We hope all of you had a joyous Easter day. We feel we missed Easter this year. We had none of the usual Holy Week services. Easter Sunday we awoke to a new snowfall and cold wind. We attended the Catholic church along with John and Rachel and the children and also Dick and Linda Ward, mutual friends from Toledo who happened to be in town. Everyone was dressed in the prevalent black coats and there were no Easter lilies or traditional Easter hymns. Even so–The Lord is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
On Saturday, we decided to take a trip to the Ordivas Gardens about an hour’s drive away. In our travel guide it is billed as “one of Eastern Europe’s most bizarre sights–eclectic and enormous, filled with tombstones, boulders, odd sculptures and hidden gardens.” It seemed worth a look so we borrowed John’s car and took off. Alas, we should have read the guide more carefully–it does not open until May. The trip was not a total loss however as we found three old churches to visit plus a small museum and saw the Zemaitja National Park and the lovely Lake Plateliai there, which was still frozen over even though it is so close to us here where the ice has been gone for 3 weeks.
It is a mystery to us how these small villages were able to build these big churches but probably the landed gentry provided the funding. Something I had not seen before in the first two churches was how they were prepared for Easter by draping long pieces of white fabric–in one instance, lace– from the top to the sides of the church.
The third church we visited was a wooden church, much simpler in adornment and different than any we had seen before.
This carving, A Man of Sorrows, was in the yard of one of the churches–it has become a familiar sight to us as it is often in church yards and small carvings like this are available in most souvenir shops. Other than the crucifix in all the Catholic churches, it is the only way I have seen Christ depicted here. In the US, we often see representations of Jesus with children, or Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and Jesus calming the storm, but here He is always sorrowful. It seems appropriate for the season…”He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Isaiah 53:1-6.
Whenever we are out in the countryside, we see so many stork nests. Storks are the national bird although they are called something else I can’t recall, and people often build platforms for them to nest on but they are often atop telephone poles and sometimes in trees. Though I have seen many of these nests, I have yet to see a stork.
For those of you who have traveled in Europe, it has probably happened that you have come across a toilet like this one. This is the first time this has happened to me in some time but Saturday was my lucky day. I hope this doesn’t discourage you from traveling.
The small museum we came across during our drive was entirely of Shrove Tuesday masks. The making of these masks is a popular artistic endeavor here and it is quite surprising to us the importance given to this art form. I cannot imagine a museum of Halloween masks in the US although I may well be wrong. Here are some of the more interesting ones:
This winter we have been attending on Wednesday evenings, a Bible Study Group which is a project of the Community Bible Study International program. There are representatives in several countries who organize and oversee Bible Studies for groups within that country. All groups study the same thing and a workbook is provided. This semester, the scripture has been First Samuel. In our particular group, there are 15 plus the CBSI leader, Marietta. It has been a good experience–held in Marietta’s cozy downtown apartment– and we have especially enjoyed the fellowship with this very interesting and diverse group of Christians. I want to introduce our group:
I had to use pictures from two different nights in order to get everyone–Joachim is still missing–he is Lithuanian and the head of the local Salvation Army organization. June and Heidi are the two church planters from the group The Truth which we mentioned before. They are here for just a couple of months and then they will return to the US(Oregon) and be replaced by two more. We knew their predecessors. Vern and wife, Maxine, from Montana, both teach at LCC in the English department. Marina is Lithuanian and is the registrar at LCC and Laura, also Lithuanian, works as the Webmaster at LCC (whatever that means.) Laura has worked in the US and is married to an American there. She is trying hard to get back to the states but is having difficulty because of visa problems. Henry and wife Leona are Canadians. Henry is an ordained Mennonite minister and he and Leona have been missionaries in Brazil and other places. Sharon is a Mennonite who has been in Lithuania for several years off and on. She is the Director of Church Relations at LCC. Sharon and her husband, Greg, have adopted two Lithuanian children., Allan is a retired Marine who was attached to the embassy in Vilnius and retired from there and married a Lithuanian woman. Kim is the Vice-President of Student Life but, after 10 years here will be returning to the US after this semester along with her husband and three little children. Tom has been here for two semesters but will be leaving soon also. He is very successful businessman and once worked at P&G and also lived in Toledo for awhile so we have that in common. All of these people, without exception, are such pleasant and friendly people–it has been a blessing to get to know them.