Earlier this month, I travelled to Hungary and Ukraine with a small team of pastors and leaders to put on a retreat for Ukrainian leaders who have been involved in providing aid over the past year since the full-scale invasion of their country.
On the way, I had the opportunity to visit some friends in Hungary, including my friend László (Laci), who pastors in Budapest.
In addition to pastoring a local church, he leads a ministry which helps those caught in human trafficking to escape prostitution and experience lasting freedom.
The south side of Budapest, where Laci ministers, is a working class area, known for high levels of crime and prostitution.
While I was in town, I had the opportunity to sit down with Laci to discuss we discuss the theological foundations for “mercy ministries” and how Laci got involved in practical ministry to the poor and oppressed.
Applied Theology: Ministering to Victims of Human Trafficking in Budapest, Hungary – The Theological Foundations of "Mercy Ministry" –
Theology for the People
László (Laci) is a pastor in Budapest, Hungary. In addition to pastoring a local church, he leads a ministry which helps those caught in human trafficking to escape prostitution and experience lasting freedom.
The south side of Budapest, where Laci ministers, is a working class area, known for high levels of crime and prostitution.
In this episode, we discuss the theological foundations for "mercy ministries" and how Laci got involved in practical ministry to the poor and oppressed.
For more information, visit: Servants Anonymous Foundation
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The Expositors Collective is a growing network of pastors, leaders, and laypeople which exists to equip, encourage, and mentor the next generation of Christ-centered preachers through two-day interactive training seminars, a weekly podcast, and ongoing mentoring relationships.
Our training weekends are open to men and women ages 18-34 who want to grow in teaching and preaching the Word of God.
These are regional events which many people fly in for, so even if you don’t live in area where an event is being held, consider joining us for a weekend. We always have discounted hotel rates for those who attend.
I just got back on Saturday night from a 2-week trip, during which I was in NYC, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine – then a quick jaunt to Southern California, before making my way back home just in time for daylight savings! My internal clock was so confused by that point that losing one more hour of sleep didn’t even register.
Hagia Sofia, Istanbul
NYC from the top of the Empire State Building
The purpose for the European trip was to visit White Fields‘ missionaries and ministry partners in Hungary and Ukraine. I got to spend time with Pastor Jani and others from Golgota Eger, the church my wife and I started back in 2005. We also spent time in Budapest at Golgota Budapest and with the leaders of the Anonymous Ways Foundation which helps to rescue women out of sex-trafficking.
Pastor Jani – Golgota Eger
Pastor Laci – Golgota Délpest
After a few short days in Hungary, we flew to Kiev, Ukraine where Mike and I taught at a Pastors and Leaders Conference for Calvary Chapel Ukraine. Our topic was “movement dynamics” and we gave biblical and practical instruction about leading missional churches for about 50 pastors and church leaders from all over Ukraine.
After church we spent some time with George Markey, one of the pastors of Calvary Kiev, and he shared with us the vision for urban church planting in Kiev – a city of about 5 million people. Their vision is to plant 30 churches in Kiev in 5 years! This year their goal was to begin with 2 church plants, and God has already raised up people for those in the northern Obolon region of the city and in the southern Teremky region. Please join in praying for God’s work in Kiev through Calvary Chapel and for this big vision they have for church planting!
Ternopil and Kharkiv
Sunday evening, three of us got on an over-night train to Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine, near the Russian border – while Mike and his wife Marika took a train in the opposite direction, to Ternopil in Western Ukraine to visit friends from Calvary Chapel Ternopil.
In Kharkiv, we visited with friends from Calvary Chapel Kharkiv, including Pastor Victor Fisin and Assistant Pastor and missionary Nate Medlong, whose aunt is a member of our church. Nate and his wife Diana are on the front lines of ministry to orphans and children in the foster system in Kharkiv. God is doing great things through their ministry, so please keep them in prayer.
Coffee with friends from CC Kharkiv
CC Kharkiv’s new building
Returning to Kiev, I got to speak to the students of Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary on Tuesday morning, and then we spent time with one of the teachers and the director of the seminary afterwards. UETS is a doing a great work, raising up pastors and leaders from all over the former Soviet Union. They have a strategic partnership with the seminary I am currently attending: London School of Theology (LST), and they have several hundred students attending their many campuses all over Ukraine and one other former-Soviet country. Pray for their work!
While the others from the team came back to Colorado, I had one more trip before I came home: I went to Thousand Oaks, California for the first Expositors Collective – an interactive seminar for young people who have a desire to preach and teach the Bible well. As one of the leaders, I coached a group of young men who had a range of different experiences: from Bible college students to interns, to a staff pastor who sometimes preaches at his church. It was a great event, and one that was geared towards ongoing mentorship. This was only the first of what will hopefully be an ongoing collective to encourage expository Bible teaching in the next generation. For more information, check out expositorscollective.com
As I wrote in a previous post, I am currently in Kyiv, Ukraine on a ministry trip. On my way here I had the chance to stop in Hungary for two short days, during which every moment was packed.
I arrived in Budapest Tuesday night, met with a few friends on Wednesday, and got on a train to Eger to visit our friends from the church we started there several years ago. There was an open house gathering at the pastor’s house for anyone who wanted to come see me and it just so happened that one of my good friends and our former worship leader, who now lives in the Netherlands, was also in Eger that day, and was able to come out and visit.
Jani and Tünde and I stayed up late that night talking about life and ministry, and on Thursday I woke up early for a marathon of meetings with as many people as I could. It was a short time, but because of that it was also a very focused time. That evening, rather than taking the train back to Budapest to catch my flight the next day, Jani decided to drive me so that we would have more time to spend together and talk.
Pray for Pastor Jani and Golgota Eger. They are doing a good work in that city and region.
And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)
Friday morning I flew to Kyiv, arriving at 11:00 AM. At 2:00 PM the Calvary Chapel Ukraine Pastors and Leaders conference began at the conference center in Irpin.
The conference was two days long and the theme was “Vision for Our Cities.” It was a pleasure to get to spend time with this great group of people who are doing important work, and get to share with them some of the things I’ve learned.
On Sunday morning I shared at Calvary Chapel Kyiv, and had a great time with that wonderful church which has great leadership and a great vision to reach their city and the country of Ukraine. Pastor George told me today: “We could literally start as many churches as we want in Ukraine, the only thing we lack is people to do it. People here are so receptive to the gospel, particularly in the East where the fighting is going on.”
“We could start as many churches as we want in Ukraine, the only thing we lack is people to do it.” – Pastor George Markey, Calvary Chapel Kyiv
As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
At church in Kyiv, I spent most of my time talking to people in Hungarian; an ethnic Hungarian man from the Hungarian-speaking region of Ukraine was there, as well as a Ukrainian girl whom my wife and I know from when we all lived Debrecen, Hungary. As more and more people in the world are moving to big cities like Kyiv, the world is getting smaller as it gets bigger.
A few months ago, when the refugee crisis was at its peak in Europe, White Fields Church collected money to purchase Bibles for refugees, mostly from Iran and Syria, who had come to Hungary and had either become Christians or were interested in Christianity.
Bibles, especially Farsi (Persian) Bibles are expensive and hard to come by, but we were able to send 50 Bibles in various languages to those working on the ground with these refugees. Last summer, my wife Rosemary was able to meet with some of them in Debrecen, before the refugee camp there was closed this November. Since then most of the refugees have been moved to Bicske, near Budapest, and Békéscsaba in South-East Hungary. Those in Bicske are coming now every Monday to Golgota Budapest to learn the Bible and have Hungarian lessons.
The friends of ours in Budapest who help them asked me if Travis and I could come down and meet them today since we were in Hungary and our church had purchased these Bibles for them.
After breakfast with some friends from the Eger church, Travis and I took the train to Budapest, met with some friends at the church, and then went and joined the refugee Bible study, which was in English with translation into Farsi.
After Bible study, I got the opportunity to speak to the group. I told them about how Rosemary and I had spent years doing refugee ministry and we had seen several people from Iran come to faith in Jesus, and how we had also seen some of those people have their lives threatened, one man was attacked and almost killed, for their new faith.
For these people, the Gospel really is a matter of life and death – of all or nothing. As a result of becoming Christians, their lives will be at risk from their fellow countrymen for having converted and they will likely be disowned by their families and communities. However, though they may lose everything for following Christ in this life, they will gain eternal life in the next. Is it worth it? They would say: Absolutely.
One of the men, when they received the Bibles that our church sent them, held it up and said: “In my country I could be killed for reading this! Think about how powerful the message of this book must be that they want to do everything to keep us from reading it!”
One of the things I told this group, was that we were glad that we could provide for them the Bibles that we did, and that if they needed more, we would be happy to provide those also.
After I spoke to the group, I prayed for them. And after the prayer, Lisa, a missionary with Calvary Chapel in Hungary came over and showed me an email she had just received as I was speaking, from the Hungarian Bible Society, that they had located 30 Farsi Bibles, but they weren’t cheap. Lisa showed me the email and asked if I was serious about providing more Bibles…
We said yes, and we were able to purchase 30 Farsi Bibles for these young believers who have never owned a Bible of their own before. One of the men had received a New Testament in his language before, but was eager to read the Old Testament. Another man had received a Bible from us back in September, but had given it away to another man who wanted to read it and needed another one for himself to read.
Can you imagine not having access to a Bible? Or your faith being a matter of life and death? That is what these people face for their decision to follow Jesus.
God is doing a great work amongst these people, and he is going to use them to be evangelists to other refugees in Europe. These people are our brothers and sisters in the faith. Please pray for them and consider ways to support them. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
I believe in miracles because I have one walking around in my house. Here’s our story:
In January of 2010, my wife Rosemary was in her final month of pregnancy with our second child, a girl whom we had decided to name Felicia, which means “happy”. It has been a pretty smooth pregnancy, with one exception: in the last trimester she experienced intense itchiness in her skin, like it was on fire. It was so unbearable that she was unable to sleep and sometimes resorted to standing outside in the cold to numb her skin. We now know that this was caused by a condition called cholestasis, in which the liver stops functioning, and isn’t cleaning the blood. This condition went undiagnosed, and led to what happened next.
Rosemary went into labor naturally, and was quietly getting ready to go to the hospital, but at one point her contractions suddenly went from being 9 minutes apart to being 2 minutes apart. She had a sense that something was wrong with the baby, so she told me that we needed to leave immediately, and left our 2 year old son with our neighbors and we rushed to the hospital.
We arrived at Markhót Ferenc Megyei Kórház, the hospital in Eger, Hungary which was about a 10 minute car ride from our home, just a minute or two after 8 o’clock that morning. The nurses took Rosemary into the room to measure her vital signs, while I waited outside in the hallway. At this point I assumed that everything was fine, and that I would be welcomed into the birthing room shortly, as I had been with our first child who was born in that same hospital. I started emailing my parents on my phone, letting them know that the baby was on her way.
Only a few minutes later, the door to the birthing ward was flung open, not by a nurse inviting me in as I had expected, but by the doctor, who came running into the hallway, nervously yelling to others down the hall to come immediately. He then turned to me and said, “There’s a problem with the baby”, and disappeared back behind the door of the birthing unit.
Over the next few minutes, 20 or so doctors and nurses ran past me into the room where my wife was. I didn’t know anything, and when I asked the nurses what was going on, they told me they couldn’t tell me anything — only the doctor was allowed to do that, but they privately said that it was bad and the baby may not survive. At one point a nurse ran into the birthing ward carrying a plastic tube of some kind, and a few minutes later 3 nurses ran out holding a little body wrapped in towels, while one of them pumped frantically on that same plastic device as they transported her to another area of the hospital. After about an hour of nervously waiting for any news, I saw our doctor, who knew I was a pastor, and as he ran past me in the hall, simply said: “Pray!”.
Three hours passed as I waited for the doctor to call me in and tell me what had happened. I was called into the office of Dr. Kovács Krisztina, the head of the neonatal department. She explained that when they had first called Rosemary in for examination, they were not able to find the baby’s heartbeat, and they had to do an emergency caesarian. She explained that they didn’t know why, but that our daughter had gone without oxygen for quite a long period of time. At this point I asked the question which had been on my mind for hours: “Is my baby alive?” “Yes, she’s alive, but there is a good chance she will not live through the next 24 hours. And if she does, then you can be sure that she will have life-long serious disabilities, because she went so long without oxygen, that she has suffered serious brain damage.” Her APGAR score was a 1, the lowest score possible. She was not breathing at all, and the only reason she got an APGAR of 1 was because she did have a faint heartbeat.
Dr. Kovács explained to me that there is only one treatment for babies in this condition, but it is very experimental, and so I would need to sign a consent form. The treatment involved putting the newborn baby into a morphine induced coma and then subjecting them to hypothermia to try to salvage what was left of their brain and other vital organs which had started to die due to the lack of oxygen. I signed the papers, and then was taken into a room, where Felicia—whose body was completely grey and lifeless except for the fact that a respirator violently caused her chest to rise and fall—was in an incubator, and she was wheeled in to where Rosemary was. Rosemary had been put under during the emergency surgery and was just coming to—and they made her reach in the incubator and touch Felicia. Basically, they were making sure she got the chance to meet her baby and say goodbye.
Right after that, Felicia was wheeled outside, where she was taken by a special ambulance from the Peter Cerny foundation, which helps babies get to the Semmelweis university hospital neonatal intensive care unit in Budapest. Semmelweis is the best equipped hospital in the country for neonatal ICU, but they have limited space—room for 10 or so babies at a time, so they only take the worst of the worst. When Felicia arrived, we were told that she was in the worst condition of any of the babies in that unit.
I went home and packed up my son to go to Budapest to be with Felicia—and I quickly wrote a blog post asking people to pray for a miracle. I would continue writing posts about Felicia, which were then shared on social media and sent around the world. Thousands upon thousands of people began praying for Felicia’s healing from every corner of the globe, and messages began filling my inbox from places like India and Africa, from people I had never met, telling me they were praying for God to heal our little girl for His glory.
For the next 2 weeks, Felicia was unconscious. She had wires and tubes sicking out of every part of her little body and she was on a respirator, because she was not able to breathe on her own. During that time the doctors conducted a blood test and found an enzyme in her blood that indicated brain damage. A normal level of this enzyme would be 25 count – Felicia’s level was 1500 count; very disheartening news. The doctors told us to prepare for the worst. They were unsure if she would ever wake up from the coma, and even if she did, it was unsure if she would ever breathe on her own, not to mention whether her nervous system or vital organs would function properly. Not only had she gone without oxygen, but she had inhaled meconium, which filled her lungs and throat, which had developed into pneumonia. She had also inhaled meconium, which had then infected her digestive tract. We were told there was a good chance she would be in a vegetative state for her whole life.
All we could do was pray. And so we asked everyone we possibly could to pray for her – churches around Hungary and throughout the world began praying for her. People I had never met began approaching me and telling me, “I’ve been praying for your daughter!” Our church in Eger came together to support our family; the community of Calvary Chapels in Hungary rallied around us, praying for us and encouraging us constantly.
After 7 days of being in the coma, Felicia woke up. Rosemary got to see her that day for the first time, but it was bittersweet. Although Felicia was alive and awake, she showed signs of being handicapped. Her eyes were crossed, she could not focus on anything, she could not swallow, and did not move. We left that night with a sense of heaviness, but once again wrote a blog post asking people to pray for Felicia to be fully healed.
The next day we walked into the ICU to find a different baby in Felicia’s bed; it was her, but she was so different than the night before, that we hardly recognized her! That night, her condition had changed completely. She made eye contact, was moving, had started swallowing milk and making noises!
After another week in that unit, Felicia was transferred to intermediate care, and then to Developmental Neurology at a different hospital in Budapest. She had suffered brain damage; even though seemed to be doing better, she was still very sick; she basically had no reflexes. Rosemary spent a week in the Developmental Neurology department being trained by doctors to do reflex therapy with Felicia at home in order to create new pathways in her brain, taking advantage of the abundance of stem cells that babies have. During this time we continued to pray for her healing.
For 8 months, we spent 6 hours a day doing therapy with Felicia. At times we had people come live with us to help cook and clean, so we would be free to care for our little girl. At one of our regular visits to the neurology department, after 8 months of therapy, we were told that Felicia was healed. She now had all the normal reflexes that a baby her age should have; reflexes being a key indicator of healthy brain function.
All the doctors and the nurses who witnessed Felicia’s recovery told us that it was a true miracle—that they had never seen a baby who was in that bad of a condition – the worst in the entire country when she arrived – get better, and not just get better, but to the point of having no symptoms! Felicia had 5 different doctors who treated her, and each of them told us that surely God must have healed her.
On Felicia’s first birthday we had a party. To this 1 year old girl’s party, people came from all over Hungary and even from the United States. Most notably, the head doctor of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Semmelweis, who had personally attended to Felicia during her time there, Dr. Szabó Miklós, as well as Dr. Kovács Krisztina came to the party, and Dr. Szabó spoke, and told everyone that as a doctor, he can attest to them, that Felicia’s healing was a genuine miracle. He said that he never accepts invitations from the families of his former patients, but he drove up to Eger from Budapest for Felicia, because her story was so special and remarkable to him.
God healed Felicia. When Felicia was 18 months old, we were told that she would no longer need a neurologist. She was given a completely clean bill of health!
In 1 Chronicles 16, David says:
 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
 Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day.
 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
[25a] For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength!
 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”
Again and again in this song of David – he says “tell” of his wondrous works. Remember the miracles he has done, and bring glory to God by declaring those things to the nations, so that all will see that He indeed is Lord of heaven and Earth!
Today Felicia turned 4 years old, and she is completely healthy in every way! She is a true miracle.
We will never forget, and we will continue to faithfully tell our story for His glory.