Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goodbye 2014!

2014... it has been the hardest year of our life. And the most amazing one yet. We learned more about what it means to follow Jesus, no matter what. What it means to die to ourselves and our expectations and walk through the valley of the shadow of death in His arms. We learned more about what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ. We received the most beautiful gift-- our little boy who brings us unimaginable joy each day. We are so blessed to be where He has us, even if it's not where we imagined ourselves a year ago. We learned more about the Father's deep, unconditional love for us. He is good, all the time, no matter what. 2014... it's been another year in His hands, and that is the best place to be, no matter what.

In 2014 we continued on Homeland Ministry Assignment in preparation to return to our ministry in Hungary. We visited 25 States during our travels-- we loved seeing more of our beautiful country and meeting amazing people. We learned more about how to effectively live, serve, and work in a cross cultural setting. We feel more prepared to do what God has called us to than we did a year ago.

Last January we found out that we were expecting a little boy, whom we loved more and more each day as the baby bump grew.

We planned on returning to Hungary in August. However, our funding wasn't there and we learned that our sweet boy had a severe congenital heart disease. We were then told that he will need at least three open heart surgeries in order to live, so we stayed in Cleveland because this is one of the best places in the world for cardiac surgeries. We are still amazed how God has been providing for us in so many ways.

On September 18th, 2014 Samuel Mark was born. As we reflect on this past year, we both agree that this was our favorite moment. We are so blessed and privileged to be his parents! He is truly a miracle baby who points us and many others to Jesus daily.

Samuel holding Daddy's hand an hour after his birth

Samuel had his first open heart surgery when he was four days old. His story deserves its own blog post. We are in awe of all of God's miracles in Samuel's life and our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude. We got to come home from the hospital just after 12 days instead of the month we were told. Samuel has been able to eat and only needed the NG tube for a very short time. He is developing well despite of all the odds. Everything with Samuel is God's wonderful miracle! So many of you have been praying for him and us... from Kenya to Costa Rica to Hungary to the US... It's been amazing to have the Body of Christ surround us with love, prayers, and support and carry us through all we have been through with sweet Samuel. Thank you!  Each day we have with Samuel is a special gift from Jesus.

Samuel needed his second open heart surgery much sooner than originally expected. He was just over two months old when he had to be operated on in December. Two open heart surgeries in under 3 months... Samuel is a true champion!

Picture by Simply Deneen Photography

This is where we find ourselves as we welcome the new year. Samuel is recovering from surgery and is doing amazingly well all things considered. We've seen God preform many miracles in his life yet again. We are continuing on Homeland Ministry Assignment in order to return to Hungary (we will ensure Samuel is cleared to travel and we have continuous medical care arranged for him there--his third surgery will not be needed until he is about 3 years old). As we look back this past year our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude-- we are not where we planned to be but where Jesus has us, and that is the best place! May we walk even closer with Him in 2015.

Picture by Simply Deneen Photography

We wish you all a blessed new year!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Baby Landerholm is a...

"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things." (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

This verse speaks to us deeply as we have been in a season of transition and preparation in many different ways... continuing learning what it means to rely on God and trust him in the midst of the uncertainty and unknown. With less than two months left of Homeland Ministry Assignment we are getting ready to move to Hungary. We are also preparing to become parents. These 26 weeks of pregnancy have been such a special time for our little family. Life is truly a beautiful miracle! 

We are falling more and more in love with Baby Landerholm. Ever since we found out that he is a little BOY and now that I finally have an ever-growing bump with a super active little guy inside, it feels more and more real that we are Mami and Daddy... We are so blessed and excited to be the parents of this little man!

Saturday, June 14, 2014


My little brothers like to listen to this Hungarian Christian singer (Pinter Bela) who writes music for kids. There is one song titled "Soccer World Cup" and naturally this is Beni and Abel's favorite as they passionately love soccer-- they love playing soccer, watching soccer, talking about soccer, and singing about soccer... When we drive somewhere Abel hands me his CD and asks for this song over and over again. The two of them enthusiastically sing along in the back seat, shouting the line "Jesus is the greatest team captain".  It is super cute. Also, I now have this song stuck in my head for a lifetime (I'm pretty sure Mark subconsciously also knows all the words to it in Hungarian by now). With the World Cup going on I find myself singing this song more often than I wish to admit... "Every four years there is the Soccer World Cup..."--- Even though I am not a huge soccer fan (working on becoming one for the sake of my brothers), the World Cup has become a big milestone for us.

Four years ago the world seemed to be glued to the monitor once again, watching soccer. Four years ago during the World Cup there was also an English Camp in Hungary where a recent seminary grad guy from Ohio (living in Kentucky) and a college girl from Hungary (living in Tennessee) were assigned to be small group leaders together. And the rest is history... So much has happened during these past four years! 

Thank you, Sonya for taking this fun "bump picture" of us!

We celebrated two years of marriage while driving home from Colorado. The first one as a family of three. Jesus is so good to us!

We returned to the US one year ago to start this journey of becoming full time missionaries after serving as volunteers in Hungary. We applied, interviewed, and were accepted. We completed all of our training. And we traveled many miles and met amazing people while raising up our support team. Team Hungary has been growing and we are so thankful for each one of you, your prayers and support. This Homeland Ministry Assignment has been a challenging yet amazing journey of learning more about what it means to trust in Jesus and follow him faithfully-- no matter what. We could not imagine a better preparation for what our future holds once we get to the field! Our time in the States has been very valuable and we are thankful for it-- but it is time to launch and return to Hungary! Our tentative return day is early August. Because of the pregnancy that is the latest we are able to fly and we would also like to be back in time for horse camps at Morning Star Ranch to jump right back into ministry. This means we have TWO MONTHS LEFT. These next two months we have many more miles to travel, more awesome people to meet, more financial support to raise while we are getting ready to move across the ocean yet again. We are excited!!! However, we need to be fully funded before we can return. Would you pray with us that more people would join our monthly support team? If you are interested in supporting our ministry with a one time gift or monthly/quarterly/yearly you can give here: Any amount makes a huge difference!

4... 3.... 2... 1..... The final countdown is on.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Getting Cross-Cultural in Colorado

We've spent the month of May in Colorado at the Mission Training International participating in their Compass Program that is designed to equip Christian cross-cultural workers with language acquisition techniques and teach them about how to live and work in a multicultural environment. As we were driving from Ohio to Colorado we were wondering how applicable this training would be for us. After all, our lives are constantly cross-cultural as we manage our "Hungamerican" family and have roots and "homes" on two continents... Well, we have to say that being here has been a wonderful learning experience. We feel so much more prepared not only for Mark's continuing journey of learning Hungarian and ministry in Hungary, but also for managing transitions, parenting challenges and blessings that come with our cross-cultural life.

These past weeks of classes have been challenging, encouraging, emotional, informative, useful, questioning, exciting... we've learned and experienced so much! Our heads are spinning, our hearts are full... We want to do well... The stakes are so high: we are not just choosing to live a life of uncertain transitions, constantly crossing cultures, languages, and boarders because one of us is American and the other one is Hungarian but because we feel the burning call to share the hope found only in Jesus with the people of Hungary. People die every day without knowing that there is a Heavenly Father who loves us so much that he gave his only Son, Jesus to die for us and he wants nothing more than that we would become his sons and daughters. We want to be good messengers of this wonderful news. However, we fall short in so many ways: struggling with remembering words and sounds, managing conflicts poorly, not understanding the other culture's frame of reference, relying on our assumptions, judging and not loving someone because they are different... We cannot do life and ministry on our own-- but we can do it with Jesus!

It has been so wonderful to be a part of a community of like-minded people who share many of our experiences. It's been comfortable, safe, and comforting to be here. We are already dreading saying goodbyes... Yet, it is time to launch! We are growing more and more eager to return to Hungary. Our target date being August, we are in the final stretch of Homeland Ministry Assignment. There is a lot to do! Raising the remaining support, traveling to meetings and speaking engagements, getting ready to move across the ocean yet again, saying goodbyes, language learning, resuming ministry in Hungary while awaiting the birth of our little baby... August is getting so close and the list is long. Can we do it? On our own, absolutely not. But with Jesus, we can!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Giving Out of Poverty

        He is risen! This past week—Holy Week and especially Easter—represents the high point of the Christian calendar.  We go from the triumph of the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, to the defeat in Jesus’ death on Good Friday, and ultimately to the exultation of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter.  This is our hope: Jesus conquered death!
Understandably the big events of this past week get the majority of our attention, yet the events of these eight days from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday take up nearly one third of the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus knew his time on earth was ending, and so much of his teaching is packed into this week.  One of these teaching moments sticks out to me.  Recorded in both Mark and Luke, Jesus calls attention to a very poor widow, who puts a very small amount into the Temple offering box.  There were those who were putting large sums in, yet Jesus specifically calls this poor woman to attention.  He doesn’t criticize her for not giving enough, but instead praises her for giving “more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).
        I don’t believe that this is to be seen as a backhanded criticism of those giving out of their abundance, but I believe Jesus here is trying to teach something beyond our personal finances.  He is using this faith-filled widow as an example. In just a few days Jesus would have all his disciples abandon him and even deny him only to die a horrific death upon the cross.  Knowing this, on the night that he would be betrayed he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane asking that God would not have him go through this, but submitting himself to God even if it meant doing so.  Jesus told his disciples, “my soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mark 14:34), and in Luke 22:44 we learn his agony was so great that he sweated blood. In this moment in the garden Jesus’ poverty was coming out—he knew that in going through with what God had put before him, he was giving everything—his very life, and he didn’t know how he could do it.  Still, through God’s grace Jesus in his poverty gave everything, and now we can have abundant life!
However, the scene in the garden in is difficult for us to relate to.  I cannot imagine knowing I was going to be rejected, beaten, tortured, and die a cruel death (not that it is not possible).  However, it seems even the most financially secure of us find ourselves worrying about having enough money, at times.  Financial worries and fears are so real to us—even us who are amongst the richest in the world.  Therefore, in this uncertain state we share, I believe Jesus told the story of the widow as a challenge to us.  He is not necessarily asking us to give all the wealth we have (though he does ask that of some, i.e. the rich young ruler), but he is drawing attention to the reality that in following him we will be asked to give out of our poverty—to give all we have just as he did.  For each of us our poverty may be in a different area—emotional, physical, spiritual, etc., yet Jesus makes it clear that if we are to follow him, we must deny ourselves and pick up our crosses (Mark 8:34).  To carry a cross means to submit everything, to give our all, even in the areas of our poverty; whereby doing so we give up our very life.  In this we can find true life, and even more importantly others can come to find true life.  As Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24)!
This Easter season I am asking myself, am I giving even in my poverty?  The poor widow did—no doubt encouraging Jesus in what he must do—and Jesus himself did, leading to our hope and life.  We can afford to do nothing less!

With this look at the widow, we can’t help but be thankful for each of you who are faithfully giving to what Jesus is doing in Hungary!  Thank you so much for giving in this way, whether out of abundance or out of poverty; your gift means so much and we believe it is serving to bring life!  If you would like to give click here for more information!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Our Father

I (Mark) love the Old Testament!  I love the stories, the psalms, and I even love the laws (call me strange).  It is definitely messy and at times confusing, but I love that within the Old Testament the character and person of God is revealed as is our relationship to Him as humans.  Perhaps one of the most meaningful things about the Old Testament to me is that God is revealed as a relational God: He wants to be in relationship with His people.  As such He reveals His name.  In our English translations it isn't easily recognized as both Adonai and God's personal name (YHWH, some say Jehovah) are translated as the title Lord (his personal name is in all caps in the English).  This means in the English we see God in a position of authority and rule, and we miss out on seeing Him as one that is inviting us into relationship.  So I have taken on the practice of inserting God's personal name YHWH anytime I come across the LORD.  It has enriched my personal study in many ways.

However, as I have read the New Testament, I have often wondered why the writers and even Jesus didn't continue using God's personal name and I find myself missing it.  Recently, though, as I have taken a fresh look at the Lord's prayer and began to model my prayer life on it, I have found I no longer need to speak God's personal name.  Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:9 to pray "Our Father."  In many ways this had been so mechanical for me to say that I missed out on the significance of it.  But it finally dawned on me, YHWH has adopted me into His family through Christ and I get to call Him Father.  I don't call my father Kurt, but I call him Dad.  Dad or Father express a much closer intimacy than a personal name does.  To many my dad is known as Reverend, to those closer to him he is known as Kurt, but only to a few is he known as Dad!  And that name expresses so much: intimacy, relationship, honor, respect, submission, love!  That is what we get to call our God--we belong to Him, He has taken us in.

When I think of this I can't help but think of our adopted brothers.  When they first met their one-day parents, they knew them as Doctor and Mrs; these adults were scary and distant.  But through time they became Uncle Gabor and Aunt Gabi; there was a relationship and love, and the boys felt comfort being with them.  However, when they were adopted they were no longer Gabor or Gabi, uncle or aunt, but Dad and Mom.  There is such joy in hearing them call out mom and dad, and they want everyone to know that, "He is our Dad!" or "she is our Mom!"  They have such joy, comfort, and security because they have Dad and Mom.  We too get to experience this to an even greater degree when we call upon "our Father!"

There is such hope in this.  We live in a world full of broken relationships, broken families, and many fatherless children, yet through Jesus each us can know a father as we are adopted into God's family.  It is amazing to think that we can approach God using the most respectful and reverent of titles, even more amazing that he would invite us to call him by His name, but it is unbelievable that we can address Him as "Our Father."

Please pray specifically for the orphans of Hungary that they would come to know God as their Father, and that many would additionally have an earthly father to call "Dad."

As Eszti and I are expecting, I cannot wait for the day when our child will call me Dad; it will be the sweetest sound in the world.  I believe there are few things that please our Father in Heaven more than when we who through Jesus are truly His children address Him as such!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

We are growing!

In case you didn't see our March Newsletter we have some happy, exciting news to share with you...

Team Landerholm is growing... by a Little One! We are expecting a baby, due late September. We are so happy! God is so good! Our target date to return to our ministry in Hungary remains early August so we are planning on having the baby in Budapest.
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