Getting Back to Normal

I gave myself yesterday to just rest and do some unpacking. I’m nearly finished with that, just a few things to put away and some laundry to do.  I will get back to my normal routine here on my blog on Monday.  It doesn’t seem like a good idea to start on Galatians 4 today and then not do anything with it until Tuesday.

Here are a couple of pictures that have come in from the trip:

devotions on the way
stopping for devotions on the way to Michalovce.
linda and marek
Giving my testimony, with Marek doing the interpreting.
Slovakian hike
Bryan and Martin enjoying the view at the highest point of their hike. Slovakia is a beautiful country.
I got to lead a session for the women during the conference.

Tuesday, July 14

It’s a very long day when you’re flying east to west!  Everything went like clockwork, though.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone through customs so fast. Our baggage was already coming down when we got to baggage claims, and customs was a cake walk 🙂  We pulled into the church parking lot at five minutes to six, by which time we’d already been up for over 18 hours.  Terry and Dan came to pick me up, and of course we had to do some chatting.  Add another four hours before I finally tumbled into bed, and  you get 22 hours of being awake.

I do not believe in going 22 hours without sleeping.

Every time I’ve flown to Europe, I’ve loved the experience of being there, of meeting new people, of seeing historic places I’d read about.  I enjoy knowing the customs of other countries, and learning new and sometimes better ways of doing things. We were warmly received everywhere we went. They really rolled out the red carpet for us, and I’m so thankful for this opportunity.  Whether or not I’ll be able to do it again remains to be seen. This creaky old body sure was thankful to stretch out in my own familiar bed last night.

And I need to say a little bit about home. You know, the one that there’s no place like it?  Every time I’ve flown back onto American soil, I’ve felt a profound sense of gratitude for my country. I love America.  I love the foundations of our freedoms, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, although they’re being sadly shredded by today’s leadership.  I pray that Mr. Obama does indeed step down when this term is over, although I have deep concerns that he has no intention of doing so.

I talked a lot with my host and hostess about what it was like to live in Communist Slovakia.  Some things, they said, were not too bad.  Everyone worked. Today, young people are leaving because of a lack of jobs. However, no one could really rise above their designated level.  Everyone was the same.  And there remained deep poverty, in spite of Communist insistence that “sharing the wealth” would solve the problems of poverty. The only people who were wealthy were the ones in power. My host told me that the first time he went out of Slovakia into west Germany, he was amazed at all the color he saw.  All buildings in Slovakia were grey.  No color.  No individuality. He pointed out some of the older apartment buildings that are still grey, but some people are painting their sections in vivid colors these days.

They no longer worry about government listening to their phone calls or reading their emails. If a family member leaves Slovakia, they no longer fear the government watching all that person’s relatives to make sure no one else follows suit. They no longer stand in food lines, hoping to be able to purchase bread before it runs out. They can find a great variety of foods in their grocery stores that was not available under Communism.  The women were required to send their children to day care at the age of three. That is no longer mandated, although the women who choose to stay home with their children do feel pressure that they should be working.  It isn’t easy to make ends meet.

I do not want my country to go through all that.  Socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried. When people have no opportunity to improve their lot in life, then life is very bleak. There is no hope. And there is no hope because there is no God.

The people we ministered to are so joyful in their faith.  That have a deep interest in the things of the Lord, and they want to study and learn what the Bible has to say.  These are freedoms we take for granted here, because we’ve had them for so long. We need to remember that freedom isn’t free; that all it takes is one generation of laziness to lose all that we have.  There are those who like to blame Christianity for lack of freedom, who want to edit out “offensive” things from the Word of God. They are noisy, they are powerfully supported by wealthy and influential people. And they are wrong. When you edit God out of your life, when you change His Word to support your own opinions, you are destroying the very freedoms you claim to gain by doing so.

I love my country.  I fear for my country. We need to pray, not “God Blesss America,” but “God, forgive America; God, heal America; God, revive your Word and Your Spirit in America. Amen.”

Monday, July 13

Well.  Here we are in the hotel room, Leah and I.  It’s the Hilton Budapest, and it’s very, very  nice.  Air conditioning. Ahhhh.

I met Maria and her delightful parents shortly after we arrived in Budapest. We went for lunch at, of all places, T.G.I. Friday 🙂  Sat there for over three hours, just getting to know one another.  It’s amazing to meet them when we live so far away, and I loved being with Maria again.   She is a bright, kind, generous girl and we love her very much.

Back to the hotel after goodbyes, and then off to dinner with David’s relatives.  They took us to a Hungarian restaurant on the Danube, outside on a porch looking over the river.  Beautiful. The food was also beautiful.  And we could see the main buildings of the government, and the churches, from where we ate.  We drove around the city after supper when the buildings and the bridge were all lit up. It’s like a fairy tale place, only better because you’re there and you know it’s real!

Our flight leaves around 9 tomorrow morning.  By this time tomorrow, we should be in Newark boarding the bus for the drive back to the church.

It will be good to be home.

Sunday, July 12

It’s 7:36 p.m.  I think I’m in for the night.  Just came back from our final meal at the church with some of the young people and several team members.

This morning’s service was just wonderful.  We had a full house, and to top it off there were two full rows of gypsies who had promised many times that they would come, and today they finally did!  They wanted pictures with those of us who were out there last Sunday night.  I hope someone from the team sends me a couple of those.

Dave Arcuri and I were appointed to give testimonies before Pastor Spears preached. A big buffet meal, lots of hugs and goodbyes.  I already have some new friends on my Facebook page, and I hope there will be more.

There is a nice little park nearby. Pastor Bohdan took the family and me there, and we enjoyed some peace and quiet. Then we took some time to watch a football game (known to us as soccer) with our guys and the Slovaks.  Well, not just guys.  Leah played, too.  Brave girl 🙂

So now I have to pack and get ready for the drive to Budapest tomorrow.  I’m very excited to get there, because I’m going to see Dan’s girlfriend, Maria, and will meet her parents for the first time.  Really looking forward to that.  Then, Tuesday, early, we’ll board our flight to Munich and then to America.

Land that I love.

Saturday, July 11

1:30 p.m.

We’re nearly finished.  We had the final session of the conference this morning.  Dave Leinbach spoke on the importance of evangelism. We went from there to discussion groups. To my great chagrin, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Quiet room, comfortable chair, soft-spoken people.  The translator leaned over once and asked me if I was ok. She had seen me nearly fall out of my chair, I guess.  How embarrassing.  We all got a good laugh out of it, but good grief!

Back to church to wrap  up the conference and have a quick lunch. The rest of the team and several young people were scheduled to go on a hike at a large lake, and I questioned  the wisdom of my going  along with them. Pastor Bohdan very kindly and tactfully told me that he felt the trip would not be best for me; instead, he and the family invited me to spend the afternoon with them on a tour of the downtown area, most of which will be by car. With a broad grin, he suggested I might like a little nap before we leave.

I did. And now I’m waiting for everyone to gather.  I suspect Bohdan may be taking a nap of his own 🙂

So we spent a couple of hours in what they call the Centrum, the center of town, where there are still some pretty old buildings as well as some new ones.  Bohdan pointed out  buildings that were post-socialism as well as those that remain from that era, which are all gray.  Also some beautiful old buildings.  I have a few pics, but still can’t figure out how to make all that work over here, so it will have to wait until I get home.

To end our stroll, we went to a shop called “The Chocolatier.”  I ordered a cup of cherry chocolate, dark, no alcohol. It came with a little bowl of whipped cream and a little bowl of water to drink when you finish the chocolate.  It’s very rich, very thick, very delicious. We sat under an awning outside the cafe, with a cool breeze blowing and the sun warming us. It was a highlight for me.  I felt very much at home. Chocolate. Ambrosia 🙂

When we returend home, Bohdan got out his cello and did some warming up.  I’d asked him if he would play in church tomorrow, and I hope that he will.  He’s a very gifted man, a great pleasure to talk with and to fellowship with in the Lord.

The team had been invited for yet another cookout, this time on a much bigger lake. Again, wonderful food, wonderful hospitality.  These people really know how to make you feel welcome.

You can read about this place online.  Look up “Morske Oko.”

So I went to thank the host and hostess and was showered with hugs and cheek kisses and an invitation to stay with them next time I come.  They also handed me a gift bag of mementos of our visit to Michalovce–cards, maps, many pictures. Beautiful place.

I got home early tonight–just after 8 p.m., and I’m glad for that.  I need an early bedtime tonight so I’m fit for human consumption tomorrow.  I feel it’s going to be quite an emotional day as we say goodbye to these people who have treated us with so much love.

I need to make a correction.  We were not at Morske Oko, although I would love to see it.  We were at Zemplinska Sirava, or “The Slovak Sea.”  And that’s how you can google it.

Friday, July 10

I’m starting this one early.  It’s 3:45 p.m. here, and we have -hour break before we reconvene for “light refreshments.” We’re invited to a private home for a barbecue after the service this evening.  Just call me “Porkie,”  No.  Don’t you dare!

The morning service was preached by Pastor Tibor from a village about five hours from here.  He spoke very well on the importance of discipleship. We had discussion groups, then lunch.  Yeah, we eat well here.  Homemade Slavik goulash with good bread, and pastries for dessert.

Afternoon session was preached by a young man, Maio (pronounced MY-O) who spoke about discerning truth in God’s Word compared to Satan’s lies.  Discussion group again.  Then, just as I was leaving, Yanka came running up and asked me to stay just a little while.  I sat down in the fellowship hall, and soon Emily Acuri was there as well.  “What’s going on?”  says I.  “I think it may have something to do with birthays,” she replied.  Hers is today; mine was on the Fourth. Sure enough, several young women came in bearing roses for each of us, and a box of chocolates for each of us. They are treating us so well!

My roses are now gracing the top of a cupboard in my room, and I’m going to lie down and enjoy them until 5. When, like I said, we need to go eat. Again.  This time, though, there will also be a question-and-answer period during the meal.

You can’t talk with you mouth full, right? !!:

11:00 p.m.

Just got dropped off at the pastor’s house. The whole team had been invited to another home for barbecue after the service tonight. Good grief. SO MUCH FOOD!! And every bite more delicious than the last.  The people are warm, gracious, and want to please us. You’d think we were kings and queens.

I got almost an hour-long nap, and I’m glad I did. Made it possible for me to keep going the rest of the day.

The service went well tonight. Dave Arcuri spoke about the structure of a biblically-based church, and then we split into two groups this time.  Men stayed in the auditorium, and the women went to the fellowship hall.  I got to lead this session, in which we discussed a woman’s role in the church today.  We got a little bit of a slow start, but once we got rolling we had a great session.  Funny, serious,  emotional, and focused on God’s Word and what it has to say to women.

I’m tired, but wired.  Glad I have my Kindle with me.  I’ll read until I’m sleepy.

Dobry nuc 🙂

Thursday, July 9

The day was fairly quiet for me.  The men worked hard to finish pouring a cement floor in the upstairs part of the church, where there are several new rooms being created.  They were all thankful that  the weather is much cooler–mid to high ’70’s.  Leah was doing a lot of painting and got a little woozy from the fumes, and we all told her, “No more painting!”

I spent some time with Eva, the pastor’s oldest girl.  She has very long blonde hair, and I wanted to put it in a waterfall braid for her.  Couldn’t get it right, and she was being very patient.  Finally gave up and did a basic French braid with the end tucked up underneath.  She seemed to like that.

In the afternoon, most of us were resting in anticipation of the evening service.  Marianna and I took a walk with the kids. There’s a nice little river about two blocks from their house, and it was calm, cool, breezy–just beautiful. Marianna told me about a friend who said she would like to talk with me, so we’re going to try to set that up.  Also, she has a friend from a nearby town who would like me to come and speak to the women in her church like I did here on Tuesday night. Don’t know if that’s going to work out or not, so please pray with me that God will make a way for it to happen.

Supper at church was basically pork and sauerkraut, and it was to die for!  My word, these women can cook!

The conference started at six.  I’m not sure, but I would guess maybe 50 people were there. Pastor Spears was the main speaker. He talked about salvation, forgiveness, the importance of living a godly life. After his message, we split into discussion groups where people could ask questions.  One of the women in our group wanted to know how to tell her friend about the meaning of birth by water and birth by the Holy Spirit.  That led to a lively discussion about the reality of hell.  I know, big jump, but these things happen 🙂  We reconvened then to share what each group discussed, and then we finished for the night.

A young woman came to thank me for something I said during the discussion group, and of course we talked for some time after the meeting was over.  We prayed together, and she told me she had wondered why she was home for the summer, not going to help in a Bible camp or some such thing, which is what she usually does. She said she knows now that she was supposed to come to this conference, and she’s so glad we’re all here.

I don’t know if my cup can runneth over any more than it already is!

Wednesday, July 8

The morning started as usual with devotions together at the church.  Then I went back to the house and continued to help Marianna prepare lunch.  It was a light lunch today, with a “thick” soup, bread, and siskys.  We  had been invted to a private home for the evening meal.  Oh my word.  We had halushky, and zucchini lasagna, and the most incredible thing for dessert.  I don’t even know what to call it.  It was full of fresh fruit, cream, and I think ladyfingers for a crust. I’m going to need to go on bread and water for a couple of weeks when I get home!

I spent quite a bit of time with the pastor’s children this afternoon, and even got in a quick nap.  The intense heat has taken a toll on me, finally.  It just saps the energy, and this old woman has never withstood heat all that well.  The nap did a lot to restore my balance.

We had a regular church service tonight.  One of the team members, Leah, gave her testimony.  What a blessing she is!  Sweet young woman with a real desire to serve the Lord.  Dave Leinbach spoke on prayer, and we closed the meeting singing “How Great Thou Art.”  Of course, I don’t know the Slovak words, so I sang in English. About halfway through the second verse, I was just overcome with the knowledge that here we are, half-way around the world, with people we may never see again; and still, we could lift our voices in the beautiful harmony of that song because we know the same Lord, the same God. There truly is a bond among believers.

When I stepped outside the church doors, a cool gust of wind blew in my face and I was overcome again!  I’ve been praying all week that the heat would break in time for the conference so that we wouldn’t all be so hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. It’s wonderful outside right now, after some rain and that wonderful cool wind. So refreshing!

Once we got to the house, the doorbell rang.  It was a woman who was at last night’s Bible study. She and her husband were going back out to minister to the gypsies, and she had wanted to stop by just to say hello and thank you for our discussion last night. Then, Marianna and I sat in the back yard, enjoying the wind and the cool air, watching their chickens scratch around and act like chickens.  Have you ever just sat and watched chickens?  No?  They’re hilarious!  You’ve no idea what you’re missing. While the chickens did their thing, Marianna and I talked for a long time. Finally, the birds climbed  up to their roost and we came inside.

It’s been a good day.  Productive, interesting, touching others, being touched by others.

And now I’m off to bed.  Good night!  Dobry nuc!

Tuesday, July 7

Here is something I posted early today on my Facebook page:

Good morning from Slovakia. This is a request for prayer for my energy and endurance. I feel like I’m fading today! It’s been a wonderful experience in every sense, but this morning I’m just having a hard time getting going. I’m helping Marianna, my hostess, in the church kitchen this morning. We’ll be preparing the noon meal for the workers. I’d just appreciate if you could pray that God will lift me up today physically.

I want to tell you that God answered prayer, way above and beyond!  I had misunderstood the schedule.  My hostess is serving tomorrow, not today. We did food prep–lots of dicing, slicing, chopping, She also made sisky, pronounced shuski,  which are Slovakian fried donuts. They’re not as sweet as our raised donuts, and not as greasy. Wonderful treat.

We ate our usual big lunch. At three o’clock, Pastor Spears and I were treated to tiramisu for tea. At four o’clock Marianna offered me a fresh donut.  At five o’clock we ate our supper.  At six o’clock Marianna and I went to women’s Bible study, where I was privileged to give my testimony and then to answer many, many questions about the work I do. And treats.  Little cream puffs, assorted salty and sweet, minty lemon water.

At nine o’clock we got home.  I said something about bed. Marianna offered me some juice, which somehow morphed into bread, cold cuts, and  brie.

They are merciless.  As I waddled off to bed, I’m sure they were trying to think of something else to feed me 🙂

Meanwhile, the hardworking men and women in the church building and courtyard were sweating buckets and working off the calories from lunch.  They didn’t get tiramisu, or sisky—yet.  They’ll get the sisky tomorrow 🙂

I’m having such a wonderful experience.  And I need to add that I expressed my sense of not contributing as much as the others to both Dave and Pastor Spears, and both of them assured me that, as a friend said on my Facebook post, I’m doing exactly what God sent me over here to do.

Well.  All right, then.

Monday, July 6

Hothothot.  Hot.

I really felt for the guys who worked outdoors today.  Some of them are still there. The temp was was 100.4.  Whew.

After our morning gathering, I went back to the house to spend some time with my hostess.  I had offered to help the women in the kitchen, but they clearly had everything under control.  Tomorrow,  I’ll help my hostess, Marianna, prepare the noon meal for the workers.

Lunch was amazing. I won’t even tell you the details, because I dont want to cause you to commit the sin of envy 🙂  I think I could really get used to the habit of starting a meal with some good homemade soup, though.

While the men continud outside, I grabbed a paintbrush and joined Leah in working on the trim around the doors inside the church. We worked for maybe three or four hours when Pastor Bohdan came and told me it was time to stop for the day. However, when I went out to the courtyard to say goodbye to the men out there, Pastor Bohdan was still working hard. He still isn’t home.  He and Marianna are taking very good care of me.

I’m not sure what’s on the schedule tonight, if anything. So I’mg going to stop for now and finish this post before I go to bed.

Well, that was certainly worth waiting for.  The team and many others from the church were invited to a member’s home for volleyball, fellowship, and a cookout. Honestly, I have never seen so much good, fresh food so often in only two days!  Yikes.  It’s hard to know what to choose.  I settled on what we know as a shishkabob.  The Slovakians call it a “Shuss” or something very close to that.  I talked with several people, and spent some time chatting with a young lady who grew up at Calvary in Pottstown and is now living in Slovakia.  There was a cloud cover, so the temperature dropped into a comfortable zone, and it sprinkled just a little bit.  Supposed to be up to at least 100 again tomorrow. Sigh.

A delightful ending to a good day, and now my body is calling loudly for bed.

Dobry noc!