November 24, 2015
Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
In July, 1960, I had just graduated with an S.T.M. from Faith Theological Seminary, having two goals for the next 12 months – raise support for Brazil and begin my Th.D. studies at Grace Theological Seminary. And now I can say that, after 55 years on four mission fields under three different boards, my God and my Savior, the Lord Jesus, never failed to sustain me. And there was another constant. The Lord always gave us a wonderful group of churches and supporters who held us up in prayer and gave faithfully to the work. So to you who are still with Clara and me at the end of this journey, I want to say, God will never forget your loving prayers for us and your giving to this, His sacred work. We also want to give special thanks to the five men who comprise our last and final board, Westminster Biblical World Mission.
Let me begin this last letter with fresh news from our fourth field – the Hungarian work in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. And begin there with news about our congregation in Budapest, Hungary. Our pastor there, Peter Szabo, seems to be doing well, thanks to your prayers. His cancer seems not to have spread and is being carefully checked every six months. The Lord has also given Peter energy to direct the work of refurbishing our new three-story building there and keep up with all his pastoral work, including a network of Bible studies throughout the city. But this congregation is the fastest growing of our 24 congregations. So it was urgent that Peter find an associate pastor to help him in ministry. And the Lord, unknown to us, began to do this five years ago when a pastor in the liberal HRC (Hungarian Reformed Church) felt he had to leave that church. In doing so, he and his wife had to leave behind them all their friends and financial security. This could have destroyed them, but they joined our Miskolc congregation where they were given encouragement and time not only to recover, but find a way back into ministry. This fine Christian man will now help Peter, whose move to Budapest is happening as I write you. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
We have also had a very good development in our church’s newest congregation in Ungvar, Ukraine. I said in August how this group learned of us – then in July became part of our church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe. Since they did not have any Reformed background, we spent extra time with them, making sure they understood the sovereign, unchanging nature of God’s covenant of grace for His elect throughout the ages. This enabled this group to understand that OT saints were saved by the same divine grace as NT saints. And even though the sign of the covenant in the NT is different than the sign in the OT, since the covenant itself is the same, children in this age should be baptized just as children were circumcised in OT times. As a result, after giving more instruction to these parents about their covenantal responsibilities toward their children, we had a first-time-ever baptism of more than one child in a service. Nine children were baptized last month, becoming non-communicant members. The goal is that they now be taught and trained by their parents and, in time, be saved and spiritually built up by fellow believers in Christ’s body, the church. (Eph. 4:9-16)
A third development was four great conferences held in October. The first took place in Romania where all 16 of our church planting pastors and their families (from Hungary, Romania and Ukraine) met for an important time together, partly for fellowship, partly for strengthening in the Word, partly to work on the future organization of the RPCCEE. We are drawing closer and closer to the time when we can have one presbytery for Hungary and Ukraine, and one for Romania. And, with this, fully organize congregations in each presbytery as soon as they are 100% self-supporting and have at least one ordained minister and one ruling elder. Everything will fall into place when we have enough organized congregations like this in each presbytery area. Then, following this particular conference, we had three blessed Reformation weekend conferences in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine, the total number attending being 250 — 2/3 rds of them being our members and 1/3rd of them interested non-members. So much good Bible instruction and spiritual fellowship made it a time of great blessing and profit for all!
A fourth development is that we are now making a special effort in our church to have our teens begin to work toward being members of our church as soon as they clearly understand the doctrine of God’s grace to sinners through faith in the atoning blood of our Lord Jesus. We need to understand that those who are truly converted already belong to the invisible body of Christ and should, as early as possible, be equipped to win others to Christ and serve Him in a multitude of ways with one focus, as Paul taught in Phil. 3:2-11. And, then, when ready, become members of the visible church of Christ, receive the sacrament of communion, and work alongside fellow believers in the evangelization of the world. Pray that the Session of the RPCCEE would be empowered to fully implement this emphasis and program in the near future. In other words, let’s not neglect our young people, especially when they become teens and “no longer think as children” but can grasp strong doctrine and be as devoted to Christ as someone much older in physical years. See I Cor. 13:11 and Luke 2:42, 46-47. It is easy to forget that Jesus, as a man, had to go through the same stages as the rest of humanity. And that, at age 12, his human nature began to impel Him to think and associate with the rabbis of His day and be mindful of His father’s house.
Let me now turn to the “shape” of things going into next year. First of all, there comes a time when the umbilical cord must be cut. This means an end to all financial support for the regular expenses of the work of the RPCCEE. But for a time this new child will need some special help. So we still envision helping in some special projects next year as long as they do not involve retying the umbilical cord. Second, for Clara and me, this represents an opportunity to reverse a process where our assets were being drained and our financial future (retirement) threatened, the details of which I gave in my August prayer letter. So the bottom line is: we need your best financial effort until December 31. We need this to add to a fund which the Hungarian work might need in time for special projects. We also need funds for Clara and me that will give us a fresh stream of income in retirement – enough to keep us from further draining our assets over the next few years. So please help all you can in the next six weeks, including some help for one more Christmas offering for our 16 pastors and their families.
To make this crystal clear, we are not asking any more help from any church or person after December 31. This has been our goal since the start of the Hungarian work. But several supporting churches and persons have said to me, “We hear you, but what if we have some extra funds and still want to send them to you next year?” So I’m saying, “Well, if you are so constrained and able, we will treat your giving as sacred as ever and use it well.” And, indeed, I have one new project. The Lord willing, I must travel to Korea next May. The situation of the seminary I founded there in 1967 is such that I must correct some things by publicly asking that my name be dropped as its honorary president and removed from the doorway to the main auditorium called “Rapp Auditorium”. I am also praying about helping a new school there (led by a former student) that is worthy of my endorsement and help. So this trip will involve some cost. The Lord may (not “will” but “may”) also guide me to help this new school with some distance teaching, a public endorsement and financial help – since it is new and struggling and in need of scholarships for some worthy students who want to prepare for the gospel ministry.
Yours in His faithfulness,Bob (and Clara) Rapp
P.S. This prayer letter will be my last. I hope to send out a simple prayer sheet next year. It will not be posted on this site. So if you want it, please give me your email address (it will never be used for any other purpose nor appear in any kind of group copy). Send it to me at the above address and tell me who you are and why you want it.