Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote the church at Thessalonica and urged them to pray that the message of the gospel might spread rapidly. Paul never saw divine election as a reason not to be urgent in some situations. So he wrote: “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord might spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.“ (2 Th. 3:1, 2) This appeal echoed the words of our Savior when He told His disciples: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and finish His work. Don’t you say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’ ? But I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe even now for harvest!” (Jn. 4:34, 35) There are times when we need to forget ourselves and the comforts of life and hear the urging of our Savior to get the harvest in! Winter is coming and, if we delay, much may be lost! Early in Paul’s day Roman roads and the Roman justice system favored the spread of the gospel. But the times were coming when these advantages would disappear. Bad weather is coming! Get the crops in now! Pray that the message of the Lord might spread rapidly!
The history of this work goes back to 1990 when the iron curtain went up. We went in, started a school of theology and missions, started sending out laborers, then became a church in 1998. But that was just the foundation. More years passed as our work seemed to move at a snail’s pace. But in the last two years, we have seen a real quickening of pace. This year we had a 15% increase in the membership of our church. Our camps, conventions, literature and new members in our church are big factors in this surge. In the early years people would often not even open the door of their homes to us. How this has changed! People are now coming to us, and in the last six months, the tempo has noticeably picked up. We have Catholics and even some Buddhists and JWs coming our way. But the biggest harvest is yet ahead. And winter seems to be coming with it. The workers are now in place. But we need you to pray and help so that the message of the Lord might spread rapidly through their labors and those of these new believers. We are seeing the beginning of a great work in Hungary , Romania and Ukraine . But it is only a trickle compared to what it can be if we keep going like this another two to four years!
Let me say more about this surge. We are the leaders of home schooling in three countries, getting more and more calls from people in Hungary and Ukraine who want to know more about it, and in Romania we are pioneering the entire movement. This gives us all kinds of new contacts as the public school systems of these countries, as in the USA , have some parents are in shock. In Budapest , Hungary our pastor recently appeared on a well-known talk show (on alternatives to public education) and became famous overnight, handing out his name card to all sorts of persons. We also have preaching opportunities in places we never dreamed of. Meanwhile, our former persecutor, the very liberal, spiritually corrupt Hungarian Reformed Church, is reeling in unbelief – and the unthinkable is happening. Some of its ministers are visiting our services and privately wishing to join us. One of them, in fact, is now enrolled in our discipleship/membership course. One of our church planters went to Croatia last week to talk to an HRC ruling elder there (at his request). The HRC there is split into two factions. We left this man with a load of our literature. In Ukraine we helped six ministers and 10 congregations leave the HRC two years ago. We also have a website and four periodicals, not counting 22 books we have translated and printed on a variety of subjects. These publications are circulating everywhere. Recently Imre Szoke packed a large box of books for a bookstore in Slovakia where people will read about us and contact us and want to know more. We are on the cusp of a great harvest, one that could make what has happened so far seem like nothing. Pray that the message of the Lord might spread rapidly! And be part of this with us, working with urgency, for the harvest is upon us!
There are two things we must do to help our 16 church-planting pastors. First, provide their salary and work-related needs. In the beginning, when we sent our men out in 1998, we had to provide everything because they had no congregations to help. Today that would cost us $150,000/year. But they now have 22 small congregations giving 50% of their salary and work-related expenses, meaning they need only $75,000/year from us. (This $75,000/year for our men and their work comes to less than $5,000 per church planter/year.) Compare this to the $100,000/year an American missionary needs to attempt a work for which he is really not suited. For foreigners, no matter how well trained, cannot do what a well-trained national can do. In fact, not many American church planters have the theological acumen of our men. Our men make tremendous evangelists, preachers, teachers and pastors. So think of the impact of your gifts for a work like this. To top it off, the goal of our work is a national, completely self-supporting, self-governing church in two to four years. There was a day when sending American missionaries to plant churches on the foreign field was the only way to do it. That day, however, has come and gone. Once a country has heard the gospel, the American church must train Americans to teach and train nationals so that they, in turn, can do the evangelism and church planting themselves. Any other approach does not seriously address the Lord’s command to “disciple the nations.”
The second thing we must do to help our men reach the above goal is provide housing for them and a meeting place for their congregation. When we send a man into a new area, we generally rent a place for him while the people meet in a home until the group can develop. In the past, we usually waited five or so years before buying land and/or a building for our man and his congregation. In the last few years, however, we have lowered this time to one or two years. For example, we are now building in Csikszereda , Romania where Sandor Tamas is doing church planting. We also have a project in Miskolc , Hungary where we are making major changes to the main building of our school and conference center in Hungary . And in Ukraine , we are putting up a new building to complete what we need for our conference center there. We were therefore not planning on any more projects for a time. However, less than a month ago, after a six-year search, we found the perfect spot for Lehel Laszlo and his congregation in Erdoszentgyorgy , Romania . A piece of land was offered to us near the center of town. Its location and size and shape and cost are perfect. So by faith we have made a small down payment on it.
To summarize this for you, we have almost enough support for the $75.0000 needed to augment the salaries and work-related costs of our 16 men. However, we do not have funds for these four special projects. We still need $16,000 for the first phase of the renovation of our school and conference center in Miskolc , Hungary . We still need $12,000 to finish construction in Csikszereda , Romania . And $15,000 for this new building in Kukya , Ukraine . And $20,000 to make the payments on this land in Erdo-szentgyorgy , Romania . Once these projects are done, we will be a lot closer to our goal of having a national, self-supporting, self-governing church in all three countries. On top of these projects, we have a very special need at this time for our 16 men. They labor so unselfishly and at such a modest salary. We keep the salary that way to facilitate movement toward our goal of self-support. But once a year we have a special Christmas offering. This is not only a great encouragement to them, but allows them to finish the year in good financial shape and buy a few things for their families which they have put off until now. So we would ask you, especially if you have not given for a time, to join us in this special effort to help our men in this way. May the Lord bless you for caring.
Finally, please note I am no longer doing consultative work for our school in South Korea (Westminster Graduate School of Korea). I am pleased to continue as honorary President, but that is a purely honorary position. Therefore the board, at my request, has changed the name (name change only) of Fund #2 from “Korea/Rapp Personal Fund” to “Rapp Missionary Fund”.
Yours in His faithfulness
Bob & Clara Rapp