Sunday, September 27, 2015

When Crisis meets Grace -- a Heartbeat for Europe

Hungry, tired, weak and traumatized ... everyday 8,000 more desperate souls hobble across borders into makeshift refugee camps, struggling for a chance at security, searching for hope.  An estimated half million have staggered into Europe so far in 2015, the women peeking from beneath the head scarves of their Muslim faith, wondering if today they will eat, speculating if their little ones will survive, perhaps questioning if Allah even cares about their desperate journey.

This is Europe today. And UNHCR says it is likely just the "tip of the iceberg" of what's coming.

And so the tsunami of humanity has brought with it a flood of fears of holy wars. Some speculate that ISIS is using the crisis to flood the West with its operatives who will be poised to embark on a rampage of unconscionable terror attacks at a strategic time. Others argue that by simply allowing such large numbers of Muslims into Europe, we set the stage for an "Islamicisation" of the continent within the next few generations. A victory for Muhammad without firing a single shot.

Crisis, indeed. And Europe may never again be the same.

But while many have wrapped themselves around the anxiety of certain annihilation, countless others, followers of Christ from varied backgrounds, have banned together in Hungary to, not just tell, but SHOW these needy refugees that there is a God in Heaven who loves them so completely that He sent his Son, Jesus, "Isa," to die that they might live.

"But what if there are terrorists among them?" you might ask. Then through the blankets and the bananas, the smiles, and the tears, just maybe a Muslim extremist might discover the difference between the god of jihad, and the God of Grace.

Arpad Horvath-Kavai worked with the ecclectic group of voluteers at the Hungary's southern border, handing out food packages and blankets and striving the meet the insurmountable needs. He wrote of the experience:

The extraordinary circumstances of the largest exodus of people since the last world war culminated in remarkable spiritual blessings—prayers were offered in the name of ʿĪsā,(Jesus) weary souls saw the light, the Scriptures were quoted, and Yahweh was praised.

Yes, the world faces a crisis in Europe. But instead of moaning and harping the worst possible case scenarios, we as Christian must realized that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood," (Eph. 6:12) and we must take the battle to our knees. This moment is more than the moment of crisis. It is the hour of opportunity.

Thousands, perhaps millions of Muslims, pouring into Europe know only the kind of god they've ever been exposed to:  a god of judgement, a god of  law.  Imagine if in this desperate time, they could be introduced to a God of Grace and the very real possibility of relationship with Him.

GoodSports International recognizes that the Word of God is the very heartbeat of relationship with Him. And in an effort to share this life, GoodSports is seeking to put an Arabic language Bible into the hand of every refugee, to make known this God of love, this God of grace, Isa (Jesus).

Join us in this battle and pray for all the migrants and refugees flooding into Europe. At the end of these trying days may we be able to stand against the Evil One and say what Joseph did in Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

[You can join the "Heartbeat" refugee Bible project by clicking here and donating under the item "GoodSports Hungary -- Refugee Ministry."]

Sunday, March 15, 2015

R.I.P. Rob Greathouse

R.I.P.  Rest in peace. These have become our trite words of release. An acronym of farewell that perhaps helps us let go of those we love who have made the journey into eternity. During this past week, our dear friend Rob Greathouse, who paved the way for us coming to Hungary in many ways, crossed over through death into life eternal. And as his passing has caused me to remember the past and recall his great contribution to ministry here in Hungary, I find the old acronym RIP, strangely inappropriate.

Rob and his delightful wife, Carol, came to Hungary several years before my family did. Carol was the extrovert with a heart full of compassion and such extraordinary love for everyone. Rob played the role of the strong stoic background man, the homebody that held down the fort. Together they were truly a force to be reckoned with, a force that no doubt left Satan shakin' in his shoes. They hosted orphanage kids for special weekends away from the institution. They played a critical role in building the church that we all know as Golgota Debrecen (Calvary Chapel, Debrecen).

Carol was larger than life, calling everyone "honey bunny" and leaving all with the sense that they had a loving and compassionate Grandma in their court.  Rob always proved understated. Saying little and at times coming across as a bit prickly.  But his prickles were just a thin veneer that never successfully hid his GIANT heart.  Generosity was second nature to him, and his giving was always without pomp and circumstance. He saw a need. He met the need. And that was that.  The masses would never know he was involved.

After 10 years in Hungary, they decided it was time to return to the states. But before they left Hungary, they received news that fell like a bombshell. Rob had cancer and he likely would not survive three months.  By the time they sold their house and he climbed aboard the plane, pain racked his body to such an extent that he doubted he would even survive the flight home. But then something remarkable happened.

When he got back to the states all the cancer disappeared. God had given this older couple a gift. They would be able to enjoy the treasure of each other for several more years. And enjoy it they did!  A marriage rekindled with a renewed love, deeper than either of them thought possible. It was restoration. It was love. It was life at its best.  But it was also on a timeclock. Last year the cancer returned, and as the months passed, it became increasingly clear that this cancer would be terminal.

About a month ago they visited the oncologist as they prepared to go into hospice. The doctor explained the process. Rob would receive medication for pain so he should not suffer. His body would grow increasingly weak and he would find himself sleeping more and more often until finally he would simply not wake up. And it would all probably conclude within a month's time. Rob left the meeting elated.

"Wow! That's great news!" he said. "I get to be with Christ in Heaven within the month, and I don't even have to suffer. I get to go in my sleep!"

And so it happened much as the oncologist described.  The final weeks were speckled with indescribable moments of family affection, sparks of Rob's unwavering humor, giggles and smiles alongside tears and aches until finally last week Rob slipped into that final sleep.

Rest in peace?  No, that's not for Rob. Rest is for the weary.  Rest is what Rob needed as the pushed forward in life under the weight of human frailty in those final days.  Rest is for those who walked this road at his side and now fall exhausted under the strain of what they've come through. For Carol and family I pray they will experience the "rest" of Hebrews 4 in all its fullness, and that includes the comfort and assurance of knowing where Rob lives right now.

But rest is no longer for Rob. Rob shed that heavy, faded cloak of human flesh last week, and when he did, he emerged with zeal and energy into the incomprehensible and boundless love of Christ. Basking in the glory of Lord, Rob is not wanting to rest.  For him, now is the time to revel!

And so I do not say, "Rob Greathouse, Rest in Peace," because I know there's a heck of a lot more to the hereafter than slumber.  Heaven is a place of exuberance where we come into the fullness of who we are because we have been made complete by Christ on every level. To be in the very presence of Christ, face-to-face, who could rest?  Every fiber of Rob's being must be rattled with excitement.

Considering that, maybe I can still say R.I.P. But by those letters I do not mean "rest in peace."  I mean something far more significant.  So go ahead, Rob Greathouse, go ahead and revel.  R.I.P. "Revel in His Presence!" We will join you soon!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Growing Pains: Did you really think there wouldn't be a cost?

That day when you sent me out so boldly to change the world, did you really think there wouldn't be a cost?” --Martin Luther in the movie “Luther”

When we enter Christian service on any level, we'd be terribly naive to believe there will be no cost. Any perusal of scripture leaves no doubt, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps,” 1 Peter 2:21 explains. But so often the cost proves very different from what we brace ourselves for.

I recently read of blog about how missionaries can never go home again. They are truly strangers and aliens when they go home on furlough as they return to a world that is no longer their own. Friends and family members' lives have moved on. They find they no longer really fit in. So “going home” is really not going home at all. Back in the country where they serve, they find they can never fully fit in either. They are always a little behind the power curve. In one way it has become home; in another, they find they remain just another foreigner. And so we, as missionaries, are truly strangers in a strange land wherever we go. It is cost that comes with the territory.

I have largely learned to just accept it. It is a price that must be paid to have the privilege of living an extraordinary experience in the plan of God for this world. And it is very worth it. The alternative of just remaining hunkered down in one spot never understanding that people see the world differently, to me, is completely unthinkable.

But lately, this cost has erupted with new significance for me. Everyone thinks about the sacrifices missionaries make when the leave their home country for the mission field. Few give thought to the pain involved when circumstances require missionaries to leave the mission field they so desperately love to go “home.”

America is not home anymore for me. Mikepercs, Hungary is home with all its roosters crowing in the middle of the night, the dogs barking, and the smell of coal thickening the winter air. The horse-and-wagons rumbling down the street outside our house still make me smile as do the sounds of the village festivals melding the croaking frogs in the midsummer's twilight.

And yet, circumstances beyond our control, confirmed by affirmation from above (that I really did not want to listen to), have made it clear that in this next year we will be returning to the states.

In a lot of ways for us, it is like moving to a mysterious foreign country. The USA has changed so much since we lived there some 15 years ago. Technology has evolved. I don't even know how to pay bills in America anymore. I feel awkward and ignorant when I am in the states. I still feel that way in Hungary sometimes, but people understand that here. I am a foreigner!

I don't know how to use a smart phone! I've forgotten that gas comes in gallons, and how much is gallon, anyway? Miles instead of kilometers. Pounds instead of kilograms. No one walks anywhere. Public transportation is scarce. Food tastes funny because of all the preservatives. I am already culture shocking and we haven't even left yet!

Once again we find ourselves strangers in a strange land. And it is scary, scarier than when we came to Hungary, because we have three teenagers to shepherd through the radical change – three kids who know little about American life and culture.

When watching the movie “Luther” the other night, one quote stood out to me. As Luther's views began to shake up the establishment, he was confronted by his early mentor. Luther responded, “Did you really think there wouldn't be a cost?” It echoed in the recesses of my spirit.

Yes, I thought there would be a cost, but I didn't count on it being this one. It hurts to lose Hungary and the remarkable people I have come to know and love here. The things they have taught me shall be treasured in my heart for decades to come. They have made me into the person I am. Hungary has changed me, and I cannot imagine my life without this precious place.

And still we must go. Through the ache and with a heavy sigh, we will have to move forward and again become “strangers and aliens” because we indeed are not of this world.

No, moving to Texas is not going home. The only real home will not be found here in the “puszta” of Hungary or there on the plains of Texas. The only true home will be found in the Heavenly hereafter.

This perpetual sense of loss and feeling of homelessness is all part of the cost. And although the cost is high, I'd suffer the ache again and again. Because at the end of this life, I know the pain will not prove pointless. It will prove to have been what's necessary to grow into what I needed to be. 

It's just
growing pains.