Vrbovce Winter Night
Originally uploaded by themoltron.

The Longer I am here in Slovakia the quicker time seems to pass between my newsletters. I am definitely getting used to the culture. I am still struggling with the language but I am more comfortable making conversation in Slovak. I’m enjoying the mostly meat and potatoes diet of Slovak food and getting used to the short winter days and long winter nights

My time here in Slovakia has not been all work. I have had time to travel to several places. At the beginning of November were All Saints Day and Reformation Day. I was given time off because of the protestant holiday. Oliver, Flo and I traveled to Štrba and Liptovsky Mikulaš near the Vysoky Tatry or High Tatras. This time was also a National Remembrance time similar to Memorial Day. More on that later. Vysoky Tatry are amazing, when I see them I am reminded how small and I am really am compared with the rest of the world and just big and Magnificent God is.

When we returned that Sunday the Celebrated a service at the cemetery in Chvojnica (A near by village) and Vrbovce. Every year people visit the cemeteries and pay their respects by decorating graves of loved with flowers and candles. It was a treat to be on holiday seeing this happening over various parts of the country.
On this occasion our small parish has a brass choir and they played during services on Sunday. One thing I enjoy about Vrbovce is the many hidden talents. So many people I find can sing or play piano, trumpet or guitar. It has been a pleasure sharing the universal language of music with these people.

As part of the many duties I have here is Vrbovce, I am asked to help with the youth group once a week. I enjoy hanging out with the youth and I am constantly improving my language through conversation. Youth groups in Slovakia range from people 13-30 so there is quite an age range. I have struggled trying to read the bible or to have discussions because of my lack of language skills but, also because of a lack of guidance. The pastor is very busy and often does not make planning youth group a priority. We also struggle because on average only 3 or 4 youth show up on a given week. These problems seem to be typical of problems in America as well. I have had some success in working with the other volunteers here in Vrbovce and trying to plan youth group around simple bible passages and having Zorka (the vicar) help translate some things. I have been learning that we can’t always wait for guidance but we have to be the guide sometimes. I’m discovering that life in a parish can be a struggle to balance the needs of its members especially youth who are in most need of Spiritual guidance. I may not know all the answers or see the fruits of my labor now but God is there in my efforts.

One of the other things I do here is Vrbovce in my work alongside many of the down and out. The church he provides various work projects 3 or 4 days a week for members of the community who are unemployed to collect work credit for Slovakia’s social well fair system. I’m not sure how it exactly it works but I have learned a lot from these people. Many of them are Alcoholics or have other problems. We work on the same projects often ranging from cutting wood to helping renovate the Culturing Dom (Culture Center). I am reminded of the story in Matthew chapter 9, when the Pharisees complained about Jesus eating with sinners. Jesus responds with “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘ I’m after mercy, not religion. ‘ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matt. 9:12-13 The Message

Often times we have such a high view of ourselves that we fail to see the faults we have. We look upon people with problems or who are on welfare with disdain because we think we are better and most of the time many of us are so far removed from their situation. We live in neighborhoods where everyone can afford 2 or 3 cars. What makes us think we are so much better? We fail to see that others suffer and we fail to see that we are all sinners. If one of the many things I am learning and continue to learn is that we are all sinners and by working beside these people I have come to see them as friends, fellow sinners and humans being.

On a lighter not, it has snowed in Vrbovce several times. I have enjoyed the seeing the white snow and how different the village looks although the drop in temperature is taking some time to get used to.

Here are a few things are fun about Snow in Slovakia
– the business as usual attitude– so no mad rush to the supermarket. People are here just not seem to mind they still run buses to everywhere and a snow day off at school is unheard of.

– driving and sometime hiking in the snow to deliver lunches– Sometime we have drive up hills and then the car gets stuck. So it becomes easier to leave the car and hike up the hill to deliver the lunches.

– Snowball fights with the local school kids after lunch– After lunch is when most kids have free time or are coming back from lunch at home. I enjoy throwing snowballs and then getting ambushed by 10 or so kids later.

– Sledding on amazing hills- the hills near the village are amazing and when it get dark the view of the village with lights is amazing too.

– being huddled around a wood burning oven after a freezing day– We have a wood burning oven to head our room during the winter. I enjoy having to start the fire and being huddled around it.

Thanksgiving is not a celebrated holiday here in Slovakia but we had our 3 months retreat to discuss who each of us were dealing with culture shock and compare notes about placements. Kristen, who lives in Velky Slavkov works at a center for Cigansky Chlapci or gypsy boy. There is a lot of prejudice toward the Gypsy population. Much of it has to do with the fact many are uneducated, some by choice, making it difficult for them to find work and integrate themselves. The center helps provide work and some education to confront the poverty many of these people face. It has been interesting seeing all the different aspects of Slovak culture through all the various experiences we are having.

During some of free time in Bratislava we spent a day and traveled to Vienna. When we got off the train it was like mini-culture shock because we were surrounded by German. It may not seem significant but when you are surrounded by Slovak all the time it comes as quite a shock. We saw many beautiful Cathedrals and monuments. It was interesting to see how the dialect in Vienna has adopted several Slovak words. Such as Paradjky which is a tomato

During this retreat we celebrated Thanksgiving with other missionary volunteers from several places in Eastern Europe and Asia. It was a blessing to be able to see other English speakers as well as hear all the stories of what God is doing throughout Slovakia and the world.

After the retreat I felt like if I had gone home to America I probably would not have come back. There are times when I feel like I want to come home but also times I enjoy speaking Slovak and being surrounded by a culture that is starting to become more familiar. Culture Shock is never easy and everyone goes through phases. I’m still adjusting but, I know I have a purpose here and knowing that makes the not so great times easy to get through.

Thanksgiving usually makes you become more aware of the many things you can be thankful for, especially for me here in Slovakia. The many friendly and hospitable people in Vrbovce, that the German volunteers Oliver and Flo put up with me when I’m blaznivy (crazy) sometimes and that despite being surrounded by a different language and culture I can worship the same God anywhere in the world.

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

Mark Molter

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

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/

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

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.