September, 2008

Dear Praying, Helping Friends:

Greetings in Him who loved us and gave Himself for us!  The last two months have been some of the most exhausting of my life.  And speaking of my life, I turned 76 in August.  Clara turned 77 a few days later.  The Lord has given us the health and strength we need for this work.  Without a doubt He is hearing your prayers for us.  Of late, the work has mainly been about 1) raising funds for the fields and using them in a godly way 2) guiding the ministries of our 15 men in Hungary , Romania and Ukraine 3) helping our men deal with a variety of spiritual issues in our church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe.  In all this, we are tremendously encouraged by the growth we are seeing.  The Lord is honoring His Word and our efforts not only to evangelize the lost, not only to disciple believers, but build a biblical church in that entire region which, we believe, is bringing glory to God and becoming a spiritual force to win not only hundreds, but eventually many thousands to Christ.

We earlier shared with you our schedule of camps and conferences (18 of them) this summer.  Praise be to God that we had, by far, our best year ever.  The camps were so well run, and every camper, even where the purpose of the camp was evangelism, absorbed huge chunks of biblical teaching and did so in a very serious frame of mind.  We don’t go by “decisions” in these camps.  People are invited and urged to come to Christ, but there is no raising of hands.  We have found, over the years, that “decisional regeneration” leads to a counterfeit Christianity.  Moreover, we follow up all these campers after they go home.  We visit them, then seek to involve them in a Bible study.  This year we saw a 25 to 50% jump in attendance over previous years.  And now that the campers have gone home, we are finding, when we do our follow-up, that people are much more interested in taking the next step toward becoming what the Hungarians call “a serious Christian.”  Thank you so much for your prayers!

In I Corinthians, chapter 16 we read that Paul had to wrestle with all three of these matters.  We find him 1) raising an offering in the churches to take to believers in Jerusalem (vv. 1-4).  We find him 2) guiding young Timothy, a national he had personally trained, and mentoring the ministry of another national, Apollos (vv. 10-12).  We also find him 3) dealing with spiritual issues in the churches (vv. 15-18).  So things have not changed since the days of Paul when it comes to sound missionary work today.  Paul also says in that same chapter that he has plans to travel, but before he can travel, he must stay longer in Ephesus since “a great door for effective work has been opened for me, and there are many who oppose me.” (v.9)  I don’t think it’s possible to find an effective work for the Lord anywhere which does not, at the same time, have strong opposition.  They go together like Siamese twins, this matter of going forward in the power of God’s Spirit and being opposed by the world, the flesh, and the devil.

So, thank God, we have opposition.  It comes to everyone who begins to take an interest in the Word we preach and teach.  It is amazing how short-sighted the devil is.  He is obsessed with opposing all who take an interest in the Word of God.  It’s in his nature.  But, just as he helped God in His work with Job, so he helps us with our church garden to keep it free of weeds.  Time after time, we see his opposition (at home, in the workplace, from unsaved relatives and friends) drawing people away from us who would only waste our time if we spent more of it on them.  And time after time, we see his opposition helping the elect and making them lean more on Christ.  So we spend most of our time with believers, teaching them to endure hardship and, at great personal cost, be faithful witnesses for Christ in their places of influence.  The Lord then uses them more than our preachers to bring new people to Christ.  That’s how it works, folks.  Disciple believers, and more of the elect will come.  The elect are not looking for a popular church.  They are looking for a powerful church, a church that deals with sin.

Here is some personal news from the field.  In Hungary , we have four nicely growing congregations.  They beautifully reflect the picture of the early church in Acts 2:42-47.  They are not yet large, but are “devoted to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship (one another) and to the breaking of bread (feeding upon Christ and His body broken for them) and to prayer.”  Yes, we have cases in our church where, here and there, people develop a spiritual distemper.  But when this happens, our pastors help them lovingly and firmly.  Our newest congregation, in the Lake Balaton area, received its new pastor, Gyula Bagoly, in late August.  So much is happening there.  Even as our new building is being renovated, the saints are being instructed in the faith, and evangelism is happening apace.  In Ukraine , we still haven’t hit full stride, but we had a very good summer of camps with many new contacts as a result.  Our men are also planning to do some new things in the way of evangelism.  Pray for them: Berci, Istvan, and Geza.

In Romania , along with a great camping season, our congregations took in new members.  We closed one unfruitful preaching point, but are opening another.  In Vulkan we have a little more construction to do, but only a little.  Meanwhile, our pastor there, Csaba Zolya, is not only married, but expecting twins.  This has been quite a year for him – a new meeting hall and parsonage, a wife, and now twins on the way.  To top it off, we just replaced his 20-year old car.  Our members have been energized by all this, so nearly every Lord’s Day we have new people visiting.  In Marosvasarhely, Sandor Molnar and his wife, Eva, had a baby girl in August (bringing to 30 the number of our Hungarian grandchildren!).  We are also looking at the possibility that the last bachelor (among our workers) will soon find a helpmeet.  Pray for Sandor Tamas that the Lord would direct him in this.  Finally, Gabor Curcubet has been busy contacting persons in the Ministry of Education about home schooling.  Parliament is still trying to pass a new bill on education reform.  Pray it would include a provision making home schooling legal.

Let me share with you how your financial giving helped in July and August.  In addition to our regular operating expenses, we had a cost overrun at our new property in Hungry in the amount of $5,000 (good preachers are not necessarily good estimators!)  We bought a car for Csaba in Romania for $13,600.  We replaced a floor at one of our properties in Ukraine ($1,100) and bought a new computer in Hungary ($800).  Clara and I needed $5,500 to meet the annual premiums of our Medicare supplemental insurance.  And I had an unexpected bill of $900 for some dental work this month.  We were able to do all this over the summer when giving tends to slow down.  Praise the Lord for His faithfulness.

Where are we now financially?  We are being hammered by two things, the weakening of the dollar and inflation.  But we still have an edge over traditional mission work (where the emphasis is on supporting Americans, not nationals).  Over the last year the dollar weakened 15% and inflation hit us 25% (a 40% loss in one year!).  The good news is that the portion of our income from the congregations is going the other direction – this because our church members are paid in their national currency and get raises to cover inflation.  Moreover, our church is growing.  So we don’t have a disastrous situation.  At the same time, all our larger expenses (land, buildings and cars) and about 50% of our operating expenses still depend on giving here.  Here are some special needs over the next two months: $13,600 to replace another vehicle in Romania (Sandor Molnar’s 20-year old car won’t pass inspection beyond October), $3,600 for important renovations in Kolozsvar , Romania , and $3,000 for Christmas and winter bonuses for our men. Please remember that our men live very sacrificially, so sacrificially that all 15 of them live and work for no more than what it costs one American missionary to live and work in this part of Europe .  Finally, we are three weeks into the fall budget period and still lack a little more for regular operations.  Pray that the Lord would move the hearts of many more to appreciate this work and give toward it.  Thank you again for your faithful praying and helping.  You are precious to us, and the Lord will remember you in that day when He makes up His jewels (Mal.3:17)

Yours in our faithful Lord Jesus,

Bob and Clara Rapp.

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