Additional "From Further Afield" Articles

 

Retreat
Published: 9/10/2014 3:33:01 PM

 

Whether we realize it or not, all of us need to be in community with others, to have a place where we are supported and where we feel safe. While Hungary is considered a Christian country, and more than half of my students are Christians, a Christian community for them is lacking. Some of them have attended the English/Bible camps held in the summer, organized by a group from Concordia University in Irvine, CA, and have grown in their faith or have even come to know Jesus for the first time. But then they've had to go home to a place without this strong community. My fellow missionary in Hungary and I organize Bible studies and times for the students to get together and study the Word, but this year, we felt that we were being called to do something bigger.

After much prayer and thought, we organized (hopefully, the first annual) retreat for students from Lutheran High Schools. We asked students we thought would be interested in attending and digging deeper into their faith in Jesus. Although we had many great plans for the weekend, the whole time we were planning, we could see how, In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9) Many people had indicated that they would attend the retreat, but the week of the event saw some not be able to due to illness and other unforeseen circumstances. All in all, we ended up with a remarkable, tight group of 11 students from 3 different Lutheran High Schools in Hungary and us two missionaries. Throughout the course of the weekend, we began to realize that only God could put together a group like this: all of them spoke amazing English, so we could just teach and not have to worry about translation; those who were weaker in their faith were encouraged by those who were stronger; the young men in the group instantly became great friends; a community was created almost without any work, where everyone felt safe to share their ideas, struggles, and joys. The students now have others who believe the same things they do, that they can rely on. 

We started out the weekend talking about our common foundation: what are the things we base our faith, and our life, on. Everyone wrote out their ideas for their foundation on pieces of paper: the ideas ranged from having faith in Jesus as our Savior to the fact that God is love to a beautiful mini-essay on our sin and separation from God and our salvation in Jesus. Once done, a cross was formed with them that was referred to the rest of the weekend. Starting from this foundation, we discussed God's Word, it's validity and usefulness, and also prayer.  Most of these students hadn't ever prayed out loud in a group before or even with another person (besides the Lord's Prayer in church). They were confused on how to pray and what to pray for, so we taught them that prayer is just talking with God. We can tell Him things, or ask Him things, or simply thank Him. We can speak to God in words and thoughts. Even though the students were timid at first, by the end of the weekend, they were excited to pray on their own and with each other.

As the community continued to be built, everyone felt increasingly comfortable with each other and willing to share more and more. On Friday and during the day on Saturday, the students could write down any questions they had about faith or life or God. On Saturday evening, using Scripture as our guide, we did our best to answer the questions, which included ones about free will, heaven and hell, science and faith, the character of God, and many others. Afterwards, the students shared that they really appreciated this time because no one had given them the chance to ask these tough questions before.

The whole weekend was a time of encouragement and faith-building. Along the way, a community was also built, and we can still see those who were there helping and supporting each other in their faith and in their lives as well. As our theme verse for the weekend stated,
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25) May it be for us all!

Er's v'r a mi Isten'nk,

Contributed by Sarah Berta-Somogyi



 

 

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