Hello friends and family! Sarah here. Again, it keeps getting to be longer and longer between these updates, and now it's going to be hard to encompass the last 2.5 months of our lives. We did it to ourselves I guess... But I will do my best (hopefully without making this too long and a boring read).
The last update was announcing our new podcast Blooming Abroad, updating you all on our time in Michigan, our decision to move back in December of this year, our fundraiser for the upstairs and about Géza's father's passing.
But we have so much more to update you all on, so here it goes!
Since our return to Hungary, we have been able to see Hungary in a different light. To be specific, Hungary has now become our relationships, and not just our hardships. Although we continue to face some challenges within the ministry and personally, we have also been able to really engage, press-in and truly enjoy our relationships here. We have grown so much in our friendships with everyone over the past few months. In fact, one of our highlights for this post is our relationship with Cili (Seely) and her husband Misi (Mee-shee) (picture below - the 2 on the far left).
These 2 have been shining stars in our last few months. Misi has taken over the position of café manager AND the Upstairs Project manager. He has been motivated, hard-working and has already bought the materials for and started the upstairs project! AND he believes he can do it within the budget of what we raised in December! Also, his wife Cili has been so prayerful, supportive and encouraging with her husband, the project and with our friendship. She is so hospitable and really emphasizes quality time with us. Although their English is limited, we are able to speak the same language. We appreciate them so much!
Speaking of the Upstairs Project, massive progress has been made. As mentioned, Misi has been taking such initiative with this project. He reviewed the budget, found a construction worker/manager to help (at a discounted price), bought almost all of the materials and started working on the floors (which will be done by Monday!). This was all within 4 weeks. We could not be more blessed by his faith to move to part-time at his stable job and give his time, energy and resources to this café and building project.
Back in early March, we were offered the opportunity to join an American medical team in western Ukraine! Since summer of 2021, the Hungarian Baptist Aid has been sending medical and relief teams to this area of Hungary. This part of Ukraine has been affected by the war in a unique way. This already impoverished area has seen a massive influx of IDP's (internally displaced people) since it is so far away from the main areas of fighting. As it is far away, but not a different country, many Ukrainian people have decided to settle here. The infrastructure in place was not prepared to take this many IDP's, so many of them are staying in old hospitals, churches or schools with little access to food, healthcare and basic supplies. The opportunity allowed me to exercise my medical background while reaching a vulnerable, strong and needy population.
We were able to meet so many amazing people on this outreach. We met Kristy, an NP who has worked internationally with mobile medical services for over 15 years. We also formed a close relationship with Csaba, the pastor in this region. He and his brother Tony are pastors at multiple churches in surrounding villages, and to be completely honest, they are overworked. Many of their workers left the country, and with more people and less workers, they are acing burnout. We were (hopefully) able to lift his spirits and give him some encouragement.
Another big update is that our pastors (and now friends) Marvin Williams and Jack Magruder came to visit us from Trinity Church. It's hard to put into words what their visit meant to us. Their goal was to encourage their mission partners, and they definitely did just that. They offered their resources, time and wisdom to us in exactly the way we needed, and it was amazing. Their experience, wisdom and encouragement lightened our load and really helped uplift our spirits.
The last exciting update is about our trip of a lifetime to Israel! We were lucky enough to be able to travel on a 10-day tour with my mom and our friend Pam through Pilgrim Tours! We had an amazing tour group of 26 people from The US/Canada with the BEST local guide Miki! Seeing my mom and spending time learning about the Bible/Jesus in the Holy Land was more revitalizing than we ever expected. Life was breathed into our faith in a fresh new way, and we came back from the trip refreshed and alive. Our experience there was also made super special by being in Jerusalem during Palm Sunday/Easter week, Passover week and Ramadan (which only happens at the same time every 30-ish years). God really did some amazing work in us.
There is always more to say, but that is all we have time for now. If you want more detailed stories and insight into what we are up to, please check out our podcast Blooming Abroad on Apple Podcasts!
- Every step we take from here until the end of our journey here in Hungary will be to continue making this place better than we found out. This is the driving force and our goal for 2023. Please join us in prayer and hold this goal before God, asking Him to guide our steps, decisions, finances, and time accordingly.
- This is a prayer request and a praise! We were able to raise funds until the third week of November, 2023. Which means we have about $4,000 to go towards our goal of staying until the end of this year! Please see our Support page (bloomingabroad.com/support) for further details on how you can support us. Thanks to all who have already given their time and money for us to be able to make this possible!
- The business plans and outfitting of the café is underway. We have a LOT of work to do in regards to getting the café up and running. Please pray for guidance and wisdom from the Holy Spirit and unity within the team. Our goal is to open the café in early Summer.
- Pray for our Monday morning prayer meetings in the village. Cullen started these in early November and we have been meeting ever since. It seems a culture of prayer has been taking root and each week, nearly all of the team members come together to pray either in person or online. Meetings take place from 8:30-9:00 am. We see this as the most important 30 minutes of each week.
- Pray for our HOPE Youth Group. This group continues to grow each week. We spend three hours every Thursday evening with students. Starting with songs and teaching, then small groups and eating together, and ending with dance parties and large group games. It has taken us many months to figure out the best rhythm for Thursday nights, especially with so many kids! But we are finally seeing fruit. The new café space has served as an amazing space for our gatherings! Just last week, we had a student come to us interested in being baptized!!! Our prayer is that each and every one of these students have a fire for Jesus like this student.
- Pray for the process of renovating the upstairs. There are many components to this second building project. We are working with Géza, Miki, and Misi to make sure we are all on the same page. Please pray for our meetings and for efficient and unified decisions so that we can finish our goal by the time we open the café this summer.
- *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.
- 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 had 2 successful English camps in the village!
- 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, and Sarah is teaching English to other adults in the village. Relationships and trust are being built and God is working.
- We started construction on the Coffee House!
- We launched Fellowship Groups!
- We made it home safely for two weeks to be with friends and family
- We brought 10 students to "This is the Day" concert in Budapest. This was an answered prayer to see our students take the initiative and have the desire to go to this event. They enjoyed every minute!
- We were able to bring 20 students to Lake Balaton for a week long summer youth camp! It went spectacularly well, and we were able to go deeper spiritually with all our students.
- we had a successful and fun week with an American Team who came to teach the kids about the Bible.
- Our youth group continues to grow in depth and number of children
- Cullen started teaching again at Károli University in Budapest. He experienced massive growth and relationships with his 10 students in his round-table class: Pursuing Happiness, Challenging Suffering and Finding God.
- the cafe construction has been completed!
- we were able to find a part-time café manager named Misi: he will be starting part-time in March
- We gained 2 new café team members: Mark and Eszti! They are an American/Hungarian couple who have a passion for reaching the lost through relationships. They also love coffee/coffee shops as much as Cullen and I do (which is saying a lot).
- Our trip to Ukraine went smoothly and safely! Our connection with the American team and the local team has been such a blessing. My involvement taught me a lot, and who knows what doors it could open in the future!
- The Upstairs Project has begun and is progressing quickly and efficiently!
- We were able to host Marvin and Jack from Trinity, and were so blessed by their encouragement and advice.
- We have been able to be a part of an English Bible Study with Mark, Eszti her sister and sister's husband (Piri/Balazs). We are studying Romans and it has been such a blessing!
- We had our first HOPE youth group student express interest in getting baptized!
- I have started mentoring 2 more students from our Budapest youth group
- We have been able to make some good business decisions with moving forward with the café management