6 March 2003
'Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!...
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' Phil. 4:4; 6-7
Dear Friends and Family,
Recent weeks have been characterised by significant highlights and serious disappointments. Paul’s admonition to “rejoice in the Lord always” has been as real and relevant as his reminder “not to be anxious about anything”. Recent financial figures have revealed that we have enough money in the bank for another two months. What to do? 'Rejoice in the Lord!' and 'Do not be anxious.'!
About “Rejoicing” and “not being anxious”
When Paul wrote these words to the Church in Philippi, he was in prison. One wonders how it is possible to rejoice when everything around is against you. His secret lies in the fact that this joy is not based on the situation in which he finds himself, but on the Lord! What a lesson, to remind each other of constantly! In the following verses, he expresses himself even more specific. Do not be anxious. Do not take any notice of the situation around you, but focus on the Lord! Hand over your burden, give thanks for what you have and do not be bothered about what you do not have.
The fruit of this attitude is 'the peace of God', the shalom of God, a deep peace based on the knowledge that whatever happens, our life is in God's hand.
Rejoice (1) - 'Passed'
When I think back on this month, there is much reason for thankfulness, for rejoicing. Valentine's Day took on a very special colour this year, because the exam to be fully qualified as a professor took place. The previous evening, shortly after midnight, Sára and I had finished the final corrections of the lectures. It was indeed a 'difficult delivery'. Fortunately I had 'expert' help from my sister Heleen, a midwife by profession. She had come with my parents to share in this momentous day. The colloquium with the qualifying “habilitation” commission of the Reformed University of Divinity went very well. The professors asked very good questions, and showed a real interest in the topic! It was followed by a 'happening' in the auditorium, where I had to deliver my “Public Lectures”, to show that I am able to teach at university level. I had the feeling that with this exam there was much more at stake than obtaining a qualification. It was a unique opportunity to underline the relevance of the discipline of missiology in the theological curriculum in Hungarian and Central European seminaries. Students, friends and colleagues from all over the country came. From all over the world I received signs of encouragement. Thank you so much!
During a spontaneously organised celebratory gathering on Sunday evening, there was the opportunity to rejoice with a house full of friends, Church members, colleagues and board members of the Missions Institute, as well as my neighbours. It was a real open fellowship where the love of Christ was present.
Rejoice (2) – Courses
Usually Wednesday is really the highlight of the week. Together with two of my colleagues, Hilda and Dóra, we then go to Papa, a journey of 175 km. On the way, there is plenty of opportunity to talk about current affairs. In this Reformed Seminary we teach two courses this semester. One about 'Missionary spirituality' and another on 'The missional Church in the twenty-first century'. They both prove to be very popular, all together attended by almost thirty students.
Just a glimpse of last weeks class. I had asked the students each to ask five people who call themselves Reformed but never go to Church. It turned out to be quite a new experience for them to break out of their sheltered environment in the seminary. I was not really surprised to hear one of their conclusions, that about 40 to 50% never go to Church because of a great disappointment with the Church or pastor. Often these disappointments date back to Communist times. However, a surprise for us all was the conclusion that 75% of those questioned demonstrated an openness to hear more about the gospel. We wondered, whether the hindrance for many people not to come to church does lie with us as 'Church people' rather than with those hardly attending church?
I was reminded of the crucial importance of training the local churches to grow into open, missionary communities and recalled the women’s conference we had just attended before we went to Papa, at which we gave talks on the importance of open, welcoming small group bible study in the Church. More than fifty women attended this three day conference organized by a colleague of ours, Zita. There was a real desire to learn!
Rejoice (3) - Many applications
In the 1980's, Csaba, born in Rumania, was in prison for eighteen months because he wanted to study theology in Hungary. He was intercepted at the border. Now he is actively involved in prison ministry, besides pasturing a Church. Gabor was not allowed to continue his studies because he was too active in his Church in the work of evangelism among Roma. Elena grew up in Orthodox Russia and studied to be an English teacher. After the 'changes', as a translator for evangelical groups, she came in touch with the gospel for the first time. Now she has been living in Hungary for several years, and is involved in child evangelism. Tiina born in Estonia, has a great desire to look into missiological questions which apply to the context of her country. It is her church’s desire that she teaches missiology at the Lutheran seminary. László has for several years been a pastor somewhere in rural Hungary. He is very concerned about how to reach those who only formally adhere to the Reformed Church. Erzsebet has just been appointed as the missionary instructor in her town. Carlos comes from Brazil and is a missionary in Hungary. Péter has worked for years in Venezuela. Eszter is an artist and has the desire to go into missionary work.
What do these people have in common? Each one of them has a desire to be better equipped for their ministry, how to spread the gospel in a contextual, Biblical and relevant way, in local or global mission. They have all enrolled for the postgraduate diploma in missions. Last Tuesday was a real high point in recent weeks. The whole day there were entrance examinations. It was wonderful to talk to such motivated future students. In the end, we accepted eighteen people, representing seven nationalities and seven denominations.
Rejoice (4) – Great progress in expansion project
Tomorrow the first course will be held in the new seminar room. Even although it is not completely finished yet, we are very excited about it, since the project has been going on for almost two year. The interest in the course is overwhelming: more than fifty students from all over the country. Theme: What do people in Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe think about faith and religion? Why do they go to church, or not go to church?
“Do not be anxious”
But besides joy, there are great concerns. Two weeks ago, Kati presented me the precise figures, after her four months illness. It was a great disappointment to hear that we have money in the bank only for another two months.
Cause 1: the fall in the exchange rate of the dollar by 25%, which especially affected the expansion project. We urgently need USD 50,000, which we now had to borrow from our operating budget.
Cause 2: a reduction in the donations for the operating budget of last year of 25% - due to the same reason -. In addition we have to cope with a situation that donations pledged (USD 15,000) were not transferred because of the collapse of the stock market.
'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' Phil. 4: 6-7
In partnership for gospel of Jesus Christ,