|Dear Friends and Family,
There is so much that we desire to share with you not only concerning the Biblical Counseling Training Conference (BCTC) that we held in Cluj back in January, but also about new ministry opportunities developing in Budapest, Hungary. I will do my best to be concise, in the hopes that you will not be daunted by the length of this update when you open it and give it the initial look over. Let me begin with the January BCTC in Cluj.
As I related to you before the conference took place, we were treading in somewhat uncharted territory with this fourth training conference. It involved changing our approach and format. We also welcomed new volunteer staff from the U.S. Although we had spent much time communicating with each other by phone and email, we did not actually meet face to face until Pete and Sue Stazen arrived at our house from Lynchburg, Virginia so we could ride together to the airport for our flight to Europe. It was clear almost immediately that we shared with Pete and Sue a common understanding of Biblical Counseling and its place in the ministry of the church. Their involvement in this past conference has been a joy and encouragement, and a real answer to prayer for us and our supporters.
We began the first day with a time of worship and an overview of the conference objectives, and then broke into small groups, each one led and moderated by two staff members. Each working group was presented with the initial part of a unique case study based upon actual counseling sessions (using fictitious names), some of which were ongoing. Encountering the problems of real people who were seeking solutions from a counselor was very sobering, and there was a detectable “deer in the headlights” look among participants. The group leaders’ task was to engage the participants by working through the case studies together, using the tools they had acquired over the past three training conferences. The first day saw the beginning of that process by applying the Biblical principles and practical methods to the case study discussion. The working group sessions continued through the afternoon and were followed with a general time of each group sharing what they were learning. The day was concluded with worship and exhortation from the Scriptures. By the time the small groups convened the next day, the participants were more prepared to engage with the follow-up sessions of their case studies. The group leaders were able to change their approach to having the participants lead more of the discussion and to evaluate how they were working through aspects of the case study on their own as individuals. The case studies represented some very needy people with difficult problems and deep troubles in their lives. Hard and careful work was done by participants and staff. Although it was mentally and emotionally exhausting, there was a shared feeling that this was exercise that was really needed in order to take what was previously learned in theory and now work it through in practice.
While the majority of our time together was spent working the case studies in small groups we also had daily times of fellowship, worship, prayer, instructional seminars, shared lunches, and optional dinners with the staff. Then as staff we also had a time of prayer together each morning before the participants arrived, as well as a meeting after dinner and to close the day in prayer. Since all of us serving as staff wereinvolved in leading small groups, it was really important and beneficial to have these times together to share insights, ideas, and feedback, and to join together in prayer.