Because there is a lot to catch you up on from these past few weeks! But first, take a minute to check out this video from our HOPE IFI Easter worship gathering!
Guiding Themes : over the past few weeks, the following have been themes that have guided us in our lives, our ministry, and our work.
Friendship : a prevailing theme from our first year here in Hungary is that nearly everything is built on the shoulders of friendship. We have had the most success in our ministry here when we've focused on the people more than the tasks. It's been hard work to allow space in our schedules for unplanned hangouts to pop-up, and actually say "yes" when they do. But this is the only way forward. Friendship helps us to work through differences and is the force that carries our mission forward. Friendship looks like unscheduled meetings where we laugh and play ping pong. Friendship is what unites us when the weight of serving in this village grows heavy. Friendship is what keeps the flame of marriage burning bright. This has been the prevailing theme in our lives this past year and will continue to be as we go forward with our work here in Hungary.
True prayer and true worship (John 4 & Matthew 6) : in early May, I taught our church on the importance of true prayer and worship. I utilized sections of these two gospels to define what true prayer and worship looks like, and challenged our people to practice this in their lives (see attached notes).
"What are we doing here?" : as we near the end of our first year here in Hungary, this question has been on our minds. This question has brought simplicity to a a very complex first year here. We have used this question to reflect on this past year and also to begin to refine what our next year will look like. We've used this question to ask our co-leaders for perspective. Being apart of teams can be hard. Personal and professional boundaries get blurry and it's these questions that help to simplify and clarify priorities.
Give grace... : recently, Sarah and I spent a few days away from the village. We needed time to re-group as Team Menke. We discussed unmet expectations from the past year in our marriage and ministry. Sarah gave me some hard advice that I am starting to practice daily. She told me to stop being so hard on people, myself included. In other words: give grace Cullen... So now, instead of dwelling on unmet expectations with our relationships, projects, and life here, I am finding myself routinely stopping to say, "stop being so hard on her" or "Cullen, let it go, give grace and see what happens. You are not in control."
Noteworthy moments and updates : We've been busy over the past few weeks! The following is a list of what we've been up to since we last checked in. As you continue to scroll down, you'll see photos from some of what is listed. For a layout of our weekly schedules, please have a look at our last post titled, "Following the Breadcrumbs."
Working at the Ukrainian border : Saturday April 2nd (loading and unloading trucks, as well as organizing the warehouse)
Started Hungarian classes: April 4th (M-Th AM. We finish this week!)
American NC team came: April 4th (They will be returning in August to facilitate a week-long summer camp in the village)
Team Meeting Thursday April 14th
Ararat Worship Thursday April 14th: orchestrated in a way that only God could have designed... Hungary's most influential worship group volunteered a Thursday night in the village. Playing songs that we'd been singing for months prior! This was a powerful and beautiful night for our kiddos!
Easter!: Miki showed us how to bake bread and we literally "broke" bread together!
Expanded Youth Group to 2 groups!: Our numbers are growing and so are the students who are wanting to go deeper. We now have two youth groups that meet on Thursdays!
Launched 2 Fellowship Groups Monday May 2nd: our team launched two fellowship groups to begin growing authentic faith communities in the village outside of Sunday services. So far, these have been relaxing and refreshing spaces with many newcomers!
Student helpers out to dinner! May 10th: we took our student helpers out for a nice dinner at a local hotel to show our appreciation for them. These are the students who have gone above and beyond during HOPE IFI.
Summer Camps planning August 1-12:
Hosted 2 of our Budapest Youth Group students (separately) for weekends at our home.
English Clubs: Sarah is continuing to teach English to local villagers on Tuesdays and I am beginning to teach the teachers at the school. The first teacher class included the principal!
Friday nights: our youth group in Budapest continues to grow deeper. Sarah has been teaching recently about Logical Fallacies!
We celebrated Abel's birthday!
Miki and Erika made serious upgrades on their home.
Geri and Hajni are in the final stages of purchasing a home in the village.
Expanding soccer program (today!) older boys: we are hoping this will give us an opportunity to connect deeper with the teenage boys of the village. These are my students so I have strong relationships with them, but we are looking to carry these relationships on into the summer.
Construction begins Monday! More info coming VERY SOON!
Balaton (Benedek's): This weekend we'll be spending a weekend away with Geri and Hajni, looking at the space where our second summer camp will take place and investing in our friendship with them.
A Special Thank You
Nándi and Júlia : every Friday we travel to Budapest to co-lead a high school youth group with Júlia and Nándi at their home in Budafok. Júlia is Géza and Ildikó's oldest daughter. She and her husband Nándi have made a serious impact on our lives (in Cullen's for years), but also in ours this past year. Because of Júlia, Cullen is able to teach when able at the university she is a professor at and has learned so much from her as an educator already. We are especially grateful for how well they listen to us when we arrive on Fridays after a long week!
Krisztián : if you remember, Krisztián was an answered prayer from earlier this year, as he joined our team as the village social worker in February. It has been amazing getting to know him these past couple months. Krisztián and his wife recently welcomed a son (Benedek Noel) into their family! He is a wonderful listener and has a unique ability to stop what he is doing and offer prayer for anyone who needs it. We are learning a lot from him in this area. He demonstrates an important part of Jesus' ministry in his ability to allow himself to be interrupted when someone is in need of help.
Café construction begins tomorrow! More info coming VERY SOON!
Traveling home to the US June 16 -July 3
Meeting Baby Blake!
1 summer camps August 1 - 12
"Home Away From Home" Giving 1) Cafe construction 2) Sponsoring students for summer camp : MORE INFORMATION COMING SOON
· *this one will be a constant prayer request* Please continue to pray for Cullen and I: that we would continue to grow in the Lord and in our marriage together. It has been made very clear to us that our marriage is the foundation of this mission, as without it, the rest of it falls away.
· We are personally supported through May of next year, so please pray for our fundraising. Please see our Support page (bloomingabroad.com/support) for further details on how you can support us. Thanks to all who have given their time and money for us to be able to make this possible!
· Continue praying for our language learning. We are just finishing up our 8-week Hungarian class online this week. It has drastically helped us with our understanding and speaking, but we can always continue to improve. We long to be able to communicate well with the people here.
· We don’t have all of the financial numbers, but we are likely going to still be short on finances for the entirety of the Coffee House. Please pray for us to trust God to provide the resources.
· Please pray for continued deepening relationships with the villagers in our Fellowship Groups. Many people are more open to house groups, and we pray for open hearts and ears for the gospel!
· Your prayers for safe travel for us and for Copper were (as stated above) answered! No hiccups or surprises or challenges met us on our way to our new home.
· We were able to drive our new car home on Monday! A lovely Ford Fiesta with so few miles, a good price and in great condition. Praise the Lord that we now have more independence and freedom!
· Our stay here in Hungary was approved! The immigration office recently approved our stay and work here until October 2023, we will then re-apply for our final year.
· We were able to launch a new youth group in Tatárszentgyörgy! The kids are LOVING worshiping and we are starting by reading John together. The youth group is also continuing to grow!
· We have both been able to settle more into our roles, and have felt a renewed sense of purpose here.
· Our End-of-Year fundraising goal was exceeded!!! This gets us even closer to having all of the funds needed for the Coffee House project and for summer camp for the village children.
· Our friends Hajni and Geri have found a house in the village!
· We have had a wonderful 3 months with our new co-worker named Krisztián! He has been an amazing answer to prayer, as he is an experienced social worker, a strong Christian and has provided Miki with more time to be the school/church pastor and a husband/father. Krisztián has also recently (early May) become a father again! PTL that everything went smoothly and mom/baby are healthy.
· We are so thankful that we were able to receive our 501(c)3 status!!
· Pastor Ron’s visit went so well! We were able to connect personally and partner with his church Family Life! They have been so supportive and generous and we are excited to see how our partnership grows.
· An English camp has been approved and planned for our Budapest youth students!
· We have now launched 2 youth groups on Thursday nights because Ifi has continued to grow!
· English classes in the village are going really well. Cullen actually started another English class for the teachers here in the village. Relationships and trust are being built and God is working.
· We start construction on the Coffee House tomorrow!
· We launched Fellowship Groups last month.
Lastly, take a moment to soak in one of our favorite moments from these past few weeks... Led by Miki, the students stood up and joined the worship leaders in the closing moments of our gathering. Many of the students saw this moment as an opportunity to take a step toward Jesus. To take a step towards being the first generation of Jesus followers in the village of Tatárszentgyörgy.
As you watch, please know that these moments wouldn't be possible without your support. We are so thankful for all that you do to support us in our work here in Hungary!
Cullen, Sarah, and Copper