Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Party in Csobanka

On Dec 23rd we held a Christmas party, "Happy Birthday Jesus" in Csobanka. We had good food, party hats, balloons, horns, and gifts - all to celebrate the season!

Stay tuned for more to come...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Schengen Zone

Today is a momentous day in eastern Europe! Today the borders between the western European countries in the European Union and nine of the new members - mostly former Soviet satellite countries - come down - literally. Today Hungary becomes a part of the Schengen Zone. This means we can travel freely without stopping to show our passports in almost all of our border countries (Romania and the Ukraine are the exceptions as of now).

For most of us this is a reason to celebrate - travel becomes easier. There are still concerns that the western European countries will be swamped with undesirables - of which the Roma (Gypsies) are usually listed. Please continue to pray for Romany to become acceptable to the peoples they live among in the different European nations.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Celebrate Good Times... Come On...

The lyrics of the pop song came to mind recently when the Roma of the church in Ilk celebrated a baptism. The Roma enjoy celebrations and baptisms are very good reasons to come together for such a joyous fellowship. The day began early with a sense of excitement. The ladies began arriving at the church with their cooking ware. They laughed and talked as they prepared a meal of “bab gulyas” (bean soup) and stuffed cabbage. As each group of guests arrived they were ushered into the tiny room overflowing with tables, chairs, an assortment of dishes on loan from each household, and warm delicious food. With each new arrival there were shouts of greetings and rounds of kisses exchanged.

Soon we were arranging car rides to travel to a nearby Hungarian Baptist church for the baptism. The nine candidates, dressed in white, were presented to the group and three gave their testimonies. Then they made their way to the baptismal pool. As the first candidate made her way into the water the Roma rose and made their way to the front of the church, crowding around, not wanting to sit quietly in the pews. There were smiles, shouts of “Amen” and “Hallelujah” as the candidate confirmed her belief in Jesus Christ. Then as she emerged from the water the group broke into joyous song. This was repeated with each of the nine candidates. The service ended with the new Christians coming before the congregation on bowed knees to be prayed over.

Leaving the church ended the formal service but there was much celebrating still to be done. We gathered in the small worship room of Ilk to praise God through worship, testimonies, and sharing of personal thoughts by the Roma believers. The evening ended with coffee and dessert. It was a full day of celebrating and being excited about the new life in Christ of their Roma brothers and sisters. Celebrate Good Times… Come On…

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mikulas Nap

December 6th is a big day in Hungary for all the children. It is Mikulas Nap (Santa Day). Last night children cleaned a boot or shoe and placed it in the window. Mikulas (MEEK-u-lash) came during the night and put candy inside it. If they were bad children they got sticks. Mikulas travels with a couple of devil looking guys that put the twigs in.
Today Mikulas will visit the schools, kindergartens, hospitals, malls, anywhere that children might be. He will give out szalon cukor (brightly wrapped chocolates) and wish everyone "Kellemes Karacsonyt and Boldog Uj Evet!" (Merry Christmas & Happy New Year). It is a day that brings a smile to even the grumpiest of people.
What about Christmas day? The gifts that children in Hungary find under their tree on Christmas Eve were placed there by Baby Jesus and his angels. The children are distracted for a couple of hours, until they hear a bell ring. Then they are allowed into the main room of the house where they find a fully decorated tree and gifts. For the next two days (we have Christmas Eve, Christmas Day 1, and Christmas Day 2) they visit with family and eat big meals of fish soup, turkey, and special Christmas bread called begli. Life in Hungary...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Happy Birthday Roma Mission of Hungary

Time flies as the expression goes and we count it by marking the anniversaries of significant events in our lives. Last night Ralph and I attended a service to celebrate eight years of ministry for the Roma Mission of the Hungarian Baptist Union. We heard from various speakers, enjoyed beautiful music, and celebrated with a decorated cake. It was a time to remember and a time to look toward the future. Eight years ago very few people wanted to be involved with the Roma but a courageous few stepped up boldly to proclaim that God loves us all. Today the mission is thriving and growing. A number of Roma have been called to evangelize and start churches among their own people. Roma leaders are pastoring churches, leading Bible studies, securing buildings for meeting places - each and every step proclaiming God loves you to the Roma. Saturday we will have a baptism in the small village of Nagyvarsany. God is working here in Hungary and for that we praise Him!
**Another anniversary for us - Ralph and I marked 13 years with CBF on Dec 1. Thank you for giving generously to the Global Missions Offering which provides us with the means to live in Hungary and be the presence of Christ among the Roma.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

We had a fun celebration with our CBF colleagues, Shane, Dianne, Taylor, & Allie McNary from Kosice, Slovakia; Susan & Wes Craig from Bucharest, Romania; and Glen & Clista Adkins from Pecs. With each of us contributing from our secret, reserved stashes (when you live overseas you usually have a stash of items from the USA you can't get in your country) we were able to have all the fixin's for the traditional American thanksgiving. We spent the afternoon and evening playing games and enjoying each other's company. I believe a good time was had by all!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Clista Celebrates a Birthday

The night before our Thanksgiving celebration we celebrated Clista's birthday. (It's actually on the 28th - so drop her an email) We had delicious Greek food at a local resturant and returned home to cheesecake. Yummy! Happy Birthday Clista! (Clista and her husband serve as Global Service Corp at the Gandhi School in Pecs)

Thursday, November 22, 2007


As we gather with our colleagues to eat, drink, and be merry for Thanksgiving, we will count our blessings. We are very grateful for the support we receive through prayer, volunteers, and gifts to the Global Missions Offering. We are grateful for the special gifts given to our projects and to those that have helped us in unique ways - helping a Roma community have a roof on their building, providing Bibles for a new congregation, sending toothbrushes for children, converting our newsletter to a smaller form, making sure we have pecans for pie on Thanksgiving... the list goes on. We appreciate your partnership in bringing the Good News to the Roma of eastern Europe. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cultural Norm?? Not Today...

Here we often see open discrimination against the Roma (Gypsies) in everyday life. It's just one of the ways the deep prejudice against them manifests itself. Today was a little different though. As I was riding home on the bus I was checked by the ticket enforcers to see if I had an up-to-date or stamped ticket. This is a common occurrence and there is a hefty fine if you don't. I noticed two Roma, a woman and most likely her 20 something son, got on at one stop and I thought uh-oh, knowing many Roma ride black (the term we use for riding public transportation without a proper ticket). From my seat in the back of the nearly empty bus I did not hear the exchange between the Roma and ticket checker (they sit incognito until the bus starts and then they jump up to check everyone who got on) but could see that it was lively with gestures. An elderly Hungarian woman did overhear and loudly began to chastise the ticket checker for being rude to the Roma woman. She exclaimed several times, "You don't have to be rude and ugly!" I was in shock! I rarely, rarely witness a Hungarian defending a Roma in public. It made me smile.

I wish that was the end of the story. I feel like I need to report the whole episode though. The elderly Hungarian woman got off a few stops later and took one more swipe at the ticket checker. (I was the only one cheering, "You Go Girl!") Unfortunately the Roma woman and young man continued to yell at the ticket checker who began to yell back after the Hungarian woman exited the bus. I could not understand what was being said but I did understand the bus driver when he spoke over the intercom. He told them to be quiet or they would ALL have to get off! Just another cultural moment.....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Esik a Ho! (It's Snowing!)

One of the advantages of living so far north of the equator is Snow! The first snow of the season arrived today. Josh alerted us as he came in the door from church. He said a little kid on the bus was shouting, "Esik a ho, esik a ho!" Winter is here and the white stuff confirms it.

Szatmarcseke Mission Gets a Room

The Roma mission in the village of Szatmarcseke is celebrating. They now have a place to call their own. Through funds provided by generous fellow believers in the US, the men have added a room and porch onto the local layleader's home. No more squeezing into the tiny living space of Tibor's. No more praying for good weather so they can meet outside. No more teetering on the edge of a chair as two people tried to share it. With space and new plastic chairs, the Roma can freely worship God without worry. November 17th they will dedicate the new room to the glory of God. Join with us in praising Him for this wonderful provision!

Daniel Csuhai

Many of you prayed for our friends, Jozsi & Zita Csuhai, as they waited for the birth of their son, Daniel. This is Daniel, now 4 months old, peacefully sleeping. He turned his head just before the picture and I couldn't chance another. I didn't want the flash to wake him up. How well I remember - let sleeping babies sleep!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cultural Note: Trash Days

Every October we look forward to "trash days". Each district in Budapest has a day assigned when they can put anything and I mean anything, on the street for pick up by the trash service. We are amazed year after year by the amounts of junk and trash that appear in front of people's homes. This picture is of one of the many piles in our neighborhood.

It is also interesting to watch the junk and scrap iron dealers who drive around the neighborhoods searching through the mountains of trash. They overturn boxes, pull the innards out of appliances, and generally make a huge mess as they look for "treasures". This year the district authority asked us to not put trash out until our designated day. It created a feeding frenzy of cars and trailers circling the neighborhoods, screeching up to a new pile, and someone jumping out to guard the pile or lay claim to it. It was comical and dangerous all at the same time. Just another day in Budapest....

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Time Changed

Our clocks went back an hour last night. While the extra hour of sleep was welcomed, we hate what it means. Now the daylight shrinks rapidly. Soon it will disappear between 4 & 5PM only to peek out again between 7 & 8AM. With the usual cloud cover that accompanies the drab winters here, we'll be lucky if we actually see the sun before March. We are counting the days until we turn the clock back to daylight savings time and can't wait until Dec 21st - winter solstice - when the daylight once again begins to grow longer....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More to Come....

Stay tuned for more pictures and stories about First Baptist Church, Greenville, SC's short term personnel trip to the Gandhi High School in Pecs. I am waiting to receive more pictures from the team members. We mixed things up this year with new activites and it was a huge success!


On Tuesday night after a service of singing and testimony by a young Roma woman we headed to the cafeteria at Gandhi for Bingo! It was all fun and games until the first Bingo was called out. Once the students saw the prizes were envelopes with a bit of cash everyone got quiet and serious! It was a fun evening with all of us huddled over our cards and piles of white bean markers. BINGO!!

Talent Winner

The young man on the left was the winner of the Gandhi Gymnazium Talent Show held October 11 and sponsored by FBC, Greenville, SC. Posed here with Glen Adkins, CBF Field Personnel. This guy did a fantastic imitation of Michael Jackson's Thriller routine. We were all moving our groove things!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

God Smiles

Their place of worship is a concrete room added on to a layleader's home. Even though it is not decorated with carpet, stained glass windows, or fancy pews it is a welcomed place of refuge for the Roma of Berencs. It is a place where they can forget the worries of the world and come together to sing praises to the one true God that loves them and values them as His children. This day as we made our way to the tiny house in the rundown Roma section of town, God smiled. He gave us a sign through this beautiful rainbow appearing to end at the very house of the Roma mission. Ralph explained our American folk story about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He added that in Hungary God showed us it was true because at the end of this rainbow was the Berencs Roma congregation - rich in faith, love, and praise for their God.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Just a Day in the Life....

Even Global Service Corps personnel get tired! Glen Adkins, along with his wife, Clista, our newest field personnel, is an accomplished musician. This day sitting in the sun waiting to lead a group before the Roma mission, well... it was just too cozy....

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Visit from Virginia Baptists

A group representing the Virginia Baptist Mission Board (VBMV) of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) attended the European Baptist Federation's Council meeting held in Budapest September 26-29th. After the meeting we had the privilege of introducing them to some of the Roma (Gypsy) ministries of CBF here in Hungary and a hopeful project in the Ukraine. Virginia has been a partner of ours for a long time and we were glad to travel with them to northeast Hungary.

We attended worship services in the villages of Berencs and Ilk. At each of these locations the Virginians spoke a word of encouragement to the group. When missions pastor, Steve Blanchard spoke of his beautiful daughter from China, the Roma were moved to tears and one Roma leader rose to challenge each of them to love others who may be different. This challenge went out to a group of people who are discriminated against daily because they are different.

Becky McKinney, Virginia's Women's Missionary Union (WMU) president, encouraged the women to listen to what God may be saying to them. She challenged them to follow Him and be examples to their families and communities. In Roma society women are often over-looked and these words were greatly appreciated.

On Saturday the group joined, Bela, a representative of Hungarian Baptist Aid, a world renowned organization for their disaster response ministries, to journey to the Ukraine. Here they toured a huge building (see former post on Ukraine) that has the promise of being a Roma ministry center. The dream is for the building to host a church, kindergarten, medical office, and hygiene center (place for the local Roma to bathe and wash their clothes). There is a great deal of renovation needed to see this dream come true.

We had a good time with the team before putting them on the overnight train to Bucharest. While there they toured the Ruth School and heard about the ministries of Project Ruth.

We are grateful to Virginia Baptists and all they do to assist us and others in spreading the Good News of Christ to the unreached of the world. Thank you!

In the group: Jerry Jones, Team Leader, Glocal Missions and Evangelism Team, VBMB of BGAV; Becky McKinney, Virginia Women's Missionary Union President; Steve Blanchard, Minister of Missions, First Baptist Church, Richmond, VA; John Eure, Pastor, Ash Avenue Baptist Church, South Boston, VA

VA WMU President Speaking to Roma Church

A group representing Virginia Baptists traveled to Budapest for the European Baptist Federation Meeting the last weekend of September. (See other posts) I (Tammy) was pleased to spend time with Becky McKinney, VA's WMU president. If you have ever heard my story you know that WMU and its mission programs played a big role in my faith journey. It served as a reminder to me of how important it is that we teach our children about missions and how we all have a responsibility to share God's love with the unreached.

CBF Moderator Visits Hungary

The European Baptist Federation held a council meeting in Budapest the last weekend in September. CBF was represented by several people, including Harriet Harrel, our current national moderator from Texas. After the meetings, Harriet and I (Tammy) had a day of play in Budapest. We visited a few sights and shopped. Of course we also managed to sample some good food and enjoy an outdoor cafe. Fall in Budapest is lovely - ya'll come and find out!
picture - Harriet in front of the St Stephan statue at the Church in the Cave of Gellert Hill

Gypsy Smith School - September Session

A regular session of the Gypsy Smith School for training Roma leaders in Romania was held September 17-21 with Greg Barr, South Carolina, and Charles Qualls, from Georgia teaching. This is a picture of the group that attended. One leader was recognized in a graduation ceremony. The group was smaller than usual because in the fall the men are able to find seasonal work as day laborers. It was a good experience for all and the men learned about prayer (led by Charles) and Matthew (led by Greg).

During the session on prayer, the men would often break out into spontaneous prayer as they discussed the Psalms. When asked about prayer for difficult situations or when you simply did not know how to pray, the men learned the prayer that never fails, "Thy will be done".

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Jack Snell, 1941-2007

The entire Cooperative Baptist Fellowship family mourns the passing of Jack Snell while celebrating his life's work as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are grateful for his faithful service, humble leadership and unparalleled commitment to being the presence of Christ. For details about funeral arrangements, visit www.thefellowship.info/Landing/JackSnell.icm

Dear Friends and Supporters;
Jack Snell was Director of Field Ministries with CBF and one of our supervisors. He was an example of faith to all who knew him. We mourn his passing. Please pray for comfort and peace for his family.

Tammy & Ralph

Thursday, September 20, 2007

First Day for The Ruth School

It was a sunny, warm day as the children dressed in their best clothes made their way to the big white building in the run-down, drab, gray neighborhood called Ferentari in Bucharest. It was a happy day with little hands clutching flowers for the teachers and pre-teens giggling as they entered the gate. The Ruth School was beginning the 07-08 school year with close to 180 students ready to learn.

The students lined up to be welcomed by the director and received a few words of encouragement from me (Tammy). Then they filed into their classrooms eager to begin the new year. The first grade classroom was the expected mix of smiles and tears (most of the tears being the mothers dropping their little ones off for the first time).

All is well as Project Ruth continues to make a difference in the lives of the Roma families in the Ferentari neighborhood. Praise God for the new year and the opportunities it brings. Please continue to pray for the school as it offers hope through education.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ruth School & Gypsy Smith School Begin

Monday, September 17th, will be a big day for the Ferentari neighborhood of Bucharest. There will be lots of scurrying around and excitement in the air. It is the first day of school for the Ruth School, the beginning of their second year in the new building. There will be an opening ceremony with words of welcome, gifts of flowers for the teachers, and the hustle, bustle of children making their way to their classrooms. I imagine there will be smiles of welcome as school mates greet each other and tears as first graders begin their official school lives. (at least tears from their parents!) Please pray that all will go well and the school year will start off on a positive note.

Monday also marks the beginning of a session of the Gypsy Smith School of Evangelism for the Roma leaders of Romania and Moldova. Teachers this session are Greg Barr from St Andrews Baptist Church, Columbia, SC and Charles Qualls from Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, Atlanta. Please pray this week for the teachers, their translators, and the students.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Be Careful What You Say or How to Start a Trend

Tivadar (left) with Jozsi Csuhai (right)
Ralph and Tivadar, a retired Hungarian pastor now mentoring Roma layleaders, recently traveled to northeast Hungary to visit a few of the Roma missions and churches. While in one small village they heard the story of a split in the church because of misspoken words and hurt feelings.

Ralph and Tivadar went to the offended party's home and talked with him. They prayed and listened. Eventually healing began and the split factions agreed to once again meet at the church. It was definitely an answered prayer, however, as Paul Harvey would say, there is the rest of the story....

When Ralph and Tivadar returned to Tibour, the other leader's home, and began to report what had happened, Ralph began by shaking his head and saying, "Ah-h-h-h, the devil cried today....". He then told the story. Tibour liked the way Ralph described what had happened and the thought of putting Satan on the run by bringing healing. We now enjoy when Tibour calls on the phone and begins by saying, "Ralph! The devil cried today!" He then goes on to relay the good news he has called to share.

Just a day in the life of Roma missions here in Hungary...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Families, Good-Byes, Tears, and Hugs

As I sat on the front step of the Gandhi School waiting for Glen and Clista, I enjoyed watching the people around me. The Gandhi students come to school in shifts over the weekend before the first day of classes. Many of the students were moving into the dorm that day and they came with parents and a sibling or two in tow.

As I watched them I noted that some things are the same the world over. When the time for good-byes came there were hugs, tears, and "I Love You" 's being said as the parents prepared to leave. I watched it over and over and was reminded of having just said good-bye to our daughter at the airport as she returned to college. I knew what those parents felt. Even though our language is different, our cultures vary; I felt a bond between us. Parents are parents no matter where they are in the world and letting that young one go is always a bit difficult.

Now I feel like I should break out into song "The circle of life...." (Those of you that know me personally know that is a scary thought!)

Daniel's Dedication

It is customary here when an infant is six weeks old to bring them to church for their "introduction". Sunday night we were privileged to be present for Daniel Csuhai's introduction and dedication. Daniel is special to us because his dad is our partner in ministry. Jozsi and Ralph often travel together to visit the Roma missions around the country. They confide in one another, seek counsel from each other, and have become close friends. They serve on the Hungarian Baptist Roma Missions committee together as well.

Daniel's grandfather, a retired pastor, held him before the Lord and prayed over him during the service. It was a touching moment as Bro Pauly introduced his grandson to the congregation.

We were glad to be included in the family celebration.

Adkins Apartment

Praise for this answered prayer! We had prayed specifically for an apartment not far from the Gandhi School - either walking distance or an easy bus ride. We asked for two bedrooms and a modern kitchen. Not only did we find all of this but the landlords are very accommodating and all the appliances are brand new. The apartment will be a great place for entertaining and a refuge on stressful days. Thank you for joining us in prayer! Glen and Clista are now settling in and finding their way around Pecs.

Friday, August 24, 2007

On the Road Again

Ralph is making a day trip to the village of Szakmerkecke. This Roma congregation desperately needs a meeting place of their own. They have been meeting in members' homes and have outgrown all of the small living spaces of the Romany (Gypsies). While their dream is a building of their own (refer to past posts on converting existing houses into churches), the reality of the present is that they are adding a room onto the main layleader's home. Ralph has gone to look over the construction and help solve the problem of a leaky roof. This larger room will give them a place to meet while they continue to pray asking God to provide them with a house to renovate. It is through the generosity of CBF supporters that this project is happening and the prayers of the Roma are being answered. Thank you!

Everyone Needs a Little Vacation

Everyone needs a break from their jobs, ministry, and routines now and then. Ralph's older brother, Lee, his wife, PJ, and their daughter Lara came for a visit. This was their first trip to see us and we wanted them to see all the sights and experience the unique Hungarian culture along with the delicious Hungarian food. Both families then packed up and headed to Arosa, Switzerland for a week. We were blessed to have the use of a chateau owned by friends. We had a fantastic time enjoying God's beautiful scenery, hiking the mountain trails, riding the trains, buses, and cable cars, and just relaxing together.

All too soon we were back in Budapest putting daughter Amy on the plane to head back to college. Lee and family followed as they returned to North Carolina. Next Josh started his senior year of high school. We are back into our normal routine with fond memories of an enjoyable time.
Picture: Ralph with brother Lee, sister-in-law, PJ, and niece, Lara.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

All-Team Meeting

Every three years the CBF teams coached by Jim and Becky Smith meet. The Romany team is one of those. This July we met in Prague at the International Baptist Theological Seminary. It is a beautiful campus and with a great location just far enough from the Prague center to provide peace and quiet yet quickly get to the downtown action.

It is fun to meet others ministering through CBF to various other people groups. We enjoy the fellowship and the exchanging of ideas. It is also an opportunity for several staff from the Atlanta office to come and speak to us about various thing within CBF life.
Picture: The Gypsy Cluster enjoying a meal together.

Commissioning of Clista & Glen

Time is flying by! Clista and Glen Adkins are scheduled to arrive August 27th. Please pray their good-byes will be meaningful, their daughters will have peaceful hearts, their travels will be safe and smooth, and that an apartment will be found near the Gandhi School. We particularly ask that you pray for an apartment within walking distance of the school with a modern kitchen and two bedrooms. We are excited that they will soon join us!
Picture: Glen & Clista in the middle with Jim Childress, FBC Greenville representative on the right and Rob Nash, CBF Global Missions Coordinator on the left.

It's a BOY!

Daniel Csuhai arrived last week! Jozsi is beaming and Zita is tired! Both mom and baby are doing well. Daniel's three older sisters are excited he is finally here. Thank you for praying for them all. This is a praise!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kids' Camp from Rosalind Hills to Kekcse & Berencs

"Yes, Lord; Yes, Lord; Yes..." The words of the English chorus could be heard ringing through the villages along with the shouts of "Alleluia" and "Ald az Urat" (Hallelujah & Praise ye the Lord) as the boys and girls tried to outdo each other in the familiar chorus. Hands shot up eagerly as the village children volunteered to help with the interactive Bible story each day. Many of us were all thumbs when it came to craft time but the necklaces, visors, and picture frames were all treasured gifts to take home to show parents. Bubbles were a big hit and the thunder sticks (blow-up elongated tubes) were fun as swords to challenge a sibling or a friend. These were all activities in the two Backyard Bible Camps conducted by the youth team of Rosalind Hills Baptist Church, Roanoke, VA in the villages of Kekcse and Berencs. Each morning we were greeted with smiling faces and great big hugs. Parents came to see what all the noise was about and each day our group of kids grew bigger and bigger. The young people from Rosalind Hills served as the presence of Christ among the Roma through their unselfish giving of their time, energy, and finances to be in northeast Hungary for a week in July.

Thank you for all your prayers in support of this ministry. It was a fun week for all!

Friday, July 6, 2007


Wonderful news today!! Glen Adkins called to tell us their visas to come to Hungary have been granted. The embassy in DC had just called and said they are ready to be picked up. This is within one week of Glen and Clista submitting the paperwork. As far as we know this is a record!! Thank you for praying. We can only describe this as a "God thing"! Praise to Him!

Backyard Bible Camp

Tomorrow (Saturday 7/7/07 - a lucky day! But who needs luck??) the youth team from Rosalind Hills Baptist Church, Roanoke, VA arrives. (By the way - the pastor is Ralph's brother, Tom) After a day of adjustment in Bp we will head to Zahony, near the Ukraine border in northeast Hungary. The team will spend the week providing Backyard Bible camp for the Roma children in the villages of Berencs and Kekcse. Please pray for them this coming week asking God for traveling safety, patience, energy, and all the grace needed to minister among many kids in the warm summer temps. Pray for our translators, Edit and Ellod. Pray we can all be the presence of Christ and show these kids God's love through our actions, stories, hugs, and the attention they so crave.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Gandhi English Camp - Success!!

Mix young people from 2 cultures, lots of energy, good food, great weather, games, crafts, and music - what do you get?? "A good time had by all!" For the second time a group of young people led by Scott Ford traveled from Haven Fellowship Church in Conyers, GA to a remote camp around Pecs, Hungary to spend the week with a group of Roma students. The advertised purpose of the camp was to help the Roma improve their English, the real goal of the camp was to show them they are loved and valued by God. Happily both goals were hugely met!

The young people spent the week playing various games such as blob tag, spoon racing with eggs, tug-of-war, and other creative games. They feasted on hot dogs, s'mores, sloppy joes, ice cream sundaes, and pancakes, just to name a few of the yummy food items. They did crafts, making string bracelets and door hangers. Many of the letters for the hangers wound up glued to arms and foreheads as well (Kids are the same in any culture!). The evenings were spent in devotional time and special activities such as a luau and a talent show. One of their English lessons involved playing "resturant". The students took turns being guests and being waiters. Do you know all the slang associated with how an English speaker can order eggs cooked??

Thank you for praying for this week. The Roma and American young people were able to forget their differences and find commom ground. They all laughed and temporarily forgot the troubles of the world. Friendships were made and bonds formed. Most importantly God's love for the Roma shone through with the actions of the dedicated young people from Georgia. The Roma students are already talking about next year!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Adkins Visa update

We have been asking you all to urgently pray for Glen and Clista Adkins' (our new GSC couple taking Penny's place at Gandhi) visa process. Friday they handed in all their paperwork and the process went smoothly. The Hungarians were asking for less paperwork than we anticipated. The papers now go to Hungary for approval and back to the US. The Hungarian representative said 4 weeks - we are praying for 2 or less. Glen and Clista would like to arrive in Hungary the end of August. They cannot travel here until they have the visas in hand. So please continue to pray! Thanks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Farewell Penny!

The end sometimes comes all too suddenly. Such was the case as Penny Mann, our GSC colleague, finished her three-year ministry at the Gandhi School in Pecs. Three years ago Penny arrived as a shy, unassuming young woman who accepted the challenge of living in a second culture (Hungarian) and working with teenagers within a third culture (Gypsy). Penny stepped immediately into the classroom to teach conversational English, assumed responsibility for weekly on-campus Bible studies with the students, became a class sponsor and visited in many Gypsy homes, played soccer on as many teams as her stamina would allow, and directed the Photography Club. She left Hungary last week as an assertive and confident teacher who had earned the respect of her school director, had gained the friendship of many of her peers on staff and more importantly, the love of her students. Those students gifted Penny with a journal of goodbye notes and drawings describing the impact she had had on their lives. I (Ralph) was privileged to read these and stand more convinced than ever that Penny became a conduit of God’s love for these Gypsy kids. You will find one of these notes from Timi below.

Penny went from being a colleague to becoming a friend to becoming a family member in the Stocks household over these past three years. She has impacted each of us individually. She shared in our celebrations and disappointments. We are enriched by her friendship and we will miss her deeply. We wish her God’s greatest blessings!

Written by Gandhi student, Timi:
"My best friend Penny,
How can I start it? I found in you a REALLY good friend, who is so special for me. You gave to me a lot of love from you and helped to me many times. I never forget it! You have to remember always smiling, because if you smiling your life will be the best in the world! I’ll be miss you so much!
You know you meaning for me a lot, you are my second sister, so close to me, I can’t believe I loose you! You have to know you always be my best friend and sister! I hope you felt my love, because I always wanted to know do you feel it. I tell you a secret: I love you so much better like my mother, this is really true because I can’t love her much like you. I don’t know why, but it is true!! Oh God! YOU ARE THE BEST IN THE WORLD! I never seen person like you!! When I wrote this I was think about the last things what we did together. Who is forever love you – Timi"

Monday, June 18, 2007

Article from CBF

FBC Greenville partners with Stocks to provide church for Roma congregation

By Patricia Heys
CBF Communications

ATLANTA – When a new communion table was presented to the Roma church in Kekcse, Hungary, fingerprints and smudges covered the tabletop.

On the previous Sunday, the table had been blessed by members of First Baptist Church of Greenville, S.C., who laid their hands upon it as they prayed. First Baptist member Danny Butcher built the table, which the South Carolina church gave as a gift to the Roma congregation.

“First Baptist and the mission team felt the table was a symbolic way to share Christ's love that goes beyond financial support and physical improvements to the church,” Butcher said. “The emotions of the moment were of amazement that all of the details in designing, building and transporting the table came together, and that God made it happen.”

The Romany people are a minority in Hungary, who experience discrimination not only socially but by government systems and religious bodies as well. For Roma congregations like the one in Kekcse, which had outgrown the house it was meeting in, there are many hurdles to finding a building for worship.

Ralph and Tammy Stocks, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions field personnel serving in Hungary, connected First Baptist with the congregation in Kekcse, and last year the South Carolina church helped purchase a church building.

With the Stocks facilitating the partnership, First Baptist members have not only invested financially in the Roma church, but have invested emotionally and spiritually. This spring, 13 First Baptist members spent a week in Kekcse renovating the church building – pouring concrete pads, constructing a fence and outhouse, adding a new roof – and building relationships. During their week in Hungary, First Baptist members led worship at four Roma churches.

“The experience cannot be expressed adequately in words or pictures,” said First Baptist member David Causey. “One must experience this sort of partnership ‘hands-on’ to fully grasp the emotional and physical needs of the Roma people. Ralph and Tammy prepared us exceptionally well, and it was important to have some sense of context going in.”The partnership with the Kekcse congregation was not the first one for First Baptist in Hungary. The Stocks also facilitated a partnership between First Baptist and the Gandhi School, a school for Romany children in Pecs, Hungary.

“We saw a need for the Roma to worship in a building they could call their own,” said church member Jim Childress, who has made several trips to Hungary. “The partnership in Kekcse provided another means for church members with specific skills to minister to the Romany people. If you go there and you work for a week or even a day, it comes to you very quickly how little the Romany have and ever hope to have.”

Glen Adkins, First Baptist’s current music minister, also traveled to Kekcse. Adkins and his wife, Clista, will be commissioned at the CBF General Assembly in June to serve at the Gandhi School.

“A partnership is about more than bricks and mortar,” said Ralph Stocks. “The result of the week was not only new construction, but new and personal relationships with Roma church members as well as community residents. Every team member took with them faces and names that they will long remember and for whom they will often say prayers.”

To learn how your church can partner with the Stocks or other field personnel around the world, contact Karen Gilbert at (800) 352-8741 to kgilbert@thefellowship.info.

CBF is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.

Friday, June 8, 2007

English Is Fun!! Pray for Camp.

Please pray for the group of young people and their leader, Scott Ford, arriving June 12 from Haven Fellowship in Conyers, GA. They will do a week of camp for the English students from the Gandhi High School in Pecs, Hungary. Ask God to give them opportunities to share their faith. The group of 30 students, 10 team members, a translator, Ralph, Penny, and visiting Gandhi staff will total 43 at the sleep over camp. From the pictures you can tell last year's camp was a great deal of fun. The kids have been anticipating this year's for several months. It was a coveted invitation! Pray for safety for all. Pray for the evening devotional times - that the Haven team can communicate God's love to the Roma students. Pray that the students can forget about everything else but improving their English and having a good time. Ask God's hand to be upon this ministry - June 15 -20.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Snapshot of Roma Life

Ralph and our ministry partner, Tivadar, traveled to northeast Hungary recently to visit a few of the Roma families and missions. The purpose was to encourage them and plan for the future.

Natasha and Tibi graciously offered for Ralph and Tivadar to stay with them. We have found that the Roma culture has a strong sense of hospitality and they readily open their homes to friends. You may remember a story we told not long ago about Natasha and Tibi's wedding. They chose to show their faith to others in their village by legally becoming husband and wife even though a loop hole in the Hungarian tax law makes it more advantageous financially to simply live together. It was a big step.

When supper time approached there was no offer of food for the guests or for the family. The next day again, very little was offered. Natasha and Tibi are struggling to provide for their family. Neither is able to find work and their government assistance has been cut back due to their legally married status. This means they often run out of money by the end of the month. As soon as this information was discovered, Tivadar and Ralph were in the car speeding off to the nearest grocery. They filled the cart with nutritious food and a few treats. It was an answer to prayer for Natasha and Tibi who literally live without knowing from day to day how they will feed their children.

Thank you CBF supporters! It is through your donations that money is available to provide for emergency needs. It is through you that prayers are answered.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

If You Build It, They Will Come...

"If you build it, they will come." That saying originally applied to a baseball field built in a corn field. We have reversed the order as the quick growth of house churches among the Roma has ushered in the challenge of providing adequate facilities for these groups to worship in. We were blest in late April through a volunteer team from FBC-Greenville, SC, that helped renovate a property in Kekcse, to give that congregation a more secure and more practical meeting place. The church would like to stucco the exterior of the building this summer and then they will have an outstanding worship center. There is a group of Hungarian Baptist men who have volunteered to do the labor for free. This is a great opportunity to build relationships between Hungarian and Gypsy believers.

We have decided to build an addition to the home of the leader in the village of Szatmarcseke. This May a group of Gypsy men traveled there to help build the extension that will allow some 30-40 people to gather and worship. It is rewarding to see fellow believers who have construction skills come together to provide this building ministry.

God is bringing healing out of tragedy in the village of Olaszliszke. Last November a Hungarian school teacher was driving his daughter through this village when he collided with a young Gypsy child playing in the street. It turned out that the child received a glancing blow and in shock veered off into safety. Nearby Gypsy adults assumed the worst when they heard the screams of the other children and rushed to street, dragged the hapless driver from the car and beat him to death. Many have been arrested and are awaiting trial. The Gypsy community stood condemned and in shock from the mob mentality. Jozsi Olah, a Gypsy evangelist, sensed their great grief and quickly went to offer consolation and the assurance of God's forgiveness. A house church sprang up and has grown to 40 in a few short months. A cross was erected at the scene of the accident while residents of the house there have offered to sell the house to the church. We are currently in the process of securing this property in the hopes that a church there will help to bring healing to this hurting community.

Property has been purchased in Retkozberencs ('Berencs) that includes two buildings. Although in bad shape the larger building can be renovated into a suitable worship center. Some roofing repair will need to be done, an exterior wall or two torn down and extensive plastering and painting on both exterior and interior walls. This property lies on the main street of the village in easy walking distance of the Gypsy residents. Funds for purchasing the property and renovation materials have been provided by FBC-Greenville and other individuals.
We are looking for property to purchase in the village of Ujleta. A congregation of 25 is in need of a small house suitable for holding that size group. Please pray that we will be able to locate an affordable piece of property in a good location to help this house church continue to grow.

We are also partnering with Hungarian Baptist Aid to help as we can with renovating a building in the Ukraine into a worship center/community service center for the Roma of the area.

God is working among the Roma in Hungary as they grow in their faith and share the Good News with their fellow Romany. He is answering their prayers and helping them to have places of refuge from what the world. We are grateful to Him and to those who partner with us to provide these safe havens.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My latest project is creating picture collages for the Roma churches. The Roma believers, like most of us, enjoy looking at pictures of themselves. So I have made several collages of important events in the church lives. It is fun for both of us. Who would have thought when I hauled all that scrapbooking stuff across the ocean that I would end up using it in ministry??

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

When is a Brick More Than a Brick? (FBC, Greenville, SC partnership)

A partnership is about more than bricks and mortar. Thirteen men from FBC-Greenville traveled to Kekcse, Hungary the last week of April and put aside their trowels, shovels and wheelbarrows whenever approached by curious Gypsy kids or adults wishing to communicate. The result of the week was not only a new fence surrounding the church, a new concrete pad for outdoor activities, new guttering, a new outdoor toilet and new roofing but new and personal relationships with Roma church members as well as community residents. Every team member took with them faces and names that they will long remember and for whom they will often say prayers.

Having previously provided the funding to buy a used house, FBC-Greenville sent a skilled team to renovate the church property. The Roma folks willingly joined in the labor with women and girls carrying buckets of water for the cement mixer, kids hammering nails into the new WC, young men shoveling the gravel and cement mix into the mixer. Ladies prepared typical Roma meals for lunch for the hungry crew and the leftovers provided meals for nearby residents who were struggling to buy food at the end of the month.

The team also led worship in four Roma churches with testimonies, preaching and blue-grass music including guitars, a banjo and a dobro. One highlight among many was the presentation of a communion table, hand-crafted by team member Danny Butcher. Clapping and shrieks of joy accompanied the unveiling! This table had been dedicated the previous Sunday in the worship service at FBC-Greenville. There were many fingerprints and smudges following that dedication in Greenville as members prayed over the table but Danny chose not to wipe them off – deciding instead to let the Kekcse Roma know how much love and prayer accompanied the gift.

The bags of team members were lighter on the return flight what with having giving away hats, work gloves and tool belts. There were some scraped knuckles, sore muscles and sunburned arms. Most of all there was a sense of joy at having joined with Roma Christians from Kekcse and local CBF field personnel to strengthen the witness of God’s love in a remote village in eastern Hungary. That’s partnership!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Building Together - Prayer

The Roma congregation in Kekcse have needed a building of their own for a long time. They had outgrown the house rooms there were meeting in. FBC Greenville, SC has partnered with them to purchase a house to renovate into a place of worship and refuge for the Roma community. Last October a team from FBC joined their Roma brothers and sisters in dedicating the building to the glory of God. The partnership did not stop there....

Friday, April 20th, a team of men from FBC arrive to help with the renovations. Among the tasks are putting a fence around the property, pouring concrete pads, building a new outhouse, and many little tasks. The FBC men will work side by side with the Kekcse men. Their evenings will be spent in fellowship, worship, and listening to a blue grass band comprised of men from FBC. (Roma greatly enjoy toe-tapping music and we're sure this will be a big hit.) The FBC men head back to Greenville on April 29.

Please pray for this project. Ask God to bless this work. Pray for safety for the men traveling from the US, to the site, while working, and traveling back. Pray that much can be accomplished and the weather will be good. Pray for the worship services, asking God to speak to the hearts of those present.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hunting Eggs in Csobanka!

Easter Sunday was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The kids at Csobanka were excited because they knew Tammy neni (neni is a term of respect given to women. It literally means 'aunt') was bringing a surprise. They could barely sit still during the service!

Three adults accompanied Tammy to a church member's yard where they hid the 5 dozen brightly colored eggs. Ralph pacified the kids with cupcakes and soda but only temporarily. Soon they were racing to the yard, grabbing their bags, and looking for eggs. After we had searched high and low, still not finding 6 of the eggs, each child was given a big chocolate bunny. They all felt like winners. (We teased the "grandpa" who helped hide the eggs that he hid them well so he could go back for breakfast!)

We went back to the church building where the adults were eager to hear what happened and take a peek in the bags. They quickly agreed on families with children not present that they could give the extra chocolate bunnies to. Everyone was smiling and enjoying the fellowship of each other. It was a wonderful way to celebrate new life in the resurrection of our Lord.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ministry Possibilities in the Ukraine

Hungary shares a border with the Ukraine. Because of this there are many villages where Hungarian is widely spoken. Ralph recently visited there to research possible ministry projects. The Roma of the Ukraine live in absolute poverty as illustrated in the pictures.

As Ralph gazed across an empty lot strewn with trash he noticed a group of boys playing a game. Upon observation it resembled “roller bat” (a game the Stocks boys used to play!). The usual equipment is a baseball bat and a baseball. These boys were using a broken plank for the bat and a short stick for a ball! Ralph can’t wait to return to offer the real thing!

Hungarian Baptist Aid has helped to purchase a sizeable building to be renovated into a church for the Roma community in Mankacs. The building (pictured) was built as a telephone communications center 20 years ago. Under communism there was a good bit of eavesdropping going on from this building. Imagine how with lots of renovation the future sounds emanating from there will be praise songs and conversations with God! The building is in complete disrepair but the vision is for this to serve the Roma community not only as a church but as a kindergarten, bathing and washing center, and a clinic.

Please pray that necessary funds might be found to begin this huge work. There will be many volunteer opportunities associated with this property. “Borst” anyone? There are many needs in this area and we seek to be creative as we attempt to meet those needs and to share the Good News of a God that loves this poverty stricken village. Please pray for God to show the way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Szatmarcseke Roma Baptized

It is always a time of great celebration when new Roma (Gypsy) believers are baptized. Other Roma Christians come from miles, or in our case kilometers, around to be present and participate in the service. They bring a word of encouragement, offer special music or a scripture verse, and rejoice in the new lives of the candidates.

During the summer we always hold our Roma baptisms in the river but over the winter we ask local HBU churches for use of their facility. Last Saturday Ralph went to Nagyvarsany for an afternoon baptismal service of seven Roma from Szatmarcseke. It was the first time for this church to host a Roma group in their church. There are zero Roma living in this particular village dating back two decades to a time of conflict. During that time the local mayor threatened the Roma community and demanded that they leave. Since then due to prejudice and discrimination no Roma are living there. The local pastor and his congregation are not supportive of Roma mission work even outside of their village.

Against this backdrop we held the baptismal service. All went well for a while. The candidates gave testimonies, there was lots of Roma music, each candidate received a Bible and was prayed for by local leaders. Then came time for greetings. This is a tradition and very meaningful as local leaders and churches give encouragement to the new believers. Instead of encouraging the group the local pastor pointed out sin that was still evident in the lives of the new believers (smoking!). Then two of his elders got up and continued to harangue the candidates. Our new believers were stunned by their vehemence but gracefully remained silent.

To his credit, Jozsi Csuhai (Roma Missions Coordinator for Hungarian Baptists) stood and spoke of the prodigal son who returned to his father, filthy and stinking from work with pigs. The father accepted him in his condition and rejoiced that his son had come home. Following the service several of us encouraged our Roma brothers and sisters. Gradually the spirit of celebration returned as they rejoiced that seven more of their brethren had found the Lord!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

March Gypsy Smith School

March 19-23 is the next session of the Gypsy Smith Training School for Roma (Gypsy) leaders in Romania. Please pray for the men as they gather to learn how to continue to minister among their own people. Pray for Tandy McConnell and David Jordan from the US who will lead each day. Pray for the translator to be energetic and able to quickly recall the right words. Pray for the Roma men attending, not only that the sessions will be helpful, but also that they will experience good fellowship with each other and go home refreshed and renewed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"You're Pretty!"

"You're pretty." Those were the words said with lots of laughs to RALPH (!) at our Roma church this past Sunday. You know you're accepted as part of the group when the others good naturedly tease you and that's what the Roma men were doing. Ralph wore a tie and coat because he was preaching and thought he should look the part. Usually he dresses very casually, as do all the church members. So when Ralph walked in dressed up, the other guys immediately began to give him a hard time and they all enjoyed it immensely. Yes, it was a definite sign that Ralph is one of them.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Happy Anniversary! And Thanks!

Happy Anniversary to Us! As of February 22 we have lived in Hungary for 12 years! Where does the time go?? Many of you were with us as prayer partners from those beginning days in Derecske when we felt like we were living in the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, to the present time of living in this beautiful city of 2 million plus. More of you have come along side us during this time. We are grateful for the prayers, volunteers, and financial gifts during this journey. Thanks to each of you! We feel God's continued guidance in the Roma ministry. And we look forward to where He will lead in the future.

Bwana, the Story Collector

Ever find yourself doing something that you just never thought you had the gift to do? God often surprises us by slipping in those challenges when we least expect them and then gives us the ability to accomplish them.

Recently I, Tammy, was asked to lead the elementary portion of the daily chapels for Spiritual Emphasis Week at Josh's school (International Christian School of Budapest). I had never entertained such an idea but with encouragement from Ralph and inspiration from a series of children's sermons of my brother-in-law, Tom Stocks, I accepted the challenge.

Using the 1956 published book, Jungle Doctor's Monkey Tales by Paul White, I told stories of monkey life that had a Christian theme or lesson to learn. I arranged the setting with plants and other items, played African music as the 1-5 graders filed in and out each day (their favorite was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"), and dressed the part of Bwana, the Story Collector. Each day we jumped around, scratched, picked ju-jus (made up word for why monkeys scratch), made monkey noises, and had a great time. I like to think the kids learned a thing or two as well.

It was a fun time for me and a confirmation that God isn't finished with me yet! I can only imagine what other surprises He will call me to...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Guests are the Best!

We were honored to host, Heather Barron, Coordinating Council member, in our home this week. Heather is on vacation and since she teaches youth missions at her church in Kentucky, wanted to see first hand what the girls are studying. We visited the Csobanka Roma church and the members were delighted to have Heather speak a few words of greeting.

Are you planning to travel through Budapest? Give us a call or send us an email. We know some of the best authentic Hungarian restaurants and are glad to provide the dinner topic on ministry among the Roma in Hungary. Ya'll come!

Happy Birthday, Wes!

Wes and Susan Craig minister in Bucharest, Romania at the Ruth School. They have various duties helping to support this vital work among the Roma (Gypsies). They also support the ministry of the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training School. February 21st is Wes's birthday and his first to be celebrated since their move to Romania. Join us in praying for him and celebrate Wes following God's call to work among the most neglected. Happy Birthday Wes!

PS Wes is pictured here with wife, Susan on the right, and Penny Mann on the left - all three are part of CBF's Global Service Corps.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Gypsy Smith School Session in March

The next session of the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training School for Roma (Gypsy) leaders in Bucharest, Romania is March 19th - 23rd. Tandy McConnell and David Jordan will be the visiting lecturers from the USA.
Please pray for the Roma as they travel to Bucharest for the classes.
Pray the classes will be a learning and growing experience for all those involved.
Pray for Tandy and David as they travel.
Pray for Wes Craig, CBF GSC'er; Alex Ghita, Romanian leader; and Andy Brockbank, Project Ruth associate director; as they handle the details and make the arrangements for the week of activities.
Pray each day of this week for God's hand to be upon the GSS, for His guidance, His wisdom, and His plan to be fulfilled.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Prayer Undergirds Our Ministry

Our CBF Gypsy Team meets twice a year to plan strategy, report on our ministry, exhange ideas, experience good fellowship, swap resource materials, and most importantly, pray for one another. We just finished our January meeting. The posted picture is our team praying for new Global Service Corps workers, Susan and Wes Craig, ministering to the Roma in Bucharest, Romania with the Ruth School and Gypsy Smith School. Please continue to pray for our Gypsy Team.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Penny Mann, Our Colleague

January 31st is Penny's birthday. Happy Birthday!!! Please pray for her on her special day. Penny has worked at the Gandhi School in Pecs, Hungary teaching English for two and a half years. She is part of CBF's Global Service Corps. Read more about her ministry at www.thefellowship.info/News/releases/070125Mann.icm Penny finishes her term of service this summer and we will miss her deeply. Pray God will show her the next step He wants her to take.

Picture: Penny riding bikes with our son Josh.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Roma Baptism in Debrecen, Hungary

In December Ralph traveled with our ministry partner and Hungarian home missionary to the Roma, Jozsef Csuhai (CHU-hi-ee) to Debrecen for a baptism. This was not an ordinary service! Of the nine candidates ready to show the world their faith in Jesus Christ, five were from the same immediate family! There was great rejoicing as each of their heads were immersed and especially for the family taking this new walk together. The candidates gave their testimonies of how their lives had changed for the better. There was lively singing and of course, as good Baptists do, afterwards everyone headed to the fellowship hall for food! Join us in praying for these nine new believers.