Thursday, May 22, 2014

Team from Howard Payne University serves in Slovakia

Dr. Melody Maxwell along with five students from the International Missions Practicum class from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, spent a week ministering and learning in Važec, Slovakia.  Their days began by teaching English in the local school.  We shared with the team beforehand that this was the first time we had offered something like this in Važec and were concerned about how it would go.  The HPU group were so well prepared and taught so well, the school opened doors to us for future ministry teams to serve the community in this way.  Excellent job, guys!

Each afternoon the team conducted a children's club with Roma children from the settlement in Važec.  Activities were followed by a Bible Story with the theme of the lesson reinforced with a handmade craft.  It got more than just a little loud in the room when we had more than twenty children show up on day one!  The children were so excited to spend time together with the HPU team that a few began to show up more than an hour early.  Because of really bad weather, we had to cancel a cookout planned for Thursday.  Instead, we enjoyed the hot dogs and s'mores indoors.

On Friday we were all treated to a special dinner at the home of Danka Šeďova.  She made a fantastic pot of goulash and homemade dessert.  But that wasn't all that was homemade.  As is common, a salty snack was put on the table after the sweet dessert.  Danka's husband Daniel had made korbačiky, little whips made of cheese, from the milk of their cow!  After dinner we had a blessed time of worship and games with the youth/young adult group at the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church.

The team relocated to Krakow, Poland after saying all our goodbyes and stopping by a very foggy Štrbske Pleso.  In Krakow, we visited the Schindler Museum as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau.  It is difficult to process everything you experience after witnessing these places and realizing what took place.  However, the memories will stay with the team for a while as they have opportunity to think about everything they saw.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Not Far From Easter

The Sunday after Easter, I had the opportunity to speak in our Dutch church's Missions Sunday. There could be no more fitting time to talk about sharing the good news that Jesus is alive. The women who came, sad and disheartened, to the tomb were the first ones to pass on this message. They didn't have far to go--just a quick walk or a hurried run to where the unbelieving apostles sat, shocked and scared, behind locked doors.
When was the last time you took similar steps to bring hope and new life? More recently, probably, than you realize, and often without even leaving your own home. Every intercessory prayer brings the Good News closer to those who need to hear it. This includes each of you who pray for us and our work regularly, especially for the media prayer team who prayed daily during Keith's recent recording project.
Just last week Keith finished the audio recording of the New Testament in Eastern Slovak Romani. They did the audio recording before printing this new translation because they knew they would find corrections in the text as they recorded. And they did. The audio recording should be available via Faith Comes by Hearing (look under "Romani") within the next few months. For people like most Roma who would rather listen than read, it is especially fine to have the New Testament in both written and on CD/MP3/audio format.
Why was Keith able to trek over to Slovakia to do this recording? Because a number of you gave to the Offering for Global Missions. Our team member Shane McNary has written more extensively on what the Offering makes possible (see below).
When Keith drove back to Slovakia two weeks before Easter, Ellen and I went with him. From there, we two women drove about 4 hours south to visit our friend and ministry partner Alina Ivan in Romania. Alina has a keen interest in Romany education. But she was very discouraged and about burnt out. She needed prayer, but she also needed personal encouragement. A number of you have often given us a much-needed doses of encouragement by e-mail, regular post, or actual visit.
Two weeks after that, Alina came here for a time of rest and reflection. She not only received prayer and encouragement, but some brothers and sisters in Christ also gave her practical help and advise from their area of expertise. Several of you have helped us in similar ways--ranging from drawing illustrations to consulting on small business development to sending our daughters care packages to serving on CBF's member care team. Practical help does not always involve travelling a long way and bringing a toolbox along.
Though some of you have also been called to share the Good News by taking a trip considerably longer than the one those women took on the first Easter Sunday. People have done childcare at team meetings or gone with us to Moldova. People have even joined the Romany Team briefly (one semester to one year) or longer term (3+++ years). In fact, we are currently praying for someone to coordinate economic development projects (long term). An 8-person team from our local Dutch church (+ Alina) is also currently planning to go to Moldova for two weeks to do ministry with a Romany church there.
Going that far to bring news of hope and new life is made possible by a lot of other people who don't stray that far from home--people like yourselves who pray, who encourage, who share of your time and talents and material gifts in countless ways.
He is risen!
Mary van Rheenen