Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
We are delighted to begin this prayer letter by telling you we had a tremendous response to our need in the five projects we shared with you two months ago. As a result 1) We met the deadline to buy this land in Erdo, Romania – a piece we spent six years looking for. 2) We made the last payment on our new building in Budapest and had enough for renovations to be able to have our first service there the 5th of June. 3) We finished the first phase of restoration work on our main building in Miskolc, Hungary. 4) We made good progress on the construction of the new main building at our conference center in Kukja, Ukraine. 5) We were able to buy $20,000 in materials for construction on the new land in Erdo, Romania just before prices jumped 25 %. And we were able to do all this even though the dollar fell 10% in value in Hungary and Romania during this time, costing us $8,000 more than we expected. So you can see how greatly the Lord worked. To Him be the glory. “Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it.” (I Th. 5:24) The “it” of this verse is God’s work of holiness in the believer, but it does not seem to be a Harold Camping stretch to say that whatever God calls into being, whether “it” is the believer’s calling to be holy or the work God gives him to do, this “it” will happen. For He is faithful. He cannot deny Himself.
And we are sure that God calls people not only to know and love Him, but fulfill the Great Commission He gave us through our Savior. Therefore “it” will happen. And “it” will happen quicker and better if we are zealous to do His work in His way, not according to human wisdom. Matthew 28:18-20 is a beautiful summary of that Great Commission. Sadly, many missionaries, even Reformed missionaries from good Reformed churches, do not understand that the Great Commission requires us not only to go into all the world and preach the gospel, but preach it with the goal of establishing national churches on the foreign field which are led by national pastors and which are fully organized and fully self-supporting. Of course, this takes time and a lot of patience, the patience of a planter. And “planting” requires much more than the seed of the gospel for the unconverted. It requires the “whole counsel of God” at work in the lives of those who believe in Christ and are now trying to follow Him. Hence our pastors are all now reading Tim Witmer’s The Shepherd Leader in order to be what a pastor ought to be and do what a pastor ought to do. They are also reading The Christian Family by Brian Schwertley in order to teach it to every church member. Schwertley has one idea with which we disagree. Otherwise we think the book is the best thing we have ever read about the Christian family.
Another way of saying this is that even good Reformed sending agencies sometimes do not aim well enough at the requirements of the Great Commission in teaching and training nationals the “all things whatsoever I have commanded you” of Jesus. And often do not understand that these “all things” must not only be communicated to national leaders in theory, but in practice – in the little decisions that shape the character of every believer in every congregation of the national church we would plant and cultivate. So this requires missionaries to take a strong stand on church and personnel issues where there is a cost. Therefore it is not uncommon to see, alongside good Reformed teaching (theory), the same compromise we would expect in Arminian circles. The problem, you see, is in the lack of application of good Reformed theology. A fascination for a system of truth without the conviction to stand for what is required in situations where it is easy to compromise with the world, the flesh and the devil. Our 16 men and 22 congregations have taken a stand on things such as the modern ecumenical movement, women preachers and the charismatic movement, but they must also, in training their new members, be very courageous with them in practical matters such as sinful (and foolish) credit card debt, poor communication in marriage, not raising their children in the fear and love of God, and making a god out of the higher education of their children (though the Lord can certainly use a higher education).
Having said this, let me say that it is only of the Lord’s mercy and grace in our lives and labor that any mission work can be done in a way that is pleasing to Him. So we give Him the glory for the wonderful Easter conferences we had in Szovata (Romania), Miskolc (North Hungary), Almadi (South Hungary) and Kukja (Ukraine). Some 275 people came to these four conferences, but it was the messages and prayer meetings and testimonies of deliverance from sin that I rejoice in more than the numbers. And average attendance at our 22 congregations is now around 10 to 12 members and 8-10 non-members who are moving toward taking their vows of church membership. We also give Him the glory that some of our congregations now have close to 40 people coming on the Lord’s Day. And all this growth started at zero (except for one congregation). And Europe is Europe. People are very hard to win. And, lately, the ones that are coming are often laden with marriage problems, credit card debt, children out of control. In the earlier years, we taught our pastors these things while they were students and before they married. Now we are getting some people whose lives are full of problems. But as long as they struggle under our teaching and do not give up, we struggle with them until they either give up and leave or have a mighty turning to the Lord not only in salvation, but in forsaking the world and its ways altogether.
Please take special note of the supplement this time. I have listed three camps we will have in Hungary, six in Ukraine and eight in Romania. Please pray fervently for all these camps. Keep this list in your Bible. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would pour out His Spirit in power, first upon the teachers and their teaching, then upon the people God sends us, people who wonder what makes these Christians tick, but who are laden with sins and still without light and life in their hearts, thinking only as natural men think and live. Pray faithfully for us as a good Calvinist should who believes in election! Pray until God is constrained to do what He already desires to do, but will not do because His church is so cold and self-centered and still adept at hypocrisy and still so unclean within. These camps are tremendous ways and times when God speaks to hearts. Peter Szabo, our pastor now in Budapest, was not only converted to Christ in them as a sinner coming for cleansing. He also had a powerful experience of Romans 12:1. ”I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship.” And not only Peter, but Aniko, a young lady who became a fervent Christian at one of these English Bible camps and now teaches at many of them and is currently translating Sinclair Ferguson’s Grow in Grace for our church members.
Turning now to where we are financially, even though we had a tremendous response to the needs of our last two months, I am concerned we could now go asleep and not realize that the next two months are just as crucial. Even though God has done great things, we still need $11,000 more by June 10 to finish con-struction in Ukraine. Our entire camp season depends on having this work done by then. And in Erdo, Romania, where we have land and $20,000 worth of materials with which to start, where we now need to pay for machines and labor to excavate and pour the foundation. This will cost $13,000, and we need it now. After this, we need $10,000 for the first phase of the frame and roof (June 15) and $9,500 for the second phase of the same (June 30), then $15,000 for windows, doors, bathrooms, and water and heating systems (July 25). We could let this stretch out more slowly, but if we can keep the same crew going non-stop, it will greatly reduce our costs. Finally we have phase #2 of our restoration work at the seminary in Miskolc, Hungary. We could also do this more slowly, but if we can keep going with the crew we now have, we can save a bundle and keep these remaining costs down to $8,000. So, dear friends, let’s keep going and get these last three projects finished. And be mindful that we are dealing with a weakened American dollar (thanks to our debt problem here at home) and a summer budget (operational costs) for all three countries (also needed by June 10). Praise God for all He has done, but this battle is not yet won and won’t be won unless we have two more months of extraordinary giving. And remember that the widow’s mite can be extraordinary giving!
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob & Clara Rapp