Hello, Loved Ones!
Hope you are well and preparing for Thanksgiving. What a special time of the year it is to be an American. What a special time of year it is to be with family. For us, this year will look a bit different. We will be spending our Thanksgiving with our new extended Hungarian family. These past few weeks have allowed us to continue the work we have outlined in past emails. This update will offer a double-click on a couple of these areas.
1. The Youth of Tatárszentgyörgy
2. The Café of Tatárszentgyörgy
3. A handful of (true) short stories from these past weeks authored by yours truly!
1. The Youth of Tatarszengyorgy
The work continues. Weekly programs include:
English teaching (Wednesdays and Fridays with 7th and 8th graders)
Weekly futizni (soccer) Wednesday and Friday evenings
Thursday night youth group (HOPE ifi)
Sunday Church Service
Our programs continue to offer a home away from home for these beautiful kiddos. Each and every event welcomes a minimum of 12 kids, but usually around 20. That means 6 times a week, we are spending time feeding these children and doing our very best to meet their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. The young people of this village continue to be our number one priority.
2. The Café of Tatárszentgyörgy
September and October were difficult months. Sarah organized and facilitated multiple meetings with our team and the architect managing the project. The outcomes of these meetings would appear fruitful, but then an email would arrive indicating otherwise. Permits and a shortage of workers/increases in costs of materials due to COVID-19 made the path forward bleak at best. Then... through a series of coincidences and acquaintances within our team, we found an experienced (and award-winning) architect to come to our aid. Recently, he was able to show us the most efficient and feasible path towards renovating the space. There is still much work ahead, but with his wisdom and instruction, we now have a starting point and someone to assist us with the bureaucracy that lies ahead as our project progresses.
3. A Handful of (True) Short Stories From These Past Weeks
The Traveling Veterinarian
Anita is a local Christian woman who has gone out of her way to extend Hungarian hospitality towards us. She heard that a man named Solomon was visiting from Britain. Solomon was born in India and could not walk. He became a Christian after making an agreement with God through the healing of his legs. He said, "if you heal my legs, I will walk with you forever."
As his message at Kecskemét Baptist Church had concluded, Sarah and I remained in the pews chatting with Anita. Among the topics that came up was our concern about the infection in Copper's left eye. Our concern intensified only because the next day was a Hungarian holiday and we weren't sure how soon we'd be able to get him looked at. We were just starting a google search of local veterinarians when she received a phone call from a friend. After a few minutes of chatting in Hungarian, she hung up and revealed that this woman's son was a traveling veterinarian! She asked us, "Can you be home in 15 minutes?" 15 minutes later, the traveling veterinarian was in our living room prescribing eye drops for our little Labradoodle.
It's stories like these, though seemingly non-emergent, where God has shown himself. In the midst of a post-service chat, God was planning behind the scenes and within the hour, had answered the prayer I lifted up during service, "God, it may be low on your list, but can you please help us to find care for Copper quickly?" He didn't find it silly, he knew it was important to me and Sarah and he knew that it concerned me. So like any good father, when a child calls because they ran out of gas, he throws his jacket on, grabs his gas can, and heads out the door...
A Walk Along the River
It was a chilly evening in Budapest. The sun was setting and the reflections of the yellow-lit buildings had begun to dance across the top of the river. With Sarah's hand in mine, we made our way towards West End mall. The riverwalk was filled with young people laughing, tourists taking photos, and weary workers making their final commute of the day. In the midst of a conversation with Sarah, I noticed on my right a man situated on a bench with many layers of clothing, covered by a blanket and surrounded by bags. His chin had given way to closed eyes as his nose pointed towards the ground. I did not stop, but as we continued, something within me grew until we came to a Starbucks. Taking into account my perception of his digestive needs, I bought as many appropriate things off the menu, which equated to a hot coffee, a sandwich, and water. We made our way back to him and delivered the goods. We talked for a while. Our language differences should have made this difficult, but our shared humanity helped us to stumble our way through a wonderful conversation. He told us his wife died and pulled a cross from beneath the many layers of his clothes. He kissed it. When it was time for us to go, he started crying. I held his hand in mine and gently put my hand on the back of his head. I knew he was cold. I knew he was lonely...
When I returned home later that night, I lay in bed and cried. I didn't cry because of his situation, I cried because he was lonely. I hate it when people are alone. I lay in bed and prayed. I prayed that God would wrap him up and hold him tight, to sing his own lullaby to him as he slept beneath the stars on the shore of the Danube. When I return to Budapest, I will look for him. Hopefully, I can share another story in a future update :). For now, please pray for him! You can call him Barát in your prayers, as it's Hungarian for friend.
Have you ever been outside, maybe doing yard work or checking the mail, when a school bus goes by? You can feel the energy and hear the chitter-chatter loudly emanating from the bus, can't you? Can you imagine what those bus drivers hear and experience every day? A recent Friday night offered me an opportunity to be the bus driver of this story. With 13 kids all smooshed next to me and behind me, we made our way home from soccer practice. There was so much noise and energy, I thought for a moment that our bus might take flight. It would have been helpful to take flight because of the intense fog covering the road that night. I leaned forward, squinting through a small opening in the additional layer of fog that was covering the windows. Windows down, defroster fans blowing on high, we wove our way through the night at a snail pace.
There is no climax to this story, but after multiple stops (one of which included a fight that broke out in the back seat) I safely delivered each of the children to their homes. I felt a little bit like Santa Clause heading back to the North Pole on Christmas morning. An overwhelming peace from the quiet, deep pride in doing the job well with many variables and difficulties present, and a paternal joy that a father must feel after tucking his children in at night. Sarah and I are so grateful to be "bus drivers" for these children as we provide the bus and a safe ride to them as they get on and get off, not just for evening soccer, but each and every day as we do our best to show them how to navigate life.
PTL (Praise the Lord)
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.
Progress has been made in Café planning!
English classes in the village are going really well. Relationships and trust are being built and God is working.
So much more to praise (shared in the earlier sections of this update)
*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.
Please continue to pray for Hungarian language learning. DuoLingo and teaching have been helpful, but we need to be able to communicate more effectively.
Please continue to pray for my students in Tatárszentgyörgy. As I have described, many of them have extremely difficult home lives. Pray specifically for (Student 1) who is missing a lot of class and battling meth addiction. Pray for (Student 2) who lives in an abusive home and shared this recently with us. Pray for (Student 3), whose father is the biggest meth dealer in the village, yet she finds it within herself to come to class eager to learn, to come to youth group, and bring friends... These are just a handful of students, there are so many more. Please be praying for these beautiful young people and for the incredible opportunities we have to make a difference in their lives.
Pray for Barát and the many other individuals and families we are working with that are struggling to have their basic needs met. It is getting cold and we can only do so much as humans to help. We need God's help.
Thank you for your constant support, we hope these updates are a source of excitement and interest for you and those that you share them with. We hope they provide a small glimpse of the incredible impact your prayers and finances are having on the families and children here. Happy early Thanksgiving to all of you! We are thankful so thankful for you,
Cullen + Sarah