Just 16 years after its founding, the Center for Christian Education regularly serves more than 600 people through its comprehensive ministries. We are very thankful for people—especially missionary couples—who have a heart for ministry in Slovakia! One such couple is Midwesterners Blythe and Tony Barreto, who arrived in Martin in June 2015 to spend two years at CCE. Graduates of Concordia University Chicago and recent newlyweds, these Americans offer an added dimension to the students’ learning experience and to the Academy staff. We are blessed to have them here. This is part 2 of a two-part story about the Barretos.
What do you see as the biggest challenges of life in Slovakia (compared to your life in the US)?
Tony: It’s a much slower pace than what I was used to. In Chicago, I was always in a hurry for things and life was so much faster. Here in Slovakia, the living is nice and slow. I would not say it is a challenge, but it’s something we’ve had to adjust to.
Blythe: Not having air conditioning and paying to use the restroom are two things that have created some interesting situations. It is also difficult to get around when you can’t understand the signs or the people.
I have a whole new respect for immigrants who come to a new country and try to learn a totally different way of life. Sometimes the smallest tasks are so difficult when you can’t explain yourself or what you want. The advice everyone gave us when coming to Slovakia was “be flexible.’’ This was something we really had to adjust to, even though we were warned in advance.
What have you become accustomed to most quickly here in Martin?
Tony: Doing outdoor things like hiking and biking has been something Blythe and I have embraced. We’ve fallen in love with the mountains and the things we get to do outdoors.
Blythe: Goulash, paprika chips, and the beautiful mountains.
Are you also a student (or a fan) of Slovak words? Which one is your favorite?
Tony: “Nazdar!” has become my favorite Slovak word. It’s a cooler way to say hi or bye.
Blythe: When I tell sarcastic jokes that students don’t understand, I can always make them laugh and explain myself by throwing in “Ale nie.” [oh no]
Blythe, you are serving as CCE’s Director of Development, In addition, you’re teaching reading and religion in CCE’s bilingual high school. What do you like most about teaching here?
Blythe: I’m teaching two courses in CCE’s bilingual high school: reading for first-year students and religion to third-year students. For the reading class, I like that the class allows me to teach the kids how important and fun reading can be. I try to select material that is relevant and teaches them to enjoy reading.
In religion class, for each class session the kids complete a sheet with their questions, prayer requests, and what they learned. Sometimes I tear up reading what the students wrote, they are so bright and have such great thoughts. I truly love our discussions in class and I try to make education fun and practical for them. I think they should enjoy learning about religion and I really make a point to keep the class relevant for them, and they respond with great questions and ideas!
Tony, you’re teaching English and Science in CCE’s high school. What do you like most about it?
Tony: Teaching English has been fairly easy. The challenge is teaching in math and science though. I find myself constantly trying to figure out the difference between pounds and kilograms or Fahrenheit and Celsius. It is a minor adjustment, but I don’t have it figured out completely yet.
Tony, tell us about your participation in Slovak baseball.
Tony: I’ve played baseball nearly all my life. It’s my favorite sport and I’ve been blessed to be able to continue playing here, for Apollo Bratislava, the best men’s club in Slovakia. Baseball is a very popular sport in America, Asia, and Latin America, but it’s still growing in Europe.
Have you two experienced any doubts so far during your ministry here? What has helped you most in overcoming any worries or fears?
Blythe: It was difficult transitioning from working as a Director of Christian Education at a church where I connected so well with students. Before that, I had worked at a church for three years, while in University, and I had great relationships with all the students there as well. Sometimes I feel that the language barrier prohibits me from making a greater impact in their lives, but Tony always encourages me to trust God, be myself, and focus on doing my best.
Tony: I’ve had no doubts. All of the circumstances have been ideal and God has shown us time and time again that this is the place we’re supposed to be right now.
What has brought you two the greatest joy in your stay so far?
Blythe: The relationships we have formed with our coworkers, friends, and students. We’re blessed to work at such an amazing place that is so driven by the Gospel. Every day I thank the Lord that I get to work in a place that seeks to spread His love.
Tony: Working at the CCE and getting to know my colleagues has been an absolute pleasure. Everyone we meet has been so nice.
*** Part 1 ***
|Over the years, teachers from the United States and Great Britain have been instrumental in advancing CCE’s educational ministry. And while many educators express interest in teaching for a year or more in our programs, relatively few have the financial means to do so (and Slovakia’s government does not provide funding for such teachers).
For this reason, we have established the English-Speaking Teachers Fund to assure the continued use of qualified native-English speakers in our classrooms. The annual cost associated with maintaining one American or British teacher on staff is approximately $16,000.
Please consider supporting this worthwhile endeavor;
For more information, contact CCE´s Director of Development, Blythe Barreto, at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on making a tax-deductible contribution, please visit www.cce.sk. Under the tab Support Us, select Ways to Give.