Building friendships and faith across borders: our Slovak exchange students
Over the past year, Grace Youth and Family Ministry has worked with the Center for Christian Education in Martin, Slovakia, making plans for high school students from Martin to attend the ELCA Youth Gathering with us in July. Four Grace families with teenage children have volunteered to share their homes, vacations, and activities with four exchange students during the month of July. These young women, incoming high school juniors, will get to experience Chicago, help serve with our youth, and travel with us to Detroit!
Using the crowd funding site WeRaise, sponsored by Wheat Ridge Ministries, Grace youth are raising money to cover the expenses of these students at the Youth Gathering. We need to raise $4200 by May 8. Click here to donate.
Here are excerpts from letters from these students, in which they introduce themselves.
“I am still playing on the accordion, piano and singing in a school choir, painting in art school and playing floorball and running. I am sporty and I like to play team sports. My stress filter is the kitchen, where I cook and bake. My best feeling is when my family and friends like the food or cake that I make.
"I live in the village Tu�ina but I am at home only at the weekends because I am studying in Martin that is 50 km faraway of my home.
“What I would like to learn when I will be in your family and in Christian community is your lifestyle. How you think, live, what you are doing in your free time. I would like to know who you really are. I have not had a lot of opportunities to meet a lot of Americans, but people that I met were interested personalities.
“My dream is to study in America and to be surrounded by English speaking people. I would like to try American education, but then I want to go back to my country with experiences and knowledge.”
“I was really surprised when I heard that I am going to summer exchange program to Chicago with my friends. I am looking forward to making new relationships with new people. Other thing I am looking forward to is learning new things, for example to bring some ideas and changes from you to Slovakia.
“I am really interested in music. I am playing violin for a half a year now, I am a member of our school band and also of our school choir. My other hobbies are theatre, work out, swimming and running. One of my favorite activities is traveling and taking photos of new places and watching the stars.
“God makes great things in my life. He brought me to Lutheran elementary school and he gave me friends, a youth club and then Sunday morning church. I started to practice Christianity in real life.
“I am very excited to meet you!”
“I would like to introduce my family. We have only thre members in my family, my mother, father, and me. Both of my parents are working in railway stations. My father is dispatcher and my mother is a signalwoman. Maybe because I've always been very close to trains, I found passion in traveling.
“Now I'm tutoring five children in English as a part-time job. It 's amazing feeling to hear from their parents that they are looking forward for lessons with me and they are still improving. I really like my job.
“My motto is: In healthy body, healthy mind. I love all kinds of sports and eating clean. I'm playing volleyball and floorball at school and I'm going to the gym and fitness trainings as well.
“I have lots of favorites like playing with animals, being with my friends, reading, dancing, playing with children, fashion, playing the piano (I play the piano for 8 years) and joining the church youth group with my friends.
“I like trying new things, challenging myself. I am the oldest one from four children. My parents are teachers in our school. We are quite a big family. I have 35 cousins. So, when everybody meets, we have big party and great fun. My family was always significant part of my life.
“Another vast part of my life is music. I love music. I play on piano for ten years and sing in our music band for over three years. But I have never seen myself as a musician. I have always wanted to be a movie director or script writer.
“I am glad that I have this opportunity to meet new people and see interesting places. I would also like to grow in the Christian way, go to different church, to learn and get some new ideas and bring them to church in Martin. I´m looking forward to meet you and I hope we will have fun and we will spend a good time together
Former Associate Pastor Phyllis Kersten will serve Grace as the Interim Associate
The Church Council has unanimously selected Pastor Phyllis Kersten as the Interim Associate Pastor for Grace, beginning April 15. She will be at Grace three days during the week and on Sundays, with primary responsibilities in pastoral care and worship. Pastor Kersten will serve along with Interim Senior Pastor Shaner during the transition to a new Senior Pastor and Associate Pastor at Grace.
Phyllis Kersten is well known to the congregation, having served here as Associate Pastor from 1996 through 2008. Since her retirement in 2008, she has kept very active with travel, writing projects, and two other interim positions. For eight months in 2009, she served as Interim Pastor at Luther Memorial Church in Chicago, and for over a year in 2010-2011, she served as Interim ELCA Pastor at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.
Before attending seminary, Pastor Kersten worked at Wheat Ridge Ministries and with the Board for Missions of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. She has written Bible studies for the publishing houses of the ELCA and the Missouri Synod.