Dear Friends & Family!
Sarah here! It's been almost 2 months since our last update. And boy, has it been a busy 2 months! I guess that's the problem... We get ourselves in trouble sometimes because when we are busy, we don't make the time to write. But then 2 busy months pass by, and there is way too much to write about! There are not enough words or time to tell all of the stories and ways that God has been working. Which leads me to the first big update...
WE STARTED A PODCAST!
The Podcast is called Blooming Abroad (shocker) on Apple podcasts. It is designed for us to share stories and experiences that don't make it into our updates or are too long to write about. We wanted it to be a space where you felt like you were sitting next to us having a conversation. If you are interested, here is the link!
Ok, enough about that. On to other matters.
For those of you who don't know, we traveled home to Michigan for the holidays. This trip was made for personal and business reasons. The last 6 months have presented us with some of the hardest personal challenges we have faced here thus far. The phrase "when it rains, it pours" became quite real for us. We were facing our own personal questions and shortcomings, personal and business financial stress, café building obstacles, relational tensions with others and a very difficult personal loss. In short: we were burned out. To the max. So we stumbled into our trip home to Michigan, needing to lean on our family and friends in a big way. And although our trip back was busy (seeing 160+ people in <2 weeks), we were able to be filled up and supported emotionally, financially and spiritually. We are so thankful to all the people that poured into us while we were home!
But the other reason we came back was for fundraising/business purposes. In short: we needed money. Throughout the last few months, we were facing some deep philosophical questions, one of which was: "how long do we stay here?" Through prayer, we didn't appear to be getting any clear answers. Until one day, it became clear to us that maybe the answer was in front of us all along.
We stay as long as there are funds to keep working and serving.
Was it really that black and white? As our trip progressed, it became abundantly clear that the funds allowing us to stay all the way until June of 2024 were not feasible to raise. BUT, we are very close to getting the funds needed to continue working and serving through December of this year. This leads me to another big update:
We are planning on moving back to the States in December of this year!
Coming to this decision has been extremely difficult, and time-consuming. But ultimately has brought us a lot of peace. We understand that even if we moved back to the US tomorrow, God loves us and is proud of us. If we ended up staying here forever, God loves us and is proud of us. It is not about what we accomplish, but about who we are becoming. God is only about projects and missions because he is about people. Now, we realize God might bring us other opportunities, or redirect our decision (and there already have been a few new opportunities presented to us). But we are in the space to now prayerfully move forward with the last 11 months of our journey here, to leave this place better than we found it.
Speaking of fundraising, I just wanted to give a shoutout to Custom Built, Mike Flory and the Block family, who put on an absolutely beautiful fundraiser for our upstairs building project. We were able to raise $17,600 towards renovating the 2nd floor of the café into a Youth Center. Absolutely amazing! Our goal with this is to get the space usable by the end of the summer!
A second shoutout to Trevor, my cousin, for coming and staying with us for a week! It was amazing getting so much quality time and encouragement from him!
Lastly, we would like to share one final piece of important news with you all. Yesterday, we celebrated Géza's father's memorial service. He passed away just over a week ago at the age of 98. He was a pioneer who started and pastored many churches, facing strong backlash and oppression during the Communist era. Please watch this short video if you are interested in learning more about his life and legacy. Many times over the past couple of years, his son (also Géza) would share with us that his father was repeatedly asking to go home to Heaven. We are happy he finally got his wish. Please join us as we continue to hold up Géza and Ildikó in prayer as they deal with and celebrate the passing of Géza Sr.
That's all for now! Thank you all for your support of us during this past year and a half. We literally could not do this without you all! Please take some time to read through the many prayer needs (and past answered prayers). Thank you again to all of you who pray for us and our work here so frequently and so faithfully.
Cullen, Sarah, & Copper
- 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 middle of November, 2023. Which means we have about $5,000 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! In March, we will begin a discipleship group with a very small number of students from Thursday nights. Hajni and Geri will drive this small group from the village to our apartment in the nearby city of Kecskemét where we will host them in our apartment, giving them a home-cooked meal, and a chance to go deeper. Our prayer is that each of these students would take steps toward Jesus and starting a new life with him over the next couple of months and then be baptized in Lake Balaton this Summer at camp!
- Last week we were presented with an opportunity to help lead a medical team in western Ukraine. I (Sarah), will be seeing patients, prescribing medications, and working with American and international providers to care for patients and organize the records and spaces there. A more permanent opportunity has been offered, to routinely lead week-long trips there, we will be exploring what this entails and trying to find a way to use my medical talents to serve while staying focused on our other mission areas. Pray for safety on our week-long trip to Ukraine on February 28th and direction about my involvement in the future.
- 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 (the new café manager, who also agreed to help as project manager of the upstairs), to plan our next steps. Firstly, the stairs that guide you from the back part of the house and up into the upstairs space must be removed and replaced. Once this is accomplished, it becomes fairly straightforward. Floors and walls would be the next step. Please pray for our meetings and for efficient and unified decisions in February so that we can begin this project. Our goal is to have the upstairs finished by the end of 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).