This quote of Martin Luther is posted alongside the remnant of the pulpit where Luther once preached on a regular basis in the City Church (St. Mary's) of Wittenberg: "The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God." Those of us traveling in Romania and Germany, representing West Linn Lutheran Church are experiencing something of that glory and grace in this unique experience. We surely miss our friends and family in Oregon and the USA, but we have connected with sisters and brothers here in a way we can all treasure.
Pastor Laszlo and Tunde, his wife, were our gracious and tireless hosts for the 3 days/4 nights we were in Sacele. Here they are under the replica wood carving of Jesus in the "West Linn Lutheran Church Room" of the community house (L to R): Bobbi (Tunde's cousin), Lorant (son), Monika (friend), Tunde, Henrietta (daughter), Laszlo
They made sure we had all we needed. They served meals. They translated our words. They laughed with us. They eagerly told us stories of their congregation. In all ways we were welcomed and included to the best of their ability.
And we did our best to respectfully participate and strive to understand their situation, their faith, and their community life. We knew we did not always understand - Hungarian is not a language to be picked up by ear! But we all smiled when music familiar to both of us was heard, even if the words were different. And the rhythm of the Lord's Prayer is not so different!
But the depth of the faithful giving came out most dramatically in the afternoon we visited 3 homes. At the first, an older couple welcomed us. He had recently had surgery. They both laughed as we worked to understand one another. When we started leaving small gifts on the table for them, and Irene heard that some of them were handmade, she quickly left the room and came back with a large bag of crocheted items. As she removed them, and our translators worked to tell us what she was saying, we were amazed - all crocheted leaves, vines, and grapes. Of her own design! And each grape was stuffed with a cotton ball that she would remove whenever she washed the item. There were 2 larger table pieces, several runners and a lot of small clusters. Suddenly she was handing us the whole bag - for you! We quickly wanted to say, "thank you, but no - certainly your family wants this", and our hosts looked at us and made sure we understood that we must say "thank you" and take what she gives. With gasps of amazement at this generosity and tears of gratitude we received. She gave us all she had of her hands and her heart.
The people we met were glad to have us visit, to be in their homes, to laugh and sing together, to worship alongside one another. This is the treasure of God's grace alive in the world - glory shining through the love for one another. Your travelers are in awe of this truth! Glory be to God!
The Holy Spirit has been at work from day one. As we ate lunch trying to learn the basic phrases of Hungarian..a young man sitting directly beside us spoke up to lend a hand. He grew up in Transylvania and helped us pronounce our phrases correctly. Coincidence, small world, or Holy Spirit?
Sixteen WLLC members and friends are traveling on behalf of the congregation to visit our companion congregation in Sacele, Romania, October 1-5. They were commissioned to carry our greetings and offerings on September 27. The group continues on for a Luther Reformation Tour in Germany, October 6-15. Here are some thoughts from some of the travelers about the trip:
I remember many years ago when a group of high school students travelled to Romania for the first time. We had an auction at the Sunset Fire Station to raise money for their trip, and since then, WLLC has engaged in a deepening relationship with the people of Sacele and their congregation over many years of financial contributions and personal contacts.
This year, the timing is right for me to travel there too, and to witness firsthand the amazing connection we have developed with these lovely people, half way around the world from us. I also am looking forward to our tour of Germany and the opportunities to learn more about Martin Luther, as that country prepares for the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation. My hopes for this trip include enriching my relationship with my fellow travelers and I feel particularly blessed that one of my sisters is able to join me for these two weeks.
I look forward to our accompaniment trip with our sisters and brothers in Sacele, Romania. While traditional mission trips are usually not a bad thing, at least in our intentions, they often are centered around us doing something for another group or congregation, usually with no expectation of anything in return. That creates a relationship between a giver and a receiver. “Accompaniment” is a walking together in Jesus Christ of two or more churches in companionship and in service in God’s mission. The relationship is no longer between a giver and a receiver, but now is between two congregations, each of which has gifts to give and to receive. This kind of healthy relationship building is what I look forward to. As we move from Romania over to Germany, it will just be great to see the sites where Lutheranism began. It is one thing to hear the stories about Martin Luther, but it should be quite another to be in some of the places where he walked, worked, and prayed.
If you would like to see a more detailed discussion about Accompaniment, please visit the Oregon Synod’s website, from where I borrowed some of my statements above: http://www.oregonsynod.org/groups/peace-not-walls/our-purpose-our-mission
Here are a few of the things I am excited about in Germany and Romania. In Transylvania, there will be castles, and maybe a fairy godmother and a princess, it is the land of fairy tales. I’m taking binoculars, there may be a bird or two.
The Merchant Bridge in Erfurt is on my to do list, so glad Luther went to school there. I’ll finally see the church door where Luther ignited the Reformation almost 500 years ago. At the end of the trip we will have a wonderful reunion with our exchange student Michael Hiller.
Bitte and danke, Myrna
I know very little about Sacele, or Romania for that matter. My knowledge of Transylvania is centered mostly on Bram Stoker and Bela Lugosi movies. I know much more about Germany, the birthplace of our religion, and today a vibrant and thoroughly modern country that maintains it's link to the past. I am looking forward to walking with our Sacele friends, and also walking in Martin Luther's footsteps. I fully expect to struggle with the language (charades anyone?) and hope that patience rules the day. My eyes will thank me later for altering my daily focus from the laptop to the European countryside. Our journey looks to be the right mix of adventure, fellowship, education, and fun. Egészségedre!
It's the beginning of the week as we prepare and get ready to travel! So many details to check off before the trip begins. I am taking time here to simply reflect on what I might experience. While I don't look forward to travelling in a small tube (airplane!) for over 13 hours, I realize that the people in the picture above will become real to me; and that after 7 years of hearing about Sacele and Pr. Lazlo, I will finally engage personally and relationally! I am so looking forward to that engagement and that connection! Details will be finalized; and the team will be ready! Here we go!!