Trip to Hungary 2016

Full CampAbout a month ago I went on a mission trip doing an English camp in Hungary. There is a small organization called Way of Hope Foundation that provides English camps throughout villages in Hungary every summer. Hungary has mandated that every child learn a second language since their language actually limits them from many job opportunities. (Only 0.189% of the world speaks Hungarian…that’s less than a quarter of one percent of the world!) In these camps we can use Jesus and the Bible to teach English. The kid’s parents (who want nothing to do with religion) don’t care we’re teaching from the Bible because a free English camp comes along once in a life time. Below I’ll share a bit about our team, the camp, what I learned, a video and how you can get involved.

The Teamteam flying out

My wife and I have done 6 Hungarian camps but this one was different for several reasons. One of those reasons was that we teamed up with another local church called “Hope Christian Church of Menifee”. They sent two people: their Assistant Pastor, Jeno and a college student named Krystal. Having Jeno was invaluable  because he’s actually Hungarian even though he grew up in the U.S. and it was great having Krystal beLeaders prayingcause her enthusiasm with the kids was contagious (see her blog here ). We are so thankful that our church (“House of Grace” in Hemet) and “Hope Christian” were so supportive. Once we were in Hungary we met up with three other people from England.
Two of them were a Mother (Samantha)/ Daughter (Meggie) team, and a college student named Rose. Their experience and heart for Jesus were integral to the success of the camp.

The Camp

We traveled for about 24 hours, leaving from LAX, had a layover in Amsterdam and arrived in Budapest. The next dkids with flagsay we made the 3 hour drive to the 2,200 population village of Nagydobos (pronounced: “nodge-doe-boe-sh”) in the North-Eastern part of Hungary. We began the camp the next day at the local school where about 40 kids showed up. Each
day we would start the day with morning exercises set to music, then the older kids (ages 9-14) would split off from the younger ones (ages 4-8) and have a Bible study. After the Bible study we would have several English lessons, teaching the kids conversational English. Then we would finish out the day with fun competition games.

What I Learned

About 10 months ago when my wife and I started praying for this camps and the kids that it would affect, I felt God pressing upon me to be more involved in this camp. I usually do a lot with the Bible studies but this time I got more involved with English lessons and playing games with the kids. I think this helped my wife but also intrigued the kids.

PiratesI also learned how great it was to have another church be involved in the preparation and adventure of going on the trip! Something we learned from Hope Christian was to have three distinct but unified groups preparing for the camp: 1. a Prayer Group, 2. a Fundraising Group and 3. Travelers. This was really good because then all of the stress and blessings don’t just fall on the shoulders of those going to the camp, but can be shared by many.

Trip to Nagydobos Video


Hungary Video

How You Can Get Involved

I have a vision of around 5 churches in the Inland Empire of Southern California getting involved in sending people to Hungary for these camps each summer. If we had 5 churches then no one church would feel burdened to send people and the camps could grow.

In case you thingirls coloringk you couldn’t travel to another country and teach English – you can! You only have to fundraise for airfare and all other accommodations are taken care of. And if you’re not an English teacher – neither are we! In fact I’ve never known an English teacher who has gone to any of these camps. The whole point is that normal English speakers show them how to speak conversationally instead of textbook teaching. Literally any English speaker is perfect for being a teacher in these camps.

As always, this camp was a life-changing experience where we got to see many children come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! A little money, a little stress, a little getting out of the comfort zone – but ushering in souls to the kingdom of heaven – that is the ultimate goal! If you’re interested in finding out more you can fill out the contact form directly below & I’ll get back to you. Thanks!

New Film “Woodlawn” Makes Me Ask: Why Have Christian Movies Gotten Good?

I love films…I’m a bit of a snob about it. I’m also a Christian…I try not to be a snob about it. I like really good films and I love our really good Savior. So I could name AFI’s top 100 films or talk about “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “The King’s Speech” (2010) but right now I want to talk about Christian films.

I remember growing up and even at six I remember thinking “these are pretty bad.” What I couldn’t articulate into words was that the production value was sub-par, the writing was stilted and un-realistic and the acting usually left much to be desired. I was six but I could tell. I knew the truth of God’s word and I loved the Bible stories I heard in Sunday School and I even kind of felt bad for being judgmental because I knew how Jesus could change lives, but I couldn’t get away from the fact that the Christian movies that were available (on VHS!) were poor excuses for the artistic beauty and creativity of God. Sure there was “Ben Hur” (1959) and “Chariots of Fire” (1981) but those were far and few between. Now I didn’t write this blog to bash all of the production houses and people with good intentions back then; I’m sure there was a struggle with budgets, not to mention overcoming the “devil-is-in-the-airwaves”* mentality of many Christians. But my point is that it has gotten better!

220px-Facing_the_giantsMy first memory of a good Christian film was getting roped into watch “Facing the Giants” (2006) at my parents church. My wife and I went a little begrudgingly thinking that we knew what to expect. But it knocked our socks off. It didn’t matter that it was about football (after all I loved “Remember the Titans”) it was a great story with a convincing gospel message. I had to know who made this! How did they get a studio to sign off? I started researching and come to find out it was a church! Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia created Sherwood Pictures  and with a budget of $100,000 they made an incredible film (that, by the way grossed $10,174,663 in the U.S.). Come to find out prior to that they made “Flywheel” (2003), which I still haven’t seen, but they weren’t done there. Subsequently they came out with “Fireproof” (2008) and “Courageous” (2011). Most recently we watched “War Room” (2015) at our church and I have to say I was again pleasantly surprised. It was such a moving story that both of my kids went home and wrote prayers for their closet (no spoilers, just watch it!) not to mention how the daughters competition turns out surprised me (again, no spoilers). Anyway, I went out and bought a copy for a person I know who doesn’t know Jesus. Great film.

How did this happen? I don’t want to come off as if Sherwood Pictures was our savior but they (at least in my mind) pioneered what it meant to make a good Christian movie. Now it’s 2016, everybody’s phone has a camera and anyone can grab an Adobe Photoshop or iMovie and throw something together. But it still takes a good eye, talented actors and good writing to make something that matters. We’re finally recognizing that a documentary of four college friends trying to figure out what the Christian life looks like in “Beware of Christians” (2011) or the scripted “God’s Not Dead” (2014) are valid and vital ways to communicate Jesus to others.


So now I’ve been hearing buzz about this film “Woodlawn.” It’s a true story about a high school in Birmingham Alabama in 1973 when forced integration created crazy conflicts. I’ve heard it’s the greatest Christian film ever made. Is it? I haven’t seen it yet but our church is showing it this Friday (3/25) night. So if you want to come to House of Grace in Hemet (4000 E. Florida Ave) at 6:30PM see for yourself!

But if you can’t come out then rent it and tell me what you think (in the comments below).

Mark Merrill hosts “Family First Podcast” and interviewed producer Jon Erwin (October Baby, Mom’s Night Out) about “Woodlawn” – Listen here. The podcast gives a description of the movie and some “behind the scenes” details on this incredible real-life story about how Jesus changed not only a high school but an entire town.

LEAVE A COMMENT! I don’t see a lot of Christian movies, what are some worth my time? What are the good ones that actually tell people the truth of Jesus while maintaining artistic integrity, award worthy cinematography and are technologically ground-breaking?


*When radio was first used for Christian broadcasts there was more opposition from believers than from secular groups because the Christians feared radio (quoting that Satan was the ‘prince of the power of the air’ [Ephesians 2:2])! Listen to my Early Church History Series by clicking here.