Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
Before we close out this year in memory of John Calvin’s birth 500 years ago, let me tell you of the International Monument to the Reformation in Geneva – erected in 1909 to celebrate Calvin’s birth 400 years before then. Clara and I were in Geneva in 1990 and saw it. Next to seeing St. Peter’s (where Calvin preached), you must see this if you go there. In the background is a great wall with four figures in marble at the center. They are the great Reformers: Calvin, Farel, Beza (of Geneva ) and John Knox of Scotland . Then three figures on either side showing where the Reformation had great effect upon other nations. These men and their countries are: Gaspar de Coligny ( France ), William of Orange ( Holland ), Stephen Bocskai ( Hungary ), Oliver Cromwell ( England ), Roger Williams (the New World), and Frederick William ( Prussia ). So this monument shows how the 16th Century Reformation went mostly westward, howbeit some of it eastward – mainly into Hungary where it survived the Counter- Reformation when the popes of Rome (through the Hapsburgs) did their best to wipe out the Reformation. Sadly, what Rome could not do, the Hungarian Reformed Church did to itself by forsaking the Word of God in the early 20th Century. Happily, we now have an opportunity, with your prayers and giving, to begin a new reformation in a land which is again opening to the light of the gospel of Christ.
The interesting thing about Bocskai is that, as “Prince of Transylvania,” he fought for the freedom of old Hungary , following up on the work of Hungarian reformers such as Gaspar Karolyi (our school is named after him) and Peter Meliusz (pastor at Debrecen and founder of the city’s Calvinist college). “Rudolph of Hapsburg, decided to suppress any attempt toward religious freedom. When a group of Hungarians opted to take up arms for their liberty, Bocskai became their leader…and constrained the emperor Rudolph II to sign the articles of the Peace of Vienna in 1606 at the Diet of Kassa (Kosice in Slovakia today)” This scene at the Diet of Kassa is pictured in bas relief beside Bocskai’s statue at the monument in Geneva, showing the intimate connection between Geneva and old Hungary – its reformation and its freedoms.
With this in mind, it is fascinating to see how our Lord Jesus is opening two new places for our work. One is Debrecen , once known as “Protestant Rome” when it was the epicenter of the Reformation. Sadly, after a glorious beginning, its Calvinist college and seminary left the Scriptures in the early 20th Century, then, under Communism, became apostate. It is today Hungary ’s second city, but in deep darkness. We prayed for contacts there and a man to send. This year, the Lord heard us. It began with a man who was asking the Lord not to let him die in the HRC. He learned of us through our publications and a growing network of people who know us through them (books, quarterly magazine, presence at book fairs). He contacted us and, with his wife, is now a faithful member of our church. This has given us many contacts in Debrecen . Also, our man in Budapest (Mihaly Siko) is now free to go there since our recent graduate, Peter Szabo, is ready to take over his congregation. So we hope to send “Misi” there in the spring and, even now, have a core group developing as a Bible study. Also, Misi’s wife, Zita, studied in Debrecen for some years and has contacts. Both are enthusiastic about going there to live and work early next year.
The other place our Lord is opening is in Eastern Romania , home of Bocskai, “Prince of Transylvania.” It is the city of Csikszereda , part of the area he helped liberate. As with Debrecen in Hungary , the Counter-Reformation affected this place, after which the HRC became apostate. Today this city has only Roman Catholic churches and one liberal HRC church. But we have been praying for Csikszereda. We wanted to go there two years ago, but had no one to send. This all changed when Sandor Tamas married Biborka October 10 (we won’t send a single man). Biborka is from there and has many friends. She is a recent convert from Catholicism and came to know the Lord through her friend, Erika. Erika (now Peter Szabo’s wife) went to Switzerland a few years ago and became a Christian. After that, she was used of the Lord to bring some other friends to our church. They were converted this summer and now form a core group in Csikszereda. Thank you, Lord, for this lady in Switzerland you used to start all this!
If all these names leave you bewildered, don’t think you are an idiot. Just know that the Lord has won-derfully opened two great doors for us, and we must go in. And He uses networks of people and things like publications and history (the Hungarian people are tremendously interested in history) to reach the minds of people. Historical names like Stephen Bocskai (whose marbled figure in Geneva was placed beside Calvin’s just as the HRC started departing from the Scriptures) and places like Csikszereda, Tran-sylvania. Historical names like Peter Meliusz, the great Hungarian reformer and founder of the Calvinist college in Debrecen . And now in Switzerland a lady whose name I don’t even know whom the Lord used to start a remarkable chain of events. And our two young men we have trained and now are married and ready to go to these two places. The one (Peter) who can go to Budapest to relieve Misi so Misi can go to Debrecen , Hungary . The other (Sandor) who can go to Csikszereda , Romania . Each one already having a small core group to help him – which we did not have for any previous church plant save one.
This is a good time to remember that the work in Hungary began in 1992 with a school, Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions. Gloriously, we had a graduation November 1 when Peter Szabo got his four-year diploma and three of our students got two-year diplomas. Remember that this work is all about training nationals so they can reach their own people for Christ. This kind of work is very slow at the beginning, but once the foundation is laid, it can move fast. Visiting this graduation was Rev. Carl Robbins, pastor of Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA), Greenville , SC. Carl also spoke to all four of our congregations in Hungary and gave six wonderful lectures at our Reformation weekend conference (at our school) on the Book of Malachi with a reformational emphasis. After Carl came home he wrote me, saying: “I want to give you a brief update on my trip to Hungary …. Each of the congregations ( Budapest , Balaton/Kaposvar and Miskolc ) I visited seemed very healthy, earnest, zealous, hungry for the Word… and YOUNG. The pastors (Misi, Gyula, Imre and even young Peter Szabo) were very impressive in their manner and understanding. In short, I found the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe, its members and ministers, to be a great work, filled with promise for the future. Your servant in Christ, Pastor Carl Robbins.”
So, as you pray, pray for 1) these two new church planting works 2) for our school where our ministers are being trained as church planters 3) for spiritual stamina for all 16 of them 4) for their wives and children 5) for their health and safety 6) for our publications ministry 7) for God to send His Holy Spirit in power to anoint our preaching and teaching in the conversion of sinners and edification of the saints 7) for the personal discipling our men must do if their work is to be built up (Calvin once said, “The human heart is a factory of idols.”) 8) for the children of our men and members and their home schooling 9) for wisdom and strength for Clara and me here at home 10) for Clara and a health condition she has which is very puzzling and, at times, very painful, for which we have an appointment December 15 at Hershey Medical Center . Pray also 11) for funds for all the above, including a special Christmas offering we need for our men to help them with end-of-the-year expenses and encourage them in the work.
In sum, we need increased monthly giving to take advantage of these open doors in Debrecen , Hungary and Csikszereda , Romania . We need $500/month for Peter who will take the Budapest congregation so Misi can go to Debrecen where he (Misi) will need $350/month more. We will also need $400/month for Sandor in Csikszereda (apartment, utilities, meeting hall). This comes to $1,250 needed in new monthly support. We ask our supporting churches to pray about increasing our monthly support in their 2010 budget. We ask the same of our friends. If you know of a better work than this, support it. But if not, we urge you to take seriously our Lord’s admonition to “lay up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor thieves break in and steal.” Above all, I hope none of you feel that anything you might give is too little. The Lord knows. And don’t forget the Christmas offering for the men. We need $2,400 for that, $150/man on average. We also have a fund for land in Csikszereda. We won’t borrow from any bank for this, and a good piece there will cost $50,000. This can wait a bit. However, these new monthly support items and the Christmas offering can’t wait.
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara