Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
In our efforts to do missionary work in Central and Eastern Europe , our struggle is no different than that of Paul who said, “Therefore, since it is through God’s mercy that we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by plainly setting forth the truth we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God… For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” We have a message. It is Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. If this ministry is anything at all, it is only because He has so poured out His mercy and grace upon us that we can do nothing else but proclaim Him faithfully.
We praise His holy name that He has shown us His grace and the truth of His Word. Christ is then both our message and the power to proclaim Him to sinners in Central and Eastern Europe . This region is still in deep spiritual darkness. When the iron curtain lifted in 1990 and we went in, the one church which confessionally had held a full-orbed gospel in the early 20th Century (the Hungarian Reformed Church) was in shambles spiritually. It was like the Jewish synagogues Paul entered in his missionary travels. They always contained a mixture of people – most of them opposed to Paul’s message but some with a listening ear. As a result, Paul was always turned out of those synagogues, yet always found a few who were willing to follow him out of it. Similarly, when I went to Central & Eastern Europe in 1990, the HRC was in dreadful condition. It was so bad that the darkness was in layers – like the layers of an onion. The first layer came off when we started our school and found that not many wanted the testimony of our students. The second layer came off as the few Hungarian pastors helping me abandoned the work and left me with just a few students. The third layer came off as we kept dropping unworthy students and graduating even fewer. The fourth layer came off as some of these we helped to the field eventually showed themselves unfit for support. But today we have 16 fine young men who started with nothing but opposition and have 22 growing congregations with high standards. Our men believe strongly in the doctrines of sovereign grace, in biblical church order, in biblical courtship and marriage, in raising their children in a godly way, in growing in grace and having discipline in their lives, and in a dynamic membership and the responsibility of new members to help in the work. Our church was born with opposition everywhere, and yet (or better “because of it”) is strong and growing. It is a witness to the power of God through faith in His Word.
I confess it causes me grief that there are churches here in the USA who have known this work and even supported it at times which, because they see only Clara and me, cannot appreciate all that God is doing on the field. It is not that I have not faithfully reported it. I have. Still, worldly thinking can affect even pastors and church committees in determining who will get their support. However, to God’s glory, we have actually had an increase in support in the last three years. We expected, when we left our former board, to have some losses. And we had some. But, overall, support has increased. In the final analysis, it is God who determines every penny that comes in or does not come in. We also rejoice in the fact that God has given us a clear exit strategy for this work. We are only two to four years, it seems, from finishing everything we started in 1990, beginning with nothing, and ending, we trust, with a strong church in Hungary , Romania and Ukraine – a self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating church Reformed in doctrine and Presbyterian in church order. In Hungary , we now have five congregations. All are growing. Let me comment on our congregation in Budapest where we recently had 13 people “drop in” from another church where their names had been “erased” because they asked good questions of their pastor and who, without any real Session, declared that no member should ever question a pastor’s judgment on anything. This “shot in the arm” is a big exception to the rule that, until now, almost all our members were converted to Christ under our own ministry – one by one. So we are now praying about two congregations in BP (one in eastern BP, one in western BP) since our current facilities cannot handle more than 45 people at a time. Or we might go to two separate services, though our people are so dear to one another that they would rather not have to go to two different services.
In Romania , our 12 congregations are all growing. One of them began worshipping in its new facility just last week (they had been meeting in a home), It is pastored by one of our men whose wife is a fairly new Christian. A year ago, after we agreed to his courtship of the girl who is now his wife, I asked him to tell me her weakest point. His answer: “She has no weak points.” Now some might say that love is blind, but this is the young lady who, after coming to Christ as a Roman Catholic three years ago and, after being nurtured in our church, went back to her church to ask (as part of her joining our church) that her name be removed from their rolls. The first few priests who met with her found themselves so unable to reply to her reason for leaving that they asked her to return the next day to appear before an entire panel of priests. This panel then asked her why she felt she needed to leave, to which she replied: “This is not a Christian church.” They said, “Can you prove this?” She said “yes” and gave them a variety of ways by which the RCC had left the Word of God, using Scripture on each point. Needless to say, they were glad to let her go! In another place, Erdoszentgyorgy, we recently found, after six years of looking, a piece of land for our congregation there. It has the right location, right size, all at the right price. We were given first option to buy, so we put $5,000 down to hold it. We now need another $15,000 to buy it and hopefully we can gather this by April 30. We want to begin construction in May.
In Ukraine , we have five congregations which are moving forward. One (in Barkaszo) is meeting in two different homes and is at its maximum point of expansion. We are praying about this situation. In the meanwhile, we are constructing a new facility at our camp/conference grounds. We already have three smaller buildings there, but this would become the center and allow us to do so much more throughout the year in ministering the Word of God. Ukraine has been our slowest growing field, but our men are now giving lectures on creationism in high schools and presenting Christ openly. And the people in the region are generally becoming more friendly as our witness becomes stronger and stronger. Of course, pray with us that everywhere, in all three countries, people would not only hear the Word of God, but be given the gift of repentance toward sin and faith toward Christ and, so, turn from unbelief. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” This wonderful verse not only limits salvation to those who believe and come to Christ as a result of God’s empowering. It widely offers salvation to anyone who accepts the verdict of God’s Word that he is a sinner and that Christ came to save sinners.
Let me review our finances so that you can seek the Lord’s will in helping with them. In addition to our operational needs (now being met by support here at home and our congregations abroad), we need special help at this time to buy land, begin new construction, and improve existing facilities. We have an immediate need for $15,000 to finish buying this land in Erdo , Romania . After this, we hope, in May, to start building something on it that would normally cost $110,000 but should cost us only $75,000 because of a lot of help from church members. In Miskolc , Hungary we have an urgent need for $12,500 to finish phase #1 of the renovation of the main building at our school, after which we will need $75,000 for phase #2 – which we can do as funds come in. We also have this camp/conference building in Ukraine which we want done by May and will cost $20,000 to finish. These three pressing items (underlined) come to $47,500. Pray with us that God would use His people who love Him and who have a spirit of sacrifice to help us with these needs in the next three months.
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob & Clara Rapp