Family

When I talk about what’s going on in Nyirtelek and Görögszállás I get so excited and my heart fills with joy—I imagine this is what a proud parent feels like when he or she talks about his or her child.  More than just being excited about what is going on here, these people have become a major part of my family and I was thrilled when my parents visited because I not only got to spend time with them, but I got the opportunity to introduce them to my extended Hungarian family.

Family has always been very important to me and I have been blessed with a great one.  Mom and Dad came to visit over Easter wherein we traveled a bit in Budapest and Kosice, Slovakia before coming back to spend the holiday in Nyirtelek.  While in Budapest we visited many of the beautiful buildings and even went to the Széchenyi Bath to relax in the thermal water for a night.  It was really nice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During the couple days we spent in Kosice we walked around to see all the amazing churches and buildings in town.  We also went to the wax museum by St. Elisabeth’s Cathedral wherein we learned about the history of Slovakia and Greater Hungary and ate halušky, Slovakia’s national dish.  Halušky is homemade noodles smothered in Bryndza cheese and topped with little pieces of fried bacon—it is delicious!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We celebrated Easter back in Nyirtelek by going to church in Nyirtelek and in Görögszállás on Sunday and in Kisvarda on Easter Monday.  When I introduced my parents to people at church they would always say they were happy to meet my parents and then comment about how young they are!  It was really cute.  On Easter Monday we went to our sister congregation in Kisvarda and after the service people in the congregation formed a group and asked us questions about our church at home.  They asked some really great questions and it was fun to talk about the differences and similarities in the church here and at home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Tuesday we went to the Children’s House where we tried to make caramels as a snack for the kids.  Hungary does not have corn syrup or sweetened condensed milk, so my Mom sent some corn syrup and then we made our own sweetened condensed milk to use for the caramels.  Though they tasted good, the caramels were a flop; they were really hard so we just cut them up and said they were hard candy.  Everyone still liked them, so that’s good.  Later in the afternoon we went to Nyiregyhaza to walk around and look at the buildings, churches, and statues around the city center.  It was a nice afternoon for a walk and we had a good time looking around.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I liked showing my parents around the beautiful cities I get to see on a regular basis, but the most rewarding part of their visit was introducing them to the people here who have been such a big part of my life throughout these past months.  Now my families know each other!

IYN Conference

I recently attended an International Youth Network conference in Káposztás Megyer (in northern Budapest) to learn about and prepare for the camps they will conduct the beginning of August.  The main goal of the IYN and these camps is to take part in mission work that serves the Roma in Hungary, Ukraine, Romania, and Serbia.  The camps will bring together youth from all over Europe who want to learn about other people and are motivated to serve God by serving others.

The conference was more of a meet-and-greet for the leaders from Denmark and the youth from Hungary and Estonia to form relationships that will serve as a foundation off of which to grow and branch out from during the upcoming camps.  During the conference we worshiped, discussed Biblical texts, sang songs, played games, danced traditional Hungarian dances, ate delicious food, and spent a morning serving the church that was hosting the event.  We used Phil Green’s book 40/40 as a basis from which to discuss certain Biblical texts and, as young people, examine where God is in our lives and the world as a whole—it was interesting to hear different perspectives from different parts of the world during our discussions.  One aspect of the conference that I really enjoyed was the morning we spent serving our host church by cleaning the building and working on a construction project in the garden.  The camps are about service after all, so it was very fitting that we all got the chance to serve while we were together.  When we had free time for games, we headed outside for Ninja and Méta, which is like baseball but played with a tennis ball and a wooden paddle.  One evening was spent learning and dancing traditional Hungarian dances—it was so fun!  All these activities allowed us to learn more about each other and come closer together.  It was really great!

I am very happy I had the opportunity to take part in the conference because, along with learning about the great work the IYN does, I met some really amazing people and had some really great conversations.  There are a lot of wonderful and motivated young people in the world who want to do their part to serve others, and that is quite incredible.

‘Skiing’

Last week the Central Europe YAGM group got together in the High Tatras in Slovakia for a Lenten retreat.  It was nice to be with everyone again and check-in to see how we have all been doing and what we have all been up to.  As a group we had worship and Bible study to reflect forgiveness, healing, and our baptisms and what those gifts mean in this season of Lent.

During our free time in the afternoons we had the opportunity to go cross-country and downhill skiing in the Slovak mountains!  One word: awesome.  Now, I have never really skied before and I don’t claim to be the most coordinated individual on the planet, so let me just say that, during my cross-country outings, I spent more time on my backside than I did upright on my skis.  Even though I got an impressive bruise on my knee from the very first spill I took, the experience was absolutely worth it.  The scenery was breathtaking and, everywhere I turned, I was swept away by the immense beauty of creation.

Though what I did during my cross-country outings cannot really be counted as actual skiing, I can still say I went ‘skiing’ in the High Tatras, and that is pretty spectacular.

ProChrist

Every evening this week, the congregation in Görögszállás is satellite streaming the ProChrist meetings from Stuttgart, Germany.  The theme of this year’s event is ‘Have doubts…Be amazed!’ wherein the services examine God’s undying love and desire to have a personal relationship with us.  The meetings call on everyone—those who are amazed by God’s love and those who have doubts or no faith at all—to come together to learn about God’s love and engage in fellowship and conversation about believing in and living for Christ.  Since there is more of an evangelizing focus to the programs, there is a lot of talk about how God’s work effects people’s lives and remains constant even through the ups and downs we experience day in and day out.

The sermon themes for the week examine how God views life and how faith plays an essential part in helping us get through life’s challenges.  Sunday’s theme was ‘Where do we find happiness?’ wherein we studied what Jesus says about happiness and how to find real happiness in life.  On Monday evening the topic was ‘How much power do we need?’ and we looked at the power of networks within one’s life and how God is to be a part of the relationships we have with other people.  We looked at the power of money in our lives and Jesus’ teaching that people cannot serve God and money at the same time on Tuesday night when the focus was ‘What money has to do with faith?’  Wednesday night asked ‘What helps if suffering makes us bitter?’ and talked about why there is sorrow and suffering the world and what we can rely on to bring us comfort.  Tonight, Thursday night, the theme is ‘My God, your God, no God?’ and examines different views of religion, claims to know the absolute truth, and ways to bring about peace.  The service will look at the question: “Is the effort to bring peace more important than answering the question ‘What is truth?’”  Tomorrow night asks ‘What our values are worth?’ and looks at what we hold to be valuable in life and from where we get the strength to act in accordance with those values.  Saturday night’s focus is ‘What happens when love dies?’ and talks about God’s promise of eternal love and how that promise was shown to us through Jesus’ death on the cross.  The final night, Sunday night, focuses on the future wherein we will ask what the future has in store for us and if we are able to know what comes after death.  Sunday night’s theme is ‘We lose the future?’

There are some really heavy topics covered this week, but overall, these meetings are great times of fellowship and praise that find us sharing and learning about what God has done in our lives.   God’s work is truly amazing.

Friends

‘A friend is someone who colors your world’

This is a shout-out to all my amazing friends both here and at home: You are all incredible people and I am so blessed to have you in my life.

For as long as I can remember, I have been amazed by all the incredible people who have touched my life, but I am always blown away by how my friends and I can go for weeks without Skyping one another and then pick up right where we left off like no time has passed at all.  Friends are good for the soul and I want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has kept my soul happy and healthy over the years.  Without your love and support I would not be where I am today; though there is immense distance between us, know that you are held dearly in my heart.

The friends I have made here in Hungary have shaped this experience through their immense kindness and welcoming hearts—I am convinced that some of the nicest and most caring people in Hungary live in the Northeast.  This is a great place to call home because all the friends who have invited me into their workplaces, homes, and lives.  Living here is not the easiest thing I have ever done, and though I have adjusted nicely to life in this great country there are still things that completely throw me off.  I know I can count on my friends to help me navigate the things that throw a wrench into my life, and for that I am immensely grateful.

To all my friends: Thank you for being you.  I love you!

Name Day

A couple weeks ago I celebrated my first Hungarian name day.  The sweet little girl’s name was Dora and from the moment she walked into the Children’s House she made sure we all knew it was her name day.  We of course had to celebrate this wonderful occasion with singing a special name day song and eating pudding for morning snack—it was really good.  Name days are fun; they are a lot like birthdays wherein people get together to celebrate the special person by giving gifts, feasting, and enjoying one another’s company.

Since I do not know too much about how name days came to be, I did a little bit of research and have found that the name day custom originated with the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic calendar of saints, wherein people named after certain saints would celebrate that saint’s feast day.  The tradition, which is very popular in Eastern Europe and Latin America, is no longer specifically connected to Christianity, however.  Name diversity is not too prevalent because there are only so many names to choose from if you want to be able to celebrate a name day; parents must choose a name for their child from a list that contains all the official ‘name day’ names.  Additionally, for the more popular names there is more than one day to celebrate, in which case, the person chooses which day to recognize his or her name day.  There are even calendars with all the name days marked so as to make sure no one forgets which names are recognized on which days.  It’s a pretty serious tradition.

Name days are such a big deal, that many times birthdays are not celebrated with the cake, presents, and parties we typically see in the United States.  Birthdays are typically quieter events, but even though name days often times take precedent over birthday celebrations, both occasions are recognized so every person gets celebrated twice a year.  I think we should be celebrated every day of the year; not just once or twice.  We wouldn’t get any of our work done if we were getting presents, eating cake and celebrating with family friends every day, but there are worse things in life, right?

Farsang

For the past couple days the weather has been really nice, which has given me a false hope that spring is here but I have decided to just go with it and be excited about spring anyway.  There is bound to be some more snow storms and cold weather but for now it’s warm, the sun is shining, and I am ready for the season to change.

Today at the Children’s House we celebrated Farsang, the Hungarian carnival season.  The carnival season, which precedes Lent, begins on Epiphany and ends on Ash Wednesday and is full of parties, masquerades, balls, and parades that are intended to scare off winter and welcome spring.  The kids dressed up to send winter on its way and greet the spring that has been with us for the past couple days—I really hope it is here to stay.  We had a lot of fun and shared a lot of laughs while we sang, danced, played musical chairs, had doughnut eating contests (and just ate a lot of doughnuts), and played with balloons!  The princesses, clowns, angels, witches, and tigers at the House this morning had a lot of fun playing and being in fellowship with one another.  One little boy even dressed up as Santa Clause with a bright red mask and rosy cheeks—all the costumes were great!

The House was full of smiles and happiness this morning as we celebrated the changing seasons.  May you find happiness in the anticipation of a new season in your life.

English Class

Every Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday night I teach English classes to the people in the congregation and the community.  This has quickly become one of my favorite activities here because the classes are so diverse and the kids are absolutely delightful—I now have a new appreciation for teachers’ LOVE of teaching.  One very bright and very eager 12-year-old girl saved a spot for me last night and excitedly showed me the notes she had taken during previous lessons.  While I was explaining countable and uncountable nouns and when to use ‘some,’ ‘any,’ ‘many,’ ‘much,’ ‘few,’ and ‘little,’ I noticed that her hand was furiously writing notes that she then referred to during the practice exercises we went through as a large group.  It was strange—I felt like and actual teacher; kids were actually listening to me, haha!  Toward the end of the lesson, when I announced that we would play a game, the excited expressions on the faces of the kids took me back to my junior high days and the excitement that jolted through every kid when the teacher even thought of the word ‘game.’  Learning games are so fun!

Sitting with this group of predominantly 12-year-olds, I was reminded that kids are kids no matter where they are from.  There is always the girl who works hard, takes notes, and wants to be best friends with the teacher.  There is always the table full of loud boys who crack jokes during the whole lesson.  There is the boy who wants to learn but tries to hide it from his friends because it is ‘cooler’ to goof around than it is to learn.  There is the boy who NEVER knows what is going on and always asks what question he has to answer when it is his turn.  There are the smart, quiet girls in the back corner who really know their stuff and get every question right.  Finally, there is the girl who is an absolute whiz but lacks the confidence to speak up.

Even though geographical and cultural differences seem to separate people, it is refreshing to know that no matter where they live, what language they speak, or what cultural traditions they practice, people are people.  Of course I know that people are people and should be treated with dignity no matter what their background, but this idea was so apparent to me last night during English class (probably because 12-year-olds have such big personalities) that I couldn’t help but think about how small the world really is.  There are positive, negative, radical, laid-back, funny, aloof, lazy, and ambitious people everywhere.  This is a comforting thought to me because it shows everyone’s shared humanity and (if we all believe in people’s shared humanity) makes it easier to love others.  The world is a small place after all; why not fill it with love?

Sometimes I Think Life Would Be Cool If It Were More Like An…

Every night before you went to sleep you could erase the day and start with a    clean slate in the morning

The flower, dog, and star stamps would always be with you to brighten your day wherever you happened to be

Changing your outlook would require a simple slide of the eraser—then you can think something new

Hours upon hours of entertainment would always be at your fingertips.  Really, Etch A Sketches are pretty awesome

Absolutely nothing (other than a really powerful magnet) could put a blemish on your day

Stuck in a boring meeting?  Just doodle!

Keeping your affairs in order would never be a problem because once you write them down, they are not going anywhere until you erase them

Everything would be in black and white which gives you the freedom to color your own world

The weather would always be nice because there would be a perpetual sun shining away in the upper-right-hand corner

Creating a new adventure would be as easy as picking up your pen (which you would never lose because it’s attached) and drawing something wild and crazy

Happiness would literally be your own design—how fun!

etch a sketch

 

Disclaimer:  We got a new Etch A Sketch at the Children’s House…you can guess what I have been playing with lately…

Well Rested

After the craziness of the holidays, things have slowed down considerably for me here in Hungary.  There are no more graduate school application deadlines to worry about (the subject of my last blog), there are no more holiday events to attend to, and there are hardly any more COMPLETE surprises in my day (which, let me tell you, is a very good thing).  The weather has been less than desirable these past few weeks with rain, snow, and a lot of fog, so the Children’s House has been pretty quiet because the kids are either out sledding or they stay at home where it is warm because they do not have winter clothes to protect them from the elements on the way to the House.  Since there are no kids at the House, Betti and I have a lot of time to clean, organize, and reorganize the incredible amount of stuff in the House, but this morning, there was no more cleaning or organizing to do…  As we sat there resting I began thinking about what it means to rest.  Is rest the simple absence of something to do?  Is it a physical state?  Or is it a state of mind, perhaps?

I’m not sure what rest really is, but with my days so open, I have been able to rest a lot lately.  As opposed to slamming down a cup of coffee and pushing onward, I have taken naps to recharge my batteries, I have read for fun, and I have caught up on all the emails I fell behind on during the busy holiday season.  I often find myself racking my brain to find things to do when I should just be enjoying this time of respite (which has really only spanned 3 days) because I know things will pick up again soon.  I am not the only one who has been resting as of late: looking through the fog, I see fields resting under blankets of snow, I see trees resting after carrying their leaves all summer, and I see people going about their lives at a slower pace. 

Granted the weather in January normally forces us to slow down a bit, but for as long as I can remember, January has always gone by at a more relaxed pace than the rest of the year; maybe it’s the weather, or maybe just seems slower after the holiday madness, or maybe life just takes a break for a bit in the beginning of a new year as a way to prepare us for the months to come.  I don’t know what it is, but the rest I have experienced has helped to clear my head, recharge my batteries, and keep me looking forward to the new and exciting things to come. 

There is no doubt that life will once again get busy, but rest is an essential part of life that should be savored, and I plan to do just that.