Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quite a Weekend

An all-expenses paid trip to...a working weekend! Five days ago, school was cancelled at the International Christian School of Budapest so that all the teachers and staff could go on a retreat together. This was a working weekend in a beautiful village two hours outside Budapest intended to bond us together as a staff team and jump start this year's reaccreditation process.

ICSB is accredited through ACSI (Association of Christian Schools, International) and Middle States (something or other) for accountability, recognition as a quality school, and easy transfer of our students' credits to universities around the world. Our accreditation will expire/be renewed this year. In the meantime, all staff are working furiously--as in intensely, no anger here--on various committees to get paperwork and policies in order. We did have some great free time as well for fellowship, rest, reflection, and coffee. Ah yes.

Click on the picture below for a short slide show of photos.

The same school holiday was busy for many students as well. The Outreach team decided to head into Budapest and perform one of their dramas on a popular shopping street as a way to present the good news of Jesus Christ. They took the initiative and spent a day off doing this. We, as faculty and family, are very proud of our students and pray that God continues to challenge and bless them as they step out. I love these kids.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Of Mobile Phones and Exchange Rates

Have I ever mentioned that God provides my every need? Well, I should have because He does.

First, let me tell you a tale of suspense, confusion, and cell phones. Now, I have been in Hungary for exactly five months today (wow), and I finally have my mobile phone. Because land lines are less popular in Hungary than in the U.S. and because my flat doesn't have a land line, I felt it was wise to get a phone.

Shortly after my arrival here, the kind and conscientious people of Campus Crusade for Christ/New Life Eastern Europe added me to their phone plan and ordered a simple phone. We waited, and then T-Mobile informed us that the specific model was out of stock for a few weeks. No problem; I can wait. Things don't always happen at the speed we would prefer. In the meantime, a family loaned me an old phone they had used in Romania.

We waited for two months. No phone came, so Ancsa offered some similarly discounted phones and I chose one. Another order was placed, and I got on with my summer with language school, visitors, and even travel.

We waited for three months. No phone came. The Campus Crusade for Christ family returned from furlough in the States and needed the phone for their middle schooler. No problem. I've been working on this Hungarian language; I'll just go to a store and buy a phone. Right? No.

Buying phones without plans is possible, but I've discovered this method is extremely expensive--like four times as expensive ($80 or $100 instead of $20). Also, most phones these days are fitted with cameras and MP3 players. I just wanted a simple phone for texting and calling. Dejectedly, I returned home from three different store visits without a phone in hand. Life continued, but I was out of contact with friends and colleagues.

Finally, I decided to ask Campus Crusade to help again. A few e-mails flew around, and several ladies were astonished to discover that I still had not received a phone from T-Mobile. More e-mail and then...a solution. Someone had ordered one too many phones for a department at work and was trying to get rid of it.

Now, it is a simple phone--I was warned--but the price was right: 1,000 forint (or about $6). Incredible! A streamlined, light-weight phone without all the bells, whistles, and hyper-technical options was available and totally within my budget! Perfect! And my sim card (phone number, contacts list, current phone plan) would transfer easily. Done.

After I got frustrated trying to figure it out myself and the process dragged out for months, this is better than I hoped for, the perfect provision from God.

The second instance of God providing for my needs is best presented by the following graph:

This shows the fall of the dollar (the currency in which I'm paid) against the Hungarian forint (the currency with which I operate daily). During the past five months, the dollar plummeted so prices soared for me and other Americans living overseas. For example, my rent went up 13% in two months simply because of the exchange rate.

But, suddenly in the last couple of weeks, I have seen a steady increase in the dollar. After I glumly watched the value of the dollar drop on my laptop screen each morning and cautiously prayed that God would provide during the budget crunch, whoa, did He deliver!

Now, God can and will provide for me even when the dollar goes down, even when the budget gets really tight (right, Kristen?), but this time, He chose to provide by allowing the dollar value to increase. My rent has been "reduced" by about $58, and the price of groceries is roughly back to where it was when I arrived in Hungary, if not a little bit lower.

Life, breath, salvation, purpose, a $6 mobile phone, and a friendly exchange rate...

And it is all thanks to Jehovah Jireh: my Provider.