August 2020

2020 VBS in Petofibánya report

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God has been gracious to Hungary in keeping the spread of Coronavirus limited compared to other areas of the world. He has been gracious to open doors this entire summer, allowing us to hold Baseball Camp, a VBS in Jászfényszaru, English Camp and this past week our largest VBS in our hometown of Petofibánya. Praise Him for His continued mercy on Hungary and His persistence in reaching the lost in our area!

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Above: Szabi was a tremendous help to me throughout camp, both in small group time with kids and facilitating game time.

We had 120 kids, with a mix of those who were first time campers and others who have attended in the past. God provided a great group of teens (including our daughters). These teens took on roles in worship, drama, games, kitchen duty and teaching. We rejoice in seeing their continual growth from year to year and their excitement to serve together. But, there are challenges and spiritual warfare that we always experience in these type of outreaches where our goal is to lift up the name of Jesus Christ. Early in the week, there was clear tension among some of the teens that could threaten the rest of the week if they allowed this to divide them. In my experience, one of the favorite attacks of the enemy is to go after the spiritually immature in relationships and cause believers to become bitter against one another, which in turn destroys the power of our testimony that Jesus lives.

I remember Jesus' prayer, "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." — John 17:20-21

Of course, we preach Jesus in our church and talk much about our calling to be conformed to His image of love and living in God's will. But in order for this teaching to go from untested head knowledge to applying it in life, we need to be tested. I deliberately kept my distance as we had set up leadership structures and waited to see how this would unfold. This is not only an opportunity for the teens to resist the devil, learn to forgive, and live in the humility and love of Christ, but it was an opportunity for those we have discipled over the years to speak into their lives and help them consider these matters through the lens of the Gospel.

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Above: This is what I saw later in the day after the earlier time of tension. Betti, who was saved last year, was going through Scripture and thinking through what had happened earlier. I spoke to some of the junior leaders and rejoiced in hearing how they were handling the situation. In the end, there was reconciliation and continued unity in Christ. What a great lesson to learn for these teens that they will need to continue to practice throughout their lives as followers of Jesus.

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Above: We spend a significant part of our morning meeting singing songs full of Gospel truth. In past years, we projected lyrics as we were able to meet indoors, but this year, we were required to have the entire camp outside. Even without the projected lyrics, the kids were quick to learn the motions and lyrics each day (it helped having the teens out front singing and doing motions with such passion).

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Above: Sharon did a great job planning out crafts for each day that helped the kids remember some of the lessons taught throughout the week. Since Sharon was helping our son Ben with an apartment and planning for his freshmen year of college, she was not able to attend. Praise God that church member Brigi (below with microphone), was able to successfully facilitate the crafts in her place.

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Above: Church member Edit with Petofibanya's mayor Péter (maroon shirt) who began his term this year. We are thankful for the continued favor God has given us with local authorities from year to year. Péter came out to see our camp in person and later sent packages of chocolate for the kids. He also requested a small write-up that he would include in Petofibánya's quarterly newspaper giving a bit of background about our camp.

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Above: Each afternoon the teens performed a drama for the kids that explained different aspects of the Gospel. Afterward, other staff would share how they came to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.

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Above: Malna and Réka had already attended our VBS in Jászfényszaru and also came to Petofibánya. In our small group time, as they began to open up, we learned that Malna had made a decision at our last VBS! She said it became clear that she wanted to know and follow God's will in her life. Please pray for Malna who does not live in our hometown to find a local church and continued Christian fellowship that she would grow in her faith.

SATURDAY Family Day


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Above: On Friday evening we pack everything up and move our camp location to the Petofibanya's Local Community Center for Saturday's Family Day. We had a great turn out and although there was a period of intense rain, God moved it away so that we could finish our day together in pleasant weather.

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Above: On family day, we had a small group just for parents where we were able to share more about our need for Jesus to save us and restore us to the Father. Church member Norbi (right in red shirt) and I shared about our life before Jesus and how we found new life in Him. Towards the end of the meeting, there were good questions about faith, suffering and parenting as believers.

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Praise God the provider of the greatest gift of His Son, that any from this camp who turns to Jesus Christ for salvation can become a restored child of God. Now that these seeds are sown and planted, we ask you to pray for God to cause the miraculous growth in these families' lives. We also ask for prayer for those of us who began struggling with sickness toward the end of camp (including me). With summer coming to an end, and the school year just about to begin, we have one more major opportunity with our Camping Weekend for teens. This is often the tipping point for some of the teens who have been hearing the gospel the entire summer. It is a time to process their life and what they will personally do with Jesus Christ. Please pray for God's Spirit to powerfully reveal Jesus and God's kingdom this weekend from Thursday to Sunday.

Enjoy the following highlight videos from our 2020 VBS in Petofibanya! Peace in Christ — The Mercers.









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2020 English Camp Report

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This year we had to be creative in finding ways to hold camp without the normal help we receive from those who travel from the US to serve with us. Praise God for His provision of all the staff we needed and for the unity and giftings he provided so that we could have a successful camp. Some came from countries just outside of Hungary just before borders were closed again. One couple had just returned from their daughter’s wedding outside of Hungary and found out soon after that those in the wedding party including their son in law tested positive for Covid. By God’s grace, they tested negative with two tests and were able to serve at English Camp.

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Above: Péter and Arni on the "health squad" taking temperatures every morning as the kids come in for breakfast.

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Now that our kids are older, Sharon was freed up to teach one of the higher level English classes this year. Most of her students have had me as their teacher in the past, so it was good for them to get to know us even more this way. I was responsible to lead one of the Bible reading and conversation groups. Our daughter Ellie served as a translator for the first time and Kira served on the worship team and as a helper with the younger children. They also did a great job with a drama on Gospel Night.

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Above: Ellie and Kira serving with joy.

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Above: My group in Bible reading time.

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Above: Kira and Anna performing in a drama on Gospel Night.

After our first Bible reading lesson, we practiced a few memory verses that are written in the students’ booklets in English and Hungarian. On the first day, most of the students were able to say the memory verse, but when I asked Ákos if he could say the verse, he just shook his head. I knew he was capable, so I encouraged him with a smile and asked again. Then Ákos (picture below) said, “It’s not that I can’t memorize it and say it, it’s just that I don’t believe it, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

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Ákos didn’t say this in defiance and with attitude, but softly. I have had Ákos in the past and know he is very intelligent and kind. This gave me an opportunity to share with the rest of the students (many who were first-time campers) that we were not trying to force any of them to do anything they don’t want to do. I shared that I was a believer but I know many in the camp are not, and I have friends who are not believers. Ákos ended up saying the verse and the second day after our Bible study, he stayed after we finished to talk. God opened up an opportunity to share my personal testimony of finding worldly success at a young age and discovering that I was empty inside. I shared about experiencing vanity of life without knowing God through Jesus and having eternal life.

Later that night, the activity for the campers was Film Night. The movie we watched had many of the same themes I had discussed with Ákos just that morning. This type of weaving of themes seemed to be happening throughout the week, and the Gospel was being proclaimed through the Bible reading, personal testimonies in class and interactions throughout the week as campers sat and talked to staff.

In conversation time, we used a series of four pictures each day and asked the campers to choose a picture that expresses something about a question I would ask. One question was, “Which picture would you use to describe how you see or understand God or how you don’t believe in God?”

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Above: Sára (glasses, white shirt center) a first time camper picked a close-up picture of a person’s eye. She said, “This, one because I don’t believe what I cannot see. That is why I don’t believe in God.” Another student, Nimrod, also a first time camper, picked the same picture. He said, “I think this one, because God sees everything.” Later that night, we held our “Gospel Night” where we share a few testimonies and invite a Hungarian pastor to preach the Gospel. The Spirit was at work and continued to weave together what was happening to make the Gospel pierce their hearts. Éva who had no idea what we talked about in my group earlier shared in her testimony, “So many say that they just can’t believe what they don’t see. They just believe in the material world…” I thought to myself, this is exactly what Sára needs to hear as Éva went on. Unfortunately, after the invitation to stay after and talk to staff about what it means to believe and follow Jesus, Sára did not stay. But there were others that did stay, one of them being Nimrod from my group.

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Above: Nimrod reading the word in our morning English Bible study.

Nimrod was only at our camp because another camp he had planned to attend was canceled. Remaining in his seat after Gospel Night, Nimrod was in tears and said that he would have gladly talked about God in the past, but there was no one that seemed to be interested or showed any real faith in God. He has heard priests pray in the past and attended some religious meetings, but he said it was nothing like what he was experiencing at camp. He said he actually understood what we were talking about from the Bible and could relate to the testimonies that he was hearing not only that night but through the week.

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Above: Another first time camper, Péter (go purple team!) came because one of his friends who attended previously talked about how great our camps were. The activities like soccer and volleyball were the initial draw, but as he heard more and more about Jesus and the Gospel, Péter was another who stayed in his seat and put his faith in Jesus. There were others who wanted to recommit their lives to Christ and others where stayed to ask more questions.

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Above: Eniko, giving her testimony of how she came to know Jesus at an English Camp years ago.

As I surveyed the room, I rejoiced in my heart to see Gabi, Eszti, Szabi and our daughter Ellie talking to those who remained in their seats. I rejoiced in seeing Enikő (Gabi’s wife) give her testimony that night, and my daughters and youth group members Anna and Szabi presenting a powerful drama. I love seeing the next generation growing in their own faith and using their gifts to reach out to others.

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We asked Gabi (pictured above with daugher Aliz) to do a follow up meeting with those who made decisions at camp. Some of them asked questions like, “How do I know I have eternal life? How do I live the Christian life? What can I expect when I return home? How do I read the Bible? Where do I start?” It was clear that they were not just making a flippant decision but they were thinking of the future and what it means when they experience difficulties as they go back home.

I asked Nimrod about how the meeting went and he said, “It was great, but we needed more time.” There was still one day left and Gabi asked them to come again for a follow up meeting. This time, to Gabi’s surprise, they brought their friends along (even Ákos who I mentioned earlier who says he is an atheist) who were able to hear even more about what it means to become a follower by faith in Jesus Christ.

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As with camps in the past, even the kids that don’t seem interested are thinking deeply about things. Fanni (pictured above behind cups), who is also a first time camper told her roommate, “I would be glad to explore more about God and talk about these things, but I don’t know these people.” It often takes time to build trust and sometimes takes a few camps before the seeds that have been planted begin to take root and come to life.

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Above: Marti has attended multiple camps and is known as not being very talkative. Ellie developed a friendship with her a few years back and since then, Marti also travels to Petofibanya to attend our Baseball camp staying the week at our house. Ellie has often looked for open doors to talk to Marti about faith in Jesus. This year, hanging out with Marti at the pool, she said, "How did Kira become a Christian? Did she just grow up believing?" This gave Ellie an opportunity to share more about Kira's decision and what it means to become a Christian.

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Above: I saw Niki multiple times talking one-on-one with staff and even reading through the Bible with them. Please pray for her to have continued contact with those who can help her to grow and understand what it means to follow Jesus by faith.

Please pray for those who have put their faith in Jesus to find healthy Christian fellowship. Pray for those that live much further away from our church plants to find those who can mentor them and encourage them in their faith in Christ.

Our family is leaving for vacation for a week, and when we return, we begin our biggest camp of the summer. We have 122 kids registered for VBS in Petőfibánya and would appreciate your prayers as church members continues to prepare this week.

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