Thursday, October 22, 2009

új imázsfilm Budapestről

New Image Film from Budapest

This weekend, Hungary celebrates--or rather, commemorates--the attempted 1956 revolution against the Soviets. October 23rd has become synonymous with Hungarian spirit: freedom, courage, and determination in the midst of oppression. This holiday also reminds us of the great efforts here that perpetuated the movement to bring down the Iron Curtain. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary this year!

I'll actually be out of the country during this national holiday, but I'll offer a bit of Hungarian celebration before I go.

Below, you will find a video produced by a guy from my church. His purpose is to highlight innovation and business successes here in Hungary. While the images don't represent the common lifestyle here (there aren't that many BMW's), there are real, sweeping views of our finest streets and of course of the River Danube. So, please take four minutes to enjoy the trumpeting of Hungarian contributions to the world and some great pictures of my dear Budapest.

If the image is cut off, double-click to see the full screen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ICSB High School Retreat this weekend!

Just a quick note: please pray for a significant and safe time for all our students and faculty as we head out on a retreat together. God often uses this long weekend away at a camp to challenge the student body and unite us as we journey together. It should be a great time!

Thursday, October 1-Saturday, October 3

Wing to Wing and Oar to Oar

My brother Andrew got married a couple of weeks ago in Madison, Wisconsin. Because of a lovely and generous benefactress who bought the plane ticket and dedicated teachers who stepped in to sub in my classes, I got to be part of the beautiful weekend of love and fun. I'm so thankful for God's good gift of Anne to Andrew and Andrew to Anne. For pictures, check out my photo site in the sidebar.

One minor example of the near-perfection that is this couple and was their wedding is their super cool idea of giving out a mix CD complete with liner notes and label. They took the title, Wing to Wing and Oar to Oar, from a line in a Robert Frost poem. Frost wrote the poem "The Master Speed" on the occasion of his daughter's wedding. It's just too good to ignore:

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have a speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will.
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still—
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

I love this metaphor of marriage. Here's to Andrew and Anne: joined together by a loving God, harnessing the master speed and soaring wing to wing and oar to oar.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Sirens Wail

Please pray for the stability of Hungary now, and the saving of Hungary for eternity. As I sit at Costa Coffee to use the internet, I've observed a long caravan of masked and heavily armed police (picture SWAT) swerve around this corner three times going back and forth with sirens wailing. You see, we have a contingent of right wing, pseudo-neo-Nazi types who are gaining some popularity as the economy tanks and people are disgruntled. I had heard that they were going to hold "events" or "protests" or "riots" today to commemorate something regarding Hitler. Sorry for the lack of details, but I'm not very interested in the Hitler-esque ideals of such a group. Apparently, they are indeed having such events which are sending the police out in force.

Also, the murders or attacks on members of the Roma (gypsy) community are becoming more common as people blame them for loss of jobs or the increase of petty crime. If you're interested, see the news article below.

We will face trouble in this world--that is quite clear--but Jesus has overcome the world! The instability or unhappiness or suffering of this life makes eternity all the more refreshing and reminds me of its desperate significance for then and for now. To that end, I'll blog about the Kispest outreach soon.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mikor? Most!

When? Now!

Amazing. August is here--a marvel unto itself--and with the start of this month comes the much anticipated Lábnyom (Footprint) outreach. The time for the English camp that I've been anticipating, fearing, promoting, and more is now! We've prayed, adjusted the curriculum in a positive direction, had several helpful meetings where the teammates have cooperated beautifully, changed the location when a better one came available, and signed up a few more high school students. Let's go.

The foundational goal of this and all of the outreach events and services is to love the neighborhood of Kispest, offer helpful services, and leave footprints of good that lead people to Jesus. That sounds a little lofty, but we want to be both dramatically different and totally relevant in a needy neighborhood as the new church starts.

On a personal note, I'm both thrilled and anxious. I love speaking with high school students (and talking in general--let's be serious) and teaching English, but I've never taught English to brand new English students. All of my students at ICSB have a basic understanding of English and/or have other resources to supplement their time in my classroom. This will be a totally new experience. Couple that adventure with the diverse ages and personalities of our students, and I've got quite a week ahead of me! Thankfully, I am not alone. First, of course, is the Holy Spirit who will teach me what to say and work in our students' minds and hearts. Then, I get to be part of a great group of people. Please pray for our whole team: Bruce, Orsi, Doini, Balazs, Gergo, Zsuzsi, Will, Jenna, and Linda.

Time for me to get back to work. No good English lesson is complete without some quality take-home papers for practice and evaluation. Monday morning will be here before I know it.

As I prepare to be an ambassador of Christ in Kispest, I'd love to hear about where you are headed these days. What opportunities and challenges are you facing? How can I pray for you and the footprints you leave?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lábnyom Kispestben

Footprint in Kispest

We (my church family called Golgota) are preparing for a huge outreach called Lábnyom leading up to the start of a church plant in the Budapest neighborhood of Kispest. The events will include a children's ministry like a VBS, a sport ministry, concerts, an English camp for high school students, and more. I am extremely eager to be a part of this outreach by helping to teach at the English camp and getting to know local high school students. Rarely am I able to join in the church's ministry events in the city because I don't speak Hungarian. On this occasion, though, I am relatively qualified and very excited.

Now, I've never taught English as a Second Language before, so there is much to pray for and consider as the week approaches. Please join me in praying for creativity and wisdom as I prepare the lessons. I am thankful that basic lesson plans exist; I'll just be augmenting them and adding to them for my specific class level.

But before any of this can begin, we need students! Currently, only 5 kids have signed up. We need at least 10 to hold the camp. The English camp is August 3-7, and leaders will be deciding this coming Monday if we will continue. There are other possibilities. Maybe God has another plan for the use of English and the love for Kispest. I don't know. Our team leader, Bruce, is content in the knowledge that we follow after God. We won't create our own event because we want to. Instead, we see where God is going and follow.

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalm 127:1

So, we will pray and wait. Students will sign up at the last minute, or we will have some other opportunity. In the meantime, please join us in prayer for the English camp, the other outreach activities, and of course the culminating event: the new church in Kispest!!

We want to leave footprints in Kispest, footprints that lead to Jesus.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A flurry

Wow! In the last week or so, I've finished school for the year, packed up my classroom (temporarily. I get to return in about a month to do prep for next year.), enjoyed the help of friends to move to a new flat, learned how to get hot water (temporarily) to flow from the bathroom faucet at aforementioned new place), unpacked a bit, randomly enjoyed a chamber concert under the dome at the Parliament building, tried to say goodbye to friends who are leaving, and packed for a month in the States. I fly out tomorrow. Whoa.

Just this morning, I realized how little time I've taken during this time to be still, to listen to my loving and sovereign Heavenly Father. The list above is pretty self-focused or at least logistical. It hasn't been very relational. May I slow down even as I want to see many people and share all kinds of stories from this first year at the International Christian School of Budapest. May I--as I was challenged this morning at church--stop and consider what my life is worth. This life or my own plans and interests are not more valuable than one other person's life for eternity. Am I living with eternal significance? Am I "seizing eternity" as I've often encouraged others to do?

A frenetic flurry is no excuse to lose perspective. Busyness--even in the name of ministry--does not honor God. Listening to him, accepting his love, and loving him with all that I am is what he requires. I'm looking forward to a 12-hour flight to ponder this a bit more...and fit in a little sleep, too.

See you Stateside!

Monday, May 25, 2009



There are many different types of "family" here in Hungary. First, I remember my own relatives: family I miss very much and will see in a few short weeks! Next, we have the family of God. At a joint church service on Sunday, our church of three services met together in a park and studied Acts 2:42:

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

We talked about true and real fellowship, the purpose of the Church, and the family of God. Then, I'm feeling the connection to my ICSB family--friends and fellow teachers as well as students with whom we labor daily. They are so special to me and grow in significance as the time approaches to say goodbye to some.

Finally, the first form of family arrives again as ICSB hosted Family Field Day last Wednesday. Classes were cancelled for the day, and all students and families joined the staff in a nearby field for games, food, and time together. Fun and sunburns ensued!

I was the black team leader, which meant that I got to go with my kids to each station, keep them organized, encourage sportsmanship, and cheer loudly. Oh yes, cheerleading experience comes in handy at moments like this!

Before the games started, each team created a team cheer complete with skits or stunts. All the teams had great creativity, and displayed a beautiful love for their fellow students of all ages. Elementary students were flying all over the place. :)

Here I am using my vast knowledge of stunting to plan the "basket-toss" of a young student. I had to fight the urge to climb in myself. Oh to feel the wind in my face once again as I go flying through the air. (Sorry, old high school habits die hard.)

And the end result:

B-L--A-C-K, Go Black!

"Family" has taken on new depths and meanings for me as I make a home in Hungary. I'm so thankful that God is my Heavenly Father everywhere and heaven is my true home. Until then, I'll enjoy all the "families" I can get.

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Love Affair with Coffee

My college years--a time filled with late-night conversations, streams of appointments with students, and other such spiritually and intellectually stimulating activities--produced a sincere and deep-rooted love of coffeehouses. My association with coffee shops is one of quality interaction with other people or alone with God. The ambiance, the fragrance, the caffeine. I love it all. The European model of the small cafe or even independent bakery each with an espresso machine and little white mugs filled with $1.50 cappuccino suits me well.

Lately, though, as my room in our flat is utterly disorganized with the preamble to packing, I've been heading out more often to a Central European (Polish, actually) coffee house chain called Coffee Heaven. And, for me, it is just that. The comfy chairs, the hilariously nostalgic music loop, the caramel macchiato...

Sorry, I'm back. For many of my friends and family members, the attraction to such a place is an oddity. But for me, the means and atmosphere for writing in a journal, talking with friends, or being still before the Lord are a strong draw. I watch my budget carefully and will do so all the more as my housing will be getting quite more expensive soon. The money set aside for coffee shop trips is worth far more to me than the contents of a big paper cup.

All that being said, here is an interesting article that shows one perspective on the recent coffee-shop-chain-in-Central-Europe phenomenon.


Monday, May 4, 2009

We have left everything to follow you!

But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal
. Mark 10:24b-30

There is so much packed into this passage, and I'm in awe of who Jesus is. I've been studying this section of the Bible because of several lessons found here: how we (the rich of the world) rely on ourselves and how hard it is for such to enter the kingdom of God, the powerful grace of God even in such situations, the dedication of the disciples, and Christ's promise/warning to them. Lots to think about.

I have to find a new home in about a month's time. My current, lovely living situation has to come to an end rather abruptly, so as the school year reaches its frenetic May pace I have to move...somewhere. As flats are falling through, I've got to tell you, I'm uncomfortable and stressed. This passage also spoke to me regarding God's care in this situation.

But even as I have been feeling scared about losing my home, lonely for family, exhausted from the fever pitch at school, and concerned about the hearts of students who are leaving, the biggest lesson from this passage for me, beyond the comfort, was the claim that Peter made--"We have left everything to follow you!"--in light of the savior Jesus.

Now, HE "left everything".
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And
being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
God didn't have to leave his place in heaven to redeem this world by dying on the cross. He doesn't have to make the impossible salvation of self-absorbed rich people possible. He doesn't have to provide a new flat for me now. The holy, sovereign God doesn't owe me anything. Yet, he did die. He will provide. He cares for his children.

Even in my current discomfort, I can only stand in awe.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Relinquishing Control: DVD's, future plans, and daily life

It seems that I still need to be reminded of God's trustworthiness and sovereignty. His character has never changed, but I like to control things myself instead of relying on Him.

First, as I work in a classroom ministry, I tend to act as though my meager efforts will truly educate and even transform the students I love. Wrong. God is at work in them just as he is at work in me. I get to be involved in his plans because it will do me good not because the LORD needs me.

This truth was evident when, after careful planning, I could not find some materials for a class--the day of the class. The school's copy of a DVD was missing, and I did not have a back up. Now, as the school year draws to a close, I don't have days to "waste" because of missing materials. I prayed half-heartedly, sent out urgent e-mails, tried to rent the film on iTunes, everything I could think of to no avail. The morning was not going well for me. How could I have let this happen? As the bell rang and I trudged back to my classroom to inform my students that our next lesson and project would have to wait, a colleague casually walked up to me and asked if I still needed the DVD. He had been running some tech tests with DVD's and had my film in his office (which was just across the hall from my room). There would be no delay to the lesson. All was just fine.

Another issue for which I've needed to be reminded of God's absolute goodness and trustworthiness is my teaching assignment for next year. Currently, ICSB is losing a marvelous English teacher as she needs to return to the States. The remaining, experienced English teacher and I have been planning out how to take her classes in addition to the ones we are currently teaching. The classes I'll pick up are going to be great; they are fun kids and some of my favorite material. The concern lies with the workload that I'll have. Combine the added classes with my habit of slow grading, and I may be buried under paper in the fall. But, see? God has great plans about which I need not worry. He cares for my students, for me, and for his eternal kingdom purposes. He's got it covered, and he is abundantly loving. No worries.

As I wrestle with the "minor" moments of missing DVD's, the weighty issue of workloads, and the bigger concern for my students' hearts and minds, the Holy Spirit reminds me of some Scripture:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." Isaiah 30:21

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. Proverbs 3:3-7

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also redestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.'" Acts 17:24-28

Whether it is in the powerful moments akin to the holding back of the Jordan River so Israel could cross or the small moments in the quietness of my heart day to day, God is at work. He is powerful and gentle. He is mighty and good. It is to this trustworthy and patient Savior that I can freely relinquish control. I'm so thankful that he has reminded me again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's raining, men

This rainy morning, I boarded the 6:35 bus for Diósd--a bus 25 minutes earlier than my normal one--and promptly noticed two things. First, the bus driver was exceptionally polite as I greeted him ( "Jó reggelt") and second, the bus was full of men. I do not exaggerate. Most volán buszes headed out of the city in the morning have several empty seats, since most commuter traffic is going into Budapest. This bus was full, and every passenger was male.

That would explain the excessive chivalry from the bus driver as this lone, shivering woman clamored aboard and will come in handy later.

I felt a bit uneasy for a little while as passengers near me started to stare, but then I got into a good (silent) conversation with God and was distracted. Then, when the bus stop at which I had to disembark because of my cheaper bus pass arrived, the driver continued on. He drove across the highway overpass and dropped me off much closer to ICSB. What a gift! That walk across the M0 can be nice, but the wind and rain of this particular morning would have made it miserable.

As I climbed off the bus, my mp3 player switched from more worshipful music to the ever-so-slightly offensive 1982 classic, "It's Raining Men". The quick walk from the testosterone-filled bus through the rain to school had me laughing all the way.

Not only did God keep me perfectly safe in an awkward situation, He has a serious sense of humor.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Today, This Weekend, and Next Week

Here is a quick summary before I head off to a retreat:

First, all through this week and today, I've had some added responsibilities at the International Christian School of Budapest. The chance to speak in the high school chapel on Wednesday was quite an honor, and I enjoyed sharing about the faithfulness of God (Psalm 30). This morning, I had the second teaching evaluation by my administrator; it went quite well. I'm so glad that everyone here is interested in the betterment of the students, the teachers, and the school. Feedback is helpful and encouraging!

This weekend, my English Home Fellowship group from Golgota is headed to Mátrakeresztes, a village in the Hungarian mountains, for a retreat. We'll be hiking, resting, eating, and studying God's Word together. I'm really looking forward to it! Photos from the weekend are rather unlikely, though, because my camera is currently missing...

Finally, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mark the culmination of two years of reaccreditation work here at ICSB! The team from the Association of Christian Schools International and Middle States will be here for a site visit. They will observe our school, evaluate our self-report, and have important interviews with families and staff. We are all very excited and a bit exhausted.

Through all the daily life and special events, God is truly faithful as a loving Creator, Savior, Lord, and Friend. I can't help but give thanks!

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever. Psalm 30:11-12

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rolling in the aisles with Romeo and Juliet

It is true that Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story, but the first act's exposition has some hilarious moments. Today in ninth grade English class, we had a good time.

I won't bore--or entertain, depending on the perspective-- you with the building plot of this Shakespearean play, but in case it's been a while since high school English I'll summarize. At the end of Act I, Romeo and Juliet meet at a party. They are instantly attracted to/in love with each other. Romeo compares himself to a lowly pilgrim approaching a sacred shrine or saint and, through, the metaphor, suggests kissing. Juliet demurely but slyly lets him kiss her a second time. They are then eternally in love. Yes, yes, I know it is fiction.

As my freshmen were packing up their books, they discussed the day's reading. Basically, they thought Romeo was a stud for getting Juliet to fall for his lines. Girls--to my surprise--were actually lamenting the lack of Romeos around. The best response, though, was from one bright young lady. She said, "Why don't people flirt in metaphors anymore? It works so well, and you can see who the smart guys are."

I've been grinning for the rest of the day.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

ICSB in the News

The following article appeared on the Budapest Times website yesterday. Our director, David Welsh, is quoted throughout the beginning of the piece. The story might also give you an idea of the international scope of our city.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nyolcan egy Asztalnál

Eight at One Table

Each Sunday at church, we have a moment to greet people around us. Fairly normal, right? Well, the simple act of greeting fellow believers or church-attenders gets remarkably more complicated and less familiar when 1.) the people around me don't share a common language other than my incredibly limited Hungarian, 2.) the number of visitors on any given Sunday is pretty high in the capital city, and 3.) the people I met last week may attend any of the three services from week to week. How do we build real community, then?

That's where Table for Eight comes in. Every couple of months, people sign up for this event, are placed in groups at random, and contact each other to plan a meal. Friendships ensue. This past Saturday was the first time I was available for a Dinner for Eight. And what an introduction!

Our hostess lived outside of Budapest in a little village called Péteri, so a brief lunch together wasn't quite feasible. After a week of exchanging emails and making plans, a group of seven strangers set out on a journey to Anett's house.

Beautiful and much-missed sunshine greeted me as I emerged from the Nyugati Railway Station metro stop. I followed the flow of Saturday morning traffic to the previously agreed upon entrance and was quickly approached by Stefanie--a German and the other fluent English speaker in our group--who was relieved to find someone else headed to Péteri. Before long, our group was assembled and disembarking from the correct train onto a train platform in the middle of a snow-covered field. üdvözölök Péteribe. Welcome to Péteri!

After being welcomed into Anett's lovely home built in the garden of her mother's house, we all arranged our food on the ample table. Stefanie and I expressed our chagrin and gratitude as we discovered the rest of our group would be functioning in English for our sakes. The linguistic capabilities of others astound me!

Through the meal, we discussed many topics from the introductory ("What brings you to Budapest?") to the sensitive ("How do you perceive Hungary and the Hungarians you know? Do you find them depressed?"). Friendship really can come instantly when people share the common foundation of Christ, even if culture, background, and language don't offer similarities.

After a nice walk through the village in the gorgeously dimming sunlight, we returned to the house for tea, more dessert, and a time of singing and prayer. Before we knew it, eleven hours had passed! It was time for me to catch the evening train back to Budapest.

My mood was fairly sanguine as I found myself again at Nyugati Station. This time, streetlights and headlights shone all around. Let me tell you: Budapest is absolutely gorgeous at night! A day that had started out in uncertainty ended with lovely new friendships and an encouraged spirit. Dinner for 8 is not a bad way to build community!

See more pictures on my photos site. Link at right.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Christmas in January

As the last of the Christmas decorations and lights are removed from the Budapest cityscape and the harsh winter weather finally sets in (and at the request of my dear friend Andy), I thought I'd spread a little cheer by finally sharing some photos of life here at Christmas time.

A special thanks to Kristen and Paula for their beautiful pictures! I don't seem to have any photographic skill besides "point and shoot", and even then things are fuzzy.

Christmas on the körút (ring road of Bp)

The Christmas Market complete with traditional gift items, baking bread, mulled wine booths, and sizzling meats.

The Advent calendar on the facade of the famous Gerbaud's Coffee House

Monday, January 5, 2009

And we're back!

After a lovely Christmas break, classes have resumed at the International Christian School of Budapest. It is great to be back, though my sleep schedule is not on target yet. My kids were glad to share a little bit about their holiday, and I am pumped to dive into the curriculum for this semester because it includes my beloved Shakespeare. My 8th graders are studying nonfiction, and the senior communications class is delving into debates.

Outside of class, I'm looking forward to some home basketball games ("away" games are really Bratislava, Slovakia or Vienna), the 9th grade girls' Bible study, and a book club for adults in the area.

Ultimately, I'm always thankful for the idea of a fresh start: compassion from God that is new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). A new semester offers great opportunities for starting again, but I'm glad that the Father in heaven offers forgiveness and grace each day and love in abundance. We don't have to wait for New Year's Eve or a new semester to be clean before and so close to God. Recognizing our failure, being honest with God, accepting his mercy--and we're back!

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
It is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
Lamentations 3:22-26