Alena Majorosova "gave a face to our outreach in Slovakia," said Mark Lingle, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Danbury, Conn.
Sponsored by the Slovak Zion Synod, Majorosova and six Slovakian divinity students interned in the United States. The program cultivates relationships, provides ministry experience and helps the students improve their English.
Everyone benefits from the exchange. At St. Paul, members were impressed with Majorosova's humility. "I was taken by her humbleness and use of 'please' [when praying]," said parishioner Vivian Krizan.
Ethel Omasta was impressed with Majorsova's deep trust in God: "This was her first time in the United States, and she wasn't afraid to travel alone."
Majorosova matter-of-factly replied, "God takes care of me."
Such a response is common. For years, faith was all that Czechoslovakian Lutherans had as they secretly attended church. "Under communism, God seemed to disappear," Majorosova said.
For students, the experience provides a model of what parish life can be. "The students have a passive model of ministry at home, so it's good for them to see how American pastors hustle," said Paul Hinlicky, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor teaching in the seminary at Bratislava.
"[In Slovakia the ministry] is thought of as more of a job and less of a calling," Majorosova said, "and pastors don't visit the sick or reach out to the community because there aren't enough ministers. A U.S. parish lives like a family. You care about each other, have meals together and do things with one another."
Esther Lindstrom, 11, sums up what St. Paul and Majorosova learned from the program: "We may be from different places, but we all believe in the same God."
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers