November, 2008

Dear Praying, Helping Friends:

Clara and I are doing well and thankful for signs of growth in the work.  Hungary is surging; Romania is doing well; Ukraine is coming along.  You know, in Central and Eastern Europe , it is something if we have, in each of our 22 congregations, one or two in our discipleship/membership course.  This is where the really serious minded people are – prior to membership in our church.  We are seeing this in Romania and are very pleased with this growth.  In Hungary , things are even better.  In Budapest , we have three people in the d/m course and others in the wings.  In South Hungary , Gyula Bagoly just went there.  Our members (two congregations) are working zealously with him.  In Miskolc , things are really moving.  About three months ago, we had six in our d/m course.  We now have 13!  This is quite a trend.  We have never seen this in any part of our work – anywhere – at any time.

Here in the USA , our part is to “stay by the stuff” and see that our men are properly supported.  I must also continue to advise them in many matters.  Some issues relate to church members who need special care.  Other issues relate to people who were once disciplined in our church who are now repenting and, happily, want to return.  Some have to do with the careful use of the funds we send over.  Some issues have to do with future planning.  For example, we are close to dividing the entire work into two presbyteries, the Hungary/Ukraine Presbytery and the Romania Presbytery of the church.  When we do this, we will also ordain ruling elders (next spring/summer) and organize congregations in places where we have enough elders (two) to act as a local session in matters of everything but finance.  The financing must remain in the hands of the Presbyteries there and the Mission here so that, until we are ready to cut the umbilical cord, the smaller congregations which cannot yet fund their own operations are not left in the lurch.  In addition, Ukraine is going to be a big challenge for me in the next year or two.  The work there has been slow, but we also have three dedicated men who, we think, only need more guidance and help.  Pray for Geza Demeter, Istvan Gal, and Bertalan Lorinc.  And for me in this!

Living here in the USA and Canada , it is hard to imagine how difficult these fields are.  I recently asked Ferenc in Szovata , Romania why we do not have any children in our Sunday School there except for the six belonging to our men and members.  It is that this whole region (and Europe in general) is very closed to anything new.  The openness we have had here as a cultural trait for years was a by-product of the gospel and a heart obedience to the law of God.  You see, when people are open with God, it is natural to be open with others.  But Europe , since the Reformation, has not had any great revivals.  Communism also, for a half century, made people even more closed in their relationships with others.  This affects inviting children to our Sunday Schools very much although, remarkably, in Ukraine , we have some children’s ministry starting there.  The older generation is especially leery of trusting others.  We recently had three ladies who visited our congregation in Szovata.  One came because of the recommendation of a person she highly trusted. The other two came with her.  But even in this situation, we did not dare ask these folks their names or addresses.  On top of that, the Hungarian Reformed Church continues, wherever it can, to spread the idea that we are a “dangerous sect.”  The miracle, then, is that we have any growth at all.  Our growing church is a testimony to the awesome power of God’s Word and Spirit.

Recently, in my One-Year Bible reading for the day, I came to Ezekiel 16 where God spoke to Israel by Ezekiel about Israel ’s spiritual adultery.  It was so comforting to know that, when God’s people sinned and drifted from Him, He would not accept this.  He sent His prophets and, finally, sent judgment on them – but not forever.  And in the Hebrews passage (Heb. 7:18-28) I read we have a great High Priest named Jesus “who is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, because He ever lives to intercede for them.”  We may be weary, but our Lord never wearies praying for us.  For “unlike other priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, then for the people.  But He once and for all offered Himself” and now lives in “the power of a new life.”

Some years ago, when we opened our school (Karolyi Gaspar Institute) in Budapest in 1992, I realized our students needed, as a vital part of their training, time just to read the Word.  It seemed that, all over Hungary , the few believers there were using these insipid devotionals to feed themselves.  So we had our students use the One-Year Bible method.  It proved so powerful that it continued on into our church.  To further encourage our members in this, our ministers now visit them once a month to review their Bible reading and help them with any questions they may have.  This means, if people have been members in our church five years, they have read through the Bible at least five times.  In addition, our pastors often give messages related to these passages.  Our people, therefore, have a deep understanding of the Word of God and are constantly strengthened by it to resist the wiles of the devil.

Here are a few more highlights.  In Miskolc , Hungary Imre Szoke headed our recent Reformation Conference there and reports that many came for our best conference ever.  He continues as Associate Director of our school (we have nine students in distance education) and is still helped by Gyula Bagoly, though Gyula is now in South Hungary pastoring two congregations there.  Gyula is actively ministering the Word in his new situation while helping to finish work on our new property.  It has three levels, the lower for the congregation, the middle for Gyula and his family, the top for guests (conferences).  All the manual labor of the last three months has been donated.  In Budapest , Mihaly Siko works tirelessly with his dynamic, growing congregation.  In Ukraine, our men are 1) giving creationist lectures in schools 2) organizing children’s and youth meetings 3) doing hospital visitation 4) selling our books at fairs.

In Romania , Attila Szasz’ congregation is growing nicely.  One month ago, he took in three new members and, thereby, doubled the membership of his little flock!  He has Friday evening evangelistic meetings where 15 to 25 people regularly attend.  Sandor Molnar’s work is growing.  He is grateful for the new car we just helped him buy.  Lehel Laszlo continues to have an effective ministry in two places, one a Gypsy congregation. Ferenc Kovacs has his hands full coordinating the Romania work.  We are always in touch.  He recently reported they had a wonderful Reformation Conference.  Kalman Kovacs (no relation) helps him, usually taking the prayer meeting and three Bible studies.  Ferenc has a fourth Bible study in a new place and the main service.  Gabor Curcubet has two congregations, the main one growing nicely.  He also heads up home schooling in Romania .  The government has given up efforts to pass legislation this year, so that is on hold, but gives us more time to lobby key officials.  Szabolcs Simon has four congregations, but Sandor Tamas (helping Gabor) is now courting a fine young lady and may marry next year, in which case we might send him into Szabolcs’ area to help him there.  Csaba Zolya is doing well in Vulkan with his new property, wife, car, and baby twins on the way!  Pray for all our men in their labors.

Now a word on finances.  We praise the Lord we were able to meet all the needs I last wrote you about.  This included another vehicle for Romania and capital improvements in two places.  We now face our winter budget (December 1 – February 28) where we must soon have $6,000 for Hungary/Ukraine and $7,000 more for the Romania budget.  This does not include $2,800 we still need for our 15 men and their Christmas bonuses.  For some reason we have not had much response to this although I mentioned it last time.  We now need it and need it quickly if we are to help our men again this year.  They live and work very sacrificially, so this bonus is not icing on the cake.  It is critical to meeting end-of-the-year bills.  Please help us generously in this and designate it “Christmas offering.”   God bless you wonderfully for your praying and faithful giving to this, His glorious work.

Yours in His faithfulness,

Bob and Clara

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