A letter from Eric and Becky Hinderliter in Lithuania
A group of 11 Presbyterians sponsored by the Presbytery of Carlisle is coming to Lithuania in June for 12 days. We are busy helping to make arrangements for them here. The group includes Eric’s cousin Ellen and several members of her church in Rockville, Maryland, along with a friend from the church where we were formally members in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They’re going to teach a group of high school students from Ukraine who visit Klaipeda every year. There are also some maintenance tasks to be done in the dorms. Last year we hosted a group from the First Presbyterian Church in Warren, so we are getting better at mission logistics. Our hope is that these visitors have a meaningful time here, meeting our friends and students and learning about a different expression of the Christian faith than is found in the United States.
Those loved ones we have left behind are on our minds these days. We continue to be concerned about the declining health of Eric’s mother, Ruth, now 89 years old. She has been in a nursing home in Carlisle since 2005. Her condition has slowly deteriorated. We haven’t been able to see her since the summer of 2007. Our daughter-in-law has suffered some health set-backs as well this year. We are grateful that loving husbands and brothers are with them to lend needed care and support.
We haven’t done any traveling this winter; mostly we stayed “home.” We each had another birthday — Becky in January and Eric in March. Our health remains good, and we have much to do in Klaipeda. Becky has been busy as a teacher and host. We enjoy dinners in our apartment with present and former students as well as visiting former teachers at LCC. After eight years here we’ve become the connection to Lithuanian Christian College for many friends who drop in.
Last week was the presentation of student thesis papers. Eric had two students make presentations. Kristina Stadnichenko wrote about the growing levels of inequality in Lithuania. In just 15 years Lithuania has gone from a fairly equal society to the third most unequal society among the 27 countries in the European Union. Iryna Sychyk did a study of the weaknesses of lending practices in her native Ukraine.
The financial crisis is starting to bite here, with substantially higher prices, job losses and a general economic slowdown. Predictions are for an even worse year in 2010. Our students from Ukraine, Latvia and Moldova are especially worried about their parents’ fortunes this summer and whether they will be able to return to LCC in the fall. We hear that the economic situation in the United States is also painful. What is different here, however, is that bad economic times are accompanied by political instability. The recent protests in Chisinau in the face of the Communist’s election victory have unnerved our students from Moldova, as did a brief riot and governmental collapse in Latvia. The government in Ukraine at times looks very unstable and unable to handle the economic collapse there, where GDP has fallen more than 10 per cent. The Ukrainian currency was devalued by nearly half, making study in Lithuania very expensive. Fears of a banking collapse rise and fall. Even Belarus is experiencing an economic decline. Since more than half of our students are from the east, we share their anxiety about these political events.
We are nearing the end of our second mission term with the PC(USA). The process of reappointment has been initiated with a new evaluation and goal-setting process. PC(USA)’s regional liaison for Central and Eastern Europe is Burkhard Paetzold. He facilitates PC(USA) support for partner programs, relationships and activities and implements regional strategies. Burkhard lives with his family in Petershagen, near Berlin, Germany. He made his first visit to Lithuania in February. He will return next month for further discussions about our mission work here and our plans for the future. The financial constraints of the PC(USA) make this an uncertain process. Our prayer is to be reappointed for another term, if this be God’s will for us. We hope for a positive decision by late summer. If the way be clear, we’ll be on interpretation assignment in the United States in the winter and spring of 2010. We hope to visit many of you next year to share our mission journey.
This time of year is hectic for us as we near the end of the school semester. We often feel as if we are like those disciples on the road to Emmaus: We are walking, so deeply engaged in our own thoughts about what might happen to us that we might not see the stranger beside us. He asks about the events we were discussing. But we respond with surprise that he doesn’t seem to know our circumstances, and we utter without thinking those most discouraging words, “but we had hoped …” (Luke 24:21). Then the moment turns from questions to answers, from a stranger to an invited guest who reveals himself as the Risen Christ. Friends, our prayer is that our hearts are alive with the good news of Easter, so alive that we turn around and head in a new direction to spread the best news we have.
So enough news about us. May our eyes be opened. The best news we have is the hope of the Resurrection. Be sure of it. May this hope be yours as well this Eastertide.
Becky and Eric Hinderliter
The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 178