Coming to America: Barbora Sopoligová

Nine students from the Lutheran Academy’s bilingual high school participated in the first round of a student exchange program this past summer. Staying for the month of July with American host families from CCE’s partner churches, they experienced everyday life in a household other than their own. This is the second installment in our series.

It can be challenging to immerse yourself in the culture of another country, as Barbora Sopoligová discovered. “I spent the month of July in Chicago. At first my feelings were quite mixed.”

Her first days in America, Barbora says, were difficult: “The first week was the hardest for me because it was the first time I was so far away from my parents. To my surprise, my host family was very similar to my own family: it consisted of a father and mother with four children (two girls and two boys), and a dog. Exactly what we have at home!”

Barbora stayed with the Niermann family in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. “We had a great experience with Barbora,” says host mom Felicia Niermann. Felicia says her daughters Lucy (18) and Ella (16) especially enjoyed going to the Detroit ELCA conference together with Barbora, particularly because they were “doing something together that none of them had ever done before.” The Niermann daughters also introduced Barbora and her three Slovak classmates (who were also part of the exchange program) to the Taste of Chicago, a well-known local summer festival, where they met many of the Niermann girls’ American friends.

Another highlight of Barbora’s trip was a visit to the family’s cottage on a lake in Indiana, where they enjoyed time with extended family and many lake activities, including boating, swimming, and tubing. Barbara remarked, “It was a very interesting experience to celebrate the American Independence Day with my host family and their many relatives.”

Barbora was also introduced to the American sport of baseball. “I even tasted deep dish pizza, which is a food you have to try if you’re in Chicago!”

But Barbora and her host family also spent time helping others. “My visit to the US was not just about showing me how beautiful Chicago is. Every week on Wednesday we traveled to a poor area of Chicago, where we went to a program called Kidz Express. This program helps children from this neighborhood with their school work and in the summer gives them a bit of fun and joy. To see and be with those children was for me one of the greatest experiences. I again realized how important it is to help,” says Barbara.

The experience of living with a host family was enriching in many ways, especially in sharing the love of Christ and witnessing the Christian values at work in another household. Barbora confirms this, adding: “I had a lot more experiences in Chicago, but to mention them all I would need to write a whole book! I am grateful that I was able to be part of such a great exchange program. I would definitely go again, and I would recommend it to anyone.”

The summer exchange program between Slovak and American families organized by the Center for Christian Education deepens our faith, sows the seeds of lifelong friendship, and strengthens our bonds as the family of Christ. Would your church consider participating in this program for 2016? For more information, contact Tomáš Gulán at tomas.gulan@gmail.com.

Hedwiga Tkáčová <><

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One Response to Coming to America: Barbora Sopoligová

  1. KJ (Olson) Bach says:

    Roseville Lutheran (Roseville, MN) hosted two Slovak boys, Marek and Andrej, last July as a part of the Student Exchange program. They were AWESOME ambassadors not only of Slovakia but also as citizens of Martin, and in particular of the CCE. The Roseville Lutheran Youth and the two Slovaks had a great time engaging in ministry together by helping kids in Minneapolis who struggle in daily life. Andrej and Marek also went to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in NE MN with Roseville Lutheran Youth. The time spent in the wilderness allowed all of them to not only connect with and depend on each other but also connect with and depend on God. The connection of Christian Youth from differing cultures is one small step towards GLOBAL PEACE and understanding.

    I wholeheartedly encourage other church youth directors and youth committees to take advantage of this student exchange program. The partnership between the CCE and your church can be a life-changing and faith building experience …. not only for the participating youth, but for your entire congregation.

    Here is another opportunity for your church community to be the hands and feet of Christ……… Roseville Lutheran partnered with St. Andrew’s Lutheran (both Minnesota congregations) have enjoyed their partnership with the CCE for over 13 years. Vacation Bible School team, English as a Foreign Language teachers and the Builders Group have provided opportunities for adults to share their God-given gifts and talents with the Slovak people and build life-changing relationships. If you are being called to this mission and ministry, there is a Builders Group trip being planned for April 15-30, 2016. We would welcome ANY adult from any church denomination willing to renovate classrooms in the newly purchased CCE buildings to join the group April trip. Please contact the CCE staff to get connected to a Builders Group coordinator (KJ Bach or Joe Lunders or Don Swanson). The Builders Group motto says is so succinctly… “Renovating Rooms… Renovating Lives!”. And the life that might be changed could be YOURS!

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