminar with all my fellow Volunteers in Slovakia. It was fun and didn’t quite feel like we were leaving. We had enjoyed our time sharing memories and frustrations. We shared pictures and experiences and realized each of had a unique story to tell.

After the seminar a few of us took a trip to Prague, Czech Republic. What a beautiful city. It is a mix of old and modern. It quite crowded in places. The Prague castle with its huge cathedral in the center was inspiring. We were there for only for a few short days and there was more than we could take in. We arrived around the time of the European Cup for Soccer. So it was great seeing all the football fans throughout the city. I took a night train from Prague to arrive in my village so I could attend a gathering of all the Church choirs in the district, despite my tiredness I enjoyed the celebration of music and faith and seeing many friends from other parishes.

After this I spent some time working various projects we had started and not completed and preparing for the next big adventure Camp. The pastor in Vrbovce owns a small Cabin or Chata in Kova?ova. It is near several spas and water amusement centers. This particular camp was for adults learning English or German. It was a fun experience. It was nice for a change to have students who were eager and interested in learning and speaking English. It was a challeng trying to teach a moment because my mind would be thinking in Slovak so I would switch words randomly. For example Once upon a time because Once upon a ?as. Of course I had some help from the lovely vicar Zorka. I didn’t spend all my time teaching. We enjoy going to the pool and spa. On the last time we went to see an Opera in Zvolen. The entire week was a great experience and I made many new friends.

Upon my return from camp I had to prepare a short sermon to present to the church in Slovak non the less. With alittle help translating from Zorka I gave a simple lesson on love, how the simple things make all the difference. How through people opening their homes and hearts I have learned to accept grace. I stumbled through some of the words but, everyone was thrilled.

My parents came to visit me in July. I was wonderful for them to see, hear and meet all the people and things I have been sharing about this past year in person. We spent time in Bratislava and in my village, Vrbovce. Most of the people who met my parents commented on how young they look. They stayed with one of my favorite people who was a like my slovak grandmother Kristina. We took some time to explore the hills around the region and visited a few castles. We then spent a few days in Vienna. I think most slovaks assume americans are fat and wrinkly. My parents thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

I spent two weeks at Kova?ova again this time with Youth. The ages ranged from 4 to about 16. It was difficult at times to control such a diverse group. Luckily I was alone. There were about 3 students from the Seminary in Bratislava there. They were a fantastic group mainly because their slovak was much better than mine. We sang song, played games, went to the pool. At the end of the week they had a special festival where all the kids got to wear a costume. Some kids brought theirs, the cabin a a box full and other made their . Many of the costumes were rather creative. I chose to be a Mexican Merichi and I sang La Bamba. They got a kick out of that. Camps in Slovakia are less structured than they are in the US. But, we weren’t lacking in Fun.

After camp I spent time packing and reflecting about my time in Slovakia. My time here has changed me. It has opened by eyes to a variety of things. To how to the world works and a desire for a simpler life. A desire what is important. I have learned to worship and hear God’s voice in new ways.

On my last night in Vrbovce we had a small going away party. It was fun to just sit around and share stories. Saying Goodbye was difficult but, it had to be done. The following day I left with my friend Oliver to spend some time in German with his family before I headed home. Miroslav(the pastor) gave me a bottle of Slivovica for my future wedding.(we’ll see about that one). I said my goodbyes and I left for Germany. In Germany I traveled to Wittenburg and saw the Luther house and then to Liepzig and saw St. Thomas church where Bach was cantor. They both we spectacular. I was only there for 2 days and then I caught my plan to the US from Berlin.
I had a stop in Frankfurt, I almost got bumped from my flight but, at the last minute they gave me business class. Needless so say they 8 hours over the Atlantic were bliss.

I’m currently working for the ELCA Global Mission until mid November as a Short-term recruiter. I will be promoting the many vocational opportunties Global Mission has to offer and sharing my experience. It will be a great experience. I spent a few days at home and then headed off to Chicago for 2 weeks. I got to help orient the new volunteers in the YAGM program and make contacts for my recruiting position. So now here I am at another chapter in my life. I am just now starting to adjust to being back in the US.

The hard part of living in another culture is coming back to your own with new eyes. One of the first things I noticed was the vast amount of choice. 14 different kinds of ketchup…what for? I was sorting through the boxes of things I had packed before I left a year ago. Half of it I don’t need. I had lived for a year with two large suitcases of stuff. Why do I need more. I’m sure I’ll discover more things as I continue this strange new journey in a familiar land.

A part of me is still in Slovakia. I’m adjusting to what was once normal but, seems alittle foreign right now. I’m straining to hear Slovak at every corner just because I’ve grown to love this once alien langauge. I grown to love the people hear as family and I think of them often and I can see them again. I’m hungry for things I didn’t even know existed before like Halušky and knedla (potatoe dumpling noodles and Dumplings). So this now is a new faith journey, Learning how to take my experience share it and continue learning from it.

Thank you all for your Prayers, that have helped me in ways that I’m not even sure I’m aware of yet.

God’s Blessings and Peace be with you,
? Christ’s Servant in Slovakia

Mark Molter

May Newsletter

May Newsletter

How beautiful we all are in our Kroj

Naše Kaplanka
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia.

My May has been quite interesting. I saw the Maj Strom go up, Confirmation, Sväty Duch and had opportunities to travel. My time here is getting closer to when I return and it seems like every week is flying by faster and faster. I’m starting to realize that I will be going home and what that means for me.

I also have many more pictures available at
http://flickr.com/photos/themoltron

On the First of May, the village had a huge celebration and erected a Maj Strom or May Tree…basically a big pole with a small tree on top. It stays up during the whole month. It was great seeing all the familiar faces and sounds in the village. Pan Gavornik, who takes pictures of everything, the kids from school running around crazy, the small brass ensemble playing classic Slovak tunes and the pleasant sound of laughter.

That Sunday we had Confirmation Sunday. Confirmation is considered a huge deal, a rite of passage for many of the youth. The Service was packed and the confirmands were dressed in their finest. The Girls in stunning white dresses and the Boys in suits. For many this is the first time I’ve seen them in something other than jeans and a t-shirt. Family members from all over came for this special occasion. Each confirmand was called up to the altar and given a blessing from the Pastor. Ve?era Pánova (Communion) is only given a few times a year and this was one of those occasions. I was asked to help which I felt honored. It took about half an hour because there were so many people. The Service itself was beautiful and it took a little longer because of all the pomp and circumstance.

Afterward I had some reflections about my own Confirmation. Is it just something that people do and just go through the motions? It is a hard thing to determine, I can’t see people hearts. The week before confirmation the confirmands were asked to answers questions about their faith. The answers they gave were from a textbook. I can remember during my confirmation learning answers to questions just because I had to know them. I not sure I was any different. There are many things that point the way and help us to wrap our heads around Faith but Faith isn’t found in a textbook. It is found when our hearts meet God’s. I think this is one of the greatest struggle our church faces. That we think faith can be distilled down to the right answers.

The Next Sunday was Sväty Duch Nedela or Holy Spirit Sunday. The Pastor asked everyone in the village to wear Kroj (the traditional Slovak folk Costume, each village has a slightly different costume). Flo and I spend the day before walking around the village trying to find Kroj for us to wear. What an experience. Apparently not many men wear kroj so only a few people had things we could use. We walked from house to house. Everybody told us of someone else who maybe had something. In process we were given our fill of kola?ky(cookies), Obed(lunch) and Kava(coffee). We were blessed so much from the hospitality. After being stuffed full of food and conversation we were able to find everything we needed. So on Sväty Duch we wore Kroj and were like real Slovaks for a day.

After all these events I took some much needed time for travel. My first stop was in Budapest with some of the other Volunteers in Slovakia. Budapest is such a beautiful city. There are times I’m traveling that I’m in disbelief of where I am. You hear and see things about cities like Budapest and when you get there it is a little surreal. Many of the sites we like being in a movie or fairy tale. We visited many interesting places and were lucky enough to be there when they had a folk festival going on at the National History Museum. I was wonderful to see, hear and experience some of the native culture. Of course when you’re in Hungary you have to eat Hungarian Goulash, which by the way is amazing. Hungary being so close to Slovakia you would think the language would be similar but, No. Very different indeed. Apparently it is related to Norse and Icelandic languages.

Then I headed off to London. Being in Slovakia and not being around very many native English speakers for quite a while, arriving is London interesting. I couldn’t help listening in on people’s conversations just because I could understand them. It also made me realize just how much I will miss speaking Slovak and that my time there will soon be coming to a conclusion. In London I met up with one of the other YAGM volunteers Eric who is living in a neighborhood of London called Camden. I arrived on Corpus Christi, so I was able to celebrate a traditional Church of England mass. Smell and Bells as they call it. Incense and lots of ringing bells. In some ways it felt like being home worshipping in English. I also made me realize how much of our worship traditions come from England. I traveled all around London visiting Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Piccadilly Circus. I even traveled to Greenwich Village and stood across the Prime Meridian.

As Much as I wish I could assimilate myself into this strange and now somewhat familiar culture. I am constantly being reminded that I am and always will be a foreigner. Sometimes I’ll try to say something in my best Slovak and people don’t understand. Why Slovaks don’t grasp the concept of a coffee machine or when they don’t understand No!!! When you say you’ve had enough food. I will never understand but I love them for it anyway. We are all like foreigners trying to make sense of our environment based on previous experiences, expectations and values. How does God shape our experiences, expectations and values? How does our own culture shape our Faith? I’m still trying to figure that out. I have grown from my experience here, seeing how others see and worship God in a completely different context than I’m used to. It has given me a larger view of God and a different lens to see the influences my home culture has on my faith.

Lord,
Open are eyes to really see the influences on our Life and Faith
Shape our lives with your Presence
Give us Compassion for understanding
Help us to makes sense of what it means to be a Christian in today’s world
Amen

God’s Blessings and Peace be with you,
? Christ’s Servant in Slovakia

Mark Molter

A VERY VERY LATE APRIL NEWSLETTER

A VERY VERY LATE APRIL NEWSLETTER


VRBOVCE CHURCH & FLOWERS
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia.

Well April has arrived quickly. Spring has arrived. What an experience to see Life coming back into the surrounding hills. Green leaves and flowers of every color. It has been so much fun seeing kids playing outside. Sometimes after-school I play soccer or hockey ball with the kids. It is nice getting to know some of my students when I don’t have to teach them English. I am meeting new people and getting to know friends better. I’ve celebrated name days and birthdays. I’ve started to call this once completely foreign place home. And in that there is something significant.

I also have many more pictures available at http://flickr.com/photos/themoltron

Spring in my Village has to be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. All the houses have flowers and the hills surrounding the village are filled with green and yellow pastures. The trees have blossoms and will soon bear fruit. Almost every house has a Slivka or Plum tree.

In the Slovak Culture there is a name celebrated on everyday and mine was on April 25th, Marek. The name day or Menniny is celebrated like a small birthday. You receive little gifts, cards and blessings from everyone. I had a fantastic day. It was also great seeing the kids in the Village named Marek too and we celebrated together.

Another small event that was really enjoyable was Pan Zigmund’s Birthday or Narodenniny. We celebrated at Spevakol or Choir Practice. He brought his Accordion and we played and sang a bunch of traditional Slovak songs. It was amazing. I’m not sure how old Pan Zigmund is but he is so young at heart. He is one my favorite people in the Village. He, the other volunteer Oli and I keep the bass section of the Choir going.

I’m not sure of what else to share this month other than with what I am struggling with internally. I’m realizing how close it is getting to the time I will be leaving. It seems like the weeks get faster and faster. In one sense I’m glad to be going home but now I’m just starting to get to know people and grasp the language. I feel like my heart and my head are often in several places. In some small way I’m starting to grieve leaving. The people, the language and this place have become a part of me. My return home will be another journey all together.

I’m starting to get to know people more and I wish I’d had these opportunities earlier. I’m trying to value every moment I have to speak Slovak and these people who are now part of my life. There are other moments when I think these people are crazy but, then a kid says something funny or one of the old ladies tells me I need to find a Slovak girl and then I’ll learn perfect Slovak. It is strange to think at the beginning of my journey here, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I still not sure. I am different person. Not only because I’ve gotten used to the Slovak Culture and Language but also, because God has molded my heart to be a little more like Jesus in some small way. I’ve learned to see people through eyes love. It is said if you climb the hill of struggle you suddenly find, the hill you thought was so hard to climb has become a blessing. A new favorite song of mine by Sanctus Real describes how I am feeling and how important it is walk this journey with God is

“Whatever You’re doing inside of me,
It feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace,
It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see,
But I’m giving in to something heavenly…”

The Biggest struggle for me is not knowing what I am going to do next. I feel torn between home and this new place I call home. Will I come back? Will I not? Will I forget the Slovak I learned? Will these people remember me? Will I remember them? These are all really tough questions that only God knows the answers to. So as I struggle, I’m learning what trust is and embracing my fears about the future. If you expect to share the Gospel and not be changed yourself then you are not sharing the Gospel. If God is love then the Gospel is Love. Love can be painful sometimes. God has a habit of turning people’s lives upside-down. It has already since I’ve arrived in Slovakia. I’m not so sure I want it to happen again. On the other hand God’s journey are always the most exciting. If I could have one wish for all of you it would be that you would trust God and let him turn your life upside-down a little. That is when you experience the Gospel.

Please continue to pray for me and the other Volunteers around the world.

Lord,
Love is a crazy thing,
It is Joyful and Painful,
Help us to embrace the unknown,
Help us to realize that life changes,
Give us peace about the future,
Shack up our Lives a little,
That we may live for you and not by Fear.

Amen

God’s Blessings and Peace be with you,
? Christ’s Servant in Slovakia

Mark Molter

Slovak Easter

Slovak Easter

Timeline of the Passion week done by slovak youth group in Vrbovce

Slovak Easter
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia.

Well here is my March Update. My March was spent mostly in preparation for Easter or Velka Noc. I was great to experience some of the very unique customs and celebrations. March was also filled with many guests and fun.

I have many more pictures available at http://flickr.com/photos/themoltron

I have continued to teach English in school. I find it one of the most challenging things I do here. I try to plan exciting and interesting lessons but every week it is a gamble. Sometimes they seem interested and other times not. As my Slovak is getting better it makes teaching more difficult because they don’t want to speak English. Despite this frustration I keep trying, they are learning probably more than I think. I have also been teaching drum lessons to several of the kids. This is also a challenge because sometimes they kids show up and sometimes they don’t. I have to remind them to come often. When they do show up I enjoy it.

The weeks leading up to Velka Noc were a fun time in youth group. We took the time to read the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. We then made an illustrated timeline. It was amazing how many things we forget. We sometimes think we are familiar with story of Easter that we forget to remind ourselves of the details. It took us 2 weeks to read, draw and discuss the events. For me, it helped to get a better picture of the passion of Christ and just how great Christ’s love is for us. I can only hope that the youth somehow got as much out of it as I did.

Good Friday or Velky Piatok was a big service. We had about 400 people at the service. The church was packed. I sang with the choir and heard the kids’ choir sing. They had the brass ensemble perform and some people play guitar. It was fantastic. Communion is served only at larger events and significant times during the church year. It took about an hour for everyone to receive it.

The Saturday of Velka Noc, or Biela Sabotu, we had more youth than usual. Mostly from young people returning from school for the holiday. We played a quiz game about the events of the Resurrection and immediately after. With questions like, how many times did Jesus appear to his followers after his death? How many people saw Jesus Alive? The answers aren’t simple and it sparked some lively debate and thorough searching of the bible for answers. From what I have found Jesus appeared at least 5 times and he appeared to at least 20 people according to combined facts from all the gospels. Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself.

The Monday after Easter was filled with a very unusual tradition. The tradition involves young men getting girls wet and then hitting them with green branches called a Korba?a. The girls then give the guys Chocolate and a Ribbon to be proudly displayed on the boy’s Korba?a. Basically this only process is a huge flirting ritual. I had one of the youth guys make me a Korba?a.

Flo, one of the other volunteers from Germany, was leaving early Monday morning. We waited until midnight and went to visit Zorka, who is the vicar and lives next door in our building. We knocked on her door and when she opened it, she was rather surprised. Nothing quite like being splashed with water and being hit by Korba?a and then reciting the rhyme goes with it. “Šibi ryby mastné ryby, kus kola?a od korba?a” She then gave us a ribbon with her name on it and chocolate.

After Zorka we travel to another house that at 3 young ladies living there. When the first girl answered the door we surprised her with water. She then told us to wait so she could get her sister. At the same time the mother Shouted, “Already, it’s so early, quick give me your water buckets, I’ll go fill them.” It was quite a shock to see the mother and the other girls helping us. After all the girls had gone through the ritual we were invited in for coffee and snacks and each girl gave us a ribbon for our Korba?a. Well it was early in the morning so no one else was up so, we went to bed. Later in the morning at a more reasonable hour I went around the village with some of the other young men participated in this ritual at several other houses. It was a fun day and I met many nice girls.

They also traditionally have a small service. The Pastor arranges for all the doors to be locked except for one. Then when all the ladies file out of the Church he can hit them with his Korba?a. Apparently they considered it Good Luck, and wishes for Health and Beauty in the future when they are hit by a Korba?a. With the women being treated like it is often said they boys should watch out the next day but usually nothing happens.

March was also filled with a variety of Guests. Flo’s family arrived to spend Easter weekend in Vrbovce and then go to the High Tatry. It great to meet new people and see the family of people I work so closely with. His mother father and 2 younger sisters were quite a joy. Zorka and I were invited to join in their family Easter egg hunt/walk after the Service on Easter. When Flo and his family left for the High Tatry another group of guests arrived the next day. Oli had spent his Easter in Germany with family and arrived back with his Pastor and 2 friends. They spoke decent English and Oli was able to translate well. I also have been picking up a little German too so that helped. We had some interesting conversations about life in Slovakia. They were here in Vrbovce for about 3 days before they returned. After all these big events I was feeling a little tired and wanted to return to a somewhat normal routine.

Well, what I have I learned this month? I learned how Slovak’s celebrate Easter or Velka Noc. I learned and strange tradition of hit girls with sticks the day after Velka Noc. I have also been learning about patience and catching God’s plan. Much like the Disciple’s after Good Friday, I sometimes think, “Where is God?” When I’m frustrated with working on something I see no end to or I’m teaching English with kids who really have not interest or when I have to chase to remind kids tom come to youth group or drum lessons all the time and then they don’t show up.
The disciples heard everything Jesus said but they just weren’t sure what was next. On Easter and many times after Jesus reminded them, “I’m here! I’m Alive”.

We too need to be reminded that Jesus died for our sins but he is a Living God. When the 2 women went to take care of Jesus’ body in the tomb, they met an Angel who said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” We must ask this question to ourselves when we are frustrated or lack vision. The fact that Jesus was resurrected as he promised makes all his other promises more real. How can a dead God keep his promises? He can’t but Jesus is Alive.

I am reminding myself of God’s Grace everyday that he is working, he is living. I may not see results of my work now or even in a few months but God is there, walking with me through all my joys and frustrations.

Lord,
Thank you that we worship you, a Living God
One who keeps his Promises
Help us to remember
You are Alive and walking with us
This is not another figure of speech, it is True
You showed yourself to the Disciples
And later gave of yourself to them your Holy Spirit.
We are your Disciples too!!

In your Holy Name, a name that has power of the living and the dead
Jesus Christ

God’s Blessings and Peace be with you,
? Christ’s Servant in Slovakia

Mark Molter