Greetings again from Budapest, Hungary. Thanks to all of you who have been following along virtually and praying as we proclaim the love of Christ.

It has been an exciting journey as I have retraced my steps in starting this ministry 25 years ago. The teenagers I met on the street back then are now married and have families of their own.

One night, I was invited to Dori and Krisztián Derhan’s home for dinner. Dori was one of my first interpreters. I don’t know how many miles she has traveled with our mission teams, but she was significant in helping us navigate around central Europe.

Ten years ago, she had her first son, Marci. I sent him a gift and Dori a “Rite of Passage Parenting” book. From that day on, I have been “Nagybácsi Walker” to the Derhan family. In English, it would be translated “Uncle Walker,” but the literal translation in Hungarian would be “Fat Old Man Walker.” The ironic part is that either way it’s translated, it’s correct. Now, Dori has two other children: Reka, who is 8 1/2, and Andris, 4 1/2. And of course that “half” is important to children. These children had heard stories from their mom about my life in the jungles and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and they couldn’t wait to meet me.

As I entered the house, they were hiding under some blankets to suprise me. What a welcome they gave me as they popped out from underneath. Then all three children started chattering at the same time. If you’ve ever heard three Hungarian children talking at once, you know what the Tower of Babel sounded like.
“Do you have any pictures of crocodiles?”

“No,” I answered.

“Why didn’t you take a selfie?” “What did it taste like?” “Weren’t you scared?” “What strange things have you eaten?” As I answered each question, 10 more would pop into their minds.

Before I arrived, the children had spent the day making me some handcrafted gifts. Andris made me a paper airplane, Reka crafted and colored a beautiful card and Maric, the oldest, had drawn me a picture of a car.

I had brought my laptop along, and after a delicious meal of Hungarian Goulash and palascinta (pancakes), I brought it out and showed them pictures of mission work around the world. Maric went to his bedroom to bring out something special to show me.

A friend of his had been to the Indian island of Bali and brought him a gift. He held out his hand and revealed a short, hollow piece of reed. His eyes lit up as he informed me, “This is what they use in India for a drinking straw.” I examined and admired his prized possession.

As the night wore on, I could see the children were beginning to get tired. I made the rounds to say goodbye when Marci whispered something in his mother’s ear. Dori looked at me and said, “When you get back to your dorm room, look inside your backpack. Marci has put something special there.”

As I walked back to my temporary home, I reflected on what a wonderful time I had with my Hungarian family. Yes, we are family; we are an eternal family bound by the Spirit. We all have the same Father, and with that comes a bond stronger than human blood—the blood of Christ. So I shouldn’t say “my Hungarian family;” the more correct term would be simply “my family.”

Tired from the day, I opened my backpack to get my computer and saw a rolled-up piece of paper. I knew it was from Marci. He had taken his cellphone and translated a sentence from Hungarian to English. At the top the paper read, “With Love from Marci,” and below that, he had drawn a heart. Lying inside the paper was one straw from the island of Bali.

This old missionary coudn’t hold the tears back as I thought about how much Marci had admired that straw, given to him by his good friend. I couldn’t help but wonder why he gave me such a precious gift. But his note explained it all: “with love.”

“So now abide faith, hope, and love, these three. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

As I finish up 45 years of traveling the Seven Seas and every back street in between, love is the greatest gift I have received. And in this case, love looks a lot like a straw from the island of Bali. Special thanks to Marci and all my Hungarian family!