Disciples fishing

Reflecting on Easter, it must have been hard for the disciples to transition from the whole Crucifixion and Resurrection. I mean look at how there were locked up in the room and Jesus revealed himself to them.(John 20) But I don’t think the Disciples quite got it until Jesus met them on the beach and again invited them to ministry. (John 21) I think what gives me hope is that during times of transition that Jesus comes and re-invites us to Kingdom work, that new call, (yet familiar if you look at him calling the disciples from their jobs as fishermen. Luke 5) the call from the Resurrected Jesus is one that is eternal a call for a new life.

Read the stories in the bible. What do you think?


Crazy Bones
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia,

Thank you everyone for your prayer and other support.
I can only be doing this because of you.

My time here as been very full and very fast. A lot of exciting things have happened. I feel like I am just starting to get to know the students. Each student has a unique personality and brings something special to the classroom. In many of the classes I teach the level of English they know is varied. I have to be constantly aware so that I can make sure I am addressing all of the students’ needs and prepare them for the years ahead.
I have also learned a lot about my faith, church here in Bratislava and the Slovak Church.

Near the end of the year, Read More →

Graves of 122 Slovak soldiers who lost their lives during the World War II. War cemetery in Prešov, Slovakia

War cemetery in Prešov, Slovakia
Originally uploaded by Martin Baran.

I found out my grandmother has passed away. I was unable to attend the funeral because I’m in Slovakia. My mother was very lucky to have spent the last few days with my grandmother alive. My grandmother was rather happy despite dealing with the pneumonia and have eating problems. She died peacefully. My mother said the funeral was nice. She gave the Eulogy. Please pray for me and my family in this tough time.

Rest in Peace
BETTY LURENE VAN RENSALIER
Aug. 25, 1926-April 20, 2009

Death is a funny thing, we hear about so often we become numb to it. It seems to hit the heart when it is someone you know. I knew it was coming, but somehow I didn’t expect it so soon. I’m still try to figure out what to actually feel. As I sort through my feelings I am reminded of one of my biggest fears: Not death itself but, Dying and nobody caring. Sometimes it scares me to think about it. I have to remind myself that I have friends and family who will mourn, be sad, care and remember me with fondness. And most important ,that I have a God who has gone through death and cares for me when my moment comes. Every now and then I’ll read the news and my heart will beat just a little off rhythm and feel heavier in someway when I hear about people that have died that day. I think in some small way that feeling is God’s way of sharing his pain and concern for all those who die, with us. No one dies alone or unmourned because we have a God who is there and cares deeply.

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

Common Prayer at Geneva Taize Event

Taize- Common Prayer
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

Ahoj and Greetings from Slovakia. Radostne Vianoce and Štastny Novy Rok (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year). This newsletter is a little later than expected only because of my busy Holiday!!!

I especially want to thank the many people who sent cards and packages. I received quite a lot, more on that later though. Please 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 also continue to pray for me and the other young adult volunteers around the world. And of course please pray for the people of Kenya and the violence that is happening there. I know several US volunteers who are there now. They are safe but prayer is very important for them at the moment.

And as usual I have been writing some other updates on my Blog for those of you who are Internet savvy. The address is http://new.moltron.net/blog/ I also have many more pictures available at http://flickr.com/photos/themoltron

December was a rather interesting and eventful month. The advent season is rather big deal here since many more faces start to show up at church and they have special advent services on Fridays. The Pastor had many more projects for me to do, which included decorating; cleaning and making things look just right for Christmas. One of the projects involved assisting the electrician named Janko. We were installing some new lights on the outside of the church. My Slovak is at a point where I can converse fairly well on a basic level. I found out he lives in the village. It seems like I’m always meeting new people and that my Slovak is improving because many people comment on how well I speak but, to be honest I’m only just starting to understand the language.

On December 3rd St. Mikulaš Day is celebrated, St. Mikulaš goes around delivering small presents and candy to little children. He is sometimes accompanied by the devil who takes their treats and whips them if they are bad. Since all Children are Good? They get presents. In the stores they have Chocolate figures of both St. Mikulaš and the Devil. One of the ladies in the church, Kristina (She is like everyone’s favorite aunt for all the volunteers in Vrbovce) brought us a small bag of goodies. So, St. Mikulaš did visit me seeing as I’m just a big kid anyway.

Advent also marked the change in Liturgy. Just when I’m getting used to it, they changed it on me. The people have small hymnals but it is hard to find where things are sometimes because they know the liturgy by heart. I tried asking the pastor once but all he said was that it was in the book. The special advent services on Friday evenings were nice since they are a little more relaxed than Sunday service. There were times left open for people of the congregation to give open petitions of prayer. It was fun to hear children pray as well as moving to hear some of the older generation praying in tears about loved one who are ill.

The two other volunteers from Germany, Oliver and Flo went home for Christmas Holiday. Before the Holiday I was waiting for many cards to come but I had to wait until I arrived back to see if they came. I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend Christmas with a Pastor’s family in Košariska, which is another village about 25 minutes away. The wife, Susan, was the Pastor and the husband, Evan (pronounced ee-von), owns some property that he maintains and leases to various companies. The family has 2 little children, a boy Adam 2 and a girl Zuzka 5. They were very well behaved children for the most part. Children are children and they get into mischief. I spent about 5 days with them, it was fantastic. From the time I arrived I felt like I was part of the family. I was constantly being asked if I was hungry. And I tried to speak as much Slovak as I could and most people were impressed with how much I knew. Evan speaks English very well so; I was able to have things translated when I needed. Susan’s parents and brother came and made cookies and dried apples to decorate the Christmas tree or Strom?ek. Of course little Adam would grab them off the tree and eat them from time to time. They arranged for me to do some touristy things in the surrounding area as well. During my stay I got to ride a horse, see wild deer and ram as well as eat the meat, visit a hot spring and see the site of the famous Slovak General Štefanik. It was great experiencing a Slovak Christmas. They also gave me some really cool gifts. Gloves, a scarf (both of which I needed) and a book about General Štefanik. The Children got some big plastic cars and some videos. One Czech film called “Mach, Šebestova and the Magic Telephone” (translated in English) they watched 5 times. The second time we watched it we figured out it had English subtitles.

The Christmas Services was very nice and they sing many of the same melodies of Christmas songs I know. I don’t think it really dawned on me it was Christmas until the Christmas Day. One of the traditions I enjoyed was that the family would sing 1 or 2 Christmas songs and prayer before they had their family meals the day before, the day of and the day after Christmas. It was very simple thing but I could sense God’s presence there.

Well here are some interesting Slovak Christmas facts:
• The Traditional Slovak Meal is Karp; fish about the size of a small turkey can be bought in the stores from huge tanks.
• It is not a Slovak meal without soup; they make a special cabbage soup with Kolbasa (Sausage) and Huby (Mushrooms) called Kapustnica.
• Gifts are given traditionally after the family meal on the 24th.
• Slovak TV is usually filled with old Fairy Tales films from the 50’s -60’s from Czech and Russia and many American TV Christmas movies that are dubbed.

So after 5 days of Experiencing the fun and excited of Christmas in Slovakia I headed off to Geneva, Switzerland for the Taize European Gathering. For those of you unfamiliar with Taize, Taize is an Ecumenical order of brothers who are devoted to prayer and dialogue between all Christian faiths for reconciliation located in Taize, France. Every year young people come to experience simplicity, prayer and unity in Christ either in Taize or at one of several world gatherings held each year. This year in Geneva there were 40,000 people from all over Europe who came together to pray and share in the unity only Christ can bring. I was lucky enough to arrange being able meet my friend Kelly who is a volunteer this year like me but living in England. We were able to enjoy this time together and share this wonderful experience.

One of the many moving things about this event was seeing an almost empty space the size of 2 or 3 football fields being filled with people praying and singing in worship to God. People during this gathering are offered places to stay from local parishes and families. I stay in France in a Village called Divonne about 15 minutes from Geneva. I stay with an older retired Gentle man named Xavier and with another participant named Tomas from Poland. Both spoke very good English. We were 2 of many other people staying in Divonne during of the event. In the mornings we would spend time in prayer with the local church and break into small groups to discuss the theme the verse for the day. The songs and prayer throughout the event were in different languages and it was moving to hear them all and know that we are all have the same faith in Christ. It was also great getting to know and meet some many people from around the world. It definitely expanded my definition of church and what it means to worship God. Most people at the event spoke English but I met a rather large group of Slovaks so I was able to speak Slovak with them. Many of these same people were staying in Divonne as well.

I had some free time during the event to explore Geneva. Geneva is the French part of Switzerland and was a little warmer because of the Leman Lake. I was able to see many part of the old city that included some churches that were part of the protestant movement. Most of you are if you are Lutheran are only Luther and maybe Calvin but there were many more reformers who were persecuted. Many of these reformers retreated to Switzerland for safety. It has been insightful to see and learn more about other aspects of the reformation.

My New Years was spent in Divonne where our parish had a time of prayer. The prayer time was great and I felt like it was appropriate to reflect on the past year and the coming year with song and prayer. Then of course we celebrated, each country group was asked to share a little something of their culture. So everyone got a little taste of Spain, Poland, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, France, and many others. It was one of the best new years ever. Then next day we all said Good-bye but before we went were asked to have lunch with our hosts. So my host was invited to have dinner at a friend of his who was also hosting 3 girls from Poland. It was excellent we had Lamb and Potatoes, Green Beans, Champagne, red wine, French Cheese. What a way to start off the New Year.

I had to arrive home 2 days later only because when I arrived in Slovakia there were no buses to my village. So I spend the night in Bratislava and then headed back the next day. Upon Arrival I was told I had some a lot of mail. I arrived to find at least a dozen or more cards and several packages, I forget the exact number but it was a lot. Amazing and overwhelming. I felt absolutely blessed. The cards and messages were a great encouragement and I great reminder of how many people care back home. I enjoyed packages as well, which included “Peanut Butter” among the many other goodies. Sometimes it is the simple things you miss. I want to send a big Thank You to all of you who sent me a card or package. It is truly amazing to know I am loved in this way and thought of often.

In writing this letter and in Light of Christmas, New Years and the tragedies in Kenya, I want to share with you some of my reflections.

When we think of Christmas we think of the Christ child and how God send his Son. This of course is a sign of Love from the Father.

“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

This is the simplest expression of the Gospel. That since Christ loved Us we should Love. We should desire to be like our Master. While at the Taizé gathering many of the themes focused on Reconciliation. Looking to Forgive and making something new out of what is broken. Just look at the news and we see how broken the world is. We can that in the recent events in Kenya. The example of Christ is that as his disciple we are called to take the first step. In a letter written by one of the Taizé Brothers they say, “It is not a matter of forgetting a painful past, or being blind to present-day situations of injustice. The Gospel calls us beyond the memory of wounds by forgiving, and even to rise above the expectation of getting something in return. In this way we find the freedom of the children of God.” This statement greatly challenged me. How am I supposed to do this? But, I remember it is not just me it is only Christ through me that anything can happen.

It is often said, “If we think we know Jesus, READ The Gospel Again!!!” As the New Year begins I am challenged (as I hope you are too!) to really look at what our Master Jesus tells us about Love. Look at the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) or Mary Magdalene (John 8:1-11). There are of course many other stories but, look at these stories with new eyes. We often forget how straightforward Jesus is about how we should Love. As the called people of God we are called to bear witness to a Kingdom of Love. Not just the Love we stereotype with Romantic love or Give everyone a big hug type love. Jesus is talking bigger and bolder. He is talking sacrificial love. The kind a Mother shows to children who get on her nerves or when a father offers forgiveness when a child has disobeyed yet again. The kind Jesus died on a cross for.
1 John also says

“Everyone who loves God is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The Person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, Because God is Love – So if you don’t know him you don’t know love” 1 John 4:7-9

How can we love God if we don’t love our neighbors? If we are all made in the image of God we must honor God by loving others. Before we get discouraged we must remember that Christ sent the Holy Spirit to guide and be with those who believe. We cannot love until the father first loves us. Let us endeavor to love. So we pray,

Heavenly Father,
The message of the Gospel is Clear; You loved us so we can love others
It is a Love beyond just some warm and fuzzy feeling and at times it can be difficult
Help us to understand how you want us to Love by learning more about your example through Christ, Be with Us as we attempt and fail by our efforts alone but, succeed when you are with us, Help us know we are Loved as much as those who need Love
In the name of our Master and Redeemer
Jesus Christ, AMEN!!!

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

Mark Molter