Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Where I'm Living (And What I'm Living For)

(I was hoping to get some pictures up on this post, but given the internet connection I think those will have to wait.)

The title seems a bit overambitious, I know.  But this title from Thoreau captures what I hope to share in this first post.  The second part of Thoreau's title is in parentheses so that I can avoid it for now and approach this more lofty subject at some other time.

So...Hello from the north shore of Lake Balaton in Hungary!  After a week of orientation in Chicago, and another 4 days of initial orientation in Bratislava, Slovakia, I am beginning 2 weeks of intensive Hungarian language training.  After a few days in Budapest, I'll finally make it to my new home in Nyirtelek on September 10th.

A mentor at Augustana taught me about the importance of building context in a new and unfamiliar place.  As I try to read and absorb as much as I can about Hungary, I hope to share distilled bits of that context with readers of this blog.  In the spirit of building context, here's a little bit about what I'm doing, where I'm doing it, and why.

About this time last August, I met Paul Rohde--Augustana's Campus Pastor and a friend--for coffee amid a busy day welcoming new international students.  He warned me ahead of time that he had an agenda of things he wanted to talk about - some of them related to student government, some related to the trip he was leading to the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  And then he started telling me about Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM), a one year volunteer and mission opportunity through the Lutheran Church.  To make a long story short, I am very grateful to Paul and many others who supported my application process and prepared me for this year.

One of the reasons I was interested in the program was the model of mission and service it practices.  In the Lutheran church (ELCA), the model for mission work is called accompaniment.  In accompaniment, we live alongside and in the way of the people we serve.  Accompaniment emphasizes that sometimes being present and listening or sharing a meal can be just as important as--or more important than--doing something.  If you're at all familiar with the Taize community in France, these brothers practice ecumenical accompaniment around the world in a similar way.

As I mentioned before, my new home will be in Nyirtelek, Hungary.  In this town of 7,000 (probably more like 2,000 + 5,000 in surrounding villages) I will work at a preschool each morning, and spend the rest of my time informally teaching English and assisting with a community vegetable garden and greenhouse.  I will also work closely with Roma/Gypsies in the neighboring village of Gorogszollas.   

This blog will take many forms.  Sometimes it will simply offer descriptions of people and places.  Sometimes it might be somewhat reflective about an event or experience in Nyirtelek or the places I work.  I hope to have a few guest writers from my new community on here, too.  Other times I may just post a single picture.  There will be variety, and in providing this variety I hope to add some depth to this experience for me and for others.  
I'm slow to get started with this blog, but I hope to have something new up at least every two weeks; I'll try for every week.  Thanks for reading!

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