Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
We live in times when we need endurance. I love the Apostle Paul and look forward to seeing him in heaven. In the meanwhile, I love his words. “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood…” (Gal. 1:15,16) “Not that I have yet attained all this…but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12) “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14) “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world…only Luke is with me…. At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me… But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the (gospel) message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.” (II Tim. 4:10-17)
Our God could have done His great work in sending His son into the world (for our redemption) by letting Him endure all He endured, then, at the end, put Him on a cross of His own making and punished Him without the world’s help. For it was the Father who crucified the Son. Isaiah said, “It pleased the LORD to bruise him, to put him to grief, to make his soul an offering for sin.” (53:10) Why, then, did the Father let the world have a part in all this? It was to expose the awful darkness of the world, the flesh, and the devil. For no one can serve Him who serves himself and loves this terrible trio. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in it. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I Jn. 2:15) James also reminds us that “friendship with the world is hatred toward God.” (4:4) And nothing so helps us stay focused on loving the Savior and aiming for His glory as the cross on which He died. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
The history of our work in Hungary has been one of hardship and the loss of friends. I think back to 1994 when our key Hungarian leader tried to seize the work. He reversed his stand with us and brought in his own teachers, including a Roman Catholic priest. This forced us to look for another place for our school. But the Lord helped us. The next school year we had more and better students than the year before. This man then said he would “destroy” us, but a few months later died of a sudden heart attack. After that, a second leader in the work turned against us and even traveled to the USA to denounce us. But the Lord used this, too, to build His work. For, although we lost some teachers because of this, we were able to replace them with some of our own students who had just graduated. About that time, too, the bishops of the Hungarian Reformed Church declared open war against us, slandering us in the media as a “dangerous sect.” But the Lord used this, too. He used it to show us it was time for a new church. He also used it to draw new people to our testimony. A third of our present 22 congregations first learned of us through our enemies! God was attracting them to the “old rugged cross” of His Son. After that, we had some, even among our graduates, who went the way of Demas, having loved this present world. But, again, the Lord has used these things to make His work more glorious.
He also gives us joy in this. We rejoice that He is being glorified in the Hungarian work as more and more hear about the Lord Jesus. We are in the midst of a tremendous summer of camps and conferences (18 in all). The quality of the programs is up; the number of people is up; the Word is being taught and preached; people are being saved; and new believers are being built up. A few years ago, it concerned me that we were growing so slowly. It is now clear that if we had grown faster, the foundation would not have been strong enough to handle the new growth He is now giving us.
As for our camps, Ferenc Kovacs said of our camp in Romania for children ages 7-11 (from non-Christian families) in early July: “The camp is going well. This year we set up some guidelines to run it better. Now we can see the fruit. We had 44 children and 10 staff people. By the grace of God our men were able to keep good order and give good lectures. The children learned many Bible verses and had much good teaching. We trust the seed will bear fruit in the lives of the children and their families when they go home.” Attila Szasz said of this camp: “Our teaching this year was quite intensive though the children still had time for games and excursions. Each day we had two teaching sessions. The theme was ‘being changed into the likeness of Christ.’ We had 11 lessons beginning with man made in the image of God and ending with believers glorified in heaven. Each day the children memorized two to four Bible verses. Most of them learned 23 verses. In their workbook they answered six questions a day about the lesson for that day. The ones who answered the questions correctly and recited the verses by heart gained points for that. They also gained points for being quiet after lights out and keeping their rooms tidy. They were excited about this. At the end of the camp, those with points could buy Christian books, Bibles, and some small toys. Besides teaching and singing, we had games and walks in the forest.”
We also had camps for children in Hungry and Ukraine . In Hungary , we had 12 children (this is only the second year for this kind of camp there, and it takes time to gain the confidence of parents), so we were glad. We also had an English Bible camp for non-Christian young people in Hungary , drawing 24 people. We had wonderful opportunities all week long, while teaching English, to teach the Bible. Two of the teachers were from our church; the third was a young lady from England who paid her way to come and help. In Ukraine , our first camp for children drew 41, ages 6 to 11. Our men worked hard with the parents to show them we are not a sect. This was necessary because several ministers in the HRC sent word to the parents that, if they sent their children to our camp, they would not let them be confirmed in the HRC. Some parents shrank back, but most of them, after our men talked with them, gave their consent. Praise the Lord for the work of His Spirit in the hearts of people!
I must now take a little time to share with you where we are financially in the work. As you read what I say, please do not be concerned if you feel, before the Lord, that you are helping us all you can. Nor do I want anyone to think we are lacking any good thing from the Lord. He has always taken good care of this work through His people. Indeed, we are rejoicing at this time that all our construction costs have been paid for in Vulkan, Romania and in Almadi, Hungary (our new work in South Hungary), including $9,000 in real estate taxes and $12,000 to renovate this second property.
I also want to share with you the following. For some years we have had a reserve, sometimes a little, sometimes more, on which to fall back. That reserve is now gone. We have two new factors called 1) serious inflation and 2) the weakening of the dollar. Here in the USA we feel 5% inflation. But in some places in our work, notably in Ukraine , we have had nearly 50% inflation in two years. Add to this the recent loss of 15 to 20% in the dollar, notably in Hungary and Romania , and we need you to pray about this. Two years ago, we needed $135,000/year for operational expenses, of which $25,000 came from our congregations. Today we need $165,000 for the same operations. Our congregational giving has grown to $40,000, but this still leaves us with $125,000/year we need from here for there.
We know the Lord will provide. We also know He uses people. So ask Him what your part should be. We are talking about 15 national missionaries, all their ministries, and our goal to have them all on national support some day. And keep in mind a special need for $12,000 at this time to replace a 20-year old vehicle in Romania . One man recently sent us a gift and said: “Being a banker and trader, I believe this is the best possible investment I could make for our Lord.”
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara Rapp.