A letter from Becky and Eric Hinderliter in Lithuania
“This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice
in his salvation” Isaiah 25:9.
In many circles a traditional Advent newsletter includes the year in review. So here is some of our news for 2012.
In March Amgad Beblawi, the PC(USA) regional coordinator for mission affairs in this part of the world, paid a visit to Klaipeda to get acquainted with the work of LCC International University, our mission partner. Amgad gave a lecture on the Arab Spring in Eric’s class on the economics of conflict. Students were impressed with his analysis. On a more personal level, two events stand out. Our son Paul became engaged to Melanie Crenshaw. Both live and work in Greensboro, North Carolina. A May 2013 wedding is planned. We’re glad for this new relationship. Second, Eric was hospitalized for the first time in 50 years. Unexpectedly one morning Eric experienced problems smiling; the left side of his face seemed limp. For a moment we feared something dramatic had happened. We made a quick trip to a Lithuanian clinic, where the problem was diagnosed as Bell’s palsy. The Lithuanian health care system functioned well; care was first class. Eric is now fully recovered (see the picture for evidence). God granted these good things to us in 2012.
We celebrated personal milestones this year. In November we will have been married for 41 years. Hurray! We have now been teaching at LCC for a long time, Eric for 12 years and Becky for 11. Our visits to the Lithuanian men’s prison, which began in 2005, continued. New rules at the prison are making access more difficult, but we persevere. To date 12 LCC faculty members have taught at the prison. It’s a Christian witness that resonates with our students and the inmates. We would of course be remiss in not highlighting our daily task: classroom teachers at LCC. We like to say that we are the “customer-facing staff.” Classes and students are what we do. We engage with these young people as best we can: we hear their hopes and dreams—and disappointments.
Sometimes we are surprised by what our students have to say. One young man we tutor in prison has had a rough time recently. He was involved in a dining hall fight and lost all his privileges—he was confined in a special lock-up for nine months. He wrote Becky, saying: “Last week I got news that I won’t be able to be in your class. That’s very sad for me. I hoped that your classes [would] be some ‘getaway’ from my dark days like some spot of light in the night. Life here is pretty tough.” What can we offer in such a place? He sent Becky a Christmas letter: “I thought a lot about you. You spend so much time, efforts and money to make my life better even not knowing me. You never asked why I am here. It seems that it doesn’t matter to you. (You think) I am worth it.”
Another student of ours, a 2005 graduate, was a candidate for the Lithuanian parliament in the October 2012 elections here. She didn’t win, but she shared good thoughts: “As for my own results, I think I did alright. I got almost 2,000 preferential votes.” The elections, she says, were “probably a sign that the young generation of Lithuanians are growing and starting to have voter rights. Actually, these were the first elections when the children [born] in 1991 could vote already. I put a lot of expectations on this generation—the generation of Independence children. I am always sad to see that before each election we have a number of totally new political parties emerging. On one hand, it is a sign of democracy working. In Russia or Belarus, for example, this is not possible. But we should not always compare ourselves to our Eastern neighbors. I think our goal should be to be more like our Western neighbors.” It’s our joy to be involved with young people, whatever their circumstances.
Advent is a time of waiting, preparation, and expectations. For next year, we are thinking of three P’s: personal, partner, and Presbyterian. We are set for mission itineration in summer 2013. We want to make arrangements now for visits to churches. Our needs for itineration are especially for an affordable place to live and for a car to get around with. We are preparing for four more years at LCC. We want our efforts to be fresh and relevant in the eyes of our students. We’ll need energy, patience, and God’s continuing gift of faith to carry out our mission. For our partner, LCC International University, accreditation as a Christian university looms large. Our petition to the Lithuanian ministry will be acted on early in 2013. The challenge of meeting new European education standards is large. Faithful teachers committed for a long term (more than three years) is a long-standing and continuing need. And for our fellow Presbyterians and their church, the PC(USA), we pray for the renewed commitment to God’s mission in the world. Our Reformed tradition is light and salt in the world—we are needed in God’s world.
We end with gratitude this Advent season: for donors—some old friends surprised us with unexpected gifts—and for faithful congregations who support us and adopt our work as their work. We are grateful for useful work and responsive students. We want to be faithful witnesses in 2013, always ready to give an account for the hope that is within us (I Peter 3:15). As the old hymn goes, To God be the glory, great things He has done; So loved He the world that He gave us His Son. We wish you Šventų Kalėdų (Merry Christmas).
Grace and peace,
Becky & Eric Hinderliter
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 278
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 284
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