We will all remember 2020 as the year of Covid-19. When significant events happen in history, like President John Kennedy’s assassination or 9-11, we can all answer the “where were you when it happened?” question immediately. It will not be hard for most of us to answer “where were you when the Coronavirus pandemic took place?” Our reply will be “We were locked down at home.”
This is an update report to share with you what has been happening the last few months in regards to Our Travel, Our Teams and Our Time at Home. It has been a weird but God-blessed time.
OUR TRAVELS in 2020 — They Were Unexpectedly Exciting!
That’s not how it started with Jeannie and me. We were on a 6-week tour of NAB churches in the US and Canada with Laci and Eszter Daroczi-Csuhai and their 2 young sons. When we began the trip in mid-February, people were saying, “Covid-19? It’s just like the flu. Nothing to worry about.” By the end of week 4 in mid-March churches were closing, borders were closing and meetings of every size were being cancelled! A term new to us was been heard everywhere: social distancing. We found ourselves in the Seattle airport, the US center of the pandemic at that time, trying to get home. The Daroczi-Csuhai’s had to scramble back to Hungary and Jeannie and I needed to seek safety back in Phoenix, AZ.
Up to that point it was an awesome, blessed and encouraging adventure. We want to thank all the churches, pastors and mission boards in Detroit, MI; Reading, PA; Seattle-Tacoma, WA and the Vancouver, BC region for their warm hospitality, mission-minded enthusiasm and partnership in prayer, short-term team and financial support. To those churches in Oregon, Washington and California that we could not visit because of the pandemic, we look forward to seeing you in the near future, Lord willing.
OUR TEAMS in 2020 — They Have Been Weirdly Busy!
Because of pandemic travel bans, Jeannie and I were not able to return to Hungary and Central Europe on March 25 as planned. So we will have to ride out the pandemic here in Phoenix and work with our co-workers long distance.
The Community Health Evangelism (CHE) Teams in Central Europe and the Balkans we work with are facing restrictions on travel, on entering villages and holding meetings. However they are still as active as possible within their country’s, coming up with new and creative ways to provide health and spiritual care to their impoverished Roma communities. They are also finding time to tackle some important administrative assignments that often get neglected when their team members are busy out in the field. We’re even using the opportunity to do some advanced CHE Training online with team members. Doing this without being in the same room is kind of weird.
Laci and Eszter and the MEK Team, along with their Boldog Roma Community Leadership Committee, have launched a wonderful relief/development project. Because of the coronavirus, many Boldog Roma villagers are now out of work and without food. But they do have time on their hands. So the Leadership Committee, led by Marika, has organized a food-for-community-service program and have enrolled 23 families in it. Each week the leadership team selects the community project (village clean-up, community center clean up, yard and house clean up) and those families that participate in the project receive groceries and necessities from MEK. The food parcels have printed information about coronavirus protection methods, MEK and about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in them.
So far (this is week 6 of 8), the villagers are loving it! People are having a good time visiting with each other and improving their community while having a guaranteed source of food. The MEK team is buying, packaging and delivering the food, printing the materials and keeping in touch with villagers via social media. (Click on https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YCS83npJ8Pc&feature=youtu.be to see a video about this project.)
Marijana Čizmanski and her co-worker and sister, Tamara, are able to do care visits to Donji Petrovci, Serbia regularly and are exploring community needs and how to meet them in the midst of the crisis.
Klara and Emil Kisgeci-Dudas are seeing spiritual, emotional and health progress in the lives of the Roma family that are championing the development project in Nadalj, Serbia. They have also started a food parcel relief program.
The Galilee Foundation CHE Teams in North Macedonia are able to get into their villages periodically. Adams and Marija Polikarp have advanced to selecting their community leadership teams in their two villages near Nagotina, and Dimce and Alit continue house-to-house visitation in the two Roma communities outside Prilep, our latest projects. Pastor Jimmy held an outdoor evangelistic crusade there at the end of May and 60 people raised their hands in response to the invitation to receive Christ.
Sasha Cipra of EZZ Serbia reports that his New Life Group in Kiseljak, Bosnia has now grown to 31 adults. He has also begun to train his new Community Leadership Committee there.
Please pray for all these CHE workers plus those in Slovakia and Albania who are risking their own health and well-being to serve others in need.
OUR TIME AT HOME in 2020 — It Has Been Topsy-Turvey Terrific!
Although we are anxious to get back to Central Europe, we are also enjoying our time at our home in Phoenix. We are near family and friends. We have had a house here for 9 years, but have spent most of our time in Europe. We have never seen spring-time in Arizona. Each day we go out for an hour-long bike ride on our tandem and marvel at the splendor and beauty of the desert in bloom. God is so creative!
We’ve also helped to instigate a bit of a community development project in our own neighborhood. Twice a week 8 to 16 of our neighbors get together (at a proper social distance) for coffee (Thursdays) or dinner (Saturdays) on the street. It is helping everyone to cope with their Corona cabin fever and lack of social connection. We even held an outdoor Easter Sunday service!
Work-wise, we are catching up on a lot of administration and paper-work and reading, doing team planning meetings, organizing team projects and participating in on-line prayer meetings. In May and June we are facilitating a 28-lesson training course for our Central Europe and Balkan CHE staff. It’s great to have tech tools to be able to do all of this long-distance. We praise the Lord.