Back to School!
Greetings and blessings from Slovakia! While many of our friends in the U.S. have already been in school for a few weeks, the new school year has just begun here in Slovakia. For us, this means that many of our regular activities are starting up again. We have several ways we ask for your prayers in the weeks ahead...
But we canâ€™t get there without first telling a little about what happened over the summer months. Our summer was a good mix of ministry and recovery from a busy year... and as always, the best way to tell the story is through pictures. So enjoy the pictures and the stories - and be sure to see the story at the end to see how you're making a difference here in Slovakia.
CBF South Carolina Team
We had a wonderful week with a team of three volunteers from CBF South Carolina. Together we talked more about education and why itâ€™s so importantâ€¦ and the different ways people are working in education among the Roma. This group encouraged us with their willingness to engage and to learn!
During the team's visit we traveled to Kezmarok to visit at the Roma High School. We came on graduation day, when 12 of these students received their papers for completing school - some of them are the first in their villages to do so. After the ceremony, we joined in a time of casual conversation and singing with some of the students. For more photos from this teamâ€™s visit, see the album on our Facebook page (search "jonandtanyaparks")
This summer we attended our first Slovak/Roma wedding â€“ some dear friends of ours from the Kosice church were married in June. We enjoyed the celebration, and are thankful that God has brought these two together!
One of the ladies from the church led a group of girls in dances and music in honor of the bride and groom. There was, of course, a lot of dancing - both formal and informal - at the wedding celebration. We enjoyed learning about the many different traditions of weddings here in Slovakia.
During the first week of summer break, the girls attended a Christian camp in central Slovakia, along with several children and leaders from the church.
Where else but summer camp could you play games where you have to be first to get your opponent dirty?? Throughout the week the kids were challenged to move forward in their walk with Christ.
Broadway Baptist Team
Our third team of the season was a group of teenagers and leaders from Broadway Baptist in Louisville. We focused on kids during their week with us â€“ holding daily events at a local center for families in crisis, and in a nearby village. The events featured lessons about Jesus, stories and testimonies, and of course lots of games and activities. This group stayed flexible through a lot of changes in schedule and weather. We are grateful for their willingness to come, to learn and to grow through their experiences! There's also a Facebook album for this team.
The Broadway teens built some meaningful friendships during their week. The children - especially at the Crisis Center - soaked up every bit of love and attention they could get. More photos from this team available on our Facebook page.
We used the summer months to recover from a busy year â€“ enjoying time in the water, visits with friends, and taking trips to see more of this beautiful country.
On a family hike with some friends to the Three Crowns peaks on the border of Slovakia and Poland. The photo was taken by Robert Culka - an amazing photographer - who joined us with his wife Katka on the hike to the top. We treasured many moments like this with good friends over the summer.
We also enjoyed helping with day camps in a couple of local villages during the summer months. Weâ€™re grateful for the chance to spread Godâ€™s Good News and Love with all kinds of children!
Learning about the importance of clean drinking water, and Jesus as the Living Water. We were invited by some local residents of this small village near Kosice, to minister with these children who don't have many opportunities during the summer months.
Discipleship Group at Zoo
Tanya took her Rankovce girlsâ€™ discipleship group on a trip to the Kosice Zoo.
Along with the zoo trip, these girls also tried the summer toboggan ride nearby... which turned out to be a traumatic experience for a couple of them! Fortunately Tanya was able to "rescue" them and help them enjoy their trip down!
Our summer concluded with a trip to the mountains of Slovakia, where we helped lead a camp for children from the Galakticka Roma school where we have been working the last few years. We already know many of these children and teachers, so it was a chance to deepen relationships and to spend time in conversation with so many of them. Plus, we got to lead in music and dance activities and be with the kids â€“ many from the local slums â€“ as they experienced so many new things. It was a blessing to be able to participate in this camp, and we are excited about starting at the school again and seeing our many friends! (See the Facebook album for more pictures)
Among other things, the kids at camp learned to sing "We Are the World," and learned to dance the Electric Slide (pictured above). While our presence there was not specifically spiritual, our daily interactions with the kids and teachers led to some deeper spiritual conversations. More photos from the camp are on our Facebook page.