Friday, December 25, 2009


Our family wishes you a joyous celebration of our Saviour's birth. We are enjoying being together and doing all of our traditional things like baking Christmas bread, looking at Christmas lights, attending the Christmas Eve service, counting down the days with our Advent calendar, and the list goes on. During this time we are always grateful to God for His blessings which include your friendship and support.

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

Fostering the Next Generation

Meet Daniel, a twenty-something young man, who is the newest guitar player and music leader at the Csobanka Roma church. Daniel plays very well but needs confidence to stand before the church members to lead. That’s where Imre comes in. Imre, an older man, also plays and leads music for Roma worship services. He sees potential in Daniel and is encouraging him in his abilities.

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

One Man's Junk, Another's Treasures - Christmas Bags

One of the fun things we do at Christmas is put together bags to be given out to the children in our Roma church in Csobanka. The families associated with the church live in desperate situations where putting food on the table is a constant struggle. There is little left over for Christmas presents. We recently put our heads together with our colleagues, Glen and Clista Adkins, to plan the children's surprise packages. With supplies generously left from volunteer teams (thank you FBCs of Greenville, SC; Huntsville, AL; & Augusta, GA; and Emerywood Baptist), Smiley Face necklaces made by Buddy & Betty Jo Carrier, toothbrushes donated by the children at Northside Baptist, Bernie, MO, and candy purchased by generous gifts to our Roma Family Project we put together 25 gift bags. We even felt like Santa as we met the church leader in the grocery store parking lot to transfer the bags to his car. The bits and pieces left by the teams may have felt like "junk", but on Christmas morning they will certainly be "treasures" to 25 beaming Roma boys and girls. Thank you for supporting CBF's ministry among the Roma of Hungary through your prayers, volunteer efforts, and financial gifts. Gifts to CBF's Global Missions Offering help keep us here, ministering among the Romany.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Count Your Many Blessings

Thanksgiving Day is here and our colleague, Glen Adkins, is shown slicing the bird. Hungarians do not celebrate this holiday so we hunt madly through the stores and markets for supplies for the traditional foods and gather with American friends to celebrate. This year when we give thanks we will list in gratitude our prayer supporters who faithfully lift up the Roma and the ministries among them. We will remember all the volunteers who have given of their time, effort, and finances to serve along side us. We will give thanks for the financial gifts given to our projects and especially to the CBF Global Missions Offering. The offering enables to serve and live among the Roma and for that we are very grateful. Thank you!
"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you', that would suffice." Meister Eckhart

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gypsy Smith November 09 Class

Gypsy Smith Graduation

The ending of this session of the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training was a celebration. Sorin, pictured here holding his diploma, had completed the required 12 weeks of training. We celebrated the moment with a recognition ceremony in the Thursday night prayer service at the Providence Church. Prayers were said for Sorin as he returns to his village to pastor his flock and preach the Good News to his fellow Romany. Please pray for Sorin and the Roma leaders.

Ruth Staff Appreciation Day 5 - Books & Pens

"God Bless You" Clista and I tried to say this to as many of the Ruth Center staff and teachers that we could. We felt their employment at Project Ruth was sacrificial and such a blessing to the students and their families of the Ferentari neighborhood. Today the teachers received the booklets with pages the students had designed themselves with pictures, poems, and words of gratitude. Each staff person received a bundle of pens and pencils that said, "You are appreciated very much" And the truth is - they are!!

Ruth Staff Appreciation Day 4 - Apples & GSS

It's an American cultural thing to bring your teacher an apple - I have no idea how that got started - but I can say that it is not a Romanian tradition. However, Romanians, enjoy eating fruit. So today each staff person got an apple that said, "You're the Light of God's Eye" (apple of God's eye just didn't translate right). The apples were big, shiny, and juicy. They were thoroughly enjoyed.

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

Ruth Staff Appreciation Day 3 - Baskets!

"You are special and so are your teachers. We want them to know how much we appreciate what they do." Now imagine the room of school children shouting and clapping their hands in agreement. That's what this morning was like as we presented each of the teachers with baskets of supplies. The students were happy to give their teachers encouragement. (The teachers don't know the students are secretly working on booklets to be presented to them at the end of the week. Some of the 8th grade artwork is awesome!) All staff received a candy bar that said, "We think you're sweet". Lots of hugs and smiles today...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ruth Staff Appreciation Day 2 - Food!

"All of this for us?" That was the question we heard over and over as the teachers of the Ruth School laid eyes on the table filled with food for their Appreciation Tea. The director, Tita, gave them permission to stay longer so they could graze on the delicious treats prepared just for them. They laughed, talked, munched, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves through the break time. Clista and I were worn out from the early morning hectic running around to make sure everything was ready when the bell rang. It was worth it as Tita, through the English teacher, told us how special they all felt. So much had been done for the school as a whole and for the students but this was a first for the staff. The bell rang again and the teachers made their ways back to the classrooms with full bellies and smiling faces. Thank you for praying for this project. We have 3 more days to go!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ruth Staff Appreciation Day 1 - Surprise!

The staff at Project Ruth were tickled, we actually heard a few giggles, when they saw the signs posted throughout their two buildings saying "our staff is the best", "you are a blessing", "thank you for teaching/working here" and other messages of encouragement. The sign in the picture says "Our Cooks are #1". We also handed out Smiley Face magnets with notes that said, "Smile, God Loves You!" The teachers wanted to know what we were doing for the students and smiled when we said, "Nothing, this week is just for you." The staff at Project Ruth works tirelessly, humbly, and often sacrificially to teach and serve the Roma of this run-down, poverty-stricken, trash-strewn neighborhood of Bucharest.
They deserve to hear, "We appreciate You" much more often than we say it. Tomorrow will be fun too, as we offer a special tea time with fancy food. Clista and I can't wait!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Prayer Request - Ruth School & GSS

Prayer Supporters: Ralph and I leave tomorrow for Bucharest, Romania. Glen and Clista Adkins are joining us. Please pray for us this coming week. Glen and Ralph will be teaching at the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training session. Roma leaders from across Romania and Moldova will attend. Ralph will teach on the book of Mark while Glen concentrates on worship. Clista and I will be busy providing a Staff Appreciation Week for the Ruth School. We will be doing something for the staff each day to let them know they are loved and appreciated.

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

"Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!"

Twenty years ago today one of the most significant acts in history took place. The Berlin wall came tumbling down. The Communist governments in the eastern European bloc countries were toppled and freedom reigned. Lately the news has been dominated with first hand accounts of how lives were changed, families reunited, and new governments formed. Even Angela Merkel, the current German chancellor, recounted how she grew up in East Germany and would not be where she is today if not for the wall coming down. CBF's Director of Field Ministries, Jim Smith, and his wife, Becky, were living in Berlin at the time. Jim tells the story of being in East Germany when this was actually happening and pulling up to the infamous "Checkpoint Charlie" that separated east from west. No intense scrutiny, no mirrors looking under the car, what was going on?? Ask Jim to tell the story. It was a day that changed history. Many, many lives were impacted.

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

Berencs - Sing Your Praise to the Lord...

The Berencs (BER-ench) Roma church meets in a room at the city hall building of the little village in northeast Hungary. The church purchased an old house to convert into a place of worship but it turned out to be too old and had to be torn down. Now they are trying to get permission to build a new church. The paperwork continues to be caught up in bureaucracy. So in the meantime they meet at the city hall. Not ideal, however, as we know God uses all circumstances.

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!"

Roma Women, Life is Hard

Please pray for Imre and his family. His wife passed away this week. Ralph attended the funeral yesterday. Ilie was only 49 years old. This is not an uncommon occurence among the Roma of Hungary - the women dying young. We know several men who have lost their wives while they were in their 40's.

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

10 Year Jubliee of Roma Ministries!

Roma Leaders gathered to celebrate.
They came from all parts of Hungary by car, train, and bus to celebrate. It was a day of testimonies, preaching, singing, and sharing of memories. We had gathered to mark 10 years of formal ministry by the Hungarian Baptist Union among the Roma (Gypsies) of Hungary. The Union organized the first Roma conference in 1999 in the village of Csobanka where a local Baptist church had planted a Roma church. The pastor of the church was Jozsf Csuhai, who is now the Hungarian Baptist Roma Ministries coordinator. From those humble beginnings has grown a committee of Hungarians and Roma working together, 24 Roma churches and missions, training for leaders, accountability in church resources, and many other positive things. At the meeting many expressed gratitude and thankfulness to God for blessing the work. Looking to the future, the leaders hope to grow the ministry to Roma, their brothers, in the Ukraine and Romania. God is at work...
**Thank you CBF supporters. Your prayer support, as well as your financial gifts, have helped this ministry grow into the vibrant outreach it is today.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lost in Translation

As seen in one of our favorite Hungarian restaurants...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Old Friends - The Revesz Family

If you have followed our ministry in Hungary since our early days the name Tamas Revesz may ring a bell. He was the young man in need of an internship for the seminary degree he was working on and we were in need of a leadership partner for the Pocsaj Roma mission. Tamas came into our lives while we lived in Derecske. Though he had his own apartment, he ate many meals with us and stayed overnight at our house many nights. Tamas was one of us. He was dating Orsi at the time and they married during our last year on the Great Plains. Tamas was very instrumental in the ministry in Pocsaj. He loved the people there and did what he could to teach and help them.

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.

Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul

CBF realized early in its time the importance of keeping its field personnel healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually. From those thoughts came the CBF member care program. Volunteer counselors are assigned to each field personnel to assist them in their journey of good health. There are also volunteer doctors, pastors, dietitians, and various others who help.

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

292 Delegates, 42 Christian Schools, 18 Countries...

I, Tammy, was privileged to serve as the nurse at the 10th annual Student Leadership Conference sponsored by the Association of Christian Schools International. It was 3 days of an amazing mix of cultures as the students broke into discussion groups, attended workshops, participated in worship - all to formulate ideas and action plans on how to be Godly leaders at the their schools. They were encouraged to "Be Strong and Courageous!" (Joshua 1:9).

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

Vivien & Ashley - A Story of God's Love

As I look back over this past summer my favorite moment came when a youth team from Emerywood BC in High Point held a VBS type camp for Roma kids in Pocsaj, Hungary. This village is the site of our first church plant way back in 1995. Over the years we have celebrated and grieved with many of the families in the small Roma church there. A single lady lost her 12 year old daughter to drowning and a couple gave birth to triplets. Vivien, one of those triplets, was born with near blindness and has remained so to this day. Yet she has developed a quick intellect and leads her class at the local school.

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

Ralph in Bucharest

Ralph is off today to spend a few days in Bucharest for the quarterly session of the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training School (GSS). Roma (Gypsy) leaders meet four times a year for training on how to be effective leaders and evangelists among their own people. The week long classes are taught be invited speakers from the US, Romania, Austria, and Great Britain.

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

Gandhi Choir on Tour

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 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

Memorial Walk

Ralph and I participated Sunday in a walk sponsored by the Canadian embassy to raise money for cancer research. We chose to do this to honor and remember Ralph's father, Lee Stocks, who lost his fight with cancer a year ago. The weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful as we made our way to Margit (Margaret) Island in the middle of the Danube River separating Buda and Pest. The registration was a bit chaotic but we got our t-shirts and purchased a few raffle tickets with some patience. We walked the four miles and shared thoughts of Ralph's dad. Upon re-entering the stadium we claimed our "goody" bags and waited for the results of the raffle. I was hoping for the plane tickets being offered by Portugal Air but was happy to win a new mobile phone with a Bluetooth headset and two bottles of famous Hungarian liquor. (Well maybe not so thrilled with the liquor since we don't drink it) The walk was a success for the Embassy since they expected 2000 people with about 3000 showing up. It was a success for us because we honored a man who made a big difference in our lives, our children's lives, and the lives of so many more.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Baseball, Apple Pie, and ???

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

Agreeing With Madonna?

Well this is a first - We agree with Madonna?!?! Recently while on tour in Bucharest, Romania, she spoke out in support of the Roma (Gypsies) of eastern Europe. Read the story by clicking on the link below. Madonna was booed for her efforts. What is the world coming to when we find ourselves on the same side as Madonna? Who cares if brings attention to the blight of the Romany in eastern Europe.

Monday, August 31, 2009

School Begins

"School Days, School Days, Good Old Golden..." so the song goes. Today and the remainder of the week schools will begin throughout central and eastern Europe. Please join us in praying for the Roma children in this region as they make their ways to the various buildings for elementary and high school. Pray that hearts would soften in the discrimination against them and this would be the year they feel welcomed. Pray for safety in light of the violence against Roma recently in Hungary and Slovakia. Pray the students would realize the advantage an education can mean in their lives and would study seriously. Pray for their parents as many struggle to provide basic school supplies, pay fees, and clothe their children. Pray for the Gandhi Roma High School in Pecs, Hungary as their begin the year with new leadership. Pray the needs and education of the students would be the top priority. Thank you for partnering with us through prayer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Movers Come Tomorrow 8/27/09

Please say a prayer. We've hired a local guy to "cart our junk" from the retired pastor's home in a little village to our very clean (I spent the last two days scrubbing) house in the middle of Budapest. It's been so long since we've seen our belongings I think it will be like Christmas as we open the boxes. Can't wait!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Quilting Experience

My grandmother was a quilter. She grew up in a time and place where it was a necessity of life. She would have been proud of me today. I went to a quilt camp. It was fun and it took me four hours to do one little square. That was with a machine!

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

I'm in - technically

Today I moved into our new house with a mattress, a coffee pot, a fan, a tv, and our computer. It feels great! We spent 11 months in the US living out of suitcases a good deal of the time and then 6 weeks in Hungary going from place to place. (We are very grateful to friends that took us in!) I am so ready to see my stuff. It ain't much but it's mine. Ralph is currently on a trip and returns the 26th. The movers come the 27th. Right now I am scrubbing, sweeping, washing, etc. in preparation for the big day. Pray all goes well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sweet Memories

Since we're homeless, our colleagues, Glen and Clista Adkins, have been kind enough to take us in. They live in Pecs, one of the larger cities in Hungary. It is also home to the Vago family. If you have followed us since our early days in the village, the name may ring a bell. Istvan Vago was the pastor at the Baptist church in Derecske, the village where we spent our first term. The Vago family fed us for the first week we were in Hungary. They were our first friends. Their first born, Kinga, was friends and classmates with our first born, Amy. We have wonderful memories with the Vago family.

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

Farewell Andy & Claudia Brockbank

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

Prayer Request - Gandhi Tour

Prayer Supporters - Please be in prayer for the Stocks and the Adkins as we tour with the Gandhi Choir over an extended weekend. Here are the requests in Clista's words:

"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

Emerywood Youth in Ujleta & Pocsaj

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.

"Reunited & It Feels So Good..."

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

Mid-Week with Emerywood Youth

It is just over mid-week with the youth team from Emerywood Baptist in High Point. They have been doing Backyard Bible Clubs for Roma children in the village of Ujleta and Pocsaj. The weather has been hot and sunny but the team has been energetic and playful. The kids have soaked up the attention and hugs. Please continue to pray for us all this week. Pray we can be the hands and feet of Christ, sharing without reservation. Pray for continued good health and safety in our traveling.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Emerywood Youth are in the House!

The youth team from Emerywood arrived today. Everyone got here without problems and with all their luggage - answered prayer. Despite their jet lag they were enthusiastic and ready to see a bit of the city. Pray for us as we head out at 9:15 in the morning for Debrecen (where we will sleep) and Ujleta (where the Backyard Bible Club will be held). The youth will conduct their first BB Club Sunday evening with the kids at the Ujleta. To say these Roma kids are excited for the American team to arrive is an understatement! They already think this team is rock star status. Monday-Wednesday we will be in Ujleta in the morning and Pocsaj, another village with a Roma church, in the afternoon. They finish up in Ujleta on Thursday morning and head back to Budapest for a few days of touring. Please pray for safe travels, good health, and that we may each be the presence of Christ this week. We plan on lots of hugs and smiles for the Roma children.

Friday, July 24, 2009

We Have a House!

As of August 21, when the landlord is finished painting and tiling, we will officially be living in the XVI district of Budapest. We are excited and relieved. Thank you for all your prayers that we would quickly find the right house. We are positive we have. It is a 'twin' house or what Americans call a duplex and is only nine years old. We share a side wall with an elderly lady that the landlord assures us is a good neighbor as long as you don't block her driveway. The house has exactly what we asked you to pray for: a modern kitchen, a small yard for the dog, at least 2 bedrooms (we have 1 and what the Hungarians call 2 halves {small}), near the MO and M3 highways, and I laughingly told a few people we would love to have two fully working toilets - this house does! We appreciate your support and concern. Now - come see us, we have the room!

Emerywood BC Youth Team

Please pray for the 12 members of the Emerywood Baptist Church youth team leaving the USA today, arriving tomorrow to join us for a week of Backyard Bible school activities. They will be serving in the mornings in Ujleta (the Roma kids are so excited, this is a first for them) and three afternoons they will be in Pocsaj. Pray for safe travels, the arrival of luggage, and that God's hand will be upon the team as they serve as the presence of Christ in eastern Hungary.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prayer Request - Natasha's father

Prayer Supporters: Please include Natasha and Tibi in your prayers for the next few days, even weeks. We received news today that Natasha's father passed away. He was only 53 (average life expectancy for Roma men here is 55) and was a believer. While his family is comforted that he is in heaven, they still grieve. The names Natasha and Tibi may be familiar to you because we told their amazing story when we spoke in various churches and other settings. They came to know the Lord because Natasha attended a local Bible study. Afterwards Tibi felt called to be a leader and learned to read by studying the Bible. They were also legally married because of their convictions. Natasha and Tibi now have started a little church in their home in the village of Szakmarcserke.

The funeral is tomorrow (Friday, July 24th). Pray for the family.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

House Hunting Update

We have looked at several places ranging from, "You've got to be kidding!" (the one with the beauty shop space in the front with pipes coming up in various places where sinks used to be) to "the bus stop is how far?" (brand new house in a hilly neighborhood with a 30 minute power walk to the bus stop) to "Do what??" (twin house where the wife lived upstairs and the husband lived downstairs. We got to choose which apartment we wanted and obviously which spouse had to move.) We have also seen two places that have promise. We have two more to look at and hope to make a decision by the end of the week. We are anxious to be in our own space with our own things. Please keep praying for the right decision and just the right place to make our home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Legally On The Road Again or Drivers Licenses Extended!

Yes, our drivers licenses are officially extended for another five years! Hooray! Thanks be to God and thank you for praying this request for us. We anticipated bureaucracy and frustration but got efficiency (well as efficient as it gets) and patience. The first step was the physical exam where we anticipated like last time - EKGs, urinalysis, etc. We worried over Ralph having to take the eye exam. (Side note: For those of you that worry because you have ridden with him in the crazy Hungarian traffic - it's not his eyes!) The doctor, a friend of our landlord's, had us do a few awkward balancing things like walking across the room with our eyes closed. Then he looked at Ralph and said, "You wear glasses." Then to me, "Read the chart." The next thing we knew we were standing on the sidewalk, forms in hand, scratching our heads in wonder. (In the Dr's defense Ralph had explained we just did complete physicals in the USA.)

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

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

Sunday afternoon we headed to Csobanka, the village north of Budapest that is home to the Roma (Gypsy) church we attended. A group watched us get out of the car, not sure who we were until Ralph opened the gate and said, "Any friends here?" We were greeted warmly and enthusiastically with handshakes and kisses on both cheeks. Everyone began to say, "A Ralfiek!" In Hungarian that means "The Ralphs!" That is a short way of addressing a family without having to call everyone's name. In this case that was only me. We sang choruses and the preacher of the week spoke for 47 minutes! Welcome back. Then it was catch up time. Ralph spoke about our time in the USA and we heard about their families. It was a wonderful reunion.

Prayer Request - Drivers License

Please pray for us as we begin the process of renewing our Hungarian drivers licenses. It is an involved process requiring a visit to the doctor for testing and an eye exam. We will attempt to begin on Monday, July 13th. Pray all will go smoothly and we will be renewed without delay. Thanks

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Welcome Back to the Land of the Magyars!

After nearly 11 months, a college graduation, a seminary graduation, lots of opportunities to tell the story of ministry among the Gypsies, several family crisi (is that the plural of crisis?), seeing old friends, and making new ones, we've arrived in Hungary. It was difficult to say good-bye and the trip does not get any shorter or easier. We're now energized and ready to see what God has planned. First thing tomorrow we begin house hunting. Please pray we can quickly find a place that meets our needs and in the right location. We also have to get our Hungarian drivers licenses renewed. Pray this goes smoothly and quickly. It involves an eye test, EKG, and urinalysis. It's good to be back!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Packing Never Gets Easier

The dance has begun. I make the piles of things to pack and Ralph figures out how to get it in the suitcases. There are of course the little negotiations that go on. "Does THIS have to go?" "Yes." "Ok, pick out something else to stay." We go back and forth about what we each declare as necessities. :) Packing does not get any easier. Although 'space bags' help. We are thankful to FBC, Greenville, SC for gifting us with these big baggies that seal and vacuum pack down clothes, making much more room. Now I'm off to WalMart for one last buying spree of decaf tea, mustard, and cold medicines...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

15 years and Still Praying...

Ralph and I are attending the annual meeting, the General Assembly, of CBF. It is much like a family reunion, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Wednesday night was the commissioning service for new personnel. Clista Adkins and I entered the nearly full sanctuary of South Main Baptist Church and quickly claimed seats on the row with her husband, Glen. I found myself sitting beside Beverly Greer, Coordinator of Missions for CBF of South Carolina, a long time friend. As I sat there I realized I first met Beverly 15 years ago at my own commissioning service. During the time of the service when they asked attendees to lay their hands on newly commissioned personnel, Beverly laid her hands on me. On that day, she later told me, she prayed for me and continues to this day - 15 years later. Beverly is one of Ralph and my prayer warriors. Pray-ers committed to praying for us and the Roma (Gypsy) ministry regularly. Thank you Beverly! Would you consider joining her?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thank you Emerywood Baptist Church!

Mere words don't seem to convey our heartfelt thanks to the staff and congregation of Emerywood Baptist Church. During this off-field assignment time they agreed to allow Ralph to serve his seminary required internship under their pastor, Bob Ferguson. However, it was much, much more than that. Emerywood provided for us physically with a place to live and a car to drive. They provided for us spiritually and emotionally by welcoming us into their midst warmly and wholeheartedly. We made some good friends and enjoyed a lot of good fellowship. We are very grateful for all the love and support that was given to us. Thank you Emerywood!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Until We Met Again... Craigs Complete Assignment

Tomorrow, June 15th, Wes and Susan Craig, serving as Global Service Corps workers to Project Ruth in Bucharest, Romania, board the plane marking an end to their three years of ministry there. Susan and Wes jumped boldly into their assignment despite a new language, different culture, and without knowing anyone there. They embraced all that was new and different, forging new friendships, and making a difference among those around them. Relationship building is key to a good ministry and the Craigs were excellent at it, leaving behind many sad friends as they say good-bye.
Wes and Susan strengthened the ministry partnership CBF has with Project Ruth through increasing and improving communication with other partners. They expanded the networks throughout the USA and among the Romanian Romany. They facilitated great experiences for volunteers coming to work among the neglected. The Craigs eagerly grasped new opportunities.
Through Susan's administrative skills the office of Project Ruth was strengthened and organized. Wes stepped in to network and recruit teachers and students for the Gypsy Smith Leadership Training School. He followed up to encourage the students in the new knowledge they had obtained. It is not possible to list all the wonderful things they did while serving in Bucharest.
For the CBF Gypsy Team they were a breath of fresh air. Their youthful enthusiasm added to our discussion and strategy sessions. To say nothing of the late night card games! We all enjoyed their easy-going personalities and curiosity to explore new places. Wes and Susan will be greatly missed by our team.
As Wes and Susan make their way to Texas, closing this chapter in their lives and opening the next, please join us in praying that they will see clearly the next step God has for them. Ask Him to provide employment opportunities and meet their daily needs. Offer praise for their willingness to serve Him and the outstanding job they did.
The Craigs are eager and willing to share their stories of life at Project Ruth. Please contact them to come and be with your church, SS class, missions group, or anyone else interested in Romany ministry.
Wes and Susan, thank you for serving among the unreached of the world.
Additional Note: Ralph and I have personally enjoyed our friendship with Wes and Susan. We shared holidays and team meetings with them. We enjoyed visits to their home. They are fun and delightful to be around. It has been educational to hear the insights of another generation, especially learning about blogs, ipods, and Starbucks. We will miss them greatly.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ralph Graduates!

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

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today Ralph and I celebrate 24 years of marriage! Has it really been that long? We celebrated by going with our children to Busch Gardens and having a great time as a family.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Amy Graduates!

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.