Seasons

Lately I’ve spent time thinking about the seasons of life. In Ecclesiastes 3:1, we read that “To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven.” The author goes on to list many examples of events for which there is an appropriate season. I would add that there is a time to move on, and a time to start something new.

That is the season that we find ourselves in as a family. First, we are moving on from one organization, and starting out with a new one. This means leaving behind some relationships (although we still have many friendships that will continue), and forming new ones. It means becoming part of a new team and a new community.

Hannah

For us in our current season, it also means that Hannah is moving on and starting something new on her own. She is graduating from ICSB and heading off to Houghton College to begin life without us being a part of it every day.

It’s hard to know which of these changes is bigger. In some ways, changing organizations in Hungary seems relatively small. We will live in the same house, drive the same car, and Tricia will go to work every day at the same place she has been working for the past two years. I will have a new role and new responsibilities, and hopefully new opportunities as well. It’s a new season for all of us.

If there is a lesson in all of this, it is not to be worried or fearful of the changing of seasons. Some of the changes we are going through we anticipated; others we did not. But as Ecclesiastes says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11).

Whether you are at the beginning of a new season, in the middle of one, or coming to the end of another, we pray that you will find the beauty in that which God is doing in your life.

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Building Wisely

Recently I spent time working on our construction project in the village of Szentmargitfalva in southwestern Hungary. We are building a small chapel for the Methodist church there. When I arrived along with the first construction team, the foundation for the chapel had been laid but there was no structure on it.

However, there was a problem. The workers who laid the foundation didn’t follow the building plans very well. There were several mistakes made which required making several changes to how the structure would be built. The foundation was still solid and usable, but it wasn’t built exactly according to the plans. Because of that, the blueprint that the architect had drawn up was almost entirely useless. But it was time to start building, and he didn’t have time to draw up a new set of plans. Continue reading “Building Wisely”

The Seven Habits of a Growing Disciple

After I graduated from seminary and started out in ministry as an assistant pastor in Kalamazoo, Michigan over 20 years ago, I developed a curriculum based on 2 Peter 1:5-7 that I called “The 7 Habits of a Fruitful Christian.” I later changed the name to “The Seven Habits of a Growing Disciple.” It was based on the 7 qualities that Peter says we are to add to our faith – virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, brotherly kindness, and love.

Over the years I have taught this material in different contexts, and each time I have taught it I have continued to add new ideas and new material. About a year ago I wrote a series of blog posts on it that we published on our OMS Hungary blog. You can read the first one here (to read the rest of the series, you can click “next” on the bottom right of that page). Continue reading “The Seven Habits of a Growing Disciple”

Coffee House Apologetics, take two

This last spring we held our first ever coffee house apologetics outreach event in the city of Vác (pronounced “vats”). It was held in conjunction with Easter, and the topic was the Resurrection of Jesus. I was able to share with a good group of people in attendance about the historical evidence for the Resurrection, and how that can help strengthen our faith.

coffee houseLast week we held another event, this time talking about how Jesus fulfilled detailed prophecies from the Old Testament written hundreds of years before his birth. I will be sharing some of these messianic prophecies on the OMS Hungary blog and cross-posting them here. It was exciting for me to be able to delve into a new area of apologetics and see how there really is good evidence for the truth claims of Christianity. I think this is especially important in a world in which those claims are increasingly under attack. Continue reading “Coffee House Apologetics, take two”

Beginning again, again

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.

Continue reading “Beginning again, again”

Returning to Hungary and the New Normal

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.

Refugees, police, and TV crews on a quiet day in Röszke, Hungary
Refugees, police, and TV crews on a quiet day in Röszke, Hungary

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.

Continue reading “Returning to Hungary and the New Normal”

English Camp 2014 Round-up

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.

A group activity at English Camp
A group activity at English Camp

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.

Hannah and her friends at English Camp
Hannah and her friends at English Camp

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!

The Shelter

The Manor House at L'Abri in England
The Manor at L’Abri in England
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Me drinking tea with my Hungarian friend János
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The chapel at L’Abri

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.

Summer’s Over Already?

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English Camp is always a fun time for the kids.

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?”

Have mission, will travel

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Becky Pippert addresses the crowd on the final day of the European Leadership Forum.

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.

Dr. Stephen Meyer speaking at the European Leadership Forum.
Dr. Stephen Meyer speaking at the European Leadership Forum.

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.

Matthew holding the team's trophy from the baseball tournament in Hluboka.
Matthew holding the team’s trophy from the baseball tournament in Hluboka.

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!).