We’ve reached the middle of our first week in Slovakia. The worst of the jet lag is behind us, though we’ve discovered that some Slovakians really like to sing and yell on their way home after the bars close. And we’ve also noticed that most of them like to walk right past our open window. So I’m now up a tad earlier than normal. But as a morning person, I really don’t mind all that much.
The last couple of days have come with some great experiences and one important life lesson. On the “experiences” side of the equation, we’ve spent a lot of time just getting to know our own team. We joined this team rather late in the process, so we weren’t able to make most of the team meetings before the trip. We had to introduce ourselves to several team members at the airport, and didn’t meet some others until we arrived in Slovakia. So much of our time over the last few days has been about relationships. And that’s been good.
And last night we got to take a little side-trip to Zilina, a nearby town with a nice downtown. It’s primarily a shopping area now, complete with a Tesco and a very modern shopping mall. But there’s still plenty of traditional architecture, several beautiful town squares, and a nice cathedral. So it was well worth visiting.
Our part of the team has also started doing some work around the campus. We’re spending part of our time planning for next week’s Junior High camp. But that still leaves us with enough time to help renovate a building that they’ll be using for kindergarten classes in the fall. (They’ve acquired several buildings from the city on a 50-year lease for 1 euro per year. Math isn’t my specialty, but that seems like a pretty good deal.) So we’ve been doing a little cleaning and painting in our spare time.
I’m not sure if it’s because I’m an American, because I’m well-educated, or some combination of the two. But I’m a bit arrogant. I don’t mean to be, it just happens.
So I go on a trip like this with some awareness of the fact that I have several degrees in Bible and theology, and that maybe I’ll have an opportunity to offer a bit of my expertise in those areas while I’m here. And that has certainly happened to some extent already. But yesterday I was reminded that we’re not here to “save the day.”
It started when I met the family who lives in the apartment across the hall. They’re nice, easy to talk to. They have kids about the same age as ours. Oh yeah, and they also have multiple degrees in Bible and theology. He has an MA and a PhD in New Testament, and she has a PhD in pastoral theology, where she specializes in grief counseling. Then I met the nice lady who led our trip to Zilina. On top of being rather striking, she has degrees in law and finance. Another man I met has his PhD in theology. And on it went.
I don’t know why I should have expected anything different. We are staying at a Bible school after all. But I didn’t really think about that. I just brought my arrogance with me and thought I was more cool than I really am.
And I’m reminded of two things:
- God has been providing for his people all along. He didn’t need us to come along and take care of the things he accidentally overlooked. That doesn’t mean that he won’t use us while we’re here, or that the trip wasn’t worth making. It’s just a reminder that God is the one who saves the day, not us.
- I’m here as a learner far more than I am as an expert. Rather than thinking that the Slovak church should be grateful for the resources that we’ve sent to them, I’m grateful for the time and energy that they’re pouring into us, and the opportunity that it gives us to be shaped along the way.
So I’m having a little humility with my coffee this morning. They’re both a bit bitter, but they usually are.