Today we went on an outing with our friend Bill to a high school on the northern outskirts of Budapest to a town called Vac (pronounced V-ah-st).
Bill and Wini are missionaries and work with university students in eastern Europe and Russia with Campus Crusade. Wini is my best friend from college which is why we’ve been in Budapest this week to visit.
Yesterday Zack and Gracie went to school for most of the day with Ben and Susanna, who are the same ages as my kids. Lucky for all of them, it was “pizza day” for lunch! Zack and Gracie went along with Ben and Susanna to classes, met other students and generally hung out for the day. They came home exhausted because oh my gosh, they had to get up at 6:30 that morning and walk 10 minutes to school – and walk home. A cruel and unusual punishment.
Today was their second outing to a high school, but the first for Curtis and I. We were a band of 7 — our family, plus Bill and two other staff members from Macedonia, Tomo and Gotse, whom I grew to love and would have put in my pocket and brought home with me if I could.
The plan for the day was this. Present to English classes about the topic of “What is success?” In Hungary, Campus Crusade is known as FEK, which stands for “helping young people through the transitions of life.” Just like in the US, high school students are facing big decisions about their life and their future. FEK walks with them through these transitions, and offers spiritual support when the student is open to it.
We visited 4 classrooms that were learning English and the outline went like this:
1. Explain what FEK is
2. Play a game – and win candy as a prize (some things work the world over)
3. One of the adults talk for 5 minutes on “What is success?” by sharing 3-4 main points
4. Break into small groups of 4-6 students and discuss the question, “what is success?” to give the students a chance to practice their English.
5. At the end of the class, we invited the students to join us for free pizza in the town’s main square.
While we were in the “Economics High School” where all the students are learning accounting, other teams were in other high schools in the surrounding area. About 30-40 staff in all.
So when it was time for the pizza feed, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many students join us. They are such great kids! They wanted to practice their English some more. A
nd eat pizza and have sodas (just like every kid I know in the US). They share about their homelife, their family, their school, their boyfriends and girlfriends, their dogs, their sports teams.
One of the key responses to the question “what is success” was “a strong family.” And students would share about how much they loved their parents, or how important it was to have good communication with your parents.
It was such a different response than we sometimes would get from a teen in the U.S. Not that kids in the U.S. don’t love their families, but most of the students we talked to here in Budapest effusively loved their families. I found it very interesting, how much more closely knit these families seem to be than most American families.
The challenge, and take away for me, is how do I create a family unit that loves and cherishes the family, but also learns how to adapt, grow and gain a measure of independence alongside the family, not just apart from the family. We live in a society that says “grow up” and at the same time says, “you are a child and I must do everything for you.” It can be confusing for a kid.
Hopefully through this trip my kids will gain confidence in their ability to adapt and navigate, and push beyond their own personal fears. And hopefully, dear God, at the end of it all they will love their parents much more deeply, and with greater understanding, than ever before.