Dear Praying, Helping Friends:
This year is almost history; 2014 is almost here. As you know, we hope next year not only to turn the entire work over to our Hungarian brethren, but leave them in good enough financial condition to make it the rest of the way without us. This will probably happen toward the end of next year since they will not only need your financial support until then. They will need time to organize their 24 congregations in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine into two presbyteries as part of one church. So we will need your faithful prayer support until then, first for our men, then for the Mission and Clara and me. We will need good health and special wisdom and grace in the next 12 months.
Many of you know Clara is a member of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) here in Lancaster, PA, and I am a member of its presbytery. A few days ago, our church asked me for an updated description of our ministry. I wrote: “Bob has been in missionary service 53 years, the last 23 in Hungary. He went there in 1990, then organized Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology and Missions (KGITM) in 1992 to train selected Hungarian men for the work of planting new congregations in Hungary, Ukraine and Romania. He and his mission now have 16 church-planting pastors who oversee the 24 congregations of the developing Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central & Eastern Europe (RPCCEE). Bob continues to advise our 16 church planters (ages 31 to 45). But, more and more, his work has turned to helping the RPCCEE be organized into two presbyteries with at least some fully organized congregations. Progress toward this has been good, and it is hoped this effort can be completed in 2014, at which time Bob’s mission hopes to turn the entire work, including its properties, over to the national church.”
In trying to explain what is now happening, I have started to use this extended metaphor: Twenty three years ago (1990), as the Communist iron curtain was coming down in Europe, we filed a flight plan in South Korea for an airport in Hungary. The Master of this flight plan called it “An Amazing Work in Hungary.” We did not know that it would take 23 years to complete this flight, only that we were to leave and fly toward Hungary! In 1992, still in the air, the Master radioed us and arranged for a mid-air transfer of an important piece of equipment called KGITM (Karolyi Gaspar Institute of Theology & Missions) which greatly helped us maintain our course. Then in 1998 the Master made a mid-air transfer of an even more important piece of equipment called the RPCCEE. After that we often wondered if we would ever land. And in 2005, we nearly had a mid-air collision with another plane, but the Master encouraged us and kept us from all danger. A year ago, we saw our destination in the distance. Then, eight months ago, the strangest thing happened. The Master told the pilot (the Mission and me) to switch seats with the co-pilot (the Session of the RPCCEE). We had expected to do this after landing, but not before! However, the Master insisted on this. So here we are, with the more experienced (but less rested) pilot in the co-pilot’s seat and the less experienced (but better rested) pilot at the controls! Our Master knows what He is doing! We always believed this, but we still radioed Him back and asked Him to have His church praying that we might have a safe, smooth landing. We have also been much encouraged by remembering the name He gave our flight plan, “An Amazing Work in Hungary.”
Last week I was reading Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. God had used Paul as His instrument to bring His Word to the synagogue in Thessalonica where some of the Jews believed and many more God-fearing Greeks believed. In his letter, he reminded them: “As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you (when we were with you), but we were gentle among you, like a mother, caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1:6-8) Later in his letter, he told them, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory.” (2:11, 12) After this, however, Paul addresses them, no longer as a mother or father to sons, but as a brother to brothers – a very special kind of brother, an older brother in the Lord who is anxious to give counsel and, in fact, gives them this admonition, “Brothers, I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.” (5:27) So as we now read this letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, we are reminded, when Paul first met them and gave them the gospel, they were his children in the faith. Now they are his younger brothers, growing in the Lord and able to make their own decisions. At the same time, he urges them, “Brothers, we (earlier) instructed you how to live…. Now we ask you in the Lord Jesus and urge you more and more how to live. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.” (4:1, 2) This is the kind of relationship the Mission now wants with its brethren in the Hungarian lands. We do not want to lord anything over them. At the same time, we pray that when we see something in their reports where we can give them godly, worthwhile counsel, they will delight in it and grow all the more in wisdom and grace. Please, therefore, pray for all of us and for a safe and glorious landing of this plane with this flight plan called “An Amazing Work in Hungary.”
You may have observed that I twice said “24 congregations” – not “23 congregations.” This is because we have yet another congregation, this one in Kolozsvar (Cluj), Romania. This new congregation, like the one we started in Vulkan, Romania earlier this year, is a congregation of ethnic Romanian people (whose native tongue is Romanian). As you may know, all our earlier congregations were composed of Hungarian people living in Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. This goes back to a century ago when Hungary was a much larger country with land that is now a part of Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia and Serbia. In any case, we now have two congregations in Romania for ethnic Romanians. PTL!
Some of you have been asking, so here’s a little update on Clara and me and our health. Please pray for the energy and health we need for the work as well as the wisdom we need for it. As I said in the July issue of our prayer letter, Clara had a very serious allergy earlier this year which seemed to upset her auto-immune system. She is now a lot better with this though she still has some lesser issues from it. But she is pretty much able to live the active life she has always had. My major problem is a back condition for which I am getting physical therapy and am better. My other problem is a leaking mitral valve, but my heart doctors are watching this, and I am mostly able to live the active life I’ve always had. As for our spiritual lives, we are both doing well. I am personally having a heart revival, spending more time in Scripture and prayer than I could when I was sitting in the pilot’s seat. It is unspeakably precious to have more time with the Lord and, so, be strengthened in the inner man.
Now this important financial note. We need you very much to maintain your current level of support and keep it up through all of 2014 unless we say otherwise. In addition to this, we need your help to give our 16 men a Christmas bonus at this time. This will not only help them meet their end-of-the-year expenses, but give them something extra for their families at this time. This is an important time of year when you can help and make a difference. Please mark your gift “Pastors’ Bonus”. Our Lord calls this kind of giving laying up treasure in heaven.
One last thing. For many years Clara and I have been putting out six prayer letters/year like clock-work. Every issue entails a huge amount of work. Writing it is only part of the process, for after that comes the printing, folding, envelope preparation and stuffing and other means of distribution. Meanwhile our bodies need to slow down even more. So with your patience we propose to write and send you four letters next year, in February, May, August, then November.
Yours in His faithfulness,
Bob & Clara Rapp