Monday, August 18, 2014

30/30 Bucket List: Go to Europe

We are ready to go.

-Viktor and Kristen Rozsa

The night I met Kristen she was wearing a strange hat.  She was trying to be a toadstool.  Her daughter, Emily, was dressed as a garden gnome.  It was a costume party at a mutual friend's home.

The next time I saw her she was wearing another strange hat.  She was trying to be a salt shaker.  This time Emily was a princess and new little baby Gabi was a pink fuzzy bug.  That was also the night I met her husband, Viktor, who was posing as a pepper shaker.  It was a year later at a costume party at a mutual friend's home.

By the time we would arrive at the annual Halloween party the following year, she and Viktor dressed as baristas with three (add newborn Lillian) of the cutest little frappuccinos ever, we would greet one another with warm hugs. As friends. And I would have seen her throughout the year -- dressed in normal clothing -- more times than we had kept track of.

It was a few months after that second party, after we had attended a dance recital for our friends' daughter with the Rozsa's and helped our friends move with the Rozsa's and celebrated a new page -- a new building -- for our church family with the Rozsa's, that Johnie and I sat on our couch to discuss what we felt like God was leading us to do in the upcoming year.

We do this every so often and it isn't unusual for us to have different goals and visions and dreams.  When we agreed in unison, even in the details, that we both were compelled to "support Viktor and Kristen" we knew that was one thing we would do right away.

Viktor and Kristen were (and are) preparing to become long-term missionaries in Hungary with One Mission Society.  Viktor grew up in Hungary and it was at an OMS English Camp there when he came to know Christ.  A few years later, he would travel to the U.S. to complete a theological education in hopes of returning back to Hungary with OMS to reach youth for Christ in the same way he had been saved.

It was in the U.S. that he would meet and marry Kristen, an Indiana girl with a heart for missions.  And together they decided to devote this season of their life to reaching Hungary for Christ.

I could write a whole series of blog posts on the work they have done and the sacrifices they have made in their efforts to get to Hungary.  And I'm sure I don't know close to all of it.  (But they would be embarrassed, and possibly even upset with me, and that would take a long time to write anyway.)

I will say: Their passion, their willingness to serve and their unique experiences and gifts make them stand out in a spectacular way.  Very, very rarely do we meet missionaries with the education, the fire and the deep-rooted knowledge of the culture to send to foreign fields.  That was obvious to us right away and is obvious to anyone who spends time with them.

But we have been blessed to get to know the Rozsas not just as missionaries, but as people.  As friends.  In the last year and a half, they have celebrated with us and mourned with us and stood beside us in the nitty gritty of everyday life.

And so when I pulled out the slip of paper from the bucket filled up at my party that said "go to Europe" everyone thought they knew the culprit: The Rozsas. 

They had already invited us to visit them in Hungary.  More than once.  And Johnie and I have always been open and eager for that possibility.  In fact, Viktor and Kristen hope to make it to Hungary before my next birthday and it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Johnie and I might visit them there.  In the next twelve months.

But they weren't responsible for this particular challenge.  Another party guest, who wasn't very familiar with the Rozsa's mission dreams, wrote that one down.  And he even apologized later when he realized I only had a year to complete such an expensive challenge.  He thought it was a true "before you die" bucket list.

Holding that slip of paper, I felt a twinge of resignation that I wouldn't be able to complete my bucket list this year. But I also had a bit, a tiny glimmer, of hope.  Hope that God would actually pull something off so grand as to send my friends to Hungary as missionaries and allow me to visit them there all in just a year's time. (Though Viktor and Kristen have been working toward this goal for several years.)

Because here's the deal: I've already decided that if I go to Europe in my thirtieth year it will be to visit the Rozsas.  But here's the even bigger deal: Whether or not I go to Europe ever doesn't really matter.  What really matters is getting people like Viktor and Kristen, full of heart and talent, there as quick as we can.  So they can join the exciting kingdom work already happening.

And as sad as it makes me to think of this family I have grown to love and depend on moving so far away for several years, it makes me even sadder to think of them not getting to live out this dream -- this calling -- they have given everything for.  It makes me even sadder to think of never knowing what positive difference they could make in Hungary.

Reading "go to Europe" instantly had an automatic, silent, "to visit Viktor and Kristen" attached to it for me.  And in the days following it was like "help send Viktor and Kristen" was added to my list as an extra challenge.  And so that is why this is the first challenge I am tackling. 

Not many people read this blog, but if each of you took the time to help with this goal it could make a huge difference.  And that is what I am asking of you.  Do what you can:
  • Pray. This isn't the cop-out option.  It's the most important.  Pledge to pray for Viktor and Kristen, and Emily and Gabi and Lillian.  That they will remain strong and courageous.  That they will share the good news boldly when they get to Hungary.  That they will be given the resources they need to get to Hungary.  Pray for them daily.  Pray for their peace in uncertain times.  Pray for the hundreds and thousands of miles they travel each month to be safe and fruitful and as enjoyable as traveling from home to home and church to church with three little ones can be.  And pray for their encouragement and steadfastness and clarity to do what God has called them to.  Because as every missionary (and every human) would tell you, it doesn't always go like you thought it would.  Viktor and Kristen thought they would already be in Hungary.  And they still aren't sure they will get there as quickly as their revised plan would take them, an uncertainty that makes coordinating a move around the world even more difficult.
  • Get to know them. Visit their blog, their missions page, their facebook page.  Follow them on twitter.  Call them or email them.  Invite them to your home or to your church to share their story.  You'll understand what I've said about them if you do.  And -- bonus -- if you live close enough and play your cards right, you might even get some of the best homemade pizza you've ever put in your mouth. Or Hungarian goulash. Or chocolate eclair. Or... I digress.
  • Connect and share.  Tell others about Viktor and Kristen.  Your church family, your friends, your relatives, your co-workers and classmates.  They may be able to help or they may know someone who can.  
  • Donate. If you are able, please consider donating to their mission (click here).  It takes money to get to Hungary and live there. This is impossible to accomplish without the funds necessary.  Every "little bit" is actually quite significant in helping them reach their goal. You can make a one-time donation, or a monthly pledge.  And your pledge can start now, or you can pledge to begin your support once they arrive in Hungary for their term. Small monthly pledges add up.  
On their blog, Viktor and Kristen said simply, "We are ready to go." And their life speaks those words louder than they could even shout.  They just need the resources.  Will you help?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

30/30 Bucket List

Challenge accepted.
-Barney Stinson

You know that awkward feeling when you're at your birthday party and you see people huddled over some note cards in a corner? Some are giggling. You try not to look directly at them, but you have a sinking suspicion something is up?

Me too.

As I would learn later that evening -- after I worked up the courage to peek in the corner -- my family and friends were creating a bucket list for me. Thirty challenges to complete (and photograph) in my thirtieth year.

I am not sure they realize just how seriously I take these kinds of things. (As evidenced by one card which said simply, "spacewalk." And I do plan to do that, by the way.  This year.) Basically, I had been handed what would become thirty dares to complete over the course of a year.  And the thing about a dare is you have to do it. It's a dare. So you have to. No matter what.

It was with a nervous stomach that I reached my hand in the bucket to pull out the first card. "Dangle your toes in the ocean." Forget dare... excuse to go to the beach!  Because now I have to. This year.

And I have to say my friends were mostly very nice (digging 1,000 pounds of sweet potatoes aside). I got a lot of vacation, evenings out and expensive gift challenges. In retrospect, they were almost too nice. I felt like if I completed every challenge they issued, I'd arrive at 31 a lazy, sunburned glutton.

But still, it is a challenge. A dare. It cannot be ignored. So if I must go on multiple vacations, I will. (I hope.)

And even though spacewalk wasn't the only one that seemed impossible to tackle in 365 days, I have decided to go for it. And for humanity's sake, to fill in the blank spaces remaining in the bucket list with things that might be a bit more impactful than spending thousands of dollars on treats for myself.

Honestly, I don't know if I'll be able to complete the bucket list. But I do hope I have fun (which accomplishes one challenge all by itself!) and make some kind of positive difference trying.

Stay tuned!