Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
We’ll start this letter as the last one, only this time it’ll be about me (not Clara) and the Lord’s loving way with me. My lower back has been bothering me several months, and it really got my attention when a general numbness started spreading down my left leg. My GP then ordered an MRI. It showed a disc fragment (herniation) between the L3/L4 spinal vertebrae. The Lord was good to give me an early opening with a local neurosurgeon. Meanwhile, I checked online and found a clinic in the Philadelphia area where endoscopic surgery is performed to remove disc fragments like this one. I then visited this clinic where they made a convincing case I needed back surgery, the cost of which would be $18,900. Clara and I don’t have money like this to spend, but we agreed to pool our savings and find the money if surgery was really necessary. But one week later, I saw our local neurosurgeon. He advised no surgery and, instead, physical therapy. Not only that, he explained why back surgery was not the right way to go. Many disc fragments dissolve themselves, he said. And, in my case, the steady decrease in numbness down my left leg over the past month showed it was doing just this (something the clinic in Philadelphia did not mention!) He then put me on physical therapy. How we praise the Lord for this, not only financially, but for the way my back is now responding to physical therapy. In fact, the therapy is helping me with balance and several other issues related to my physical well-being. PTL!
Clara’s physical health and age and my physical health and age relate very much to the Hungarian work. Last March, I was still under a heavy load of reporting from the fields – and there seemed to be no release from this duty, particularly in view of the fact that our 16 men on the field still seemed to need my guidance in a wide array of issues. However, as I explained in my May letter, three things happened the last week of March: 1) Clara developed a serious health disorder 2) My workload in answering the weekly reports of the men was reaching the breaking point 3) the Session of our church over there wanted a change in the system – one that would reduce their reporting and give them more autonomy. Our Mission (we have five wonderful men on our board) and I felt that the Lord was in this, and since then have made some big changes. This way has some new challenges, but it is a big step in the right direction as the Mission and I seek to disengage entirely from the work sometime in 2014. But from now until then, it is imperative our Mission remain as a consultative body to the Session (our first five ordained Hungarian men). It is also important we keep funding the work until it reaches 85% self-support, at which point we can, with the aid of a special fund there, safely exit the work. Now I usually save my prayer requests and financial needs for the last paragraph of my letter. But this time I’m going to say here that we need 1) ongoing fervent prayer for Clara and me and our total well-being and for our 16 Hungarian men and wisdom, zeal and success in all aspects of their work. (See the supplement for their needs.) As for 2) financial support, we need you to persevere with us until well into 2014 at a time when we will advise you to stop giving. BUT NO LET-UP UNTIL THEN, PLEASE!
Turning to the work, the Lord gave us a tremendous year of summer camps in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. In fact, we added two more camps, a total of 24, with most camps geared to reaching new people for Christ with the gospel of His saving grace and His lordship over their lives. I have been privileged to work for the Lord in four fields since 1960 – Brazil, South Korea, Pakistan, and now this one. In Brazil, I did evangelism, church planting, and seminary teaching. In South Korea, the Lord helped me start a new school of theological education where the entire focus was the school. In Pakistan, I founded another seminary and a country-wide literacy campaign for Christians to read the Bible. In this Hungarian work, the Lord helped me start yet another seminary and, what was new, fund the work of selected graduates and personally guide them to do all that an American missionary can do – and much more.
And now, praise God, this work in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine – with its new 23 congregations – is bearing more and more fruit. We received one new adult member into our church (Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe) in the last two months and, better, we now have 18 people in our Membership Course, more than any time I can remember. We also had children born into our church, two to our pastors. On August 24, Sandor and Eva Molnar welcomed a girl, Johanna, into their home. And on September 12, Mihaly and Zita Siko gained a boy, Balint. This brings to 44 the number of children to our 16 Hungarian pastors. We must bring them also to the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is why we have catechetical instruction for all the children of our church, including the children of our pastors. This is also why all our children, at least all our pastors’ children, are receiving a Christian education which, for practical and spiritual reasons, means homeschooling.
It was my privilege to introduce homeschooling in 2000 not only to our men and others in our church, but eventually, in the case of Hungary, Romania, and western Ukraine, to people outside our church. So Imre Szoke now coordinates all home schooling in Hungary. And in Romania, Gabor Curcubet, was my hand-picked man to develop the Romania Homeschooling Association. I was glad to see Gabor mentioned in the September 7 issue of World magazine (p. 60) as follows: “In Romania it is legal to enroll children in a school outside Romania and teach according to a foreign method – if that method is a legal one in that foreign country. Some 200 Romanian homeschooling families follow this process. Romania Homeschooling Association president Gabor Curcubet told me: ‘The main problem with enrolling children in schools outside Romania is that children must learn in English and parents must know English in order to teach their children. The majority of Romanian families don’t speak English at all and most of the rest don’t speak English well enough to teach their children. We would like to legalize homeschooling to help the Romanian families homeschool their children legally and in the Romanian language.’ ” What this means is that, while homeschooling is not yet legal in Romania, our church in still the reason that 185 families outside our church now homeschool their children in that country.
The “mother” ministry of our church is our school, Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions. We currently have eight students. It’s a Distance Education arrangement where the students do their course work mainly at home, but come about twice a year to our mission center for a week of testing and an evaluation of their progress. This means they are all going at a speed that fits their home circumstances, including their employment. Of special interest to me is that we have two students who are making very good progress and ardently desire to become pastors. Pray for them. This means that even though the Mission will exit the work next year, we will want to make provision for these two young men and others like them so there can be a constant source of men of God for the gospel ministry there.
A final word about God’s work of conversion in our midst the last two months. This marvelous work of God’s Spirit which Jesus compared to the wind when he said, “You neither know whence it comes and whither it goes” – it is mysterious, yet it is God’s promise to all who pray for souls and give His Word faithfully to the lost and rest upon Him to give new birth in Christ. Almost all our church members have come out of the darkness of unbelief into the light of Christ under our own ministry. For there is no other Reformed church in the Hungarian lands faithful to the Word from which we might receive members. (The most striking evidence of the darkness in the Hungarian Reformed Church is that it does not have a single missionary in its membership of two million people that it supports to go into the world to preach the gospel.) So it is only by conversion, mostly under us, that our membership is being built. Pray, then, for our 16 pastors in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. Hoping you still have the bookmarks we sent you earlier, please keep using them and the attached supplement.
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob and Clara Rapp