In my experience of more than 10 years of missions work, it seems like we’re always beginning again. On the one hand, that can be frustrating. I used to think you should begin at the beginning, then keep going until you get to the end. Make a plan, work the plan, see the results. But I have come to realize that missions is a process of trial-and-error, and any process of trial-and-error involves many beginnings. An author has a wastepaper basket full of crumpled-up beginnings. Inventors have countless scrapped designs which they’ve replaced with new ones. Missions works the same way. The key is whether or not you learn something along the way.
The day I visited the village of Röszke, Hungary, it was relatively quiet. At times the refugees seemed to barely outnumber the T.V. reporters and police. Our OMS team had brought a van load of food, water, and supplies to the makeshift refugee camp. Along with many other volunteers, I helped clean up garbage. Little did I know that in less than 48 hours this place would be the site of riots as angry refugees tried to force their way past a newly erected border gate while the police repelled them with water cannons and tear gas.
We left Röszke on Monday afternoon at about 4pm. Even while we were still on the way back to Budapest we saw the reports that the Hungarian government had closed the border earlier than previously announced. We had a feeling trouble was coming.
For the 21st consecutive year OMS held an English camp here in Hungary. Our two-week camp was in the city of Vác, which is about 50 km north of Budapest. We have held English camps there for several years.
This year’s camp was noteworthy for several reasons. First, we had a large contingent of volunteers from abroad who came to serve alongside of us this year. Some of them were returnees from previous years but we also had several newcomers. We had foreign staff from the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. We sensed a very high level of bonding with our staff this year, and they left Hungary very positive and enthusiastic about our English camp ministry.
Hannah once again participated as a camper this year, and she had two friends from her gymnastics club who came to camp as a result of her invitation. Both of them really enjoyed the camp. One of them had been to camp last year, and she said this year’s camp was better than last year’s. Afterwards I spoke with the parents of the girl who came for the first time, and she was very pleased about the spiritual aspect of camp. This was very encouraging for us. We presented the Gospel very clearly to all of the campers. It was so exciting to hear how God is using our camp ministry to reach Hungarian young people. There were at least 10 campers who said they had made a commitment to Christ during camp this year.
The big challenge facing our team now is following up with students who made commitments and involving them in discipleship. One of the projects I was assigned this year by our new field leader, Jonathan Long, was to write a series of discipleship Bible studies. So far I have completed four lessons on the theme of Knowing God. We are still working on getting them translated into Hungarian for use with students whose English is still somewhat minimal in some cases (though hopefully improved after English camp!). But we are also laying a foundation for future follow-up efforts by preparing materials for students who are just taking their first steps in the path of knowing God.
Now we are preparing to return to the U.S. for several months of deputation. We have many challenges before us over the next few months as we pack up, store our belongings here, move back to the U.S., and begin traveling through several states and Canada in order to raise support for returning to Hungary. We would like to be back in Hungary before English Camp next year. We look forward to sharing with many of our friends and supporters while we are stateside!
From January 10-18 I had the privilege of traveling to England for the first time and attending a conference at L’Abri. L’Abri is French for “the shelter,” and is a ministry which was started by the late Francis Schaeffer with his wife, Edith. It’s a community which is geared towards providing hospitality to people who are looking for God, or maybe for more of God. I had first heard about L’Abri many years ago through the works of Schaeffer who is still one the most influential evangelical Christian apologists of the last century. When I heard about a conference sponsored by the European Leadership Forum I jumped at the opportunity to spend a week there.
During this conference (the Persuasive Evangelism Initiative), we had teaching and discussion about ways to reach modern secular Europeans with the Gospel. We were challenged to use more creative approaches and to ask questions rather than giving answers to questions that people weren’t asking, which we are sometimes good at doing. But for me part of the reason for going was to see and experience for myself what L’Abri is like.
There are L’Abri branches in 10 countries. I have always liked how L’Abri combined hospitality with apologetics. Some people have gotten the impression that L’Abri is for intellectuals, but it’s really for anyone. And I have sometimes had the thought that a L’Abri-type ministry would be something I would like to be involved in, even here in Hungary. I was also amazed by how many Hungarians were at this event. Of all of the nationalities represented, Hungarians were the most numerous (6 or 7 out of about 35 participants). Is God wanting to do something in Hungary along these lines? Does He want to use me in some way for this? We are continuing to think and pray about the future of our ministry here in Hungary and what shape that is going to take. Even if it does not look so much like L’Abri, I was encouraged by what I saw in England.
It’s hard to believe that we are already approaching the end of summer break and getting ready to get back into our fall schedule of school, sports, and our regular ministry activities. The highlight of the summer ministry-wise was our English Camp in Vác from June 15-26. Camp went from being a potential disaster with no foreign staff coming less than two months out, to what we felt was a great camp with a great group of people. We were amazed when eight volunteers responded within a three-week period that they felt God was telling them to come to camp after months of sending out invitations had produced no response. Continue reading “Summer’s Over Already?”
In the past six weeks I traveled in or through 6 different countries. It started at the end of June with a trip to Wisla, Poland for the European Leadership Forum. This conference features training and workshops from some of the best Christian teachers and leaders you will find anywhere. I previously attended this conference four times, all of them in Eger, Hungary. Because of the continuing growth of the conference, this year it was held at a hotel in Wisla to accommodate the 700+ participants. I was again thrilled to listen to speakers like Becky Pippert, whose book Out of the Saltshaker remains a classic in personal evangelism. It was also exciting to hear of the initiatives that she and her husband are currently undertaking in Europe, and the incredible response that they have seen.
I was also inspired listening to Dr. Stephen Meyer, one of the leading scholars of Intelligent Design (ID). While this movement has been heavily criticized in the media and on the internet in recent years, I have followed ID authors for over 20 years. I believe there is strong evidence of God’s handiwork in creation, and Dr. Meyer points to that in his book, Signature in the Cell. He also has a new book out called Darwin’s Doubt, which I have not yet had a chance to read but am eagerly anticipating.
After returning from Poland, I was off to the States and a week of meetings at OMS headquarters in Greenwood, Indiana. I was one of the five representatives from Europe attending the Missionary Council, an annual meeting of OMS leaders from all over the world to prayerfully discuss policies, strategies, and mission-related issues. I was excited to hear about some new initiatives at OMS among the younger generation of leaders (even younger than myself!). OMS has some gifted and creative young leaders whom I believe God is going to use to communicate the Gospel to the ever-changing world that we live in.
Finally, a week after returning to Hungary it was time to hit the road once again. This time it was not for a conference or a meeting, but some much-needed family time. From June 27-30 we traveled to a town in the Czech Republic called Hluboka (actually the full name is Hluboká nad Vltavou but that just seems really cumbersome and we have no idea how to pronounce it!) where Matthew’s baseball team (the Rangers) was playing in a friendly tournament against four other teams, including the Hungarian national team for his age group. During the round robin they beat the Hungarian national team with Matthew scoring the winning run in the bottom of the last inning by stealing home. We would show the video of that exciting moment, except that I got so excited during the play that the camera is pointing everywhere except at the action on the field! For the playoff round, however, the Rangers played off for third place against a team from St. Petersburg, Russia. And I CAN show you the video for that game, which I actually edited and made into a highlight video. Rather than spoiling the result, you can see the video below (if you don’t want to watch the whole thing you can skip to the end for the final score!).
This past Thursday I travelled to the town of Gelnhausen, Germany for a gathering of the faculty of European Nazarene College. I was invited there to represent the school he teaches at in Budapest, which is a learning center of EuNC (think of it as an extension campus but without the campus!). Also representing the Budapest learning center were (left to right) Imre Gusztin, Gábor Szuhánsky, and Mária Gusztin. It’s the third year I’ve been to these meetings and I always enjoy the interaction with my Hungarian co-workers from our learning center. I also enjoy meeting other faculty members from across Eastern and Western Europe.
Sometimes it helps when the work seems overwhelming to remember that we are not alone here. We are blessed by the encouragement of our co-laborers in Christ from many other churches and organizations who all share the same calling here in Europe: to proclaim Christ and make Him known among the nations – whether in Hungary or at the very center of the European Union!