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A Story About Hope & A New Home

Dear Friends,

Sarah and I wanted to take a minute to share with you a miraculous story of God's love for the children of Tatárszentgyörgy, demonstrated through the building of The Upstairs Youth Center. As the project is now in it's final stage, we decided it was a good time to share... Thank you for all your support. It is because of your support that we were in a position to experience these miracles.

Hope you enjoy,

C + S

In September of 2021, building on the many past efforts to serve the young people of Tatárszentgyörgy, HOPE IFI (IFI is Hungarian for YOUTH) was born. God chose two couples, one Hungarian (Geri and Hajni Benedek) and one American (Cullen and Sarah Menke) to bring this ministry to life. The goal was to open the gates every week and create a place where young people are fed both physically and spiritually. Every week for these past twenty-six months, HOPE IFI has accomplished that and more.

HOPE was a thoughtfully chosen name for this group. H representing faith (Hit ), O representing dedication(Odaszánas), P representing (Party), and E representing unity (Egység). These four words represent the values of our community and the foundation on which it was built (Romans 15:13, Romans 8: 24-25).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

HOPE IFI started with just a handful of students but has since grown to at least thirty coming each week. More importantly, most of the original handful still regularly attend. HOPE IFI routinely attracts the “problem children” of the village. When at school, they struggle to take care of their responsibilities and respect their teachers, yet at HOPE IFI, they regularly arrive early to set up and seek out leaders in hopes that they will share their work with them. HOPE IFI also intentionally welcomes many of the older students of the village that have chosen not to continue in their schooling.

We consistently explain to the students that the true value of our community will only be realized once our values are on display in their lives on more than just Wednesday evenings. We long to see our students express these four values in their classrooms, in their homes, and on the sidewalks and streets of Tatárszentgyörgy. Our task is to do our best to guide them, call them upwards, and share our perspectives with them about their futures. We do what we must to hold them accountable while also holding onto the mission that God has given us to open the gates every week and simply “let them come” no matter how they come… if we start to put restrictions on them, then we slowly move further away from that mandate.

In addition to the Benedeks and Menkes, many of the local social workers have joined the team of leaders and together we have continued weekly meetings, attended Ez az a Nap!, hosted annual Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, and even spent a week at Lake Balaton for summer camp each of the past two summers. These gatherings and programs have been funded thanks to the continued generosity of our American partners who have supported the work of Blooming Abroad as well as our friends from Family Life Wesleyan Church in Williamston, Michigan.

The downstairs of the ministry house HOPE IFI once occupied has since been transformed into a non-profit cafe called Manna Kávézó (Cafe), leaving HOPE IFI without a home. In the spring of 2022, while the cafe construction was underway, Cullen began dreaming about the unfinished upstairs space one day becoming a home for HOPE IFI and a “home away from home” for the future generations of young people in Tatárszentgyörgy. Little did he know, seventeen months later, that dream would come true.

In June of 2022, while Cullen and Sarah were back in the US, an unlikely and divine meeting occurred. Mike Flory, the owner of Custom Built, a local construction company, drove up next to Cullen while he was outside in the front yard of Sarah’s parents’ home. Having never met previously, they somehow stumbled upon their mutual friendship with Géza and Ilidkó Kovács. The Kovács’ were close friends with Mike’s mother while they lived in Michigan many years ago. Standing in awe, Mike and Cullen began discussing the dream of funding and building this youth center in a small village in Hungary. The following Christmas, Cullen and Sarah traveled back to Michigan to attend a large fundraising dinner hosted and paid for by Mike Flory and Custom Built. That dinner raised the initial $15,000 in funding to begin working on the upstairs!

In March of 2023, the upstairs work began and continued without issue until May, when the initial funding had run out. Once the funds hit zero, Cullen began guiding the students upstairs to pray and ask God for help. We needed five million forints to finish the job. So we prayed and the students began saying no to energy drinks in order to give some coins into the offering envelope. Throughout the week, students would shout at Cullen from across the street, running up to him and giving him money! After a month of giving our “loaves and fishes” to Jesus, he decided to multiply the students’ giving.

It was June of 2023 and a team of missionaries from Family Life Wesleyan Church were in the village, serving for a week of after school HOPE IFI programs while doing various projects in the cafe, at Geri and Hajni’s house, and across the grounds of the ministry house. One afternoon, while upstairs, the Holy Spirit did something crazy through the generosity of one of the missionaries ( who requested to remain nameless). While upstairs, Henrik (local builder) invited the missionary to take part in a tradition, to drill one screw into the wall so that he could say he took part in the project... This moment and the realized potential of the space to give hope and a home to these children caused this missionary to approach Cullen with a question... “How much more money does the upstairs project need?” Cullen responded, “It needs five million more…” One week later, that five million forints ($15,000) was deposited into Blooming Abroad’s bank account!

As I write this, we are in mid-November. Last week, the last of those funds were spent. This week, we completed the walls and flooring and tomorrow... HOPE IFI will move into its new home. It seems only natural that the first gathering will be for a big Thanksgiving meal.

God is building our faith with these miracles, signs, and wonders. We are still opening the gates and feeding the young people of Tatárszentgyörgy, both physically and spiritually. For us, the greatest miracle of all remains to see young people filled with the living hope that can only be given by Jesus Christ. We would cross the world all over again and trade all the forints and beautiful buildings in the world to see one child encounter this living HOPE.

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