Every drop counts

This interview happened on the day when Lutheran Academy Martin Slovakia high school organized its´ first-ever student blood drive. We talked to the organizer, Tomas Gulan, who serves at CCE as Religion teacher, School band director and Missions coordinator. We asked about today´s event and about CCE´s mission plans for 2017.

What was behind the idea of students donating blood?
We understand Christianity´s role in this world to be down-to-earth…. that means our ministry is not bound within the church nor school limits, but has to be bridged with civil society. That means you sometimes need to get your hands dirty, and it might, or rather it will, cause you some discomfort and pain. Together with my colleague, Luboš, who teaches ESL and religion in the middle school, we offered this experience and valuable lesson to our high school Junior/Senior class, as some of the students are now over 18 and thus eligible to donate blood.

You talk about your colleagues and students. What do you see as the most exciting aspect of your work at the school?
I recall the times when these current Juniors/Seniors were still in middle-school, or even grade 1 at the elementary school… and now they have personally experienced their first political elections, first blood-drive, etc. As the high school students are coming of age, their attitudes and worldviews are becoming more and more mature. Besides more challenging academic work, it is very rewarding to have many “grown-up” conversations with them, both during the teaching time, and also on an everyday basis as I meet them downtown or while running the school’s extra-curricular activities.

Any specific highlights from your work that come to mind?
Again, it is in connection with the students. I recall last year´s summer camp for freshmen-to-be, which we organize annually in order for the new class to get to know each other, the school, and their teachers in a more informal camp setting. Last summer was the first time when we included our older students in the preparation and running of the camp. As chaperones they were excellent! Full of excitement, fresh ideas, and energy. The 14-year old “new kids on the block” had a much easier jump-start to school by building friendships not only among themselves, but also with older classmates. I believe this is due to the long-term experience of the Juniors/Seniors, who could, with the help of our foreign partners, come to know that living as a Christian in this world means taking care of those who are weaker (in this sense, younger) or more needy.

At CCE you are in charge of the mission groups serving at various summer programs. Please share with us some news for this coming summer?
As usual, we will have extremely busy weeks both toward the end of the school year and also the first half of summer vacation.

  • For the last two weeks of June we will have a group from St. Andrews working with our 72 preschoolers and leading Peer ministry courses for our freshmen. The Elementary school will simultaneously be hosting a mission team from Fargo and North Dakota, who will be teaching conversational ESL to 160 kids in grades 2, 3, and 4.
  • The first week of July will be chaperoned by Hales Corner congregation, they will be leading the most challenging group, Junior high camp.
  • The second week of July will be covered by Grace Lutheran Church from Chicago, who will have the biggest crowd of around 200 kids, ages 3-10, at VBS.
  • The next two weeks we are offering ESL courses for the general public, taught by friends from New Heights church. At the same time, their college team we will run another camp for new high school freshmen. And we will definitely include our older students in the camp team.

Seems like you have lots to worry about for this coming summer…
Actually, my deepest distress at the moment concerns our offer to students to spend part of the summer in US homes and congregations. The program is targeted at offering Slovak high schoolers a hands-on experience not only in English language (lots of which they get in school), but also to genuinely experience another culture and church life in America. This is the third year we are offering this program; in the past two years we have had a total of 11 students in US congregations for a 4 week-stay.

So what is there to worry about? Everything seems like the program is a great success?
My worry is that this year we have received 17 (!) applications for the summer exchange program. That is almost double both previous years. While on one hand it shows that the previous student experiences were rewarding and the ministry our American partner churches are doing in Slovakia is bearing fruit. Though the selection process on our side will have to be much stricter and we will have to disappoint many qualified students. So, I am in an urgent hunt for more host congregations and host families, who would welcome a Slovak teenager into their family for around 4 weeks this summer. If you know of any, please let me know!

We wish you as much success as possible.
Thank you. I have been teaching here for over a decade, and I have learned that when working with youth and when sharing the Good news (and when donating blood), every drop counts…

In case you are interested in hosting a Slovak student for a summer exchange program, or joining any of the mission activities of CCE, please contact Tomas directly at tomas.gulan@gmail.com.

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