Hand in Hand Blog Digest

Here you will find stories from the global church by ELCA global missionaries, scholars, and churchwide staff, brought to you by the ELCA Global Church Sponsorship team.

Lost again — and again

Posted on May 26, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Miriam Schmidt is an ELCA missionary in Bratislava, Slovakia. To support  Miriam, or another of the ELCA’s 230 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

 

The Rev. Miriam Schmidt

The Rev. Miriam Schmidt

Last week, I got lost again. Actually, I wasn’t really lost, I just couldn’t find the place where I was trying to go.

But the experience has made me think a bit about what it means to live outside of your country and culture of origin. Very simply — you get lost more often. You fail to find things, people, agreed upon destinations. You plan thirty minutes to get somewhere, and that is not ever enough.

I think about being lost when I look out over the congregation of Bratislava International Church. Most people worshipping here are not from here. Even the Slovaks come from other parts of Slovakia. Many others have traveled farther — from Iran, Korea, Ghana. They come here to worship because they want to worship in the English language – yet oftentimes English is a second, third or even fourth language. I’m sure many of them get lost in worship.

In April, we made a trip back to the United States, at which time I got to know the four young adults who will come this August to be Young Adults in Global Mission in Hungary for one year. They are amazing young women and men, excited about devoting a year of their life to service in foreign land, in a foreign church, among people who they will not be able to understand for weeks, or months.

I know these four competent and intelligent young adults will get lost.

And when you get lost, you are made to feel vulnerable.

But as a wise and beloved pastor recently reminded me, what it means to be Christian – on a deep level – is to welcome, even embrace vulnerability. After all, this is what God does in Jesus Christ – God enters into our human vulnerability, even to death. But somehow, we trust that in and through God’s vulnerability, we receive healing and salvation.

So perhaps there is something to all this getting lost. Perhaps I need to let it wash off my skin a little more easily.

Breathe deeply. Walk slowly. And prepare for getting lost (as it will happen.) But also trust that by the grace of God, I will be found. Again and again.

Many countries, one congregation

Posted on March 31, 2012 by Hand In Hand

The Rev. Miriam Schmidt is an ELCA missionary in Bratislava, Slovakia. To support  Miriam, or another of the ELCA’s 230 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.

 

The Rev. Miriam Schmidt

The Rev. Miriam Schmidt

So here we are, at home, in Bratislava — in Slovak, “doma v Bratislava.” We arrived on Feb. 3.

The Bratislava International Church, of which I’m the new pastor, has become the — often temporary — church home for a remarkably diverse group of people over the last two decades. Refugees, ex-patriots, teachers, businesspeople, students, volunteers, government officials and many more from more countries than you can count have come, and still come for Sunday morning worship. Off the top of my head, some of the countries of origin presently represented include Jamaica, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Great Britain, the United States, Indonesia, Korea, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Mexico, Hungary, and of course Slovakia. but this is hardly a complete list. In addition, many of the people who come to the International Church have lived in still other countries around the world before they found their way to Slovakia — Jordan, Morocco, Togo, Namibia — to name a few.

The pastors who have served this congregation since 1994 have come from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but those who come to Bratislava International Church come from many different denominational backgrounds: Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Church of England, Roman Catholics, to name a few. There are also Lutherans from the United States and from the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Slovakia.

But somehow by the power of the Holy Spirit and the call of God through Jesus Christ we manage midst all these differences to gather on Sunday morning around Word and Sacrament, to pray and sing, to worship and fellowship together. Thanks be to God that such a thing is possible at all! And I give particular thanks that my family and I have the opportunity to take part in this temporary church home of Bratislava International Church over the next (at least) four years.

Besides being pastor of the Bratislava International Church, my other work through ELCA Global Mission is to coordinate the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission Program in Central Europe. I am now in the process of setting up sites for the four YAGM’s who will be coming to Central Europe next fall for one year. The young adults who come to serve here will intersect with the Roma (or Gypsy) people of Slovakia and Hungary.

Those who come here have no small task. In fact, I am a little in awe of the (as yet unknown!) young adults who will come to be Central European YAGMs next year.  But even more, I am grateful for the chance I have to meet and accompany these young adults through a year of life and work abroad. I hope to provide comfort, prayers, and some practical nuts-and-bolts assistance along the way.

 

Unexpected Thanksgiving Joy

Posted on November 12, 2009 by Anne Edison-Albright

Thanksgiving 2008 Bratislava, Slovakia.  Check out the turkey art!

Thanksgiving 2008 Bratislava, Slovakia. Check out the turkey art!

  I am 100%, totally, completely all about this Operation Thanksgiving thing. I think what excites me most about it is imagining my friends and former colleagues in Slovakia getting a card in their mailbox at school: getting an unexpected boost of joy first thing in the morning, taking it to their English classes, maybe posting it on the bulletin boards. I imagine them feeling connected and supported by us here in the US during what can be a really difficult month for missionaries. And I love the idea of being part of that connection: praying for and supporting other missionaries the way my husband and I were supported during our year of service in Bratislava.

November was a difficult time for us: we thought we were done with culture shock, only to get hit with another, unexpected wave of it. We felt especially far from home. Our community Thanksgiving celebrations were a welcome source of joy–the kind of joy I imagine those first year missionaries will feel when they receive an unexpected turkey card in their mailboxes: someone from the US, remembering them at a most welcome time.

Sean and I recently did an adult forum about our year of service in Slovakia at St. Luke’s in Park Ridge. At the end of our presentation we introduced Operation Thanksgiving and invited everyone to make cards. Here are some of the messages my congregation is sending out—to the individuals who will receive these cards and to all our missionaries:

“God’s richest blessings to you this day.” “We give thanks for the abundance of your ministry!” “When the world gives you a bunch of turkeys … make Thanksgiving!” “Thank you for all you do!”

Thank you for all you do to support ELCA missionaries!

Click here to learn more about how you and your congregation can participate in Operation Thanksgiving.

 –Anne Edison-Albright now lives in Park Ridge, Ill.

“You can do this!”

Posted on July 27, 2009 by Anne Edison-Albright

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

- Matthew 28:16-20

Preaching in Slovak and English

Preaching in Slovak and English

Daniel, a Slovak pastor and member of my internship committee, recently invited me to preach at his dad’s congregation in Háj, a small village in central Slovakia. The assigned preaching text for the day was Matthew 28:16-20: the Great Commission. As I prepared my sermon, I imagined that the disciples’ doubts that day on the mountain in Galilee were similar to my doubts last year at the missionary sending service in Kenosha, Wisconsin: what if I’m not good enough?  Will my friends and family ever understand why I’m doing this?  Am I up to this task?
The great thing about this story is that Jesus sends the disciples out—Jesus sends us out—anyway.  He doesn’t wait for us to be certain, doubt-free, or perfect.  We are sent out, not because of what we’ve done, but because of what God has done: loved us, forgiven us, and empowered us to do things we could never do on our own. During the second service in Háj, my eyes kept going back to a woman in a beautiful white suit.  As I preached, she smiled.  “Keep going!” she seemed to be saying, “You can do this!”

Anna, the president of the congregation in Haj

Anna, the president of the congregation in Haj

Daniel told me later that Anna is the president of the congregation, and that her granddaughter attends seminary in Bratislava, but is currently serving as a summer intern at Dr. Martin Luther Evangelical Lutheran Church in Muskegon, Michigan.  I realized that, on the same Sunday morning that Anna was encouraging me, someone in Michigan was probably looking at her granddaughter and smiling, letting her know “You can do this!,” even in the midst of any doubts she has.
Jesus meets us, and sends us out, in the midst of our doubts and imperfections.  That’s good news for missionaries, and for the people we minister with, too.

Anne Edison-Albright will complete her Horizon International Internship in Bratislava, Slovakia on July 31.  For Anne’s blog, click here.

An unfolding Pentecost story

Posted on May 27, 2009 by admin

smdsc0077-741305Xiao (Nicole) and Annie, two only daughters of the same age, met in the Summer of 2002 in Chuzhou, China. Annie was one of four Global Mission/Amity volunteers working in Chuzhou with Chinese teachers of English; Nicole served as the team’s translator.

The Spirit is at work in both of their lives, growing what was planted that summer. Annie, on the path toward ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is about to conclude her Global Mission/Horizon International Internship with the Bratislava International Church, and about to start a year of residency as a chaplain at Advocate Lutheran General/St. Matthew Center for Health (Park Ridge, Illinois). Nicole graduated with an MBA from Michigan State University on May 8, and was baptized at St. Luke’s Lutheran (Park Ridge, Illinois) on May 10. In September, she will begin her new position with Terex Corporation in Westport, Connecticut.

I am blessed beyond measure by both of these spirited and spirit-led young women, one who calls me “Mommy” and the other who calls me “Mama Sue.”
Sue Edison-Swift