Monday, November 22, 2010

Pray for Hungary!

We can do nothing if God is not at work. Please join my friends, students, and me in praying for Hungary.

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here..."
Exodus 33:14-15

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Most vagy Soha

Now or Never

This phrase, seen on an advertisement on the tram, sums up a philosophy of mine pretty succinctly. When it comes to resolutions, fresh starts, or goals, the best time to begin is today. Each day--each moment even--forgiveness is real, and a second chance is possible.

"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. "
Lamentations 3:22-23

This truth is both comforting and motivating. God's faithfulness and compassion allow me to try again. His power equips me for a new effort. But I need to exert that effort now. When I know the good I ought to do, I need to do it. If I sense a change needs to be made, I should make it. Obedience has to start somewhere.

I'm in the middle of living out this idea right now. Because of some friends' gentle reminders, I've had an important conversation to take care of an issue. What a positive experience! It wasn't easy, but the outcome and relief were fantastic. Now, there are some other changes--goals, really--that I need to initiate. Time for prayer, meditation on truth, wisdom from others is essential, but now it is time just to do it.

When I was young, my family ate dinner together each night. After presenting some honestly delicious casserole that has developed my lifestyle of cooking in one pot, Mom would announce a dessert. We kids would snatch it up eagerly, but Dad would decline for the moment. "Later," he'd say as he headed to the study. In unison, the remaining Ooms family members would chime, "Later never comes," because by this time we knew that there would not be any German Chocolate Cake left when Dad decided to come back for some. The opportunity would pass.

For me, my father's daughter, the same is true of doing good or making a change.

Later never comes. Each day is New Year's Eve. Now or never.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thank you, CBF!

The long weekend with my parents was truly a gift from God! Their presence was invigorating and the break, rejuvenating. I love life and work here in Budapest, but I've come to love and miss my family more each year away. The visit was beautiful.

Additionally, the surprise of a suitcase from the church family of Community Bible Fellowship full of groceries, gifts, and money for a much needed oven was more than I ever dreamed. What rich blessing and encouragement when I needed it! God has been my strength in weakness and joy beyond circumstances. He called me to a life that suits the personality he gave me; I get to do things I love. He is building my faith and giving me a front row seat to his glorious work in the hearts of students from around the world. He is enough, but sometimes he works through people, too. My family and friends showed immense love and generosity at just the right time.

So, here is a quick recap of my parents' visit mixed in with images from struggles and joys of work in Hungary and at the International Christian School of Budapest. The video is directed at Community Bible Fellowship, but it speaks to all my praying, loving, supporting friends, family, and ministry partners!
(Also, a new photo album of their visit is on my photo site. See link to the right.)

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:4-6

Create your own video slideshow at

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And they're off!

...the ground, that is. In spite of record thunderstorms, tornadoes, and gale-force winds, my parents departed Chicago O'Hare International Airport safely and (relatively) on time. If all goes smoothly, they will be in Magyarorszag (Hungary) by noon! I'm thrilled that they are able to come for this, the first, visit.

I've certainly been reminded of the importance of family, the joys of sharing life with parents and adult siblings and the opposing loss of living far from them, as well as the significance of giving up geographical closeness for the sake of the gospel since moving to Budapest. There have been pretty hard times of feeling stressed, longing for "home," or wishing people far away could be near during these packed 2.5 years of teaching at ICSB. God's loving presence is bringing me through, and tomorrow he is bringing my parents, too!

We'll stroll through the city, stop by random places that I enjoy, spend a day at school, spend 9 hours in nearby Vienna, visit friends, go to my church, and just hang out together. Through the course of the week-long visit--brimming with conversation--I imagine there will be time for a lot of processing, thinking about God and life and faith and worship. Beyond the glorious joy of seeing Mom and Dad, a long weekend to catch my breath and think will be really important.

The fact that I haven't spent much time reflecting lately is reflected in my sparse blog archive. So much goes on every day, but I'm not slowing down enough to notice. Sometimes I miss what God is doing around me while I'm so busy doing everything else. My parents' visit, the good questions they'll ask, and a couple of days off school could be just the opportunity I need to be still, reflect, and realign myself with God's purposes.

For now, I'll spend some time in prayer, throw another load of towel(s) in my mini-washing machine, and head to bed. My parents will be here tomorrow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Critical Thinking

The first project that is a big hit every year with my freshmen literature students is the mock trial of a character from one of our short stories, "The Most Dangerous Game". The activity brings up moral questions, legal questions, and deeply entrenched beliefs that must all come under scrutiny and rebuttal. The kids dig into God's Word, the literature, and world views, open up, get creative, and definitely work on their critical thinking!

I took a quick, undercover video of the kids preparing for the trial. The first group is still discussing the moral repercussions of a murder trial, the second group is assigning roles for witnesses, and the third group--the jury-to-be--is documenting different philosophies and details discussed in the story.

So, while I process the first 2.5 weeks of school and the faculty retreat from which I just returned, here is a 17 second glimpse of my days at ICSB.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Page Format

This blogging site has offered a new format that I'm giving a try. Instead of having various sections listed in the sidebar, I've added "pages" with their own links at the top of this home page.

Right now, you can stay updated on prayer requests, my current reading list, and items that are hard for me to get here by clicking on the corresponding links. There may be more links to come, too. I hope this feature makes it easier for you to find what you are looking for!

As always, archived blog entries, my photo site, and other important websites are listed in the sidebar.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Much have I traveled in the realms of gold

...or so begins both my summer and a poem by Keats.

My brother and sister-in-law have spent three lovely weeks in Europe attending ICSB's graduation ceremony at which I got to give the Charge to the Seniors, strolling through Budapest, reading peacefully in my newly- (and finally) settled flat, roaming through Prague thunderstorms together, and having some couple's time in Greece before heading back to the States.

I'm so thankful that they could come because it is really important--and fun--to have family around and because they can now picture a bit more of what happens here, what life is like, and what God is doing in Hungary. All this travel is even more valuable than the memories and pictures because it can open our eyes to a world of extensive history and fascinating people of eternal significance. Beyond the lovely sights and hilarious conversations, I appreciate such reminders.

Now, I'm diving into my online New Testament course for Campus Crusade for Christ staff and some English curriculum work at ICSB. Summer marches on. Before I get to work, I wanted to tempt more ministry partners, family, and friends to come visit by showing some clips of our recent travels. Enjoy! Then, come on over to see these fantastic sights!

Create your own video slideshow at

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Down to the Wire

Today is the last day of exams at ICSB! I am amazed at God's gracious work in me and in my students this year. The schedule has been a bit nuts, and I certainly need a good rest, but I'm so thankful for this year of life and opportunities.

Now, celebrate with me as the end is in sight, but there is much to finish first. What a joy that my brother and sister-in-law arrive for a European visit in four hours! What an honor and responsibility as I deliver the Charge to the Seniors tomorrow at graduation! What a mess of sifting through and grading the hard work of all my students by the end of the day Saturday. :)

It's down to the wire.

And then, it's summer break.

I'll be completing an online course called "New Testament Survey", assessing textbooks for the English curriculum, catching up on faith-building and educational reading, reviewing my Hungarian study materials, hosting marvelous visitors, hanging with dear friends, and--oh yeah--resting!

But I can't quite think about these fun actitivites yet. "I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. " Indeed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Az első Vidám Vasárnap

Resurrection Sunday

This post is a little late, but the joy and hope of Easter/Resurrection Sunday last beyond the official holiday, don't you think?

A church here in Budapest decided to make use of a growing trend of dance to bring the joy of Christ to our city. All around Europe (and maybe elsewhere, too), in train stations and malls, groups of people "spontaneously" burst into dance and then put it on YouTube.

Well, Easter Sunday morning, a huge crowd from Hit Gyulekezet (Faith Church) headed to the popular historical and tourist site called Heroes' Square. They blasted the area with a fun song about the great light that burst through on Easter. Jesus is the Messiah! The whole crowd performed a dance right there in the square. Awesome.

Here's the YouTube video in the original Hungarian. So cool!

After you enjoy the song with the words as people are singing them from the heart, you can check out the same event with a similar--not exact--English version to learn more about the message.

It is exciting to think of a growing movement to Jesus in Hungary! Join us.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Daily Challenges

I love language. Choices of words, phrases, even grammar can be exciting and make communication more interesting. As a speaker of the English language and a student of its literature, I believe I've got my own language well in hand. Yesterday, however, language was more of a challenge--and a reward--in two separate incidents.

First, during the lunch hour, I strolled in the new spring sunshine (ahh!) to the CBA, a small grocery store near the school. Motivated by the sun and feeling good, I picked up some healthier items: yogurt, fruit, etc. The curious trouble was, I had never purchased produce at this particular store before.

Each shop, stand, or grocery chain has a different system for weighing and buying produce, and I've got most of them down. The scale, bags, and layout of this CBA seemed not to communicate this particular system. Sometimes, I'll admit, when daunted I just put the produce back on the shelf and buy something else. But not today! When it came time to pay for my apple, I was able to explain that I wanted to buy only one apple but I didn't know what to Hungarian of course. (I do live in Hungary, after all.) The patient cashier responded that at this CBA, she weighs the fruit right there at the register. Mystery solved, and the apple was crisp and delicious.

Later the same day, I was thrilled to get a ride with a friend and colleague to IKEA in order to get the bookshelf so desperately needed to get my books up off the middle of the floor of my flat. I also had secret hopes of finding an affordable set of a tiny table and chairs for my yet unused but much-anticipated balcony. After wandering through the whole showroom and scouring the warehouse, I came through the line and bought just what I needed with the last of my birthday money. Perfect!

Or not. After having the usual interaction with this cashier, I discovered that he had charged me for three chairs instead of two chairs and a table. Simple correction! Or not. Slipping back into line, I haltingly explained the situation and was directed to customer service. After the usual waiting in line to which anyone in any culture could relate, I--a bit more confidently this time--explained the mistake to the customer service representative and was directed back to the cashier. A bit more confusion, a wry smile and apology from the cashier, the 500 forint ($2.50) difference from me, and another successful venture was complete at last.

In those moments, I was encouraged by the rudimentary yet useful language I was able to remember and use. The idea of summer language school or a language tutor has been in the forefront of my mind for a while and was solidified during these exchanges. I want to continue to thrive here in Budapest, not simply survive while within the walls of the English-speaking school.
Choosing to go outside, to get the item or service or whatever is needed, to engage someone nearby in brief conversation--these are difficult daily challenges that don't always go so smoothly or end so well but are incredibly valuable. I love the idea of learning a language to get to know and appreciate another group of persons in this world, but--to be honest--I don't always feel up to it, especially since I enjoy my firm grasp of the variety and nuance in the English language.

Broken, stuttering sentence fragments in a new language don't capture my personality, what I'm trying to say, or my true attitude in how I would choose to say it if more skill were mine. It is humbling to be the learner, and daily challenges take energy to meet. In these recent moments, though, I was energized and encouraged.

Monday, March 15, 2010

On your feet, Magyar...

...the homeland calls!

Such is the rousing beginning of a poem called "National Song" written by Sándor Petőfi and pronounced in a large public square here in Budapest on March 15, 1848. Today is an important national holiday for Hungary, and I am moved by the nobility and pride that emanates from faces and is reflected in the "Sunday-best" dress of those in the streets.

You can find more information regarding this Revolution Day and the full text of the poem here.

Yes, dear Magyar (Hungarians), stand and be counted! Hear the truth that sets you free, then carry it to the world, friends! Many people are an example to me since they have stood fast in faith through oppression that I cannot understand. May the light of Jesus spread and the local church continue to arise.

New Pictures!

Check out the new album on my photo site via the link at right under "Links". The pictures are from late winter and early spring with glimpses of school, life in Budapest, and my birthday.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?

We are in the throes of Spirit Week (not to be confused with the recent Spiritual Emphasis Week) leading up to our big, multi-national basketball tournament this weekend. Go Bulldogs! This means that our days of classes have the added benefit of functioning around hilarious and conspicuous costumes for dress-up days, meetings to plan class cheers, decorations, competitions, explanations for my confused ELL students, and general revelry.

In addition to these fun times at school, the book club for many ladies in the area met tonight in Diosd. I led the discussion on Elizabeth Gaskell's Victorian novel, North and South. I was fascinated by this book, and we all had some great comments. The sum total of my day, though, included 14 hours at work, because it was 10 o'clock before I walked in the door of my flat. Jaj.

Such is life these days. I'm pleased to be a part of the many exciting and significant things happening in students' hearts here at school. All the opportunities are good. But I'm pretty tired, and I'll keep praying for another English teacher to join our team here at ICSB.
Now, it's a little after 11. I've got to head out at 6:15 in the morning, so it's time to go to bed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010



That's right; what looks like a greeting in the English language is actually used while parting in Hungary. When I first moved to Budapest in April of 2008, my brain could hardly adjust to this would-be lingual contradiction. Since then, though, the usage of the Hungarian "hello" has changed. More and more, people will say "hello" to mean, well, hello. Gone is the singular "goodbye" translation. The word fits somewhere between the casual "szia" (hi) and quite formal "Jó napot kívánok" (I wish you good day).
People in my apartment building use "hello" most when greeting me on the stairs, perhaps because they can't tell if the person bundled in hat, scarf, mittens, and tights is a teen who would not require a polite greeting or a woman who would. And so this word that seemed so strange to my ear because it was almost English is now commonplace.
Such is the case with many parts of life here in Hungary. The cars parked on sidewalks, people staring on public transportation, grocery stores without bags, paying of all bills at the post office, or ubiquitious white Hungarian cheese that seems to take on the flavor of whatever dish it is in once struck me as odd. Now, they are just commonplace. In fact, I had to sit and think for a moment to remember things that were once odd to me.
I don't have life here mastered, of course. Knowing little of the language is still quite a barrier. But many things that were once intimidating, strange, or frustrating don't even catch my attention now. My, what a difference TWO YEARS make. I'm thankful for the semblance of normalcy, of feeling natural here. Life is still quite the adventure. There are always new challenges. But hello now means hello, and I can get the hang of that.