Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
In the past two months, the Lord has greatly blessed His work in the Hungarian lands. When I last wrote you, I told you about our first six summer camps and now can tell you about the last 11. In Hungary, we had a children’s camp in early August in Almadi, Hungary, then a long weekend conference for adults in Miskolc two weeks later. The children’s camp went very well and was mostly for the children of our men and members, though we had several new children from families heretofore unreached by us. Pray for these new families. The conference in Miskolc was also blessed, and attendance far exceeded our expectations – 120 adults and 30 young people. To handle this many people, we had to put some in private homes and, when these were full, erect three small tents in the courtyard for another 10. This large number reflects both the growth of our church in Hungary (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe) and the hunger of God’s people for the Word of God and fellowship with other believers. Two-thirds of those attending were members of our church while the other third are just learning of us but moving in our direction. People who eventually become members often cite these conferences as a major reason for wanting to join our church although, after this, they will need an eight-month teaching course and an inquiry into their personal faith in Christ plus a close look into possible problem areas in following Christ before they can take their membership vows.
In Romania, we had five more camps since I last wrote you. We had a teaching camp for young Christians in late July (very effective and attended by some “sympathetic” non-Christians), a camp for young couples with children (a great help for members and “sympathizers” in marriage and parenting issues), a fruitful camp for evangelizing and teaching older adults, a camp for teaching the Bible in English (in Sepsi, RO) where we had a fine turnout (more than 30) and saw the beginning of God’s work in the lives of mostly new contacts, then a camp for evangelizing and teaching young people. Three young people who gave strong evidence of having been converted to Christ at the first camp came to this last camp and gave their testimonies which, along with the strong Bible teaching during the week, had a tremendous effect on the other 27 young people. This last camp was a great climax to our summer work. All these people are now being carefully followed up and, in one place, receiving our eight-month course toward membership. If it be the Lord’s will, this can lead to a new congregation. Pray for God’s ongoing work in all these lives.
In Ukraine, we had four more camps since writing you. We had a very fruitful camp teaching Christian adults and “sympathizers;” a good camp for young couples with children; a really great youth (age 14-18) camp; and a tremendous English Bible camp where, during the week, the interest of the campers shifted more and more to the Bible itself and the offer of the gospel. In fact, interest in the gospel was so great in this last camp that, by the end of the week, the interest gravitated from English to small informal groups (outside of English classes) where interest in the gospel just took over – a real moving of God’s Spirit. And we were prepared for this since we had trained our young people (members) on the staff in case this would happen. Only time will tell everything God did that week, but we are now aggressively following up all these contacts. In the meantime, please pray for our people and all these campers.
Other encouraging aspects of the work are: (1) Not only are we seeing numerical growth in our church; our members are zealous to spread the Word. (2) We are, in fact, training them to evangelize their friends and acquaintances at work and other places. (3) The general public has a growing interest in our 22 publications and quarterly magazine, “The Narrow Way.” The latter is attractively designed and has such good articles that people look forward to each issue. We do not, of course, give it out like tracts, but people who have already shown interest in God’s Word and our church can get it and always look forward to the next issue. This, in turn, keeps the doors of many homes open to us. And this is critical, especially in Europe where people tend to trust no one but a very small circle of friends. (4) The work of our men (pastors) and members to home school their children is going very well. The children have a good environment, good textbooks, and can legally study in all three countries where we are doing ministry. This is our first year to home school in Ukraine and, so, didn’t know what would happen there until we tried. But, so far, local officials are working with us very nicely. This is cause for great praise to God. (5) Our part of Europe has had its share of unemployment, but this is not affecting our members very much because they are honest, intelligent, skilled and hard working. And if one of our members loses his job, it is precious how the other members pull together to help him find work, maybe better work. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is amazing in its effect on our people in this way too.
This year has been awesome in terms of buying and construction. In years gone by, we had one to three of these projects in a given year – never more. This year we started with three and kept adding until we reached seven: two in Romania; three in Hungary; two in Ukraine. Five are now finished (buying land in Erdo, RO; buying a new place for worship in Budapest, HU and renovating it; renovating the main building of our seminary in Miskolc, HU; erecting a main conference center building in UK; buying a house/meeting hall in UK. Two are ongoing (building on our land in Erdo, RO; renovation of the pastor’s home in Miskolc, HU). In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined this kind of progress for 2011. The total cost will be about $285,000, but this means $400,000 worth of real estate because we made some incredible buys and did a lot of the work ourselves. And where did this $285,000 come from? From (1) all the little people who gave the widow’s mite and prayed (2) others who opened their pocketbooks widely (3) the sale of two of our properties we could not sell – not until we urgently needed the funds.
So the Lord kept giving us reminders – bless His holy name – that He was the One who did all this. We often lacked the money until the last minute, then it came just in time and, often, in amazing ways. Only one thing gives me more joy. It is to see how God is already using these new properties to His glory and the building of His church in the Hungarian lands. The people in Erdo, Romania are so encouraged by their new building – which will serve as a home for their pastor and meeting hall for themselves to do the work of God. The congregation in Budapest is growing with its building which has so many uses and, meanwhile, has been a force to pull the congregation together. Renovations at the main seminary building in Miskolc, HU is already helping there. And the new main building at our conference center in Ukraine was an incredible blessing this summer and, going into the fall, can now be used to gather the youth and have conferences of the kind we never had. And this small house we bought in Ukraine (it was a “gift” at $9,000) has solved all kinds of problems for the Barkaszo congregation there. When I see the hand of the Lord in meeting our needs like this and see people coming to Christ and being built up in the faith in these new buildings, I realize that the same God who breathes life into the spiritually dead by His Spirit also enables His people to “rebuild the walls of Jerusalem” for His glory and their good.
Let me put this in perspective. We are still not in a normal financial situation. We have no reserves such as we had when we started 2011. We still need $20,000 to complete these last two projects. We also have some new burdens. One is a new law is Romania requiring us to pay taxes for our workers. Another is serious inflation in Romania and Ukraine which recently forced us to raise the salaries of our men by 20%. In spite of this, our congregations are moving steadily toward self-support. But for now we must help them. We also have a great opportunity to encourage them and help them stretch their salaries with the coming Christmas offering. Please begin to pray and lay aside for that. And, as you do, praise God with us. He is so good and will be faithful to sustain us until He calls us home. By the way, I just turned 79 and Clara has one year on me! Pray for us, too!!!
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara Rapp