A letter from Eric Hinderliter in Lithuania
To the church of the good people of…the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)… in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you… (1 Thessalonians 1: 2-4).
Here’s some news for you from our mission partner, LCC International University (formerly Lithuania Christian College). On Sunday, May 1, 2011, LCC said goodbye to the largest graduating class in its history. The 132 graduates now join the more than 1,000 LCC alumni from previous years. LCC is an international school — nearly 40 percent of the students come from countries outside Lithuania. This year’s graduates came from Lithuania (86), Belarus (20), Ukraine (17), Moldova (10), Latvia (5), Russia (4), United States (2), Albania (2) and Poland (1). What a joy we share with you for the work your mission giving makes possible.
We have been mission co-workers of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 10 years now — since 2001. Becky and I are here in Lithuania as classroom teachers with these students. We meet with them daily to share our gifts and to learn from our students.
One of the challenges we face in mission interpretation is explaining effectively our context. While we live in a particular place — Klaipėda, Lithuania — our daily contacts are with students from many countries. When visitors come here, they say, my ticket says Lithuania. True, we say, but the people you will meet and the issues you will hear about involve a dozen countries from the former Soviet Union. We need to understand the context of Lithuania but also the context of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Albania, Moldova and the so-called “stan” countries. Our students expect us to be up on the relevant issues: the coming presidential election (in Russia, that is), the migration issue (out of Latvia, that is), the economic issues (in Belarus, for example) and the issues in the church (from the historic confessions to the free churches). Very much we are expected to see the issues from the “other side,” a different perspective from that of “back home.” The question often becomes not, “Why do they do it that way?” but rather “Why do we do it this way?” Living in an international community is very different from what many expect when they think of Lithuania.
Here’s Veronica Tipirig, a business administration major from Moldova. Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. Veronica won a graduation prize for her study of agriculture in her native Moldova. She has ambitions of further study to improve her skills in economic development so that she might contribute to the betterment of Moldova.
Not everything is joyous. The bombing in the subway station in Minsk on April 11, 2011, which killed 14 people and injured more than 100 people, had a profound effect on the students at LCC from Belarus. They checked the list of the victims carefully; memorial candles were lit. We held a moment of silence in our classes for the victims. Together with the repercussions of the December 19, 2010, presidential elections and the subsequent repressions of any opponent of the current regime created a very confusing time for these Belarusian students. Students sought advice about their personal stance and wanted help assessing the risks to others if they became vocal and visible in protests. Here’s how one student assessed the situation in Belarus today: “The country had a good start right after the U.S.S.R. collapsed but chose a harsh path. The democratization of Belarus goes so slowly and unevenly that it seems that the country is stuck in its position and moves backward in some areas. With the eastward enlargement of the European Union, Belarus has become a direct neighbor of democratic states. Yet its own domestic path of development has led the country further away from democratic norms, respect for human rights and fruitful cooperation with the international community.” Yet there is hope. One student wrote, “I would love to say that Belarus has a hope for becoming a country that will proclaim democracy and support human rights.”
Such is the work we do. Such is the work your giving makes possible. Such is God’s plan. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Thanks again for your love and steadfastness of hope.
Becky and Eric Hinderliter
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 204
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