A letter from Jane Holslag in Lithuania
Friends of mission near and far!
It’s been too long since you’ve heard from me, but here are some snapshots of the last months:
Last Fall I taught Biblical Interpretation for the first time. Six women (two North Americans, one Lithuanian, and three Ukrainians) made up the class. We took a while to find our footing, but as the semester progressed, God’s living and written Word took hold! I learned from them at least as much as they learned from me. Their faces tell the rest.
This semester in Intro to New Testament we’re focusing on the "kingdom of heaven" and we’re walking through the Gospel of Mark. After class one day a student came up and waited patiently till I was free to talk. She then said, “Jane, I just figured out that the kingdom of God is a gift, and I don’t have to be good enough… I learned in our group that God’s word is planted and it grows, and we just need eyes to see and ears to hear…. Wow! I feel just like Columbus when he discovered America!” Why she chose that metaphor I don’t know, but her joy was infectious.
One Sunday at our English-speaking worship service, the Study Abroads were in charge. One particularly articulate fellow "preached" about God’s sufficiency. Nice job for a junior in college! However, I knew I was "out of it" when I realized he was reading Scripture off his cell phone! Oh, my goodness.
Two students this week thanked me for our watching a movie instead of lecture?! One was a film on the apostle Paul with some schmaltzy fictionalized characters but overall a reasonable portrayal of the problems, persecution and challenges 1st century believers faced. The second was a hard-to-watch hour of testimony from apartheid victims and Desmond Tutu—the Truth and Reconciliation Commission documentary. In both cases the comment was, “Thank you—that really helped me.” God’s witnesses are all around!
One of the newest board members at LCC is the mother of a student. She comes from east of here, and she was asked yesterday to give her testimony. Raised during the Soviet era, she had been sure there was no God, but as it happened, step by step, God became real for her, first through the testimony of someone she couldn’t imagine taking God seriously and then through reading the Gospel of John. As I sat there and listened, I was again struck by how our Lord’s ways and words meet each of us exactly in the place and time we need. In that moment, I needed this mom’s story!
Though these winter months hardly needed more activity, I traveled to Moscow and environs for eight days and spoke at a conference for camp leaders and directors. Our spring has been very cold, and these days were that and more. However, this joyful gathering was a warm reminder of the great things that can happen when Christians from many denominations get together to learn, to worship, to play, to sing and to laugh! The conference was a training event for folks from all over Russia, and I taught a workshop on “A Ministry of Presence to Youth and Children.” Basing it in part on my own youth work experience and in part on my dissertation research, I led a six-hour seminar/workshop, with the help of my most able translator, Lidiya, an LCC grad from Ukraine. There were 22 students mostly in their 20s and 30s—all volunteer leaders for summer camps in their home churches and regions. Christian camping is a hot evangelism tool for churches in Eastern Europe and Russia. It was amazing to hear about these camps and to meet these young adults who’d become Christians at such events and were now growing into leaders.
As you remember, I have been, for some time, in my freer moments, working to finish a doctoral dissertation, and at long last the project is nearing final completion! Five outside readers have approved it, and the defense date is now set for June 19. I began this journey 10 years ago. For all who have supported and cheered me on, I say THANK YOU as this endeavor nears completion.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and I don’t remember Lent ever going so fast! In fact, it does indeed seem time goes faster and I go slower (turning 65 soon may be a factor?). I remember Dad saying this in his latter years as well. I don’t understand this phenomenon and I’m trying to learn to adjust to it—that is, to accept it! My mo thus far has been to downshift and regain momentum in order to catch up; that era is apparently over! It might be because the gears are stripped (though I hope not!), but I think God is up to something new in my life—and I close thanking you once again for your faithfulness, your prayers, and your continued generous financial support (this, dear friends, is more important than ever). Of course now and again I love hearing about what’s happening in your lives and the lives of your congregations! You are still on MY prayer list!
Grace and Peace,
P.S. This link may be of interest to your mission committees, and I highly recommend you taking a few minutes to watch : http://www.lcc.lt/video-portrait
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 284
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