Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We're Back

We got back Sunday afternoon, following a very smooth trip.
A month was long enough to have just a bit of adjusting to do when we got back, but not long enough to really have missed too terribly much. We've both gotten an even stronger sense of the usefulness of the work the college is doing. We arrived there with some trepidation, aware that "diversity" can sometimes mean diluted, too. As the Dean acknowledged in our conversation, the staff/faculty cover a range of attitudes about how evangelical (in this case, proselytic) to be.
Sandy is wont to be a bit bolder than I, but we could both see the difficulty of striking a balance between pressing delicately on the "postmodern mind" and being a fool for Christ.
When we returned I found an old copy of By Faith (the PCA magazine) which contained an article about how youth pastors in the US (like missionaries in certain places) are having to find new and relational ways to reach their target in this postmodern society. One person observed that we can't just do the one-time proselytizing and move on; we have to build relationships with people and push ahead thoughtfully. Interesting, and, I think, reasonable enough in Lithuania, as well.
We saw a bit of the fruit of this relationship-building while we were there. One young woman has gone to 5 SLIs in a row, mostly because of the on-going interaction she's had with one of the long-time teachers in the program. I hadn't realized that she is a Christian, or is at least seeking to be, and this relationship is an important one in her spiritual pursuit.
To the same end, I'm already trying to sustain e-mail relationships with some students. I guess this means we'll go back at some point.? Actually, we have already thought very seriously that we would do so...sometime soon, though likely not next summer.
We also met several students who are already Christians and had good fellowship with them, which was, we hope, enriching and encouraging to them...it was to us. The relationships we built among our staff colleagues was enriching also. We're looking forward to long-distance fellowship with them, too.
All in all, a good (and tiring) month.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Almost done

Well, we're about to finish our time here.
This weekend is the SeaFest. They say a million people visit for this, and ground zero is about 50 feet from our apartment. So...we are going to Liepaja, Latvia on Saturday. Then we depart Sunday morning.
Even if I want to, there won't be a lot of opportunities to blog.
Our time here has been good and interesting.
We had a long conversation with the Dean last night, and we raised some of the issues (about church and faith) that I've mentioned here. It was a quite good conversation, and she acknowledged that since they want to accept diversity, they are a bit less cohesive than a denomination-bound institution.
They are also still in the institutionalization process pretty seriously. The Board wants to build new buildings, while the Dean knows they need a sustainable model for getting and keeping faculty. They are also still in the process of getting accreditation for some of their academic programs. While some of these basic things remain in development, they're still getting aggressive about reaching out to students and institutions around the region and even into Asia.
I asked her if she thought that LCC was institutionalized enough that she was comfortable that it would reliably endure, she said no.
So, an exciting time for the college/university.

A few random pictures....

The driver who took us on the excursion last Saturday. He was the friendliest bus driver I've seen in Lithuania.

This church is actually the central point on this "Passion Road" that people come and walk every July. The guide who explained this to us used to hold underground Masses during the Soviet period.

Sandy on the tour of the Passion Road. The guy on the far left is from Chicago...both sets of grandparents fled just before the Soviet police came for them.

Thanks for reading...I hope you enjoyed it some. I know I enjoyed writing it. Everything seemed strangely more "real" when I wrote about it...like it all became more substantive and substantial by telling somebody.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nida, as close to Kaliningrad as we got

That green spit on the horizon is in the Russian Federation, Kaliningrad Oblast.

This is on a large sand dune just south of Nida, a little resort town, the last Lithuanian town before the frontier.

It turns out that the visa situation for Russia is difficult. Roughly $150 a person, and you have to get an "invitation" to come. It didn't seem worth it to us.

I don't even know what this activity is called--a cross between surfing and para-sailing. Para-surfing?

A well-tended graveyard, with Lithuanian Catholic and Russian Orthodox graves, with some old wooden grave markers, too.

This is a Russian Orthodox grave.

The traditional wooden markers.

Ron B., the symbol at the top is the equivalent of Rest in Peace.

Monday, July 23, 2007

KGB in Vilnius

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice...and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

This was the KBG headquarters and prison. Political prisoners were held--and sometimes executed--here during the Soviet rule.

Something of an Ebenezer? The plaque says "Remember those sacrificed in the Soviet occupation"

On the left, my photograph of where they photographed new detainees. On the right, the communication system for the guard in charge.

Material from underground newspapers produced in the resistance period--essentially, 1944-1953. On the left, a ghoulish Stalin over the skulls of his victims, Lithuania, Latvia, etc. The left side of the right picture is some sort of criticism of both Nazism and Communism. The right hand drawing is Stalin stepping on Lithuania (Lietuva).

The whole experience felt almost familiar--from movies and books like Darkness at Noon, and that made it unpleasant all the more.
The cells were in the basement. There was some sort of execution chamber nearby. The guards kept watch on the outside by means of viewing slots right at ground level (it was kind of secretive and lonely--stuck in the basement looking up at the outside world). There were tiny holding cells (4 detainees would be held for hours in a cell smaller than 2 square yards). We both felt like we couldn't stay in the cell area too very long. In fact, they were closing up while we were down there, so they were turning off the lights. I knew I had to get out before too many lights went out, or I would get nervous.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice...and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." I'll let you do what you want with this.

Soviet War Memorials

The Lithuanians have retained their Soviet war memorials, unlike the Estonians. This one, in Klaipeda, seems about half way between the one in Palanga and the one in Almaty.

A village church

This is a church in a village of about a 1000 people. At one time, it had a monastery to which people came from far and wide.
Sorry...we drove all around Saturday, and I'm having a difficult time keeping names straight.

Sights near our apartment

The Klaipeda crest on the utility cover.

Some fachwerk--a German style.

A little alley of restaurants near us.

This was installed a few years ago. It says something like, One people, one home, one Lithuania. It is supposed to be a balance of the modern and the traditional. The jagged edge supposedly represents Kaliningrad, which the Lithuanians sort of see as theirs, though, now of course, they don't want it.

Svyturys, the "best beer in Lithuania."

A Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (the six Cyrillic letters that end in "CCP") utility cover.

Cold War Revisited

On the left, I am waiting to enter the "Military Exposition," the former missile base, now historic site. On the right, the top of a silo that housed intermediate range missiles aimed at NATO allies--either UK, Spain, France, or Turkey, depending on the needs of the moment. Everything you can see (the dome and the rusted carriage) in right picture would slide over to open the silo, allowing the missile to be launched.

On the left, entering the base command center. On the right, looking back out through several doors toward the steps by which we just entered.

On the left, the quarters for the personnel on duty. The men were posted, with their families, to the little town nearby, and then would do rotations at this base (there were 4 launchers here, in service from 1960 to 1978). On the right, standing at the top of the silo, looking down the 90 meter shaft.
I don't know...Anne Frank's hiding place, Auschwitz and the KGB prison in Vilnius (which I'll describe soon) all felt more overwhelming and disconcerting to me (and Sandy, I think). In a word, those places were creepy. The volume and quality of evil perpetrated in each was hard for me to stomach.
At this Soviet missile silo, I was just nervous to come close to that thing which scared me so much as a youngster. I used to have dreams about nuclear attacks on our town, even on our house. And then, about three nights before visiting the Soviet base, I dreamt about nuclear attack again.
Seeing the silos, I most definitely did not have the sense of some connection between these weapons and the necessity of pacifism. In fact, the great powers of Europe have been at peace with each other longer than any other time in their history as states, and I can't tell how much, but nuclear deterrence has had something to do with this.

Some material on display deep down in the silo bunker.

Various emblems of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Gero Appetito

This is Edita, from Gero Appetito, our favorite restaurant. We've been about 4 times, and have always enjoyed our dinner and her. She and Sandy do most of the talking in Russian. As best we can figure, her mother and sister have moved to the Chicago area; she is working to buy this small (5 tables) restaurant; she'll be able to do so in about 3 years.

It's not far from our apartment--maybe a five minute walk. We eat something like potato pancakes, stuffed with meat, or crepes with meat, or cold beet soup. (Okay, we've not had that, but I have enjoyed several of the side garnishes, including beets.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Another Day of Rigorous Reading Teaching

It's tough to sit cross-legged like that...you lose blood in your legs, your back starts to hurt, your balding head gets sunburned.

So afterwards, you gotta go to the beach.