Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
The 16th Century Reformation had a great impact on old Hungary, which then enjoyed three centuries of gospel light. But in the early 1900s the seminaries of the Hungarian Reformed Church fell into deep unbelief. This was followed by two world wars and 45 years under Communism, then the raising of the iron curtain in 1990, allowing us to go in and train a new generation for Christ and His Word. We needed two years (1990-92) to start the school and four more (1992-96) to see our first graduates. In 1997 we found we could not work in the HRC, so in 1998 started our own church. Since then, 15 of our grads have begun 22 small congregations and four preaching points. They could not have done this without our help. We have given them the income and equipment they need and, in most cases, a building for their family and congregation. We expect them to be accountable to us in all financial matters, in the use of their time, in their way of doing ministry. We are also guiding the church as a whole in all its areas of ministry. Our object is nothing less than the planting of Christ’s church in the Hungarian lands until it is fully self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. Here is a review of our work in 2009:
** Our school, Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions, had an increase in students this year from 9 to 11. On November 1, we plan to graduate three of them from the two-year (Levite) program and one from the four year (Pastor) program. Our graduates of the Levite program can become ruling elders in their congregations once their congregations are fully self-supporting. Our graduate in the Pastor pro-gram (Peter Szabo) will assist our work in Budapest, Hungary, beginning January 1.
** For years we have wanted to start a congregation in Debrecen since it was once the spiritual center of Protestantism and is now Hungary’s second largest city. But, until recently, we did not have any good contacts there. This all changed, however, when several people in Debrecen contacted us (hearing of us from our literature) and became members. In August we had our first meeting with a small core group and trust that, by next summer, we can send them a church planter from our growing work in Budapest.
** Our other congregations in Hungary, one in Miskolc pastored by Imre Szoke and two in the Lake Balaton area pastored by Gyula Bagoly, have also had very good growth this year. Our church in all three countries ( Hungary, Ukraine, Romania ) now has 176 members, a gain of 21 (17 adults, 4 baptized children) in one year’s time (over 13% growth). This is very encouraging since our church began in 1998 with no membership and, until recently, was growing 5 to 8%/year. The wind of God’s Spirit is moving. We also did not have a single disciplinary issue this year, i.e. no loss due to an excommunication.
** This year I started a program for our three men in Ukraine called “Personal Discipling.” The key idea is visiting people in a systematic way and keeping good records. Each visit is an occasion to teach and exhort on one main point. The next visit builds on this visit. Believers and unbelievers are handled very differently. Unbelievers are given the gospel over and over and urged to come to Christ. On the other hand, believers are expected to want to follow Christ and challenged accordingly. After three years of minus growth in Ukraine, we recently took in five new persons and hope to add another four soon.
** This summer I started this same program in Romania with three of our men whose work needed it. The result is that many more people have been contacted and each visit has been much more effective. This effort has caused the attendance in each place to increase 25 to 30%. Of special interest is the fact that in one of these places our pastor has contact with a young Romanian man (not Hungarian) who has a small group of Romanian believers in an independent situation. He recently became a Calvinist and is moving more and more toward joining our church, maybe with his group. This is exciting because, until now, we have not had any church work among Romanian people as such. If the Lord is pleased to bring this about, the preaching at this work would be done in Romanian.
** We also had a very strong year of summer camps, 19 of them in Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania. Last year was a very good year, but this year was even better. The camps were very well run and were great opportunities to win people to the Lord. Our spring and fall conferences in all three countries were also excellent. This fall we plan to have, as a special speaker in Hungary, the pastor of our supporting church in Greenville , SC (Carl Robbins). Earlier this year, Jean and Henry Palmer were there and took a lot of pictures which they are now sharing at different churches, including our fall banquet in October.
** Earlier this year we bought a new property in Zapszony, Ukraine. It has really helped the work. We are enlarging our property in Szekelyudvarhely, Romania to give us two and ½ times more space. We also are making plans to send one of our preachers (Sandor Tamas) to Csikszereda , Romania after he marries Biborka October 10. Biborka is from this city and has many friends and relatives there. We have wanted a work in that city for some years. It is heavily Roman Catholic and has only one HRC church (liberal, of course). So we have a wide open door to go in with the gospel and the Reformed faith.
** Keep praying for the legalization of home schooling in Romania. In the meanwhile, the Lord has given us a solution not only to this problem, but something academically better for our children in Romania. We have an agreement with an evangelical school in Hungary (K-12) to accept our students, who need to visit Hungary only three times a year (a week each time). Otherwise, they can be taught in Romania at home and have the double advantage that 1) the Romanian government will recognize this arrangement and 2) our students can follow the Hungarian system and have excellent testing with it. PTL!
** In June, I started my 50th year of ministry as a missionary of our Savior, having been ordained to the ministry of the gospel in 1960 and accepted by the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions at the same time. I give thanks to my Lord for His faithfulness all these years, guiding and helping me in four different fields of service, Hungary being the latest.
With your indulgence, I need to devote the rest of this letter to a serious need we have for new financial support. We are meeting our goals for regular operations, thanks to the sacrifice of many of you and our congregations abroad. But land, buildings and cars is something else. For that we need special help. We still need $6,200 to finish this enlargement project in Szekelyudvarhely and now $30,000 for land in Csikszereda. This is the time to buy land – when banks in Romania are not loaning money and land is still fairly cheap. We also need a used car ($5,800) for our man who is set to go there soon plus $200/month more for rent and $100 more to support him as a married man and $150 for new work expenses. And for this other work starting in Debrecen , Hungary , we need $500 to $600/month to support our man who will go there. This means we need $1,000/ month more for these two new fields. If you were sending an American missionary, it would cost you $9,000/ month for each American, and the American could not begin to do what our men can do. We ask you to urge your churches to put us on their budget for 2010. And please consider helping us yourselves with special giving and support on a regular or increased basis. We cannot do this work without your help, and the Lord keeps putting before us these stupendous new opportunities. Please pray and ask him what you can do. It was our Savior who said, as He stood before the man born blind (John 9:3-4). “As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. For the night is coming when no man can work.”
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara Rapp