Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
Greetings in the name of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus. In 1952 He called me to be a missionary to the nations while an engineering student at Penn State University. This journey is nearly over. Not in serving Him, but to being on the front line of “making disciples of all the nations.” At age 83, Clara and I are more than ready for this. We are also awed at His faithfulness over the years – in Brazil, Korea, Pakistan, then 25 years in Eastern Europe. And so thankful to you who physically could not go, but have gone with us through your precious prayers and sacrificial giving.
We’ve had some important developments in the Hungarian work in the last three months. First, we now have a new congregation in Ukraine. Until now, all our congregations (save one) were started by church planters trained at our school and sent to areas where no one was waiting to receive them or help them in the work. In this case, however, the Lord raised up some people in Ungvar, Ukraine to study the Bible – rare in Europe where there is little hunger for the Word. Then, after a few years of searching the Scriptures on their own, this little group heard of us, contacted us, then decided a year ago they wanted to be part of our church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe. They first took our Romans course, then our discipleship/membership course and loved the teaching. And as this was happening, we came to know them better and better. And saw them inviting new people to join them in what they were hearing and learning. This process culminated in personal interviews with those who seemed to be soundly converted. In July, we received 7 adults as communicant members and 4 children as non-communicant members of our church. The children have a basic understanding of the gospel, but, of course, need to grow in years and in the faith before they can become communicant members. The addition of these 11 new people puts our total church membership at a little over 300. So this little group of new believers is a great blessing to us, just as our church is a great blessing to them.
Second, we rejoice in the ongoing spiritual and membership growth of our other congregations. Our Budapest congregation is doing especially well. Budapest with its two million people is a great mission field, and we are using every possible means to proclaim the gospel of our Lord Jesus – through personal witness, home Bible studies, books translated into Hungarian, a quarterly magazine, sermons on our web site, and our summer camps. In the late 19th century the Hungarian Reformed Church was still a good church, but in the early 20th century, it went into a death spiral due to liberal teaching and spiritual coldness, first in the seminaries, then in the congregations. It is now our privilege to tell people of an infallible book where they can get “true truth” about eternal salvation through the Lord Jesus. Yes, our work has been slow, but, thank God, our church is living and growing in three countries (Hungary, Ukraine and Romania) and going to self-support at this time. And if you could visit our congregation in BP, you would see many young people with growing families, who love and understand the Scriptures, rejoice in the grace of God in the gospel, and are hard at work in sharing it with others.
The new building, by the way, is being nicely remodeled. And the congregation is doing most of the work itself. Work on the first floor is now done, leaving us with a fine worship hall. The second floor, with separate access, is perfect for our pastor (Peter Szabo) and family and nearly finished as well. And the third floor, also with separate access, will be used for Sunday School rooms and as a counseling center for Peter. But we have an urgent prayer request here. Peter was recently found to have a melanoma cancer. Two weeks ago, it was surgically removed with lab testing to see if it had spread. We just got the initial results and, PTL, they are good. But please keep Peter much in prayer, that he might be spared from this life-threatening disease and be able to continue as pastor of his flock.
Third, we are thankful to the Lord for progress in coping with this new law in Hungary that requires very young children (age 3 to 6) to attend state-run kindergartens. Parents can get exemptions for this under certain circumstances, but it takes a lot of work to do this. We, of course, do not want to battle the government in this, but we do need to help parents who want to keep their children at home during their early years so to educate them in the Christian faith and not leave this essential task of parenting to the secular state. Please pray for our efforts in this very important matter.
Fourth, we just finished our summer camp programs in Hungary, Ukraine and Romania. We had 832 campers in 20 camps! Eight of the camps helped Christians grow in Christ, and 12 taught non-Christians (mainly children and teenagers) what the Bible says about God and sin and becoming a new person in Christ. Can you imagine camps where non-Christians heard 12 messages from the Bible and memorized 24 verses in one week’s time? With notebooks to take home and be examined by their parents? And some noticeably turned to the Lord and spoke of going home to live new lives for Christ. So the camps went well. Thank you for prayer for the spiritual ministry of these camps, also that all summer long, in all three countries, we did not have a single injury, illness or disciplinary problem. Please continue to pray for those who attended as we follow up on them in the next few months. And be sure to read the attached supplement to get important details about each camp, then praise God for the results.
Fifth, I am happy to say this mission work will no longer need your financial help after Dec. 31. Late last year we spent $200,700 on the Budapest project. And this summer, $50,000 on other congregations – two new heating systems, a roofing job, one insulation, two wall reconstructions, and three new vehicles. So the Hungarian work is virtually self-supporting. It has all the buildings it needs (in top condition) and its 15-car fleet updated. The church now meets 90% of its operating budget and, in a year, can reach 100%. So we recently released to the church the emergency funds ($155,000) we were holding for them. $40,000 of this can cover the 10% shortfall we expect the church to have one more year, leaving them $115,000 for other needs that could arise. This is amazing, going from the fall of the iron curtain in 1990 when there was nothing like our church in the Hungarian lands, to a school where we started to train young men for the Christian ministry, then to this – all in the span of 25 years!
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara Rapp