The following article was written for the national UU Partner Church Council newsletter by our chair, Jean Crichton.
Barót youth advisor Árpád Egyed probably said it best:
“Just seeing the two churches’ youth together, their growing friendships and their gestures, smiles and bright eyes tell us the value of this trip. I think this partnership between our two churches made us discover ourselves in ways we didn’t even think of.”
Árpi was talking about the first two weeks of August when 11 youth and six adults from the Unitarian Church in Barót, Transylvania, visited The Unitarian Church in Summit, New Jersey. More than 100 members of the Summit congregation participated in making the trip a success by housing guests, providing transportation, hosting dinners and/or donating cash.
More than 20 Summit youth joined the visitors on the jam-packed itinerary that included canoeing down the Delaware River, lunching in a Wall Street skyscraper, visiting the 9/11 Memorial, riding the roller coasters at 6 Flags, jumping the waves at the New Jersey Shore and more.
After 21 years of our Barót-Summit partnership, it seemed we were finally beginning to achieve the people-to-people relationships that we had always yearned for but had not really thought possible. The two youth groups are continuing to be in touch through Facebook and monthly Skype sessions.
“We had so much fun while getting to know each other better,” recalled Andrea Bardocz, a recent college graduate and member of the Barót delegation. “It was a whole new world for us, and we wanted to discover as much as possible. Thanks go to the UCS members, who made it happen. Not a day goes by without thinking about them and talking with them, with the help of the Internet.”
The visit was the bold dream of Rev. Emilie Boggis, Summit assistant minister in charge of youth, and Rev. Alpar Kiss of Barót, following a very successful multi-generational trip to Barót in 2012. The six American teens in the group spent three days at a forest retreat with about a dozen Barót youth, under the watchful eye of Rev. Boggis and the two Barót youth advisors (and English teachers), Árpi Egyed and Melinda Fazakas.
The teens bonded amazingly, helped along by the English-language skills of the Transylvanians (picked up from TV shows like Gossip Girls) and the Hungarian-language studies by several of the Summit youth (who used Pimsleur tapes). As a result, we had to reciprocate and invite them to visit us.
“It was awesome to take our partners to see these sights,” comments Rev. Boggis, “especially since I thought their country was one of the most beautiful places I had ever experienced. When I witnessed their positive reactions, it made me appreciate my home country more.”
Perhaps most memorable for Summit adults was the Sunday worship service August 4 led by youth from both congregations. Summit youth leaders Jesse Klein and Hayley Lugg led the service. The Barót group performed several songs, and Klaudia Buda and Réka Biró, two of the best English speakers, articulated their hopes and dreams for the trip.
After understandable worries about the language barrier, finding enough drivers, providing enough food for hungry teenagers AND the weather, only one problem arose—a 15-year-old girl developed severe stomach pain and had to have an appendectomy. Luckily, all the travelers had travel/medical insurance, and thanks to Skype, the girl’s mother, a nurse, was able to talk to her daughter and to the surgeon before and after the operation. The patient was quickly released from the hospital and was able to participate in most of the remaining activities.
Looking forward to 2014, the Barót travelers have invited a Summit delegation for a return visit. “I feel as though we are members of a big family surrounded by people who care about each other,” said advisor Árpi. “We can’t wait to see you all again next year.”
Memories and reflections from our Barót partners about the experience:
Árpi Egyed, trip leader and co-advisor to the Barót Youth Group:
I think this partnership between our two churches made us discover ourselves in ways we didn’t even think of. Just by seeing the two churches’ youth together, their growing friendships and their gestures, smiles and bright eyes tell us the value of this trip.
I can remember clearly our everyday gatherings in the morning at the UU church, when our friends from Summit were busy making our days as perfect as possible. I can tell one thing, they succeeded even more they thought. All of our days spent with them were exquisite.
My favorite parts were the forest retreat at Princeton-Blairstown Retreat Center and the canoeing down the Delaware river. The kids loved New York and I think it has become the center of the world for them.
What I loved about Summit were the quiet and clean streets, the smell of fresh cut grass and the calm people. Everybody at the UU church was very kind, I loved meeting with new people.
I felt like this trip wasn’t our first one, and our last day in Barót last summer happened only the day before we arrived in New Jersey. I felt we were members of a big family surrounded by people who care about each other.
I can never forget the smiling faces, the youth’s laughter and the warm hugs we’ve got when we were there. Can’t wait to see you all again next year.
Melinda Fazakas, co-advisor to the Barót Youth Group:
This whole trip was one of the best opportunities that I have ever had, and some of us are still trying to wake up from the dreams that came true. I thought that we might have problems with the kids’ behavior or their integration or lack of communication, but thank God everything went better than I expected, except for Agi’s surgery.
I think Summit is a great place, and we often talked about whether we’d choose to live in New York or in Summit. We would choose Summit, because there isn’t so much rush and traffic like in NY. What your church has is amazing for us. The things the whole community and the people did for us while we were there and their friendly and helpful behavior was unbelievable for me.
My favorite part of the trip was first, the canoeing where the view was breathtaking and it was a great experience for me. The second was the 9/11 Memorial, which is absolutely impressive and at the same time sad to me.
Andrea Bardocz, recent university graduate and a member of the Barót delegation:
It was more than one month ago when we were at Summit. It seems like a dream, but I know it was real: I met those wonderful people, I saw those unbelievable places. We had so much fun while getting to know each other better. It was a whole new world for us, and we wanted to discover as much as possible. Thanks to the UCS members, who made it happen. Not a day goes by without thinking about them, talking with them, with the help of the Internet. When my friends ask about our trip, I smile and talk for hours about our experiences, and the love we have received. We are already making plans for their visit next year.