2020 English Camp Report

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This year we had to be creative in finding ways to hold camp without the normal help we receive from those who travel from the US to serve with us. Praise God for His provision of all the staff we needed and for the unity and giftings he provided so that we could have a successful camp. Some came from countries just outside of Hungary just before borders were closed again. One couple had just returned from their daughter’s wedding outside of Hungary and found out soon after that those in the wedding party including their son in law tested positive for Covid. By God’s grace, they tested negative with two tests and were able to serve at English Camp.

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Above: Péter and Arni on the "health squad" taking temperatures every morning as the kids come in for breakfast.

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Now that our kids are older, Sharon was freed up to teach one of the higher level English classes this year. Most of her students have had me as their teacher in the past, so it was good for them to get to know us even more this way. I was responsible to lead one of the Bible reading and conversation groups. Our daughter Ellie served as a translator for the first time and Kira served on the worship team and as a helper with the younger children. They also did a great job with a drama on Gospel Night.

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Above: Ellie and Kira serving with joy.

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Above: My group in Bible reading time.

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Above: Kira and Anna performing in a drama on Gospel Night.

After our first Bible reading lesson, we practiced a few memory verses that are written in the students’ booklets in English and Hungarian. On the first day, most of the students were able to say the memory verse, but when I asked Ákos if he could say the verse, he just shook his head. I knew he was capable, so I encouraged him with a smile and asked again. Then Ákos (picture below) said, “It’s not that I can’t memorize it and say it, it’s just that I don’t believe it, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

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Ákos didn’t say this in defiance and with attitude, but softly. I have had Ákos in the past and know he is very intelligent and kind. This gave me an opportunity to share with the rest of the students (many who were first-time campers) that we were not trying to force any of them to do anything they don’t want to do. I shared that I was a believer but I know many in the camp are not, and I have friends who are not believers. Ákos ended up saying the verse and the second day after our Bible study, he stayed after we finished to talk. God opened up an opportunity to share my personal testimony of finding worldly success at a young age and discovering that I was empty inside. I shared about experiencing vanity of life without knowing God through Jesus and having eternal life.

Later that night, the activity for the campers was Film Night. The movie we watched had many of the same themes I had discussed with Ákos just that morning. This type of weaving of themes seemed to be happening throughout the week, and the Gospel was being proclaimed through the Bible reading, personal testimonies in class and interactions throughout the week as campers sat and talked to staff.

In conversation time, we used a series of four pictures each day and asked the campers to choose a picture that expresses something about a question I would ask. One question was, “Which picture would you use to describe how you see or understand God or how you don’t believe in God?”

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Above: Sára (glasses, white shirt center) a first time camper picked a close-up picture of a person’s eye. She said, “This, one because I don’t believe what I cannot see. That is why I don’t believe in God.” Another student, Nimrod, also a first time camper, picked the same picture. He said, “I think this one, because God sees everything.” Later that night, we held our “Gospel Night” where we share a few testimonies and invite a Hungarian pastor to preach the Gospel. The Spirit was at work and continued to weave together what was happening to make the Gospel pierce their hearts. Éva who had no idea what we talked about in my group earlier shared in her testimony, “So many say that they just can’t believe what they don’t see. They just believe in the material world…” I thought to myself, this is exactly what Sára needs to hear as Éva went on. Unfortunately, after the invitation to stay after and talk to staff about what it means to believe and follow Jesus, Sára did not stay. But there were others that did stay, one of them being Nimrod from my group.

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Above: Nimrod reading the word in our morning English Bible study.

Nimrod was only at our camp because another camp he had planned to attend was canceled. Remaining in his seat after Gospel Night, Nimrod was in tears and said that he would have gladly talked about God in the past, but there was no one that seemed to be interested or showed any real faith in God. He has heard priests pray in the past and attended some religious meetings, but he said it was nothing like what he was experiencing at camp. He said he actually understood what we were talking about from the Bible and could relate to the testimonies that he was hearing not only that night but through the week.

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Above: Another first time camper, Péter (go purple team!) came because one of his friends who attended previously talked about how great our camps were. The activities like soccer and volleyball were the initial draw, but as he heard more and more about Jesus and the Gospel, Péter was another who stayed in his seat and put his faith in Jesus. There were others who wanted to recommit their lives to Christ and others where stayed to ask more questions.

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Above: Eniko, giving her testimony of how she came to know Jesus at an English Camp years ago.

As I surveyed the room, I rejoiced in my heart to see Gabi, Eszti, Szabi and our daughter Ellie talking to those who remained in their seats. I rejoiced in seeing Enikő (Gabi’s wife) give her testimony that night, and my daughters and youth group members Anna and Szabi presenting a powerful drama. I love seeing the next generation growing in their own faith and using their gifts to reach out to others.

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We asked Gabi (pictured above with daugher Aliz) to do a follow up meeting with those who made decisions at camp. Some of them asked questions like, “How do I know I have eternal life? How do I live the Christian life? What can I expect when I return home? How do I read the Bible? Where do I start?” It was clear that they were not just making a flippant decision but they were thinking of the future and what it means when they experience difficulties as they go back home.

I asked Nimrod about how the meeting went and he said, “It was great, but we needed more time.” There was still one day left and Gabi asked them to come again for a follow up meeting. This time, to Gabi’s surprise, they brought their friends along (even Ákos who I mentioned earlier who says he is an atheist) who were able to hear even more about what it means to become a follower by faith in Jesus Christ.

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As with camps in the past, even the kids that don’t seem interested are thinking deeply about things. Fanni (pictured above behind cups), who is also a first time camper told her roommate, “I would be glad to explore more about God and talk about these things, but I don’t know these people.” It often takes time to build trust and sometimes takes a few camps before the seeds that have been planted begin to take root and come to life.

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Above: Marti has attended multiple camps and is known as not being very talkative. Ellie developed a friendship with her a few years back and since then, Marti also travels to Petofibanya to attend our Baseball camp staying the week at our house. Ellie has often looked for open doors to talk to Marti about faith in Jesus. This year, hanging out with Marti at the pool, she said, "How did Kira become a Christian? Did she just grow up believing?" This gave Ellie an opportunity to share more about Kira's decision and what it means to become a Christian.

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Above: I saw Niki multiple times talking one-on-one with staff and even reading through the Bible with them. Please pray for her to have continued contact with those who can help her to grow and understand what it means to follow Jesus by faith.

Please pray for those who have put their faith in Jesus to find healthy Christian fellowship. Pray for those that live much further away from our church plants to find those who can mentor them and encourage them in their faith in Christ.

Our family is leaving for vacation for a week, and when we return, we begin our biggest camp of the summer. We have 122 kids registered for VBS in Petőfibánya and would appreciate your prayers as church members continues to prepare this week.

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VBS in Jászfényszaru

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A few months ago, one of our partners in ministry, Erika had changed her workplace from teaching in a local school to teaching kids in foster care. As summer approached, she saw the opportunity to invite a group of these foster kids to our VBS. Seven ended up attending along with two other workers from the foster home (pictured above). It was clear that this group of kids from broken homes, a past of disappointments and abuses came into VBS with their guard up. We trusted that God would give them an amazing dose of His love and a taste of the ways of His kingdom through us which would break down those defensive facades. In addition to these foster kids, we also had a group of 14 Romani kids register for our camp who live in Jászfényszaru.

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As some of you know, there is ongoing discrimination against the Romani in Hungary. How would this camp go? How would the mix of Hungarians and Romani kids and foster kids work out? We set our eyes on Jesus, continued to put our faith in Him to use us and this camp for His purposes.

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The theme of our camp was the "Land of Miracles”. We took over 80 kids on a journey through Paul’s life from his salvation experience to the many trials and deliverances he experienced as he followed Jesus as Lord and Savior. Although we had a smaller group of workers than usual for this VBS, we were grateful for every volunteer and how God strengthened us and united us. I was blessed to see the Body of Christ using so many gifts and talents to fulfill their specific roles at camp. I was especially encouraged with our older teens who continue to mature in their faith. They used games, drama, worship and some shared their own stories of how they met Jesus in the small group time each day.

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Above: Our girls Kira and Ellie helping with a beautiful attitude in worship.

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Above: Anna reaching out in compassion and Christ's love.

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Initially, the group from the foster home were very hesitant to talk, and participate in group activities. But as the week went on, you could see the hardness melting away as they began singing along in worship, sharing in small group time and connecting with some of the leaders in free time.

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Above: One of the kids, Lolli was invited to stay after to hang out with the older teens who were serving at VBS. They continued to bond and talk throughout the week. When Lolli returned to his foster home at the end of the week, he said he wanted to become a Christian. Thankfully, because of Erika working at this foster care center, we will have continued contact with those who attended, and some have already registered to attend our teen camping weekend in August.

On the second day of camp, Zsanet, a mother and friend of another camp worker who happened to be attending had a seizure at the end of the day. Thankfully, her youngest child did not witness it, but her older daughter was the one who discovered her mother on the ground in this condition. As Zsanet came out of her seizure, I had an opportunity to pray for her and also talk to her daughter to comfort her. The medics came and released her to go home and her children returned to VBS a few days later. We praise God that this seizure didn’t happen as she was driving her family home and that there were no complications afterwards.

On Friday, late in the afternoon, it began to rain for the first time at VBS. This year, we have everything outside because of government requirements due to the virus, so rain posed a problem if it were to continue. Everyone was flexible and found ways to do games and crafts under the tents to finish the day, but we needed God to bring clear skies for Saturday as this was the day for entire families to come and spend time together. The forecast had all of Hungary covered with rain clouds, and a 70% chance in Jászfényszaru for Saturday. As we laid down to sleep Friday night, it continued to pour. Looking out my door on Saturday morning, there was a slight drizzle in Petofibanya (which is half an hour away from our VBS site). As I drove to pick up a family that was attending, the kids said, “Today is going to be the best day! There won’t be any rain in Jászfényszaru!” Our Father is giving good gifts every day, and that Saturday, He moved the clouds away and by afternoon the sun was shining. There was absolutely no rain!

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Above: We had a great turn out of parents and were thankful for those who participated in our small group time. Zsolti, who lives in Jászfényszaru was able to share his testimony, along with Norbi, and Bogi. It was great to hear how Jesus saved each of them from various backgrounds.

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Erika (pictured center with husband), one of the workers at the foster care center, was surprised that her husband came in and sat down to listen. She shared with Sharon that her husband is an avid atheist and it took some nudging to even get him to come to camp for family day. It sounds like he has had some bad experiences from those who claimed they were believers. I hope that what he experienced on Saturday helped him to see the real Jesus and hear about His truth, love and grace.

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After a very positive experience last year, Eszter (pictured above, center) also attended this year. She lives just 5 minutes away from our town, but did not end up visiting our church or youth group ministry last year after VBS. On Sunday after camp this year, I was surprised to see her with her dad at our worship service! I honestly don’t know if her dad was planning on dropping her off and running…it seemed that way to me. But as everyone greeted them and Miki began conversing with Eszter’s dad, he seemed to be willing to stay. In our time of singing and even as I preached, he stood in the back close to the exit. Then came our time for small groups that we do after our message and I see him moving toward the front to join Miki’s small group! Praise God for drawing him in and giving him an opportunity to know Jesus Christ.

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Above: On family day, one of our church members donates his time and business bringing an inflatable slide and also cotton candy for all the kids (and adults of course)!

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Many seeds have been planted through this VBS and we ask that you pray that we have wisdom to know how to follow up and continue to reach out to those who need Jesus. Pray for those foster kids, and for the Romani kids and their families. Pray for Eszter and her dad. And please pray for more open doors as we will be meeting with some of these kids again in an upcoming teen camping trip in August.

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Currently, we’re preparing for English Camp which is from this Saturday July 25th to Aug 1st. Would you consider joining in prayer by following a private prayer blog? Please contact us for the address and password. We would love for you to partner in prayer!

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