Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
When the Apostle Paul and Barnabas, on their first missionary journey, retraced their steps and returned to those places and people where the gospel had caused such a violent reaction, they did two things. The first was to strengthen those early disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith. The second was to appoint elders to guide these young congregations in their ongoing teaching, worship of God, and witness to the world around them (Acts 14:21-23). Re. this first matter ((encouragement to remain true to the faith), Luke summarizes in one sentence what must have taken days to say. It was: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Here it pith at its best. Here we can see, dear friends, our own lives. We know Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, but there are days when the world about us presses upon us and we are not in a godly frame of mind. Here is the message, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” In other words, we are not of this world, but we are God’s magnificent creatures – His elect. There are days when this may not seem so. But we are. There is great glory ahead. But what of present suffering and its debilitating effect on us? Aha! It is not what it seems. Hardships are not here to destroy us, but to refine us and keep us on track – to remind us of the sufferings of our Savior on Calvary and, so, enter the kingdom of God and all its glory.
The second effort of Paul and Barnabas with these early Christians was to organize them into congre-gations – appointing elders in every place. There is an important transition between verses 22 and 23. Up to verse 23, believers were called “disciples” – an important step beyond the term “believers.” But now they are a “church,” an ecclesia – a called out body of believers whom Christ ordained not only to believe in Him, but suffer for Him and be part of His kingdom now. And this is what we have been trying to do in the Hungarian lands these past 22 years – find a few good men, then train them and send them out. The difference between us and Paul and Barnabas is that they already had “core groups” of nascent believers when they started, some of them even organized in the form of an OT ecclesia. We never had this. On the other hand, we have had 22 years to train a new generation of Hungarian young men in the Word and, through them, preach the gospel and see it develop into core groups of believers becoming disciples – to the point we are on the verge of seeing a new denomination of churches in the Hungarian lands – the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe. But we still have one final step. We must go from supporting our 16 church planting pastors and their 22 nascent congregations to where they fully support themselves and, with this, fully govern themselves. Our goal has been to do this by late 2014, but now, it seems, we should try to do this earlier if possible for reasons too many to explain here. Pray earnestly for this and for us in the stretch run of this marathon.
And now an update to our last letter, the two main things being our summer camps and ongoing work in this Romans course (this new tool we have in working with non-members – most of them unbelievers, but some of them professing believers who at least need grounded in the basics of salvation.). First, the camps. Our four camps in Hungary have not yet started, but we have already had four camps in Ukraine, all with glowing reports. We had 48 children (ages 6-10) at our first camp, the largest number ever for this camp, showing that more and more parents are willing to let their children attend even if they are not interested in the Christian faith. Other parents are tracking very closely what their children are learning at these camps and are good possibilities for follow-up some day, maybe even the Romans course. As for the children themselves, it was a great privilege to talk to them about sin and the consequence of sin (everlasting death) and their need of a Savior not only to escape eternal damnation but have a new life of righteousness with a living Lord who can deliver them from the power of sin. And some of them showed a remarkable comprehension of this (for their age) and desire to have Christ in their hearts.
Our second camp in Ukraine was for youth, ages 11-14, at which we had 43 in attendance. We had one or two small disciplinary problems with this age group, but both were handled quickly and well the first day. This is an age group when sin is starting to bud in life. But it is also a time when we can talk about sin with more meaning. So we rejoiced in this camp as well and the way so many of these young people were moved by the Word of God and God plan’s of salvation. Another delightful thing is how the teen-age children of some of our older members helped in these two camps –in practical ways, then in witnessing to these children and adolescents in private discussion groups . The third camp was an adult camp to teach our church members and, in some cases, to evangelize new people who wanted to come out of an interest in the Christian faith. Our fourth camp, also very successful, was for young couples, training husbands and wives who are church members or close friends of church members.
In Romania, our season began with a camp for our pastors and their wives and children. Its purpose was for our men to have time together with their families, enjoy the Lord and their fellow workers, take in lectures on corporate worship, and share with one another their experiences in giving the Romans course to people in their region. The wives also had a great time together, and it was precious to see the children of our men enjoying one another. All our men in Romania and Hungary were there with their wives and families except Sandor Tamas’ wife, Biborka, who had just delivered twins. For Csaba Zolya, it was the first time his children were there, included his twin daughters born three years ago and his son, Izsak, born last September. The second camp in Romania had 43 children and was much blessed of the Lord, as also the third camp to evangelize teens (ages 12-17) where half of the teens were from our Christian families and half were not. This gave our Christian young people many wonderful opportunities to work with the others. As for weather and sickness, all seven camps so far have enjoyed good weather and zero sickness. Keep praying for these things, for they are important as well!
Turning now to the administration of the Romans course, it keeps moving, and people keep turning to the Lord in ways we earlier had not thought possible. Of course, it is still a struggle with spiritual darkness. We have had our first cases of people who said they do not want to continue the course, but this happened only after we tried to be more careful that, after Chapter 5, people not go on to Chapter 6 without a profession of personal faith in Christ. We suggested they go back through Chapters 1-5 for a review, and the majority have done that. But some have declined this offer and, so, are out of the course. We have also learned, with two more months of experience in giving this course, that we need to add some new material, Romans 1:1-5 to Chapter 3 and Romans 10:1-13 to Chapters 4 and 5. This first addition is to strengthen the teaching of who Christ is – the hoped for “Son of David” and Lord of glory and final judge of all the earth. The second addition is to clarify the idea of faith, that it is not only understanding what the Bibles may teach, not only giving mental assent to what it says, but also responding from the heart to the invitation of Christ to come to Him as Lord and Savior. Keep praying that the Word of God would have a powerful effect on all who study it in this Romans course.
Now some information on our finances. You will never find a better work to support than this one. I just read of another missionary, this one working in Europe, whose cost for working there is $138,000/year. I know him and highly respect him and would recommend his work to others. He works for a good mission board and, in fact, strongly recommends this work to others. Still, you will never find a better work to support than this one. We started at zero, and now, after 22 years, have an entire denomination of 22 developing churches in three countries, nearing self-support. But we still need $125,000/year to help our 16 men for several more years. So stand with us faithfully in prayer, then in financial support of our 16 men and their families and ministries. God bless you richly!
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara Rapp