A letter from Eric Hinderliter in Lithuania
Greetings from Klaipeda. On Pentecost — Sunday, June 12 – fellow Presbyterians from the Presbytery of Carlisle arrived here in Klaipeda to see us and to provide assistance to our mission partner, LCC International University. The travelers included old friends from our home church, Pine Street Presbyterian in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and many new people we were meeting for the first time. The group, 18 in total, did maintenance and construction work and served as teachers for the week in new classes held for 48 high school students from Lviv, Ukraine, and Liepaja, Latvia. We were joined for several days by Burkhard, Paetzold, the PC(USA) regional liaison for Europe who lives outside Berlin, Germany. Jane Holslag, our fellow mission co-worker also teaching at LCC with us, joined the group for an evening’s fellowship. This was actually a meeting of our mission network!
It was a symbolic Pentecost for us all. Five languages were used—English, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Latvian, and German. High school students—usually with one more year before graduation—came from the Linguistic Gymnasium in Lviv, a city of over 800,000 in western Ukraine, and from School Nr. 5 in nearby Liepaja, a small Latvian port city. The participants exemplified the international nature of LCC—and of mission practice today. Many stories and ideas were shared. Burkhard gave an update on the new PC(USA) mission strategy focus on three critical global issues: strengthening the church’s witness, attacking the root causes of poverty, and coping effectively with the consequences of globalization. He described the emerging concept of “communities of effective mission practice” and invited the Carlisle group to be more intentional participants in mission practice. Irma Balčiūnaitė and Indrė Dirgėlaitė, Lithuanians who staff the admissions office and who are themselves LCC grads, shared the mission and goals of LCC. These women were the hosts of the Carlisle group, facilitating their tasks, program and accommodations for the week. John Unger and his wife, Katie, both volunteers from British Columbia, Canada, coordinated the work crews. An evening program featured presentations for the three groups—the two high schools shared their cultural traditions and told the stories of their cities. The Carlisle people sang some familiar hymns and told the story of Christian forgiveness. Language was no barrier; cultural boundaries were crossed. At the end of the week, most wished for a longer visit.
For us this is the fourth mission trip we have hosted while at LCC. Our mission partner, LCC, has bold plans to become a place of excellent teaching and faithful Christian witness in this former Soviet space. The objective of LCC is to have an international student body with at least 40 percent of the students from the East—from Albania, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Moldova and Ukraine. The admissions office has found that visits to the campus of LCC are of fundamental importance in attracting students; the best brochure or video cannot convey the unique experience of LCC in a way that a campus visit does. The strategy is to get high school students—and especially their teachers—to the campus in Klaipeda for a real taste of what LCC is like. The teachers from Carlisle Presbytery modeled in their classrooms the style, concern, and care that we hope students find at LCC. Students came away with the understanding that education at LCC is different from what they find in their high schools and what they have come to expect from a college experience in the large state universities of their home countries. Several of the Carlisle teachers reported how the students they taught remarked that the LCC classroom was very different from what they knew. Active learning was stressed; the teachers were engaged in helping the students think critically about the text. And especially noticeable to the students were the values the teachers conveyed: trust, respect, tolerance, personal worth, the possibility of growth and change. Certainly a week is too short a time to claim all this is accomplished, but the foretaste is what is important to LCC and its admissions strategy. We hope that the seeds have been planted and that we see the results in a year of two with applications to LCC from School Nr. 5. in Liepaja and the Lviv Linguistic Gymnasium.
The apostle Paul has become our model when we reflect on our mission tasks. We are always struck by the very personal nature of his letters to the Christian churches. His letters send greetings to the people he knows in the places he has visited. Literally dozens of people are sent greetings by name; in Romans 16 fully 29 are listed. Paul also sends greetings from six of his co-workers in Colossians 4. The letters offer advice and announce travel itineraries. He also writes about the news. What strikes us more is the purpose of all the travel plans and advice Paul offers. He says that visitors refreshed his spirit (1 Cor. 1:18) and he offers thanks for the support he received from the churches (Philippians 4:15).
For Becky and me the week offered some time to catch up on the news from home. In addition, the visitors from Carlisle offered some moments of encouragement and refreshment. This has been a hard winter for us personally. Our daughter-in-law Elizabeth died suddenly in January. Our pain was increased by the distance; we couldn’t be there as we wished to offer comfort and support for our son Paul. We made the trip back to Pennsylvania for her memorial service. Among the Carlisle group were those who attended this service. We were glad to see those who have our interest at heart and support us in our ministry here, far from “home.” Visits are important for our mission partner, but they are also important for us. As Paul writes, “For I am longing to see you…so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:11–12).
So we end with Paul’s words of encouragement, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you” (Romans 16:16).
Becky & Eric Hinderliter
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 204
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