Going on a wild pig hunt in Slovakia

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The hunting club gathers in the morning, with the pushers and dogs on one side and the stationary shooters on the other. The Head of the Hunt made some announcements after the Ceremonial Hunting horn was sounded.

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Saw my first Slovak Medved (Bear).

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An interesting mix of old military equipment, dogs, traditional rules for how the hunt is organized and cell phones.

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Hiking in to the hunting area.

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The wizard and the Pig.

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At the end of the day, the animals are laid out in a ceremonial square with lit fires, the Hunting Horn is sounded and the Head of the Hunt says some words thanking the animals and talking about the specifics of the days hunt.

And of course we finish with a nice goulash.

And of course we finish with a nice goulash.

8 Day Trip to Eastern Hungary to make YAGM site visits and Participate in Worship in two of our YAGM host communities.

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Miriam leading worship alongside of Pastor Molnar and Pastor Laborczi in Nyiregyhaza on Sunday morning. Later in the day we all went to the Village of Gorogszallas where we met up with an ELCA film crew who recorded some of the afternoon worship service as well as Miriam preaching with Translation.

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We were treated to a fine Saint Martins Goose Feast after Sunday Morning worship. Along with two of the Central European YAGM, Jericho and Maija, and their site supervisors Pastor Molnar and Pastors Laborczi and Kovacs.

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Visiting a new town for us, Bekescsaba, to see YAGM Dan. Here we are on Luther Street.

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A lovely afternoon walk in the trees of Szarvas with Ursula’s Godmother Chrissy, who accompanied us on this entire leg through Hungary.

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Szarvas has a wonderful Arboretum and “Mini-Hungary” model.

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Ursula greets even the Trees in Hungary. Esme even gave a stab at saying Thank you in Hungarian- Koszonom.

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Saturday morning cartoons in a random apartment in Bekescsaba which came with a HUGE TV and Hungarian Cartoons.

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Saturday Morning Market in Bekescsaba. Yes, that is carved slab of decorated BACON.

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Victorian sitting room photo opp. before Church on Sunday, in the Apartment that we stay in Nyiregyhaza thanks to Pastor Laborczi. Nice Lamp.

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Preparing a meal for the YAGM and the ELCA film crew for our last night in Hungary for this trip anyway.

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Miriam being interviewed by the ELCA film crew that is now on to South Africa for more filming.

Ursula not interested in this particular seuvenier.

Ursula not interested in this particular szuvenir.

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A really nice zoo in Nyiregyhaza

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World War I Military Cemetery in Nyiregyhaza.

Ursula’s Godmother is in Slovakia, and we all go to Slovenia to check out a site for the Winter YAGM Retreat.

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A nice long Hike with Triglav behind us.

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Gondola ride takes some of the uphill out of the equation, although we more than made up for it by hiking all the way down.

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Lunch spot.

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Dancing in the meadows.

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There are dragons in these parts

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Not a bad spot.

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Playing on rocks.

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A water sprite in the area, complete with two person bucket to fill from the river.

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Triglav, A majestic mountain indeed.

Pastor’s Letter

The Last Day of September 2014, in four movements and a postlude

At home:
To start with something delightful: Ursula has begun in these past weeks, since she started her third and final year of “skolka” (the year before a child enters first grade,) to play at home in Slovak. Esme is now a little sister in every way, able and most times eager to follow Ursula’s direction and take part in the imaginative worlds that Ursula creates (only occasionally breaking down because Ursula is “directing” her a little too much.) It is a joy to overhear my daughters becoming siblings (not to mention I can sit after a long day, glass of wine in hand, and talk to Jeremy as he makes dinner, for whole minutes uninterrupted). But it is fascinating to overhear this play take place in a language that – for the most part – neither Jeremy nor I understand. Ursula however, understands. Every day, she negotiates a Slovak language world with grace and energy. And now she seems bent on teaching her little sister.

Is this how parenting unrolls, down through the years? More and more, your children becoming part of worlds that are magically, frighteningly, outside of your own experience? Will I always register Ursula’s (not to mention Esme’s) journeys into worlds unknown with such delight?

In the Bratislava International Church:
It is now my third fall at the Bratislava International Church, and once again, a new assembly gathers on Sunday for worship. New families. Children that speak Russian and German and English. Brothers who come from three different parts of the globe. Single men and women: a lawyer, a student, a consultant, a former Young Adult in Global Mission in Hungary. Also, beloved, well-known faces.

Last week, we celebrated 20 years of worship life together in Maly Kostol. We sang, and the children led us in prayer for the world; and we shared in the Holy Communion. Then we gathered for an international potluck lunch, with dishes from around the world. We saw pictures, and heard the penned reflections of former pastors, members, and interns.

It was moving for me to hear the stories of those who have come before us. I know that 20 years is almost no time at all for many congregations. Yet, Bratislava International Church — which sees many people come and go so quickly yet still, they find a center here, Christ broken and shed for all, and a community away from wherever home may be – should serve as a reminder to other assemblies. You never know how only a few months, a few years, can matter. The members of your assemblies may shift as well, leaving (it feels like) too soon to make any difference. Yet from this 20 year-old congregation I am learning God can work quite well, with little advanced notice and not much time.

With the Young Adults in Global Mission:
We completed our third orientation in early September, and Jeremy finally came up with a way to distinguish our roles, as together we lead 7 young adults in Hungary. He is in charge of the “essentials” and I am in charge of the “existentials.” We’ll see if the moniker sticks.

Remarkably, we learned that 7 young adults is more than 4 or 5 (the size of last 2 groups)! This year’s group members tend towards quietness, introspection, serious questions, and independence. As with previous YAGM, I wonder if the hardest thing for these young people will be letting themselves depend on their hosts, and one another.

I am thankful in the short time hat I have known this group, for the stories – beautiful, sorrowful, real – they have shared form their pasts. I pray for them this year as they wander through loneliness and surprising moments of grace, and try to speak Hungarian on top of it all. But these young adults have not had light lives so far. They have been challenged; they have had to dig deep for strength before. May God continue to grant them mercy as they move into years of service, figuring out what work they can do with energy and love.

Remembering Montana:
To round off the month, I spent last Friday night reconnecting with my Montana pastoral colleagues. My bishop, Jessica Crist, (though I serve through Global Mission, I am still a rostered pastor of the ELCA’s Montana Synod) invited me to take part in a Bishop’s Covocation: “What God has joined together.” The day was to offer space for conversation on Lutheran responses to same-gender relationships, with legal updates pertaining to the states of MT and WY, alongside Biblical and theological reflections, and deep listening to one another.

While I was unable to take part in the whole day, I joined on Skype (at 9:30 pm my time) for the last part of the discussion. I shared my perspective on these issues as mission personnel serving in Slovakia and Hungary, and got to hear some of my colleagues’ perspectives, personal stories, and theological and practical questions. I was deeply grateful for the opportunity to be in a small way a part of this day, and even more grateful that Bishop Crist is proactively engaging the pastors of our synod in honest conversation before the laws about same-gender relationships actually change.

But most meaningful to me was the moment when others were speaking, and the Assistant to the Bishop, Jason Asselstine, panned the Skype camera around the room. For the first time in almost three years, I got to see the faces of ELCA pastoral colleagues whom I began to get to know during my years in Plains.

I missed them, and remembered that one of the most difficult parts of my call in Central Europe is not having a community of ELCA pastors to gather with throughout the year — for convocations, assemblies, and continuing education events. Such time with my colleagues is nurturing and powerful, and always challenges me to be a better pastor.

In closing:
Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing to complain about in Bratislava these days, and much to give thanks for. We hiked to an old castle ruins last week on rest day. Ursula went to the Planetarium with her class yesterday, and Esme says the word “hot sauce” with excitement every morning when she eats her eggs. We think of the promised visitors and travel this winter with smiles. But we also miss many of you across the ocean. You remain deep in our prayers.

Little taste of Winter as Jeremy gets to the Vysoke Tatry for his Birthday solo trip. And four animals, well at least two were real.

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Hiking into the Teryho chata as the storm settled in.

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In the Morning as the Snow raged all around.

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Kamzik playing in the snow on the hike out.

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Still storming

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Alright so I have kids and I see an Elephant.

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And a wolf.

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But this fox beat me to the Pivo.

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And then posed in the rain like a champion.

20th Anniversary of Bratislava International Church Today, and camping in a friends garden last night.

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Turn them all around and face the congregation and it spells anniversary. I am always impressed with teachers who organize small children.

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Asperging the Congregation.

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Choir Rehearsal before service begins

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View from the Balcony.

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Esme likes her trucks. And she picked her first apple off the tree behind her.

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Fathers camping trip, tents behind the house.

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Ursula cuts and cleans brussel sprouts with her knife

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YAGM Orientation and Language training begins at The Hungarian Lutheran Church’s Retreat Center in Revfulop on Lake Balaton. Language class in the morning, exploration and orientation in the afternoon. With soup in between of course, this is Central Europe after all.

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First full day in Hungary, getting the birds eye view.

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Lookout tower built above Revfulop to celebrate the 1000 year anniversary of the Creation of the Nation of Hungary. Yeah 1000 year.

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Ripe Fig?

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Picking grapes while the YAGM’s talk after dinner.

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Found the Basalt columns near the 400 stairs.

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Great another day of Vineyards and Rocks.

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Quick visit to the 12 century monastery town of Tihany with our fabulous Hungarian Language teacher Terri.

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Did I mention there is always soup. Everyday. Or it just isn’t a meal.

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Esme practicing up on her scripture reading at Evening Worship.

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Back at home.

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2014-2015 Young Adults in Global Mission Central Europe Have Landed on the Shore (actually they took a plane and this is the Danube, but they did cross an ocean)

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Bratislava summer time fun time. And a trip to Pod Sip for some Cabin/tent time.

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Fellowship after Church on Sunday Mornings at Next Apache.

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Apparently there is a Lego Ice Climbers kit, or at least Ursula and I made one.

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Young Adults in Global Mission Central Europe Final Retreat 2014. Five Days in the Vysoke Tatry of Slovakia

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A bit more rain than we were expecting, but we quickly got these colored ponchos and became: Esme and the Seven Dwarfs (Preachy, Pedantic, Smiley, Curly, Sassy, Mighty, and Bossy not pictured)

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Goodbye to a great group of Young Adults.

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Popradske Pleso

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Off trail hike to Dracie Pleso

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Look how beautiful Slovakia is Ole. Why don’t you stay another year and teacher literature in Bratislava. Why yes he will.

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Ursula continues to be a strong hiker, and Esme sleeps well while being slung around sometimes nearly upside down while climbing with Jeremy

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Last night hot tub, wait why did we wait until the last night?

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