We are sorry that this update on the English Club ministry in Hungary is late in coming. We have been so busy these past weeks preparing the final lessons, planning the Christmas party, and making connections with our students and fellow teachers. It has been a busy, fruitful time here, with many hearts knit together by the Lord. In closing, we’d like to give a summary of the many exciting ways we’ve seen the Lord at work here:
As mentioned in one of our previous updates, during this past summer it was decided that this fall’s English Club would have more emphasis on conversation/community rather than on grammar, and that each meeting would have an interesting theme paired with a Bible-related passage/story and more group activities. We were given sample lesson plans from a club where this method worked well, and we adapted, revised, and added to these for this fall’s English Club classes, which met for nine weeks with identical lessons offered on Mon evenings and Fri mornings. Each class had large- and small-group activities, five language levels represented, dedicated small-group teachers/translators available as needed, and lesson plans tailored by the small-group teachers/translators for each language level. In addition to these English Club classes, we (Pam and Tom) also taught an intermediate English Book Class, with more emphasis on grammar, for nine weeks on Wed evenings. Of the more than 70 people who signed up for the English Club classes and/or English Book Class this fall, about 55 to 60 attended on a regular basis, with some attending all three classes each week!
Our first English Club lesson was “The Challenge of Communication,”which included the question, “Does God communicate with us today?” Interesting discussions followed, with students sharing ways in which they believe that the Lord has spoken to them through the Bible and the Holy Spirit. We could sense an overall hunger for relating with the Lord, and since some of the students are unbelievers, this was a great opportunity for the believers to share with them the reality of a living relationship with Christ.
The next lesson was “God Created a Perfect World,” exploring the creation account and asking, “If God created a perfect world, what happened to change it?” Interesting discussions followed, including a few probing questions by the students, such as, “If God knows everything and He knew that people would rebel, why did He create them in the first place?” This prompted the small-group teacher (me, Pam) to pray to the Lord to help her to answer this question! Thankfully the following lesson, “Paradise Lost,” presented the account of the Fall and gave us the opportunity to more fully explore the subjects of man’s free will, temptations of the evil one, and God’s plan for mankind’s ultimate rescue.
The next lesson, “Taking a Condemned Man’s Place” presented the true story of a man who volunteered to be killed in order to save another man from death, and it was exciting to see the students make the connection with Jesus Christ, the ultimate substitutionary sacrifice. The following lesson was about the Prodigal Son, “A Father’s Great Love,” and students were asked to consider various scenarios where forgiveness was called for, and to ultimately consider how, in Christ, we can be forgiven of all our sins. It was great to see the faces of some of the students light up when we discussed this great gift of grace that Jesus has provided for us, and it was a good opportunity to challenge the false gospel of works-based salvation.
To fan this flame of hope, in the next lesson we showed the “Butterfly Circus” video, in which a character played by Christian evangelist Nick Vujicic, a man without arms and legs, is set free from the “cocoon” of despair (summarized by the line, “The more difficult the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.”). This video was paired with a small-group activity in which we explored three seemingly hopeless situations, all of which ended victoriously, the third one being the story of Jesus healing the man by the pool of Bethesda who had been an invalid for 38 years (John 5:2-9). Some students expressed amazement, and even tears, during and after the video of the victorious “limbless man,” and great glory was given to the One who gave him hope.
As an added bonus, after this lesson we showed the DVD “The Board,” based on Pastor Colin Smith’s 2002 sermon series “Battles from the Boardroom of the Soul” (and which English Club teacher Karen Zmrhal had brought from The Orchard). At least 12 students stayed to watch and were deeply impacted by this DVD, with one of them coming up to Karen afterwards in tears saying, “This is what I needed, and I want to share it with one of my friends” (and Karen wonderfully provided her and at least nine other students with a copy of the DVD, praise the Lord!).
We then had a week devoted to the subject of Thanksgiving, in which we discussed the U.S. Thanksgiving and took time to verbally express our gratefulness to God and to each other. It was inspiring to hear so many of the Christian students publicly thanking the Lord for the eternal life that is provided for them through their faith in Jesus, and what a great witness this was to the unbelievers in the classes. We also took time to discuss the story of the ten lepers who were healed, with only one coming back to express thanks to Jesus for their healing (Luke 17:11-19).
This lesson led up to the “peak week,”in which we discussed the biblical account of “A Father’s Struggling Faith,” about the man who cried out to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-29). And we also heard the testimonies of two born-again Christians (one on Mon and one on Wed) about how they came to saving faith in Christ. This was an excellent opportunity for the students to consider the ultimate question of “How are we saved?” And excellent discussions followed, with the biblical truth of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice lovingly presented. We sensed the Holy Spirit at work, with “light bulbs” of realization turning on in a number of the students. It was a very encouraging time, and one for which we will continue to pray for the Lord to bring the increase (1 Corin 3:7) of fruit for the seeds that have been planted (both now and in past years), watered, and seen to grow. All praise and glory to the Lord! And thank all of you for your prayers!
The following two weeks were devoted to Christmas themes, culminating in a great Christmas Party in which Hungarian Bibles (with both Old and New Testaments) were presented as gifts to all of the students, and an inspiring testimony was given by one of our translators who came to Christ out of a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ background.
Through all of these weeks there was a welcoming, loving atmosphere in which fellowship was experienced and friendships were made. The teachers and translators were able to present the material without sounding preachy, and people who held unbiblical views of salvation were gently guided to biblical truth. In keeping with our conviction that it is our responsibility in the English Club classes to present the truth of scripture and not to force it, we are entrusting our students’ souls to the Holy Spirit, that He will bring the unbelievers into a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and the believers to a revival that will strengthen and encourage their souls.
Special moments that we’ll never forget include the following: a woman brought to tears as she expressed her hunger for a real relationship with the Lord; a woman sharing a story she wrote about how Jesus can heal a broken life; a woman from a broken home being encouraged by the fellowship of believers; a woman saying, “ I’m not a believer, but I want to be,” and our encouragement to her that Jesus will help her to believe; a woman from a failed marriage expressing interest in drawing closer to the Lord and going to church; a woman with troubled children expressing her desire to have more faith in Jesus to help her with her kids, and our encouragement to her that Jesus will help her to have the faith she needs to depend on Him; a Catholic woman saying “I hope so,” in response to our question, “Do you believe you are going to heaven?” and our encouragement to her to trust in Jesus’ sacrifice and free gift of eternal life; a man expressing antagonism towards the Lord and His gospel, and later showing conviction and remorse over this; a young man expressing profound, probing questions about the Bible, but nevertheless expressing a real, childlike faith in Jesus.
For all of the precious, beloved students who attended our English Club and English Book classes this fall, we pray for the Lord to bless them abundantly and to draw them ever nearer to Himself, for His infinite glory and their eternal good. Amen!
Special thanks to the wonderful, dedicated teachers and translators that have served in the English Club Ministry this fall: Mark and Jodi Revell, Karen Zmrhal, Randall and Timi Stone, Beverly Sellers, András Kiss, Niki Lukacs, Orsi Lajos-Berla, and Cassidy Baker.
We will spend our last few weeks here connecting with some of our students and fellow teachers, helping our new missionary friends welcome their new baby boy, packing/cleaning, attending some church services, etc. We look forward to seeing many of you upon our return to the Chicago area. Thank you again so much for your prayers and support. May the Lord be forever praised for His mercy and grace towards us!