Hannah’s Baptism

Hannah was baptized in our church in Budapest on Oct. 16, 2011. She had been asking to be baptized for some time, and we finally felt that she was ready to make a decision that would be her own. She had been asking many questions about faith and about the Bible which we tried our best to help her with. It was a wonderful service.

We had hoped that some others in our congregation who had not yet taken the step of baptism would also want to be baptized. One young woman who believed at our English camp this summer was entirely new to the idea of baptism and didn’t feel ready. However, after seeing Hannah do it, she came up to Sanyi (our pastor) after the service and asked when our next baptismal service was going to be! We are planning to have a joint baptismal service with the Free Methodist church in Budapest, who do not have their own baptismal font.

Hannah wrote and gave her testimony (with the help of Eszti, who translated for her). Here is the text of her testimony:

While we were in America, I believed in God just because my parents did. But when we came to Hungary I started struggling in my faith. I asked questions, prayed, and read my Bible a lot. I got what my parents call an assurance problem. But God helped me through it and comforted me when I really needed it. Now I’m excited to be giving my life to Jesus. I believe that he died for my sins and rose again. And I trust that he’ll be with me my whole life, through thick and thin, carrying me on.

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English Camp 2011

We held our annual OMS English Camp in the city of Vác again this year. It’s exciting to see the growth in the lives of young people who come to the camps year after year. In some cases our English camps are the biggest source of spiritual input that these young people receive during the year.

Hannah and Matthew with their friend Sarah Wray who came from the U.S. to volunteer at camp.

We held two separate camps for the different age groups, a children’s camp and a teen camp. Hannah and Matthew were again involved in the children’s camp. Of course, they don’t need to learn any English, but they applied themselves to learning some new Hungarian words while the other kids were learning them in English! As usual, we had songs, games, and lots of conversation groups which allowed kids to develop their English while also asking important questions about life and about God. The Gospel was clearly presented to the young people during the camp, and opportunity was given for them to respond. We know of one young woman who gave her life to the Lord for the first time. Others may have responded that we don’t know about. While the number of students who attended the camps was lower than we had hoped, it’s still exciting to see new believers coming into the kingdom of God.

Hannah and Matthew were part of the parents' night performance at the end of camp.

We are planning to hold follow-up retreats for the students who came to camp during the year. Our first retreat is this coming Saturday, August 20. This also happens to be the national Hungarian holiday, St. Stephen’s Day. The day is always marked by a spectacular fireworks display in downtown Budapest over the Danube River. We hope that it will be a significant day for the young people attending the retreat also. Some of our Hungarian co-workers came to the Lord through retreats following previous English camps and have good memories of them. Two of them, Sanyi and Rupi, were actually the ones who decided to revive the retreat tradition this year. We’re looking forward to what the Lord is going to do through them.

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Easter Sunrise

It was on a certain Sunday morning some 2000 years ago, in the darkness just before dawn, that the lives of a small group of followers of a young Jewish preacher were about to change forever.

To commemorate that historic day, we gathered on a hill in a public park in Budapest to hold an Easter sunrise service. We started at 5:00 am. It was the third year our church has held such a service. Interestingly (and quite unexpectedly), we were joined by a group of worshippers from another church at around 5:25, the official time of sunrise. We welcomed them to join us, and took turns singing songs from our song book and from theirs. While this meant that our worship time lasted much longer than we intended, we were able to worship with other believers.

Our Easter services were preceded by a special service on Good Friday in our new, completely unfinished building. It was exciting to be able to sing praise to God in this place even though it will be many months before it’s ready for use as a regular worship facility. We are excited about how God has provided this building for a price that an architect from Ireland called a miracle. We hope to get many years of use from this building, for the glory of God.

If you would like to see a blog about our new building and how to be involved in the renovation project, you can follow this link.

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The Rain in Spain . . .

We just returned from a four-day intensive conference in Madrid with other OMS missionaries from Europe (and it actually did rain a little!). We heard some exciting testimonies of what God is doing around the world through the ministry of OMS in the area of church planting. We also had the opportunity to plan for the future of our own church planting ministries here in Hungary. It was a great encouragement. While it is true that in recent decades church growth in Europe has been very stagnant, we were reminded that this has been the case in other places in the world in the past. Yet some of those stagnant mission fields turned around and produced great movements of people turning to Christ and new churches being planted. God is able to do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. We were challenged to begin trusting Him for greater things.

One of the biggest emphases was that it starts with fervent prayer. Of course we all believe that prayer is essential to the work of ministry. But we were reminded by OMS leadership that fervent prayer is key to receiving the promises of God. We are in the process of looking for fervent prayer warriors to join us in this task.

We also examined our current strategies and how intentional we are about preaching the Gospel, helping new believers grow in their faith, and teaching them to share the Good News with others. I was excited when I saw that many of the things we’ve done in the past were good ministries, but some of them had been neglected for the last several years. I believe we can see God work through these ministries again, with greater results and greater effectiveness. All in all, we had a very beneficial and uplifting time in Spain.

Our kids had a lot of fun meeting other OMS missionary kids from Europe. Some people came to the conference for the express purpose of watching our kids while we sat in meetings all day. The kids played games, did crafts, had their own age-appropriate Bible studies, and really had a lot of fun. They were hoping we could do this every year. While there was talk of doing more meetings in the future, it’s unlikely that this will become an annual event.

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The Thief

“Where’s my jacket?”

That was my first question after coming out of the bathroom at the Burger King just down the street from our office. We had gone there for lunch after church on a Sunday afternoon. Within seconds I realized that we had been robbed. While I was in the bathroom with Matthew, Tricia had taken our trays up to the garbage can to throw away our trash and get ready to leave. She didn’t notice when she went back to the table that my jacket, which had been on the other side of the table from her, had vanished along with the single man who had been sitting by himself at the table next to us.

A family at another nearby table happened to speak English and heard the commotion as we conducted a harried search of the area around our table and in the bathroom to verify that my jacket was indeed gone. They immediately went to some restaurant employees to tell them we had been robbed. The restaurant called the police, informed us that unfortunately the restaurant’s security cameras were not recording anything, and that there was little else they could do.

The rest of the day was spent with me going to the police station to file a report, Tricia canceling our credit cards, and figuring out how to proceed. One thing I had liked about that jacket was the number of zippered pockets which could hold a lot of small items. That advantage quickly turned into a drawback as I gradually realized everything that had been stolen: my wallet, credit cards, passport, cell phone, apartment keys, office keys, spare key for the OMS van, sunglasses, blue tooth headset, and bus pass (with an almost brand new monthly pass worth almost $50). We also had to get the locks on our apartment changed. Not only did the thief make off with our keys, but my passport contained an address card with our current address (Hungarian law requires foreigners living there with a residence permit to carry this card at all times). We were afraid that we could end up getting robbed again.

We were thankful that I hadn’t been driving our car that day because of car trouble. We had the OMS van, which was parked by the office a couple of blocks away. There was no way for the thief to identify the van. However, if he had stolen my car keys, he would have also had my garage door opener which was attached to the key ring, as well as our address. We didn’t have to worry about that one.

Two weeks later, I had replaced the passport and already received my new debit card in the mail. But replacing my New York driver’s license was turning into a huge headache. I had heard about other people who lost their wallet or had it stolen here and who later got it back along with some of their important documents. I prayed that I would get my driver’s license back even as I began the process of replacing it.

Then we got a call from a friend of ours who was our neighbor at our old apartment here. She said that someone had contacted our former landlady that they had found my wallet and keys. She gave us the phone number of the guy, and I called him to set up a meeting to get my things back. I was also a little suspicious, so I consulted some people and took our Hungarian pastor with me. It turns out that this guy was a street sweeper, and said he found my wallet on the street with the keys inside of it. Apparently the thief had put everything he didn’t want back in the wallet along with all of the keys and thrown it on the street the next district over from the Burger King. The street sweeper had seen my old address written inside my old bus pass (the passport with the address card were gone), so he put a letter in the mailbox at our old apartment. I was very happy to find that my driver’s license was in the wallet. It was also a relief to get back the van key, office keys, and our apartment keys. While we changed the lock on our door, the returned set also had keys to the front gate and the front door of the building. So we once again have two full sets of keys, which is a good thing for us.

We learned a lot from this experience, not the least of which is just how careful you have to be in a public place in Budapest. We had always known this from our first trip here, and thought we were pretty careful. It turns out we weren’t careful enough. But we’re thankful that we didn’t end up losing more than we did, and that we were able to recover several of the more important items that were lost.

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Things we’re thankful for

As you know, Thanksgiving as a holiday is a North American tradition – pilgrims, wild turkeys, Indians, and all that stuff. In our church in Budapest, we have imported this tradition. We like to observe a thanksgiving Sunday, the Sunday after Thanksgiving in the U.S. This year that will be next Sunday. So since we are approaching Thanksgiving, I thought it would be appropriate to give thanks to God for the many blessings we have received since returning to Hungary.

After a couple months’ worth of searching, I finally found and purchased a car on Friday. It’s a 2000 Opel Zafira, which is kind of like a mini minivan. Alternatively, you could think of it as a station wagon with an extra row of fold-down seats in the back. We’re quite excited, and it’s supposed to be ready for us to take possession of in the next two or three days. We’re thankful that we found one in good condition that was in our price range, and with fairly low mileage on it.

We’re thankful for the many activities that the kids are involved in, including a Christmas play that is being put on by a homeschool group we have found here. Hannah and Matthew both have parts in it and have been working hard. Hannah is also involved in a gymnastics class where she has been making friends with other Hungarian girls.

We’re thankful that we found an excellent Hungarian tutor for the kids (and Tricia!). They really enjoy the lessons and are learning a lot from them. The tutor’s name is Ági, and she was recommended to us by another missionary that we know here.

I’m also thankful that today I managed to deliver a sermon in Hungarian. It wasn’t my first sermon in Hungarian, but it was the first time I had preached in Hungarian without having a Hungarian go over the manuscript to correct my errors. In spite of that, it seemed to go well, and I had a lot of positive feedback from the Hungarian members of the church. Attendance seems to be up also, another reason to be thankful.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

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Happy St. Stephen’s Day!

August 20 is a Hungarian national holiday named after the first king of Hungary, István (or Stephen).  Hungary was founded in 1000 A.D. The August 20 holiday is the equivalent of the Fourth of July in the U.S. or Canada Day (July 1) in Canada. One of the highlights of this holiday is the fireworks display downtown on the banks of the Danube river. It is one of the most spectacular fireworks shows I’ve ever seen, and they expect huge crowds for this year’s show as usual – half a million people are expected to take in the fireworks live by the River! Hannah and Matthew both want to go, so I’ll be taking them while Tricia stays home with Jonathan.

The last time I went to the St. Stephen’s Day fireworks in 2006 with Hannah and another missionary friend who brought his son with him, we ended up running for cover five minutes after the show started when a huge storm (a supercell, actually) arrived right over downtown Budapest at that very moment. Hundreds up people were injured as a result of that event, and a few people died. Hannah apparently has gotten over the sheer terror of that experience, because she was jumping up and down at the prospect of taking in the fireworks today! I have also read that they now have a loudspeaker system in place to warn the public if there is a storm approaching. If there is any sign of a storm, we’ll be coming home early. However, the forecast is for beautiful weather all day today. Right now it’s a pleasant 24 degrees Celsius (75 F), with clear, blue skies. So we’re looking forward to a nice show tonight!

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