Two Weeks in Budapest

I hope that I am sufficiently rested to write coherently this morning after being away for some time from Korea in Budapest, Hungary. I slept away most of yesterday, my first full day back home here, so, now that two weeks' worth of laundry has been done, I can give my undivided attention to writing about my time away in the Western hemisphere.

I flew out of Incheon on Thursday night, February 26, at five minutes to midnight. I had spent the morning packing and sifting through all my belongings, discovering things to dispose of in a spring cleaning of sorts, making sure I had everything I'd need for a week of conferencing and a week of working at GGIS. Would I need a tie or two? Where were those books I was saving for Paivi Janssen's class? What kind of adapter would I need for my electrical gadgets? Should I bring Advil Cold and Sinus just in case I really had picked up Tain's and William's germs? I was out the door before noon, riding the subway to Myeongdong to attend the afternoon discipleship class, one suitcase and one backpack ready to fly. That afternoon, the class theme was worship and prayer, good thoughts for the trip ahead.

After after a long flight from Incheon to Dubai, where I felt warm inside the terminal even though it was in the middle of the night and air conditioned, I was off to Budapest where my friend Zinan would be waiting for me. Our plane was late, immigration was a bit crowded and rowdy (some folks had taken advantage of the plentiful free alcohol on our flight), and I lost my Kindle in the midst of the press of people trying to exit the terminal, though I was not to know that until later. Zinan was waiting for me, and we had a happy reunion, two roommates from Thailand reunited in Hungary. Before I knew it, we were sitting in a restaurant across the street from his apartment

The courtyard view from Zinan's apartment door

 eating Turkey food, which was Zinan's way of saying Turkish food. It was delicious, and it reminded me of one of my previous visits to Budapest where I ate similar food at a rap session after a church service. After lunch, Zinan mercifully allowed me to simply rest and relax in his home for the remainder of the day and all day Saturday, much like I did here in Korea when I returned home.

Sunday morning, I went to the "big" church, sometimes called the 'main" church in Budapest, since there are various smaller Greater Grace churches in Budapest and the surrounding areas, including a Chinese church pastored by Pastor Graham King. Pastor Scibelli spoke that morning on "Lovingkindness better than life," and fully persuaded us that we needed God's lovingkindness to see us through our lives, since life is not always so great.  Luke and Nathan arrived from China that afternoon, so I was staying in what became Zinan's Chinese men's dorm as the one non-Chinese guy.

Yours truly and Luke

That evening, we all went to the Chinese church service where Pastor Eric Handel spoke an amazing message on "How faith is increased." He gave each of us a mustard seed as a visual aid for mustard seed size faith.

Monday, I went to Greater Grace International School (GGIS) via trams, following Zinan's directions. I arrived on time and worked most of the day with Paula Lange on things related to curriculum mapping and accreditation. I came home exhausted, a combination of jet lag and hard mental schoolwork. I stayed home while the guys went out. Tuesday I was back at school for the morning then off to the lunch rap at church where I got to see people who had arrived from Baltimore, including the amazing Lindahls, Bob and Holly, whom I had missed. That evening, I was blessed to stand beside Holly in church and sing harmony with her during worship, just like our glory days in Baltimore. Pastor Pete Westera and I put together our plan for the children's ministry workshop to be executed the next morning over lunch. The slimmer, trimmer Pastor TJ and I talked a bit too, and I got to see Neil Braganza and Jen Lynch, my former work colleagues from GGCA. It was odd being the person "from away."

Wednesday morning, the children's ministry workshop went well, and was well-attended by many of the Chinese people who came to the conference. I was blessed that a lot of the Chinese came specifically to hear me speak, and so I was praying that God would give me something fresh that I hadn't said at any of the other conferences where they had heard me speak; God came though, because He's faithful to me.

Much of the rest of the conference runs together in my mind. I remember having some wonderful times visiting with Hungarians I know from their Bible college time in Baltimore, sitting with Pastor Rick Knight and sharing the gospel with a young man who showed up in the food court, eating lunch at a Chinese couple's home with the Lindahls, Tain, and Tracey LeCour, marching in the missions march and holding up the South Korea sign with Jihae Han, meeting with Pastor Schaller on our team's day, listening to message after message related to the theme verse 1 Corinthians 16:9, and sensing the Spirit's moving in our midst all week long. Each night, we fell into bed exhausted but happy, looking forward to the next day. Saturday night, Tina Reeves, Ruthie Posrednikov, and I were supposed to sing together, but God had other plans, and the next day, Tina had succumbed to the Hungarian flu bug. That night, Pastor Scibelli spoke at the Chinese church and did the rap

and said he plans to go to China next November, so I invited him to drop by Korea along the way. That would be a great trip for all of you to join!

Monday was a day of rest including a trip to the mineral baths of St. Luke's

Luke and St. Luke

 and a visit to Andy and Julie Lange's home for an open house with them and Pastor Brian and Paula. Luke and Nathan went with me and lots of healthy (as opposed to bedridden by the flu) GGIS staff members dropped by to spend some time together post-conference, pre-return to school. The Lange children were on hand to entertain us all, although we were all sad to witness Livvy's tragedy - the breaking of her magic wand - and the subsequent tears. That evening, the Chinese guys and I went out to find something to eat quite late and walked and walked until soon, the only places still open were fast food joints, bars, the ubiquitous Turkish restaurants, and, finally, a by the slice pizza shop where we ate well, slogged home, and slept soundly.

Tuesday, I returned to GGIS and began the first of four more days of work, meeting with teachers, observing and evaluating teachers, writing up some things for a curriculum guide, and other useful - I think - tasks. I stayed with Mike and Nikki Colby and their children Hope and Josiah on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. It was a great blessing to wake up each day and have breakfast with them and then head off to take the tram to school together.

Mike Colby and his children, Hope and Josiah, set off for a day of school at GGIS

Nikki packed me an American school lunch each day - sandwich, chips, fruit and/or vegetables, and a treat. I loved it! Home cooked dinners were also amazing, and one night we had delicious dessert from a nearby bakery. Yum! The cakes were so sweet, we decided to take a walk down to the Danube, across the bridge and down to see one of the trains Josiah had not yet laid eyes upon.

Down near the train tracks

Friday night, I was back at Zinan's house and off to the Chinese church again where Pastor Lange was having a relationship seminar that evening. We learned that God's thoughts about marriage, family, and other relationships transcend all cultures, and that we need to learn heaven's culture to experience the richness and fullness of relationships as God intended them to be. Saturday was made special by morning evangelism with Pastor Graham in Chinatown with Luke and Zinan, dinner made by Zinan's mother, and an evening down by the Danube near the parliament building where we took many pictures and simply enjoyed being three brothers in Christ from three different cities for one last day.

Luke poses and Zinan shoots

Sunday morning, I said goodbye to Luke as he headed off to one of the church services. Zinan drove me to the airport and we tentatively planned our next visit together, which will likely be in October in China. He is great friend and God is using him to bless Pastor Graham and the Greater Grace Chinese Church of Budapest. Back through Dubai to Incheon, God blessed me two empty seats in my row, so I was able to lie down and get a little sleep on the long haul journey. It's nice to know that God is taking care of you.

One thing that surprised me on this trip was the realization that, for now, Asia is where I belong. I enjoyed my time in Budapest, but when it was time to leave, I was happy to go. I wasn't tempted by the offer to teach at GGIS next fall, because I knew in my heart that the call of God was not for there, at least for now. Who knows? It's like the song we used to sing - Where He leads me I will follow.

This morning I went to Yeomyung school to teach the first English Bible class of their new school year. Fifteen of seventeen students were present and happy to see me and Petros. We had some new students who chose to attend because they wanted to be with us. They were smiling and put up with my silliness as I led them in singing two rounds - Row, row, row your boat and then Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. These students were different today, volunteering to lead part of the class in singing the rounds and also to read scripture. I was so pumped up with excitement after class. I love teaching and I love the students in this class. I spoke about 1 Corinthians 16:9 and the open door God has placed in their lives to get a good education and to grow in grace through studying the Bible and getting to know God, and that one of the biggest adversaries standing in their way is themselves. Many were nodding in agreement as I spoke. Pray that we have more impact on this group in the weeks to come. I have about two months here before I plan to return to America to visit friends and family. Pray that everything comes together regarding my flights and God's leading for when I return to this part of the world. Amen!


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