July 2019 Summer Camps

A continued look at the riches of God’s blessings from the summer of 2019 as we continue to wait to see how our summer outreach camps unfold for the summer of 2020. Here are memories and a glimpse into summer camp life from July 2019. This gallery of photos highlights camps partnered with Protestant Churches in ethnic Hungarian communities taking place in the towns of Váchartyán, Erdőkertes, Veresegyház and Racalmás Hungary as well as Beregszász, Ukraine, Camăr (Kémer in Hungarian), Romania, and Zmajevac (Vörösmart in Hungarian), Croatia during the month of July 2019 extending into August. Also highlighted are weekend excursions made with volunteers in-between the camp weeks to rest and explore the beautiful areas of Eastern and Central Europe.

English Class Váchartyán Hungary
Day Trip Esztergom, Hungary
Day Trip Esztergom, Hungary

Váchartyán Hungary Summer Outreach Camp

Váchartyán Hungary Summer Outreach Camp

Váchartyán Hungary Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp


Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp

Vörösmart/Zmajevac Summer Outreach Camp
Krk Croatia weekend trip
Krk Croatia weekend trip
Krk Croatia Weekend Trip

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp

Veresegyház, Hungary Summer Camp
Lake Balaton, Hungary

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp

Kémer, Romania Summer Camp
Sighișoara, România
Viscri, Romania
Viscri, Romania
Sibiu, Romania
Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp

Beregszász, Ukraine Summer Camp
Ždiar, High Tatras Slovakia
Štrbské Pleso, High Tatras Slovakia

Štrbské Pleso, High Tatras Slovakia

Rácalmás, Hungary Summer Camp

Rácalmás, Hungary Summer Camp

Rácalmás, Hungary Summer Camp

Rácalmás, Hungary Summer Camp

Rácalmás, Hungary Summer Camp

Rácalmás, Hungary Summer Camp

Tiszaújváros, Hungary

In northeastern Hungary on the west bank of the meandering Tisza River lies the town of Tiszaújváros.  Today a refreshingly unassuming and modest blue-collar town, on the northern edge of the great expanse of the Danube basin. The city’s history, however, is unique. Astonishingly different from other cities across Hungary because of its relatively short history dating only back to the early days of the Iron Curtain era. Unlike nearly every town and city across Europe, the origins of the town do not begin in medieval times with cobbled stone streets and an old historical center. Tiszaújváros is an infant in historical terms and does not even predate the 20th century. In fact, retired residents of the town have lived longer than the city they call home. The construction of Tiszaújváros began only on September 9, 1955. Following the communist takeover of Hungary, the government, wanting to add industry and jobs, built the city as a model industrial communist city. Instead of ancient church towers, the skyline of the city has smoke stacks from the factories on the edge of town and countless apartment blocks built to house their workers. The streets of the city are perfect straight lines and squares laid out by modern urban engineers. Originally the name of the city was borrowed from the historical village of Tiszaszederkény, located just outside of the current city limits.  Later, on April 22, 1970, a day which would have been Vladimir Lenin’s 100th birthday, the city was renamed Leninvaros, translated in English as Lenin City. Only in 1991 following the collapse of the communist regime in late 1989, did the name change again.  Tiszaújváros was the name chosen for the city, named after the Tisza river flowing nearby. New Tisza City, the English translation, today is a very pleasant and beautiful town with a laid-back feel. The town compensates for the lack historical architecture with plentiful trees, flowers, and green parks. The earth below is teaming with thermal water making the town a popular hot spring spa destination.  The city of about 18,000 people is also a centralized easy hour drive from the Bukk Mountains (part of the Carpathian Mountain range), Hortobagy National Park, and the UNESCO world heritage wine region of Tokaj.  No churches were built or organized during the first decades of the city’s existence due to the communist era. There was no city prior to the communist era meaning that there is also no historical church building. In the 1990’s a Hungarian Reformed Church was built following the collapse of communism. The church has a more modern layout including an assembly hall, church kitchen, and guest rooms attached to the church sanctuary.

A future botanist exploring the vast garden

Tiszaújváros is the home of one of our summer outreach camp weeks and many people of this community have become dear brothers and sisters in Christ. The Hungarian Reformed Church of Tiszaújváros has partnered with us since 2015 in organizing summer outreach/English camps. We have always marveled at God’s providence and hand in bringing us to this town and community.  It is a story worth repeating here as we can share the goodness of God and what He has done for us.  The 28th of February 2015 was a Saturday. A cold late winter day, with flurries of snow blowing in the wind reminding us spring was still weeks away.  We had been asked by the Peterfalva Reformed High School to drive and chaperone six students from Ukraine to Budapest for a Bible competition between high school students from across the Hungarian speaking lands. Leaving Budapest that afternoon, following the completion of the competition, a water line broke in our yellow 1989 Volkswagen transporter van.  In classic VW vans, the engine is located in the back under the trunk area.  After unloading the student’s luggage, I found the broken waterline.  The black rubber line, with a leaking hole on the end as it entered the water reservoir, was long enough to cut off the damaged end and reattach to the water reservoir.  The water-cooling system and broken waterlines had been a consistent defective problem in this particular VW van.  I had in previous weeks inspected the water lines often and I was surprised this water line, still in good condition, broke.  Two hours and 170 kilometers later, I was alarmed to see the needle on the dashboard rising again, indicating the engine was over-heating. Having no shoulder on my right, and the fast-moving cars of the Hungarian autobahn on our left, we had to keep driving a kilometer until the nearest exit to safely pull over. A waterline had broken again, evidently caused by a pressure problem in the cooling system.  With an overheated engine and realizing there was a greater problem causing overpressure in the system, we could not travel on.  We called a friend who looked in the Hungarian Reformed Church directory for the closest Reformed Church.  He called the pastor of that church who graciously came to our aid, towing us back to the church.  After being shown the church guest rooms that we could use for the night, groceries were brought to us for a late supper and breakfast the next morning.  After worshiping with them the next morning, a friend from the Budapest area brought us his van to travel back with the students to Ukraine. One week later I returned to Tiszaújváros to get our van after repairs had been made at a local mechanic. The Tiszaújváros church had a been searching for a way to start an English-Gospel outreach camp and asked if we would consider helping them organize a summer camp. We have since returned every summer and have so very much enjoyed this opportunity to partner in Gospel outreach with friends and church members of the Tiszaújváros Reformed congregation in their local community.

Spring Blossoms

Unable to return home to Ukraine during the quarantine and country lockdowns, we again find ourselves welcomed back to Tiszaújváros as we are living at the church, staying in guest rooms connected to the church.  We are able to use the church kitchen, the assembly hall for a dinning/living room, and there is a big grassy church yard for our son Hans to play in.  They are allowing us to live here as though it is our home.  We are thankful and blessed by their warm hospitality.  We marvel that our current “home” provided for us during the time of quarantine, all began through God’s providence, years ago with a broken-down van on a cold late winter evening.

John Calvin Statue In Church Courtyard

Life During the Time of COVID-19

Exploring the hills in the local area. around Verpelét, Hungary

We returned to Transcarpathia, Ukraine in the latter half of February after the birth of our daughter. It was wonderful to be back in our home community of Peterfalva once again.  We settled in and adjusted back to life in Ukraine.  Our weekly Bible study began, we were about to start English lessons, and we were planning in earnest for our two Bible retreat weekends this spring, then everything changed due to the coronavirus.  The coronavirus has shut down Europe much in the same way it has North America.  Land borders are closed and most plane, train, and bus travel has been halted.  Schools and universities are closed, students have all scattered to their homes, churches are closed, and gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. This has effectively shut down churches and ministries including ours. 

We had left Ukraine and our home, for what we thought would be just a few days, back in the middle of March in order to go to Budapest for a six-month doctor appointment and vaccinations for our daughter, Petra. We heard, 48 hours in advance, that the border was closing and we could still hurry home to Ukraine, but we chose to stay for Petra’s appointment thinking it would not be so long before the borders reopened.  The situation obviously worsened greatly across Europe.   It now looks like it could be a long time before we can return home to Ukraine. The latest speculation is that the Hungarian/Ukrainian border will be closed at least until May as both countries are in quarantine and lockdown.  Despite the circumstances, we have much to be thankful for.  It is good to be together as a family and we are thankful to God that we are healthy.  I would have never imagined just a few weeks ago that this is the situation we would find ourselves in.  Stacey and I wish we had packed more than a couple day supply of clothes. Things can change so quickly.  It has been a good reminder that we are not in control of our lives, and we really do live in God’s grace in His strength day to day, even moment by moment.  We take great comfort in knowing that God is in control and He is Sovereign in all things. I think of the old children’s song “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” and the comfort that is to adults too.  With quarantine and lockdowns, it appears our Bible studies, English classes/clubs, Roma outreach, and Bible retreats will all be canceled for the next weeks, and maybe the entire spring and into June.  We are hoping our summer outreach camps in July and August will go on as planned.  We will patiently see what the future holds and trust in God’s providence.  We know He can use this for His glory and use this to lead people to Him.

We spent the first days of our prolonged stay in Hungary prior to strict quarantine staying by friends. Kulcs, Hungary is the site of one of our summer English/outreach camps and we spent one week staying with the Reformed Pastor who we partner with there.  Istvan Fodor is the pastor of two congregations in the area and he showed us great hospitality inviting us to stay with him.  We enjoyed our time there. Kulcs is a town located on high bluffs on the west bank of the Danube River with incredible views over the plains to the east. We enjoyed our time with Istvan, having walks along the Danube, long conversations and dinner together every day.  Eric was able to be a guest speaker for Istvan’s youth group conducted online on the Saturday night we spent there, enjoying an opportunity to connect to students we have met during the previous two summer in our English camps there, and encouraging them to “Walk in the Spirit”, the topic of the evening study. 

Learning the art of stone skipping on the banks of the Danube

Our dear friend Istvan welcomed us to stay as long as we needed, but after a week in Kulcs we feared our family of four had very much invaded his home and we chose to move on to the town of Verpelét, Hungary.  We knew no one there.  We in fact had never heard of the town, never even noticed it during extensive study of Hungarian roads maps.  We found a small inexpensive guest house to rent there and decided to spend some quiet family time there.  Verpelét, a small town, is in the hills of the wine region surrounding the famed city of Eger.  This wine region is known throughout Hungary for its dry wine, deep red in color, which has become known by the moniker, “Bull’s Blood”.  Multiple times during the day the village administration would give information to the entire village over public loud speakers placed throughout the town.  It was startling at first, loud speakers blaring throughout the town, conjuring up images of a bygone era.  However, the loud speakers just brought local news and basic updates on further regulations.  Interestingly, every day at noon, the Lord’s Prayer was recited over the whole town through the public loud speakers, led presumably by a local Catholic priest.  We waited with anticipation each day for the community wide recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.   We enjoyed the time together as a family and very much enjoyed early spring walks through the hills and vineyards surrounding the town.  

After four days in Verpelét, the Hungarian government announced that stricter regulations were coming and it became more apparent we needed a long-term living solution while we wait the reopening of borders and for, Lord willing, the end of the pandemic situation.  We reached out to the Hungarian Reformed Church of Tiszaújváros, Hungary. We are in a close relationship to the pastors and the community here. Each summer we spend a week here organizing a summer outreach camp.  We are living at the church, staying in guest rooms connected to the church.  We are able to use the church kitchen, the assembly hall for a dinning/living room, and there is a big grassy church yard for our son, Hans to play in.  They are allowing us to live here like it’s our home.  We are thankful and blessed for their warm hospitality.

We are now under strict quarantine only being allowed to go out for necessary errands. We are spending this time having some quality time as a family, studying, preparing for the summer camps, and catching up on communication.  Following Easter, we are hoping to begin an online Bible study with students we are often in connection with.  This isolation will be difficult for people and we believe this could be an opportunity to continue to reach out to students through an online format.  We don’t know what the immediate future holds. We are hopeful that the situation will improve and we will again be able to return to Ukraine and resume our ministry and programs.  We are thankful to be in good health and thankful that Hungary and Ukraine have both officially had relatively few cases of COVID-19 thus far.

Online Youth Group

Catching Up

We found ourselves busier than we anticipated this spring heading into the summer months.  It was a good kind of busyness.  We are thankful for so many opportunities God has graced us with.  Opportunities to share the Gospel with many young people of Eastern Europe.  We are thankful for the opportunities that God has given us to live out our faith in gratitude for the gift of salvation He has given us through the blood of Jesus Christ.  We often dwell on the here and now of our earthly lives and spend little time looking towards our heavenly home.  I hope this year through the work of the Holy Spirit we were able to plant seeds in lives and hearts of many young people that this life is but temporary, as we look towards our glorious future of everlasting life, dwelling with and praising God.  We hope and pray that the words and deeds that were heard and observed by many young people in our English lessons and clubs, Bible Retreats, and other ministries point towards our precious hope that is in Christ alone.

The focus of these latest blogs, although belated, has been upon spring events.  In our next blogs we will give a report on our summer camps which the LORD blessed immensely.  With thankful hearts and humble praises, Soli Deo Gloria.

I never got around to posting a blog I wrote last spring about the beauty of spring in Ukraine.  I thought it was still worth posting.

Spring abounds with hope and renewal.  The changing of the season passes by, giving hope of new life and a renewed creation.  As beautiful as the winter is, what a glorious transformation to watch the snow melt and to see the wonder of life and color return after the dormant sleepy months of winter.  Life in the villages of Ukraine with the spring season come to life in buzzing activity following months of house bound winter captivity. Ukraine will never have spring time fame like the flower fields of Holland, or the cherry trees blossoming in Washington D.C. or Tokyo.  Yet, with an abundance of fruit trees joined by a variety of flowers perfectly suited for life and growth here, Transcarpathia, Ukraine, lacks nothing in beauty during the spring time months.  The snow flowers are the first to appear, often before the snow even melts away, soon followed by the Crocus covering the forest floor in a majestic sea of purple.  These early spring flowers are soon replaced by tulips, fruit tree blossoms, and many other flowers too numerous to name here.  Spring is my favorite season in Ukraine.  All of creation in every season testifies of God and proclaims His name and His handiwork.  The coming to life of creation in the spring time reminds me of God’s promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth.  What a glories day it will be to see God’s perfect creation where there will be no more pain and suffering or death, and every tear will be wiped away.

Safe Arrival

Hans

Early January we returned to Ukraine after a longer than usual stay in the U.S. due to the birth of our son, Hans.  What a blessing Hans has been to us!  As his name suggests, he has been a gift from God and an answer to prayer.  Hans is a Dutch/German name and short for Johannes.  Johannes is Dutch/German for John, in Hungarian Janos, and in Ukrainian, Ivan.

It has been an exciting return to Transcarpathia Ukraine with the whole family.  We have been warmly received and have been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and neighbors here.  It has been a busy month of January settling in and getting organized.  We have enjoyed beginning English lessons and English clubs.  We are already busy planning for summer camps and we are looking forward to more upcoming programs, activities, and Bible studies once the University semester begins in the middle of February.  Currently, college and university students are in the middle of a month-long exam period.

We were thankful that Hans traveled very well coming here.  He slept and watched all the activity on the air plane.  He had difficulty adjusting to the time change and for the first weeks had difficulty sleeping at night.  But now we can report that he has completely adjusted to the time change and life here.  We have not been so active with our blog or website in the past year with the pregnancy and birth of Hans, but we hope this year to be much more active in blogging, so we hope you will continue to follow along with what is happening here.  God Bless.

 

Peterfalva English Camp

1.DSC_0651

In the deep of winter, we are surrounded by cold and long nights. These dark evenings of middle winter are often the time we spend planning for summer programs.  Hours are spent in correspondence with potential volunteers and working out details with local schools and pastors who we partner with in conducting summer English/outreach camps.  The cold crisp air and the sound of crunching snow beneath your feet makes summer seems impossibly distant.  Yet summer will be here in a blink of an eye. It is also a time to reflect on this past summer while planning for the upcoming summer.

We have not done much updating on this blog in the past year due to business of life with a newborn and an extended time in the U.S. for the birth of our son Hans. We intend to be much more active this year in blogging and hope readers will follow along.  A good place to start is with a couple of blogs looking back at our English and outreach camps from the summer of 2016.

Our first English/outreach camp this past summer was a two-week English camp in our home village of Peterfalva, at our home school, the Peterfalva Reformed Lyceum. This camp is the original camp we have been a part of.  We have been partnering with the school in providing its students with a two-week language camp for the past 10 years.  The camp is part of the school curriculum and takes place every June.  We are always excited by the opportunity to spend two weeks with our students during the camp.  A typical day consists of morning English classes with sporting competitions, trivia nights, skits and many other activities happening in the afternoons and evenings.  All of the students must take part in a local service project in the community surrounding the school.  Students must choose between collecting trash at the riverside, visiting and singing for elderly and widowed women in the village, or organizing a Vacation Bible School afternoon at the local Roma kindergarten.  Days are also filled with two devotional periods led by volunteer teachers and a Singing hour.  We are thankful for this opportunity to grow closer to the students and we hope and pray that what they experienced, saw or heard in devotions will bring the students closer to God.  Enrollment at the Peterfalva Reformed Lyceum has been growing and this year we had nearly 100 students at the camp.  We were thankful to the 14 volunteers who traveled to Transcarpathia to teach in the camp and spend time actively living out their faith among our students.  Our volunteers this year in Peterfalva included a team of long term missionaries working in Kyiv with The Navigators organization as well as a short-term mission team from The Navigators from Iowa State University who came to Ukraine for one month and graciously spent 10 days of their time with us.  We also had one long term volunteer from Dordt College, Dylan Lundberg, who came for two months to help us in all our camps.  We were also helped with the camp by the local staff of the Peterfalva Reformed High School and from six local university students from a nearby college.  We praise God for the help and support of so many to make these camps possible. We click on this link to see other pictures, or visit the photo galleries.  http://iccdabroad.org/photo-galleries/peterfalva-english-camp-2/

1.DSC_0336

English Class

DSC_0799

Do you speak English???

Weekly we are thankful to God for the opportunity to hold elective English lessons for the students at the Peterfalva Reformed Lyceum, in the village where we live and work.  The students receive English grammar and language lessons from a qualified English teacher, much in the same way that many of us learned Spanish in high school.  The classes we offer provide an opportunity for students to speak with native English speakers and to put into practice what they are learning in the classroom.  Our classes fall on Mondays and Tuesdays due to the already demanding schedule of the students.  We have been amazed that each week between 40-60 students attend our 4 different classes.  Each of the four grades, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th, have the opportunity to come for a 50-minute lesson in the afternoons and evenings with us.  Most of the time we teach these classes together.  At times, though, when we are taken in opposite directions by multiple commitments and/or opportunities, only one of us teaches the lesson.

Our lessons are not compulsory for the students.  And, although the classes can be tiring at times due to the high (or sometimes, uncomfortably low!) energy level of the students, it is our hope that the students will continue to return each week!  Our classes range in both style and content in an attempt to encourage the students to be conversational in English.  We have taught praise and worship songs, such as Who am I and Blessed Be Your Name.  We have discussed breakfast and how it varies around the world.  We had a special Valentine’s Day lesson in which we discussed how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a secular way, but we also considered how as Christians we know of the greatest love, and how it has been demonstrated for us (John 3:16, 1 John 3:16).  We have also played a variety of games including Skip-Bo and spoons.  We have discussed personality and character and how to best describe the people in our lives … The list goes on and so does the variety!

The aim of these lessons is really two-fold; and interestingly, the students learning the English language is really neither of the two!  It is our hope and goal to build relationships with these students.  To not only know about them, but rather, to build relationships with them, to be approachable to them, welcoming and open, so that we might, by what we say, by what we do, and by how we live, present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.  And in doing so, achieve the second aim, to present them with a Christian World-View as it is lived out daily.  We are really glad and humbled that the Lord can use us in this endeavor.  I am reminded of a time when a former student of ours, now a dear friend, commented, “You know, we were always watching you two.  And we were especially curious by how you and Eric related to each other.  Not harsh, but in a thoughtful and kind manner.”  This remark blew us away!  To think that even our moment by moment interactions as a married couple are being so scrutinized by high school students!  Both humbling and scary for us!  What a reminder to take every thought captive for Christ!  Maybe that most succinctly conveys what the aim of these classes is, from 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  As well as Paul’s encouragement to Timothy, from 1 Timothy 4:12, to “…set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  To, by the grace of God, by his Spirit dwelling in us, to be counter culture, even in the small day to day interactions, moment by moment, to let our lives reflect the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Peterfalva English Singing Club

12787308_958126034276868_686938037_o

Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Psalm 95:1

During a week’s time, we are thankful to be a part of many different programs, lessons, Bible Studies, and the like.  But one of our favorite weekly programs occurs on Sunday evenings at the Hungarian Reformed boarding school in Peterfalva.  After the evening devotion, prayer, and singing, students who desire are invited to stay and learn English worship songs.   A group of about 20 students usually stay to sing and learn new English worship songs with us.  Some students attend because they like to sing, others because they want to practice their English language skills, and still others because they enjoy worshiping the Lord through music.

We are very thankful that Laci, one of the Dorm parents at the school, is an accomplished guitarist and with ease accompanies us as we sing.  One of the students, Mark, also plays the guitar very well and kindly shares his gift of music with us week after week.  Together they skillfully manage to make our noise undeniably more joyful!

Over the past weeks, we have enjoyed introducing the students to contemporary praise songs as well as treasured hymns.  Each week the students are quick to make songs requests.  Some of the frequently requested contemporary songs include Bless the Lord, O My Soul, You are My All in All, and Lord, I Need You.  Traditional hymns including Amazing Grace and God Himself is with Us have been quickly learned by the students and are also sung often.

Over the past couple weeks, we have been impressed with the students and their musicality, especially in a language that is not their mother tongue!  We asked the students if they would be interested in forming an English Singing Group and singing at various occasions.  To our surprise and delight, the students were eager for this opportunity.

Then, last week, in a nearby town called Beregszasz, the local Reformed young people hosted a week long Evangelization at the local Hungarian college.  Csilla, one of the university students involved in planning the Evangelization, invited us to come sing at the Evangelization.  So, in the days prior to, we practiced our songs, rented a bus that seated 26, and on a cold, damp, Wednesday evening drove the 50 kilometers to Beregszasz.  The evening began at 6:00 pm, so we departed for Beregszasz at 5:00 pm.  It doesn’t seem like such a distance, 50 kilometers, but the roads are in terrible condition, and while we thought we could get there with time to spare, we still managed to arrive five minutes late!  Immediately after the welcome was given, we were called up to the front to sing!  So, there was not really time to feel uneasy or nervous.  Our students and guitarists performed three songs: Bless the Lord, O My Soul, Amazing Grace, and Who am I?  We are very thankful to God that it went well.  The students sang simply and beautifully.

We were glad that we could be a part of the Evangelization, but we were also glad that these 20 students had the opportunity to hear the Gospel presented, as well to hear a personal testimony from a young lady who shared how the Lord has been at work in her life, and to partake in the worship service.  After the service was finished, we quickly departed, since it was a school night, and drove an hour back to Peterfalva.  Some of the staff at the school kindly waited for us with a hot supper upon our return.  It was a lovely evening and we were thankful for the opportunity to continue to develop relationships with these young people.

The students who participate really seem to enjoy learning new songs and singing together.  We also are glad for the opportunity, as it allows us to praise God in our mother tongue!  We continue to meet weekly on Sunday evenings, and we hope to have more opportunities to sing publically in the future.  We praise God for the opportunity to sing praises to his name, and also to proclaim his name to the nations.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  Psalm 95:1-2

 

Photo Credit: Norbert Tankóci

Video Credit: Debóra Seres

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

For many, International Women’s Day is a day heralding the many diverse achievements of women.  More recently, it has been a call to “accelerated gender parity” (http://www.internationalwomensday.com).  Despite its highly political sentiment for many, for others it has become likened to that of Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.  A day in which people express their love and affection for the women in their lives. The history of Women’s Day dates back as early as 1909, and some say was first celebrated in the U.S.A. during changing times as women struggled for civil rights.  Over the past century, the human rights movement has persistently brought the struggles of women to the forefront of society; to both humanity’s betterment, as many injustices against women have been quelled, but also to our detriment as God-ordained femininity has become increasingly murky in light of the pursuit of so called “gender parity”.

March 8 is the official date of International Women’s Day.  It is recognized as a state sanctioned holiday, and therefore, state institutions and schools are closed.  The Hungarian Reformed School in Peterfalva, however, remained open, but celebrated Women’s Day in a manner similar to that of Valentine’s Day.  In each of the four classes, the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grades, the boys made special plans to surprise their female classmates.  In the 9th class, for example, the boys, assisted by their history teacher, planned an afternoon party during a study hall of cupcakes, Coca-Cola, and red carnations for their female classmates.  I (Stacey) went looking for the 9th grade class in order to remind them of an English lesson; instead I was quickly shown to a seat at the table with the girl students, presented with a red carnation, and offered sweet treats to enjoy with the girls.  In the 10th class, the boys, made “palacsinta” or pancakes for the girls.  In the 11th class, the boys, armed with the help of their kind mothers, planned a special dinner for their female classmates and teachers at which they served the ladies, sang for them, and bestowed upon them a blessing.

Other local signs of International Women’s Day: the cooks in the kitchen at the school were given chocolate and flowers, the Pastor at the Reformed church presented all of the lady staff at the Reformed boarding school with flowers, and in the teacher’s staff room, the lady teachers were showered with flowers and chocolate.  Here in Transcarpathia, although International Women’s Day is observed, there is no political agenda.  Instead, there is a genuine heartfelt display of gratitude for the women in people’s lives, and it is seen as an opportunity to graciously express thanks to these women for the many different roles they fulfil.

A friend of mine shared on Facebook a poignant and meaningful message by John Piper, called The Ultimate Meaning of True Womanhood.  Below is the link.

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-ultimate-meaning-of-true-womanhood

In a world with an increasingly warped sense of masculinity and femininity, Piper succinctly conveys what “True Womanhood” is, with direct application for both the married and single woman.  To all the many precious ladies whom we call friends, family, and sisters in Christ, Happy Women’s Day!

Carpathian Mountain English Camp

DSC_0127

Carpathian Mountains July 27-29: Throughout the spring and winter months we have been invited to spend one afternoon a week teaching a conversational English class in a local university in Beregszasz, Ukraine. Beregszasz is a large city of Transcarpathia near the Hungarian border, which is home to the Rakoczi Ferenc Magyar Foiskola (Rakoczi Ferenc Hungarian College).  The head of the English faculty at the college has asked us the past three years to conduct a three day summer English Camp with students majoring in English at the college.  Many of these students we see throughout the year in weekly English classes and some of these students also make up the core of students attending our weekly Bible Study throughout the winter and spring months. We relish the opportunity to spend a few days with them in the summer at this short English camp.  Normally this camp consists of merely a few hours a day at the college in a class room.  Thanks to a grant from the Zondervan Foundation of Grand Rapids Michigan, we were able to move this camp off location to the Carpathian Mountains for three days of lectures, English lessons, hiking, and eating meals together.  It was a great opportunity to spend long days getting to know these students instead of just seeing them for a couple of hours in a class room.  We hope and pray that God can use this camp to encourage students in their faith and to lead others to faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  We thank Heather Kaemingk and Blake Gelderman for spending time with us in this camp and we would also like to thank Norm and Carol Bomer who graciously came and spent time with our university students teaching them about art and literature motivated out of a love for Christ.  Please see our gallery for pictures.  http://iccdabroad.org/photo-galleries/2015-carpathian-mountain-english-camp/