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.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My semester in photos: learn from the relationships you are given - Travis from Waynesburg (part 9)

Krista Simmons, Marlene Wall, Susie Lambright, Justine Sutton, and Taylor Nelson at the beach in Klaipeda, Lithuania.
Keywords: Tri-S, Love

Lesson: Learn from the relationships you are given.

As part of the program the study abroad students are assigned to groups in which they meet to debrief about their time overseas. I was bless to have Marlene and Susie be my Tri-S moms. The group is great in that we build relationships with our fellow study abroads, get to develop relationships with faculty, and most importantly get fed for free. This photo is from our final Tri-S that was held on the beach as we waited for the other two members our group.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My semester in photos: befriend locals - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 8)

CMAP students and study abroad students at the beach in Klaipeda, Lithuania.
Keywords: Friends, CMAP, Explore

Lesson: Befriend locals.

When coming to LCC the program encourages you to take opportunities with the school whether that be an internship, editing papers, helping with chapel band, or one of the many other options. As an education major I decided it would be beneficial for me both to help tech English to third and fourth grade students, as well as become part of a program called CMAP (Community Multicultural Awareness Program). The program is aimed for tenth grade students to learn and discuss global issues such as human rights, genocide, and human trafficking. While the program only last six weeks some of the students still wanted to continue the relationship that was built over the sessions. This is a photo that was taken of them showing us a part of the beach neither my friend Taylor Nelson or myself have been too.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My semester in photos: research your hostel! - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 7)

Free breakfast at the Harmony Hostel in Istanbul, Turkey

Keywords: Istanbul, Hagia Sophia

Lesson: Research your hostel.

Aside from the trips the program takes us on we also have the ability to travel on our own. Elizabeth Johnson, a fellow study abroad student, and myself decided that we would venture to Istanbul for a three day trip to see as much as we could of this melting pot of east and west. While security and cleanliness are important, I choose this photo to underline the two most crucial aspects when choosing a hostel: location and free breakfast. From the terrace of the hostel we started each morning with some free grub and a view of the beautiful Hagia Sophia.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My semester in photos: explore! - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 6)

LCC students and SA Recruiter in Tallinn, Estonia
Keywords: Group photo, Tallinn, Baltic.

Lesson: Explore.

The second of trips the program took us on was to Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia, the capitals of these two Baltic countries. Both Tallinn and Riga were so different in their own ways and each held their own blessings. Tallinn, a more traditional city, gave us the feeling of a medieval village with walking through the cobblestone streets in the day and a traditional Estonian feast at night. One of the highlights of Tallinn was walking out on this cement pier with a group of friends to watch the sunset (behind the clouds) at the Baltic.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My semester in photos: don’t attempt to pet strange cats - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 5)

Boris at Edvardas’s house, Lithuania
Keywords: Boris.

Lesson: Don’t attempt to pet strange cats.

Boris. This cat is easily the worst part of my time overseas. Boris is the pet of one of the study abroad interns, of whose house we got to go over. While the cat may have not wanted us there Edvardas and his father made us feel more than welcome as we got to see the home firsthand of someone in Lithuania as well as enjoy some more delicious potato pancakes and wash it down with hot tea, of course.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My semester in photos: right time right place - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 4)

Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia
Keywords: Church, Religion, Russia

Lesson: Right time right place.

One of the highlights of this study abroad experience is the traveling both with the program and outside of it. As part of the program the study abroad students take a weeklong trip to Russia, spending time in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I choose this photo as of all the churches I have seen and been into in my time here in Europe, this has easily been my favorite. I mostly attribute this to the fact that when we went inside we were able to view mass which was being held in the basement. As a while the trip to Russia was so unbelievable as I would have never expected to have this opportunity to see such two beautiful and prominent cities.

Monday, May 13, 2013

My semester in photos: learn about other cultures! - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 3)

Various LCC and Klaipeda University students and faculty in Enns hall fifth floor kitchen
Keywords: Friends, Tradition, Turkish, Community

Lesson: Learn about other cultures!

LCC International University is home to students from twenty-six different countries. This creates an opportunity to learn so much about each of these cultures in both formal and informal celebrations. Pictured is of Turkish Food Night, where a few of the students living in the dorm from Klaipeda University fed around thirty people traditional Turkish food. Along with eating we watched an informational video, and ended it off with the best part—traditional Turkish dancing. Learning at LCC does not start or end in the classroom. Learning at LCC is everyday living in the dorms.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My semester in photos: don't sit around! - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 2)

Old Mill Hotel in Klaipeda, Lithuania
Keywords: Klaipeda, Sunset

Lesson: Don’t sit around!

One of the best parts of living in the town is all the things you can see it anytime of the day. I once went into the city and realized that I had a two hour gap of time between when I would be leaving and needing to return. Instead of heading back to campus I decided to walk around with my camera and enjoy the natural beauty of what I now know as home. I was in the right place at the right time to snap this beauty. Being able to walk around alone while still having something to do is not something I am used to in the states as everything where I am from needs driven to. This is just one of the simple pleasures I am going to miss giving up in the return.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My semester in photos: go to traditional events - Travis from Waynesburg (Part 1)

I was asked to pick my ten favorite photos from the semester and write something that explains the photo or why I picked it. With over eight thousand photos from only four months, the task was hard, but I narrowed it down. While these ten photos might not be my ten personal favorites, they all represent an important moment in my time overseas.

Photo: Anna Goeglein eating a potato pancake at the Stinta Fish Festival in Palanga, Lithuania.
Keywords: Friends, Fish Festival, Tradition, Potato Pancake

Lesson: Go to traditional events!

In the first month in Lithuania a neighboring town to the north, a thirty minute bus ride, holds a weekend annual fish festival. The festival is home to arts and crafts venders and is situated in the coastal beach town of Palanga. Pictured however is the best part, the traditional Eastern European food. The potato is much more than a staple food here in this region, and in so there are many different forms it may take. The potato pancake is easily a godsend as it can be stuffed with meat, vegetables, fruits, - you name it. I loved it so much the first time I went that I went back two more times as it became a nice little get-a-way.

More photos to follow!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Internship - Samantha from Eastern

At my internship today, the teacher told the kids that I only have one day left with them. One of the little girls raised her hand and said something to the teacher that made her laugh. She then turned to me and said, "She told me that you are going to marry her brother and then you will have to stay in Lithuania forever because she loves you." Then, when her brother came to pick her up, she ran around screaming, "meilė,meilė, meilė!" ("love, love, love"). Man, I couldn't have gotten a better internship.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bucket List - Lizz from Messiah

Upon my decision to study abroad in Lithuania, I desired to soak up all that it had to offer. I wanted to make a wish in Cathedral Square in Vilnius, I wanted to taste the potato pancakes (and potato everything, for that matter), I wanted to see the Baltic Sea and sit on the large sand dunes in Klaipeda, I wanted to dance to the karaoke songs filling Memelis Bar, I wanted to do it all. A lot of these have been ‘checked-off’ the bucket list. However, still a few stragglers have escaped my time the past three and a half months, including those majestic sand dunes!

However, as I was challenged to physically write out a bucket list for the last week or two, I found that my aspirations switched from objective to relational. The thing I have found to be most important in Lithuania is the beautiful people that reside here. It is the relationships that are built here that must be cherished the most, because no sand dune will ever imprint upon your heart the way a lifelong friend can.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some moments from the Tallinn - Riga trip

Last weekend study abroad students spend exploring Baltic capitals - Riga and Tallinn. Here are some of the moments from the trip:

Enjoying architecture in Tallinn. Photo by Kristen
Ben's road rage in the old town. Photo by Kristen
Pure joy in Tallinn. Photo by Kristen

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Being Present - Samantha from Eastern

I am continuously shocked by how quickly time passes. I only have a month of classes left, a week of finals and then I leave Lithuania for my own personal travels in France and Germany. I can pretty much see home at this point.

It’s been increasingly harder to keep up with friendships at home. At first, I would do anything to find time to skype with friends (I still do that for skyping with my mom…) because I wanted to share everything with them. Then homesickness hit me pretty hard so I wanted to talk to them a lot. Now, I make plans to talk but often forget because I’m so caught up in the daily life here. Campus has a lot of stuff going on and I’ve made so many other friends. I know that in a few short weeks, I’ll see my friends from home and things will be okay/we’ll catch up. My focus right now is being present here.

Enjoying brunch. Photo by Kristen

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Travels

In London. Photo by Anna
Happy Easter!

This Easter Study Abroad Lithuania students scattered all over Lithuania and Europe to experience the spirit of Easter.
Here are some of their insights about Easter and destinations where they went.

Ashlee and Anna from Taylor went for Easter to London, England.
Ashlee on Easter " I experienced the Sung Eucharist service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England. While Easter may be celebrated differently in every country and language, the world can't help but recognize the promise of new life and new beginnings."

A large group of students went to visit Warsaw, Auschwitz and Krakow in Poland. One of them was Justine from Azusa Pacific University.
Justine about her Easter experience: "I spent Easter in Krakow, Poland with some study abroad students. It was a great weekend to travel there because of the Easter celebrations. On Sunday morning we went to Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in the city center, although "Easter Saturday" is the bigger day for celebrations in Poland. It was nice to honor another tradition and experience something unfamiliar to us, I really enjoyed observing the traditions. On Saturday many masses go on and many people are walking around the city with baskets of eggs, bread, and sweets getting them blessed by the church."

Samantha from Azusa Pacific University and Taylor from Bethel University were in Dublin, Ireland.
Samantha about Easter and time in Dublin: "Taylor and I traveled to Dublin, Ireland for the long weekend. While we were there, we really wanted to be able to go to church on Easter Sunday but weren't sure if we would be able to. We ended up being able to attended an Easter service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. We were able to take communion with the rest of the congregation and the service was wonderful."

And some students stayed in Lithuania

In Ireland. Photo by Taylor
Daniel from Taylor spend his Easter in Palanga, Lithuania.
Daniel about his experience in Palanga " I went to Palanga, walked to the beach, drank coffee, and found a good local Russian restaurant."

Samantha from Eastern stayed in Klaipėda "While a lot of the other study abroad kids traveled over Easter, I stayed on campus. I took advantage of the long weekend to enjoy quiet dorms, a girls night and lots of movies! It was a great way to relax and reflect on all the great stuff that's been going on this semester!"

Jessica from Cedarville University went to another city, Šiauliai, to spend Easter with her roommate's family.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Break in Russia? LET’S GO! - Samantha from Eastern

It’s so surreal to me that I just spent the past week in Russia. Honestly, that was the best spring break I have had with some of the most amazing people.

We started with a bus ride from Lithuania to the train station in Riga, Latvia. It was my first overnight train and I really enjoyed it. One of the best parts was stopping at the boards of countries and getting new stamps in my pass port! Kate and I were up early and we got to watch the sun rise up over Russia. Finally, we got off of the train…we were in Moscow!

We got to experience the Moscow metro (not in rush hour), ate at a mall and then went on a tour of the Kremlin and Armory. We also went to St. Basil’s and Christ the Savior cathedrals. Both were beautiful!

We finished the week off in St. Petersburg. We started off with a walking tour of the city that lasted about three hours. After lunch, a few of us walked around and took pictures before heading back to the hostel to get ready for the opera that night, “Le nozze di Figaro”. I also went to the Russian museum then spent the afternoon having some alone time. I spent about 5 hours wandering around the Hermitage. It is crazy that I was personally able to see masterpieces like “Madonna and Child” and the works of artists like Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rousseau and Monet. Not to mention the architecture that I was able to see.

I loved the whole trip. It was full of tons of laughter, some anger but overall, good attitudes. St. Petersburg was one of the most amazing cities and I would go back at a moment's notice. I didn't think I would like Russia as much as I did but that week really changed my mind. I also never thought that Lithuania would feel so much like home to me but as I walked back to my dorm, I realized how nice it was to be back.

Friday, March 8, 2013

St. Kazmir's Festival (Kaziuko mugė)

Last weekend study abroad Lithuania students had a chance to experience another traditional festival - Kaziuko mugė. It is an annual celebration accompanied with a huge fair in the city center together with folk dances and music. Some of the students went to explore the festival in the capital while others participated in Klaipėda's Kazmir's fair.  

Fair in the Theater Square in Klaipėda

Traditional Lithuanian palms. 

Girls enjoying the concert. Photo by Samantha

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Klaipeda - nature in the city

If you cross over the street, walk a little bit and then cross another street, you hit a park or in other words a forest. It takes only 7 minutes from LCC to get there. It is a large area of pine trees where Klaipeda's citizens come to rest, pick mushrooms and enjoy nature. The park has a skating complex, a stage for summer concerts and lots of paths. If you walk for about 45 minutes, you will eventually hit the Baltic Sea. Some of the students enjoy walking, biking or just running in this forest. 

THE SUN CAME OUT. Lithuania, why you got to be so great? Photo by Anna

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Smelt Festival - Caitlin from Wheaton

Last Saturday I went to Palanga for the Smelt festival that is held there each year (smelt are little fish). Travis, Ashlee, Anna, Samantha, Jessica and I took the 30 minute bus ride to Palanga on Saturday morning.  It was fairly easy to find the festival in the town because everyone was walking towards it.

There were many tents which had works by various artists. There were toys, jewelry, cookware, and a lot of knitted mittens and socks. There was one artist who had woven baskets, chairs, and hampers. There were even child-sized tables and chairs. What caught my eye the most were baskets that looked like you could put Moses in and send them down the river. Why do we put babies in those giant carriers?  Shoot, just put them in a basket.

Baskets. Photo by Caitlin

On the bridge. Photo by Caitlin

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What Makes a Risk Taker? - Dan from Bethel

“I am a risk taker!” That is the motto of Study Abroad Lithuania program.

Recently as I was riding a bus from Klaipeda (where my school is) to Vilnius (the capital of Lithuania) I read a book by my pastor called “Risk is Right.” The book is actually a chapter from another book of his that he has expanded. The book caught my eye for several reasons, studying abroad in general is a risk, my plans to backpack are risky, but most importantly the call to follow Christ will mean a life full of risk. 

Risk is an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury. In coming to Lithuania I am losing a semester of comfortability, familiarity, with friends at Bethel. I have now instead plunged into a sea of uncertainty and relative instability. Ultimately most decisions are made with a false sense of security. Often I told my mom before coming here that I was just as endangered every time I go for a spin. But that doesn’t mean I dive head first into any pool of opportunity.

The act of taking a risk is either foolish or wise. When the danger is not outweighed by the outcome then the risk is usually worth it. If the risk is merely for the self exalting purposes and for selfish pleasure then the risk is not just idiotic, but also sinfully destructive.  If my motivation in being here is founded in some sort of lust for adventure, American heroism, or to build a courage of self-reliance, or to earn God’s good will through spiritual work, than I am on a path to destruction. My drive and motivation to take risks—again, action in which I may endure injury or loss— should be for something worth it, not some whim or boyish dream. My risks should be founded and grounded in Jesus Christ because He is of surpassing worth as the all-providing, all-ruling, all-satisfying God.

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

When I find my sufficiency in Christ I can take risks knowing that my feet are firm held by His grace. I can take the risk of going abroad to study. I can take the chance of pursuing a woman. I can share the glories of Christ with a stranger on the bus or with a family member who doesn’t know Christ but knows my frailty and failures. I can apply for a a job. I can take physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual risks when Christ is payoff, my fullness of joy and my pleasure forevermore.

The cost of being a disciple of Jesus means death. Death of pride, death of making my self look better than I really am, and death of a “comfortable life”. When Christ calls a man He bids him come and die. He says, “Take up your cross and follow”. I am risking everything if I am truly following Christ. But really, this is not a risk. I know how the story ends…

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Jim Elliot, missionary and martyr

HERE is the link to the book.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Užgavėnės - festival for pancakes and spring!

In the main square of Klaipėda. Photo by Elizabeth

Užgavėnės is a traditional Lithuanian festival celebrated to mark the end of winter and to welcome spring. It is usually celebrated 6 weeks before Easter and symbolizes the beginning of lent. It is an old tradition that is still cherished today. Nowadays Lithuanians prepare a lot of pancakes and little kids go around their neighbors and ask for pancakes, sweets and pocket money. Usually there is a festival in town's center accompanied with traditional dances.  

This weekend a group of Study Abroad Lithuania students went to town's square to observe and experience this unique tradition. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend trip to Vilnius - Dan from Taylor

Gedimino Prospektas. Photo by Dan

Risk takers. Photo by Dan

Friday, February 8, 2013

Life in Klaipėda - Courtney from APU

Klaipeda. Photo by Vilma
In our exploration trips through Klaipeda we have seen all kinds of people, buildings, and history. I really feel that Europe is the place I want to be. Everything about it is simplified and time seems to go slower. It is not the fast pace lifestyle of America. There is a focus on relationships here like I have never seen before. The bonds between friends have more value than in the states. For what I have seen so far the city is full of peace and promise. There is hope through the restless winter. Everyday is brand new. Maybe it is the snow that reminds me of the clean slates we have in Christ. I understand more and more each day of our opportunity of saving grace and how we can renew our souls in Christ each morning.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Obstacles - Samantha from Eastern

I finished my first week at my internship; it’s not very easy but I really want to do well. I’m working in a school in town and I’m helping to design an afterschool program for the kids. If I was at an English speaking school, this would be super easy but, because of the language barrier, this is one of the hardest things I’ve done. I want to get to know the kids so that I can see what they would like to do but because I can’t talk to them the job is really tough. The teacher that I’m working with is really sweet but she isn’t very sure of her ability to speak English, so that’s another hurdle for me. There were times this past week when I didn’t think I’d be able to do it but by the end of the week, the kids were excited to see me and that makes it worth it. If nothing else, I’m going to be able to make staying after school a little more enjoyable for kids and I’ll pick up a few new words along the way (they love to help me with my Lithuanian!). I know this won’t be a waste even if it’s pretty tiring.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Roommates - Courtney from APU

Top: Hedi and Irsana; Bottom: Courtney, Nastia and Yulia. Photo by Courtney

I have to dedicate one post to my roommates because they are absolutely the best and God-sent group of girls. Israna, Yulia, and Hedi are from Russia and Nastia is from Lithuania’s neighboring country of Belarus. They all speak Russian and I’m learning new words every day along with some Lithuanian. Each one of these girls is completely open and welcoming. 

Making Sushi together. Photo by Courtney
They are excited that I am here and are intentional about getting to know me. Everything about them is refreshing. They work like a team and value friendship so deeply. We have teatime together and always talk about what is going on during the day. I know it has only been a few days but I feel like we are sisters in some ways. God has blessed me beyond what I could have imagined. I am so thrilled to be a part of their lives. One of the best parts of my days here is speaking in Russian with them and learning as best as I can to communicate with them in their native language. I absolutely find it fascinating to watch them speak in Russian to each other. It is pretty fun to guess what they are saying. I have so much respect for them because each one of them knows at least three languages. Also, on Friday night I got to learn how to make homemade sushi with them.

Irsana and Hedi are sisters who are only a year and 1 hour a part and Yulia lives with them in one room. I live with Nastia in the other room. The rooms are very big for a college dorms but I really enjoy them. I’ve never had a desk where I could completely spread all my work out and then have space left over.

I do admit that I feared the worst coming into this semester with my roommates. I have had not good experiences in the past so I was ready to accept just being roommates with them. However I am so blown away about how kind and compassionate they all are. Each one has had such unique life experiences and I cannot wait to get to know them better every day.