Hope filled NewYear

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Above: The Mercers, Allen, Sharon, Benjamin, Elianna, Kira and Ziva.


We know that many of you have suffered great difficulty and challenges in 2021 and are in need of renewal and hope. Isaiah 40:29 tells us that our God "Gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength". What an encouragement to know that our God helps the faint, the weary and the exhausted! Isaiah goes on to say in verse 31, "But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles." When you are without strength and feel you can go no further in life, there is our Lord Jesus ready to provide renewal to those "who wait for the Lord". I believe 2022 is a year filled with hope, because our hope is in Jesus who proved His amazing love for us at the cross. Our God will have new mercy ready for us every day. Our Savior will provide for all of our needs as we seek His kingdom first. And the passing of another year will only bring us that much closer to the return of Jesus and His ultimate reign as our King. May God renew your strength and bless you in this new year with living hope in Christ!

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Above: One of the projects I worked on the weeks leading up to Christmas was to paint this Nativity mural to be displayed in the front of the local elementary school in our home town. Kids, parents and teachers pass by this area every day and we also posted a series of posters with the Biblical account of the birth of our Savior Christ.

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Above: Miki dropping off Puppet Ministry Gift Packets for kids in local schools.

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Above: Because of Covid, we have not been able to travel to schools to perform our Christmas Puppet show, however we were able to deliver our puppet ministry gift packets to children and teachers. Our hope is that the restrictions will be lifted this year, and we'll be reunited with school kids this Easter.

Christmas Choir


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Above: Church member Gizi giving big hugs to Elianna and overjoyed to sing songs about our Savior at Christmas.

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Because of the restrictions related to Covid, we had to keep a safe distance and meet outside for our Christmas choir's performance at the retirement home in the neighboring village of Rozsaszentmarton. God transformed GIzi from a life of bitterness and depression (because of the loss of her child), to a vibrant and joyous woman who spreads Christ's love. She had to move to this retirement home a few years ago and since that time has been on mission to serve her peers and look for opportunities in sharing the Gospel. What a joy to see the impact she is having in her old age.

Mothers of Preschoolers ministry


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Above: Teammate Heidi continues to keep connected with mothers of young children through MOP's ministry.

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We're thankful for these friendships with those who do not yet understand the Gospel and for opportunities to share Christ's love with them.

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Above: We held a Christmas outreach for these families, with singing, a puppet show, crafts and a free photo session for family portraits. Heidi wrote out her personal testimony and we included it with an invitation to our upcoming Christmas worship service. We praise God for a great turn out and for the open door to share the Gospel.

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Above: One of the family portraits from the Christmas outreach.

God is drawing this family to Himself in multiple ways. Their daughter Rebi (above center) who has been attending our VBS for years made a decision this past summer at camp. Their family lives on the same street as our Hungarian partners in ministry and the mother and father have begun attending an Alpha Course at Miki's house once a month. Please pray for parents like these who have known us through VBS for years but still do not understand their need for Jesus.

Christmas Youth Group Gathering


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Above: Brenda attending youth group with her little sister Korina. I've been meeting with Brenda, along with teens Lili, Barni and Betti to study God's word together. Please pray for the youth in our church to be strengthened in their faith and know Jesus more deeply.

New Year's Eve Worship Service


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Above: It's our tradition to come together New Year's Eve and celebrate as the body of Christ. We sang together, heard from God's word, prayed and had lots of fun playing games into the night. We were thankful for visitors and parents of kids who have attended VBS spend some time with us.

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The blessing of 18 years serving together


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Above: Miki (center) holding his daughter Anna with his wife Erika standing to his left in 2002. Sharon far right holding Benjamin.

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Above: Miki and Erika with their youngest Naomi, their son Bence and their daughter Anna with her fiancé Patrick.

In our training as missionaries, we often heard the fact that the number one reason missionaries leave the field is relational problems with team members. It is a work of God's grace to have given us growing unity and friendship with our Hungarian partners Miki and Erika for over 18 years. God has used us in each other's lives to sharpen one another, bring counsel, healing and correction. We've been through many conflicts, difficulties and deep waters together in ministry and God has never failed to show us His faithfulness in helping us maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. What a blessing to have faithful Hungarian partners in ministry!

Miki and Erika's oldest daughter Anna (far right) is pictured with her fiancé Patrik. They plan to be married June this year and have given me the privilege to join their hands in marriage. These are special kids (now young adults). So much of our ministry these days involves our own kids who have gone from being little children in our camps to writing and performing dramas, sharing the Gospel, being part of the worship team, teaching and organizing various church ministries. It is such a sweet season seeing them using their unique giftings in serving Jesus but we know that this season won't last forever. God has plans for our kids that may involve them moving away to new harvest fields. We already are preparing for our oldest daughter Ellie to be in the US this year as she will begin a new season of life as a freshman in college. We appreciate your prayers for Ellie as she makes her final decision as to which college to attend.

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Above: Our PI teammates Roger and Heidi and our Area Leader Cathy. We also are thankful for our fellow PI missionaries that have been so faithful through the years. Our team has gone through various changes in the past two years, as long-time teammate Brenda has returned to the US and Tom who served with us for years is also returning in February. We would appreciate prayers for God to raise up new team members to strengthen our church planting team in Hungary.

Szalagavató!


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Above: In December, Ellie had her "Szalagavató" which is a type of ribbon ceremony for seniors in high school similar to a special event like a prom in the US. The seniors receive ribbons recognizing they are on their way to graduating. They also prepare comical skits for parents and teachers and perform a special ball room dance with their class.

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Above: If you listen closely you can hear me saying, "1, 2, 3, oops, 1, 2, wait, what…" as Ellie gives me a quick lesson in dancing.

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Our family greets you from Hungary and we thank all of you for your continued partnership and kindness toward us. We will be taking a furlough this summer and fill you all in with the details when the time approaches. We would appreciate your prayers as Ellie makes her decision about which college she will attend in the US, prayers for the youth in our church to continue to flourish in their faith, prayers for our team to continue in unity and be guided with God's wisdom as to the path forward.
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November Update

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Above: Ellie, Kira, Ziva and Sharon. Greetings from Hungary from the Mercers :) Though we once again experience a change of season and many changes because of the challenges of the pandemic… though we feel the current of changes in our culture that affect our everyday experience, we take courage and live with hope because, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” (Lam 3:22) We are not moved to despair in our spirit because, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)

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Above: Sharon and Ellie together at a women's retreat in Cyprus. Sharon's story below…

4 years ago I attended a women’s retreat in Poland. In 2017 our church, team and marriage were all in a state of chaos and I wasn’t sure that God was going to allow us to remain in Hungary. I was deeply broken. This year in October, I had the chance to attend a similar women’s retreat, but this time it was held in Cyprus. I signed up, but felt it wasn’t very likely to happen with all of the Covid related restrictions. Miraculously, as the time approached for the retreat, the borders were still open and with a fresh PCR test I was able to board the plane.

During the first evening session the question was posed to the attendees, “Why has God brought you here?” As I began to ponder and pray I felt that the Lord was telling me that it was to celebrate. I was initially confused, but as I remembered the situation from 4 years ago everything came into focus. How many wonders God has done in these past 4 years to bring restoration, not just to my own soul, but to so many around me? Praise God with me for all he has done to bring healing to our marriage, team and church. And praise God that as he has restored us, he has also given us the opportunity to play a part in God’s redemptive work for others as well. — Sharon

Do you want to go away as well?


“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:66

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Those piercing words of Jesus in John 6: “Do you also want to leave me?” From the time of my salvation in Jesus to this day, the thought has never occurred to me of leaving Jesus. His life and His way have been THE only desire, THE only option in my life. And this is why I am sometimes burdened and saddened and confused as I travel through this season of life in church-planting ministry. Over the past year it seems I am seeing this scene played out over and over again. I can think of four men who have made a profession of faith, been baptized and have walked with Christ for years, but have lost focus, lost passion, lost signs of life in Christ. These men with so much potential, so much opportunity for growth, so much support have been in some way offended that Jesus was requiring ALL of their life. It was time to die to some desire, die to some perspective, die to some attachment to sin, but instead of dying they chose to say in their hearts: "This is too much Jesus. Following you costs too much." And just as I read in John 6, I see happening in my own experience: "Many left and no longer wanted to be associated with Jesus."

Why? Why is this happening Lord? Who will be the future leaders? Who will become Christlike husbands? Who will say with all of their lives that you are worth it Lord Jesus? Please pray for these men in our church who have backslidden to come to repentance and be freed from deception. Pray for God to raise up leaders who know the love of God and will have the power of God’s Spirit working in them to persevere in their faith. Pray for us as leaders to know how to speak truth in love, how to discipline, how to mentor so that more and more come to maturity in Christ.

God working in the hearts of the youth


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Above: Following a great time of summer outreach through camps, the Spirit has continued to bring teens like Szabi (above with guitar) to greater maturity in Christ. I have seen Szabi begin taking real steps of faith in reaching out to classmates, sharing his testimony and helping organize youth group meetings. Our Hungarian teammate Miki has begun to meet with four young men like Szabi for weekly training in youth group ministry.

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Above: Every Friday we hold a youth group meeting and are thankful for a growing number of teens that attend. Many of the new faces are from our hometown's public school where our teammate Roger has been teaching Faith Classes. As our older teens are closer to attending college and have been discipled over the past few years, we are excited to see a new wave of younger teens being drawn to God by His grace!

Planting Youth Groups?


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Above: Our Hungarian church-planter teammate's daughter Anna with her fiancé Patrik. After being long term members and helpers in our Friday youth group, Patrik and Anna felt the call to jumpstart a youth group ministry in another town where they heard about the need. Both of them literally grew up in our midst and have years of experience serving along side of us in camp ministry and other outreaches. Although we will miss their presence and giftings in our Friday meeting, we know God wants to see more teens throughout Hungary come to know the Gospel and are thankful for being a part of encouraging them to "Go and make disciples." They report that they already have a great core-group each week and are excited as to what the future holds. Please pray for Anna and Patrik and the new youth group in the town of Jászberény.

Conference Organized by our youth


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In a time where teens are looking for ways of connecting with one another after lock-down measures and the busyness of school, Szabi from our youth group began making plans to gather teens from various areas together for a conference in November. Our theme was "God as your home": “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” (Eph 2:19) There were around 50 teens from 4-5 areas that came to attend with a mix of believers and unbelievers.

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Above: One of a group of teens from a local foster home attending the youth conference.

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Above: Csenge (center) brought two unsaved friends from college to the conference. Csenge grew up hearing the Gospel through our VBS and Baseball Camps and was later saved and baptized in our church. Over the years, she has had her struggles as she does not live in our town and doesn't have the spiritual support of a local church in her area. But God has been faithful time and time again to draw her back and has caused the seeds that He has planted to take root in her heart. After some final exams, Csenge and her friends hopped on a train to our town to stay with Csenge's grandmother Edit.

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Above: Edit's baptism in 2014. Edit, who was also saved through our church's outreach, continues to shine the light of Christ in the community as a teacher in the local middle school. Edit shared with me that when her granddaughter Csenge and her friends returned to her home after the conference they were deeply impacted. Csenge shared stories with them about summer camps as they watched highlight films together. Her friends commented about how they understood Csenge's excitement and love for God. Now that Csenge's friends have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, pray that the Spirit may guide them to find new life by putting their faith in Jesus Christ.

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Above: The youth group also presented a powerful drama at the conference. Kira portrayed a lost rebellious teen who is drawn to Jesus and saved and restored back into relationship by the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ.

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Above: Merci (right) has been visiting our church the past few weeks. She was invited to church and the conference by church member Lili (you will read about her baptism below). Merci is from an unsaved background and has been very open to hearing more about Jesus Christ. Please pray for Merci to be brought into the kingdom of God and become fully transformed by the love of Jesus.

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Above: The teens finished the conference with some friendly dances we've used in previous camps. We praise God for providing them all a safe place to spend time together, hear the Word, discuss how it impacts their lives and of course time to laugh together. This was a great time to be encouraged in their faith together and become a more connected generation of believers that have a powerful impact in Hungary.

Foster Home Visit


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Above: Hungarian teammate Erika (far right) has been working in this foster home for the past year. A group of these foster kids attended our VBS and Erika has been looking for ways for us to remain connected. In this visit, my daughter Ellie and I joined Miki and Erika to sing some songs, play some games and I was able to share my testimony.

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Please pray for Erika as she continues to show the love of Christ to these kids. Pray also for these teens who come from very difficult backgrounds to find the healing they need in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Hungary to the World Mission's Conference


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Above: We brought Lili, Bence, Beni and Kira to a recent "Hungary to the world" Missions Conference to hear great testimonies of how God has sent Hungarian's oversees in mission's work. This conference was organized by fellow PI workers to raise awareness of mission opportunities and come along side anyone who is ready to take next steps.

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Above: Máte (center) was our pastor when we lived in Budapest for the first two years of our ministry in Hungary. It was great to be reunited with him at this conference and hearing how God has been at work.

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Above: The conference was held at the Montazs Coffee House. Building this coffee house was our first project in the first two years living in Hungary as we sought to provide a neutral place to interact with the community and share the Gospel of Christ. After leaving for new church planting work in Petofibanya, we left this coffee house ministry to be used by the church and unfortunately, it just sat for many years. But God raised up a new team that renovated it, developed a business plan and re-opened the coffee house years later. We rejoice in seeing how this space is being used by various church gatherings and outreaches!

Baptism of Lili, Brenda and Barni



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We rejoice in Lili (pictured above), Brenda and Barni's faith in Jesus and their steps to proclaim their faith in Christ through baptism. Be encouraged as you read excerpts from their testimonies of how Christ became their Savior and Lord:

Lili: I was born into a Christian family where I believed that God existed. When I was 4 or 5 years old, my dad asked me if I wanted to put my faith in Jesus. I said yes and asked God to forgive my sins and to be with me forever. I remember at that moment that Jesus moved into my heart and from that day on He has never turned away from me. But now came the question about how I lived out what I believed. I was 8 years old when I came to understand more clearly that Jesus came to the earth and became human and suffered for me so that I could be free. He died on the cross and was raised on the third day from the dead. And I recommitted my life to him. This happened at summer camp. I was on an emotional high because of this change in my heart. But when I went back to school, everything cooled down. I was drawn into being part of the crowd at school and didn’t pay attention to what God’s will was for my life. I just did what I wanted to do. I focused on what others thought about me and what others were doing. I had turned away from God, but He still did not turn away from me.

Anxiety began to grow in my life as I was being controlled with fear of what others thought. At that time our family didn’t attend church and I stopped attending summer camps. But when I was 12 my older sister invited me to a Christian camp. God spoke to me through testimonies that challenged me to stop being ashamed of Jesus in my life. There was no reason to be ashamed of the one person who loved me the most and offered the greatest sacrifice for me. I decided I didn’t want to keep him a secret any longer. I didn’t want to live without Him. I didn’t want to live according to my own will which actually wasn’t the best for my life. God’s will is best for my life. And that summer I told my classmates and friends about my faith in Jesus. I told them that I was a child of God and I want to live for him. Ninety percent of them turned away from me. But I was thankful. That group of kids that I hung out were leading me the wrong direction and God saved me from going along with them.

Since that time, I’ve still experienced valleys in my life, but I know that I went through those times with the Lord's help. He gave me the strength to get through. God encouraged me with Psalm 56 that says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” There was so much anxiety and fear in my life and this word reminded me that there is nothing to fear if God is for me. When these fears come back into my life, God also gave me another verse in Psalm 56:11 “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” I came into this world with purpose. God knew me as He formed me in my mother’s womb. He knew that I would be standing here as a 17 year old sharing my testimony in this church. His plan is the best plan for me. And I have received this through Jesus Christ. He is my life. I want to live my life for Him and with Him.


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Above: Brenda has invited her mother (center red shirt) to church and she has already attended on multiple occasions, including Brenda's baptism. Please pray for Brenda's mom to come to understand the good news that has transformed Brenda's life. Pray also for Brenda's little sister Korina who has also attended VBS and is now attending our youth group.

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Above: Brenda's sister Korina (right)

Brenda: I didn’t grow up with parents that were believers. There is no one in my family that are Christians. I was around 8 or 9 years old when I attended my first VBS and heard about Jesus. I also attended Baseball Camp where we talked a lot about God, sang together and heard teaching. But I think I was just too young to really grasp what they were teaching. I needed to grow up spiritually to truly put my faith in Jesus and know how to live. This past summer, I began visiting church after a long period of being away. This time, I felt ready to hear about God and I began to understand not just in my mind, but in my heart. In July, I went through a really difficult time and was really hurt because of a relationship. I can’t imagine ever being free from the effects of that disappointment without the help of the Lord setting me free.

Before I knew the Lord, my life was full of judging others, and always being emotionally hurt by others. I had all kinds of anger in my heart. There was no way for me to deal with all of this anger and pain. I needed Him to rescue me. Back in July before I finally decided to put my faith in Jesus. I didn’t understood that God was already working in my heart. I thought that becoming a Christian was some kind of super long process. But after I heard teaching to the contrary, I knelt down one night and poured out my heart to God. I was weeping. And the Lord removed the terrible burden of anger that ate away at my heart.

After I put my faith in Jesus, I began going to youth group and to church and I could have never imagined my life changing the way He has been changing me.


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Barni: I’m thankful that I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve always known that the Lord existed and what Jesus did for us. Instead of reading fairytales, my parents read stories from the Bible. I remember whenever I had bad dreams I would ask for my parents to pray for me and I wouldn’t have them afterwards. So there was already evidence of the Lord’s work in my life. When I was 8 or 9 years old walking our dog, I prayed a prayer of faith to be saved with my dad and Jesus moved into my heart. But in reality, I didn’t know what all of this would mean for me.

I ended up in a school with a bad group of kids. They filled their time with finding ways of hurting others. I ended up putting all my attention on what other people thought instead of what God thought about my life. Later I found out I wasn’t accepted to a school I was applying to which increased my sense of worthlessness. I was drifting even further away from God. I had classes that taught about faith, but they didn’t really help. And I wasn’t attending any church where I could actually be with other believers. I fell deeper and deeper into depending on what other people thought about me. I pretended that life was great, and that I didn’t have any problems but when I came home each day, I was totally broken inside. I had no real spiritual support.

Then the quarantine came which was very difficult. This is when I was at my lowest and felt I had absolutely nothing in life. I was cut off from everything and no matter what I did I felt something was missing. And what I was missing was God.

Then I ran into Patrik at one of the bus stops and we got to know each other. Patrik invited me to Petofibanya’s youth group where I continue to attend to this day. This was a gift of God’s grace. And in that time God led me to Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” I am experiencing this in my life as He has given me a group of friends that love me and I don’t have to pretend any more. I have been given this youth group and a relationship with God. I prayed that my dependence on what other people thought of me would fade away and God also answered that prayer. Even though I thought I was worthless and I had no future, God has always had a plan for me and today is part of that plan.

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Above: Barni embraced by his mother and sister after his baptism.

Hungary and Covid


As with all other nations, we are experiencing the fourth wave of Covid. Currently the country has no special lock-down measures and we are able to meet for public worship service. We have also initiated a men's and women's group meeting in our home in Petofibanya as well as continued the ongoing meetings in the towns of Jászfényszaru, Bogács and Apc. The isolation imposed by restrictions has really threatened the practice of Biblical fellowship as believers and we ask that you pray for our church and ministries to continue to successfully encourage and equip the saints even with these difficulties.

As we look forward to the end of November and into December, pray that God may keep the door open for using our church's choir, puppet distributing gift CD packets, holding a Mother's of Preschooler outreach in December and finally having our special Christmas worship service. All of these can be affected by new lock-down measures, but God can show us the way to proclaim His Good News through it all!

Family


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Above: Sharon celebrated her birthday at the end of September. Are we sure those numbers are right on that cake?

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Above: Ben continues to attend college in Budapest and lives close to campus. He recently had a bout with Covid, but is fully recovering by God's grace. Pray for Ben to come to a deep heart knowledge of Jesus and to grow in knowledge and understanding at school.

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Thank you all for continuing to prayerfully and financially support us. We are privileged to have you partnering with us in this long-term ministry in Hungary. May the Peace of Christ be with you! “Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)
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