March, 2008

Dear Praying, Helping Friends:

There is again a lot of news to share about the work, which should not be surprising since we have 15 church planters working in Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania.  I hope to give you some highlights and, at the same time, keep the big picture before you.  This work is different.  One lady who recently saw our new DVD (please write me and ask for a copy) said: “This is brilliant!  Training nationals to reach their own people!  Why isn’t all missionary work being done this way?”  I said, yes, it’s brilliant, and Paul did it this way.  But there’s a problem.  It requires a vision, and it calls for a lot of patience and hard work.

Yes, the best way to do missionary work is the hardest.  It’s like home schooling.  When it is done right, home schooling is the best way to educate children – and the hardest.  There are amazing parallels between training nationals to reach their own and training children in a home school environment.  Both are “brilliant” when done right.  Both seem innovative although they are really the earliest ways of doing missions and of raising children.  Yet long before the rise of capitalism and mass production and Karl Marx’s reaction to it, people were educated at home and missions was done by training national workers.  The Reformation, of course, was a glorious event.  And so was the modern-day missionary movement which followed it.  But that movement, which depended heavily on modern technology and the benefits of mass production, had its own kind of mass production.  It depended heavily on the foreign missionary and his ability to get the job done rather than training nationals to reach their own people and build a strong and distinctly national church.  It also tended to be side-tracked by a lot of social, humanitarian work.  So that, when we begin again to train nationals to do the work themselves, it suddenly becomes a new and brilliant way of doing the work.  What irony, in view of the fact that this was exactly how the Apostle Paul carried on missions and did his work!  A close study of his three missionary journeys shows this.  It is not, then, that the American missionary is not needed.  It is, rather, that he must have a vision to train nationals in the building of a national church.

So while the biblical method makes sense, it is hard to do – hard because it requires a strong commitment to teach and train nationals, then guide them carefully as they are worked into ministry.  And when this is done, to turn the work entirely over to them and go home.  So the common method which focuses on sending Americans and relying on them to do the bulk of the work is very recent, very flawed, and doesn’t get the Great Commission done.  One hybrid approach is for seminaries in this country to invite nationals to come to America, get their education here, then hope they will return home and work productively there.  The Lord can use this method in some situations, but, overall, it is also very flawed.  The only real way to train nationals is to erect the seminary in their land, teach and train them there, then pick the best of them and fund them if necessary for a time.  Of course, if funding is necessary, there must be strict accountability.  And this means a lot of work and careful oversight.  But if the Lord is in it, it can be done.  And to see nationals growing in the Lord and in their ability to build their own congregations and help in this Word-based, Christ-centered, Spirit-driven process – there is nothing like it.

Turning to Romania, Attila Szasz is having a good response to his varied efforts in evangelism, whether home to home visitation, Friday evangelistic meetings, or developing contacts at the nearby University of Kolozsvar.  He also edits our children’s paper, “Little Pilgrims”.  Sandor Molnar finished the construction of his church building late last year and is again giving himself full-time to evangelism and pastoring his congregation.  Lehel Laszlo is seeing greater and greater interest in Erdoszentgyorgy while continuing to look for land and/or a building where the work can be permanently located.  Recently, Gabor Curcubet went there and spoke on creationism.  About 25 high school students and several teachers saw the video and heard him.  For people in Romania, who are so used to evolution (brought in under Communism), it is astonishing to hear that God created all things.  Kalman Kovacs helps Ferenc Kovacs in many ways, preaching for him and leading Bible studies when Ferenc must visit our men and give communion to far-away congregations.  Ferenc Kovacs directed our Easter conference in Szovata this past weekend and was looking for 80 to 90 people, representatives from our 12 congregations and two preaching points in Romania.  Sandor Tamas continues to help Gabor in many ways, teaching and doing a lot of personal evangelism.  He also preaches for our other men at times and researches good articles for our quarterly magazine, “The Narrow Way.”  Gabor himself is pastor of two congregations, an evangelist, and works hard to maintain our efforts to have home schooling legalized in Romania.  Szabolcs Simon has three of our congregations and heads up the work of our foundation (legal basis of our work) in Romania. Csaba Zolya is working hard with others to finish construction on his new church building/parsonage.  He reports great progress and says that he and Ibolya plan to be married in early May.

In Hungary, Imre Szoke pastors, works on publications, and helps me direct the work of Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions. (We now have nine students.)  This past weekend we had an Easter conference in Miskolc where 70 to 80 people were expected from all over Hungary.  Gyula Bagoly works side by side with Imre in these efforts.  Two years ago, the Lord gave us the first group ever that wanted to join our church as a group.  A year ago, it was formally organized as a congregation with 14 members, but we still could not send a full-time resident pastor.  Finally, last fall, we decided to send Gyula.  We wanted to strengthen this congregation and another in nearby Kaposvar.  But this will also open the door for us now to expand our work in South Hungary.  Exciting!  Mihaly Siko is also seeing very encouraging growth in his congregation in Budapest where two million people live.  In Ukraine, we have recently had to take a closer look at the work to try to do some things better and differently.  As a result, Bertalan Lorinc and Istvan Gal and Geza Demeter are trying to improve their visitation efforts, take on hospital visitation, become involved in community affairs where key people can be met and influenced for the sake of the gospel, and train our members to be more involved in evangelism.

Let me say a little more about sending Gyula Bagoly to our two congregations in South Hungary .  Balatonalmadi, where he will be living, is a recreation center known all over Europe .  We felt that the one big problem we might have would be finding a place for him to live and the congregation to meet.  Most properties we looked at were around $200,000, but we learned about one for $150,000 which was exactly what we wanted and in a perfect location.  We got the price down to $147,000, then made a deal last month.  It’s too long a story to tell, but we owe only $12,200 more on it, and it will be ours.  We must also pay $8,800 in transfer taxes, and estimate we will need $12,000 for improvements and modifications.  The bottom floor will then be ready for the congregation, the floor above that for Gyula and his family, and the floor above that for guests (four rooms) – very important for future conferences.

This is a wonderful development.  We must now make a final payment of $12,200 on May 5, then begin immediately on these improvements costing $12,000.  We must also make this tax payment of $8,800 in June.  It comes to $33,000, all of which will be needed very soon.  This is a very large sum of money, but we look to the Lord and make this need known to you, urging you to pray that He will bring in the funds and help you make a special sacrifice at this time.  And don’t think your small gifts are not important.  The fact that you have read this letter to this point shows you love this work.  And remember, as money is spent this way, it hastens the day when the work can be turned over to our Hungarian men and our board can turn its attention to other lands.  “World” is the third word in our mission’s name and, indeed, our work will never be done until Christ’s church is established throughout this world of His.

Pray for 1) our 15 men and 22 congregations 2) our school and students 3) publications 4) conferences 5) summer camps 6) our varied evangelistic efforts 7) home schooling in Romania where Gabor Curcubet leads our efforts to influence a new education law now in the making and for 8) daily strength for Clara and me.  Pray also that cataract surgery on my right eye on April 1 would be completely successful.  Finally, if you have a computer, please try to visit our mission’s website:  And don’t forget to ask me for our new DVD.

Yours in His glorious service,

Bob and Clara Rapp

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