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IMG_0179TORRINGTON, CONN (SZS) Our Synod, in partnership with the leadership of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Bratislava, Slovakia (Evanjelická Bohoslovecká Fakulta, Univerzita Komenského), is hosting four seminary students as this summer’s participants in the Student Immersion Program of the Slovak Zion Synod. The program, which is part of the Synod’s mission in Central & Eastern Europe and organized by the Synod’s International Relations Committee, brings students of the Seminary for a summer immersion internship in a United States congregation each year. This program helps these future pastors and church leaders experience church life, ministry, and mission in an American Lutheran congregation; at the same time, they serve as witnesses in their host congregations of the global church in their home country.

This year’s students are Daniela Stehlikova, Ivan Belani, Emil Hankovsky, and Radim Pačmar. They will be joining the more than 140 to-date student exchanges which have taken place since 1991.

Congregations in Muskegon, Michigan; Whitehall, Michigan; Schulenburg, Texas; and Reading, Pennsylvania are hosting Daniela, Ivan, Emil and Radim. They have been writing every week about their experiences in their host congregations. You are invited and encouraged to read more about their experiences in the Student Immersion Program pages of our site; just look for “Seminarian Sentiments” under Mission & Ministry > Global Mission > Student Immersion Program.

Here’s just a small sampling of some of the things they’ve been sharing:

Emil participated in the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit with his host congregation in Lebanon, MI. He shares: “The National ELCA Youth Gathering is a huge event, a gathering of the youth across the ELCA and USA. From Alaska to Florida to the Caribbean. It is every three years. This year it was in the city of Detroit, the city that was smashed by the financial crisis, maybe the worst in the U.S. The city lost its almost million citizens. But it is a beautiful city, full of kind and nice people. When I was there, I realized that the church is much bigger than I thought. I knew that God’s church is huge, but one cannot really realize it until he would experience it by himself at events like the Gathering, when there is 30,000 people gathered together for just one reason.” What better way to see God’s love in action! Emil goes on to tell more about his experiences at the gathering, which took place this past July under the theme “Rise Up Together.”

Ivan shares some of his experiences with a few of the congregations he visited near his host congregation in Reading, PA. Here are a few words from his August 1st entry: “Last Thursday, Brother Doug and I went to have lunch with Pastor Rebecca Knox. After that we went to see her congregation, St. Daniel’s Lutheran Church. The church is located at a beautiful location on a small hill – everywhere you look you could see green, especially corn fields. The members of St. Daniel’s are mostly farmers, so they own the land. We looked around the church – it even has a free clinic that works a few days each week! The reason we visited the church was that they had a prayer meeting – a few members from the congregation got together with their pastor to pray for the needs of the church, their members and families. It was great to see people get together to pray and discuss how they can help out their church family. I finished the prayer meeting with the chanted Slovak version of the Lord’s Prayer. It truly was a holy moment….”

We wish God’s blessings on these students as they complete their final month in their host congregations before returning to Slovakia later in September. And we thank all those who have supported this vital ministry with their prayers, as well as their physical and financial support. You are making a difference in the lives of these future pastors and leaders in Slovakia; and, by extension, you are making a difference in the lives of all those whom they will touch in their home churches and in their lives.