|HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL|
Ministering to Homeschoolers in Hungary and Romania
Homeschooling is legal in Hungary and Romania, but the movement is still in its beginning stages. Bruce Purdy, a pastor from Lancaster, Ohio, recently attended homeschool conferences in these two countries to encourage and support a number of these newly homeschooling families. Senior Counsel Chris Klicka of Home School Legal Defense Association consulted with and helped prepare Pastor Purdy for the homeschool legal climate in Romania and Hungary. He also provided him with handouts on homeschooling to distribute to the families there.
I have safely returned from my trip to Hungary and Romania. What beautiful countries these people have. Yet in the midst of the beauty lies a desperate need: a need for the Gospel and for the truth of God's Word.
The purpose of the trip was to speak to the homeschool families in both countries. They have a bi-annual homeschool conference and were seeking a speaker to encourage and teach them about this educational opportunity. Through a joint friend, I came into contact with the Director of Westminster Biblical Missions, Dr. Robert Rapp. His ministry is the one who sponsors these conferences.
I traveled on May 5th 2004, and spent 14 days ministering both as the speaker of the homeschool conferences and also preaching 2 times each Lord's Day as well as sharing with several homeschool families during the week. It was such a blessing!
I spoke the first weekend to the Hungarian homeschool families. The idea of speaking through an interpreter was a challenge at first. It took a couple of sessions to get comfortable, but after a while it flowed smoothly. I presented 5 sessions, addressing the biblical foundations of home education, the father's role in leading the family, socialization, curriculum and educational tips for the homeschooling family, and closing with a session I love to give, faithfulness in the trenches. I sought to give the attendees a "shot in the arm," providing them with a view of God's faithfulness and how they should also model faithfulness in their personal lives and in leading their families.
There were about 24 in attendance, a far cry from the national conferences I have attended in the United States, but what a joy and encouragement to work with these new families and encourage them in their decision to home educate! Most of the families have younger children and are just beginning to home educate. It reminds me of what the home education movement was like for us back in the early 1980's. They have little curriculum translated into their language, so I gave them ideas for the textbooks they did have and some thoughts about using a unit study approach.
On the Lord's Day of the first week, I had the opportunity to preach two times. I gave my message "Whose Side are You On," encouraging the church members to stand firm in their faith. They seemed very receptive and appreciative of the message.
I did get a break to take the train from Miskolc into Budapest for a day of sightseeing. What a tremendous city! I find the beauty of the early European cities fascinating. The Parliamentary building is a huge structure designed in the Gothic style. I asked my host about their form of government. I was seeking to give them some ideas about how to influence individual lawmakers. No such luck! The general population does not vote for a person, they vote for a political party which, in turn, votes for the lawmakers who are chosen from within the party structure.
We spent the next several days driving around Transylvania (which is the Western third of Romania). We did some sightseeing, but primarily met with several homeschool families who wanted to talk with me. Many had the same questions as any new homeschooling family. However, they deal with one added difficulty. Home education is illegal in Romania. Most of the families beginning to home educate are doing so because their children are under the compulsory age of 7. They are attempting to get some form of "umbrella school" approved from which they can home educate legally.
However, one man I met with just broke my heart. He is dealing with so many burdens at this time. He is Hungarian in a predominantly Romanian area. He is a new pastor attempting to build several churches outside of the state church infrastructure. He also is taking on the burden of teaching his son. He is getting intense pressure from both sets of in-laws to put the child into public school. Starting this fall, he will be breaking the law because his child will then be compulsory age. Needless to say, these are heavy issues for a 28-year-old young man attempting to do church planting.
He put me on the spot by asking me "what would YOU do if you were in my shoes". Honestly, even with all the years of experience I have, I had a hard time answering him. I asked if he firmly believed that the Scripture taught that he should educate his children outside of the public school system. He said yes. I prayed with him and challenged him with the thought that "perhaps the Lord is raising you into the situation you are in for such a time as this." Many of these young men are strong in the faith and God may choose to use them to blaze the way, similar to what many parents dealt with in the early 1980's here in the States.
The next couple of days I spent in Szovata where the Romanian homeschool conference was offered. We actually met in a small lodge that had been recently built by Westminster Biblical Missions. It is high in the mountains, on a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley. Of course, with a view like that, you can expect the access to be a little difficult. A small dirt road over 2 miles long is the only road to the lodge. It has a small kitchen and a meeting area on the first floor that is both the dining area and meeting hall. They have 3 stories of rooms for people to stay for the weekend. It is really a nice facility.
I spoke 7 times at this conference, sharing many of the same topics that I spoke on at the Hungary conference. Saturday afternoon I drove about 6 hours to the city of Arad. This area is strongly influenced by the Baptists who have been there for a long time.
While talking to the ministers here in this city I discovered that those churches which are recognized by the state (which means their bylaws have been accepted), may worship freely, but any other churches are not allowed to build public buildings. They cannot be "in the public eye." They must either worship in private homes or privately owned office space.
On Monday, the last day of my trip, I traveled from Arad to Bucharest (9 hours) for a radio interview with a local Christian radio station on the topic of home education. It was an hour-long show and went extremely well. It was not a live show and was supposed to be broadcast on Thursday. I noticed that one of the show hosts was skeptical. She kept coming back to the thought that not everyone was capable of home educating their own children. However, by the end of the show, I think she had a much better idea of the benefits of home education. I closed the interview by emphasizing the point that, while home education may not be for everyone, I firmly believe that it should be an option for every parent that wishes to do so.
Overall, the entire trip was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn about other cultures for this had been my first time out of the United States. I learned that people are basically the same no matter where you live. Except for the language barrier, we had much in common. I was delighted to be able to share my thoughts and experiences about home education with these families. I pray that I was an encouragement and that they also can grasp the vision to home educate their children. I also had the privilege to share the Gospel with many godly saints and teach them from the Scripture.
I firmly believe in the work of Westminster Biblical Missions and the men who are building these churches. I think it is much more effective to train those who are in the country, know the language and the culture, and give them the biblical and theological foundations to plant strong churches that are biblically sound.
I would encourage each of you who have been a part of my work during this trip (either through your prayers or financial support) to seriously consider your continued support of this ministry. I was greatly encouraged by the efforts of these men and believe that they will be effective, Lord willing. I would ask that you continue praying for this work. If you or your church wishes to financially support this mission work, you can contact them directly at:
Dr. Robert Rapp
Westminster Biblical Missions
PO Box 602
Carbondale, PA 18407
Thanks to each of you who joined with me in this mission outreach and I pray that God will continue to work in each of your lives for His glory.
In His service,
Pastor Bruce Purdy
Faith Bible Church