Today we are leaving Betzata, a community where we spent almost two months. There are many things which we will be taking with us – in our internal backpacks, where we keep our impressions, memories of everything that the Lord is teaching us along the way.
Many of these impression took place in the last two weeks alone. The best things always come at the end, right?
My father’s visit
Thus, for example, I may write a few words about a short visit by my father. We spent three beautiful days together and so he also had the opportunity to experience life in the community, such as the Ark.
This was a new experience for him, something different and it was very interesting to observe him in the company of people, who are able to enter one’s heart and to remain there forever.
Three days with my father were simultaneously three days of exploring Vilnius for the two of us. We strolled through the old part of the town, sightseeing and observing the main Lithuanian city from its highest point, the TV tower.
326 m high, this tower was built on December 30th 1980 as part of so called ‘Eleventh Five-Year Plan’ of the Soviet Union, considered a strategic investment in the then Russian Lithuania.
At a height of 165 meters, there is a large round platform with a bar and a restaurant, where it takes an elevator a mere 40 seconds to bring you up.
Tables are set along the windows on rotating landing, which needs 45 minutes to circle the area and offers visitors a all-round view of the entire city. On clear days, one can even see a city of Elektrėnai, 40 kilometers away, where in Soviet times the energy plant produced most of the electricity for Vilnius.
Memory of independence
The tower is also a memorial point, since it played an important role at the events on 13 January 1991, during independence of Lithuania out of the Russian Federation.
At that time the Russian army when leaving the country, initially tried to destroy the TV tower – which was an important link between Lithuania and the rest of the world. The conflict has killed 14 civilians, who defended the Lithuanian land, more than 700 were wounded.The last chapter of Betzata Click To Tweet
Today, as we know, Lithuania is an independent state, connected to the European Union, however a standard of living is still relatively low. The minimum guaranteed wage is € 300, unemployment remains high.
One can hardly imagine how people of middle and lower class with such a salary can afford food and other items -prices are not really much lower compared to Slovenia.
However, pride Lithuanians do not complain about these things and trust in a better life, although fearing the following years, when the time comes for the return of European loans.
Funded by credits, in fact they rebuilt most of the city. Driving today through Vilnius, one can actually observe a modern European city, though, as the locals say, the investments bring slow return.
One Saturday a group of boys and girls with mental disabilities and us two visited the city of Trakai, the so-called castle on the island. It is one of the major tourist attractions of Lithuania, about half an hour drive from the capital city.
Kęstutis, Duke of Medieval Lithuania, began to build this magnificent stone mansion in the 14th century, completing it by his son Vytautas the Great in 1409. At that time Trakai castle was a center of Lithuania and was considered of great strategic importance as being surrounded by the lake.
Today you can visit the town museum here and the castle doors stay open for curious tourists and all those who are attracted by history. Indeed, when you step inside, you transfer yourself 600 years back in time.
Each hall in its own way reveals the castle life, everything from that time is still preserved. In addition, the mansion is surrounded by nature and beautiful lake, in the winter suitable for ice skating and in summer of course for swimming.
If you ever consider Lithuania as your travel destination, Trakai is certainly a point well worth a visit.
In the wood workshop
Our boys and girls do their work in three different workshops. None of those is located within the community, and therefore every morning after breakfast, one of the assistants drives them by van to ‘their service’.
A few days ago me and Silva visited one workshop, where Aneta and Deividas are working, occasionally Julija comes along as well. We liked the atmosphere and the attractive scent of fresh wood.
Quite a few boys with mental disabilities produces wood products every day and help assistants in repairing and restoration of furniture for individual customers, which is also the main source of income for the workshop.
By the way, we learned that there is a certain Slovenian together with assistant, working there as well. It is a pity that he was absent that day.
First, we helped in unloading the fallen furniture. The assistants have brought it with a van to the workshop and it will be used for heating.
Then we sat down at one of the desks and in less than an hour created two simple souvenirs, one for the workshop, the second for the community.
When it’s time to say ‘a Dio’
It easy to get into the community, but it is harder to say goodbye. Even harder if you spent intense month and a half with people who accrued to your heart.
Before we sat down to dinner, the community thanked us for the work and time we spent among them. They have donated us some very practical gifts.
The first was a typical Lithuanian cakes, prepared by Assistant Mary (Ernesta) and Aneta, one of the first members of the community.
Martynas gave us a handmade spoon. Sometimes he produces those in the workshop room next to our room.
Rimas, responsible for the community, gave Silva a all natural, homemade ointment which she recently used to eliminate her sinus problems.
This was followed by the blessing. We have never received such a special one before. All sixteen members stepped in front of us, lay their hands on our heads and sang a blessing prayer.
As if the time had stopped. When we discussed about this later, at that moment, both of us, in all the fullness and power, felt the Spirit which we could otherwise have constantly been absorbing bit by bit while staying at Betzata.
After dinner, we also thanked back the community for their trust and opportunity. Betzata has opened us the door to a new story. From assistants we could learn about patience and gentleness, from boys and girls we could learn about diligence, docility and that children’s playfulness, which the rest of us ‘the normal people’ have long since forgotten.
We thanked to each and everyone of them, because each in its own way contributed to our experience, which was rich and full of impressions.
We donated a Slovenian Muscat, which my father brought to us, some Mary medals, which we got from the sisters in Odessa and a wooden plate with a message “Operando: God Works!”
Now we shall travel back to Rome, to our ‘casa madre’ – il Chicco. We plan to stay there until the end of February and then briefly return to Slovenia, since we have to arrange some formalities and prepare ourselves for a new ‘flight’.
Some time ago, a priest Dr. Zvone Štrubelj invited us to come to Brussels, where he heads the Slovenian parish. If at all possible, we’ll stop into the European capital to make some testimony of our mission, before continuing the journey.
We sincerely thank you for your financial gifts which you have already paid or you are still dedicating for the Ark community in Lithuania. We decided to leave the ‘Piggy Bank’ open until the end of February – for as long as we are staying in Rome.
Until then, therefore, you are still invited to donate a handful of Euros for people with intellectual disabilities. Betzata community needs the funds to cover their running costs, to buy a mower and three bikes and for the installation of the tabernacle in the house chapel. I am confident that we can collect even more! Learn more about this charity campaign here >>
Next week we’ll already be reporting from Rome. Lets stay united in spirit and prayer. And never forget: Operando – God is working now!