Wednesday, August 29, 2007

July-August 2007

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”

For my first "real” missions trip ever, I was honored to be invited to go to Hungary during the first two weeks of July! When Kirt was promoted to heaven, and I told the Lord that I would walk through any door He opened, I never imagined how many unlikely doors that would include! North Village Baptist Church (NVBC), my sending church, is earnestly involved in training and equipping all of its members to be effective in “Crossing Streets, Crossing Cultures and Crossing the World” to share God’s love and light. One of NVBC’s objectives is to establish a greater grassroots personal relationship with believers around the world by adopting and networking with specific sister churches that can mutually and effectively join efforts in fulfilling the Great Commission. I was invited to go along for the purpose of serving as a liaison for my sending church in Phoenix, NVBC, my home church in Tepic, IBBT, and our new "sister" church in Szolnok, Hungary. If you are interested in some personal highlights of this unforgettable trip, read the following Szolnok, Hungary, trip summary, and click here to watch the corresponding slideshow.

Back in Tepic, the month of August began with a visit from Pastor Gregg Cantelmo and seven members of his church in Phoenix. Pastor Gregg did an excellent job teaching a series on The Emotions: God's Motivators, and Timmy did an excellent job serving as interpreter for him. The team played a big part in acting as "God's Couriers" of 5 large suitcases full of blankets made by the VBS children of the Tri-City Baptist Temple in Oregon and a large box of Huichol New Testament Mp3 players that we are steadily getting in place for distribution to the Huichol villages. The blankets will be presented to the Huichol children of Zapote de Picachos on November 2, the third anniversary of that village church. The team’s servant's hearts and willingness to roll up their sleeves, tromping through the tropical mud, and contributing to the max the gifts God has plentifully given them for reaching out to the needs of other people will pay off eternally in the lives of the recipients of their vision. Pastor Gregg's statement that “God loves us just as we are, but He loves too much to let us stay the way we are” is the key to all Christian service. May none of us ever forget it, and may we be prepared for the commitment that it requires. See a slideshow of some of the Bridgeway team’s Tepic activities click here.

Still another privilege this month was the presentation of the 2nd annual Kirt Mellberg Memorial Scholarship to Marisol Rojo. The scholarship fund, donated by interested sponsors, is a living investment awarded in Kirt’s memory for the purpose of recognizing and encouraging students who have distinguished themselves as leaders, who exemplify the servant qualities of our Lord Jesus Christ, and who are actively preparing themselves for ministry in missions or in a local church. Marisol moved to Tepic seven years ago with her mother and 2 older brothers. Her father had just been murdered mafia-style, in the state north of ours in a drug-related vendetta, and her mother determined to leave that region so her children would not be further entangled in the lifestyle. Marisol, a tiny 12-year-old girl who in her short lifetime had been exposed to way too many of the world’s activities and snares, was invited to AWANA club at the Tepic church, and soon gave her heart to Jesus. She was faithful to church and obedient in memorizing and applying God’s Word, and after graduating from AWANA, Marisol became a prized AWANA club leader and a Sunday school preschool teacher. Kirt challenged her to use her musical abilities to learn to play the violin. He offered to loan her a violin and to pay for her classes, and he told her that after one year, if she would play a special song in church, she could keep the violin. She worked hard to follow through on her commitment, and she played Silent Night at the annual community Christmas celebration. In time she learned to play along with the congregational singing every Sunday morning, and she motivated 3 younger children in the church, David, Shadai, and Erika, to follow in her footsteps. They can’t wait to master the violin enough to be asked to accompany on Sunday mornings. When Marisol graduated from high school last June, she announced that she felt God was leading her to attend a Christian college in Monterrey, Mexico, to become better prepared to serve. She will be studying elementary education and music. What could be more fulfilling than for one of Kirt’s little people to be this year’s recipient of a scholarship offered in his memory? To see some pictures of Marisol’s faithful involvement in the Tepic church click here.

In previous prayer updates, I have mentioned the pressing need to remember the newest Huichol believers from the village of Guásima del Caimán as they have faced severe persecution from unbelieving villagers and rural, government-appointed officials. Thank you for your prayers for them. The little family of believers has decided to relocate on the outskirts of the village of Puga, about 40 minutes from Tepic, where Pastor Valentín leads his growing flock. They have pooled their meager resources and the sweat of their brows to build temporary housing on a section of land that Pancho, a believer from Puga, owns. As a priority, they have joined ranks and are buying a plot of land for their “new church building.” As always, after the rainy season has passed, getting water will be another issue. It has been a very difficult decision for them to uproot from the place many of them were born, but the advantages of solidarity with other more mature believers, increased access to medical treatment, and better schooling opportunities for their children convinced them to move. In spite of those advantages, the new believers recognize and are very concerned about the dangers of closer ties with “civilization” and its corresponding temptations. They are thirsty for God’s Word, and their pastor, Refugio, is determined to learn to be a worthy shepherd. This is all still in the very beginning stages of "what to do," and it is important that they be directed by the same God that directs us in "what to do" when the need arises. It is also the stage that is very tempting for the "great white fathers" to intervene and tell them what is best for them. It is best for us to pray our heads off for them and be supportive of the decisions God lays on their hearts. Please continue to pray for God's wisdom as they work out the spiritual and physical combining of the two churches, Guásima del Caimán and Puga.

I am grateful for the unanticipated opportunity God has given me to participate in His great and mighty things surrounded by the most humble, generous, loving, caring, and hard-working brothers and sisters from both sides of the border, on the face of the earth! Thank you for your part in making it all possible.

Quick Reference Version of July-August Prayer Requests:

· Bible Baptist Church of Szolnok, Hungary
· Marisol Rojo – Bible college student
· Guásima del Caimán/Puga - transition, faithfulness, growth
· OANSA – club begins September 1
· Huichol Old Testament translation project
· Huichol New Testament Mp3 project


Szolnok, Hungary: Communicating, Teaching, Encouraging

Szolnok is a city situated 100 kilometers east of Budapest, where the Tisza and the Zagyva rivers meet, and a point of convergence of Eastern Europe’s Great Plain's waterways, railways and overland routes. The town has 78,000 residents, the eleventh largest town in Hungary. It is an economic, cultural, tourist, education and health center.

Hungary is struggling to override the effects of years of communist rule (until 1987) and the resulting lack of skills, consequently, parents are extremely concerned that their children get all the educational opportunities possible. As soon as school lets out for the summer, they stop at nothing to enroll them in as many day camps as possible for learning reinforcement. The NVBC Crossing the World team plan was to lead a baseball camp (a sport virtually unknown in Hungary) for the first week, with English, crazy Americans and a foreign sport used to spark the interest of as many Hungarian children and their parents as possible; then after establishing friendships and the right to relate, the second week was a Bible camp (VBS) using the Putting on the Armor of God theme.

In the weeks prior to leaving Tepic for Hungary I found myself on multiple occasions asking, “Why on earth did I commit to this effort? Obviously it’s not about my baseball skills…I haven’t touched the business end of a bat in over 35 years! Oh, yeah, the promise…OK, God, you opened the door, I walked through, so…the outcome is up to You.”

On our last day in Hungary, at the airport in Budapest, Chad, our team leader, directed us in a time of reflection. He asked the question: “What has God used you for, specifically, in the past 2 weeks?” Three main responses came to mind: communicating, teaching, and encouraging Hungarian church leadership.


Months before we left, I got hold of a Beginning Hungarian CD, and though I learned basic greetings, “Where’s the bathroom?” and to count to 30, it was obvious that we were going to be strapped to an interpreter for real communication. On the flight to Budapest through London we were immersed in “proper Queen’s English” as the British flight attendant exclaimed to an unreasonable passenger, “MAH-dam, I am NOHT johking…it’s noht Oh-Kie with me!” In addition, Nick, one of our outstanding American teammates took it upon himself to persistently immerse me in US vernacular (i.e. “Dude, me and DJ have been best friends nearly all my life!”); I took it upon myself to constantly adjust his grammar. Though we all made the effort to connect the best we could in Hungarian (i.e. köszönöm=thank you; szia=See ya!; hello= good bye, hello, or Attention, please; jó reggelt=Good morning, etc), when I asked Katalin, one of our dedicated interpreters, how long it would take me to master her beautiful language, she replied, “You vould NEVAH learn to speak Hungarian vell in your lifetime…Americans CAHN’T.” Hmmm! In spite of obvious barriers, God used everyone on the NVBC team to fruitfully convey meaning with God’s perfect love, the language that has been proven to communicate effectively in London, among my American friends, with Huichols, with Mexicans, and with Hungarians. See slides 1-12.

God also used the passion for the gift of teaching He has given me. First, I had the opportunity to show a Power Point presentation of this past year’s Awana activities in Tepic to the congregation of the Bible Baptist Church of Szolnok. The final section of the presentation includes a picture of one of my kids’ classes in Mexico over 25 years ago. I told the story of a boy named Nacho who came to church and gave his heart to Jesus then invited his best friend, Martin, to come hear the Good News. Martin also gave his heart to Jesus. The final 2 pictures of the presentation are of Pastor Nacho and his family, and of Nacho’s best friend, Pastor Martín and his family. The two concluding questions were: 1) “Adults, is it worth investing our lives and effort in children?”, and 2) “Which of you children will be the future Pastor Nacho or Pastor Martín of this church in Szolnok?” Second, on the last day of Bible camp we team-taught, Putting on the Armor of God, I gave the final summary including the importance of receiving God’s gift of salvation, joining His army, and resisting the temptation of Satan, the enemy, by using all the armor God provides. Jani, Balázs, Nora, Bianka, Csilla and Ákos each testified that they had made the choice to give their hearts to Jesus and join us in God’s army. Third, before I left Tepic for Hungary, one of the girls in our Awana Club gave me $100 pesos ($10 US) that she had saved to fulfill the requirement of giving a special offering to a missionary. I used her gift to purchase a Hungarian Bible that ultimately was awarded to Balázs for having memorized the most verses during the week of Bible camp, including the entire Ephesians 6 passage on the Armor of God. See slides 13-24.


Dan and Patty Peters who have been missionaries in Szolnok for 13 years related to us the sad story that the former national pastor of their church had used the church as a cover-up for his involvement in illegal financial dealings. As a result, the church has gone through some serious setbacks, from which they are still struggling to recover since he had to leave the church a little over a year ago. Zoltan Ferenczi has stepped up to the plate as a very compassionate, hardworking and committed lay-leader. He and his wife, Eva, with great personal sacrifice, took two weeks’ vacation from their jobs to invest their all in the children’s camps and related activities.

The night before I left Tepic for Hungary, “Someone” “just happened” to direct my attention to Kirt’s Arizona Diamondbacks baseball cap still sitting on the shelf of our closet. Something told me I would need that tool on the trip. I ran the cap through the dishwasher and set it on the stove over the pilot light to dry overnight. As I was leaving the house early the next morning to catch the bus to the Puerto Vallarta airport, I stuffed the cap in my suitcase with the other “Baseball and Bible Camp” supplies to take to Hungary. The cap stayed in my suitcase in Szolnok until the Thursday night before we returned to Phoenix.

The NVBC team invited Dan and Patty along with all of the indispensable Hungarian workers to a nice restaurant for a worker-appreciation dinner. After dinner, each of us took the opportunity to express to the nationals how much we love them and appreciated their hard work. When it was my turn to share, I revealed that one of my goals in the 2-week effort had been the communication of the example of the continued faithfulness to Christ and exemplary growth of the Tepic church in spite of our loss of Kirt as our shepherd. I told them that their Mexican brothers and sisters were praying that their faithfulness would become a pattern for the church in Szolnok, Hungary, as well. They are also praying that the NVBC visit might spark an interest in beginning an AWANA club for the children of Szolnok in order that future leaders may be prepared by hiding God's Word and His principles in their hearts from an early age as the current Tepic church leaders have done. NVBC sent representatives to Tepic for that same purpose 13 years ago, and the results have been remarkable. Then as I removed Kirt’s Arizona Diamondbacks baseball cap from my bag, I announced that, “This purple and turquoise hat is very special for a couple of reasons. First, it is one of the original Arizona Diamondback hats. They don’t make them in this color or style anymore. Second, it is very special because it was a gift several years ago from my parents to Kirt.” Then I directed my comments to Zoltan, who has accepted the very difficult task of leadership in his church. I told him that throughout Kirt’s ministry here on earth, just like Jesus, Kirt looked for FAT people with whom to work. Zoltan’s puzzled expression showed that he thought something must have been lost in the translation. Then I went on to spell out that Kirt looked for people who were Faithful, Available and Teachable. I shared, “Zoltan, Kirt would have admired, respected, and loved you as a leader of the Baptist Bible Church of Szolnok, and he would have considered you one of the FATtest men in all of Hungary! So, on behalf of the Bible Baptist Church of Tepic, and the North Village Baptist Church of Phoenix, this FAT cap is a gift to you to serve as a reminder that we too admire, respect, care about you, and love you; and we will pray for you, your family, and your church, our sister, the Baptist Bible Church of Szolnok.” I explained that we know it is not always easy, and at times we feel all alone in accepting positions of leadership; however in spite of temptations, tempests, trials, and tragedies, Jesus said He would build His church, and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” God used our team to edify, encourage and enrich the lives of the Hungarian church leadership as we went to represent our Savior. Our investment has already paid off with dividends we didn’t dare imagine, and it will continue to compound with daily interest as we carry on upholding our sister church in Szolnok in prayer. See the FAT cap presentation in slides 25-32.

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