Here we are once again writing to all of you who are supporting our MUSIC WITH A MISSION. I am finding that it is easier to write these Epistles to you the next day rather than at night after we have returned from our ministry. Quite frankly, I am just too tired, and the Hotel Internet too occupied, to do a decent job of it. Looking back at what I wrote you yesterday, I saw that I should have used the "spell check" before I sent it, but I had to get ready to leave on one of our two sightseeing tours we had provided for our people. One of those was a Budapest City Tour which most of those who had not been to Hungary before took. Most of us who had been a part of our choir's 2003 Eastern European Ministry Tour chose to take a tour up to the town of Szentendre - - about an hour's drive (due to traffic) from our hotel.
The day was absolutely perfect for the tour. We had had a lot of overcast and even a few showers through the weekend, but this day dawned with beautiful blue sky dotted by floating white clouds. The town actually dates from Roman times, though most of the historic section was built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Beginning in the 1900's, the town has also become a sort of artist colony as well. When we got there, the group basically divided in two: the women who went shopping, and the guys who explored the town, took pictures and ended up at one of the many street cafes for a cold drink or cup of coffee. Sure enough, when we got back on our bus to return to Budapest, the gals had the "show and tell" time from their shopping, and the guys showing what they had on their cameras. After having spent our entire first full day in Hungary in ministry with the Budafok Baptist Church, it was therapeutic for us to have a complete change of pace.
Our mission for the day, however, was to present our program for the opening evening of the Baptist Union's Church Music Convention. Church musicians from all over Hungary attend this gathering and seminar every year at this time in the Ujpest Baptist Church - - a church located in the northern section of Budapest. In fact, we found out that "Ujpest" means New Pest. Each concert venue presents its own challenges in how the choir is arranged, where and how the handbell choir is able to do its set up, and where to place the recording microphones and other audio recording equipment. The people doing our video also has to find a place in the sanctuary - usually in a balcony - where they can set up their video camera and tripod without blocking the view of the audience.
One of the nice aspects of this church was that we could use their choir loft which again allowed us to sit whenever we were not singing. Fitting us into their choir loft proved a bit crowded, but it worked. Our two soloists, Barbara Tobler and Mike Rosensteel, were able to find a way out of the loft to where they could sing. Susie Shick, our organist/pianist, always does a fantastic job working with many different pianos and organs. This time, she went to the church a half hour before the choir so that she could become familiar with their pipe organ. Unfortunately, they were tuning the organ when she arrived and she had very little time to work it out. To me it sounded good. The audience seemed very appreciative of her playing; she is an amazing musician.
I had thought that this audience might be on the older side, but there were many young people who were in attendance. Most of the younger people went up into the balcony, while the older ones chose the main floor. As it turned out, this evening's program was different from the one we presented the night before in Budafok. First of all, after the choir had sung their usual "Praise to the Lord" in the round and moved up into the loft to sing "Greet the Dawning", one of the pastors preached a short (perhaps 15 minute) sermon from Revelations on "singing". We therefore shortened our program by cutting out the first set of Handbell numbers. The congregation sang a hymn we were familiar with; they gave us hymnals for the music and we did our best at trying to pronounce the Hungarian. I am sure they never noticed what we were singing as that place was filled with gorgeous harmony as everyone sang the hymn in parts. We knew for sure that this was a group of church musicians who loved to sing.
After we had finished warming up and rehearsing, Pastor Tom shared with us a word of encouragement. He told us that our choir had been lifted up and sang "beyond themselves"the previous evening in Budafok. I know that many of us knew we still did not have all the words down - - and even some of the music. But Tom said that the Lord had taken our sacrifice of memorizing and music and committing to the ministry and empowered us to a totally new level. That was indeed a word of encouragement.
I don't know how many of you have been a part of a tour like this, but after the first concert, there is often a kind of letdown. Our adrenalin often gets us through that first program, but then the long journey and first full day of ministry, it is often hard to recharge our batteries. What made last night's concert a little more difficult was that by leaving out the first Handbell set, that left the choir with a longer segment to sing before we could sit down. In spite of all that, I believe that the Lord used our gift of song and praise to his glory. The audience again insisted that we sing another piece after we had sung "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" in he round. Dan finally agreed to sing our opening number, Praise to the Lord" as an encore. They loved it!
After the concert we always give everyone in the audience one of our new CDs that we produced for this purpose. Last night, a number of them asked if they could take a few extra to give out at their own churches. Needless to say, we complied with their requests; sharing our music as widely as possible is the reason we give out our recordings. We were just delighted that they wanted them.
Today, our people have the morning entirely to themselves. It looks like they have taken off on a dozen different directions, or have chosen to stay around here and get more rest. I told you in a previous letter that several people had to leave the group in New York due to some problems. They are now doing just fine, and they were scheduled to rejoin us today. However, I just learned that they were bumped from their flight last night, and will not finally rejoin us until tomorrow. The good news is that they are able to rejoin us. You might want to pray that they have no problems getting on their flight tonight in New York.
This afternoon, we leave for the city of Vac - about an hour north of Budapest - where we will be presenting our third program in the Baptist Church of Vac. We will have the opportunity to see some of the beautiful and charming city when we first get there, and then have our dinner (around 3:00pm our time) at a very nice restaurant located right on the Duna (Danube) River. The Baptist Church have rather new facilities and I believe that our group will enjoy ministering in the place.
I may be able to write you about that experience later tonight if I can get to the computer; if not, I will have to do it early tomorrow morning as we leave to the village of Toalmas at 9:30pm where we will spend the entire day at the Word of Life Camp and then present a concert for the people of the village that evening in their Cultural Hall. This week is the first week of their camping season; it is one of the "Children's Camps" which mean that we will be ministering to kids up to age 12.
I believe that pretty well bring you up to date on our mission and activities. Just keep praying for our stamina and that God will use us in significant ways. Thank you so much for your prayers.
Yours again from Hungary,
(For Music With a Mission)