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Back in Bratislava after 9 weeks and 17 States (actually it was 19, some how Colorado and Utah got forgotten in Ursula’s Map)of Home Assignment visitation. During our final week in the U.S. we spent the 4th of July with family in Indiana, visited Dr. Martin Luther Evangelical Church in Muskegon, MI, and a quick dip into Chicago for a meeting at ELCA Churchwide with our Global Mission Colleagues.
Week Eight Home Assignment: New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church (Oldest German Lutheran Church in USA, and temporary Hospital During the Revolutionary War), St John the Divine Cathedral, Visit to Grandmama and Gordon in Arlington, VA and one of our tours around the Capital, and a visit from one set of Esme’s Godparents.
7th Week of Home Assignment. No pictures for this, but a great time climbing and camping in Custer State Park S.D. with family, then a long drive across the Plains, 45th Wedding Anniversary Diner with Dale and Linda in Mpls before flying to begin the East Coast leg of the the trip. Here the Pictures Begin. St Peter’s in Manhattan for Sunday, Godmother/Aunt Elaine joins us, Pool on the Terrace in Harlem with Family, cookie making with Grandpa and Bibi.
Fifth and Sixth weeks of Home Assignment. Baptism of our Godchild Kaia, Church in Fir Crest, WA, Luther’s Table in Renton, WA, and Sheridan WY, Friends and Family across four states (including our old home town of Plains, MT), Camping, Hotels, and the Start of World Cup.
Fourth week on Home Assignment. Cross country camping, one state a night (Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington). A visit to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran in Longview, WA on Sunday. And then a few days of friends on Whidbey Island. Deserts to Ocean, via some rivers.
Blyth/Schmidt 2014 Home Assignment Schedule
It is the beginning of May, and our family is preparing for a two-month “missionary home assignment” tour of the United States. During our travels, we will have the chance to visit some of you who are reading this, as well worship with some of the congregations who support our work in Central Europe. I look forward to various guest preaching opportunities, and the chance to present pictures and stories about our life and work in Central Europe. We ask your prayers as we travel. We will surely pray many times: May the Angel Raphael guide us on our way, so we return to our home in health, in safety, and in joy.
We’ll see how much blog posting we manage to do over the next two months, but you can count on our reports and pictures when we return to Bratislava in July.
Easter – and Pentecost – blessings to you and yours.
If you are interested in keeping track of where we are on our journey, here is the planned itinerary:
May 5: We fly to Minneapolis from Vienna
May 5 – May 19: We stay in and around the Twin Cities area, visiting friends and family, and ELCA congregations in Marine-on-St. Croix and North Branch. I will also get the opportunity to take part in a “Music That Makes Community” Continuing Education Workshop at Christ Church Lutheran in Minneapolis.
May 19 – May 31: We road trip out westward, visiting family and friends in Colorado and Wyoming, and landing (we hope!) in Washington State by the end of May.
June 1 – June 8: We visit supporting congregations in Longview and Fircrest, as well as friends and family in the greater Seattle area. I also get the chance to preach at my cousin’s café house of worship, Luther’s Table, in Renton.
June 9 – June 13: We make our way back eastward toward Montana, where we have a chance to visit Plains (our home before Bratislava,) and present about our work to the community there. Not to mention, we’ll get our mandatory medical examinations taken care of at a hospital that has our records!
June 14 – June 19: We continue eastward, stopping to guest preach in Sheridan, WY on Sunday morning, and then make our way back toward MN.
June 20: We fly to NYC.
June 21 – July 4: We spend a few weeks out east, visiting and preaching in my home congregation in mid-town Manhattan and a supporting congregation in Gilbertsville, PA, as well as family and friends from NYC down to Washington D.C.
July 4 – July 8: We fly to Indiana to spend some time with extended family at Lake James, and make a trip up to Musekgon, MI for more preaching and presenting.
July 9: We head to Chicago for meetings at the Churchwide offices.
July 10: We get on a plane for our home in Bratislava.
All of this, of course, God willing!
Bratislava in April. Gymnastics at skola, Birthday fool cuts her own cake with her new knife, and a road trip to Slovenia, while Miriam is away in the States.
I am writing this letter half-way through Lent. Spring has been settling on Bratislava — occasional cold winds notwithstanding – restoring my belief in the sun. Ursula, along with many others around her age, find their way outside whenever it is possible, to ride a bike for the first or thousandth time. Ursula’s training wheels keep her balanced for now, and she rides proud.
Esme is becoming a person — determined, stubborn, with a wonderful laugh. She eats more than we can comprehend. She does not allow Jeremy even a moment of contemplative time at church these days. (Though he may argue it has been a full five years since that was possible.)
Jeremy is painting more, so our kitchen wall of art grows. He continues to make his three ladies amazing food. We try to be adequately appreciative of such a spouse and Papa. I hope we sometimes succeed.
As for me, my Lenten discipline has been to get – and stay – healthy. Which tells you a little bit about my January and February. For health and strength and daily food, we praise your name, O Lord; we sing the grace before dinner. As many of you know better than I, health seems more precious each month, each year.
Lent began with the ashes of Ash Wednesday, and soon after, we were off to the High Tatras for a Lenten retreat with this year’s YAGM’s. Last year, at this same retreat, we enjoyed winter storms and amazing snow for cross-country skiing (not to mention mushing, that is Ursula and Jeremy pulling a five month Esme on a home-rigged sledge) on the frozen mountain lake. This year, instead we basked in blue skies and bright sun. With the remains of the winter’s snow, we even managed some spring skiing.
But perhaps the best group outdoor event was after a homemade American breakfast of eggs and bacon and French toast and maple syrup, we spent the day hiking further into the mountains, to Popradske Pleso, another mountain lake. There, we watched what none of us had ever seen before: One after another, helicopters circled down toward the lake, and from them lowered down to the frozen ice were mountain first responders with search-and-rescue-dogs in training in tow. We watched at least 4 dogs and their people make the descent to the surface.
Retreat worship was meaningful, and I’ve read the evaluations, so this isn’t just the pastor talking. The first night we sang Holden Evening Prayer and read from 2 Corinthians, Now is the acceptable time! On Tuesday, we followed the confession that many ELCA churches use on Ash Wednesday, in which we confess almost everything we have done or failed to do in the past year. Wednesday, we worshipped on the side of the trail, praying especially for the healing of the world, those we love, and ourselves, during this Lenten season of renewal. An older Slovak man hiked by in the midst of our worship, and I think he understand we were up to something on the snowy mountain path, for he stopped and smiled and said in faltering English – God you bless! On our last night, we heeded Luther’s call and “crept back to the font,” affirming our baptisms, and breaking the bread.
I think what is most dear to me is that these worship services actually mean something to the young adults serving through YAGM. They are grateful for the familiarity of prayers and songs in English. Though Lent may be a foreign land for them in Hungary, they hear the Lenten call to renewal in our worship together. At the week’s end they are revived and ready to return to their Hungarian homes.
Since that retreat, our family has been back in Bratislava, doing our best to settle into some manner of routine. It is — unsurprisingly — a routine that will be broken in a few days time, when I travel to the States for a congregational visit in California, and YAGM Country Coordinator meetings in Chicago and the Discernment/Interview/Placement event for next year’s young adult volunteers. (I will be gone for 12 whole days. I am still in shock at the thought of it. )
But for now, Ursula goes to Slovak kindergarten during the day; Jeremy and Esme keep up our house and home; and I prepare for mid-week services, Sunday worship, and of course Holy Week and the Three Days.
If you know me at all, you will not be surprised to hear how important is this time of preparation. I sit with the intern pastor, Kyle, and our cantor, Ivana, and discuss music choices for all the special services that will take place as Lent comes to a close and Easter slips into our world, and our laps and hearts and voices. We discuss how the Passion Readings – both Matthew’s on Palm/Passion Sunday, and John’s on Good Friday – should be read this year. We scout for interested lectors for the great Easter Vigil readings: Which one this year is calling you? The Creation story of Genesis 1? The deliverance through the Red sea? Jonah in the fish’s belly? The fiery furnace?
And we also, in the Bratislava International Church assembly, get to pray for a little baby named Isla-Fe who will be baptized in our midst this Easter.
My sisters and brothers, whether you succeed or fail in your own Lenten devotions of fasting or prayer or works of mercy, may you continue to experience Lent itself as our shared prayer. Our prayer for the church’s, for the whole world’s renewal. This year and every year.