Friday, 18 May 2018

First Steps...

A lake near my flat in Ljubljana
Wow, I can't believe I've been here for two weeks already! It seems to have gone quite quickly and slowly at the same time. Everyone has been very welcoming and bearing with me as I work out how to live here and what is expected of me. I am very grateful for the people God has placed in my life here, especially my flatmate who has been really helpful in a lot of the practical things.

A massive answer to prayer since I've been here is that I have found somewhere to live for the rest of my time here. Where I am at the moment was only ever temporary. To be honest I've not even bothered to unpack my suitcases - there isn't really the storage space for that anyway. It really feels like God has provided this new flat for us at just the right time. I will be living with my current flatmate and a Slovene girl. The flat is owned by a Christian and he wanted Christians/ missionaries to live there. It's a lovely place and is at a really reasonable rate. Overall we're very grateful for it!

So apart from finding somewhere new to live, I've been spending my time trying to work out what my role is here. It's been a bit of a mind shift realising that what I used to do in my spare time around my job is actually what my work here is. Last week the only thing I was told I needed to do was to attend the youth group on Friday evening and a women's group on Saturday. I therefore took the opportunity to visit Maribor (in the north east of Slovenia) on Wednesday and Koper (on the Mediterranean coast) on Thursday. It was great to see more of the country and to meet people living and working in those places. I've been slowly learning that spending time to know more about the culture and the country of Slovenia is actually part of my role here. In order to develop relationships with people, I need to know all I can about the country and its history. The trip to Maribor in particular was a good opportunity to meet with the Zveš team (the equivalent of UCCF in the UK).

Whilst they were in a meeting I wandered around Maribor and visited the regional museum. That was an experience! I've never been in a museum like it and I've been in a lot. Sufficed to say I was the only person visiting and so I went around with a lady who opened up all of the galleries for me. Each one held completely different items from archaeology to tin soldiers - it was interesting but all a bit bizarre! Afterwards I met the Zveš people for lunch. This included a couple I had stayed with on a previous visit to Slovenia so it was a good time to catch up with them. It seems like everyone knows everyone in the Christian community in Slovenia as it's so small but I still find it funny when I meet new people and we have friends in common. Overall it was an encouraging trip and a good time seeing more of the country and the work that is being done in different places.
Me in Koper

These past couple of weeks have been a good time for settling in and I feel like I've been quite busy in different ways but at times I've felt a bit frustrated. In the UK we like to have a plan, or at least I do. I'm used to working to a timetable, being places on time and being given jobs to do. Here it's a lot more laid back. It's all about the development of relationships which take a really long time. This means that part of my job is to spend time with people, getting to know them etc. It's difficult to think of that as work though.

My last few weeks in the UK were actually very good preparation. Even though I was unemployed I tried to use my time wisely (I wrote about it in a previous blog post Now I'm here at times it's felt very similar. I've been waiting for a meeting with Peter (the pastor of the church REC) to work out what I'm supposed to be doing. I had that meeting yesterday and it was very helpful. I now feel like I can at least plan my time knowing what is expected of me. I will be going to the youth group once a week, the women's Bible study once a fortnight, ministry/ theological training sessions run by Peter probably once a fortnight and obviously church every week. The rest of my time is to be spent in language learning and once I get to know people more meeting up with them and developing relationships. In Slovenia things take time and it is only through the slow building of friendships that people will hear the gospel and hopefully be changed.
Going back to my childhood with Fireman Sam

In terms of the language I'm hoping to get a tutor over the summer and then I will join in with classes at the university in the Autumn. At church I'm grateful that there are people who are willing and able to interpret for me. I'm trying to listen to the Slovene and I know that immersion in the language is the best thing for me. In the meantime I'm still using an app on my phone. I've bought a children's book and yesterday I spent the afternoon watching Fireman Sam in Slovene...

So, please keep praying for me as I get to grips with the reality of living here and I pray that God would use me to reach people and to encourage those who already know him. Please keep praying for this spiritually needy country and thank God for the faithful people He is using here to reach Slovenes.

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