Szia ~ Greetings

May 2011
from Ars Longa North America and the Ars Longa Foundation, Hungary
Ars Longa North America (ALNA) exists to promote the formation of historical Christian values among young people in East Central Europe to further the development of strong Christian communities. It works primarily with the Ars Longa Foundation in its efforts to offer consultation, fundraising, and encouragement to youth programs associated with the Reformed church in Hungary, the Ukraine, and Croatia. ALNA has chosen to focus its efforts on two facets of Ars Longa’s work: the Reformed high schools in Transcarpathia, Ukraine, and the Ars Longa community development efforts in Baranya County, Hungary.

Barnabas Ferenc Gergely: Pastor on a Mission
When Rev. Gergely arrived in the village of Erdokertes, he was immediately drawn to the hundreds of young people there. Alternatives to clubs were few. Many were bored by village life and just hung out. He was determined to reach them and saw that they needed a place to learn and grow. This vision resonated with Reformed people in the village, and the vision of a building became a reality. Here Pastor Gergely greets parishioners after the worship, Feb. 20, 2011. Twenty years ago, the idea of a vibrant Reformed congregation in the village of Erdokertes, Hungary, was only a vision. Today, nearly 300 members now belong to the Reformed Church of Erdokertes. The sanctuary is full on Sunday morning, and young people not only join in worship, but meet throughout the week. Here’s the story. As the congregation grew in size, so did its vision for mission and outreach. Visionaries realized that a building would allow them to offer regular programs to reach young people. A building committee formed and construction began soon after. Church members helped clear the church property and even helped dig the footings. The collapse of the world economy made funding a challenge, but they persisted. In 2009, though the building was not finished, they were able to open the basement of the church for worship and for youth meetings. During the week, young people began to come for Bible study groups, a jazz club, and other spontaneous events. In the summer, up to 100 young people from the village attended a Bible/English camp. To help secure funding to complete the sanctuary, ALNA and the Ars Longa Foundation jumped in to help. In December of 2010, the church was able to insulate and finish the ceiling of the sanctuary and held the first service there on Christmas Eve.
Waiting to enter the sanctuary, Feb. 20, 2011

Here are words from Pastor Gergely.
Now, since December 24, 2010, we have had a permanent place of worship to use. While it is normal for more people to come once a new church is opened, no one had expected so many people to come on Christmas Eve (at least 80 people had to stand up). The number of people coming to church does not of course normally reach that level. It is currently 100 to 200 (including children). But we are very pleased with this since as recently as in 2005, the people attending services only numbered 35 to 45. We keep experiencing the Lord's blessing, through your donation as well. “The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6.8

At the Péterfalva Református Líceum
Since the fall of 2010, Cassidhe Hart, a recent Calvin College graduate, has been a volunteer at the Peterfalva high school. To read more, check out her blog: Many of you have asked what is happening with the schools in Transcarpathia, Ukraine. With the following report, Cassidhe describes some of the blessings and the challenges at the Peterfalva high school. First the blessings!

High School Angels
Recently, several students went with English teacher Szabina Szpontak for a retreat in the mountains to discuss the impact of their visits to a state hospital. Every Wednesday afternoon, about 5-10 students make the trip to the hospital, giving up all of their precious free time. The children they visit are young, all under the age of three. Some are truly orphans and some were abandoned by their parents. The babies receive food, clothing and a crib and sometimes even a name from the state. Our students go to offer something just as necessary to survival. They go to hold the children, to bounce them up and down and kiss their foreheads, to play with them, to laugh with them, to call them by their names. These students have an incredible amount of courage. They give pieces of their hearts to these babies and listen to them cry each time the visit is over, yet they return every Wednesday. They give what they can and enact Jesus’ commandment to love the “least of these” in whatever way possible.

Meet Edit Juhasz: Mending Trousers-Healing Lives
This picture of Edit Juhasz speaks volumes. On a sunny afternoon, I walked into the sewing room with my camera and asked to take a picture of her. “Of me?” she exclaimed. And she insisted that first-year student, Eszter, join her for the photograph. Edit works tirelessly and effortlessly to draw the people around her into experiences of community. While her official position is seamstress of the Peterfalva High School, Edit also serves as a surrogate grandmother or aunt to students and teachers alike. She is the first to laugh at the dinner table and quick to address any problem from a stomachache to a torn pair of trousers. All of us at the Líceum are blessed by her generous nature and quirky sense of humor.

Teaching English As Outreach
Back in December, English teachers from around the Nagyszölös District came to our school in Péterfalva to view a sample English lesson. For many of these teachers, it was the first time they had ever been inside a Christian school. The day’s activities included a class Szabina Spontak taught, a tour of the school, a very nice meal, songs in Hungarian, English, and Ukrainian, a play in English about the life of Jesus, and a pantomime about freedom from sin. It was a great opportunity to witness to the love of Christ in our lives. All the visiting teachers seemed to respond well to the message of God’s deliverance.

English Teacher Needed
Here is an opportunity to make a difference. In the fall of 2011, the Reformed church in the town of Oroshaza Hungary, will begin to serve as administrator of a community elementary school where 480 students in grades 1-8 are presently enrolled. Their goal is to transform this school into one shaped by a Christian worldview. They are looking for a native speaker of English who would work full-time teaching conversational English, fall 2011. Lodging and salary provided. Teacher training or experience would be advantageous. Minimum stay of one year is required. For more information please contact David Pandy-Szekeres.

Praise and Thanksgiving
     For your year-end gifts that make it possible for ministry in the Ukraine to young people in Transcarpathia, Ukraine. For the donor who made it possible for the Erdokertes congregation to begin worshipping in the sanctuary in December. For faithful committed staff members who teach with creativity, enthusiasm and love. For volunteers like Cassidhe whose gifts and talents bring joy and light. For Pastor Gergely and his commitment to reach the young with the hope and joy of the Gospel

Capricious Lawmakers Shrink the School Year
The Líceum in Péterfalva has always distinguished itself by extending its course of study a year longer than the 11 years required by Ukrainian state schools; this extra time is especially helpful for students preparing for university entrance. However, beginning next school year, the 12th year of study is not only considered unnecessary, it becomes illegal. The Líceum will no longer have the competitive advantage of offering an extra year.

Please Pray:
 For the school leaders who
are searching for ways to provide a rich, Christian curriculum that will be valued by parents, students and society in spite of the schedule imposed by the government.  For continued parent and church commitment to the schools and for faithful support from those with a heart for Christian Education around the world.

A Struggle to Keep Up
Since January, prices in the Ukraine have been rising rapidly. Fuel and food, followed by utilities lead the way. The price of natural gas increased by 50% in October and will jump again in June. Crippled by the worldwide economic collapse, the Transcarpathian economy has shown scant signs of recovery. The challenge of keeping the school lights on has only intensified.

Peterfalva High School English Camp June 11-24, 2011 If you enjoy high school students who are eager to practice their spoken English, this may just be the summer opportunity for you. Students of the Reformed high school in Peterfalva, Ukraine end their school year with two weeks of conversational English. You will not only help emerging English speakers, but also find opportunities to mentor emerging young Christians. Conversational English Roma Schools inCamp July 9-15, 2011 Need! Meet elementary, middle-school aged children and young people in Hungary who are eager to sharpen their English skills at a summer camp sponsored by the Reformed church in Erdokertes, Hungary. Stay with families, play games, meet other international volunteers. You will be lodged with local families and have the opportunity to visit sites in the lovely historical city of Budapest. For either experience you will need to cover the cost of your airfare, and we ask that you purchase insurance ahead of time. You may wish to bring along about $200 to cover personal expenses. For more information, please contact Eric Hoeksema:

Roma Schools – Help Keep Them Alive!
Entrance into the European Union meant that applicant countries could no longer ignore the plight of Roma. You have likely read or seen reports of discrimination and exclusion. Sub-standard housing, inadequate health care, high unemployment, and inequitable education all contribute to a poverty rate that exceeds 80% in many rural communities. The Roma people living in Transcarpathia, Ukraine share this dubious heritage. A 2008 report from the
European Roma Rights Centre expressed “deep concern regarding the denial of equal access to quality education for Roma Camp Transcarpathia, Ukraine Romani children.” In state schools, Roma children are frequently shunted into special education programs and then ignored. Few emerge from these schools able to read and write – and the cycle of illiteracy and exclusion goes on.

Out of deeply held Christian conviction, Reformed folk in Transcarpathia began paying attention before it was required. The first school for Roma children opened in Nagydobrony in 1998. Today a total of eight schools offer programs to equip Roma children socially, spiritually, and academically to succeed in state schools. These schools are affiliated with the Reformed church of Transcarpathia and offer compensation programs, kindergartens, and after school homework help. This year we are facing a deficit of about $6,000. Please consider joining with supporters from the Netherlands Kisdobrony, Ukraine Roma School and Hungary to keep this mission alive. Any gift you give will be gratefully received and will go directly to the Roma Schools.

Aldas, bekesseg (blessings and peace)!
Marilyn Smidt, Director, Ars Longa North America

Szia is a publication of Ars Longa North America Editor: Beth Lantinga Contributors: Cassidhe Hart, David Pandy-Szekeres

If you have questions, a story to share, some advice, or would like to get more involved, please contact us.
Mailing Address: ALNA, 416 Paris Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Email:
Ars Longa North America (ALNA) is a registered non-profit 501(c) (3) and is an affiliate of the Ars Longa Foundation,Hungary. ALNA Board: Ryan Dokter, Beth Lantinga, Raymond Lantinga, Patricia Posthumus, Johannes Witte Ars Longa Foundation principals: Janos Erdos, Robert Hunlich, David Pandy-Szekeres