Winter Wonderland

It has been an unusually mild winter in Transcarpathia.  Snow has been scarce. Nonexistent really, nothing but the occasional dusting of snow.  Even as you gaze east on a clear day towards the Carpathians Mountains, the foothills have sparse amounts of snow.  Only the higher peaks, the most distant the eye can see have copious amounts of snow. The weather has seemed to be more March like than you would expect to find in the month of January.  Legendary tales of the winter of 2018 will not be told around dinner tables in the coming decades.  The Snowdrop flower, the earliest flower of the season which typically springs up from the ground at the first melting of the snow, has appeared even before February made its entrance.

We enjoy the cozy and quieter winter months.  I am thankful we have been able to have two different opportunities to go to the Carpathians Mountains and experience some genuine winter days.  The first opportunity came with our trip to the mountains during the Pella Winterim trip.  We traveled there with a combination of Pella Christian and Peterfalva Reformed High School students.  Thick and heavy snow flakes began to fall as we drove into the mountains.  The next morning, we awoke to a fresh pristine blanket of snow.  Our second opportunity to visit the mountains this winter was on the annual sledding day the Peterfalva Reformed High School organizes every January.  It was a beautiful day; the sun was shinning brightly as the students went up and down the sledding hill.  It was a great opportunity to spend time with teachers and students alike with the gorgeous wintry backdrop of the Carpathian Mountains all around us.  Standing on top of a mountain with snowy peaks as far as the eye can see has a way of making a person stop and gaze in awe, marveling at God’s creation and softly pondering His handy work and His majesty.  In the quiet and pristine beauty of the mountains to be reminded anew that without a doubt creation speaks of the existence of God as Paul writes about in Romans.

Pella Christian High School Winterim

We arrived back to Eastern Europe on December 29.  It was a busy start for us as we had a group from Pella, Iowa come for a visit from January 2-13.  The group consisted of 15 high school students and 5 chaperones.  We happily agreed to organize a Winterim class trip from Pella Christian High School to Ukraine, Hungary, and Poland.  Winterim is a program done by Pella Christian Highschool as well as other Christian schools and colleges.  Before the start of the winter/spring semester the school offers special off campus short term classes and special focus short-term classes on location at the school. From our perspective, the class/trip went very well.

It is always a pleasure for us to have visitors and to be able to show this fascinating corner of the world to people from North America.  As part of the trip we organized a joint Pella/Peterfalva student trip to the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine.  Pella Christian High School and the Peterfalva Hungarian Reformed high school have developed a relationship over the past years.  We have had a number of volunteers from Pella come for summer English camps to Peterfalva, and Pella Christian has hosted three different exchange students from the Peterfalva Reformed High School. It was great to be able to take Pella students to Ukraine and to show them the high school here.  We organized an off-campus trip to the mountains with 15 Pella students and 16 Peterfalva students as well as chaperones from each school, and 6 local university students who acted as helpers and translators. We visited a WWII bunker, the top of a mountain, a castle, and a famous waterfall.  It was a great opportunity for the Peterfalva students to practice speaking in English as they interacted with Pella students. We hope the Pella students were able to learn about the culture, heritage, history and educational  system here in Transcarpthia. 

Peterfalva Students

Each evening we had small group Bible studies and devotions with combined student groups.  We also enjoyed an evening of singing together and praising God with our voices in two languages. We hope and pray

that the students were encouraged in their faith and relationship with Jesus over the course of the days we spent together.

Following the time in Ukraine we traveled with just the Pella group to Budapest, Hungary spending time there exploring and learning about the history of the city and of Hungary.  We were able to worship on Sunday with the Erdokertes, Hungarian Reformed Church, who we partner with in one of our English/outreach camps.  We were welcomed with such hospitality and a delicious meal following the morning service. We went on to Poland to visit the cities of Warsaw and Krakow as well as the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

We hope it was a memorable and life changing trip for these students (I think only one student had ever been out of the U.S.).  We hope they were all impacted by the fellowship, history, culture and opportunities to share their faith. We also hope some of the Pella students when they get of university age will consider coming to volunteer in our camps in the summer time and spend more time in this fascinating corner of the world.  It is really amazing to witness Christ’s dominion over all corners of the earth, and how He builds His kingdom!

Pella Christian Students with John Calvin on Kalvin Square, Budapest, Hungary.



Below, students in front of the Hungarian Parliament.