Monday, February 14, 2011

Conclusion: Juggling a monthly newsletter, FB updates, teaching responsibilities, NCIS (:o), and a blog has its challenges, and we become slightly dilatory in nature (Now there's a word for you!). So, the following is our attempt to update you who track our lives via Blogspot. Here we go!

Following the brilliantly colored autumn here in Martin, the tag-in of October and our second November in Martin tumbled into our lives once more. Fall brought familiar routine and surprises as well. (OK, so this pix isn't so brilliant with color, but it was taken in the fall and I like it :0)

Larry found himself teaching a new level of English learners at Zilina U, this time English majors in their final year of coursework before testing for state certification in English. With a minimum of assistance, he has stepped up to the plate with this opportunity (two 2-hour classes on Mondays), supplementing university curriculum with his own resources, and in the process is acquiring a larger community of young people who are again curious about his doing this type of work as a volunteer. Opens all kinds of doors! He continues this course this semester, which began Feb. 7, with even more students.

A plus to these Monday classes is ongoing conversations with Larry's office mate, who speaks fluent English, giving them both opportunities to discover and share a great deal about each other.

On August 15 little Johana (third baby from left) joined her parents, Biba and Bohdan and big brother Martin; then September welcomed twins (first babies on left) to Janka, the Bible School secretary, and her hubby. Several of us visited her when the babies were only 2 or 3 days old. All of us squeezed into this tiny room designed for two patients---both beds were occupied with moms, both of whom had twins in the room with them!

October/November brought an updated slate of elementary school teachers who want individual English instruction. And new teachers are currently joining the staff since several teachers will be taking maternity leave between now and June. Last week was the last work week for one teacher whom I've tutored since our arrival in 2009. She has requested that we continue to meet during her leave--I was delighted, for our conversations take us into deep heart matters. She's growing--in more ways than one!

November brought us a special taste of an American Thanksgiving in that, not only did we have our local group of ex-pats here (Americans, Norwegian med students, as well as our Slovak crew) in our flat to enjoy turkey, etc., but we also hosted two young American college students from the Vancouver, WA area who are currently experiencing a "semester abroad" in Florence, Italy. L-O-N-G ago our daughter babysat Bethany, one of these young women.
Bethany's mom even sent table dec's for the meal. Pumpkin and pecan pies added the finishing touch.

By the way, the turkey was hand-delivered to our door the day before our T-giving dinner by the local turkey farmer. He was fully dressed--I mean the turkey. Well, now that I think about it, I must clarify--BOTH were dressed, of course. Hmm, the further I take this, the messier it gets.

In the middle of all the T-giving festivities, a care package of goodies arrived--"Just a Little Help from Our Friends."

One late November afternoon Milan Kubik, one of our pastors, invited us to join him for a "nature walk" as it is called here. It turned out to be a spectacular walk up into a nearby national park where, upon our arrival, the snow began to fall and turn nature into a winter wonderland.

About .5 km into our walk, we left the main path to maneuver a winding, VERY narrow path til suddenly looming above us were the ruins of an ancient castle (c. 13th century). Up we hiked for some breathtaking views.

December was filled with Christmas rehearsals for the annual church choir's Christmas presentation Dec. 12. In addition, the choir sang Christmas selections throughout the 3 days of Christmas services (Dec. 24-26). In this country December 24 is the day of celebrating, family gatherings, gift openings, and worship services.
This choir continues to embrace Larry and me, exhibiting a great deal of longsuffering as we attempt to communicate in their language. Now I'm having to learn some basic musical terms in Slovak since the director requested that I teach the choir a praise/worship song to sing in English. Oh, could I use your prayers on this!

The elementary school here also presented two student Christmas programs--I'd never seen the Christmas story presented via ballet until now--it was lovely:

This has not much to do with Christmas but: I grin from ear to ear every time I walk through/by a group of young students and hear them chirp their friendly greetings--in English.
One group of first graders, however, surrounds me each week as I'm concluding a tutoring session with their teacher, and they literally bombard me with questions--in Slovak, of course. They are incredulous that not every human on this planet speaks their language. So I manage to eek out, "Prosim, ešte raz, pomaly," and they smile, but mostly their smile means, "You're not listening!" and the "conversation" begins once more--and louder!!

On the first day of Christmas vacation a family I tutor invited Larry and me to the family’s country home to enjoy Christmas goodies and conversation. This family home has seen 6+ generations of the Mizur family come and go; it’s located in a tiny village whose claim to fame is a beautiful cathedral AND the birthplace of ancestors of Benjamin Franklin!
In the photo below sits Grandma Mizur (on the rt.), who is learning English right along with her son and family--an admirable trait, wouldn't you say?

On the left is what happens at the gate of a very delayed flight (ice storm)--almost one computer per passenger!
We were on our way to Germany where we celebrated Christmas with the Philipps family. (Their daughter Ina had spent 6 weeks with our daughter's and son's families as an exchange student the summer of 2009.) How we thrived as this gracious family with five children welcomed us to their celebration of Christ's birth. Deep snow blanketed that area of Germany (the Cologne/Bonn area),
We decorated the tree with them, we worshipped with them, we all experimented with each other's language, we ate way too much chocolate, we exchanged recipes (even my Grandma Jones' Chicken and Dumplings), and we sang and laughed together more times than I can count!

Danke schön, Klaus and Lena, Yasmin, Ina, Leonie, Nicklaus, and Lisanne, for memories we will carry in our hearts the rest of our lives.

January can be a bit slow in this country of only 7-8 hours of daylight this time of year. But it was recently brightened by folks like these in these pictures.

More about them next blog!!! :D

Thank you for following this incredible journey of ours. We stand in awe.

And--Happy Valentine's Day!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fasts Live Fast!

One year! The colors and harvest are telling indicators that we've been here an entire year--seems like MAYBE a month!

And once more, friends (sometimes new, sometimes not so new) and precious family have filled our lives with wonderful memories (likewise sometimes new, sometimes not so new (:o)

Chris and Marie Schnabel (friends von Deutschland whom we've known for many years) visited us for 10 glorious days in August. Together we visited the Slovakia Larry and I have come to know, and together we discovered unfamiliar Slovakia treasures, like the tiny village of Vlniec. This village's populace has dwindled to fewer than 300 people, in part because its people have a preference for the "Old" Slovakia way of community and living.

So one walked along its rutted street or two trying not to intrude into the quaint way of living. OK--I confess: we took a few photos, as inconspicuously as possible . . .

. . .then had a mouthwatering picnic in the nearby meadow,

where we were rewarded with this spectacular view of sheep and their shepherd wandering and dozing on the nearby mountainside, while sheep bells of every pitch gave us a lovely, distant concert that not even the best Dolby system could offer! (You may need binoculars to see the sheep!)

Early September found us on our way with our local church choir to Gotha, Germany, where we had the privilege of singing for a regional Lutheran Church gathering. (I wish you could hear this choir--they're quite good!!!!!) We gave an outside concert in the town center, THEN we sang several numbers in an ancient church with ceilings that bumped the sky and acoustics that echoed heavenly renditions to all participants. Never in my lifetime would I have expected the joy of singing in the ancient halls of Europe. An extra bonus of this trip was expanding our circle of friends among the choir members--we did the entire 22-hour trip (11-hours one-way) plus concerts in under 48 hours!!!

September 21 brought us our daughter and her husband (Tamarah and Eric) for a fantastic visit that was indeed a thrill. They are the first family we've seen for almost a year (except for Skyping, of course, which is wonderful, but not like the real thing!). They were celebrating their 15th anniversary (which was in March); this was their first trip to Europe, so Slovakia was their introduction to this continent.

After 5 days here, we all traveled by train to Prague, CZ, where Ta and Eric discovered this incredibly beautiful city, heard an organ concert in another of those ancient cathedrals, enjoyed Czech cuisine and history, and strolled along the Moldau River, the inspiration for Smetna's "Dance of the Moldau"--which was the musical selection Tamarah had used for her Bride's processional for their wedding! I'm not sure their feet touched the ground their entire stay in Prague!

You might wonder at all this free time for travel. Well, the Bible School did not resume classes until Sept. 22. The elementary school (whose teachers are my students--more and more they are having to use English with their students) resumed work the first week in September, but their first few weeks were understandably chaotic, so I did not resume my tutoring sessions until Oct. 4. This allowed us some much needed R&R and, as you can see, we made the most of it!

Now we are back in full swing here. Larry is teaching two 2-hour college-level English courses in nearby Zilina University--a very demanding job, especially for a volunteer English teacher who really had not expected to teach English here at all!!!!! He also teaches two 2-hour English classes here at the Bible School. AND he's doing a fantastic job--I'm soooo proud of him!

I have a full plate with 21 teachers to tutor each week plus 3 outside private tutoring sessions a week. I'm busy but thoroughly enjoying every minute! Several opportunities for conversations of significance have come about in these first weeks of school. What a joy!

Yesterday I went with several of the young Bible school staff wives to the local hospital to visit Janka, the Bible School's secretary on maternity leave since she gave birth to twins this week! As you can see, there were 9 bodies of all ages in this room--actually there were 11, but one was the young mom taking the photo, plus Janka's roommate (who gave birth to twins this week, also!!!). I love the feeling of "family" this community embraces. Wow! Just look at all those "grandbabies" I can love up on in the coming months!

Living in a new culture for an extended amount of time is stretching, sometimes befuddling, but always enlightening. We've no idea where all this will ultimately will lead. But we thank you for your interest, support, and prayers as we simply experience "Being" here. "When He says 'Go', we will go."

Emmanuel--Brenda and Larry

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Suddenly Summer!

After living in Washington for over 30 years, we watched our cycles blur, become routinely comfortable, predictably manageable. Suddenly summer has invaded this new land we now call home for a season; another culture's cycles unfold, and we find ourselves led along, and occasionally jolted, from one cycle into another. Manageable predictability here is not a common commodity, yet curiously the experience refreshes, teases, and infrequently puzzles us.

So, rather than trying to speak the experience, perhaps pictures can lead you where they--and you--will, speaking to you in their own silent language as the living they represent has spoken into our lives in recent months.

As you can see, our summer has been full of people--people of all ages, backgrounds, needs. Some entered our lives for the first time only this summer, while others have found us each summer we've returned. Being a part of their life experiences is an honor and delight almost too rich for words, as we watch them grow in their awareness that God is ever seeking them, loving them--just as He seeks and loves each one of His creation. --Emmanuel!