A new team of emissaries will take off today on a two-week peace mission to a communist country. They will travel light, with proceeds from baby-sitting in their pockets and bags stuffed with T-shirts and jeans.
Not your standard diplomatic corps, but those in the sixth-grade Sunday school class at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena believe their trip to Czechoslovakia is serious business, and they've worked hard on it.
The eight 11- and 12-year olds have studied Czech history and culture. They have learned a few Czech words and a couple of folk dances. And most of them have done extra chores and sold roses to help finance the trip.
The Rev. Susan Buell, who is in charge of Christian education at All Saints, was looking for "an exciting project."
Buell said she believes youngsters can develop "a global sense" at an early age, and wanted to introduce world travel to them before they become teen-agers.
Dorothy Kilian of Pasadena, who is a member of the church, attended an international peace meeting in Prague last year which was sponsored by the Christian Peace Conference. She met the secretary general of the Conference, Lubomir Mirejovsky of Prague. Through his efforts, the youngsters will be housed in a theological seminary in Prague because few families in the ancient city have rooms to offer guests.
Nobody can explain exactly why the trip was proposed in April for the sixth-grade class, except to say that the idea just took hold, and everything seemed to fall into place.
"It's a kind of peace mission, and I believe you can't start too young," Kilian said.
Buell added: "This is a good age. The trip will give them some personal experience to fall back on that we hope will make them less parochial as adults. They will learn that while we may disagree with communism, we don't hate them as people."
It will give Europeans an opportunity to learn more about Americans, Buell added.
Buell, one of four adults who will accompany the group, said Czech children of the same age have been invited to join in all their activities, which will include sightseeing.
"I'm really excited about seeing a whole new country," said Francesca Casini, 12, who was born in Italy and has been to Europe twice.
Francesca's mother, Janet Casini of South Pasadena, said her daughter has done child care for church organizations to help raise the $1,700 it cost each youngster.
Kathleen Kilian, whose grandmother is Dorothy Kilian, also helped earn her own money. "I'm so excited," Kathleen said. "I learned some Czech words, and now I've forgotten them all and have to start all over."
Both girls said they were assigned to research and write papers about Czechs who have made major contributions in science and the arts.
Buell said members of the class sold miniature roses on Mother's Day. They also received financial help from All Saints itself, which identifies itself as a "Peace Church," the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race, an ecumenical group at the church, Episcopal Church Center, the denomination's headquarters in New York, and the Pasadena Rose Society. Through the last group, the class will take miniature Peace rose bushes as gifts for their new friends in Prague.
The class will be given a big send off this afternoon, when members leave from the church for Los Angeles International Airport. They will spend the first day and the last two days in Helsinki, Finland, and will stay 10 days in Prague.
Besides Francesca and Kathleen, those making the trip are Melissa Doulos, Rebecca Camp, James Dillavu, Jason Felton, Lowell Iles and T.K. Williams. Adults accompanying them will be Buell, Marian Stinson, Linda Jenkins and Bill Doulos, who also is on the All Saints Church staff.