We have some big news and I wanted to write this letter specifically to my supporters and prayer partners first. You have all kept us afloat in so many different ways. I can't count the times you have all encouraged us with a letter just when we needed a kind word, or a gift just when we were struggling to make ends meet that month. God challenged us to step out in faith and find those who would join us in doing the same. Every one of you in your own way has helped immensely in this journey!
We have already seen much fruit, whether through UNA Clubs, visiting and sharing in the villages, publishing some of the first works by Roma in this area, and many other things. But this journey has not been without great difficulties amid the joy. Whether through talking to us or maybe as you've followed my parents' letters, you've probably seen it has been immensely difficult beginnings for the RBU team in Hungary. We've lost team-members, we've struggled in language study, struggled to make friends, there are few Biblically-sound churches here, and most are barred to us because of the language barrier. It's a tough ground to break and we knew that going in. We knew it would be lonely.
Well with several teammates leaving and the remaining ones being close to retirement age, the leadership in RBU discussed slowing things down in Hungary and instead consolidating the majority of the team in Osijek, Croatia. Now this sounds like a big move, but it's really only an hour away- its the next city over. It's a bit like moving from East St. Louis, crossing the rivers, and settling in St. Peters (I guess only my Missouri friends will get this haha).
As you've seen we have planted a small church in a village in Croatia and our entire summer ministry was Croatia-focused. The work is alive there and we need more workers to help expand it. So we've discussed making that 1-hour trip and moving the family to be nearer to the more active work.
This move is extremely appealing to me for several reasons, and I wanted to just list it all out so you can see what we're thinking here. The discussion has been going inside the team since April.
1. Life in Hungary has been very lonely and difficult. Yes, there is loneliness and homesickness to be expected in Missions and we knew that. But it was completely out of the blue when two families left our team. We lost not only teammates, but also our friends and prayer partners. Just recently another couple also left, because they wanted to pursue another ministry (possibly also with another peoples group).
If we moved to Croatia we would be part of a younger team. This is especially important for Helen. This life has been extremely hard on Helen as a young mother she juggles so much- managing the house, raising two toddlers, studying language, theology and herbal medicine all while in the context of another country which is itself quite unforgiving to people who don't speak Hungarian. In Osijek she already has friends and other mothers she will connect with. All things considered she is an absolutely super star as a missionary, despite hardships. She works so hard, but this move would really be better for the family as a whole.
2. We will be closer to our ministries we already invest in. As you've seen in the pictures from the last prayer letters, there are 3 villages we are very active in Croatia. One of which we visit every weekend to help with our small church plant there. There are 2 teenage boys there in particular I would like to have more contact with as they are looking for male Christian role-models who will disciple them. Our leaders really think it will be a good move for us, but also that the team there will greatly benefit from the gifts and talents that we bring, which are not able to be utilized here because the work in Hungary is so young and so small.
3. There will be proximity to an English-speaking church we can attend. We have small Bible studies here and prayers together but it would be very refreshing to be part of an English-speaking church where we can get that respite on Sundays. Our friends at the local church have been very patient and kind in translating for us, but we would like to be more involved in local church ministry aside from our own Roma work. We can have connection there in Croatia.
4. Closer to my seminary. This got completely overshadowed by the UNA ministry this summer, but in the midst of that I met with the head of a seminary in Osijek to discuss distance learning, as I would like to pursue a Masters in Divinity so that I might one day lead my own church. The seminary is small and education is unbelievably inexpensive here, so I was able to enroll in a very flexible program where I am given 4 years to my M.Div. and ordination. With great excitement, I said yes and enrolled in the Michael Starin Reformed Seminary! It's a perfect pace for me, as I am able to read for my studies at night and take all-day lectures once or twice a month. Well, it would be even better if I could be closer not only to my professors but also to their library, as much of their books, studies and almost all of the lectures are in English. Which leads me to my final point.
5. Language learning will be much easier in Croatia. Not only does almost everyone in Croatia speak English as a second language, but hopefully the language learning will be much quicker as the language is significantly easier to learn. If you remember from when I was traveling around America and speaking, I often said we would learn Hungarian first and Croatian second as both languages are invaluable in Roma ministry in this area. Well we would be switching the priorities a bit and learning Croatian first before returning to Hungarian.
But isn't the Hungarian language study wasted? Well no, because instead of living in Hungary and frequently visiting Croatia, we will instead live in Croatia and frequently visit Hungary. The other reality is both languages are spoken in both countries. The lines of the border are a bit blurry linguistically, and I've been able to have conversations in Croatia using only my Hungarian. But as it happens, having grown up in Croatia for 5 years, pound-for-pound my Croatian is not far behind my Hungarian anyway. So I do fine there either way.
Long story short, for ministry, work, strategy, relationships, and future plans, moving an hour South into Croatia is an excellent plan. The only downsides being a small setback on language and once again moving the family. So we have prayed, we really prayed about this. I sort of "set out my fleece" in the sense that I prayed that if God wants us to move, God would find us a house the same price, and essentially the same size. I prayed that He would provide a clear path to a visa. I prayed for unilateral agreement from the RBU leadership that this is a good idea.
The other day we were offered a townhouse nearly identical to ours here for the same monthly rent. Yesterday, my very first inquiry for a visa was met with strong yes from a Croatian church desiring to work closely with us. And lastly, every one I have spoken to in RBU has said this move is an excellent idea and will do everything they can to see us succeed and make the trip a smooth transition.
So, -phew-, long email. I know that's a lot of information to dump all at once but I wanted to let you all know we are going to be trying to make that move happen in the coming months. Please pray for us as we make hard decisions. Please pray for us starting a new chapter of our life! We desire above all things to be good, God-honoring and successful missionaries, doing our part to bring the Hope of Christ to the Roma here. I really think this move is good, but it is hard and stressful as we have moved so many times between Margot's birth and the move back to Hungary since Cassian's birth. So again, I am asking for prayer in the midst of all of this.
I had reached out to some of you during the discussion periods and each time the response to these plans have been very positive and encouraging! So I wanted to let you all know before I sent out the general prayer letter about this. As always I eagerly await any questions about this. I know it's a lot of info, and please feel free to write me!