December 2005

New Year’s Eve

“You crown the year with your goodness, and richness overflows wherever you are.” (Psalm 65:11) May the Lord bless you in this new year with His goodness. May the richness of His presence overflow from within You and become a blessing to others. Above: A special New Year’s Eve memory: Encouraging one another in Christ in the midst of our worship service.

Our family spent the last night of 2005 with the growing family of believers in Petőfibánya. Miki and Erika Fülöp opened their home, hosting a Saturday night worship service. Afterwards, we brought in the new year playing games, singing, praying and of course making horrendous noise at midnight.

Below left: 11:55pm giving God praise for the past year and hoping to know Him more in 2006. Below right: Ben finally is given the 'heads up' to BLAST HIS HORN.

Below: Some of the kids brought their own fireworks to set off at midnight (thankfully no missing limbs afterwards)

We look forward to a new year of salvation in Petőfibánya. A year full of praise as we see Jesus building His church victoriously. “The Spirit of the Lord is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin, to announce the year of the Lord's favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Thursday Night Bible Study

Above L to R: Milán, Gabi and Norbi greeted me tonight by threatening to shoot me with New Year’s canned streamers. Below Left: Elianna helps set the table for our guests. Below Right: Sharon greeting Zoli and Csaba in the hallway where everyone takes off their shoes.

Tonight we continued our journey through the book of Matthew. Highlights in tonight’s discussion include: Personal trials and tests that increase our understanding of how much greater God is than we first believed. How one is assured of his salvation in Christ. The nature of fear and how the enemy uses it against us. The nature of faith in Christ and how He frees us from fear. It has been my experience that new believers in this town have immediately battled against the enemy using different modes of fear as a spiritual attack. From vivid terrible dreams, strange feelings, to physical trouble breathing, or pain in the has become commonplace in the lives of those whom Christ has brought from darkness to light. Tonight’s study was a good way to prepare the young men for the enemy's schemes and to direct them to stand firm in Christ and His word.

Above Left: Sharon explaining her Christmas gift (an iPod Mp3 player) to Dezső and Miki. Above Right: Reading Matthew chapter 8 together. We also watch each chapter with The Visual Bible’s rendition of Matthew before going into discussion time.

At one point in the midst of our study, I just sat back and rejoiced in my heart seeing what God had put before me: 6 men seeking God. 6 men varying from babes in Christ to maturing men in Christ. At the beginning of last year, one of our major prayer requests was that God would bring men into the church. At that time, other than Miki and myself, there were none. God has heard your requests and is doing a magnificent work in the hearts of this group of men. Now, a year later, our new request is that we could also bring the gospel to the teenage girls in Petőfibánya. Currently, there is only one teenage girl who attends our church, and she lives in the neighboring town of Lőrinci. We look forward to our teammate Brenda Herhei’s return from the States (currently raising support) to strengthen our ministry in this area.

Please pray that God would give us wisdom and the means to make known His love to those who are still unreached in this town. By God’s grace, at the end of 2006, we hope to be rejoicing over teenage girls who have chosen to follow the Savior by faith.

The Day Before Christmas

Above: Elianna and Ben preparing cookies with Sharon (or eating cookies with Sharon?)

No need to dream of a white Christmas. God has sent snow for the past two days. Today Allen was able to take the kids sledding while Sharon prepared lunch. Below: Ben and Elianna playing in the winter wonderland of Petőfibánya.

Below: Later we went caroling Hungarian style. We visited neighbors and gave out gifts that a Hungarian supporter donated to our church. It was a great way to share the joy of the true meaning of Christmas through song. The last place we visited was our neighbor Kati. Earlier in December, her husband left her and their three children. This has been devastating for her and her mother (who lives in the same apartment). In tears, she thanked us for the warm visit and the gifts (below right).

Thank you all for being a special part of our lives through your various means of support and friendship. May the Lord bless you with joy as you hope in Him. May He fill you with peace as you remember His faithfulness. Merry Christmas! – The Mercers

Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 8

Above: Entering our final destination for puppet and drama ministry–The small town of Egyházasdengeleg.

Above: We were first greeted by a kind elderly woman. Below Left: The source of warmth in Egyházasdengeleg’s local community center. Below Right: Singing about the greatest gift at Christmas (Jesus Christ).

After the puppet show for the children, we began our drama ministry for the teenagers. Below: our 'icebreaker' challenges the teenagers to inflate the balloons until they explode. Little do they realize that these are heavy duty balloons!

Below: Through the financial gifts from the US and donations from Hungarians, today we completed our distribution of 2000 magazines and CD's to students and teachers in public schools. Not only do they receive the Gospel through our drama ministry, but they take it home with them in CD and booklet form. We pray that God will reveal Himself through these gifts that we were personally able to put into the hands of the spiritually needy.

Above: Ben and Anna helping pack-up the set. After our performances, the teachers invited us to the local pre-school for coffee and cookies. They told us how much they enjoyed the show and invited us to return once again at Easter. We praise God for this amazing opportunity in Hungary that allows us to bring the good news into the public schools–an opportunity that is unheard of in many other countries including the US. As long as this door remains open, we will seek to continue using these tools to bring the message of hope to a new generation of Hungarians.

After our final performce, the team enjoyed lunch together with a focus on encouraging each individual team member. We took turns sharing with each other one word of encouragement related to each individuals part in the minstry. If there is one area that is lacking in Hungarian culture, it is encouragement. God used this time to bless each of us and see the love we have for eachother as His body.

For those of you who joined our daily prayer team–Thank you! Each specific request that was on the list we sent in email was answered on a daily basis. Thank you for taking the time to strengthen us through your prayers! Thank You Lord for answering!

Above: This evening, we gathered together once again to organize the mailing of 1000 evangelistic booklets coupled with an invite to our church to the neighboring town of Lörinci. Csaba (above far right), who served with us on the Puppet-Drama team lives in Lörinci and has a heart to reach his this small town. We were thankful to receive Gabi (above middle) and Milán’s (above far left) help.

Above: Of course Ben and Elli couldn’t resist the company–it was an enjoyable evening.

May the Father of peace bless you with a greater understanding of His love and peace this Christmas. May He comfort you and provide for you according to HIs great wisdom and grace. Peace to you all in Christ–the Mercers

Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 7

Above: Just in case no one shows, Elianna creates an audience as we set up the puppet stage. Our first stop was Petőfibánya’s pre-school where our son Benjamin attends. We are thankful to already have good friendships with some of the teachers who attend our ESL classes. Janka (below leading singing) also teaches a Bible class in this pre-school.

Below: Our next stop was the neighboring town of Selyp (pronounced 'shape'). Two members of our church plant attend this public school, and one of them actually was able to see the puppet show. After the show, Janka was excited to see new students interested in attending her Bible class that begins in January in Selyp’s public school.

Below: Stop 'goofin-off' and get back to work :)

After our time in Selyp we back-tracked to Petőfibánya where we had two shows scheduled in the public school. As I mentioned previously, Petőfibánya was the only public school out of 18 that would not allow us to perform during school hours. As the events unfolded upon our return today, we were reminded of the saying: "The only place a prophet isn't honored is in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own house." (Mark 6:4).

As we entered to set-up for the show, the door was locked to the gym. As Janka sought to find out why, she was told that the students had all gone to a practice session in another building in town. It was if our audience had been evacuated. Janka graciously told the teacher, “But, we spoke with you earlier and agreed to schedule this event for today at 12:30.” Their only response was, “oh...they’ll be back around 12:45.” This is very similar to what had happened last year in Petőfibánya. It was clear that the majority of teachers withheld (in various creative ways) the students from attending the show. This gave us some time to pray for the students and the teachers. Because of these circumstances, we were reminded once again why God has lead us to plant a church in Petőfibánya.

After all these circumstances, we were thankful that we were able to hold one of the two shows in Petőfibánya’s public school. Below: Children who attend our local children’s weekly Bible club and a handful of other students were excited to attend. We hope that some of these children will be used by God in the future to break through the barriers of unbelief in this town by living out a life of faith in Christ.

Tomorrow we travel to Egyházasdengeleg (I’ll give you a dollar if you can pronounce it). This is our last day of puppet and drama ministry in December. Through the contacts we have made, and follow through, we hope to go out again to bring the true story of Easter to these students in 2006.

Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 6

Above: Our Elianna enjoying her time with the traveling puppet ministry. Our first stop today was the town of Verseg. Below Left: Asking directions to find the schools that are tucked away in the small towns. Below Right: Our team is always thankful for Sharon’s non-stop coffee shop.

We are so thankful to be able to open the Bible (below left) in public schools and share the truth of Jesus to students and teachers. This may be the only 'dose' of truth that many of them receive throughout the year. Many of these villages and small towns are either 'unreached' or 'over religioned' to experience the forgiveness and peace with God which is found in a new life in Christ. We trust that these seeds that you are helping us plant through your prayers and support will be effective in bringing salvation to a whole new generation of Hungarians.

After our time in Verseg, we traveled back to the town of Hatvan to perform for the Rainbow Care Center (photos below). This center seeks to bless mentally retarded persons. Everyone including the parents who attended enjoyed the presentation. We sang songs together and afterwards spent some time mingling and even dancing! We were thankful to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ's love.

Above Left: A proud parent shows Heidi and Elli some family pictures after the show. Above Right: Sharon ministering to Janka who was suffering with the infamous puppeteer knot.

Today Csaba said in prayer, “Lord, I know that it is not natural that the technical equipment is working, I know it is not natural that the puppet shows are successful, I know it is not natural that we are all well...You are the One who has blessed us with success, thank You!”

Thank you all for strengthening our ministry through your faithful prayers. We are nearing the end of this outreach and need your prayers more than ever. Tomorrow we have a full schedule that we estimate will reach 300 students. We need strength. We will be performing in our home town of Petőfibánya. It is ironic that Petőfibánya is the only public school out of the 18 that will not allow us to perform during school hours. Please pray that students and parents would still come and understand the message of hope that Jesus Christ brings.

Tonight’s Christmas Service

Above: Will the real pregger please rise!

God gifted us with a beautiful sunset while we packed our car for tonight’s special Christmas service. Below Left: The Mercer ministry mobile packed with donated Christmas gifts for the children tonight. Below Right: Milán & Gábor (teenagers from church) helping to distribute the gifts.

The children did a great job telling the Christmas story through poetry, song and dance. We praise God that many parents came (we ran out of seats). Bottom Left: Miki’s daughter Anna, Bottom Right: Families filled the rented public school room.

We also performed three of our dramas which communicate different aspects of the Gospel. Below: The crucifixion and resurrection. Miki’s wife Erika connecting with visitors. Heidi greets a Petőfibánya ESL student who responded to our invite.

We praise God that we were able to make new connections in the community through this special service. One mother approached me after service and said that she appreciated what we do in the community. We hope that this will be one of the first steps for many of these parents to begin attending worship service regularly with their children every Sunday. Please pray for them!

Praise worthy news:
Greta, (see 12/16/05 entry) called Heidi yesterday and talked with her for over an hour. She would like to meet sometime in the future. Heidi suggested going through the book of John together with Greta. Please pray that this relationship would be used to bless Greta!

Bernadette (see 12/16/05 entry) sent a text message to Heidi’s cell phone. She said that she will discuss our drama in class with the students and ask them what they learned! Wow. Please pray that God would bless those students and bless their discussion tomorrow.

Prayer requests:
Tonight, Sharon has been having mild contractions related to physical strain. Please pray that she would get the rest she needs and that Sharon and our baby would be protected by God.

Tomorrow we are off again to two public schools. One of the schools that we will visit is for mentally retarded persons. The Mayor and many parents will also attend. Please pray that God’s message of hope would bless all of them!

Please pray for our team. For unity, for focus on Jesus and for success in communicating the Gospel.


Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 5

Above: Teaching a song in public schools about the BIGGEST Christmas gift–Jesus Christ. In Hungarian the lyrics are: “The biggest gift that I have received from You...the biggest gift is that You came for me (too)... For me, Jesus is truly the greatest gift!” We praise God for His gift to us, and that we are able to tell these students about Him! Our first stop, Héhalom actually scheduled us to perform on their last school day before break. This day is usually reserved for special events. It was a great privilege to serve their.

In Héhalom, we were surprised to see a student that had attended an English Camp in 2004. Students who attend the English camps come from all over Hungary. Now a year and a half later in the midst of the drama ministry, we see God’s sovereignty at work! Heidi (who also served in the English camp in 2004) was able to reconnect with Greta and ask her about her relationship with God. Please pray for Greta, as she has not made a decision. Please pray that this sovereign appointment would lead to fruitful follow up.

Above left: Greta in 2004's English Camp. Above right: Today’s surprise reunion, Heidi and Greta.

Above Left: Praising God in drama. Above Right: Teenagers in Jobbágyi.

Our final destination for the day was the town of Jobbágyi. Here, we performed one of our most stirring and direct drama's called 'hands.' This drama journeys from creation to the rebellion, to the consequences of sin, to our hands being one with those that nailed Jesus to the cross. The narration says: "the soldiers hands, "Pilate’s hands" "your hands." It also pictures the death and resurrection of Jesus and His invitation to all to believe and receive forgiveness. In the end of the drama, two receive Jesus and two reject Him. And the question is posed to the audience, "what about you?"

After this drama a history teachers (Below Left) came to Miki and said, "There's a mistake in your drama. Pilate didn't nail Jesus' hands to the cross!” This gave Miki an opportunity to explain the gospel. Later we were invited to the principals office as a gesture of hospitality. As usual, the teachers were curious as to how an American ended up in Petőfibánya. Through their questions, God was swift to lead the conversation to Jesus. Once the conversation settled on God, more questions-deeper questions arose. “Is Jesus the only way?” “The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament seem like two different God’s...why?” “Where is God when life hurts? If God loves us, then why do evil things happen?" I can't express how excited I get when I hear these questions! It was as if the principals office was transformed into a seekers forum. God provided the words and the wisdom to answer these questions from my heart and from His word. This was an encouraging way to end the week! And I am quite sure that this is God’s answer to many of your prayers! We are seeing more of a spiritual openness that we didn't see last year.

Above Left: One of the teachers from Jobbágyi who we spent time discussing Biblical truth with after the performance. Above Right: Bernadette, an English teacher in Jobbágyi, exchanges contact information with Heidi. Bernadette would like to keep in touch and practice her English. She even suggested bringing her students out to Petőfibánya to visit (a 10 minute drive from Jobbágyi)

After today’s Puppet and Drama ministry we headed home to prepare for tonight’s Film Club. We had a good discussion after the film about the culture that we are born into when we become Christians. The culture of God’s kingdom. We are thankful to continue to see growth in the teenager’s faith who have recently become believers in Christ.

Tomorrow, we have special plans to.....REST. Please keep us in your prayers as we will have a special Christmas service on Sunday that is evangelistic in nature. Peace in Christ!


Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 4

Below Left: our fist destination, Below Right: Self-Portrait in the town of Boldog.

Our first stop today was the town of “Boldog” which means “Happy.” As we creeped along toward Boldog on icy roads, Janka told me that the teacher’s were a bit curious as to 'how religious' we were. Apparently, some word had already spread that we may be a religious sect when parents saw the posters for our puppet show. Remember, we are performing in public schools! Janka decided the best way to share the Gospel after the show was by letting the Word do the work. She chose a few key Bible verses to read and briefly explained their importance. The reception from the teachers was warm and the children were very attentive. Boldogon elment Boldogból (We happily left Happy.)

Our second stop was a preschool in Hatvan. After a successful show, in the midst of packing for our next destination, we were overjoyed to hear something special. In the adjoining room, the teachers put on the CD we just distributed as a gift to all the children! Praise God that He has opened the door for the good news to be proclaimed in public schools in this creative form! Below left: Miki distributing CD’s and magazines to the children. Below right: Janka sharing the Gospel.

Our final stop was the town of Csány. We were greeted by children who helped us carry our puppet set into the school gym. When question time came after the puppet show, we were completely out of candy. Oops. Yet, even without the incentive of receiving candy, the children did an amazing job answering each question related to the show! We decided that from this day forward-no more candy (well, except for the car rides between each school).

After packing up (below left), we returned home to prepare for our Thursday night Bible study in the book of Matthew. Dezső brought his wife Mary to study for the second time in a row! They told us that they also plan on coming to our Christmas service (with their two daughters) on Sunday. Please pray for them! Heidi (below far right) has been a great help in our Puppet-Drama ministry and in our family this week! She has helped care for our children (who literally pull her in every direction) and also helped Sharon with daily chores. We are thankful for her help in this ministry.

We are very thankful for you being a part of this ministry through prayer! You are helping us sow the seeds of the Gospel among 2000 children. We are nearing the middle of our outreach and we are fatigued. Yet, I noticed today that we were joyful together as a team. I am sure that your prayers are being answered! Please continue to pray!

Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 3

Above: Coffee done right. mmmmm. Today was one of our longest as we traveled to three schools. The scenery as we travel is beautiful as the morning frost clothes everything in soft white. Our first stop was the town of Héréd where we were greeted with coffee. The kids enjoyed singing new songs with us, and they even sang a few of their own Christmas favorites to us! After the show, we were invited into classrooms. Below left: we will distribute 2000 of these CD’s, on which children can hear the puppet show, the gospel and learn new songs. Below Right: the daily workout...unpacking and packing.

Our second stop was the town of Szurdokpüspöki where we performed our puppet show for the kids, and the drama for the teens. One of the girls video-recorded our entire drama on her cell phone. Below left: A young girl anxious to answer a question about the puppet show. Below right: Drama team in action.

Below: Our final stop was the town of Zagyvaszántó

We give thanks to God for how well this ministry is going. All the technical equipment has been working fine. Our team is physically healthy. And each time the gospel has been shared, there have been no distractions and children have payed attention. Please continue to pray for us as we need rest and rejuvenation for another challenging day of ministry tomorrow.

Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 2

Today we gained another 'worker' who will strengthen our team this week. Heidi is a fellow PIONEERS team member who lives in Budapest and has dedicated herself to help us in this ministry. Please pray for her as she will be participating in our drama starting tomorrow!

Today we traveled to the town of Hatvan where we first performed the puppet show before a pre-school. Afterwards, we quickly packed up and drove 5 minutes to our next destination–a school for students who are mentally retarded or have learning disabilities. After the show we were encouraged by one of the teachers who said, “I am AMAZED that you are so open to ALL children.” Little does she know, that this is a great privilege and is joyful obedience to Jesus who said: “Don't stop children from coming to me! Children like these are part of the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:13) We thank God for the privilege.

After a lunch break, our team gathered together again to begin organizing and distributing tracts and invitations (pictured below left) to our Christmas service to the 3700 residents of Petőfibánya. We have also set out to distribute 1000 “Is Jesus God” apologetic booklets with invites to our church to a neighboring village called “Lörinci.”

Please pray that these tracts and booklets would direct hearts to Jesus Christ. Please pray that we would be able to build new relationships with those who respond to the invites to church. Tomorrow, we’re off at 7:15, hoping to minister to 200 kids/teens/teachers in Heréd and Szurdokpüspöki.

Thank you for your prayers! God is clearly blessing all aspects of this ministry and giving us victory each day. Your prayers are being answered! Praise Him!

ESL semester end party

Tonight, we closed our ESL semester with a special time of singing Christmas carols with the students. I am thankful for my teamates Tamara Hoffmann and Valeria Campbell who provided special gifts for the students (and baked tasty Christmas treats)! We also included invites to our special Christmas service this Sunday.

We will continue ESL starting in January of 2006 in Petőfibánya. We hope that the Lord will continue to use this ministry as a bridge to lead people into His truth. Please pray that the students would come to this Sunday’s Christmas service.

Puppet & Drama Ministry Day 1

We are thankful for a team of over twenty people in the US who have committed to pray for us daily. Our Puppet/Drama team is physically healthy and successfully performed in two villages today before 270 people. We praise God for this opportunity and pray that these seeds will produce a harvest in these unreached areas.

Above: We were overjoyed to see that the children in Erdőtárcsa had learned songs from a cassette that we distributed last year. This encourages us that the CD we distribute this year will also fill their hearts with praise to God. Below Left: Our second stop was Kálló, a village with a majority of Gypsy residents. Below Right: This year’s puppet show teaches the children about love and forgiveness through the Christmas story. To see all of today’s photos, click here!

We praise God that our first day (which is usually a bit rough) went well! Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Tomorrow we are off to the town of Hatvan where we will be performing in two public schools.

Tonight’s Public Worship

Tonight's worship service was filled to the brim with kids! We praise God for drawing more people to Himself through word of mouth and personal invites. Tomorrow morning we set off to begin our puppet/drama ministry. We would appreciate your prayers!

Above: Janka and Miki lead worship. Below: Some of the children from Petőfibánya who attend our Sunday services.

Puppet Ministry begins Monday!

The time has come once again for our puppet/drama outreach throughout Heves County in Hungary. This year we have been invited to 18 public schools, and we estimate that we will be able to share Christ with a total of 2000 children, teenagers and adults from Dec 12-21st.

Above Left: Students from our hometown of Petőfibánya waiting for the puppet/drama show to begin.
Above Right: One of the 18 public schools we will present the gospel to this year throughout Heves Megye.

After the show, we distribute a Christmas CD and a Christian family magazine to each attendee. The CD has a clear explanation of the gospel, and the Christian magazine is a way to connect families to Biblical truths on a bi-monthly basis. These are seeds that we hope will produce a harvest in the next generation of Hungarians!

Stay tuned for updates throughout the week!