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.
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.