On to Košice

It was good to see Heledd (my daughter) waiting for me on the platform when I arrived after a three and a half hour journey from Budapest. We went on the local transport to the flat where she has lived since she moved here four and a half years ago. No meetings had been arranged for the first two days here, so it was a good time to relax, talk and get some preparation done. The weather has not been kind to me on this trip, with much rain. So we did not go to see the mountains, but it was good to have time together.

On Wednesday two meetings were planned. Firstly, the team were gathering for their weekly meeting to share and pray. Martin, Tom and Sam came to Heledd’s flat, and Beata who is in Nitra joined us via Skype. Baska, the other team member is on leave this week so she did not join us. Martin, the General Secretary and team leader, lives close by with his wife and children. Tom is from Sunderland, and is on his second year here. Sam, having studied at Aberystwyth Uni, and then done Relay is on his first year.

It was an encouraging time as they shared what was happening. The previous night in Prešov, the students had a good time as they looked at “Uncover”, the Bible studies used by UCCF, and translated into Slovak. They had about twenty students there, who split up into three groups. The international students were studying in English with Tom; then there was a group of Ukrainian students who were studying in Russian, and of course, the Slovak group. It is really encouraging considering that when Heledd arrived in the country there was no group in Prešov University. They also discussed future plans, including some meetings next week when the team will be going to Nitra to work with Beata.

We had a time of prayer together and then I shared a word from Ecclesiastes 3. This is a time of change for the team. Martin will probably be finishing as the General Secretary this summer. Heledd, Sam and probably Tom as well will be leaving also. So it seemed appropriate to remember that the Time Lord is in charge. Whatever lies in the future will be in His hands. I’ve also been given a new name by Tom and Sam – for those of you who are on twitter you may notice #papaHeledd appearing a few times!

In the evening the students at the university had arranged a mmeting where I was asked to speak on the subject “Where is God when bad things happen?” They had been sharing invitations, and had cme with pancakes filled with nuttella for the meeting. (Bang goes my diet once again!) I spoke for about 40 minutes via a translator, and then we had the students to write further questions and pass them forward to us so that I could have a session of questions and answers. The meeting seemed to go well, with an intense discussion at the end.

Heledd was encouraged because there were a number there who have not come before. Also as we were not able to answer all the questions that had been passed on, there is scope for future meetings and continued conversations with the students.

Today I caught an early train back to Budapest, and am currently at the airport, using the time to update the news on my visit here. A time of blessing in both Budapest and Košice. But now PapaHeledd is coming home!

Budapest

Ungarn, Budapest, Burghügel und Burg. Stadtansicht

My visit to Budapest came following an invitation from Lazslo a local pastor. We had met at the European Leadership Forum last year, and as a consequence he was anxious that I could meet up with some people who are trying to reach out to the Gay community in Budapest.

Last Friday I was met at the airport by Lazslo, and in the evening was taken to meet Andraš – one of the leaders of the Christians for Gays group. Andras then took me to a lcal restaurant, where we met with two others: Valentin, who is also a member of this group, and J, who is an active Lesbian, and believes that following Jesus does not meen that she has to turn her back on the active same sex lifestyle. She seemed to have much trauma in her background, and very much on her guard at the beginning of our conversation. We had a pretty intense couple of hours of conversation, which I pray will help her as she works out what it means to follow Jesus.

I was staying with Andras and his family for the first two nights. They are a lovely couple, with one son and are looking fr ways to serve the Lord. vicky, his wife, works in a foundation set up by Laszlo’s church to help those who escape from human trafficking.

On Saturday, after a morning of sightseeing in pouring rain, I worked innthe afternoon, preparing for a meeting in the evening. This was an open meeting where I was to speak on the subject: “Is God anti-gay?”  This meeting was in downtown Budapest, at the top of a building covered in graffiti. Outside our room was a bar, and the place was obviously frequented by many of the young in the city. I was told that they did not know who would come – maybe no-one, or maybe there would be many. The meeting had been advertised on Facebook, and many of the local LGBT groups had been contacted. So we were all a bit aprehensive. As it was about 20 people were there, and they were a mixture of Christians who were supportive and others who were obviously coming from a different perspective.

I spoke for about 45 minutes via a translator, and then we had an open session of questions and answers and debate. My focus was on how we view our own identity. I used the story of Jesus meeting the woman by the well in John 4 to show how he led her to look for a deeper relationship through him to satisfy her longings. Things seemed to go well, and Andras was grateful that the evening was peaceful, with everybody repsectful of each other. Lazslo said that he felt the meeting had been significant in many ways. Firstly it was the first time they had tried anything like this, and it was a great boost to their confidence. Secondly, the fact that peole had felt safe to question openly and debate with open hearts and minds meant that there was something t build on in these people’s lives. Thirdly, he felt that bridges were being built which would be fruitful in time to come.

On Sunday morning I was speaking in Lazso’s church – a five year old church plant which they call Golgota. Here was a group of people of various ages, but a significant portion were young families. We began wirh five hymns/songs led by a worship group. I recognised a couple of the songs as translations from the English, but others were Hungarian hymns, both traditinal and new. I must admit that I struggled with linking the pronounciatiin with the words up on the screen! Hungarian does seem a difficult language!

The children then went out and I spoke (again via a translator) to the issue of how the church can be clear on our understanding of what the Bible teaches about sexual relationships, and also open and welcoming towards those who are different. I looked at the story of Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee, and asked them whether we often give the message of the pharisees to those outside. People listened intently, and at the end many seemed to be affected by the message. Many came to seek help and advice afterwards. Many families had been affected by this issue. I had applied the message very much in terms of the homosexual issue, but some also saw how they could apply my teaching to other relationships. There were many tears shed, and Lazlo was encouraged that God was at work in many hearts.

The rest of the day was spent with Lazslo, his wife Kerry and their four children. An intended meeting for church leaders for the afternoon could not be arranged because of Sunday commitments. So the following morning I was up early to catch the 6.30 train to Košice to spend some days with Heledd, my daughter.

European Leadership Forum 5

Michael Oh, Executive Director of the Lausanne Movement

Michael Oh, Executive Director of the Lausanne Movement

The last full day at the Forum arrived and breakfast time I was mentoring two workers from a church in Budapest. They were facing problems originating in the legacy left by the previous pastor. So often we are not good in preparing for our successors. We got so involved in our discussion that we were late arriving in our final Bible Reading. We were just in time to hear Ajith Fernando giving his final address, this time looking at Nehemia Chapter 5. Continue reading

European Leadership Forum 4

Singing together at the Forum

Singing together at the Forum

Tuesday began with a deliberate decision to try to relax a bit more. My room mate gets up at 4.30, so I’m up at 5.00 myself. It gives me time to read and write. Then breakfast time I was mentoring once more. This time I met with a young pastor form Kiev yn the Ukraine. Alrhough we hear of terrible things happening in the east of the country, things are relatively peaceful in the capital. Continue reading

European Leadership Forum 3

Ajith Fernando who is leading the Bible Readings

Ajith Fernando who is leading the Bible Readings

Monday was the busiest day so far for me. It began at breakfast time with a mentoring session. I spent time with a lady who, with her husband, have been leading a church in the Netherlands. They need to retire, butbthe church does not seem able to let go of them. This is where the principle of the ministry of the whole church is so important. Continue reading

European Leadership Forum 2

Sunday

Sunday dawned as a bright day, and early before breakfast I climbed the steep hill behind our hotel and enjoyed overlooking the valley with it’s forests and hearing the birds sing. Then at 7.00 I met with a pastor from Bulgaria over breakfast for a mentoring session. Following this we all gathered to worship God together. The sound of “Bless the Lord, O my soul” ringing through the plenary hall was inspiring. Continue reading

European Leadership Forum 2015

This week I am privileged to be at the European Leadership Forum (ELF), which is this yrar happening in Wisla, Poland. I’ve been coming for a number of years, and find it to be one of the most encouraging events of the year. Around 750 participants from all over Europe and beyond come for teaching, fellowship, encouragement and planning. Continue reading

Final Day

The last day of the Forum arrived. Today I was free of mentoring, so meal times were opportunities for less intense chatting with friends. There were Jonathan Stephen and Joel Morris from WEST, the evangelical college at Bridgend. Then there was a young pastor from Hungary, whose wife had really been helped last year in a workshop I led. Then there was Ellis Potter, who is a lovely man from America originally, but has been in Europe for years. Continue reading

The Call of Guiness

Tuesday at the Forum was a less intense day for me. The morning began with another mentoring session – A young pastor from Romania with a small church of 17 members in a small village. His needs are great and he does not seem to have much support, so it was good to share his burden. Then the morning session with Stefan Gustavsson was encouraging. He led us to look at the story of Asaph, by studying Psalm 73. Continue reading