Signs of Life from Hungary Volume XI No. 90
Monthly prayer update on the ministry of the
Protestant Institute for Mission Studies
by Anne-Marie Kool
Budapest, 27th August, 2004
'When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed... But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.'
Neh. 4:1; 9
'There's no place like home!' Do you know that feeling after a period of being away that it's wonderful to be home again? I am 'tending my pot plants', and enjoying the magnificent oleander on my terrace. After a few weeks holiday and an unforgettable two-week stay in Malaysia at a conference with fellow missiologists, I have the feeling that I can face the challenges again, spiritually and physically.
I returned to Hungary just in time to meet the almost eighty-five year old Dr János Bütösi, one of the founders of the Protestant Institute for Mission Studies, now living in America. In his highly prophetical address, he emphasized that if we take the business of mission and evangelism seriously, we should not be surprised to meet 'Sanballat's', who, just as in the time of Nehemiah, oppose us in building our 'wall'. For me, it was as if the penny dropped. I determined in the future to dedicate myself more to prayer than before. 'But we prayed to our God'.
Two days later, quite unexpectedly our head of finances and administration handed in her resignation, and the next day (yet again) reported sick. For the last three months, for various reasons she had already been at work less than half the time. You will understand that this situation considerably delayed the progress of the work of the Mission Institute. Might this be seen as the work of 'Sanballat'? Please pray that we will soon be able to fill this vacancy.
Itinerant Romany seminar
Early on a beautiful May morning, we left in two minibuses for a study trip of five days to various projects for mission to the Romany (gypsies). The intention was to offer the more than fifteen students the opportunity to explore the complicated issues of ministry among the gypsies in Hungary, who are often treated as outcasts, and to help them to put into practice their missiological insights gained in the Master of Theology program thus far. In some places, we were struck by the extreme poverty. Elsewhere, for example in a tiny village in the eastern part of the country, Rohod, we were put to shame by the tremendous hospitality. Afterwards one of the students wrote:
'We took part in a prayer meeting in which we heard extremely vibrant, deep prayers. It was really a prayer meeting, in the literal sense of the word. People prayed. It became clear to us that the prayer life of this Church, consisting of gypsies and non-gypsies, was very important, and that they had experienced very clear and specific answers to prayer.'
(link to picture): Figure 1 Prayer meeting in Rohod
Elsewhere we heard, that 'It was difficult to convince the presbytery to hold their (gypsy) services in the church on Sundays. In the end, it was a great step that they allowed it.' One of the students, originally from Romania, had a special experience when visiting a nursery school for gypsy children. She tried out the Romanian she knew from the past on the children, who spoke a language derived from old Romanian.
'It was a really beautiful, unforgettable moment for me. When I was little, I grew up with a deep revulsion against speaking Romanian. Now this language is helping me to make friends with some gypsy children. In the Kingdom of God, everything becomes completely new, and takes on a new value and meaning.'
One of the students who took part in this study trip was Boglarka. She graduated from Papa in June, as the first student specialising in mission studies. The assessment of her thesis was so good that the dean, who was on the examining board, immediately proposed to publishing it. During the Church examination a few weeks later - with an examining board of about thirty pastors - Bogi was asked what she envisioned to do after her studies. With fervour, she made a plea for the importance of the Churches to accepting their responsibility for 'the strangers in their midst', for work among gypsies. She emphasised that social work and evangelism should be closely interlinked: word and deed must go hand in hand.
A few days ago I heared that she is appointed to establish work among gypsies in her Church district. Praise God for the first students who have graduated from Papa, and especially for Boglarka! Please also pray for her as she takes up this pioneering work.
Feeling at home!
For some years I have been in the habit of inviting ten or fifteen students to my home at the end of the term for a so-called pizza party. The idea was actually born of necessity several years ago. Some students were to coming to my home for dinner, but I still had to start making the pizza when they arrived. There was nothing else for it than 'many hands make light work'. I simply set them all to work, which was a great success! Since then my pizza parties have become a tradition. One kneads the dough; others chop onions, peppers, salami; someone else makes the pizza sauce; and always someone offers to coordinate the lot. It is a fantastic exercise in cooperation, in which everyone can use their gifts. Often at a certain point there is the question, 'What topping shall we put on the pizzas?' Invariably my answer is, 'You must decide about that yourselves. Discuss it among yourselves!' These are unforgettable evenings, in which the students - sitting on the floor - often ask very personal questions.
At home in my Church?
In the middle of July, the theme of 'home' was again on my agenda. I was asked to speak at a women's conference with about 250 participants about the rather abstract subject, 'My Church is my home'. For many, this is taken for granted. 'I have been going to Church all my life. I feel at home there, because all my friends and relations belong there too.' But for many, it actually is a question. They do not (or no longer) feel at all at home in the Church. The question is, how can we make our Churches a home for the unchurched and for people on the fringes of the Church? How can we lower the doorsteps? Perhaps we are obstacles ourselves!? Many Churches in Hungary are rather closed to newcomers. Probably our Churches, including ourselves are in need of conversion as well! And how can we help others to feel at home in our Church; how can we love and accept them in such a way that they come to know the love of the Lord Jesus through us? Perhaps Christian women in Hungary can learn something from you in the States! Or in Netherlands? Please let me know!
Learning from one another
At the beginning of May, a unique conference was held in the Mission Institute organized by the Central and Eastern European Association for Mission Studies (CEEAMS), which was established eighteen months ago. With about twenty participants from eight different nationalities and various denominational backgrounds, we reflected together what are the issues and challenges in the area of missiology and evangelism in our region. We realised that independently of one another, we have lots of contacts with the West, but that there is hardly any exchange of thought or experiences among ourselves. In many places, missiology or mission studies is still in its infancy. There is much we can learn from one another, for example with regard to the issue of minorities (work among gypsies), the relationship with other religions (e.g. Islam), the role of the Church as a missionary community in a post-Communist society, etc. The conference was an important first step in coming together and building bridges. We realised that there is more to bind us together than to divide us!
Talking about meeting people and sharing, it was a very special experience to represent the CEEAMS at the International Conference of the International Association for Mission Studies in Malaysia at the beginning of August. For the first time in my 'career' as a missiologist, I had the opportunity to meet colleagues from all over the world and to hear from them what issues they consider important and how they go about in their teaching. Besides this, the conference was held in Asia, where I had once been, fifteen years ago. It was a particularly stimulating conference, because I was confronted with completely new questions from the Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist contexts, which tend to be outside your horizon in Hungary, such as interfaith dialogue and witness.
(Link to picture) Figure 2 Meeting with a lecturer at the Islamic university in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
Meeting with colleagues, many of whom I only knew 'on paper', was extremely enriching. New ideas for international cooperation in research projects were discussed. Regarding the question of coming to terms with the Communist past in Central and Eastern Europe, and the ethnic and denominational division and conflicts associated with this, we could learn for instance from the process of reconciliation in South Africa. Mission is more than calling people to conversion. It means teaching them as followers of Christ to translate their Christianity into all the areas of life. For more information about this conference, and the papers that were presented, see http://www.missionstudies.org/.
(Link to picture) Figure 3 Visit to a big, new mosque in Putrajaya
Of course, it was also wonderful after the busy conference to be able to relax and spend a few days with a colleague from Utrecht, Martha Th. Frederiks, seeing something of Malaysia. One unforgettable visit was to Malacca, where the influence of the Dutch colonial past is still clearly discernable. We stood by gravestones from the seventeenth century, and visited a Church built by the Dutch in 1753, next to which was the 'Stadhuys' (town hall).
I’m sure you can image that I returned home full of good intentions to spend more time in study and reflection, with friends, doing sport, in brief, in short: living a more 'normal' life. For the time being, it looks as if the resignation of our business manager puts these good intentions on hold. I am extremely thankful for the good cooperation with the board, who recently took a decision to appoint a 'managing director', or CEO to be responsible for the day-to-day management of the Mission Institute. Please pray for the board, and especially for the chairman, Dr Ákos Bodnár, as two important vacancies have to be filled in a short period of time. I would also like to thank you for your concern and prayers. I received many responses to my last Signs of Life.
Yours in Christ, our Lord and Saviour,
Anne- Marie Kool
This is the monthly prayer update of Anne-Marie Kool for friends of the Protestant Institute for Mission Studies. She has been seconded by the Reformed Missionary League (RML) in the United Protestant Church in the Netherlands in 1993 to the Reformed Church in Hungary. Since 1995 she has served as the director of the Protestant Institute for Mission Studies in Budapest. In 1998 she was appointed as Professor in Missiology at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Papa.
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