By the Rev. Gary Langensiepen, pastor, St. John Windish Lutheran Church, Bethlehem
See below for Information about the picture, above.
Many Lutherans in the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod
know that we have close relationships with Lutherans in other countries
through what is known as the “Companion Synod” program of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
In fact, those who have been voting members to synod assemblies
have even heard and seen representatives from these various
throughout the years and have been moved by the message of our
unity in Christ’s Church which they have presented.
Thus, through the outreach of the church, we have become aware
of places like Saxony, located in Germany, Argentina and Uruguay,
in South America, and Tanzania, located on the continent of Africa.
But the location of the fourth companion synod of our Northeastern
Pennsylvania Synod – Slovenia – has remained somewhat elusive!
Often confused with Slovakia, Slovenia is one of the most beautiful
countries – as well as one of the best kept secrets – in
all of Europe.
Once part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia was the first province to
secede from that country and form a free and democratic nation
own. Bordered by the Adriatic Sea and Italy on the west,
Austria on the north,
Croatia on the south, and Hungary on the east, Slovenia is
now a member of both the European Union and NATO.
Breeding place of the famous Lipizanner stallions (in the
town of Lipica, Slovenia) and setting for Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel,
A Farewell to Arms (the battle takes place at the Vrsic Pass in Slovenia),
Slovenia is also the ancestral home of those known throughout northeastern
Pennsylvania as “the Windish.” The capital city of Slovenia
is Ljubljana, which is now a popular gathering place for young men and
women from all over Europe
In 2006 and 2007, young people from the Northeastern Pennsylvania
Synod will have the opportunity to learn a great deal
more about Slovenia and the people who inhabit this beautiful
storks still nest
on utility poles and rooftops and colorful flower boxes
adorn window sills.
Through the efforts of the Slovenia Companion Synod Committee
and Pastor Kurt Garbe of the bishop’s staff, a student exchange program
between our synod and the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession
in Slovenia will commence this summer.
The committee is now seeking Lutheran families with teenagers
on the territory of our synod to host teenagers from
the Lutheran church in Slovenia for a three-week visit in
summer of 2007, the American teenagers from the host
families will, in turn, travel to Slovenia and spend three
in that country
hosted by families from the Lutheran church in Slovenia.
Most teens in Slovenia have begun to learn English – and our brothers
and sisters in Slovenia hope that this interaction with American Lutheran
families will strengthen their grasp of this very important subject!
Who knows, perhaps some American teens will even pick up a little of
the Slovenian language along the way!
If you are interested in participating in this program,
please contact Pastor Kurt Garbe at the Hazleton synod
your earliest convenience.
The baptismal font shown above was the gift of St. John Windish,
Bethlehem, to the Lutheran church in Puconci. Pictured are Deaconess
Deborah Graf, Trinity Lutheran Church, Reading; the Rev. Eugene Balazic,
pastor of the church in Puconci, and the Rev. Kurt Garbe, associate of the
bishop, Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod.