Friday, December 25, 2009
This December we have another reason to celebrate. 2009 marks our 15th year with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. It seems like only yesterday we were going through the interviews of the candidate selection process. God has allowed us to minister for Him among the Romany and called so many to walk along side us as prayer supporters, volunteers, and encouragers. We are also blessed by those who give of their finances, often sacrificially, so we can be the presence of Christ in Hungary. Thank you and Let's CELEBRATE!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
On a recent Sunday Imre led while Daniel was in the background for the praise time. Then the moment arrived when Imre nodded and they changed places. With a grin and a strum of the guitar, Daniel began singing and the church members followed along. With Imre’s encouragement, knowing someone believed in him, Daniel had the boldness to step forward to use his gifts to serve Christ. Isn’t this a lesson for all of us? Ministry is also found in helping the next generation discover their gifts and develop their calling to do as God directs.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
The Gypsy Smith School (Christian Leadership Training for Adults) students were surprised at break time with a tea of their own, along with the Ruth School staff in the Ruth Center building. (Ruth School has its own building and the Center has one attached to the Providence Church with offices and rooms to stay). Mona, one of the staff, explained what dip was and how to dip vegetables/chips. She also explained the 'pigs in a blanket'. In the beginning they held back but once the first brave man stepped forward and tasted the strange looking things, they eagerly gathered around the bar, not stopping until everything was gone. (Made clean-up easier) Seeing them enjoy the special attention made all the hustle bustle of getting it ready on time and the numerous trips up and down the stairs (classroom on the 2nd floor, kitchen in the basement) worth it. Please say a prayer for these Roma men, studying this week so they can be better leaders of their congregations throughout Romania.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Pray for traveling safety for us and the Roma leaders. Pray for Glen and Ralph to teach with wisdom and for divine guidance in what they say. Pray for the Roma leaders to absorb what is offered and to have a great time of fellowship. Pray for the staff of the Ruth School to feel special and know they do important work. Pray for God's blessing on this week of activities. Thank Him for the opportunities to share His love. Thank you for being prayer warriors for this ministry.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Today we are able to freely move into most of these former communist countries and be the presence of Christ among many people who remember when there was no freedom of worship. We have personnel in Hungary, Slovakia, Macedonia, and Ukraine. We have partnerships in Moldova, Romania, Albania, and Bulgaria - just to name a few. Let's give God thanks for bringing this wall down. Rejoice that those oppressed are now free. However, many continue to live in darkness. Ask Him to provide the people and resources to help spread the Good News of freedom in His love.
photo courtesy of cnn
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Recently while in the city hall on other business, a woman heard singing, joyful, happy singing. She was curious and searched for the source of these praise songs. What she discovered was a church, in the city hall of all places! As she went and observed, the lady was welcomed among the Roma worshippers. It was a beginning... Today this same woman is a regular member, joining in with the very singing that brought her into God's family. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!"
Why? Life is hard here for women. They marry early, have several children often close in age, struggle to feed their families with food that is often unhealthy because it is usually the cheapest, many smoke, health care is inadequate and difficult to come by, winters are harsh with lots of illnesses, and the list goes on.
Please pray for the Roma women of Hungary and eastern Europe. Pray strides can be made in educating them to break the cycles of proverty. Pray that health care will be made available and the women will learn ways to control the size of their families, cook healthily, and take care of themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. Pray that opportunities for employment for the Roma will be available so they can provide for their families. Pray for a mild winter. Praise God for answered prayer and His provisions already.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Time marches on... We moved to Budapest, as did Tamas & Orsi. They started their family and relocated to Debrecen. Our kids grew up and left home. We lost track of Tamas & Orsi. We heard they were living in a little village outside of Debrecen called Mikepercs. On a trip to eastern Hungary recently we decided to look them up. It was a great time of meeting their 3 kids (with #4 to arrive in Feb) and catching up. They enjoyed seeing pictures of Amy and Josh - saying Amy looks like the same sweet girl they remembered but Josh is a man! We all laughed. (Josh was 8 last time they saw him). They are very active in a church in Debrecen they helped to plant. It is growing and thriving. Ministry is still a large part of their lives while Orsi takes care of the family and Tamas works at Metro (a large warehouse-type store).
We are thankful for partners on this journey, old and new, that God brings across our path.
The Gypsy team is blessed to have Judy and Rick Landon as our member care providers. They do an excellent job of keeping up with us and our various ministries. They are always willing to listen and give counsel with encouragement when needed. Through CBF's guidance, the Landons visit our homes yearly or as funds permit, to see in person how we are doing. Recently Judy and Rick made a swing through central and eastern Europe. It was fun to have them since they have been friends of ours for several years. We talked about many subjects, ate some good Hungarian food, and in the picture provided you can see Rick speaking at one of our Hungarian Gypsy churches.
Thank you Rick and Judy for volunteering to be on our team and being our friends. Thank you CBF for being proactive in caring for our health.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
The conference was held at a former Communist youth camp in the hilly area of Budapest. Though the camp is definitely showing its age, the area is beautiful with walking trails and woods. We were prepared for out breaks of H1N1 flu but only dealt with sore throats, headaches, and the occasional bee sting. The last evening a young lady had an asthmatic attack that required an ambulance. I was very impressed with their professionalism and quick response as they treated her on the spot without a trip to the hospital. Thank you for praying for the conference. No major injuries, lots of new friendships, and much inspiration for the students to go back to their schools with plans to share their passion for Jesus. And I learned all the different places a teenager can display a name tag! :)
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Ashley Church, youth leader of the team, took a special interest in this nine-year old blind girl. Vivien snuggled closely to Ashley during Bible story time and gripped her hand firmly throughout recreation activities. My favorite snapshot of the two of them shows Vivien’s face lit up with pure joy as she and Ashley circled the group in “Duck, duck, goose!” She stumbled a bit and flailed around some but her inability to see could not diminish her great joy in participating in the game. Both Ashley and Vivien said tearful goodbyes at the end of the week but both will hold dear those treasured moments from the summer for a long time to come. It was another clear example that the love of God transcends race and culture and language and physical disabilities. Vivien felt that love of God even as many others of us got to see it!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
When asked Ralph will tell you it is one of his responsibilities through CBF to see that GSS runs smoothly so he needs to go. I suspect it's more than that - he enjoys being with the Roma leaders, he really likes the interaction with Oti Bunaciu (director of Project Ruth the umbrella GSS falls under), and he loves visiting Piccolo Mondo, the Lebanese restaurant in Bucharest that has FANTASTIC food (there is none like it!).
Please pray for safe travels for the leaders coming from around Romania and Moldova, for Ralph coming from Budapest, and for David Clark coming from the USA. Pray God will guide the Roma leaders in ways they can use the teaching they receive. Thank you for your prayer support. It truly makes a difference.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
In early August Ralph and I were privileged to accompany the Gandhi Roma High School Choir on their tour of northeast Hungary, over the border into Slovakia, and the final days in Budapest. We were invited by our colleagues, Glen and Clista Adkins. Glen is the choir director and had the students singing in two Romani dialects, Hungarian, and English. It was a fun and meaningful experience on many different levels for all of us. Take a look at the pictures them go to http://cbfgypsyministries.blogspot.com/ to read the stories - 4 vignettes - written by Clista. Thank you for your support of this trip. It made an impact. Go read about it!
Monday, September 14, 2009
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Ministering among the Roma in Hungary is often a serious undertaking as we try to meet the many physical needs of people living in poverty and hear the heartbreaking stories of discrimination and prejudice against them. There are moments of pure joy and laughter too. Recently while in the village of Ujleta, Ralph enjoyed helping a group of boys learn a new skill. He taught them how to play baseball. Ralph loves sports of any kind so this was much fun for him as it was for the boys. He pitched and the boys swung the bat over and over again. The cheered for each other when they connected, sending the ball past Ralph. Each young man took a turn fielding and helping the next one learn the proper way to hold the bat. It was a memorable day for everyone.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
My friend, Beth Weaver, has invited me several times to see how this activity is used as an outreach to women. Currently there are 21 quilting clubs across the country. The ladies meet once a month to work on a quilting project. About twice a year they come together for a retreat. A group of quilters come from the US with a quilting project that is done over a three day period. It is not just about quilting, or learning how-to in my case, it's about sharing, laughing, eating, and being together. Testimonies and devotionals are given. Sitting around the tables one can observe a wiser, older woman listening and giving counsel to a younger woman. Stories are heard about jobs, children, husbands, parents - common themes for women around the world. Laughter is present and sometimes a tear or two.
I went to see what a quilting outreach was all about. I wanted to see if it might work among the Roma women. They need times of encouragement and fellowship. They also need times of testimony sharing and ways to invite their non-believing friends to hear the gospel. Pray with me that God would show us if, how, and when quilting might be used among the Romany women of Hungary.
A side note: It was market day outside of the church where we met. So the sidewalks were filled with people hustling and bustling to buy vegetables, fruits, clothing, etc. A man, claiming to be a sidewalk sweeper, must have observed this room of at least 30 women each sitting at a sewing machine. He came in and asked one of the Hungarian ladies if she would repair the rip in his pants. When she agreed he promptly striped them off and handed them over. Luckily he had on boxer shorts! After she finished he put them back on and went on his way. It gave us all something to chuckle about the rest of the day.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Istvan was called to pastor the Baptist church in Pecs about a year after we arrived. We have kept in touch over the years, watching our children grow up and our hair grow gray. During this visit to Pecs we heard Istvan has planted a new church in Pecs. Sunday we visited and what a warm reunion it was! It was wonderful to see him and the family. The church meets in the former headquarters of the local socialist party (isn't that ironic?). It is a contemporary service with lots of music and casual dress. We remarked it was the first Sunday we had ever seen Istvan without a tie. Istvan is a great pastor and it comes through in his love for people. He also preaches from the heart as God leads and that heart includes the Roma. Istvan was the first Hungarian we met who championed the Roma and desired to bring them the love of Christ. It was good to see him and observe that his heart is still as big and open as we remember. Please pray for the new church start, "Love's Castle" Baptist Church and Istvan Vago with his leadership team as they lead.
Friday, August 14, 2009
It's a wonderful story and really not mine to tell... Andy Brockbank met Oti Bunaciu, Project Ruth founder, at Oxford. Later Andy would show up on Oti's doorstep, during the early days of Project Ruth, volunteering to help out for 18 months. Now, over 10 years later, with a wife and two sons, Andy is moving on. (Ask Andy or Oti to share the story - it's a great one to hear) Andy has taken a job in London, land of his birth, so he and Claudia, along with Edwin and Phillip have relocated there.
While not an official member, though we always thought of him as one, the Gypsy Team will miss Andy. During his term of service Project Ruth grew offering education to the 8th grade; moved into a new building; began skill training; opened a medical clinic; hosted many, many volunteers; and so much more. The Gypsy Smith School for Leadership Training was expanded and Andy assisted with this as well. He gave of himself tirelessly keeping the Ruth office running, the finances straight, managing the public relations, and the list goes on.
Thank you Andy for your years of service and for being the presence of Christ among the Roma of Romania. Andy and Claudia, God's blessing on you as you begin your new life. Until we meet again...
Thursday, August 6, 2009
"The Gandhi choir trip begins tomorrow (Friday, August 7th) . We are going to Slovakia and NE Hungary where there are a few small Roma house churches, many Roma, and lots of anti-Roma racism. We are thankful that Ralph and Tammy Stocks are back in Hungary and will accompany us! Please pray for this trip as the choir sings in these Roma villages. Please pray for the student who will share her Christian testimony (very brave in front of her non-believing peers). Please pray for the students as they hear testimonies from Roma in the Roma churches. Please pray for Glen as he leads this trip and for me as I try to help him. We want to be the loving witnesses of what it means to be followers of Jesus in everything that we do and say."
Also pray for safe travels, good health, and that the Roma gathered in the mission churches will have their hearts touched. Pray for the logistics of the trip to work smoothly. Pray that a good time will be experienced by all and above all else God will be glorified.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
The Roma kids of Pocsaj and Ujleta will have many happy memories from the summer of 2009 thanks to the youth team from Emerywood Baptist Church. The temperatures were sweltering but the energy levels were high. Love was shown through interactive Bible stories, lots of singing, jumping rope, football (soccer) playing, yummy snacks, colorful crafts, and in many, many more ways. The Youth incorporated the Roma kids into the Bible stories. One day the "sick man" being carried to Jesus by his friends was giggling so hard they nearly dropped him! The lepers being healed by Jesus were gasping, limping, and having a grand ole time pretending to be sick. It was fun to watch. Craft time was a hit too as the children intently made their bracelets or puppets and they eagerly showed them off. One afternoon a group of American girls set up a coloring station under the shade trees for the little ones and soon found themselves painting the fingernails of the Roma moms! During the recreation time football (soccer) was a big hit. The Roma teens were eager to challenge the American teens. Luckily Emerywood sent some of their best athletes so the games were evenly matched. It was hard at the end of the week to say good-bye. There were lots of hugs, smiles, and a few tears.
Besides the Backyard Bible Clubs they did, the Emerywood gang tasted lots of yummy (well, opinions were mixed) Hungarian food, rode public transportation like pros, sat in the town square in the evenings like Hungarians, toured Budapest, and experienced a lot of new things - so different from the US culture.
We are grateful to the youth for giving of themselves to the little ones of Ujleta and Pocsaj - for being the presence of Christ in both villages. We are grateful to their parents and Emerywood Baptist Church for sending them. Thank you. To God Be the Glory.
Hunter the Wonder Dog! Today we visited him for the first time in a year. Our friends, Helen and Ellis Vaughan, graciously agreed to foster parent Hunter while we were in the USA. We had hesitated to go by to see him because the Vaughans were out of town and we didn't want to cause problems for the Hungarian friend staying at their house. Once the Vaughan family returned we went by for a visit. They have taken excellent care of him and treated him like one of the family. Hunter was excited and sensed us right away. He began racing about, giving little whelps, and stopping to have his belly rubbed. As we visited with Ellis I noticed Hunter kept peeping around the couch like, "Is that really them?" I also noted he was totally at home as he went over for a head scratch when Tori and Samuel came through the living room on their way out. When we left it was nap time (Hunter loves naps as much as food) and he barely raised his head in a signal of good bye. Thank you Vaughan family for taking such good care of Hunter the Wonder Dog!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The funeral is tomorrow (Friday, July 24th). Pray for the family.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
The next portion was the actual office. As long as you are prepared to wait, all is good. We brought books to read. Here, too, everything went smooth. Well there was one little glitch when it was discovered Ralph's birthday was wrong on the original Hungarian drivers license. Each public servant had to go up the chain of command until "the buck stops here" person got him to sign an affidavit stating his actual birthday. For a few moments we thought they might actually call his mom and ask. :) We have to go back in 2-4 weeks to pick up the actual licenses themselves. (None of that printing them out on the spot stuff here.)
We are grateful for all of you praying for what might seem a small thing but impossible to do without in our ministry here. Please continue to pray for our housing situation. We are looking but have not found anything yet. To God Be The Glory!
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
CBF greatly encourages life-long learning. In 1998 while on our first off-field assignment Ralph began a journey of completing his Masters of Divinity degree through the Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond. BTSR was willing to accommodate Ralph's need to study long distance (a very long distance!) and his inability to be on-campus regularly. The administration at CBF supported the idea and enabled Ralph to be at BTSR when required. It was a long journey and Ralph persevered. We fondly recall the Hymnology class requiring him to join the hymn sings via phone. This meant getting up at 1AM and singing in the pantry so he wouldn't disturb the rest of the family. What did the neighbors, security guards coming and going at odd hours, think when they heard that??
The Stocks family made their way to Richmond along with friends to whoop and holler when Ralph's name was called. The night before graduation a towel service was held. Each graduate receives a towel as a symbol of serving as Christ did, humbly. We laughed later when our good friends, Laura (Virginia's WMU executive director and commencement keynote speaker) and Henry McDaniel presented Ralph with a BIG towel! They decided after 11 years of study he needed it.
We would like to thank all of you that supported Ralph through this journey. We appreciate the prayers, words of encouragement, loaning of books, the use of vehicles to make the trips to Richmond, and the many other gestures of kindness during this time. To God Be the Glory!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Graduation! How can we suddenly be the parents of a college graduate? Amy's graduation from Campbell University has been one our most anticipated activities for this off-field assignment. What a celebration it was!
Family and friends joined us for a graduation supper the Friday night before. Since Ralph also graduates the end of this month (more on that in two weeks) we had a huge party for both of them. We had family from Missouri that brought the famous Earnhardt ribs, friends from everywhere including South Carolina, and our CBF supervisors from Atlanta (They have been very supportive of Ralph's journey to get his degree for all these years!) The rain held off so we could be outside. We put together puzzles of old pictures of Amy and Ralph and then played "How Well Do You Know Amy & Ralph?" It was surprising to see how many people actually knew so many details! Everyone had a fun time.
Graduation day began with the baccalaureate service in which Ralph had been asked to read scripture. So he, Amy, and Tyler got invitations to the VIP luncheon. The rest of us joining them in the afternoon for the commencement service. With over 500 graduates it took 25 (!) minutes for them to process in! We stood proudly when the name, "Amy Lee Stocks, Magna Cum Laude" was announced. Then before we could blink, Amy was a college graduate.
After a light supper at Amy's apartment, we all made our way back home. What a day! We were tired but Ralph and I could only grin from ear to ear with pride! Amy Lee Stocks, Campbell University, Class of 2009.