23 December, 2012

Two Pictures

So Ben wanted me to blog about some things that I shared at church this evening. I'm doing it now, because if I don't, Grant will suck it out of my head and I will not remember anything that I said!

As Christians, we celebrate many holidays. All of them have differing levels of importance and meaning for each of us, but I think that most Christians can agree that the two most important are Christmas and Easter.

I have always viewed Easter as the most important, because it was the event that secured my salvation. As I was thinking about both events tonight, I was struck by the two pictures of Christ that each holiday presents. Distinct, clear pictures, but completely opposite ones.

The Christ of Easter is triumphant. He is victorious. He has beaten Death; the foe that no man escape.

The Christ of Christmas is a baby. He is small. He is weak. He is helpless.

I can easily identify with the Christ of Christmas. I am small. I am weak. I am helpless.

However, I desperately need the Christ of Easter. I need the victorious warrior who can win the battle.

The two go together in perfect harmony. Without one, we cannot have the other.

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin."
Hebrews 4:15

Over the next few days in our house, we will celebrate the Christ of Christmas. We will celebrate the fact that God would humble Himself to become a tiny baby. Because He was not afraid to humble Himself, He knows exactly what we go through in this broken world. He was cold, wet, and hungry. He experienced tragedy and mourned loved ones. He did all this, so that He could be the Christ of Easter!

19 December, 2012

Grocery Shopping 101

So, I got several responses to my Facebook post, so here is Megan's Guide to Grocery Shopping in Hungary.

1. Try to avoid huge trips at all costs.

  • When you have no car and have to bring your own bags, you are limited by how many bags you have and how much you can carry. The wise nénis ("aunties") of the city have bags on wheels to carry their purchases and I am not ashamed to use one as well!

2. Carry your own bag on you at all times.

  • When you make frequent, small trips to the store, you never know when you will have to stop by to pick up a quick liter of milk. You don't want to have to buy a whole new bag just to carry home your milk and bread. Ben calls his a "Popple," because it folds up into a neat little bundle like the 90's toy.

This is an internet picture. Neither Ben nor I own a Popple. I think. Yet.
3. About that liter of milk.

  • It's in a cardboard box. For the more adventurous, you can get it in a plastic bag.

4. Common items are surprisingly different.

  • Eggs come by the 10s, not the 12s. 
  • Bread is fresh. Many times you bag it and slice it yourself. For those that might have OCD, don't think about where the bread has been or choose an already bagged bread loaf. Oh, and the sticker is not edible, but it does not peel off.
  • Shredded cheese? Nope, buy the whole thing and shred it yourself. Oh, and cheddar? Either ridiculously expensive or completely unavailable. You will learn to love trappista; a salty, mild white cheese.
5. When Hungarians like something, it comes in 500 different kinds.
  • There is an entire case in our grocery store devoted to túro. What is túro, you ask? Cottage cheese. But you can get it creamy, you can get it dry, you can get it flavored, you can get it bite-sized and covered in chocolate. Do I sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump yet?
  • Remember trappista? So. Many. Options. 
  • Chocolate? A whole aisle full
  • Wine? 3 aisles full
  • Paprika? psh, you have sweet paprika, spicy paprika, deli paprika, paprika spreads, and paprika flavored chips. The word "paprika" actually means "pepper" in Hungarian, so I think you can tell who made it popular!
6. Look up the Hungarian word before you go, but do not expect it to be called that.
  • Some of you may remember my cumin post. Yeah... nothing like accidentally buying a ton of caraway to teach you THIS lesson.
  • Paprika- vegetable pepper. Feketebors- black pepper
  • bor- wine, bors- pepper
7. Do not go shopping on a Saturday morning.
  • Just don't.
8. Do not expect anyone to be aware of their own locations or the location of their carts
  • Have enough self awareness for yourself and the rest of the people in the grocery store. If someone runs their cart into yours because they were not looking, they will give YOU a nasty look.
  • Ben and I have developed the "dive bomber & fighter plane" system, particularly if we have lost our minds enough to go on a Saturday morning. Ben moves slower in the large aisles and I dart in like a fighter plane and grab 2-3 items we need in the crowded, smaller aisles. I return to him to drop the parcels and receive my next mission. We have never lost a man in combat utilizing this method.
9. Malls are the best places to find large grocery stores
  • Every mall in the city has a large grocery store in the basement. The store at our mall is called InterSpar, but at other malls you can find Match, Tesco, and Auchan. 
  • There are little grocery stores all over the city, but if you want more selection and harder-to-find items, get thee to a mallery!
10. Throw out your idea of how a grocery store is organized in the States
  • There is nothing illogical about how sections are organized here, it's just not like it is in the States. Canned or jarred fruits and vegetables line the walls of the produce section. You will find your tomato sauce next to the corn. Pasta is over by the oil and flour and cereal is in the bakery.
11. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but choose something other than cereal.
  • You know that box of cereal you snagged for $2 last week with a coupon? It's $7 here and there are no large boxes.
  • Cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, bread, and deli meat are the most common ingredients in a Hungarian's breakfast. I wish I liked all those things, because eating all those raw veggies is a much healthier alternative to bacon and eggs or cereal!
12. How do we get out?!?! It's a trap!!!
  • Don't expect it to be too easy to leave the store without buying something. At the InterSpar at our mall, there is only 1 entrance and only 1 exit if you leave without buying something (customer service). They are at opposite ends of the store.
  • If you try and sneak out one of the check out lines, you will be firmly reprimanded and sent to customer service to exit there.
13. If you have ever been to an Aldi, you have a pretty good idea of the European model for grocery stores.
  • You need a coin to get a cart.
  • The checkers are all seated at the registers.
  • You bag your own groceries. Preferably, after the transaction is complete and in a different location.
  • You need to bring your own bags or purchase them at the store.
14. Above all, do NOT forget to weigh and sticker your fresh produce and make sure EVERYTHING has a tag or a barcode on it.
  • If you get to the checker and your produce does not have a sticker, you will not be getting that produce. The same goes for anything missing a tag. You REALLY do not want to see the nasty looks you will get from the checker and the people behind you in line, if you decide you still want whatever item you had. It's just not pretty and really not worth it. Last week, I did not get the kiwis I wanted because they did not have a tag on them.
15. Speaking of fresh produce...
  • Better than going to a grocery store, go to a covered market. Every district has one and you can get cheaper prices and fresher items. Not only that, you will find a larger variety and you can also get cuts of meat. The one catch is that you have to be confident enough in your Hungarian to get what you want!

In many ways I prefer the way groceries are done here. There is a lot more emphasis on fresh produce and not putting preservatives in foods. You will not find things canned here as often, but you will find things in glass jars. I prefer the glass jars to the more common plastic jars in the States. They are easier to recycle and if you save them and remove the labels, they make for great containers for Christmas gifts!

That's all for today! I don't know that any of you will ever need to go grocery shopping in Hungary, but if you do, you have some basics to start with!

10 December, 2012

Ministry update

Boldog Karácsonyt!  Merry Christmas!

BrrrrRRRRrrrrRRRRrrrr it's COLD in Budapest!  About a week ago we dropped down below freezing and it's forecasted to stay that way for awhile.  That's okay with us, though, our flat is nice and cozy, we have warm coats, and Megan is her own furnace these days :D  A few of you have requested more news on the ministry front, so that's what I'll try to do a bit of here.

First off, a few followups from our Summer update.  That team from Florida came and for 2 nights we hosted what we called "Cheesecake Night".  It turned out to be "American Dessert" night with live music and LOTS of guests.  God timed things perfectly, because just down the street from The Forum there was a craft beer festival and with our open windows and live band, several people stumb...I mean, "visited" our outreach.  This led to some great conversations and the gospel was shared with many.  I personally chatted with a Spanish guy who was visiting Budapest with a couple friends on his way to medical school in Slovakia.  I never got his name, but I still pray for him.

The English club in Törökbálint didn't happen this fall, but we had plenty of other things on our plates to keep us VERY busy.  We did indeed help lead an Alpha Course and overall it has been a wonderful experience.  For those of you from Grace Bible Church, it's not too far off from the Essentials course. The meals and fellowship, as well as the weekend away, really unified the group and enhanced the discussion times.  One lady became a believer in Jesus and another is right on the cusp of believing if she hasn't already.

What I'm most excited about these days is what God is doing with Agora.  The other American pastor, Trey, and I still meet weekly, but we greatly miss our Hungarian brother who is doing his best at Oxford.  Pray for him and his family, actually, if you don't mind.  Life is tough living in another country where they speak a different language!  Add studying at OXFORD to that, 2 small kids and a 3rd on the way... Yeah, prayers.

Okay, back to Agora.  One of the other great things about the Cheesecake night is some of the new people who have begun attending on Sunday afternoons.  A couple of them are Budapesti who first found us that night and have been a part of our family every since.  A few months ago, Trey took a Sunday off from his series on II Corinthians to basically have a church meeting.  He asked everyone, "Why do you come to Agora?"  "What brings you back?".  It was a wonderful afternoon, and we came away with 3 distinctives that comprise what I've been calling "The Agora Flavor".  1) The Bible is taught clearly.  2) We discuss the sermon/passage as a group.  3) We pray for each other.  Those three things are the core of our service now, and new people have continued to visit and stay.  God is really doing something with that approach and blessing Agora.  We do music as we can (no worship leader), communion every 2nd Sunday and meet early the last Sunday for a discussion table meal.  The service is always translated into Hungarian or English depending on who's teaching (I'll start preaching once a month in January) and there's a Hungarian small group on Wednesdays that also attracts new people.

That's Agora in a big nutshell.  Something else that gets me all excited is dreaming about the future of Agora, and how we should grow.  I know I've only been at this for a year, I don't have a seminary degree, I'm still learning the languaculture and I don't know that much about church planting, but I have a dream and it puts a smile on my face :D  Agora can't get big, if we're doing to keep those 3 distinctives.  I think when we get up to 35-40 people, it will be time to multiply into two groups of about 20.  Think cell division, but I'm avoiding that word since it has a negative connotation.  Trey, Dávid and I feel like we already have another leader candidate to help with a new Agora, the guy who's currently serving as our translator.  God has clearly gifted him with discernment and he has an ability to explain Scripture or ideas in ways that are very understandable.  Anyway, I can see that strategy working until the whole city of Budapest is inundated (or saturated if you still like that word) with at least 1 Agora in each of the 23 districts!  From that, why not Agoras in Pécs?  Debrecen?  Sopron?  Győr?

I love Agora, I love getting to serve there and that being my "job".  I love witnessing what God is doing with His people and how they shine for Him.  I've been learning a lot about what 'church' is this last year, and I think the authors of Tangible Kingdom said it best, "If [Christians] embody the message, they won't have to target people or go after them.  They enjoy the alternative of waiting for people to approach them with curiosity and interest because of what was seen."  Agora EMBODIES the message of Jesus, and God is drawing people in to hear about His love, grace and mercy.

Thanks for letting us be here in Budapest, this is almost more fun than a missionary is supposed to have!