Zeist/Budapest, 13th December 2002
'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life' (Jn 8:12).
'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden' (Mt 5:14).
Dear Friends and Family,
Receive warm advent and Christmas greetings from my temporary home in Zeist, a comfortable garden house on Vondellaan (no. 10, tel. 06-15406127), particularly comfortable since I got a new stove yesterday. I am grateful for this quiet, centrally located spot, close to my two sisters and their families, and near to my sending Church in Houten, in the centre of the country.
About 'more fever' and rest
In these days of advent, we focus on the promised Messiah, Who came to bring perfect peace, shalom, on earth. He is the Healer, the One who gives purpose to relationships, the Light of the world, who calls His disciples, His Church, to follow in His footsteps and not to put that Light under a bushel, but to let it shine clearly. But in our world, which is characterised by 'more fever': buy more, own more, relax more, work more, enjoy more etc., it is a great challenge for all who follow Jesus to keep Him at the centre of our attention and not to loose sight of the relationship with Him and others.
Recent months, and in particular recent weeks, were again particularly hectic (I can hear some of you saying, Will things ever be any different with Anne-Marie?). Our financial and administrative coordinator Kati Kerekes is still recovering from a serious operation, which means that matters she would normally deal with, such as responsibility for the building project, financial and legal matters and the restructuring of the Missions Institute, fall to me.
Besides this, there were also structural problems in organising the library, which required a lot of extra attention. Fortunately former missionary workers Angelika and Andras Jo held their ground in the difficult work of classifying the collection. Again you realise that the pioneering work of establishing a missionary library, with a unique collection of books - for Hungary and for Central and Eastern Europe - brings with it problems in a class of their own. The world of the Hungarian university library is suddenly confronted with a completely new discipline, and is there then the willingness to adapt the system? Fortunately the bumps have been ironed out. Even Ma Kool offered a much appreciated helping hand in the reorganisation - she came a week before I went on furlough to help me 'fasten off the loose ends'.
Missiological Research Fellowship
During the last week of November, the Missiological Research Fellowship was again held. What began about three years ago to assist a handful of doctoral students who write theses about missiological subjects for the University of Utrecht has now grown to become a multi-faceted, international, interdenominational group of about forty participants, the majority actively involved in missiological research. During three days doctoral students in missiology, recent MTh, and PhD graduates lectured about their subjects of research. It was very informative to hear about 'Factors in the rise of the (Protestant) foreign mission movement in Central-Eastern Europe', 'The Hungarian reception of the Dutch missiologist Johannes Hoekendijk', 'Taboos in the Central European Church'. Various studies dealt with the life and work of Hungarian missiologists at the beginning and middle of the last century. Extremely interesting was the lecture about the Romanian immigrant Churches in Spain by a Spanish pastor who is studying in Prague. It was surprising to see the cross links and the continually recurring thread: the regularly recurring conflicts with Church structures by those who were actively involved in the work of missions and evangelism. Because many of the members of the Research Fellowship are (or will be) involved in missiological teaching, for the first time there was a special lecture focusing on how to go about. It was an eye-opener for us all to hear from a Polish professor of missiology that from Poland alone there are already about 3,000 Catholic missionaries active worldwide!
A high light of the week was the establishment of the Central and Eastern European Association for Mission Studies (CEAMS), an interdenominational platform for (future) missiologists. The aim in brief is to help one another in the area of the study of specific missiological questions which are related to the 'post-Communist' context of Central and Eastern Europe, and the exchange of experiences in missiological education, which in many places is still in its infancy. We received responses from all over the world. The reception was attended by the general secretary of the International Association for Mission Studies, the Dane Birger Nygaard.
Building project: good news and bad news
One thing became clear during the conference. The capacity of the present lecture room and the library has become completely inadequate. We have definitely grown out of our shoes. There is a pressing need for more extensive accommodation for courses and meetings and adequate study places for graduate students in the library in order to make good progress in their work possible.
The good news is that considerable progress is being made on the new seminar room on the third floor. It looks as if the deadline of 1st March 2003 will be met. We are grateful for the gifts received recently.
Postgraduate program in mission launched!’
We are grateful that everything has been arranged so that the postdoctoral program in missions, missionary Church development and cross-cultural ministry can start at the end of March 2003. Many serious candidates have already applied (more information available from Hilda Rohn, email@example.com). The deadline for application is February 15.
You will not be surprised to know that after such an intensive period, I am looking forward to a time of rest to 'recharge my battery' again and to visit family and to strengthen the bonds of friendship. In a period of furlough like this, it is also good to strengthen the contacts with my sending Churches. But to be honest, there is also another side to this. As I have to be back in Hungary by mid January because of the preparation of lectures for the coming semester, I can only come for half of the official time of “furlough”: five weeks instead of ten. This period covers what is known as the deputation weeks, talks about the work given to highly diverse groups around the country. This requires a lot of preparation. And of course, a period of “furlough” like this is also an important opportunity to strengthen all sorts of partner relationships with the missions institute. This takes time too!
In addition to this, I heard the day before yesterday that the defence of my qualifying thesis will take place on 14th February next in Debrecen. As you know, I expected this already in November. I still have to prepare two lectures for this, on subjects set in advance.
A personal note
In my qualifying thesis, I paid a lot of attention to missions as a matter of relationships, and linked with this, the concepts of Sabbath and shalom. If there is one thing to which I have paid much too little attention recently, it is precisely these matters! As they say in Hungarian, 'Vizet predikal es bor iszik' (You preach water and you drink wine), in other words, 'Practice what you preach!'
Thanks and prayer
* May I ask you to pray for wisdom in filling in my 'furlough', so that despite everything, it can be an 'unhurried' time of ‘recharging my battery’? (Update: I missed your prayers, but due to many technical problems and a computer crash I could not send this Signs of Life)
* Give thanks and pray for the staff of the PMTI. They have been wonderfully dedicated in recent months. It was great to share the burden with a team like this.
* Please pray also for the countries which today in Copenhagen are to be officially admitted to the European Union. New doors for cooperation are opening up. What does this mean for missions in Europe and cooperation and exchange between Churches in the area of missions and evangelism?
I wish you all a blessed holiday period. I am snuggling down again in front of my stove with my feet up. This seems to me to be a good start!
Thank you for your continued concern and prayer.
Yours in Christ, our Saviour,