Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Best Day Ever...

Okay, so it wasn’t my ‘best’ day ever. After all, I am a believer, a husband, a father and a Red Sox fan so that gives me a whole week of better days than this one day. But, this was still a pretty good day. For anyone struggling with the math, there was the day I was saved, the day I got married, the four days my children were born, and the two days the Red Sox won the World Series - in my lifetime. Thus, I’ve had seven or a whole week of better days. Alright, so this day was intrinsically better than the Red Sox winning the World Series but I needed two more days to make a week.

This most recent ‘best day’ came the Sunday before Christmas and it was quite unexpected.

In early November, David Sebens came into the library and asked for a single book, Merrill Tenney’s New Testament Survey. I told him we had it and took him directly to the book on the shelf. Then, he renewed his membership and we had a very brief conversation about what brought me to Hungary and what I’d done up until that time. Soon, he was gone.

A few weeks later we received an email from him requesting to renew the book and he asked if I’d be willing to travel to Szeged (near the Serbian/Romanian/Hungarian border) and team teach a one-day course on Paul’s New Testament Letters. I was a little surprised at this because I didn’t think he knew me well enough to make such a request. He reasoned that if I could teach kids, I could teach anyone. While I was grateful for his confidence in me, I was still a bit skeptical, yet also very excited about this great opportunity.

After a number of emails back and forth we agreed that I would teach for three and a half hours on Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians. He would cover the rest of Paul’s letters. Yeah I know it’s not much time, so survey is more than an overstatement.

I hopped on the train in Budapest around 6 am and met Dave for breakfast in Szeged. As we talked over breakfast, I found out that I would be teaching a group of church leaders from various congregations in and around Szeged. I’m not sure what I thought it would be before I knew this, but I certainly did not expect to be teaching church leaders.

First, we participated in their worship service and I was surprised by the number of songs I knew, or at least partially knew, in Hungarian. We met in the basement/underground portion of a hotel restaurant called the Port Royalle. It’s right on the Tisza River, the longest river in Hungary. The maritime theme and its proximity to borders and water made me feel right at home.

Dave began the teaching time, but was not feeling well and left after lunch. I taught for about an hour and a half before our first break. During that break, I was invited to come to several of their congregations and teach. One pastor, Miklos Hegedus, even insisted I come the very next Sunday, Christmas Sunday, and teach. I was honored.

After beginning to teach again, they asked if I would slow down so that they could write everything down. I did slow down, but also began to realize something more was happening here in this basement. I was only supposed to teach until four o’clock, but Pastor Geza came to me and said, ‘Brother, I am renting room until six o’clock. Will you teach longer?’ I love the English of nonnative speakers. He was really asking if I would teach two extra hours. Of course, I agreed to teach until six o’clock. At this point, I was humbled.

During our breaks, the translator, Eva, assured me that they were serious about their invitations. They were not just being kind; they really wanted me to come back and teach again. They really wanted to meet my family. They really wanted to have me into their homes and share my teaching with them. In fact, here is an excerpt from her email to Dave in response to the evaluation of my teaching.

We enjoyed his heart, his message and we could have stayed and talked to him for hours more. At the end he prayed for the group. It was a bit like the end of an exceptionally good film in a cinema when the lights are on, the film and even the names at the end are over, the music is still on but nobody wants to or dares to move not to break the special moment.

I do not deserve this type of complement. I will admit that I can teach - even that I am a good or possibly gifted teacher. But, I assure you on this day it was not my teaching, but their hunger that qualifies these responses. After reading Eva’s email, I was incredibly humbled.

This one day of teaching was possibly the best thing we’ve done since being in Hungary. There are places in the world that are absolutely dying for the good news. If you’re not praying for and giving to someone who is simply spreading the good news, then you should start… right now… even if it’s not the Ridgeways or Open Door Libraries.

Seriously, pray and give somewhere this year. Don’t underestimate the effect your prayers and financial gifts (train tickets aren’t free) can have on the front line.

Thanks for all that you are already doing. I hope you too are gratified by the work God is doing here in Hungary through your prayers and contributions.