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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

So here I am in Slovakia

So here I am in Slovakia

Vrbovce Church
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Here is my lastest Newsletter for you reading Pleasure

If you are interesting in seeing pictures here is a link to my flickr page
flickr.com/photos/themoltron

Ahoj (Pronounced ahoy and it means hello)

Here is my very first newsletter from Slovakia. I want to first thank all of you for all your support with prayer and financial support. I wouldn’t be able to have this opportunity to serve the Lord without you. Please continue to pray for me and the other young adult volunteers around the world.

I have been in Slovakia for about 5 weeks now. The first week I spent in Bratislava taking care of paperwork and taking the opportunity to see many of the sites.
It was interesting being the only guy in a group of 7 girls. 3 of them were volunteers from the ELCA and other 4 were from Germany. During our stay The Slovak Parliament was open in celebration of the signing of The Slovak Constitution on Sept 3rd, 1992. It was fun seeing the pride the Slovak people have in their government as well as seeing them celebrate their culture heritage at Bratislava castle near by. We were able to see many folk dances, music and handicrafts. This first week in Slovakia was exciting and an interesting experience just seeing the immediate similarities and differences between american and slovak culture. Here are a few things I noticed that were funny or interesting:

-A Sign for Mexican Food at McDonald’s in Slovak, It struck me that Globalization is more real than I thought it was.
-Hamburgers are just not the same in Europe
-We were told the American Embassy wanted to have a huge wall built around it but, the Slovak Government wouldn’t let them.
-American Music is heard everywhere, sometimes it didn’t feel like were in Slovakia yet
-Slovak Superstar is just as funny as American Idol, if not funnier
-The Slovak crown is roughly $1 dollar for 24 crown but, prices are about the same or more expensive compared to american prices.

The next 2 weeks were in Velky Slavkov which is in middle of the country near a city called Poprad (about 3 1/2 hour train ride from Bratislava). It was a beautiful place to study Slovak with the Tatras Mountains in the background. We had time during the week to travel up to several places including a waterfall and Štrebske Pleso (Pronounced Shtrebsky Pleso) which is a large Glacial lake and has skiing in the winter. We stayed at a christian retreat center and spend 6 hours a day having Slovak lessons.

The Slovak language is more difficult than I original anticipated. I have learned some basic sentences and grammar. The grammar is difficult to grasp because every word has many different forms depending on how it is used. So, my basic grasp of Slovak is going to take awhile. I am learning to catch what people are saying despite how fast seem to speak. For the time being I will share with you some words that I have learned and maybe extreme helpful if you are in Slovakia.
Ano- Yes
Nie- No
Dobré- Good
Dobré Rano- Good Morning
Dobrý De?- Good Day
Neviem- I don’t know
Nerozumiem- I don’t understand
Neviem po Slovensky- I don’t know Slovak
Som z Americky- I am american
Som hladny- I am hungry
vlak- train
Kde je Vlak- where is the train?

So after spending that time studying slovak, I traveled by train to Vrbovce where I was greeted by Pastor Miroslav. He speaks some basic english and I can understand him ok. We arrived in the village where upon immediate arrival I was invited to an older gentleman’s 60th Birthday party in the building where I will be living. It was quite a shock. I learned Slovaks are very generous people. I got a delicious soup and then dinner. And of course wine, they kept on insisting I drink more but, I had to stop at 2 glasses. Speaking of food. Slovaks eat a lot of bread, potatoes and pork. The biggest meal of the day is Lunch and usually includes soup then the main meal. Lunch can sometime be sweet which might include sweet dumplings with cocoa on top. Breakfast consists of fresh vegetable when available and sometimes lunch meat… ok back to where I am living.

The building I am living in is the old church school building, it is beautifully decorated with gold and white and resembles an ornate castle. They have many social functions on the 1st and 2nd floors. On the 3rd floor where I am living there is an apartment where the Seminary Intern Zorka lives, she is very nice and knows a little english. There is a music studio and a spare bed room. Then we have a fitness room that leads to 2 bedrooms. 2 german volunteers from another organization are there and I have the other room. All in all it is not a bad place to stay.

Most of my time in Vrbovce has been spent doing various bits of handiwork around the church and the old school building. I spend a few days putting grout in on a sidewalk. We also pick-up lunches and deliver them to elderly members of the parish every weekday. One day a week I help with english class at the local school. I also with be giving music lessons on drums or guitar. I am learning and reminding myself I am working for the lord in every task I do, even if it is boring or apparently minor. I know the Lord wants us to please him and serve others by doing our best in everything we do. I am also hoping to learn slovak from the interaction with the kids and build some relationships through all the work that I am doing.

We have been fairly busy most sundays with traveling from one place to another so I have had few chances to attend a Slovak language church service. It is very interesting to see the similarities and differences. They general order of the service is the same from what I can understand and figure out. We share many of the same Hymn melodies. One sunday we traveled to another Church in Bukovce where they were installing a near Pastor. I met a member of a church from Bratislava there who spoke english his name was Marian. I was asking some questions about the church service I pointed out the difference in liturgical robes. Slovaks wear more Academic black robes with white lace covers from Martin Luther’s academic tradition, which I thought was interesting. That sunday they also had a women’s fellowship which was hosted in Vrbovce. This of course met there was fun and food. I was able to meet and talk to people in the little slovak I knew. One thing about living in the old school building is whenever there are social functions there are leftovers and they usually save some for the volunteers.

So that has been my first couple of weeks in Slovakia. I am doing well and living by God’s grace daily. Everyday is a learning process. Before I end my newsletter I would like share a bible verse with you.

“Whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

As Christians we are called to be Ambassadors for Christ wherever we are, whether that be in Slovakia, teaching, playing soccer, or working in an office. We are called to live in Christ with everything we do. You may not feel called to do anything special but, all believers are called to be Christ wherever they work and play and that is a our great gift and responsibility.

God’s Peace be with You,
Mark Molter

So I’m going to Slovakia: The Nitty Gritty

So I’m going to Slovakia: The Nitty Gritty

Flag of Slovakia
Originally uploaded by herwigphoto.com.

Did you know that the ELCA supports around 250 missionaries around the globe?

30% of these are participates in the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) Program. Every year young adults between ages 19 and 30 spend a year abroad, serving communities and sharing the Gospel. This year I will be one of them. Starting in August, I will be spending my year of service in Slovakia. I am excited to share this opportunity with you and I want to share with you a little about what I am doing and how you can support me and my fellow YAGM.

The YAGM program is designed for Young Adults to serve a year in a global setting. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) believes in investing in Young Adults. The ELCA is committed to helping develop leaders for our church who are globally formed and globally informed. The mission model we follow is one of accompaniment. Like Jesus we are asked to walk along side our neighbors. We are asked to show them that God is already where they are, ready to meet them and love them.

YAGM Volunteers serve in a variety of places from the United Kingdom and Kenya to India and Argentina. Many work with the poor through local charity organizations or through local congregations. Each Volunteer receives a meager stipend to pay for daily living expenses. The volunteers are challenged in through work, language, culture and faith.

I will be serving in Slovakia. Slovakia is located in central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Ukraine and Hungry. I will be spending 3 weeks doing intensive language study in Slovak and then I will be placed in the Tren?ín region in the town of Vrbovce. During my year of service I will be working with a local congregation as well as various other tasks such as helping out in orphanages and working with the Romany population. The Romany are a unique ethnic group that is often poor and neglected. I will have more details as I get closer to leaving in August.

My service overseas is not just my experience, it is your experience too!!! It will be a shared experience for several of the following reasons.
Prayer: This opportunity would not be possible without encouragement and support from a larger body of believers. Please pray for me and the other volunteers serving the lord all over the world. Please let me now how I can pray for you as well.
Letters: I will be sending monthly newsletters and pictures highlighting my faith journey and of those around me. I encourage you to share with me what is going on in your lives, as the people I will be serving will love the opportunity to see and understand American culture.

Financial Support: The ELCA spends about $9,000 for every YAGM volunteer to send them for service overseas. We are asked to share some of that responsibility by raising support. Volunteers are asked to raise $3400 dollars. If you contribute you are investing in not just in my mission but, all the missionaries that the ELCA supports.

If you would like to contribute please send a check to

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
1201 Courthouse Road – Stafford, VA 22554
Phone: (540) 659-6366

Please make the check out to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
Designate it for Mark Molter Mission

I am very excited to share this opportunity with you. If you have any questions or would like to be added to my newsletter email list please feel free to contact me throughout the year. Mark@moltron.net

NOTE: I will be spending my summer before I leave as a counselor at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp in Virginia. Email would work best. Mark@moltron.net

I will be sending a copy of my newsletters to the Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church of Stafford office if you would like to receive a hard copy.