Ministry in Slovakia (part 3/4)
When you decided to go to Slovakia, what roles did you leave behind?
Larry and I had retired from our own careers only a few weeks before we moved to Slovakia. But in going to Slovakia we both felt like we were still working although our work roles were different there at the Bible School: Larry had been a school psychologist for thirty-two years in the public schools in Vancouver; I had been an education consultant for homeschooling families for thirteen years. But teaching English as a Foreign Language was an entirely new role for both of us. We also left behind the role of being active grandparents with our six grandchildren. Another role we both left behind was being close to our elderly mothers, both of whom had recently lost their mates of more than 60 years. We were ever so grateful to sisters who stepped up to the plate to take care of our moms. For me personally I left behind a very dear friend who has been a part of my life since 1978. She and I deeply missed each other’s companionship while we were in Slovakia.
What were your expectations about your ministry in Slovakia before you came to Slovakia?
My own expectations for being in Slovakia were most satisfactorily fulfilled while there. I especially hoped to be able to develop relationships with young women that would give opportunity to “speak” God’s love into their lives, whether they were Christ followers or not. Over the course of two years God brought 30 or more of these opportunities—WOW!!!!
Were your expectations fulfilled or was everything totally different?
One unexpected opportunity that we encountered while living in Martin was the contact with new people from other countries besides Slovakia. For example, we connected with a group of Norwegian/Swedish medical students through a Bible study in which we participated. The friendships and relationships formed in that group with them are dear to us both and continue still. We even connected with a missionary from Singapore who touched our lives with her outreach into other Southeast Asian countries.
What was most surprising for you in Slovakia?
Likewise, we were both surprised at how easily we were able to travel to other European countries so easily and quickly. We would tell our family and friends in Vancouver that we went to Prague for a few days or to visit friends in Germany for Christmas. For Americans such easily accessible international travel is a bit overwhelming since ordinarily we have to cross the Atlantic Ocean before we touch European soil.
Can you remember your first cultural shock in Slovakia?
The only “cultural shock” I can recall was finding that the Slovak people, despite decades of suppression, readily accepted us two Americans as friends and acquaintances. Even shopkeepers who spoke no English were gracious with us as we tried our best to wrap our tongues around strange-sounding words in order to communicate (well, most of them did )!
I think Larry and I were amazed that for two years we survived without a car! We miss that now that we are back home—we loved the walks throughout Martin and the nearby hills and valleys.
Did you have some doubts during your ministry? What helped you the most in overcoming your worries and fears?
Doubt about long-term effectiveness was at times a bother to me. This doubt was driven by the language barrier; the Slovak language is challenging, after all! At times I wondered how God could possibly use me to communicate His love when language made it difficult to do so. Gradually I began to see that God’s love is demonstrated in so many ways besides language—a smile, a pot of soup left at someone’s door, a friendly wave of the hand. God allowed His Son to be crucified on the cross. His love for the world was undeniably communicated without words! Doubtless He can do the same with each of us.
You served as a teacher of English in Slovakia but you also saw many other opportunities for ministries there, of course in smaller dimensions ☺ Which kind of ministry were the most appealing to you in Slovakia?
One unexpected “ministry” Larry and I discovered there in Martin was the opportunity to sing in the church choir. We were a bit daunted at the thought of trying to sing in an “unknown tongue”, but we decided to try. One rehearsal later we were on the bus with the delightful folks in the choir on our way to a sister church in the Czech Republic. That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship with these fantastic singers! Gradually these dear ones embraced us as friends and fellow singers. My heart still sings and my eyes fill with tears of joy as I recall the moments we shared with this wonderful group of people.
Which of other ministries were appealing to you during your ministry?
Another unexpected “ministry” that came about while in Martin was connecting with people outside the Bible School community. One Martin family asked Larry and me to teach them English to help the long, dreary winter nights to pass and to create family time for the parents and their two children. That became a class of 3 generations since the Grandmother also joined in the “class”. This precious family delighted us with their sense of humor and eagerness to learn English. In so many ways they blessed us with their acceptance and their gratitude towards us.