Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
Greetings in Christ our Lord and Savior! The first news is that Clara is so much better. We also have a diagnosis. Clara had ACD (allergic contact dermatitis), and the allergen was the chemical in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. But Clara did not get this by skin contact, rather by taking Ginkgo Biloba capsules as an “herbal supplement” to improve memory. You see, the herbal supplement business, unlike other drug businesses, is unregulated. So you cannot know how much of the chemical in the leaves of the Ginkgo Biloba tree is in the capsule. It can also build up in your body and, at some point, cause a violent reaction (as shown with laboratory animals). Clara had a rash (and severe itching) all over her and a tremendous loss of energy. There were times she could hardly stand up. So much unlike our Clara! And after many blood tests and a tissue biopsy, two family doctors and two specialists were still stumped. But I did some reading (Wikipedia), learned of this, and had her stop taking it. We also saw a second dermatologist who, when I mentioned Ginkgo Biloba, said: “Oh, yes, that could be it.” And, sure enough, a few days later, we saw improvement, and in early June Clara and I could travel to Illinois and Tennessee. Our second dermatologist still wanted to do patch testing. We just got those results, and all 76 allergens proved negative (Ginkgo Biloba is not patch tested). So we thank the Lord for sending this affliction since He does all things well and, in this case, used it to reinforce the fact that now is the right time to follow the Hungarian men in their desire to assume ultimate responsibility for the work.
Which leads to this new phase of the work. As I said two months ago, the men now want to go at it on their own. So we agreed to this. We still get quarterly financial reports and a budget, but in a much more simplified form. We still hear about the work of our 16 men, but only once a month and only as part of one report from the Session (our five ordained men). And the new system is working well – all things considered. It is also letting me recover from years of hard work that was very necessary but beginning to kill me. So that this new field development (and Clara’s health problem) showed me His will in this matter. Only He could do something like this – just as He appeared to Paul in Corinth and showed him that it was His will for Paul to remain in that city for a time. But we hope to continue as a consultative body for a time since the church there (RPCCEE) is far from being organized. Ruling Elders need to be ordained so that some congregations can be organized, allowing presbyteries to be organized (having a mix of organized congregations and mission congregations and ordained men from each of the two presbytery regions). We also hope to continue as a consultative body when complex cases of church discipline arise, for there will be new and unusual cases of church discipline. In fact, we just had one such case, and the Session needed our help in this. So we are now reviewing this with them.
Speaking of church discipline, I recently had the luxury of reading a book – The Korean Pentecost. It has two parts, one part written in 1910 about events leading up to the great Pyongyang revival of 1907, one part about the years leading up to WWII when American missionaries were jailed by the Japanese, then sent home, at which point the hammer of the Japanese military came down hard on the church. But one section (in the first part) gripped me. As American missionaries in 1910 were trying to turn the young church over to the nationals, they found that the Koreans, if well trained, could usually do everything they could do as well or better. There was one area, however, where this was not true. After an incident requiring church discipline, the writer (the Rev. William Blair of the Presbyterian Mission) said: “Church discipline is where the real test comes. This is where the Korean Church most needs us. They can win converts and preach the gospel better than we can. They can build churches and support them. But they wait most of all for us to come and bring back those who have fallen away, who refuse their pleading. Only on one’s knees, by prayer and entreaty and tears, can such work be done.” (p.49)
The circumstances in the Korean mission situation over 100 years ago differ somewhat from our current situation in Hungary. But not by much. First of all, it is as hard for Hungarians to discipline Hungarians as for Koreans to discipline Koreans. Indeed, in the case of our dear brothers in Hungary, they grew up in the Communist era when the family was considered an enemy of the state. Contrast this with the Confucianist ideal in Korea where the father (and parents) and older people were held in high esteem. So, basically, our Hungarian men never lived in a cultural tradition where authority should never be set aside without appeals first being made to address a problem. The miracle of our work to date is that we could go as far as we did in instituting important reforms and many good programs.
And what reforms and programs? First, as soon as the Communist iron curtain went up, we went there (1990) and started a new school (1992) where we chose the students we wanted and set the discipline and rules for godly living and study – no democracy since we were paying for everything. So when we thought some were ready, we graduated them, then decided who among them to support for church planting. We taught them how to marry well, how to raise their newborn babies, how to train and educate (home school) their older children. We singled out those we thought were ready for ordination, then created a Session to work with us in the discipline of members in the new church. We showed this new Session how to keep minutes and do its business. We helped them develop a Book of Church Order, understand the principles of godly music in worship, plan a worship service and make bulletins for it. We instituted catechetical instruction, tithing for members, and a church-wide standard for daily Bible reading – followed up by monthly pastoral visits. We guided the publication of 25 books in Hungarian, encouraged the camp and conference programs, and led the changeover at our school from resident study to distance education. We created a course for membership 12 years ago and, more recently, the Romans course as a critical bridge from the spiritual darkness of unbelievers to the membership course. We did this because we understood the need for spiritual change in people before they could really understand the membership course. We could go on and on, including our funding, at a cost of over a million dollars, to build homes and meeting places for our 16 men. We have given them so much, and now it is their turn to use it well and keep improving on what we have put in place. Pray for them in this.
We are pleased to hear from the Session, once a month, about progress in the church, including the camps this summer. The supplement will give you details on the work of each man. Please continue to use your bookmarks as a help in praying for all 16 men in light of this letter and information in the supplement.
One of our churches recently asked for more details about our financing of the Hungarian work. I was happy to write them and explain our Mission has three accounts. The first is our “General Fund” which covers the Mission’s own modest expenses and is handled by the Mission itself without taking anything from the other accounts. The second account is the “Rapp Missionary Fund” where 100% of all funds so indicated go to us and our operating expenses. In practice, we have not emphasized our needs because they are usually met without mentioning them. The third account is “Hungary” and, again, all these funds go to Hungary. Nothing is used by the Mission itself or by us (though if we needed them, we could use them). I know of no other mission that has the practice of sending 100% of its gifts to the field if they are designated for the field (Hungary). With this in mind, we urge our donors to keep supporting the work generously until we indicate, maybe late this year, that this situation is changing. In fact, we expect to authorize spending for a new car in Ukraine in September (at a cost of $12,000 to $15,000). Please be in prayer about this. God bless you all. We love you so much.
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob & Clara Rapp