Embraced by Community: A Year in Hungary with YAGM

By Vicar Callie Arendt, St. Michael Lutheran Church, Omaha

One of the joys of participating in Young Adults in Global Missions is not simply learning what it means to serve, but also learning how to be served. Learning how to be vulnerable to allow for another to care for you and learning how loved you can feel when you are embraced by a community that wants to uplift you.

Before going to Hungary, I had a hard time asking for help or letting others serve me. I was stubbornly independent, so I went through the visa process alone. I had to go to the immigration office 6 times before the paperwork was correct. When I finally had my visa and proudly showed it to my mentor, he asked why I didn’t tell him I was going to get my visa. He explained that his wife helps exchange students get visas every year, knows the system, and would have gone with me.

I was humbled that my community was ready to walk with me in my journey, and I was too afraid to let them. I experienced letting go and being vulnerable throughout the rest of my year. One of the places I served at was a high school youth center, and I participated in their music club. The high schoolers taught me how to play guitar so I could be included. Once I had been there a while and built relationships with them, they asked me to help them with the English pronunciation of song lyrics. Because I was vulnerable with them, they returned the favor and were vulnerable with me.

I was invited into homes for every holiday. I was invited to share meals after church. I was sent home with food after events. I was taught a traditional Hungarian dance. I was taught the important words I needed to know. I was loved. And I loved them. I shared the boot scooting boogie line dance with them. I was able to share American recipes and cook for them. I helped teach English when asked. We developed a mutual interdependence, sharing our love and our talents to serve one another.

One of my favorite memories of being served was my last week. The church had a kids camp week, similar to VBS but less structured. There was a 6-year-old boy who I didn’t know yet. He was fascinated by me. He could not understand how I, an adult, did not know Hungarian. He took it upon himself to personally ensure I was learning. He would spend a few hours every day that week running around to find random objects to bring me and say the item in Hungarian. He would have me repeat him until I said it to his satisfaction. I learned more Hungarian in that one week than the whole rest of my year.

My community taught me how to be vulnerable enough to be served, and how to ask for help. They showed me how to build community, how to serve, and how it can feel to be loved beyond measure.