Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thoughts Upon Re-Entry - Catherine, from Cornerstone

As my time here in Lithuania is getting shorter and shorter I cannot help but think about returning back to the United States.  My heart is heavy as I think about returning home and back to Cornerstone.  It is not that I do not want to go home, it is that I do not want to leave.  Of course I am looking forward to running into my family's arms at the airport and sitting around the fire place showing pictures and sharing stories of my time here in Lithuania. However, I am not the same person I was when I got on a plane 4 short months ago.  I have made friendships and had new experiences that have opened my eyes and impacted me in ways that I could not have expected, not even a little.  I will cling to every memory and know that I have left part of myself here in Lithuania.  With this being said I ask for your patience and understanding as I return back to Michigan.  This is not going to be an easy transition for me.  Not only am I a different person, but I am leaving behind people that have helped me become more of who I want to be.  I'm leaving relationships that have blessed me in ways I could never imagine. They have become my family and LCC has become my home away from home; they have taught me how to truly love and have challenged me in numerous ways. This has been a time of extreme growth and I hope that I can only continue to grow and discover more about myself and the world around me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Russia Trip Review

On our way to Riga to catch the overnight train we stopped at hill of crosses in Lithuania. Before we arrived we were told the Soviets tried to destroy hill of crosses a few times, but Lithuanians kept replacing the crosses overnight. It became a sign of love for the country of Lithuania and for the people fighting for the freedom of Lithuania. When we arrived to hill of crosses the amount of crosses truly astounded me, however once we climbed to the top, where it looked as though the hill stopped, the crosses just kept on going. There had to be thousands upon thousands of crosses. I couldn't help but think of the amazing hope the people of Lithuania held and the amazing hope there is in Jesus. I was overcome by a sense of peace and perseverance. Wandering through the thousands of crosses I felt the presence of God in the midst, as if He was walking right next to me.

The journey to Russia all started when we got on an overnight train from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. The train was not what I was expecting at all, but as they served us tea and we all sat around and talked I couldn't help but feel it was an amazing start to the trip. After we got off the train we jumped on the metro and went to put our bags at our hostel. Getting on the metro I was intimidated by the hustle and bustle of the city, but soon I would be comfortable in these metros going from place to place in the city. The first place we visited after putting our bags at the hostel was red square. Upon entering red square I had no thoughts, no words. It was as if time was suspended for a moment. The beauty before me was nothing like I had ever seen before. The vibrant colors of St Basil's church, the architecture of the Kremlin, I did not know what to think. My mind was blown and we hadn't even been in Moscow for 24 hours. On that same day we had a walking tour of the Kremlin. My favorite part was the cathedral square. Upon entering this square there were beautiful churches on all sides of us. My eyes didn't know where to look, it was all so beautiful. This same night we attended a circus performance in Moscow. This was truly amazing! I had not recalled the last time I attended a circus, if ever. The talent of the people at the circus was astonishing, there were even times when I had to close my eyes in fear for these people.

The following day we went back to St. Basil's Cathedral and we attended a service at Christ the Savior Church.  The service was different from any other church service I was used to. When observing the worshipers attending the service I couldn't help but learn from them. They stood through the entire service never losing focus of the altar. They were in such a prayerful state, nothing could distract them, not even a herd of Americans standing in on their service. That evening we returned to red square, and even though we were all overcome with exhaustion we hesitantly went to red square, and I'm happy we did. This may have been my highlight of the Moscow trip. The beauty of the red square was now amplified with all the lights and the dark clouds hanging in the sky.

The following day we went on our excursion to St. Petersburg. The following morning we went on a long walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was amazing, showing us all the ins and outs of the city that he loves. That evening we attended a show called Feel Yourself Russian where we were able to absorb more of Russia's rich history through dancing, song, food, and drink. This evening was one I will never forget. You could feel the passion and love these performers had for their country.

The following day I went to Yusupov Palace. Upon entering the palace I felt right at home. :)
The large chandeliers and beauty struck me with awe. We then arrived to the Hermitage museum, the largest art museum in the world. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I was able to see art by Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Davinci, Michelangelo, and my personal favorite Rembrandt. This was a dream come true. Walking through the Hermitage I was struck by gratefulness that I would even get this opportunity to stand before such works of beauty and such history. I got to observe works of art that some only dream about.

The next day I got the privilege of going to Dostoyevsky's apartment. Dostoyevsky is the author of Crime and Punishment and is a honored author of Russia. I was able to walk around his home and see where his work was done, where he spent his free time, and I even saw some of his transcripts. It always blows me away to be in the presence of such great work. We also attended the Nutcracker ballet that night. This was a ballet like none other. Not was the ballet one of perfection, but the theater itself was a work of art. The atmosphere that surrounded us was enough to make us feel royal.

Of course these are only a few of the highlights from my trip, and my words do not even do them justice. I count my blessings everyday that I'm lucky enough to have an opportunity like this to experience the world and the history of the world rather than a textbook. My knowledge and outlook on the world continues to grow everyday here, and for that I am forever grateful. I'm getting an education unlike any other.
 Catherine Taylor from Cornerstone

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

With Mother Teresa's missionary sisters - Catherine from Cornersone

“Two weeks ago a few of us went for our first saturday of volunteering with the Missionary Sisters. The Missionary Sisters are
Mother Teresa's order of nuns. What an adventure it was! We had to go to the next city over from
Klaipeda, called Kretinga. Arriving at Kretinga was not a problem, however once we arrived in Kretinga we got a bit lost. I was the only one who had been to the place we were going before and my sense of direction is not all that up to par, so we spent at least an hour walking around Kretinga looking for the Missionary Sisters. We were all about ready to give up and get the next bus to Klaipeda when we spotted the building with the bright blue roof in the distance. When we finally arrived the sisters laughed and laughed with us as we told our story of going ALL over Kretinga in search for them. We helped clean up from the soup kitchen that we were supposed to help serve at. As we were cleaning we got to talk with the sisters a bit more. I am so inspired by their joyfulness. These ladies are filled with genuine joy and the love of Christ radiates from them. We ended up going to mass with these lovely ladies and even though the entire mass was in Lithuanian it was amazing watching these sisters worship with their whole hearts. Their love for the Lord was evident and you could tell in the way they prayed and worshiped, even though it was in a different language. Love is understood in every language.

Again this past week we went to volunteer with the missionary sisters for the second time. My love for them and their joy just increased. While some of the girls humbly skinned chickens, Gerry and I got to help make things for the children. I made booklets, and Gerry painted little figures. We got to spend time with the head nun and she opened up to us a little bit more about her life, and it astounded me. My respect for these ladies is huge. She speaks multiple languages and has many ministries, she has truly given EVERYTHING for the Lord. It really made me contemplate what I am holding back from God, and why would I do that when true joy is found in Him. While working on our projects this elderly lady walked in the room asking the head nun for help unbuttoning her jacket when she began talking with us. She was 91 years old and told us of how she kept her faith in the communist times by holding classes of catechism in her house for the children. She told us to never lose our faith. When I looked into this lady's eyes I saw a beauty that trumps all earthly beauty. She was glowing with the love of Christ. It was as if each wrinkle on her porcelain face was a story of faith and perseverance. These people of faith are truly Christians who have remained faithful through persecution. We again attended mass and I chose to sit next to this lady. When it came time to kneel, she was the first one on her knees, without hesitation. What a warrior for Christ. Every time I go help these wonderful nuns I feel as though they are helping me more than I can ever help them. We offer a few hours of service, but they give us lessons and memories that will last a lifetime.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The past two months - Christine from APU

A lot has happened these past two months. I can defiantly say that God has been working in my life and changed me in such a little span of time. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me to learn these next two months. Ever since being abroad, the Lord has changed my perspective on the way I see the world, people, cultures, myself, and most importantly my relationship with Him. I am constantly being reminded by Him to be presentBe present in my life and the time that I am here.
This past weekend, I spent in Stockholm, Sweden I had a huge feeling of being caught in between two different worlds. During the trip, I started to think about everyone at home. I missed my family, friends, dog, school and the comforts of my hometown (including the weather). At the same moment, I started to miss my international roommates and a lot of the students here at LCC whether they are international or other fellow study abroads from America. My heart started to ache at the thought that I have to leave this beautiful place and the people here in just two months. And my heart ached at the same time to return home to my country and my family. It can be confusing being caught in between two different worlds, but at the same time I am sooo thankful that I have had this opportunity to grow as a person, learn from others, and to love others. Although in two months I will leave this wonderful place with a new perspective, relationships, and worldview, it will be bittersweet. I look forward to seeing my family, and friends back at home. I also know I will miss the new relationships I have been blessed with here. But as for now God is reminding me to be present. So far I’ve come to realize that sometimes God asks us to go places in the world and in our lives and we will not understand why but to just trust Him. I know now to just trust that He has a plan and that being in a specific place at a specific time is a part of the plan that I have not fully yet come to see but will come to understand in the future. He works in miraculous ways, and He makes all things work together for our good.  Thank you for reading. 

Isaiah 58:11

The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trip to Estonia and Latvia! - Catherine from Cornerstone

What a weekend!
My weekend has been a whirlwind, but a GREAT one! Our weekend adventure to Estonia and Latvia began with falling asleep in a bus in Lithuania and waking up in Tallin (the largest city and capitol of Estonia) for breakfast.  There is nothing like waking up to "Guys we are in Estonia, time for an all you can eat breakfast!"  Stepping off the bus I was instantly struck by the beauty of Tallinn.  The buildings were absolutely captivating. 
 While walking around old town I was absolutely breathless.  My favorite part was a look out over the entire city.  We walked over to the edge of this lookout and I was overcome by awe.  I thought about the documentary we had previously watched in our cross cultural seminar about the independence of Estonia.  I could not help but share in the pride the people feel for their Estonia.  

The next day we ventured to the city of Riga in Latvia.  We arrived in the early evening and were able to see the remnants of a festival that had occurred that day and visit a giant market in the town square.  There were pumpkins everywhere which filled my yearning for the fall and made my heart very happy  This city was beautiful as well.  The buildings were colorful and antique.  We walked down to the water and walked along the bridge at sunset.  It was truly as if God took a paint brush and just exploded paints all over the sky.  The clouds were arranged in such a way they instantly provoked wonder and contemplation.  The following day in Riga we went to church.  I was still reminded of the diversity of God.  It seems that every time I go to a different church I'm reminded of how awesome our God is.  There are so many different ways of worship, and God loves all of them and all of us the same.  He has no favorites and He knows the heart of His people, and that is all that matters to Him

Friday, September 13, 2013

Embracing other culture's food - Angela from Messiah

Through all of this frustration of not having breakfast, lunch, and dinner prepared and handed to me by Messiah’s Lottie workers, I have learned to embrace other culture’s foods. The other night, a Turkish friend made Turkish pizza and pide (SO good!), and I’ve had Dutch pasta and have tried many of my roommate’s dishes (she also happens to be Turkish :D ). Food is a great way to learn about other people and to engage in conversation with them. Food is common among anyone, even between people who don’t speak the same language.



Monday, September 9, 2013

Reflection after church service - Sam from Eastern

We attended Catholic Mass in a huge cathedral in a nearby town. It was all in Lithuanian and yet it was so incredibly powerful for me. As they gave out the communion, they played a song we frequently sing in my home church, and I listened as the words I know by heart rang out in a different language. I was struck by just how multilingual our great God is. Even when I am in my home church singing in English, He is with so many others around the globe, continuously loving His people at all hours of the day and night. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My semester in photos: find moose - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 10)

Me with a moose.
Keywords: Moose

Lesson: Find moose.

The highlights of my time in Lithuania have been from simple walking around, getting out, and exploring. Like this time I saw a moose.