May, 2008

Dear Praying, Helping Friends:

We are grateful to the Lord for steady growth in this, His work.  None of the 22 congregations our men are building are fully organized or, except for a few, can fully sustain themselves.  But they are moving in this direction.  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul tells Timothy: “And those things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others also.”  Note the process.  First, Paul refers to the truth that God had revealed to him as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8).  Then he refers to Timothy, a man he personally chose to train when he saw God’s hand on him. (Acts 16:1-3).  Now he reminds Timothy to entrust that truth to “reliable men”.  Finally, he refers to “others” that these “reliable men” must teach.  It has been my privilege in life to learn the Word from godly men like Allan A. MacRae and now, in the Hungarian lands, to entrust it to “reliable men” – 15 of them – men who are teaching and training others in congregations in Hungary, Romania, Ukraine.  In Mt. 28:18-20 our Lord made it clear that this “discipling” process is the heart and soul of missionary work.

And what is the great end of this work?  Our Lord made it clear when He said: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)  You see, God’s purpose is much more than winning the elect; it is gathering them into congregations that have the marks of a true church.  So if “missionaries” are not training nationals who can teach and train others, they are not missionaries at all.  The Lord may use others – and often does – to help missionaries and be crucial to the work.  But unless the word “missionary” is watered down, it should be reserved for those who are on a mission, called of the Lord to carry the divine Word to other lands, and doing it by entrusting that Word to “reliable men” who can teach others, all with the aim of building the Christ’s church in that land.

When we read the words of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 16:18, it would be easy to think, since He is the almighty Builder and Protector of His church, that He has no need of men.  But the Apostle Paul, while careful to give the Lord all the glory, did not view his work as insignificant.  Rather, he saw himself as God’s servant, God’s fellow worker, an “expert builder”. (1 Cor. 3:5-10)  Here is the biblical balance.  Our Lord does all the work that we cannot do.  We can count on that!  At the same time, He uses men to build His church.  They must, in fact, be “expert builders”!  And, so, we must be about the Master’s business until He comes, and that business is building His church!

In 1990, the Lord called me to the Hungarian lands.  In 1992, He opened the way to begin a school to teach and train “reliable men.”  Later, as these “reliable men” graduated, the Lord led them out to teach and train “others”.  We now have 22 small congregations and four preaching points in four countries.  And because all our congregations (with one exception) began at zero, they are not yet self-governing or self-supporting.  However, we hope that some of them will not only be able to support themselves and their pastors soon, but also govern themselves (ruling elders).  We are also praying about the possibility (this summer) of sub-dividing the work in Romania and in Hungary/Ukraine into two presbyteries.  Presbytery meetings would be held in each region, probably spring and fall, while a synod (of both presbyteries) would meet, probably in January and July.  These developments reflect the progress being made by the RPCCEE (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe).

In Miskolc, Hungary where our school (Karolyi Gaspar Institute) is located, our two men there, Imre Szoke and Gyula Bagoly, are doing many things, not only building a congregation there, not only running the school’s Distance Education program, but also helping to build our work in Ukraine and other parts of Hungary.  In addition, they are spearheading our publications ministry for the entire church.  The latest in Hungary is God’s call for Gyula to go in September to be resident pastor of our congregation in Balaton Almadi.  The people there are full of joy.  Moreover, they now have their own building, with enough room for the congregation, Gyula and his family, and guest rooms for regional conferences.  We made the final payment just last week, and now it is ours.  It is no small thing, too, that in recent evangelistic meetings, new people were out, hearing the Gospel.  The work in Budapest guided by Mihaly Siko is also surging forward.  Misi and Zita have not yet been given children of their own by the Lord, but they have a growing family of spiritual children, and Zita is a really precious helper to Misi.

In Ukraine , the most important thing of late is our effort to help our three men (Bertalan Lorinc, Istvan Gal, Geza Demeter) improve in their ability to give good pastoral care and reach out to people in the field the Lord has given them.  Of the three countries where we have congregations, the work in Ukraine has been the slowest.  But even there, the pace is quickening.  The children’s ministry is growing.  The care of the flock is improving.  New things are happening such as a recent excursion to a nearby lake area where 30 people, including some who are not yet members of our church, had a great time of fellowship and spiritual intake.  Our men are planning to put up a book table at the annual “city day” in Beregszasz.  They also want to start a hospital visitation program.

In Romania , Ferenc Kovacs is busy preparing for another big camp season.  He also reports they recently started a new Bible study in the nearby town of Parajd .  Four of our members wanted it, and last week, in addition to our four members, six people, not our members, came.  Kalman Kovacs (not related to Ferenc) helps Ferenc in many ways, including leading this new group.  I am especially encouraged when I see our members working with our pastors like this.  Attila Szasz is seeing nice growth in his work in Kolozsvar (Cluj).  Even a year ago, the Lord’s Day worship had only three or four people.  But we knew, even then, we were doing things the right way.  And, so, Attila’s Friday evening evangelistic meetings now average 12 to 20 people, and the Lord’s Day worship 6 to 12 people.  Sandor Molnar is really getting a “handle” on his ministry.  Not only does he have a nice new building, but he is becoming competent in his work as a preacher, evangelist, pastor and counselor.  Lehel Laszlo’s work (two congregations) is blossoming.  So is Szabolcs Simon’s (three congregations).  Sandor Tamas (single) continues to be a fine assistant to Gabor Curcubet.  Gabor has two congregations, directs our home schooling in Romania , and is increasingly engaged in promoting creationism.  A month ago, he spoke to 120 high school students, bringing in the Gospel as well.  The students, so used to atheism, were greatly moved.  And two weeks ago, Gabor held a big exhibition in the city of Szekelyudvarhely .  Several hundred people came and paid a lot of attention.  Csaba Zolya and Ibolya were married May 10 and are now on their “honeyweek” before returning to Vulkan where they have a new building and growing congregation.

Pray, then, for God’s ongoing blessing in all these efforts, including Gabor’s efforts to influence the Romanian government to legalize home schooling.  He is now in touch with the Committee on Alternative Learning Methods in the Ministry of Education and hopes to testify before them soon.  Thank you, too, for your prayers for Clara and me.  We need daily strength from Him.  Thank you also for praying for me in recent cataract surgery (right eye).  It went well, praise the Lord.

Financially, we are in great need of your continued help.  The reserve we had in Hungary has all been spent to buy the new property in Balaton.  We now need $7,000 to refurbish it and $9,500 to pay the transfer tax.  In Romania , Csaba’s car is 20 years old and a veritable rust-bucket that no longer can pass inspection.  We need $12,000 for this.  We are also coming into the summer months when our Medicare secondary insurance needs paid (annual premium $3,800).  Please, above all, pray for this ministry, then ask the Lord to show you how you can help.

Yours in His glorious service,

Bob and Clara Rapp

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