Signs of Life from Hungary Volume XII No. 93
Monthly prayer update on the ministry of the
Dr. Anne-Marie Kool (PMTI)
26th February, 2005
'Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.' 1 Tim. 4:16
Dear Family and Friends,
'More and more Hungarian pastors are becoming infected by the Dutch disease!' I heard this remarkable statement yesterday in a fascinating discussion with a colleague about the Church situation in Hungary. 'For Dutch pastors, Church work has become more a job with a forty hour working week than a calling in which you are available to your Church day and night.' This mainly affects some young pastors. We were discussing this topic following an address by Bishop Dr István Szabó, in which he was evaluating his first two years in office. Of the thirteen goals he had set for himself, he had only been able to achieve one and a half of them... He was chiefly involved in finding a solution to unresolved issues from the past. Many pastors isolate themselves from their colleagues, and are not willing to be accountable neither to their presbitery, nor to the head of the diocese. Any attempt from outside to coordinate certain tasks is seen as outside interference.
The number of unchurched and dechurched people is steadily increasing. His great concern is how this large group could be activated. Much in this analysis sounded familiar to me. On the other hand, I also encounter many pastors who are near to burnout. How to respond to such this discussion?
Looking back on my furlough
After a very intense home assignment period of five weeks - the mileage on my car increased by nearly 4,000 miles, with 2,000 miles in the Netherlands alone! - I have been able to pick up the thread again relatively well. I recall the excellent meetings with my sending Churches in Houten and Oud-Alblas. Also elsewhere in the country I met great interest in our ministry. What increasingly strikes me is, that the issues of mission and evangelism which we are (trying to) dealing with in Hungary are very close to those in the Netherlands. What a challenge to be open to learning from one another!
I am very encouraged by your prayerful concern for my work here, which was evident from the pertinent questions which were asked! It was good that in Oud-Alblas there were young people taking such an active part as well. It is wonderful that Junior High School students like John are so willing to be witnesses in their classes. They are the missionaries of the future! I am also very thankful for your personal care for my well-being. In this sense, as someone put it, my home assignment really was a 'hot bath'. How wonderful to be greeted with a Sing-in. My birthday party, which so many attended, was unforgettable. I am enjoying the CD's and the beautiful books. The 'survival pack' for my retreat following, was extremely useful too.
Another highlight was the outing with my five sisters to Brussels, on the invitation of my sister Corien, who has been a Member of the European Parliament since last summer (see attached photo).
Looking back on my furlough or home assignment period, to be honest, to an increasing extent I wonder what the word 'furlough' really means. It is certainly not a 'Dutch disease'! Actually, I was more tired when I got home than when I left. 'Pay close attention to yourself ...' Please pray for wisdom in this.
Hungary, at the start of 2005
On my return, the newspapers were full of the commemoration of the 108-day siege of Budapest in 1944-45. I caught a conversation with a niece of Raul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of so many Jews and who mysteriously disappeared. There is also a lot of talk about the 'Hungarian tragedy of 1945': after 1945, more than 700,000 were deported to Siberia. Meanwhile in Budapest, hundreds of farmers with their tractors have been striking, because the promised EU subsidies have not been paid on time, and the national debt is apparently increasing at a record pace... Sometimes it seems as if nothing changes.
Back to work ...
Yet at the same time, there is much that is changing. For a few months now we have been busy working on modifying the curriculum of the theological seminary in Papa. It appears that throughout Hungary the level of the students who are applying to further education institutes has dropped considerably. How can we better fit in with this? It surprises me in this discussion that the question is actually not raised as to what a pastor in the Hungary of the 21st century actually ought to be able to do. The structure of the curriculum at theological schools in Hungary has actually not changed in the last twenty years. There is relatively little attention paid to how to involve Church members in Church life, how to deal with conflicts, what it means to be a missional Church etc. In short, what should be changed in the training of pastors in order for them to be able to respond to the missionary challenges of today, to the questions which Bishop Szabó was discussing? In the final interview, Levente, one of the sixth year students, who has just concluded his practical work placements, thanked me that I had given him assignments which stimulated him to leave his comfort zone and to get in touch with people on the fringes of the Church and the unchurched.
The missionary challenge of living as a minority
During her field placement in Transylvania, Noémi discovered that evangelism and missionary work also means associating with the Rumanian majority. The temptation is great for the Hungarian Church in a minority situation to concentrate on surviving, but actually the missionary challenge is to step over the ethnic boundaries! There seems to be an increasing interest in receiving training in this. Many of you who have sister Churches in Central Europe are talking about this. Could you help to make the courses and training material of the PMTI more widely known? Perhaps you know a pastor who would like to join the postgraduate program in missions, evangelism and church development, or just one or two courses. Or perhaps a youth group who would be interested in the course 'Worldchristian'.
I notice even in the team of the PMTI that there are changes taking place in society. People are much more willing to accept responsibility and take the initiative than some time ago, and this requires a different type of leadership. I often used to feel like a bus driver, who was holding the steering wheel, with the passengers patiently waiting to see where they would be taken. Now I notice that I can much better be like the conductor of an orchestra, helping each of the members of staff to play their own instrument as well as possible. This suits me better, but it means making a big adjustment! It is wonderful to notice on returning that everyone has been practicing hard to play his/her part.
You will already have gathered that in one thing, the last three months have not yet brought much change. I still have a lot on my plate. Sometimes I really have the feeling of being at the limit, but then suddenly I notice I receive new strength to go on. Please pray for wisdom to say no. 'Pay close attention to yourself...' Please pray also that I may really find moments of peace and relaxation, or to read a good book.
Yours sincerely Christ,
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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