Dear friends and family,
The past six weeks have been exciting and fruitful for the Arnolds in Slovakia. We announced last month that we're expecting the stork's delivery of our first child in early August. Natalie's four visits to the doctor since then have given us only encouragement and ultrasound pictures of a healthy baby. Whether it's a boy or girl we will be certain near the end of the next month.
Some marvelous folks have asked us about how/where to send shower-type gifts to Natalie and baby from the States. Unfortunately, not only is international shipping exorbitant, but any package we receive in Slovakia originating outside of the European Union is opened, inspected and we are required to pay a 20-40% VAT tax on the contents. Also, trips to the post office for an international package, waiting in line and going to the tax office average between 45 minutes to an hour. We unfortunately must decline your generous intentions.
In other news, Jordan broke his foot (first metatarsal) playing squash at the end of January. The cast is off now, but he is still favoring his left trotter. But during the first couple of weeks when he was not very mobile, Jordy was able to conduct his classes with Bible students via Skype. He has since returned to swimming and eagerly awaits his first squash game after full recovery.
We now have an annual ritual! In mid February we flew to Frankfurt, Germany, rented a car and attended the Advanced Bible Study Series (ABSS) as last year. This year's keynote presenter for the week-long retreat was Jim Mcguiggan. Acting as Jim's sherpa was another dear friend, Ryan, of Midland, Texas. The retreat was rich in Gospel and sweet in fellowship with brothers and sisters from at across the Continent. Jim spoke of a gospel and "God worth talking about", the image of God in the human family - united although individual, and the sacredness of communion.
In addition to hearing from folks from Germany, Belgium, Scotland, England, Ireland, South Africa, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and Albania, we also had the privilege to hear from a delightful brother named Raj from India who was attending an exchange program in Germany. He made a great point that instead of spending resources to send Americans and Canadians to continue to minister to a well established church in India and neighboring countries, the focus should be on training Indian Christians going to those neighboring countries themselves.
The trip home, however, was an exercise in stress management. We missed boarding our return flight by five minutes, and as a result, we enjoyed an 18-hour overnight train trip with three changes back home. But, despite the stress, we were able to see the Lord's gentle hand guiding us each step of the way back. Plus, it was nice to see the Alps as well as the Tatras again.
We are absolutely in love with Slovakia, the people of Košice and the church with whom we are blessed to work. As disappointing, frustrating and slow that the evangelistic task is where we labor, the work is going extremely well, in as much as busyness is an indication.
In addition to preaching and working to strengthen and mature the assembly, Jordy is conducting several personal English Bible study classes each week. The truth is, we have more prospective students, people interested in studying the Bible both in Slovak and in English, than we can possibly manage. To tackle this, we're figuring out how we can partner Slovak students with instructors from congregations in the States with online video conferencing. In addition, we're partnering with the Let's Start Talking (LST) ministry with the hope of receiving short term mission teams from the States beginning in the Summer. We encourage you to prayerfully consider being a part of this life changing ministry or share it with others.
Coming up at the end of March is the annual Czech and Slovak Family Easter Retreat at a mountain lodge in the central highlands of Slovakia. The congregations of Bratislava, Košice, and Banská Bystrica/Martin will be attending. It will be good to be reunited with so many of our Christian friends in worship and learning from all over Slovakia and neighboring countries. The presenter will be Dr. Todd Patten, a family psychologist and Christian counsellor from Harding University. The theme is "Liberated Parenting." Among Christians here there's enormous interest in Biblical parenting skills. This is because they are all first-generation Christians, and many of whom are also young families.
In earlier newsletters we asked for your prayers for our brother Roman's father, Rasto as he battled cancer. Sadly, his battle ended earlier this year; yet his final breaths were lived humbly, courageously, and as a lover of the Lord. We ask for your prayers of comfort for Roman and his family. While he and his family continue to heal, they cling to the hope and truth that Christ has already conquered death. Also, please remember Branyo and Aimee, also in the Bratislava congregation, as they are expecting their first child in May. Andrej and Katka's son is thriving and has learned how to walk - keep them in your thoughts as they baby proof their home!
Thank you all for your support, prayers and kindness towards us. We wish you all a blessed beginning of spring.