We’ve included a very small amount of required reading during each stage. But in case you’re one of those people who love to read and research things, or if you’re interested in a particular topic, here are some books we recommend…
Slovakia: Fall in the Heart of Europe (Marek Bennett)
Marek Bennett is an American artist/cartoonist with deep family roots in Slovakia who recently spent six months living in various places around the country – learning the Slovak language, observing the culture and people, and learning about his family. Bennett chronicled his trip and observations in the form of comic strips that he put on his website and compiled into a book. One of the themes that runs through the book is his encounters with Roma people and the relationship between Slovaks and Roma. We can’t tell you how many times we laughed out loud reading this book… or how many times we gave thoughtful grunts as we saw Slovakia through his eyes. Worth reading online at least – and the book can be ordered directly from his website.
The Pure in Heart (Martin Burrell)
Burrell is an Anglican chaplain to the Roma people living in Luton, England. His research and ministry among the Roma people give some unique insights into their history, their traditions, the challenges they face, and the contributions they make to the Kingdom of God.
Bury Me Standing (Isabel Fonesca)
This is one of the best-known books about the Roma people. Fonesca visited Roma communities in various Eastern European countries and records her experiences and observations. She tells stories, offers insights into cultural practices and legends, and uncovers the struggles of the Roma people in this part of the continent.
The Romani Gypsies (Yaron Matras)
A new (2014-15) book about the Roma people in Europe (we haven’t picked up this edition, but we believe this is a U.S. imprint of a 2014 British book). It is thorough in its analysis of Roma history and language, and Matras provides background and understanding to many cultural habits among the Roma in various countries. It’s a little more scholarly than the other books here, but well worth the read for the depth of information it provides.
Illustrated Slovak History (Anton Spiesz, Dusan Caplovic)
A wonderful and detailed history of this part of the world now called Slovakia, including the people called Slovaks and how they came to be here. This book was originally published at the end of the 20th Century and was updated/translated in 2004, so the historical information really only covers up to the fall of Communism (1989) and the earliest years of the Slovak Republic. Things have changed in the 10 years since publishing, but the history remains the same – giving insight into this region, the people, and the many influences that have formed this relatively new country.
A Country Lost, then Found (Rick Zednik)
We haven’t had a chance to read this book yet, but we’ve heard about it from others. It tells one young man’s rediscovery of his homeland of Slovakia, which his parents were forced to flee in the 1960’s as Communism took a tighter hold here. The author now lives in Bratislava, where he runs a Slovak English-language newspaper, the Slovak Spectator. If you have a chance to read it and can tell us about it, we’d love to hear what you think!
Rick Steves’ Eastern Europe
Since we’ve lived here, we’ve come to rely on Rick Steves for travel information. His guides are informative and reliable, and they always give cultural and historical background on the things you’re exploring. Plus, Rick includes walking guides for many of the larger cities and sites he covers. This book will cover Slovakia, as well as other places we might visit while you’re with us. If you like to have a travel guide while you’re on the move, we highly recommend this one!
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Czech and Slovak Republics
If you’ve ever used any of these DK guides, you know how wonderfully illustrated they are and that they give great historical/cultural background from a tourist perspective. Only about 1/3 of the book is devoted to Slovakia (1/3 is about Prague, another 1/3 about the rest of Czech Republic), the sections on Slovakia are worth a look. If you don’t want to buy, see if your library has one or browse through it in your local bookstore.
Ministering Cross-Culturally (Sherwood Lingenfelter)
This excellent book has become a useful resource for us and so many others, and is used in places ranging from textbooks in seminary classes to church mission-trip orientation guides. Lingenfelter lays out a theology of incarnational missions, and shows how we can evaluate different cultures (including our own) on some common principles. Finally, he shows how we can understand and adapt to these different cultures as we attempt to share God’s love with people who are very different from us. An excellent book! if you decide to read it, let us know – we’d love to share our evaluation of the Roma and Slovak cultures.
When Helping Hurts (Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert)
We read this book as part of our preparation to come on the field, and it’s still as challenging to us now as it was when we first read it. It’s sad to realize that many of the things being done around the world to help the poor, are actually leaving the poor in worse shape than before they were “helped!” While we don’t agree with all of the authors’ conclusions, we found that the ideas in this book shaped our ministry here – both in what we’ve already done, and in what we hope to do in the future. This is an “extreme version” of Assets-Based Community Development.