Sunday, June 5, 2016

Young Adult Worship (Weekend Ministry Experience #2)

[This weekend, I had four different ministry experiences. I have devoted a post to each one, so be sure to read all four!]

On Saturday evening, I joined some of my students for a young adult worship at their church in Békés, a town that neighbors Békéscsaba. The congregation is comprised of people from many different backgrounds, and at this worship, we had a combination of Roma and non-Roma young adults. Since we took the bus, we arrived a bit early and I was able to meet some of the young adults. (I had met some before, but I've learned being re-introduced helps me remember their names.)

Once everyone had arrived, we gathered in the room that is considered the worship space. I say "considered" because the building used to be a discotheque. The church members remodeled it and now use the space for worships, daycare, fellowship, etc. It's a cool building!

The worship was simple. We sang some praise songs (in Hungarian, of course) and prayed, aloud or silently, together. I was amazed to see so many young people comfortably praying out loud. It's something I enjoy experiencing, but it still makes this Lutheran feel a bit uncomfortable at times. (Ding ding ding! I have a blog post about that too! Check it out.)

After we sang and prayed together, the youth pastor gave a talk on a few passages from the Bible. I was only able to follow half of it, but I am actually quite happy that I could understand some of it! He would ask questions of the young adults and often they would chime in, creating more of a conversation than a traditional sermon.

Once the worship finished, we had some time before catching the next bus. I talked with a few of the people I had met previously, and then I was invited to sit at a table with my friend Dina and her friends. Dina is a voice student of mine and her English is quite good. When I sat at the table, she informed me that she had told her friends that I am a great singer. They shyly asked if I would sing a song, and they requested "O Holy Night." 

So I sang. 

And the ice was broken!

We spent the rest of the evening singing for each other and with each other, and we talked about our favorite singers and bands. Vivi, who is one of the girls who sings with the praise band, mentioned that she likes to dance and became very excited when some traditional Roma music started to play. I asked if she would teach me, and after a few moments, she finally agreed. 

Now I like to dance, but this style of dance is hard for me. All of the work is done with the feet- I like to use my entire body too much! When I watch her and one of the boys dance, I am amazed at how effortless they make it look. 

We spent the rest of the evening dancing, taking selfies (because selfies are a must), and laughing together. We even caught the photo below. 

Here's to hoping there will be more experiences with these young adults during the next month.

Family Day! (Weekend Ministry Experience #1)

This weekend, I had four different ministry experiences. I have devoted a post to each one, so be sure to read all four!

Yesterday was Family Day at the Lutheran church in Jamina. Children and their families, and volunteers, gathered in the yard of the church for a morning of worship, games, fellowship, and fun. 

Photo was taken at the end of our time together.

We started the day off with a time of worship together in the church. These children (well, at least some of the girls) love to sing and have their favorite songs out of the contemporary hymnal. We sang a couple of their favorite songs and then I taught them a song in English. 

Hallelu, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah 
Praise Ye the Lord (x2)
Praise ye the Lord, Hallelujah (x3)
Praise ye the Lord!

I put on my teacher hat (well, really it was my camp counselor hat) and quickly taught it to them and we had some fun with a call and response. After we sang it, I was told they have a Hungarian version, so they know it! But even so, I'm thankful they were willing to try it in English. 

I had the privilege of planning the worship. I chose the texts for the day and even gave a short sermon, which you can read at the end of this post. Zoli and I essentially created a dual-language worship, with the text read in both English and Hungarian. He also translated my short sermon into Hungarian. [Later in the afternoon, he told us the joke he has about the translator... but I'll save that for another time.] 

After our mini worship, we all made our way back to the yard and the families began to play games.  The games included the following: 
a fishing relay race (complete with gummy worms)
a race to get everyone to Jesus to be healed
putting the lines of the Lord's Prayer in order (as fast as possible, of course)
glueing as many sunflower seeds to the paper as possible (in a few minutes)

They also had an opportunity to do crafts, play balloon games, get their faces painted, and take an adventure up to the top of the church tower. Of course, after using so much energy, the children were happy to eat a delicious meal of spaghetti, made by some of the volunteers. It was a great time for all, as shown in the photos below.

Someone also brought some fresh cherries.
Nagyon finom.
(Very tasty.)

I also had an sweet moment with some wonderful teenage girls. I was standing near them, and suddenly they asked, both in Hungarian and English, "Do you sing opera? Would you sing some for us?" 

Side note: in the past, I have strongly disliked singing for people in a non-formal setting. However, this year, I have become surprisingly comfortable with singing in random places and for a variety of people, simply to share the gift of music. I often forget that most people don't spend 8+ years around other musicians. It is so important to share our gifts!

Anyway, I agreed and sang a bit of "Deh vieni non tardar" from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Then I asked if they would sing for me! After some convincing, they shyly agreed but we moved away from the other people sitting at the picnic tables. After they sang one of their favorite songs, we continued to exchange songs and even sing some together (in our respective languages). We were able to share things about ourselves using a combination of broken English and broken Hungarian. My heart was beaming after sharing stories and songs with them. I could feel their excitement and love. They are super great, really. 

It was also an extra special family day for me, as my mother was able to meet and spend time with my Hungarian family. Yay! 

Love, laughter, excitement, and fellowship time together. An overall great day. 


Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
And his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
His steadfast love endures forever,
And his faithfulness to all generations.

Mark 6: 30-34
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.


I have some exciting news for you!
It’s the end of the school year!

If you walk through the school during the next week, it is clear that the students (and teachers!) are filled with excitement knowing that it will be summer. For many of you, summer is a time of play, filled with joy and spending time outside while the weather is warm and beautiful. After all, you will have almost three months away from school! How could you not be excited?

[Insert: one boy said "It's not enough time!" haha]

You may also be excited to talk about all of the things you have learned and accomplished this year, and I bet there are people in your lives who can’t wait to hear the countless stories you now hold.

In the Gospel reading today, the apostles have just returned to meet Jesus after proclaiming the wonder of God, casting out demons, and healing those who were sick. Mark writes, “The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.” Then Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

Today, you are like the apostles. You have taken tests, created projects, and shared your time together. You have learned more about yourself and your friends, and have created great friendships with one another. Sometimes you were frustrated and it wasn’t always easy, but you have worked hard and learned a lot (and hopefully you had some fun doing it). But now, like the apostles, Jesus invites you to a place of rest for the summer. He invites you to remember all of the things you have done during this last year and celebrate them!
Jesus often reminds us of how important it is to find rest, especially after a time of hard work. It is good to rest your minds, bodies, and hearts so that you may also prepare yourself for the next school year.

Although we are called to find rest and refreshment this summer, we are also reminded to give thanks to God for what He has done and for what has passed. We have many things to be thankful for!

We give thanks for the teachers who have taught with patience, love, kindness, and excitement, and we remember that they need to rest just as much as you do!

We give thanks for the new things we have learned and for the many ways we have grown as students and people.

We give thanks for the new friendships we have made, and we give thanks for strengthening the friendships with those we have known for longer.

We give thanks for those who love and support us. We love them and often do not tell them how much we appreciate them.

We give thanks for the opportunity to go to school and learn together each day and we recognize that it is gift to do so.

We give thanks for the joy and excitement we feel when we accomplish something.

We also give thanks for the things that have pushed us and challenged us, so that we may continue to learn and grow.

God loves to hear our thanks and praises, and we are encouraged to share those with Him each day.  God also encourages us to share our thanksgivings with those in our daily lives.

Who do you want to thank? How can you show them you are thankful?

Take time today, and in the coming weeks, to tell each of them (perhaps your family, teachers, and friends) how much you appreciate their time, efforts, and relationships. We all like to hear that we are making a difference to someone, and we all need to hear that we are loved.

 Now, I’d like you to take your hands and cup them together. Take a moment to think about the things from the past year that you are thankful for.

Whisper them into your hands and then close your words of thanks within your hands.

On the count of three, we will joyfully throw them up to God.






Sunday, May 15, 2016

On being uncomfortable

It's hard to believe there are only two months left of my time in Hungary. The last nine months have been filled with moments of healing, love, joy, disappointment, peace, restlessness, and faith. I have been surprised and challenged. And I have most certainly been uncomfortable.

This afternoon, I scrolled past an article from Living Lutheran regarding the season of Pentecost. The article offers more questions than answers, per usual, and you can read it yourself, here:

While I found myself slightly annoyed with the amount of questions (there are a LOT of them), I was struck by the convicting tone of this challenge:

"This Pentecost, may the Holy Spirit blow us out of our comfort zones into new places and new spaces to engage people we have never engaged before. May we be ignited with new ways to serve to bring about the mission of God in our communities."

Talk about being uncomfortable.

God doesn't seem to let me be comfortable for too long. Lately, every time I begin to feel comfortable, I'm thrown into an oblivion of uncomfortableness. And every time, I say (usually out loud) "seriously, God? Again??? How many times do we have to do this uncomfortable thing?"

Of course, like any curious human being, I ask the "why" question: "Why can't you just let me be comfortable?"

The truth is, as human beings, we like to know why things are happening the way they are and at the moment they happen. It makes many of us uncomfortable to not know what is next. We like to know why things work or do not work. In fact, we have been conditioned to think this way... Well, at least I have.

However, whenever I ask "why," I end up running into a wall and I become frustrated.

So, I've decided to change the question. Instead of "why," I ask: "What are you trying to teach me or show me right now, God?"

I am constantly learning that it is in the uncomfortable where we grow and learn the most. We have to bask in the sea of uncomfortableness in order to arrive at the shore of where we'd like to be. Unfortunately, "basking" is easier said than done, as the sea can and will move us in unexpected and sometimes undesired directions. But with patience, trust, and a little help... well, a lot of help... we will make it safely to the shore to begin the next adventure. 

May the winds of the Holy Spirit lead us to break down boundaries that divide. May the fire of the Holy Spirit ignite us to speak life to a broken world. And may the sea of God's love fill us, challenge us, and lead us as we work to offer more love to the world.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Today, I was beautifully reminded of words I had forgotten:

"I am glad you are here."

This morning, I joined my friend Zoli for a few of the religion classes he teaches at the school. I had wanted to go (the kids are hilarious... Even when I don't understand everything that is being said), and I was happy to be there. As I was about to leave, he said "I'm glad you came!" I will admit that his kind statement surprised me but only because I often convince myself that I don't need to hear statements like these from those people with whom I interact. I responded with "I'm glad I came too!" This simple statement left me feeling loved and appreciated, and reminded me why I find relationships so important. 

Since then, I have been pondering what it would be like if we all said "I'm glad you are here" to those we encounter everyday, and to those who are different from us. How would our global conversations change if we verbally told each other how happy we are to see or meet one another? How would our world grow if we met each other with open minds and open hearts instead of fear and uncertainty? 

Here's what you need to know, dear friends:
I am thankful for the opportunity to know you and to have met you in this lifetime. Thank you for being exactly who you are. I am glad you are here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kindergarten and the Tower(s) of Jenga

On Wednesday afternoons, I make the 20 minute bicycle ride to the nearby village of Jamina. Today's ride was more difficult than usual due to the cold rain and "Kansas" like winds.

Seriously, this was me today.

After sitting down to have a coffee with my friends at the church office, I decided to brave the wind and ride to Jamina. Waiting for me on the other side of the bridge was 30 minutes of laughter, singing, my friend Zoli, and a handful of little children. Each week, I meet Zoli (he's the pastor at the Lutheran church in Jamina) outside the kindergarten building. We go inside and begin to gather the children, who have just finished their snack time. We greet them and wait for them to put on their coats and hats, and change out of their slippers/inside shoes and into their boots.

Once everyone is bundled, they rush to form a line at the door (always wanting to be first, of course!) and put their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. They form a "train" and chant the following, as we move to another space:

ez a vonat valahol.
Én vagyok a vasutas,
te meg legyél az utas!

which means...

this train somewhere. 
I am in the railway, 
you become a passenger!

Once we are settled in our space, we always take time to pray and sing a song or two. Zoli plans an activity, often based on a story in the Bible. In past weeks, we have colored pictures of scenes from the story of the Good Samaritan and the story of loaves and fishes, and played memory games. 

Today's activity was based on the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).
If you don't know the story, click here.

Zoli placed two containers of Jenga blocks in front of the children, separated them into two groups, and asked each group to build a tower with the blocks. Not surprisingly, this was also a lesson on how to work together to accomplish something greater. 

"Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 
(Gen. 11:4)

The children were then asked to build the tallest tower possible by using all of the blocks. With Zoli's help, they were able to create the tower below! They were blown away by his idea to place a few blocks vertically on the top of the tower. 

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.  That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
(Gen. 5-9)
From what I could gather, Zoli then told the children that God saw what the people did and thus created different languages and scattered them all over the Earth. He must have asked the children to name languages, because I heard shouts of 
Angol! (English)            Nemet! (German)            Olasz! (Italian)   
Francia! (French)           Magyar! (Hungarian)

As time was running short, the children packed up the blocks, and we said the Lord's Prayer, which we always say at the end of our time together. One of the children wanted to sing again, so we sang the song "Ez az a nap!". It is a catchy tune and one you have probably heard before. It is a song that beats loudly in my heart each time I leave the kindergarten class.

Do you recognize this song?!


Ez az a nap, ez az a nap,
mit az úr szerzett, mit az úr szerzett! (x2)
örvendjünk, vígadjunk e napon!

örvendjünk, vígadjunk e napon!
mert ez az a nap, ez az a nap,
mit az úr szerzett!

and in English...

This is the day, this is the day,
that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made! (x2)
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
This is the day, this is the day,
that the Lord has made!