A car, three planes, a bus, and nearly 24 hours. That’s what it took for us to arrive safely in Martin, Slovakia. And overall, the trip went without a hitch. The only major problem is that my daughters don’t sleep when we travel. Ever. Especially my youngest. You’d think that a 6-year old who got up at 3am after only five hours of sleep would have no problem sleeping on a trans-Atlantic flight. And you’d be wrong. She slept for a grand total of one hour on the entire trip. Fortunately, she’s also a great traveler. So it really wasn’t a problem.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we’ve embarked as a family on a short-term mission trip with a team from my church. We’ll be in Slovakia for the next two weeks teaching English and helping with summer camps for Junior and High School students. My family’s primary responsibility is with the Junior High camp next week. So this week we’ll just be doing miscellaneous stuff at the Bible college here. And I’m always interested to see what “miscellaneous stuff” looks like on a mission trip.
Saturday evening and Sunday were really spent just settling in. Nonetheless, here are some of the highlights from the trip so far.
1. Worship Service: On a beautiful summer morning, around 500 people gathered in the courtyard outside the church for worship. It was an interesting mixture of traditional/liturgical and casual/contemporary. They gave us headsets through which the service was translated into English, which was nice. But I took mine off several times so I could just enjoy hearing the people worship in their own language. I’ve always thought there was something particularly powerful in hearing people worship God in different languages. For me, few things manifest more powerfully the global reach of the Gospel.
2. Jet Lag: No surprises here. You can’t cross that many time zones without a bit of jet lag. The first night, my daughter Leah came into our room at 3am wanting to know why we were still sleeping. She hadn’t set the clock on her iPod yet, and thought it was much later. (Apparently, she’d missed the fact that it was still completely dark out!) And last night, my youngest fell asleep in the middle of dinner. But we’re adjusting, and last night went better.
3. Town Square: Martin has a great town square just a few minutes walk away. We’ve already established an evening ice cream ritual that should serve us quite well.
4. Church Bell: To put it briefly, church bells are evil. Truly and purely evil. I don’t understand why some towns still insist on using them. Constantly. Now that we all have clocks, watches, and cell phones, isn’t it time to put such aural terrorism to rest? Or, if you really want your church bell to chime during the day, fine. But at night? That’s something else entirely. Who needs a bell to chime at two in the morning? What possible use does that serve? And if your town has a bell that chimes every fifteen minutes all night, you have a problem. I’m thinking about sneaking inside the bell tower to steal the clapper. Anyone know if that’s hard to do?
5. People: As with any trip like this, the people are the true highlight. The Slovaks that we’ve met are amazing. Their passion for God and his mission shows in everything they do. And their warmth and hospitality (especially for my girls) will make this a memorable trip all bit itself. And the team we’re here with is also pretty amazing. I’ve enjoyed watching the girls hanging out with the other team members, playing games and just talking. Priceless.
Today, the real stuff begins. The English classes and the high school camp both start this morning. As I said, we don’t really know yet what we’ll be doing this week. I know we’ll spend some time planning for next week’s junior camp, and we’ll also get to do some babysitting. (Apparently we’re the first family to come on one of these trips, and several of the Slovak families would love to have us watch their kids for a while so they can get some work done.) Other than that, we’ll have to see.