Signs of Life from Hungary Volume XII No. 94
Monthly prayer update on the ministry of the
Dr. Anne-Marie Kool (PMTI)
Budapest - 8th April, 2005
Dear Family and Friends,
This time a Signs of Life from a 'guest writer', Rev. Bas van der Graaf, pastor in the cathedral of Gouda (yes, where the cheese comes from!) Thank you for your prayerful concern. In the coming days and months it is important than ever to support the work of the Protestant Institute for Mission Studies in prayer!
Anne-Marie took her chance to ask someone else to write an issue of Signs of Life. I also view this as an opportunity, because it gives me the chance to compile and share a few experiences. Since Wednesday 30th March, I have been staying in one of the guest rooms at the institute as part of my study furlough. I had at least five reasons for choosing to come here: 1. I wanted to get away for a while; 2. I have been learning Hungarian for a few years and wanted to make some progress in this; 3. I wanted to renew and deepen my acquaintance with Anne-Marie; 4. I wanted to spend a few weeks in a missionary environment; 5. I wanted to be open to the possibilities of doing something in the future in the area of missionary Church development in Eastern Europe. As I write this, I still have a few days to go, but I can already say, I have amply achieved the first four aims, and with regard to the fifth, the desire has only grown. Of the abundance of impressions, I will now mention three.
A special institute
I will not be the first to write this, but it is of great importance to underline and to continuing to underline the fact that the PMTI is a special institute. Undoubtedly it is unique in Eastern Europe, and unusual in Europe. Anyone who knows anything about Church life in the Netherlands will realise that it is certainly not a matter of course that Churches are really missionary-minded. Swallowed up by all sorts of internal affairs in the Church, the missionary calling is often pushed to the background. In the Church in Hungary - because of all sorts of historical factors - this is even more the case. Anyone who spends some time at the institute with this knowledge in the back of his head soon realises how special and how essential it is that there is a think tank, which gives impetus to the missionary calling. I have been impressed by the commitment and inspiration with which the staff is working. I have also greatly enjoyed the splendid library, which not only contains a large collection of missiological literature, but is also a wonderful place in which to 'refuel' for mission. On the other hand, I have understood from the past and the practices of the present that this institute is by no means yet a 'certainty'. It is a gift from above that it has been established here and - amidst the many uncertainties that are simply part of the Hungarian situation - it will have to be maintained from above. I would therefore encourage everyone reading this to remember the PMTI and the work of Anne-Marie in payer.
A special Church
On Sunday 3rd April, I attended a Church service in Gazdagrét, the Church to which Anne-Marie belongs. To my delight, I realised that I was able to follow the essence of the sermon, so this already made the service for me. But I was much more pleased about what I heard and saw. To start with, the building. All the churches I had seen in Hungary and Romania - even the new ones - were traditional in form. This building was different. With its octagonal shape, its beautiful section of stone wall with a cross in it, and the arrangement of the chairs, this church served completely and entirely for the meeting of the Church as a fellowship. And it is a fellowship, this Church. A fellowship in which people look out for one another, but where there is also an openness to the community in which the church is situated. The pastor - András Lovás - gave a wonderful sermon about John 21, in which in a special way, he was in conversation with the Church. Very consciously, he went into particular Hungarian traits, such as not directly referring to problems which we have with others. Based on the pastoral conversation of Jesus with Peter, he showed how different the Gospel is on this point. The whole service breathed an atmosphere of sincere involvement with the heart of the Gospel, and with the specific people of today. I have to say that I got a lot out of this service. Fellowships such as this will be necessary to give a future to the Church in Hungary. And I believe that the PMTI can help in this too.
A special group of students
On Wednesday 6th April, at the invitation of Anne-Marie I gave a guest lecture for a group of students. I shared something about the process of renewal which has taken place in my congregation in Gouda to give form to being a missionary Church. As a result of the large number of people attending the Alpha course, as a Church we were faced with new issues and challenges, which led us into a process of renewal, with all the joys and concerns of this. I have to say that it was a great joy for me to interact with this group of young theology students. They demonstrated a great eagerness to learn and openness to new ways in which God's Spirit wants to go. At the same time, everything makes it apparent that in their (Church) culture, they are not used to acting in the freedom of the Spirit in the world or the Church, or to using their gifts. Undoubtedly, there is still a lot of work to be done here and there are still many opportunities in this. It was precisely this afternoon that I felt the desire growing in myself in the future to share in Hungary what we received in the Netherlands a number of years ago. Of course, this will not be a question of 'exporting' things, but in open discussions stimulating one another to have great expectations of the power of the Holy Spirit, who prescribes ways in season.
I found it a privilege to spend almost two weeks in this beautiful city (with thanks to my wife, who is taking care of three teenage daughters alone). Hungary is facing huge challenges to discover in the new world after the Wall fell what 'real life' is. At the moment, incredibly many young people in Budapest believe that life is concealed in the mobile phones and all the other blessings of the new time. However, two in five young people regularly contemplate suicide, I was told be an unchurched youth. How will they believe if they have not heard? The PMTI is undoubtedly a link in God's searching love in Hungary.
Bas van der Graaf
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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