Greetings from Trnava in southern Slovakia. I didn't walk as far this past week as I had planned but that was becuase of a very full schedule meeting people. I received a very handy Slovakian language lesson from 4 youth workers in Kysucke at the start of the week & I've been practising since. The Slovakian people have been very patient with me & generous with their time. The youth workers at Kysucke rang ahead to the city of Zilina to some counter-parts who welcomed me & organised for me to attend an eccumenical meeting being held that afternoon. Luthern Pastor Rad drove me to the meeting where I was invited to attened their prayer evening the following night. I walked on that night & again the next day so at 4pm I had to find a bus & ride back to Zilina, 50km behind me. Pastor Rad was very hospitable & offered me a place to stay & cooked up some great food for me. The meeting was very blessed & had contirbutors from many denominations. It was a beautiful first step towards unity in truth & love. One or the women attending the evening, Tracy, then invited me to travel down to the capital city of Bratislava for a major "Unity Concert" in 2days time. I couldn't afford the time to just hang around so after a careful look at the map we agreed on a pick-up point some 130km from Zilina. That plan had a spanner thrown in the works though when a journalist wanted an interview the next morning as I was preparing to head back to where I'd finished walking. The interview took a few hours & so Pastor Rad was very kind in throwing me in his car & speeding me out to my starting point. I only made a portion of my allotted distance for that day, leaving me with a 44km day to my 1:15pm pick-up point. So I began the marathon at 4:30am & pushed through, praying all the way & arriving 5mins late at 1:20pm. I-was-stuffed. I felt like I was going to self-combust over the last 15km. Tracy & her daughter shouted me to a quick lunch & then we were off to Bratislava. The concert, a night of praise & worship, was very re-focussing & up-lifting. A journalist came & met with me just as the evening was getting underway but after that I was free to just 'be'. Vlad, one of the guys there, invited me up to speak for a few minutes but spent the majority of the night sitting beside me translating everything. I now know how to say, "Holy Lord" quite fluently. His future sister-in-law, Ivana, also chipped in to help with translating while Vlad was leading up the front. They have a 24hr house of prayer in Bratislava & the shifts are taken up by people from all over the city & spectrum of churches. Again, a brilliant first step towards the unity of Christians in truth & love. Ivana made a phone call that night & organised a place for me to stay back where I'd finished walking (it was her home town). Tracy & her daughter drove me back that night & I was welcomed by Lucas, who didn't speak english, but we communicated just fine. The next morning we prayed together & then he took me to the local Evangelical church for their service. I then walked to Trnava, where I am now, & made it just in time for the Catholic mass. I had been given a contact here but that fell through & so one of the young women at the church simply offered me a place to sleep at her paretns place. I couldn't believe that she would just open up her home to a complete stranger, but then again, I really shouldn't be suprised at anything. I got a haircut the other day, my first since Snyder, Texas back in mid September. I ended up at a salon where haircutting is an art rather than a job. I really should have just asked for it to be all shaved off. Instead, the hairdresser (or should I say, 'Stylist') played with my hair for a minute & then started hacking at it with a cut-throat blade. She didn't use scissors once. She swiped, she sliced, she scared me half to death. I thought I was going to loose an ear. I've noticed that the mullet is very fashionable in Slovakia & she was very keen to not touch the back of my head. It's almost as if it's a fashion-declared national park & thus for viewing only & not for the taking! It took a few minutes of debate but I eventually convinced her that a mullet was not on. She sliced & slashed a little at the back & stood back as if to say, "How's that?" She'd given me a mini-mulllet. I insisted that she had to take more off it & so reluctantly she did. By the time I walked out of the salon I had a roughed-up just-got-out-bed back & a nike swoosh sweeping across the front & it was all held together by some sort of bizzare hair product. If anyone has seen the movie Dumb & Dumber you'll proabably remember them walking out of a salon & ruining the stylists good work by running their hands through their hair & bringing it back to normal. I did the exact same thing, & then put my cap back on. The Nike swoosh across my forehead greets me each morning now when I wake up so I just convince myself that I'm the most fashionable missionary on the face of the planet (apart from Blair McWhinney) & walk on. I've really enjoyed meeting the Slovakian people & they have certainly made the long distances on the road feel a little easier. I particularly get a kick out of the road signs here. All the signs with the typical bubble head person on it have been out-fitted with a hat of sorts. The figure on the pedestrian crossing is wearing as top-hat & the workman on road-works sign is wearing a beret. It's brilliant :-) Also, I few very big thank you's to a few poeple who have assissted me lately in acquiring a few new items to replace my old or damaged equipment. To the covenant community in Lublin, Poland, to Wojtek & the covenant community in Bielsko Biala, Poland & to the Pollard's in Australia, thank you so much for the new, walking poles, head-lamp, beanie & boots. I'm still wearing the boots I had delivered to Nicaragua & they are well beyond wearable. I have to grab a few stones out of them each day as I have 'ventilation' on the sides. The new boots should arrive next week & to Dave Batten who organised them for me (it took 3months to find a pair of size 16 (50 Euro)) thank you very much. I'll cook a nice dinner for you in late July. So with my 8000km old boots hanging on by a thread, I'm heading into Bratislava over the next 2days & then across the border into Austria. God bless & peace be with you, Sam.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matt 25:35