Our work in 2016 can be summed up in four key words: First-fruits, Expansion, Sustainability and Vision. In-depth stories and photos on many of the items written about in this report can be found on this “Happenings” page.
The ancient Israelites were required to present the first-fruits of their harvest to the Lord each year. With these first-fruits, they looked back, at the great effort it took to clear and break the ground, sow the seed, water and cultivate the plants, and, finally, by God’s gracious work, harvest fruit. They also looked forward, to the full harvest that would follow these harbinger-fruits.
In 2016 we began to see the first-fruits of our hard labors in Central Europe from 2012 through 2015. When we arrived 5 years ago, there was some Community Health Evangelism development work being done by teams in the Balkan countries of Albania and Bosnia. We were bringing the seed to the untilled ground of Central Europe. After five years of sharing the CHE wholistic mission vision with Roma/Gypsies, church and mission leaders region-wide; holding vision and training conferences of all sizes for those interested; forming national CHE boards and gaining legal standing for their foundations; teaching, mentoring, hiring and finding support for full-time workers; recruiting volunteers; raising funds and purchasing vehicles and equipment; developing home-team support and partnerships in the US and Canada and training teams that can now train and lead others … we still had not won many to Jesus Christ! We had a lot of plants starting to grow, but not much fruit.
2016 was the year the first-fruits began! And we joyfully present them to the Lord and give Him the glory (1 Cor 3:6-8).
In February, 2016, we held our largest CHE Training of Trainers conference ever. Actually we held 2 at the same time: one in Hungarian; attended mostly now by Roma recruited by our CHE-trained Roma; and the other in English, attended by workers from all over the former Yugoslavia, recruited mainly by our CHE teams in Serbia. In all, we had 26 new graduates, trained to do CHE Christian community development work.
At this conference we also watched the film, The War Room and decided we needed to set up a War Room of our own to engage more effectively in the great spiritual battle for the souls and lives of the Roma in the villages we were targeting. Each Wednesday morning at 7 AM, our CHE workers who could, gathered in a video-conference call for one-hour of concentrated prayer for God’s victory in their nation and their communities. God answered (and is answering) by producing spiritual fruit. Here are some 2016 samples of first-fruits.
- Our REZ Serbia Team, led by Emil and Klara Kisgeci, has successfully entered the Roma-M*sl*m village of A****, in northern Serbia with the blessing of the village spiritual and political leader. They will hold a community medical screening in February 2017, have begun a Royal Rangers scout program for boys and girls, are doing in-home visitations and Bible studies and have plans for a CHE women’s program and a children’s soccer program.
- Our ZZ Serbia Team, Directed by NAB national worker Marijana Cizmanski, has started two CHE women’s clubs in Novi Sad and have seen 2 Roma women come to Christ already.
- The Roma Nexus Church in Mali-Beograd has committed to CHE as the strategy to reach their village; has chosen their Development Team which is now being trained by Marijana and their Pastor, Mirko Kiš; and has chosen their first project to work on — to develop an effective wholistic discipleship program for church members so they can be the light and model to the rest of the community to lead them to Christ.
- In the southern Serbia Roma community of Djorgovska Mahalla, near the town of Lebane, CHE leader, Snezana Randjelovic, is seeing God working in the lives of the youth and woman in the CHE clubs she has begun.
- Our MEK Hungary Team saw several significant spiritual breakthroughs. In July, a team of young people from Steamboat Rock, Iowa, held ESL and VBS camps with the Roma youth of Vacegres and Boldog. They effectively demonstrated and spoke of the love of Jesus Christ and prepared the ground for what came next.
- In September MEK Hungary held an evangelistic crusade with Roma Pastor Jozsef Kajcza from Oradea, Romania. In Boldog some 30 Roma, both youth and adults, gave public testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In Retkozberencs and in Kekcse there were similar responses with 20 coming forward to receive Christ or give public testimony in each place.
- The follow-up in Boldog, both one-on-one and in small groups, is producing even more encouraging spiritual fruits, including the salvation of several young men and the start up of both a boys’ and a girls’ CHE Teen club, in addition to the Women’s WCL group. One of the most exciting developments was the enthusiastic participation of the Roma leadership in Boldog in this spiritual revival and their own spiritual development and growth as believers in Christ.
- In Boldog, community leader, Bela Kadét, completed the CHE wholistic micro-enterprise course and received the first revolving micro-loan to begin his animal farm. As he works with NAB national worker, Laci Daroczi-Csuhai, he is also growing in Christ.
- In Hatvan, Eszter Daroczi-Csuhai has begun a fast-growing Community Young Mothers’ and Children’s Group using the facilities of the Hatvan Reformed Church.
Central Europe and the Balkan Countries
The Vision of CHE Euro Net, a network of all the current CHE teams in Central Europe and the Balkans, is to see CHE Teams formed and new CHE development projects begun in all the nations of Central Europe and the Balkans by 2020. As CHE Central Europe Coordinator, one of my jobs is to facilitate the accomplishment of this vision.
Here are some of CHE’s areas of expansion in 2016:
- Bulgaria — We followed up a CHE Vision Seminar in the fall of 2015 in northwest Bulgaria (Lom) with Vision Seminars in Sofia (central Bulgaria) and Sliven (eastern Bulgaria) in the spring of this year. These have yet to lead to enough interest for a Training of Trainers (TOT1) Conference in Bulgaria. Roger and Gail Dine, CHE-trained workers from Australia have become members of the CHE Euro Net and are now doing preliminary community entry work in Silistra and Kallipetrova in northern Bulgaria. They have been making crucial connections with Bulgarian church and mission leaders that will probably lead to that country’s first TOT1 in 2017.
- Montenegro — Two key church and Roma leaders from Montenegro took CHE training with us in 2016. They are now working with our CHE Euro Net to hold a Vision Seminar and TOT1 in Podgorica in 2017.
- Croatia — We held a Vision Seminar in Osijek, Croatia in the spring hosted by country Roma mission leaders. Several Croatians have taken TOT1. We are waiting to see the first project hatch there, possibly near Osijek.
- Slovakia — Jon and Tanya Parks of the Baptist Cooperative Mission received their CHE training in Hungary in February. Members of the CHE Euro Net helped them hold the first TOT1 in Slovakia in October. They are now forming their CHE Team to begin their first community development project, possibly in Košice.
- Serbia — Many Roma live in communities around Serbia’s capitol city, Belgrade. We held a CHE Vision Seminar in June for the leaders of Bread of Life of Belgrade. They are considering CHE’s wholistic strategy for several of their new community development projects. A second Vision Seminar was held for key Roma church leaders in Kucura. A TOT1 is on the drawing board for central Serbia.
- Hungary — A TOT1 was held in February for new workers that are now helping our CHE eastern team, led by Hessel Keuter and Kálmán Hamza, expand their work. Laci and Eszter Daroczi-Csuhai led a Vision Seminar and training conference in Dombovar, south Hungary for the Hungarian Methodist church, who are contemplating a CHE project in 2017.
- France — Together with CHE leaders from France, we helped organize and facilitate an Urban CHE Vision Conference in Paris in April. Sixty participants including over forty church and mission leaders from France attended. The French team is now following up with those who want to begin Urban CHE projects there. A second team is following up on English speaking attendees. Reach Global, the mission arm of the Evangelical Free Church USA, is now exploring utilizing CHE in current and new outreaches in Central Europe.
- NAB Vision Trip — In August, church leaders from NAB churches in North Dakota took a vision trip to Serbia, Hungary and Romania. They examined how they could expand the CHE ministry in each of these countries through developing sustainable and mutual partnerships with both churches and CHE teams. This will lead to a Vision Seminar in North Dakota in 2017. Those who visited the community of Bangladesh, outside Novi Sad, will not soon forget what they saw there.
- The Global CHE Network is seeking further expansion. In 2016 Ron was selected to be a member of the CHE Representative Council. He is currently working with other Council members to better organize the global network of regional networks and to remove roadblocks hindering CHE’s expansion into new regions. The Global CHE Network and Representative Council is collaborating with Transform World in the million village challenge, to bring the gospel and wholistic discipleship to a million new villages in the 10/40 Window by 2020.
In 2016 we began more formally to address the question of sustainability for our growing number of CHE Teams and development projects. Sustainability is a core principle for our CHE Teams and development projects. Achieving sustainability is a very difficult endeavor in a region emerging from 70 years of communism and stagnating socialist economies. In some countries the churches are few (e.g. Bosnia, Albania, Serbia, Croatia). In others they are economically weak and lack missional vision. They have very little money or interest in supporting missionaries right now. Many are themselves dependent upon western money for survival.
Due to these factors, our national workers have little to no concept of developing a pool of financial resources, volunteers and partners. They have never thought about or done anything like this before.
Ron trains in Developing Sustainable Partnerships outside Tirana, Albania
We believe that the best way to develop CHE Teams that are sustainable is by teaching and training CHE workers to develop their own sustainable support partnerships. So, in 2016 Ron Seck and Mark Bennett; businessman, head of his NAB Church mission board and CHE worker in Uganda; co-produced a new CHE TOT Seminar entitled “Developing Sustainable Partnerships” (DSP). Mark and Ron taught the new week-long course three times in 2016 for CHE national workers, in Hungary, Albania and Bosnia. The 27-lesson DSP course is now part of the CHE curriculum, available to all CHE teams world-wide, and is in manual form.
Since partnership development is a whole new concept to our European CHE workers, Ron followed this up in 2017 with an on-line weekly review of the lesson material and with team-mentoring. It will take a while for our folks to develop a sustainable partnership mind-set and practice. In October, we took a videographer to most of our fields and teams to help them produce a video to tell their story visually to potential partners inside and outside their nations.
In June we hosted and participated in an NAB International Missions Summit that focused on developing conference-wide guidelines for forming church-to-church-or-mission-organization partnerships. We trust this will help our own NAB CHE Teams in Hungary, Serbia and Romania develop sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships with NAB churches.
A major administrative hurdle to help all our CHE Euro Net teams expand and develop sustainability was to form CHE Central Europe as a legal US non-profit Foundation in 2016. This was accomplished this fall by making CHE Central Europe foundation (CHE CE) a legal affiliate of CHE’s umbrella organization, the Alliance of Transformational Ministries (ATM). This will make it possible for all CHE Euro Net Teams to receive financial donations in the United States while the donors receive a US tax receipt via ATM’s backroom services. CHE CE Partners was also formed as a non-profit affiliate of CHE Central Europe to finance expansion projects to meet CHE Euro Net’s 2020 Vision. Each CHE CE Team is responsible for raising its own partners and budget.
Finally, sustainability includes finding future NAB workers to continue developing the ministry where our current NAB Teams operate, in Serbia and Hungary. We envision two NAB couples joining our team in the future, one in the Hungarian-speaking region and one in the Serbian-speaking region.
To facilitate the recruitment of those God is calling to this task, we are now scheduling CHE Vision Seminars for 2017 in regions where we currently have supporting churches. So far we have scheduled seminars in Winnipeg, Canada for March 7 and 8, 2017 and in Bismarck, ND for February 18, 2017.
Our goals are:
1. to train NAB churches in how to do their own wholistic community development projects.
2. to train NAB churches how to partner effectively with our CHE teams and projects in Central Europe.
3. to raise awareness of CHE in NAB churches, of our need for NAB on-field team members and for more partner churches for our NAB teams in Hungary, Romania and Serbia.
What is on our horizon as we look toward 2017? Each of our established and emerging CHE Teams are filled with dreams and visions about the future. These are just a few of the items:
- In 2017 Jeannie and I will begin to transition into a 3-3-3-3 schedule, alternating approximate 3 month periods in Europe and the US. As our national workers take more of the lead in expansion, training and community development, we can now focus more of our time on raising up additional sustainable partnerships and finding our own replacements and mentoring them.
- Winnipeg, Canada — Rev. Sig Sigler of Mission Baptist Church (NAB) will be hosting an Urban CHE Vision Seminar for the pastors of Winnipeg in March, 2017. He is very serious about beginning Urban CHE. If there is enough interest, we will return to do a Urban CHE Training Conference in 2017. This will be for church leaders and volunteers.
- Northwest US and Canada — We are now planning a visit to NAB churches in northwest US and Canada for May-June, 2017.
- We will continue to press for the beginning of CHE Teams and projects in Slovakia, Bulgaria and Montenegro.
- Romania — Our 2016 NAB Vision Trip focused on church and CHE projects in the Oradea, Romania region being proposed by churches of the Hungarian-speaking Baptists of Romania, led by Rev. Zsolt Albert. NAB Partnership seminars were held in North Dakota and Romania. We would like to see churches in North Dakota link up in partnerships with churches in Romania in 2017. First on the docket would be a CHE project in Parhida in partnership with Rev. Albert’s churches.
- ZZ Serbia will be looking for potential partners to help construct or buy a community center building in Mali-Beograd. This will provide a worship center and Sunday School space for the Roma church, an office for ZZ Serbia, a training area for CHE community classes, and an apartment for Pastor Kiš’ family.
- Macedonia — We now have a good contact in Macedonia (Dr. Ture Huhtamaki) who wants to see a CHE Vision Seminar and possible TOT1 there in 2017.
- Kosovo — We are still waiting for the potential leaders there to schedule a Vision Seminar with our CHE Albania team.
- MEK Hungary is planning evangelistic outreaches in more Roma communities where our CHE teams work for 2017.
- Europe, the Cities — We (CHE Training Activist Group — CTAG) will hold a study group meeting in Brussels this spring on Urban CHE. We will also be representing CHE and Urban CHE at the Movement Day Gathering in London in the fall.
Please continue to pray for us that we will realize our vision for CHE Teams and projects up and running in every nation of Central Europe and the Balkans by the end of 2020. We are asking the Lord that we will also do our part to reach one million new villages by that date only four years from now.