2009 Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
We thank the Lord for His faithfulness all these years. I’m now into my 50th year as a missionary, being called of Him to salvation in 1951, then to full-time missionary service in 1952, then formally to mission-ary service in June, 1960 when I was both ordained to the ministry and commissioned by the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions (founded by J. Gresham Machen in 1933). What stands out in my mind is that the Lord Jesus not only called me to be a missionary, but a missionary educator. After the Son of God Himself, the Apostle Paul and John Calvin are my heroes. And Hungary is now my fourth mission field. I started there in 1990 when the iron curtain over Eastern Europe lifted – the same year my work in South Korea had come to full maturity. In 1992 the Lord enabled us to start Karoly Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions in Budapest . Over the years, 90 young men started our four-year program, 30 graduated, then 15 survived the rigors of church planting in that spiritually “dry and barren place” known as the Hungarian lands.
Calvin never visited Hungary , but had great influence there. A large public square in downtown Buda-pest is named for him and, until liberalism came in from Germany, he remained a folk hero in all of old Hungary – this in spite of the fact that the Church of Rome and its armies tried to wipe out the faith and nearly did so in the Counter Reformation (when an 80% Protestant majority was brutally reduced to a 20% minority). But it was a glorious minority and a great beacon of light until the 1920’s when German higher-criticism of the Bible took control of most of the theological seminaries. After that, World War II devastated the land, then Communism came and finished what little was left of the Hungarian Reformed Church. When I went to Hungary in 1990 to explore the situation and make contacts, there were only a few people who shared my vision for a new theological seminary. But a few did, and that is how we began what is now unfolding as a new reformation in the Hungarian lands.
And that’s the only way you can understand this work. Yes, we are winning people to the Lord, thanks to the power of the Word preached and the work of the Holy Spirit in converting some. Yes, congregations are being built. But, much more, they are congregations of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe in the line of the 16th Century Reformation. Right now, our 22 new congregations are like tiny dots on the landscape of Hungary , Hungarian Ukraine, and Hungarian Romania. But as people are being converted, established in the faith, discipled and equipped for the work of ministry, these dots are becoming larger and brighter. And the number of dots is increasing. We hope very soon to start meetings in Hungary ’s second largest city, Debrecen . Budapest has always been the political capital of Hungary , but Debrecen was the capital of Protestant Hungary. It was, in fact, called Protestant Rome. Until recently, we had no good contacts in this city and no way to start a work. That situation seems to have changed by some unusual events over the last year. Pray for the first meeting on July 24 of a group which, by the power and hand of God, now seems to be taking shape.
And what has happened in the work in the last two months? Well, for one thing, we have begun the camp season, and it is obvious that the camps this year are being greatly blessed of the Lord – good attendance and tremendous interest in the Word – just as our work is growing everywhere and, some places, almost snowballing. This year we have 19 camps, two thirds of which are devoted to winning people who are either not believers or, if believers, need to hear the gospel again and again from a church that is faithful to the Word of God in all its holy standards. Standards, standards, standards! If we are true to God’s standards in those things He has plainly revealed in His Word, nothing can stop the Word in its steady advance to win individuals, then families, cities, regions and whole countries. Calvin’s Geneva was a cesspool of immorality when he went there in 1536. Nineteen years later, the church, by the power of the Word and God’s own hand, gained its own government which, in turn, made it an engine of great social change, leading to awesome social/political changes in other parts of the world as well.
So we want the Hungarian nation to bow to Christ in many ways it does not today. This will take time. But God has given us religious freedom. And, so, while the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons work, we are also working. And as we advance, which is happening, the way is being paved for something much bigger – if we are only careful not to compromise our biblical beginnings. The Israelites came into the land and drove out the Canaanites, but just two or three generations later, that glorious triumph was in shambles. The church is constantly at war, but is often its own worst enemy, especially when times are good and there is no persecution and we think we have “arrived.” So, if we don’t give our children strong Christian training (which for us means home schooling), we might as well not do this mission work at all. For in a few generations, it will come to nothing. So we want great societal change in Hungary , but first must come the hard work of winning people to the faith, then of discipling and training them how to live as good citizens (members) of the church. God has a certain order to things. First, missions in the sense of winning individuals and establishing them in the faith and in obedience to that faith. Then whole families (this is why home schooling is a critical component of our whole effort). Then towns and regions. Then, as these bend to the faith, reformers in the social/political sphere have a good basis for their work.
To return to the “main menu,” here is the agenda of the summer meeting of the Session of our church, the RPCCEE: (1) Progress toward ordaining ruling elders in some of our congregations. (2) Suggested ways whereby our mission can lighten its grip on the work as the RPCCEE comes closer to self-support. (3) Developments in the case of ___ who was a member of our church, had to be excommunicated, and now wants back. (4) The case of ___ who was recently restored to membership in our church, whose wife now wants to be a member. (5) The case of our member ___ who was in major spiritual upheaval for two years , but is now obedient to the Lord in her tithe, attendance and sharing her faith with others and growing well. (6) The possible restoration of ___ who wanted some favors from us we could not give her, but who, nonetheless, is interested in returning to our church. (7) Our worker, Sandor Tamas, who will marry Biborka this fall and move to Csikszereda to start a new work. (8) Our 16th worker, Peter Szabo, who will also marry this fall, finish his work at the Ministry of Finance, then serve the Budapest congre-gation. (9) Our Distance Education students (we have 11 at present). (10) Home Schooling – a new arrangement where some of our older students in Romania can enroll in a school in Hungary which will allow them to continue their home schooling in Romania and, at the same time, give them testing and more help along the way. (11) Publications. We hope to have our 20th book printed by November (Tedd Tripp’s “Shepherding a Child’s heart”) (12) Catechetical teaching and how to improve it and advance it in our church. (13) Our talks with Romanian speaking Calvinist groups. (14) The transfer of children baptized in other churches. (15) The case of ___ who wrote us a very humble letter and wants his case with us solved. (16) The use of the Lord’s Prayer in our churches. (17) Study on improving our worship services. (18) The issue of the travel of some of our members to worship in other congregations and how we should instruct them on this point. (19) The place and date of the next meeting.
Please pray for our next major project, namely the enlargement of our meeting hall in Szekelyudvarhely, Romania ($16,000) and operational expenses of $160,000/year, where the church now helps $76,000/year and where we must still help $84,000/year = $7,000/month.
Remember, then, to pray for: 1/ Our 19 camps this summer in Hungary , Ukraine and Romania 2/ Our school, Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions, and our 11 students. 3/ Our 15 (soon 16) church planters and their 22 congregations and four preaching points where they are laboring to reach the lost and equip the saints. 4/ Our 19 publications, including our latest on Calvin’s anti-Nicodemite writings where Calvin urges true believers to leave false churches. 5/ Our children’s ministries and our efforts to develop Christian home school movements in Hungary and especially Romania , where we are working to have home schooling legalized. 6/ Clara and me – for wisdom, health and daily strength. Remember Clara especially and a special health issue she has. 7/ Funds for all the above.
Yours in His faithfulness.
Bob and Clara