Friday, December 2, 2011

Active Waiting

Greetings from the Barnes Family in Kalocsa, Hungary!

Dear Family and Friends,
We wanted to start this letter out sharing with you some of the wonderful blessings that we have received this past month. Our Lord Jesus Christ continues to faithfully and patiently meet all of our needs according to his riches in glory and all for his glory.
The Lord has been reminding me that in this life and the next He alone is our “very great reward.”* As we come to the end of ourselves and are at a place of being unable to orchestrate life and even ministry according to our plans and strength, the Holy Spirit is teaching us to depend ever more fully on Him. And our eyes are opened to the reality that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We see the truths that only as we remain in the vine can God continue to grow us and bear fruit in and through our lives.
Earlier this month our family had the privilege of hosting one of Eric’s student’s families for dinner. This seventh grader had really latched onto Eric, and continued to ask Eric when his family could get together with ours. This student informed Eric that his parents are both pastor’s within the Reformed Church in two small village churches. Through Eric’s communication with this student in broken Hungarian and English the two of them arranged an evening that our families could get together (this in itself being amazing).
On the day that we were to have them over (did I mention that they have six kids and that our apartment is small), I was feeling out of strength. I prayed to the Lord for His will to be done, submitting my tiredness and inabilities to host to him, relying only on His strength. What a blessing! As Abel’s family came into our home (with only three of the children it turned out) the Lord blessed our family in an amazing way. The Spirit of our Lord Jesus was present as the children played together, and as we as two couples shared our passion for Christ together, our testimonies of coming to faith, and how the Lord was working in our lives. For the first time since coming to Kalocsa we felt understood by a local family and blessed by being mutually encouraged. This is all through two broken languages, yet the Spirit of Christ was easily understood and shared between us.
As we met with this family for the first time we shared our desire for being in Kalocsa went beyond teaching English as a second language to desiring to share Christ with those around us. We shared that we had followed the call, and were now in a time of waiting on the Lord. “Lord we are here in Kalocsa, now what?” The Lord reminded us through the words of this couple that while this is a time of waiting for our family, it is a time of “active waiting” and not passive. We were reminded of how throughout scripture the lives of God’s servants have been filled with times of “active waiting” as the Lord has used times of waiting to teach, train, use and prepare his servants. Examples of Joseph, Moses, many prophets, John the Baptist, and even Jesus all had periods where God worked in their lives through periods of waiting on Him. It is during this time of waiting that God is reminding me that He, and He alone is my very great reward! He alone is worthy of my praise, my life, my all!
Since our first meeting our families have gotten together multiple times, and we have come away stronger in our passion for the Lord and for sharing Him and His freedom with those around us. Praise the Lord Jesus!
Thank you Lord, for being with each one of us wherever it is that you have placed us. Thank you for making each and every person in your image, in your love. Thank you that in the same way that you view each of us with so much joy that you also free each of us your children to enjoy you with the joy and peace and love that only flows from you and time in your presence! Amen.
*A term from David Platt’s book Radical.
I’m a Rambling Guy
This past month I have been all over the map of Hungary on Sunday mornings.  I preached in Budapest to start the month, the following week we worshiped in a home with our friends in Gyor.  This past week we were in Uszod (the little village where the family Heidi mentioned lives), in a Reformed church that was built a hundred years before the United States was even a country.  The church has its original heating system, so it was cold.  We sat bundled in the pew, and were blessed out of our wool socks.  This week we will be back in Budapest to meet with the missionaries there and worship together.  Next week, I have been asked to preach at a church in a little village where our friend is the pastor.  While I am a bit tired of the travel, it has been a blessing to meet with God’s people in so many contexts and to be encouraged by the work of the Holy Spirit in fellow believers.
The Greatest Turkey Ever Sold
This past Thanksgiving, Heidi really wanted to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal.  She had invited Muriel’s teacher’s family over to experience some traditional American Cuisine.  After hours on the net to find homemade recipes for stuffing, cheesecake, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes, she was on her way to preparing the best Thanksgiving meal ever.  The entire meal was made from scratch and made by her in our tiny little kitchen.  Down to the french-fried onions to go on the green beans, everything was perfect and exquisite.  She was using every possible container we owned to fit the parts of the feast in.  From pots to old jam jars, everyone was getting involved.  Because Thanksgiving is not Turkey day in Kalocsa, there are no whole turkeys to be found anywhere, so Heidi was thinking ahead and had visited the local husbolt (butcher) the week before and ordered a turkey for that day.  The man behind the counter told her he thought it would be two to three kilos (5-8 pounds).  She told him it could be a bit bigger, and made sure he knew we wanted the whole turkey.  As she left she heard some snickering from the other customers, knowing that ordering a whole turkey seemed ridiculous to them.  Thanksgiving Day came, and she was off to butcher to find out why people were snickering, and I went along on a whim.  It was God’s providence that I went along; because Heidi didn’t bring a wheelbarrow to haul back the over 13 kilo (30 lbs) turkey we had just purchased.  Luckily, she had married a hulk of a man twelve years ago, with a strong back that ached the rest of the day after I had lugged it home.  Realizing that the bird was bigger than our stove, I had the butcher cut of the legs and wings, and then went to the kitchen store to buy a bigger pan.  Heidi went to work, massaging it with olive oil and stuffing it with onions and spices, and we crammed it in the oven six hours before our guests were to arrive.  When our friends arrived for dinner, we pulled the legless, wingless turkey, laying on its side out of the oven and it was perfect.  Everything was delicious, especially the bird, and a good thing it was, because we have been eating turkey every day since.
Thank you for your prayers, we are so thankful for all our friends and family who hold us up in prayer.
In Christ,
The Barnes Family

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Captains Log:  Kalocsa Date:  November 1, 2011...
…after over two months of living in Hungary, our family continues to explore the shockingly sunny city of Kalocsa.  After six years of living in western Washington, our skin is not accustomed to this strange warm sensation we constantly feel.  The trees are changing colors, and the air is crisp and wonderful.  Our mission this past month was to settle in and get acclimated to our new home here.  Mission accomplished!  Muriel commented to us this past week that already Kalocsa feels as much as home now as Mount Vernon.  While we continue to miss family and friends, we are finding the pace of life increasing. 
This past weekend, we had the principle of my school and her husband over for lunch, and had a wonderful time.  They are a sweet couple, and have four children, the youngest of whom are twins and just a couple years older than Cal.  We spent four hours visiting with them, speaking mostly in Hungarian, so my brain was exhausted, but it felt good to be communicating and practicing the language.  That evening, we were invited to another teacher’s house, and spent three hours with them over dinner.  It was a delightful time, and again we spoke a lot of Hungarian.  Last night, we were invited to Muriel’s teacher’s home for dinner, and had a feast of homemade ham cordon blue, venison, french-fries, cream cake, and much, much more.  It was so delicious, and we got to practice speaking Hungarian for several hours.  The kids also watched Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in HD on a huge flat screen tv, and ate about three kilos of candy.  They enjoyed their first Halloween outside the States just fine.  Today, I am taking a reprieve and only thinking English thoughts.  Tonight we will go to the cemetery and see it lit up for All Saints Day.  We are feeling so welcomed here, and I’ve started learning how to do a Rubix cube thank to Muriel‘s teacher‘s very patient son.  Not to boast, but I think I’m a pretty fast learner.  The children are doing well, and seem to be adjusting to school, and both are enjoying their extra-curricular activities.
Two weeks ago, we took the three hour bus ride to Budapest on Saturday and spent the night with the Winkles, some of the Free Methodist Missionaries there.  I preached at FM church in Budapest on Sunday and then had lunch with Jerry and Jan Coleman.  Jerry is the area director for Free Methodist Missions in Europe.  We had a great time and were very encouraged.
We are still waiting on our residency permits, so we are hopeful they will come this next week, but are not betting our life savings on it.  God has been so good to us here, and so faithful.  While my school continues to be challenging, God  continues to give me strength and I know I am where I am suppose to be.  We know that God has called us here, and that we are to wait on Him.  We wanted to start an English Bible study in October, but that door closed, at least for now, and so we are continuing to seek opportunities to serve here.  We know that God is faithful and will continue to open doors, and for now are excited that we are making new friends, and enjoying His favor.
We thank you for your prayers, and want you to know that we are missing you, but thankful to be connected through Christ.
God Bless,

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Barnes Family Update

A month has passed since our last update and while I endeavor to write something that may be remotely interesting; I sit and tremble lest we lose one of our 6 blog members.  Over the past few weeks we have experienced many things running the gambit from mundane to quirky.  While Kalocsa is a sleepy little town, not really on a road to anywhere, we live on the main walking street which doubles as an echo chamber for all the bustle and bell ringing of this thriving metropolis.  Here are some of the sounds of Kalocsa: across the street is the Kalocsa radio station, which has provided our home with the smooth sounds of popular music ranging from “I Would Do Anything For Love” by Meatloaf to a very occasional praise song. Above the radio station sits a bell clock, which chimes on the hour, with a nice little chime to let us know it is only an hour till we get to hear the lovely chime again. Next to the radio station is a bar that has provided a nice New York urban nightlife ambiance till two in the morning the past three Saturday nights. The wild life of music and screaming people dovetailed into a nice reminder from the three Catholic churches around our house, that it was five a.m. and time to start thinking about going to church. While I am not Catholic it does make me wonder at 5 a.m. as I am listening to the bells, if this method of waking the city at that hour with bells, would cause me to want to go to church.
While our family has been here for one-twelfth of a year, I was reminded this week that Kalocsa has been here for a thousand years sitting on the edge of the old Roman Empire, and next to a river that has been here even longer I think. I also have been reminded that the God who ruled over it a thousand years ago, continues His rule today, and has brought us into its sphere for some reason, of which I am still a little unclear. When we left the U.S. I had a sense that we were to come and wait.  The past few weeks we have seen several things happening, of which I will update you on in a dry and matter-of-fact manner. But before we get to all the fun details, I thought I would add this little thought. After settling in to work, and figuring out all the details of life, it took me about twelve minutes to begin asking God, “so why am I here?” The past couple of weeks, Heidi and I have been praying and asking God, who has been here longer than thirty days, to help us wait on him and be patient. We have been taking time to pray, and trying to wait for the open doors that we know God is opening before us, even when we want to take a sledgehammer to a few walls to make our own doors.  We really do thank you for your support and prayer for us, as we continue to wait on God, and seek Him here in Kalocsa. We ask that you pray for us, that we would have wisdom and opportunity to share his love with those around us.
Now on to some mundane details about life. For those who are relational and love this stuff, like my dad.

Muriel is going to school full time and is really doing great. It is difficult as no-one really speaks English in her class, so she is fully immersed in Hungarian life, and seems to be adjusting well. Her teacher loves her. Heidi had her teacher over for coffee this last week.  This past week Muriel started Hungarian Folk Dancing as a way to get to know other kids and to learn more of the language, and loves it.  She has a nice friend named Petra who sits next to her at school. She also just bought two little turtles for her birthday with money from the grandparents.

Calvin is going to school part time and Heidi is home schooling him two days a week. He loves P.E. and Drawing class. He seems to be doing well, and has made a friend named Norbi who shares his love of Legos and Star Wars. This week Calvin started soccer and likes it a lot. You can continue to pray for him as it is a more difficult transition for him at school as he has multiple teachers and not one specific teacher that is responsible for his learning, making learning Hungarian harder for him.

Heidi has been keeping busy, inviting the kids’ teachers and friends over, homeschooling both Calvin and Muriel part time, keeping up with the house and getting to know the neighbors. She is getting along really well and enjoying all the sunshine we have here. She has been enjoying cooking new foods, going to the outdoor market to buy eggs from her favorite little Hungarian egg lady, and is now tutoring a high school student one afternoon a week. Actually between keeping up with house work, cooking, Calvin’s schoolwork, and meeting with neighbors she really hasn’t had time to watch any of the Hungarian soap operas like a good homemaker should. You can continue to pray for her, that while she is so fast at making friends and being social, that she doesn’t feel like she should have been good friends with everyone three weeks ago. And also that through these relationships being built that there will be both opportunity and the words to share Jesus with the people around her.

My work continues to be challenging, but enjoyable most of the time. I really like the kids I am working with and am trying to remember that there are other ways that I can pastor them, even though I cannot preach the gospel at this point. The difficulty I am facing at work is the challenge of being immersed in a job where the student and teachers speak very little English. Some days I long for just a normal conversation where I am fully understood without having to work at it.

We began attending a little Hungarian Reformed Church. Kalocsa is primarily Catholic, with a very few smaller protestant churches in the city. Attending the Reformed Church in Kalocsa not only provides us with a place to worship the Lord with other believers, but also provides us with a church to attend during this time of transition that is recognized and accepted in Hungary as a Christian Church, not a cult. This is really important to us as we begin to get to know the people around us in Kalocsa. We really like it, even though it is all in Hungarian. The pastors are a husband and wife named Janos and Emese, and speak English pretty well. Last week, Janos gave me a book with the history of the Reformed church in it. I found this little nugget in there. It was a statement produced by the Synod Council of 1946 during the rule of communism which resulted in greater persecution of the church during the past half-century. I found it to be a confession that translates well for the evangelical church of our time.  It included a the confession of “failure in the faithful fulfillment of the prophetic mission of the Church, neglect in safeguarding the purity of preaching the Word, becoming lukewarm in love, compromising with at worldly power, and so on.” It reminds me that to go to church is to meet with the faithful in Christ, and to encourage each other in our faithfulness to the work He is completing in and through us in the world. Thanks for reading this far in the blog, and I look forward to writing again soon.

God Bless,

Eric Barnes

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Putting the Lug in Luggage

After two months of wandering from Korea to parents homes, to Gyor and then Budapest, our family has finally nestled into our new little apartment here on the walking street of Kalocsa, Hungary.  We arrived a week ago Sunday, and have been busy making this old apartment our new home.  It is a small town, but not too small, and weather has been consistently somewhere between hot and muggy.  Washington rain is sounding alright for the first time in a long time.  Calvin and Muriel are in their first week of total emersion school, and seem to be doing well.  It is a big challenge to be the new kids in school, especially when you can’t understand anything that’s being said and I’m sure I am not nearly sympathetic enough.  Please keep them in your prayers.  I think the biggest challenge our family faces together is slowing down.  Heidi and I feel like we are on activity detox, and are again realizing what life can be like if you don’t have something going every minute of every day.  We had to remind ourselves this week that we have only been here seven days, and while God created the universe in that time, he does not expect us to.  In fact, we are finding joy in waiting on Him, knowing that he has plans for our family this year, and taking time to pray for the people we are encountering here.
Probably my biggest highlight is that our eight pieces of luggage are unpacked, and put away.  At the beginning of our journey to Hungary, we quickly realized the challenge of fitting our stuff in eight containers all weighing fifty pounds or less.  We spent hours, filling, weighing, shifting, re-weighing, re-shifting, tossing, thrice-weighing, until we could not place a feather on them lest we go over our weight limit.  Then we got to the airport only to find that all our carry-on luggage was all overweight by about twenty-three kilos total (which ways approximately fifty pounds).  So we did the mad-scramble repack, exposing all our underwear to all of SeaTac airport.  In my mind, I was cursing the airline company (using only Free-Methodist approved words of course) for their weight restrictions.  But we managed to get on the plane, and land safely in Hungary with almost two hours of sleep and no ulcers. 

We then arrived at the airport and managed to fit all our luggage, our family, Larry Winkles and Paul Mathewson in the mission mini-van.  It was quite the feat.  We hauled our luggage into the Winkle’s (our Free-Methodist missionaries here in Budapest) apartment.  Later, after a trip to Gyor to visit friends, we hauled it all back down to the street, and re-packed it to take to the hostel where we were staying for a week.  I hauled it piece by exactly 50 pound piece up to our room, up a flight of stairs, down a flight of stairs, down a long corridor and up another flight of stairs.  I had training for my English program in Budapest for a week, then with the help of our new friends from Kalocsa, we hauled our luggage back out and fit it all in a little car.  (Another great feat.)  We then arrived in Kalocsa to an apartment on the third floor with no elevator.  As you can imagine, by this point, I was quite grateful for the airline’s strict weight policy on checked baggage.  It may just have saved my back.  It also got me to thinking, that sometimes we don’t like God’s restrictions on what we can do.  “Why won’t God allow me to do this or that” we think?  Maybe the thing we are angry with God today, we praise Him for tomorrow.

In the few short days we have been in Hungary, we have seen God continue to both provide for us, and stretch us.  We are so thankful for all the support we have received from our family and friends.  Without our loved ones back home we could not have embarked on this journey, and so we continue to ask that you lift our family in prayer.

In Christ,

Some Thoughts from Heidi

If I am to be honest with myself one of the things that I most wanted in following Jesus’ leading to Hungary this year was to come to the end of myself and to need Jesus in a deeper, daily way. However, as a type A personality, surrendering myself willfully to Jesus’ will require more than the sacrifices that I had anticipated making, or desired to make.
In preparing to come to Hungary I was willing to sacrifice my comfort, being close to family and friends and wonderful ministry partners, the known and financial stability. However similar to the rich young ruler who approached Jesus and told him all of the sins he hadn’t committed and all of the good things that he had done, Jesus wanted all of him, his whole heart, not only what the rich young man was willing to offer and give to know God better. Jesus offered the young man that which was ultimately the best for him, to surrender that which his security and soul ultimately rested in, whether this was cognitive or subconscious. In the case of this young man in Matthew – it was his wealth.
Similarly, in coming to Hungary Jesus was preparing me by allowing me to shed those things that I thought took my eyes off of him. However in arriving in Hungary as I prayed and asked others to pray that our family both together and as individuals would be truly listening to Jesus’ voice, he revealed to me other areas in my heart and life needing to be surrendered to him.

At this point in my faith journey I find that the hardest things that Jesus’ asks me to give to him is my full trust in his love and provision for my children. Even as I write this tears come to my eyes as I pray for them. In the same way that I know that Jesus was offering the rich young ruler the very best, himself, as well as freedom from his security and trust in anything other than Jesus. So Jesus offers me the very best in offering me himself, Jesus to be enough for me, and to provide for all of my needs.  

In coming to Hungary Eric and I hoped for these ultimate good things for our children, chances for faith to grow, and areas in our lives where as a family we would be ultimately dependent on Jesus. Also important to us was the opportunity for all of us to see and know and love the impoverished and realize that there is more to life than the pursuit of materialism as we would live cross-culturally. However, as God lead, opened doors and paved the way for us to come to Kalocsa, filling us with his peace, it never came to my mind that there was even a possibility that we would be living approximately 8 miles from the only nuclear power plant in Hungary, one of the things that I am the most fearful of. Whether it was because of the age in which I grew up, media representation, Chernobyl or for other reasons I have been deathly afraid of anything nuclear for as long as I can remember.

Flying, meeting new people, speaking another language, sharing life with the impoverished, all of these things held no fear for me. Yet living close enough to a nuclear power plant to have to have a monthly siren drill in our city to make sure that the emergency system is working has held fear over me. Not personal fear for Eric and I, but fear for Calvin and Muriel and the implications of what a malfunction at the power plant could mean for them.

So this is where I am at in my faith journey right now. Jesus once again is saying to me “are you willing to follow?” As I have reflected on my life over the past few months one of the things clear to me was that I didn’t want my life to be ruled by fear, and that  I didn’t want to say “no” to Jesus in any area of my life or fight against his will in my life. There have been many significant times in the past where I can see that Jesus’ answer of “no” to me was the best gift that he ever could have given to me. Even as I desire to grow in my faith, I admit that it is the times of most difficulty and when I am at the end of myself that Jesus works the most in my heart to draw me closer to him and make me more into his image.

So as Eric and I are in full accord that this is where Jesus has lead us for at least this year, and as we have experienced his peace that surpasses all understanding in so many ways, please continue to pray with me that I will be faithful to saying “yes” to Jesus and fully trusting his purpose and plans and love and provision for Calvin and Muriel’s lives as well as my own. I don’t want to miss out on the gifts and growth and ministry that Jesus has for us this year in Kalocsa because of my fears of living so close to a nuclear power plant. Thank you for standing with us in faith, in love, in prayer.

FYI: Kalocsa is a town of approximately 20,000 people who live and have raised their families for generations in no fear of this power plant. The nuclear power plant is located in a neighboring city, Paks. Also, the power plant is of so little concern that I wouldn’t even know about it except for the monthly siren emergency broadcasts. Other close Hungarian friends, one who has worked in the non-nuclear power industry in Hungary for 30 years and another an environmental engineer has said that it is as safe to live in Kalocsa as anywhere else in the country. Also when I did a study online I discovered that all over Europe and in many places in the U.S., especially the East Coast, there are many communities located close to nuclear power plants. So you can pray with me that as I have all of this analytical proof that I am not doing anything dangerous for my children that I would experience Christ’s peace in my heart regarding this fear.

1 John 4:16-19
“And so we know and rely on the love god has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”