The school year in Slovakia always goes from September 2 to June 30. It might vary by a day or two based on weekends, but this is the pattern. Graduates, however, end in May or the very beginning of June. This year half of my classes are with fifth year students and just last week (it is May 25 as I write), I’ve had my last class (forever) with 79 of my students, most of whom were in my first classes when I started teaching at the school three years ago. The seniors led their last chapel service last Wednesday, and after one week of study at home, they will take their school leaving (Maturita) exams next week, starting May 30. This is the oral portion of their exams: students have 20 minutes to look at and prepare responses to a page full of questions, then present for 20 minutes to a panel of three examiners. The English exam tests their knowledge and familiarity with literature themes and sixteen thematic topics (including government, multiculturalism, housing, and healthcare) from all five years of high school. It is daunting, and an exam I am grateful I never had to face in my own language, let alone a foreign one.

With my first class graduating, I am reflecting on the years with them, the sometimes heavy themes we covered, and the idea of a missionary called to accompaniment, or walking together in solidarity characterized by mutuality and interdependence. Our teachers – missionaries – are invited by the schools and reliant on the schools for jobs and housing. We learn about the cultural context we’re teaching in and ideally develop our mutuality and interdependence. I spoke with my former pastor, Colleen Montgomery, about teaching and accompaniment for her podcast All Places Together. She titled our episode Modern Mutual Ministry, which really reflects several aspects of our conversation. I hope you will listen to our episode as well as others she has created. or

I hope that I can lean on you to pray for our students and teachers, especially their physical and mental health, as they approach and complete their Maturita exams. I will likely post at least one Maturita update on social media, ELCACET on Facebook and Instagram. Thank you, as always, for your support and the ways you accompany us.