The following was published in a Lutheran Magazine in Hungary by Aron Czapek. Aron was a guest from our Hungarian Synod Companion who traveled to Houston with Trinity Lutheran in Mason City.
Please close your eyes a little, imagine your average day. Only in big lines, with all the habits, with the swirling. And now imagine this with a seven-hour time shift, on another continent, more than eight thousand kilometers from the country, only among unknown people, for nearly a month. Awesome and scary at one time, right?
But something, something seemed to have removed distances, continents, and differences. This was each other’s and God’s love.
I have experienced this between June 15 and July 9 in America.
But let me be a bit more concrete to try and pass on all that I was doing there.
On June 15, I arrived in Chicago in the afternoon, where I spent the first day traveling around the city with a couple of American students the same age as me who came to the airport. Then there was a four-day orientation program with about thirty participants: international guests like me and their American hosts.
From all over the world there were guests of the same age as me, such as Chileans, Peruvians, Tanzanians, but to tell you more, a Serbian boy was there too. Here, we played together with a Christian volunteer band, we learned African, Korean songs and we were told what to expect of the families who we will be with before the Gathering
But what is this so-called Gathering, which I could attend?
ELCA Youth Gathering is an American Lutheran Festival that is held every three years, always in another city. This year it was in Houston, three years ago in Detroit and we know it will be in Minneapolis in three years.
At this festival, it is possible for young Americans to get to know each other, each other’s congregations and each parts of their large country.
While we, foreigners, had an opportunity to learn about another culture and how this other culture practiced its faith. As I have already described, international guests could spend a week with host families before the Gathering but I had the chance to spend another week there after this whole gathering. This period was spent in Mason City, Iowa, and so I went to the festival with one of the congregations of this city. There was a day when churches in a state gathered to meet each other, another day was charity. We got the chance to paint a school that was devastated of a hurricane. Maybe I was through the most beautiful moments here.
It was awesome to see the teamwork that we had brought together and It was a rising feeling to see the joy and pride of the head of the school at the end of our work.
Every night at the Gathering, there was a gathering at Houston’s seventy-thousand-seat American soccer stadium for all thirty thousand people. Bands came there and guests spoke. Pastors, former addicts, winners of life.
As I mentioned, I spent two weeks in Mason City. One and a half weeks with one family and one with another. In both cases, I fell into the life of a loving Christian family and experienced the life in this calm, enchanting town. We spent a lot of time at a nearby lake, we made programs together and celebrated July 4, Independence Day, which is very similar to our August 20th.
I spent my last day in a nearby town, Waverly with a pastor who is an assistant to the bishop in the Northeastern Iowa Synod and his wife. Together we looked around in a high school and in the university there, which was a very good closure for this whole adventure. The next morning, I was taken to the airport by them to fly back to Chicago and then home.
I’ve made a lot of friends, with whom we are organizing next summer’s visit to Hungary, and I had fantastic experiences and treats.
For all this I am grateful to Dr. Tamás Fabiny Bishop, Teacher Katalin Fabiny, Pastor Mark Anderson, and Klára Balicza.