Month: December 2005

A Fascinating Dinner

One of the pleasures of living here is getting to know people whose lives are far more interesting than ours. Last night was one of those occasions.

The neighbor who owns the house next to ours lives with her mom and sister’s family in another part of Budapest. Along with our landlord, Peter, we went to dinner at this other house where one of the first people we met was her mom, Nora. Nora spoke excellent English and had amazing things to tell us.

Their beautiful house has a history. Purchased before WWII by Nora’s parents, its current ownership by her family is a miracle. Her father died when she was young, so she and her mother managed the property for most of its history this century. During the Nazi occupation of Budapest they turned it into a shelter for Jewish refugees at great risk to their own safety. Then, during the Siege of Budapest (November through February, 1944-45) by the Soviets, they survived in the house and kept many others safe until it ended.

One of the most interesting turns came shortly after the Soviet occupation of Hungary and the subsequent Communist government. Since all houses with more than 6 rooms became national property, they subdivided their house into three apartments, each with less than 6 rooms. The unfortunate consequence of this move was that anyone was now free to declare themselves renters in their house, and a prostitute availed herself of this opportunity. For 25 years she lived there, and at one point she sold her apartment to another family! Eventually the family abandoned the place, and Nora and her two daughters (one of whom is our neighbor) saw this as a chance to re-aquire the apartments. The whole house has been in their ownership since.

Events such as these, had they occurred in an American house, would qualify it as a signficant point of historical interest. In Budapest, this is just another house like most of the rest, and the history we learned only covered half the house’s life!

[This site (http://www.osa.ceu.hu/galeria/sites/siege/framee.html) has a great history, with photos, of the Seige of Budapest and what the city looked like during those days. Click “Sections” on the left first, rather than “Photos.”]

Happy Birthday, Andrew!

2005 Andrews Birthday

Andrew Gets Measured

Each year we mark the height of our kids on their birthday on the Hertzler Family Stick. Cathy’s and my mark stood far into the distance relative to our kids’ mark – until this year. Andrew grew 11.5 cm (4.5 inches). This picture makes me look taller than Andrew, but the difference is now really just a few centimeters.

Happy Birthday, Andrew!

Finally – photo galleries!

Tonight I finally solved one of the most stubborn configuration problems yet on Hertzlers.com; getting software installed that displays photos here rather than Flickr.com.

This is what I mean. Click here to see what I finally got working.

It is similar to what has been running for the last six weeks, but now it has the same common header (and navigation across the top) as the rest of the site.

Ironically after getting this working I may go back to Flickr.com for daily photo posts and rely on my local software to post galleries of photos. We’ll see.

Annual Christmas Eve Ice Skating

Ice Skating at Hero Square

Ice Skating Near Hero Square

Each year much of the American missionary community goes ice skating on Christmas Eve, the day when everyone else here is home celebrating the holiday. This year was another fun time, but all of us had aching feet when it was over. Lunch at McDonald’s made everything OK again.

Mallory, Rebecca, and Kendall joined us for this family picture.

Dog and Cat

Annie and the Cat

Annie’s New Nemesis, Cat

Last week when the cold weather hit, the local stray cat which Audrey has been feeding kicked the “Let-Your- Neighborhood-Cat- In” campaign up to the next level. With big saucer eyes she peered in our back door and meowed for all she was worth. It worked.

Cat immediately endeared herself to all the right people. Right away she curled up on the couch with Andrew who had been wanting a pet which preferred him. Since Audrey is allergic to cats, the mere presence of a cat being cute in the house was enough to please her. And Cathy’s world was far better knowing she had reduced feline suffering in the world. My warnings about fleas, dirt, scratched up furniture, and the alienation of Annie fell on deaf ears.

Before I knew it the question had become, “Can she spend the night in Andrew’s room?” We completely skipped the “Can Cat come in the house and stay for a couple hours?” stage.

Furthermore, Cat clearly established her authority over Annie. A few swift claw swipes to the curious, but stupid, dog face made this point. An extra loud hiss and a show of sharp little cat teeth made the point emphatically. Poor Annie isn’t sure what to do, so she generally goes about business as though the cat doesn’t exist. It appears to be a coping mechanism.

As I write, Andrew is searching for Cat so he can put her out and go to bed. I think Cat knows this and is hiding so she can stay inside all night. I’m sure the whole thing is part of her plan to live inside permanently.

I have a bad feeling about all of this.

Trip to the Post Office

Budaors

Budaörs Two Days Before Christmas

Today is a slow day in the office, so I decided to take a batch of letters to the post office myself. It’s a beautiful day, so the trip was a nice break from being inside for the last few weeks. I hopped on the bus across town and enjoyed watching mid-day village life happen. The whole experience is one of the things that makes Budaörs such a nice place to live.

Last night I had an interesting discussion about Wal-Mart and the effect it’s had on small American towns. Our little village has similar corporate giants (Tesco, Auchan, Praktiker, etc.) planted just across its highway, and I shop at those locations because it is most convenient and cheaper.

But occasionally it’s nice to do things the old-fashioned way and do business in town. It’s hard for me to believe this lifestyle will exist much longer near the larger cities of Hungary, but it’s nice to see while it lasts!

GodLovesRussia.com test results

Yesterday the “RLIM 5,” declared an official end to our ad campaign test of www.GodLovesRussia.com on Google.ru.

At the end of the day we decided to keep the site and ads going since the results were so positive, but we need to find other ways to involve a coordinator who speaks Russian.

In the 10 weeks when we ran this very imperfect test there were about 70 people who indicated a decision to trust Jesus at the end of the GodLovesRussia.com site. 50 of those people submitted a response form to one of our volunteers who followed them up by email.

This was super!

Equally as interesting, 23% of the people who clicked our ad on Google.ru also indicated they had made a decision to trust Jesus! That is an amazingly high percentage.

There were two limiting factors in our test, though; words and people.

We didn’t find search words that were very popular with Google.ru‘s audience. Overall we saw our ad run only 40.000 (40,000) times during this period. Other similar ad campaigns see 40.000 (40,000) ads run each day.

Had we discovered good search terms (and I am sure we will in the future), we still had only two people able to respond to these visitors. Even if we were able to attract more people to the site, our two volunteers wouldn’t have been able to handle too much more response.

The words of Jesus are still true today, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” – Matthew 9:37

Nevertheless we are excited to see what God is doing through this approach!

Dad Drives on Snow Days

snow-day

Morning View Of Our Street

Snow has fallen differently this year, a little at a time. Never enough to sled and never enough to get school canceled, but just enough to often require Dad to drive morning carpool on the icy roads instead of Mom.

Moving to a winter climate after 12 years in Orlando, I expected the worst. My previous blizzard-condition driving experiences have been very negative; in one I rear-ended the car ahead of me in which Cathy was riding! But driving here in the snow has not been hard. In fact finding a place to park in downtown Budapest is still far more stressful.

Bouldering

Andrew Audrey Bouldering

Andrew and Audrey Bouldering

Today we went bouldering at an incredibly cool place here in Budapest. It was a room of climbable walls (all past vertical) with a giant simulated boulder in the middle. The kids climbed for about 90 minutes, but my forearms were spent after just 10! After that it was fun watching the more advanced climbers navigate the upside down passages like Spiderman.

I’m almost motivated to build up my forearm strength and go back for more fun, as I’m sure I’ll be taking Andrew and Audrey back again soon.

Bucharest Focus Group

(Yes, this is a composite picture. Think of it like a photographic sketch!)

Focus Group Bucharest

Bucharest Focus Group

Our Bucharest campus staff members were wonderfully patient today as we pressed them with questions about how they worked and what information they need to do their jobs. To say that today’s meeting was anything more than boring would be exaggerating, but sometimes getting the job done just takes mundane work. In another sense it was interesting to hear how our staff members do their jobs.

We heard their struggle. Overall their goal is to create student-led groups which take responsibility for reaching their campuses with the message about Jesus Christ. They want to spend their time talking to students about Jesus and leading spiritual growth groups, but in order to accomplish this they do a lot of planning, preparing, and organizing. When you measure their planning, preparing, and organizing it doesn’t create a sense of having accomplished a lot of evangelism.

Our challenge is to design a system that measures how their activities bring them closer to their goals while at the same time fostering a sense of trust and dependence on God’s supernatural work in other people’s hearts.

We met Santa in Bucharest

Jerry-Santa-Scott-Bucharest

Jerry, Scott, and Santa in Bucharest

Today ended up mostly as a travel day, but I got to catch up some on my email pile, too.

Our time in Bucharest will be short; just one day to meet with our staff before we return to Budapest. It should be sufficient, and we don’t want to pull them away from their university ministry any longer than necessary.

Dinner tonight was at a mall, and greeting us there was Santa. He’s everywhere. Also everywhere in Bucharest are apartment blocks. We are staying in a friend’s apartment tonight amongst the sea of other apartment buildings.

Earlier today someone mentioned that Christmas was at the end of next week. This obviously can’t be true, as there is far too much left to do before Christmas for it to be that soon! I even asked my new friend here, Santa, but he wouldn’t comment.

Off to Bucharest

Dropped off the Kelloggs in the snow at the airport this morning for their ride home, and I’ll be returning there tomorrow afternoon for my ride to Bucharest. I join a new co-worker, Scott, who will be leading a focus group time with our Romanian staff to help us learn what they need to do their jobs better. We are producing a web-based ministry measurement system, and this information will help us build something that serves our staff members.

Scott comes to us by way of the mission agency formerly known as The Alliance. In Europe they disbanded, thus nullifying their name. We reaped a benefit of this break-up by getting free agent, Scott, who knows a lot about designing the type of application we are building.

Back from Vienna

The Kelloggs and Hertzlers in Vienna

Kelloggs, Hertzlers having a good time in Vienna.

The Kelloggs and we went to Vienna for a couple days and saw the Christmas Market, Schönbrunn Palace, Starbucks, etc. We laughed a lot and froze a lot. It was a nice break.

They’re Here!

Cathy and Catherine

Cathy and Catherine – usual antics

After an epic journey along the way, Andy and Catherine Kellogg finally arrived. After sitting on two different planes for over 9 hours, neither of which ever left the ground, they finally got on a plane that took off. This was only after another two hour delay on the ground, though! I’ve never heard quite a story of airline mechanical problems and delays.

They managed to stay conscious through dinner and even sat through Andrew and Audrey’s basketball games.

Andrew in motionAudrey in action
Andrew In Motion – #25 < <<--- >>> Audrey’s first basketball game

Too busy to write

I’m glad none of you are paying subscribers to this blog, or I’d be going out of business soon.

Our good friends, the Kelloggs, arrive tomorrow, and we are looking forward to showing them Budapest and Vienna.

Unfortunately for us all, their carrier postponed their flight out of Chicago by a day (mechanical problems), so rather than having just spent the afternoon with them, we’ll pick them up tomorrow morning and try to make up the lost time.

A Doggone Good Time!

The neighbors who live across the street run some sort of unusual business on their property. Within their fenced yard are several low-lying buildings, a sheep, a dog which is always chained up and barks at me whenever he sees me, and another dog, his compatriot, Freaky Weird Dog. (I don’t know why FWD outranks Chained Dog and gets two daily intervals of freedom). Every weekday morning three yellow delivery trucks load up chimney brushes and various other things here then drive off. Among the trucks and buildings run a flock of chickens.

This morning something was amiss. Locked inside the fenced area was the over-energetic English Setter from down the street. He was hunting chickens, and he was having the time of his life!

When he saw me he proudly trotted up to the fence with his last chicken kill in mouth. The first dead chicken lay neatly by the side of the driveway. The dog’s eyes were gleaming.

His fun notwithstanding, I thought my closest neighbor, the one with the chickens, should have my loyalty over this dog’s owners, so I sided with the chickens and rang their gate bell. No answer.

While I waited, one of the hens came madly flapping her wings, squawking and fleeing across the road. Another minute went by and still no answer. They have three bells at their gate, all labeled in Hungarian, so I wasn’t sure if I was ringing their house or some business across town, but I kept ringing. Meanwhile, another chicken bolted for its life in an explosion of clucking and feathers.

Imagining the carnage taking place just out of my sight around the corner, I abandoned the gate bells and tried to find a way to get the dog out. By then he was lining up for another kill, and it was clear that even if I found an opening in the fence, this dog was not about to leave. It was then I decided there was nothing to do, and I went home.

I don’t know how this story ends. The dog’s owners drove up a little bit later, but they couldn’t figure out how to get their dog out either. None of us could see how he got in. So I went home thinking about how much fun that dog managed to get himself into this morning and how much disaster those chickens managed to catch at the same time. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow morning and see how many of them are left!

Bartek and Gosia

Bartek-Gosia-2005

Bartek, Gosia and Family

One of our initial efforts for using the Internet to help bring people to Jesus was preparing students to receive the gospel by gaining their trust through serving them with helpful information. On most campuses in Eastern Europe new students, often in a large city for the first time in their lives, are completely on their own. Our university staff members found that by helping these new students they could overcome the “cult” prejudice many Eastern European students have toward non-official-church religious groups. By helping students, our staff members are then well received when they want to talk about Jesus.

Of all the sites our various ministries developed, the Polish site, www.PodPrad.pl, is one of the best. Bartek runs this site.

Tom and I had visited Bartek in Warsaw one spring, and the following fall we returned and saw what he had produced. We were amazed. We asked him how he conceived of his great creation, and he said, “I just did what you guys suggested.” Neither Tom nor I had anything like what he made in mind! He far exceeded anything we suggested.

Here is more from Bartek’s pen.

My name is Bartek Serkowski. My wife is Gosia. We have been married for 7 years now and have two daughters: Joanna (6) and Karolina (2) and the next baby is coming soon!

We are Campus Crusade for Christ staff members. And we are involved in Campus Ministry in Gdansk, Poland (beautiful city at the Baltic Sea where “Solidarity” movement started). Gosia joint staff 11 years ago and I have been staff for 7 years now. Our vision is to reach all Gdansk students for Christ. We do it in many ways: big evangelistic events, small groups, personal meetings etc. Those who want to trust Jesus can join small groups and build their faith.

We are also a part of a team publishing a student magazine “POD PRAD” (which means “AGAINST the TIDE”). I am personally responsible for a pre-evangelism website of the magazine www.podprad.pl. We publish different important topics for students like money, studying, love, fun etc. And we always try to give every Polish student a possibility of starting a relationship with Jesus. We started the website last year, and since then we have had about 1 500 000 total visits. It has been a growing tool in preaching the Good News.

As a teenager I was a normal young man, though I was quite a shy and withdrawn person. I was brought up by very religious (catholic) parents and I am grateful for that. So I always tried to be good and honest and I think others perceived me like that. However sometimes I did things God did not like. And I wanted Him to like me. I thought I would go to heaven if I did good works.

After I graduated from my high school there was a tragic event in my life. My close friend had a hard accident and he stayed unconscious in a hospital for a month. It made me think and pray. For the first time I started to be afraid of death. I knew I did not deserve eternal life even though I was religious.

Soon after that I met a man from Campus Crusade and he told me God still loves me despite my sins. When Jesus died at the cross He paid a punishment for all my sins. I was shocked when I found the Bible says salvation is for free. Christ said “He who believes in me, though he die, yet will he live”. So I decided to trust Him completely and follow Him. I expressed my faith in prayer. I received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.

Although that day I felt nothing special, today I can say it was the best and the most important decision in my life. Since then I am convinced I have an eternal life. God promises it to everyone who follows Christ. Besides God still changes me for better. Though I am still shy, He gives me courage and makes me more open to others. I think my life is an adventure with God. That is why I want to share about it with others.

Thanks, Bartek!