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