On Chicago orientation

Beginning on August 19, all of the 74 people volunteering with Young Adults in Global Mission gathered for a week-long orientation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. This time involved fellowship with other YAGM’s, staff, and alumni, worship, conversations, and sessions. Some of the topics included presentations titled, “Called to the Journey”, “Religious Pluralism”, “Self Care”, and “Engaging Global Issues as People of Faith”, among others. One session on Saturday was solely about logistics and policies, which can seem boring to some people, but I was relishing in it. After a couple of days of conversations on tough topics and many unanswerable questions, it was good to have some concrete details and rules. We received our plane tickets on Saturday afternoon, and it finally became real: I am going to live in Hungary for an entire year (I said this to myself over and over, but put emphasis on a different word each time).

On Saturday night we had the chance to eat Polish food (it’s hard to find specifically Hungarian food) as a country group with the two alumni who had served in Hungary in past years. Sunday was our “free day”, and we were encouraged to go to worship at local congregations. Although our country group had talked about attending a Hungarian mass at the St. Stephen King of Hungary Church in Chicago, we decided to spend our final Sunday in the States at an English-speaking congregation where we could take Holy Communion. Later that day, I had the chance to eat deep-dish pizza in Chicago and explore Navy Pier. I would love to return to the city and explore more of the museums and public parks, Chicago seems really unique!

Our domestic orientation ended on Wednesday, August 26, as we departed as a country group at various times throughout the day. The 7 of us going to Hungary had an overnight flight to Amsterdam, landing in Budapest on Thursday afternoon. Rachel, our country coordinator, and Miriam, our outgoing coordinator, met us at the airport, and a staff member from the Hungarian Lutheran Church diaconal office picked us all up from the airport. Currently, we are in the process of our in-country orientation at Lutheran retreat center in Révfülöp, and begin our language training next week. I’ll include more about the language training next time, but it has been fun to explore the town a bit, and go swimming in Lake Balaton.

The Hungary crew hanging out in our layover in Amsterdam
The Hungary crew hanging out in our layover in Amsterdam
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On family and detours

It’s been a while since my last post, but the last month has flown by pretty quickly. Before I left St. Peter on Monday, August 3, I was able to get together with many of my good friends from Gustavus. It has been such a blessing to meet such wonderful people during college, and they became family to me in four short years. I could not have asked for more supportive, caring, goofy, and all-around wonderful people to call my friends.

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Me, Liz, Hana, Ann, and Heather, the best friends a girl could ask for

If you have never driven half-way across the country, I recommend that you do it with someone. As much as I enjoy my alone time, it is hard to find anything interesting along I-94 (ahem, North Dakota). Plus, in the summer, there is always road construction, so you have to slow down or use a detour. All of the road construction got me thinking about my year of service: in my life’s journey, the road is not always the smoothest, and sometimes you have to stop to refuel, or even tear up the road altogether and start over. My calling is “under construction”, and I hope my journey through this year invites me to explore my vocation deeper.

During my drive home to White Salmon (I covered the 1700 miles in 3 days), I stayed in Roundup, Montana to see my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Growing up, we would visit Grandma and Grandpa Larsen’s house almost every summer, and it brought back many memories as I visited this summer. After I returned home later that week, we took a quick trip up to Seattle to see my cousins perform in the musical “Annie”, and an uncle from Arizona was in town to see the show as well. Since I’ve been in college, I haven’t been able to see my extended family on either side as much, so it was such a blessing to see almost all of my extended family in the same week.

This past week, my family and I have been on vacation in Oregon. We planned a 4-day backpacking trip in the Three Sisters Wilderness, but we ended up staying in a campground on the first night, and started hiking on the second day. What we thought was going to be a 6- or 7-mile day turned out to be a 10-mile trek to find an acceptable campsite on Mink Lake. After hiking for 7 hours, we took the next day as a much-needed layover day to nurse our sore muscles and feet. The area of the Three Sisters we were in was densely wooded and quite dusty, but not very rugged, with about 200 feet of elevation between the trailhead and Mink Lake. After we hiked out on Friday, we drove even further south to Ashland, Oregon, where the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is held. We had the chance to see Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, and the musical “Guys and Dolls”. I was surprised that i was able to follow along so well to Antony and Cleopatra, but I’ve never really seen a live Shakespeare play. Backpacking and theatre performances may not be a typical family vacation, but that’s how the Larsens do it.

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Larsen family at Allen Elizabethan Theatre

I leave for orientation in Chicago on Wednesday the 19th, so I’ve spent all of Monday going through my closet and plastic bins, preparing everything I’ll need. It seems unbelievable that the start to my year is so close, but I am looking forward to this next adventure.

Site Placement… in Miskolc, Hungary!

Miskolc is in northern Hungary. Image source: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/graphics/maps/hu-map.gif

After much waiting (both patiently and impatiently), I have received my placement for my year of service! I will be living in Miskolc, Hungary, a town of 160,00 people in the northern part of the country. I will be working at the Kossuth Lajos Lutheran School as an English teaching assistant, or using my talents with math and music. The school has about 1000 students in all grades (kind of equivalent to a K-12 school here in the US). It’s associated with a Lutheran congregation, and I am encouraged to get involved with the church in any way possible.

All of the information I know about the town of Miskolc has come from these websties:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miskolc

http://wikitravel.org/en/Miskolc

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g274902-Activities-Miskolc_Borsod_Abauj_Zemplen_County_Northern_Hungary.html

From what I understand, there’s a couple of castles, old churches, a national park, and the cave baths. The downtown area is supposed to be fun as well, and there’s public transportation to get around the city.

This is a brand new site placement, and both the director of the school and the regional Lutheran bishop are excited about the opportunities that a YAGM can bring to their communities. In some ways, that puts a lot of pressure on me to start the partnership off on the right foot, but I couldn’t be more excited. Working with kids all day has been something I’ve desperately missed this summer, and to get to spend a whole year teaching sounds like a dream. Of course, with anything in YAGM, this is all subject to change, and I could end up in a completely different town.  Now I really need to start working on my Hungarian.

Fundraising

As I explain later in this letter, YAGM asks us to fundraise $4,000 toward our year of service. I am attaching both the Information for Contributors letter (ContributorsInformation KLarsen GCS3161) and the letter from the director of Global Mission(Larsen-letter-to-friends) and the letter from the director of Global Mission. Many of you may have already received a copy of the following letter, but for those who haven’t, here it is!

To my friends and family,

Grace and peace to you from Saint Peter, Minnesota! As a new graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College, I am filled with mixed emotions about my experiences over the past four years and what the future brings. After much prayer and discernment, I have decided to spend next year in service with Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM), a year-long service mission with the ELCA. I will be living in Central Europe and I hope to receive more information about my specific site placement later in July. In my work, I will be partnering with the Hungarian Lutheran Church, serving the needs of their ministries. They have many childhood education programs, and also serve the Roma communities in Central Europe, who continue to suffer the effects of systematic and social discrimination.

As I embark on my journey of accompaniment with our brothers and sisters in Central Europe, I ask for your continued support. One way you can support me is sponsoring my “Missionary for a Day” campaign. The ELCA asks us to fundraise $4,000 of the total cost of $11,000 to support a young adult for a year, which is about $35 per day. I am asking for my family and friends to sponsor me for a day that is significant in my life, in the country of Hungary, or in your own life. Suggested days are:

  • March 24 (my birthday), April 17 (anniversary of receiving the call to Central Europe), May 31 (anniversary of college graduation), November 26 (Thanksgiving), November 29, December 6, December 13, December 20 ( Four Sundays of Advent), February 10 (Ash Wednesday)
  • National holidays in Hungary: January 1 (New Year’s Day), March 15 (1848 Revolution), March 27 & 28 (Easter), May 1 (Labor Day), May 16 (Whit Monday), August 20 (St. Stephen’s Day), October 23 (Day of the Republic), December 25 & 26 (Christmas)

If you have a date you would like to sponsor me, let me know and I will include you in my list of sponsors in my monthly newsletters. My contact information is below. Included with this note is a letter from the director of ELCA Global Mission, and the Information for Contributors letter. Checks should be written to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with “YAGM – Kirsten Larsen – GCS3161” in the memo line, enclosed with the bottom portion of the Information for Contributors letter, and mailed to:

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

PO Box 1809

Merrifield, VA 22116-8009

Thanks to each and every one of you for how you have shaped my life and my faith up to this point, and for your continued prayers and support as I transition into this year of service.

Peace,

Kirsten

kirstenlarsen1285@gmail.com

509-637-0325

Hello world!

Hi all! Welcome to my blog, where I’ll chronicle my journeys through Central Europe for a year with Young Adults in Global Mission. I think it’s fitting that this post is titled “Hello World”, which is one of the first programs I learned how to write in Python:

def HelloWorld():

print(‘Welcome to Kirsten’s blog!’)

I’ll try to keep the rest of the posts less technical. Currently, I am working on campus at Gustavus for admission phoning. I get to call high school students who are just beginning their college search and tell them why they should come to Gustavus! We leave voicemails and send emails to the people we can’t reach, but every one in a while, I’ll have a great conversation with a student. It’s quite different from the past three summers, which I have spent working at Camp Lutherwood Oregon, but I’m enjoying being close to my college friends and the time to decompress from 16+ years of education.