Many Meetings

July 13, 2019

On a 2012 trip to Slovakia, I encountered a Slovak I had met the previous year. When we saw each other, he stuck out his hand and said, “Nice to meet you.” I was taken aback, wondering if he didn’t remember me, until I realized that he meant “meet” in its meaning of “encounter” or “see,” rather than as part of the set phrase “nice to meet you” that native speakers reserve for initial introductions only.
If you’ve never thought about the word “meet,” you might not realize just how many shades of meaning it has. We can meet someone for the first time, or meet them accidentally in the street, or make plans to meet them at 9am for coffee. It can also mean “to touch or join” (the two roads met), “to assemble for a purpose” (the board members met) or “to fulfill or satisfy” (my needs were met).

When I thought about a title to encapsulate the Vranov camp, which ended on Friday, this idea of “many meetings” came to mind (and betrays me as a Tolkien fan, as some fellow Lord of the Rings aficionados may also recognize this as a chapter title in Fellowship of the Ring). Some of the kids and team members were here at their first-ever camp, so there have been some introductions and chances for Americans to practice their simple Slovak phrases: “Volam sa __. (I am named .) Ako sa volas? (What is your name?) Tesi ma” (Nice to meet you.) Many of the kids in camp have been here before, as have many of the Americans and Slovak helpers, so there have been lots of happy reunions as well. We have had many opportunities in the evenings to join our Slovak friends for food, games, and conversation. And, as with all events, there have been plenty of planning meetings, debriefing meetings, and even more planning and replanning meetings.

Moreover, I can safely say that all of our team has also felt fulfilled or satisfied in many ways. Our food is always very filling (more potatoes than many of us are used to!), our Slovak hosts are always quick to do whatever they can to be sure we understand what’s going on or have what we need, but most importantly, we have seen God meet the needs of this area and of the kids who wanted to be at this camp by calling every one of our team members to serve on this trip.

We had 102 kids in the camp this week, and every single one of them heard the Gospel spoken by laypeople from America who know Jesus and want these kids to know Him too, in partnership with Slovaks who feel the exact same way. There is real power in that kind of relationship and shared vision, and we as a team are so grateful to have had this week here in Vranov. Although we may never know what seeds were planted or watered while we were here, we trust that the Holy Spirit is working in and through us to further His kingdom.

We arrived safely in Povazska Bystrica, a town close to our second camp location in Puchov, on Saturday. More updates about our weekend and our first days of the camp in Puchov to come!

Prayer requests:

  • The Slovakia teen camp team, who begin their week of overnight camp today (check out the “Slovakia teens” tab above for their updates).
  • Safe travel for Chuck and Laura, who depart back to the US from Vienna
  • The church in Vranov and all of the friends we have from there
  • The upcoming camp in Puchov and the children and translators who will attend

Meet the Team: Chuck and Laura

Chuck and Laura are from California and team taught together in Vranov.

What was the most surprising thing about this week of camp?
Chuck: The most surprising thing about this week was how well we integrated as a team. We moved together and covered all of the bases. And how quickly the week ended… It seems like it just started.

Laura: Well, I helped start the kids out in craft this year with Bob. For the younger groups or groups that were having some difficulty, I stayed around to help by explaining to the translators and teachers some “tips and ticks” to help their kids complete the crafts. I feel that I missed out a lot in my own class, missing chunks of English class time, so my time was split and I felt torn between my two camp positions. The kids in my class seemed to understand though and I think maybe even appreciate my efforts to help other classes and younger students as well. 

What is one story you will tell people back home about this week?
Chuck: The story I will tell is how one of my students sneaked around to get a T-shirt made of me in one of my Messages t-shirts because he believed in my style of teaching.

Laura: I enjoyed working with the translators in crafts and connected well with Zusanka who assisted Bob in all the craft rotations. She was in my class last year and is now an older teen. Her mom said she almost didn’t help at camp this year because she is shy but her mom encouraged her to do so. It was really a delight to see her again and work with her in crafts. I tried to make her comfortable with Bob and me. I think the responsibility of helping Bob and me and the other kids in crafts really helped her self esteem. It warms my heart to see the older kids come back to camp to help. God is at work in the hearts of those at the camp in Vranov and I love this!

Meet the Team: Crystal

Crystal and her Vranov lunch lady buddy over the years

Crystal and her son Timmy are from Washington, and Crystal is teaching Group 3 at both camps.

​What is one story from the first week that you want to bring home with you?
At the gathering for families on Thursday night I met a parent of a former student of mine. She was hesitant at first to speak to me in English but eventually, she did. She told me she was so afraid to talk to me because her English skills are not very good but was so excited that we were able to have a conversation.

What is it like to bring your son on the trip with you?
Well….. you still have mom duties on top of your mission duties but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that I’m able to share these experiences with him. His faith has grown deeper since last year on his first mission trip.

Team Leaders

PHIL SCHMIDT & ERIKA MECHSNER are sibling team leaders. When they aren’t leading short-term trips to Slovakia, Phil is a high school English teacher in California and Erika ​is an English teacher in Nevada.