Hungry for More Hungary
Disclaimer: No matter how much I write or how detailed my descriptions, this article will in no way fully do justice to my amazing experience in Hungary.
At the end of February, I was privileged to be given the opportunity to travel with a group from Cairn to Siófok, Hungary, to participate in the SHARE Education Conference. The group, consisting of Becky Dillingham, Becca Watson, Gabby Schrader, and myself, was led by the wonderfully funny Dr. Judy Severns and the energetic Mrs. Debbie Schrader, both of whom attended the conference in previous years and were more than happy to show us the ropes. This conference is a mind boggling conglomeration and collaboration of the different facets of missions and education. Workshops were organized for parents to receive homeschooling tips, assistance in choosing curriculum for their children, help for special needs learners, and more. At the same time, teens were taking field trips to Budapest, children were exploring the world of inventors and inventions, and prayer partners were encouraging families in their ministries. Becky, Becca, Gabby, and I were teacher’s assistants for different age groups within the children’s program, 8 and 9 year olds, 5 year olds, 3 and 4 year olds, and 11 and 12 year olds, respectively. As is expected, each of us grew more and more connected and attached to our students as the week progressed, but I did not foresee just how hard it would be to leave my students at the end of the week.
Working with the 11 and 12 year olds was wonderful – throughout the week, I had so many moments of uncontrollable laughter, holding back tears, and feeling so proud of both their academic accomplishments and their hearts for others. Under the direction of Mrs. Marylin Bostrom, a retired teacher from Illinois who displayed her expertise from multiple years of teaching at the SHARE conference, my group of 23 students truly felt like a class. The kids learned about everything from the seemingly insignificant yet important invention of the pencil to the various contributions of Ben Franklin. They discovered the efficiency of Henry Ford’s assembly line for themselves by employing it in the creation of “hamburgers,” using Nilla Wafers as buns, Oreos as burgers, red icing as ketchup, green icing as lettuce, and white icing as mayonnaise. They saw how potato chips, ice cream cones, Silly Putty, Post-It Notes, and Velcro were all accidental inventions, and they learned that earmuffs were invented in 1873 by a kid just like them. They even brainstormed their own inventions, coming up with creative ideas for animal translators, sock-pairing devices, and food packets for starving refugees.
Because we were staying in the hotel that hosted the conference, I was able to share meals with my students, getting to know them outside of the classroom and gaining a better understanding of their everyday lives as missionary kids. My students live all across Europe – Ukraine, Russia, Czech Republic, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Hungary were all represented. I learned about their favorite foods (my girl from Italy was not impressed with the hotel’s spaghetti) and their customs (Halloween in Kosovo is much more like Mischief Night than innocent trick-or-treating). However, what struck me even more than the unique and diverse things they have experienced in their lives was the fact that they are still American kids. Yes, they currently live in Ukraine, Russia, and other countries, but they are American. They ride RipStiks, love Marvel superheroes, get excited about Chick-fil-A, and play Minecraft. The most amazing thing was watching the students connect to each other because of this commonality. They have Hungarian, Romanian, and Greek friends, but these friends will never be able to understand them as well as other American kids who are also navigating growing up in a country that is not fully their own.
In my time in Hungary, I got a glimpse of how important the SHARE Education Conference is to these families. They look forward to this week of community and encouragement all year, and I am so glad that my team and I were able to be a part of it.