Since the dissolution of the Soviet union in 1991, Hungary has been making the transition to a free-market economy. Hungary joined the EU in May 2004.
Population: 10 million. Language: Hungarian. Main religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant Calvinist.
Link man Michael Owen
CBM activities Regular preaching and pastoral visits. Exploring the Bible, the 18-lesson correspondence course, leaflets and books are available in Hungarian.
Web site www.cbmhu.org
Ecclesias None. 1 member in isolation.
First Bible Campaign in Budapest
Budapest became one city after the towns of Buda, on the west side of the River Danube, and Pest (pronounced "pesht"), on the east, were joined together. For the capital of a country so young to Western capitalist ways it is a surprisingly modern and fairly prosperous place. Buda is the older of the two halves and is attractively hilly, with lots of old, winding streets offering beautiful views across the river. Pest is completely flat and is now the commercial centre of the city, although certainly not without its charms by way of grand old monuments and buildings.
Our aim for this first campaign in Hungary was simple: to let as many people as possible know that we were there and were holding three talks about the basics of Christianity. We hoped that by so doing we might find some contacts to whom we could offer the Bible correspondence course in Hungarian or English. Never having preached here before in this way we were very unsure of the reception we would get, especially bearing in mind the country's history as a communist state.
The language is notoriously difficult. It really does not give the foreigner any clues as to either pronunciation or meaning. A man once said that Hungarian is closest to Finnish, but when asked how close he meant, the man thought for a moment and then replied, "About as close as English is to Persian."
After a Breaking of Bread on the Sunday morning, we set out in pairs to 'fly-bill' armed with pockets full of leaflets in preparation for the first talk scheduled for Tuesday evening. The main metro stations were the focus of our attention, as they were by far the busiest points in the city and thus many people could be reached relatively easily. The reactions to our efforts were mixed; some showed open disgust, screwing up their leaflet and angrily throwing it to the ground, but many others stopped to carefully read the whole thing cover to cover and then enthusiastically thanked us.
On the Tuesday evening, the night of our first talk, we were all nervously excited. How many would turn up? Slowly people started to trickle in - young, middle-aged and elderly, some smart, some looking poor - a mixture of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Sixteen visitors came. We were thrilled. The talks ran for the next two nights and several people came back to learn more. The presentations were given in English with a Hungarian translation. Then questions were taken, again translated back and forth, making the whole evening last about an hour and a half. Many people also stayed on for refreshments, and as they left they were given a copy of the notes from the talk with offers of literature and a correspondence course.
So it was that by the end of the week we had found a number of individuals who are now keenly continuing to learn. We hope that they may keep alive their enthusiasm to learn in the time that lies ahead.
from The Bible Missionary, no. 151, December 1998
Young people visit Hungary, 15-21 February 2003
Kath Stevenson (Swansea), Abby Evans (Adelaide), Richard Benson (Stevenage)
Richard travelled by coach from London, starting on Saturday, and arriving Sunday afternoon. Kath and Abby flew to Budapest, arriving Saturday evening.
On Sunday morning, Kath and Abby ventured into the snowy streets of Budapest for a few hours to look around, then met up with Julia as arranged. She appeared very happy to see us. We went to Heroes Square and wandered through the gardens beyond for about two hours chatting generally. By 1500 we were frozen, so we headed to McDonalds to thaw out and pursue a deeper conversation.
We read the daily Mark and Psalms passages and discussed them. Julia had already read them that morning as she rises at 0400 every morning to do the readings according to the Bible Companion, pray and also study languages before work. Julia was keen and open to chat through questions from her reading of Scripture. She asked about the Holy Spirit and about heaven-going. We were able to explain that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased by the time the New Testament was completed and that many passages in the Bible speak of the kingdom of God on earth when Jesus returns. Our hope of life after death centres on the resurrection at that time. She seemed happy and said she was clear with explanations given.
Richard arrived later and the next morning we made an early start to get to Debrecen for 0930. Although Richard had phoned Eniko from the UK, we were not able to get through when we tried to phone from Budapest. We phoned her from Debrecen station and arranged to meet at The Plaza at 1200. Meanwhile, we caught the tram up to the guest house where we stayed, then enquired at Tourinform for information for the April campaign.
We met Eniko as planned. The Truth really seems to have affected her life. She has just started following the Bible Companion - she reads in English and Hungarian, comparing the two, and takes about an hour each day to do them. She brought a pocket Hungarian Bible for Richard and some oat biscuits for us to share!
There was quite a lot of snow around. Most of the paths had been cleared, but it was still slow, and with temperatures below freezing most of the time, it was not possible to fly-bill. Enikö's small daughter presented us with a snowy picture, and was keen to practice her English. Eniko had already done the daily readings, but we read the Mark reading again, and discussed it.
The next morning we caught the 0711 train for Szeged. After booking into a hotel we met Zoltán from Subotica in Serbia. None of us had met Zoltán before and we spent quite a lot of time just getting to know each other, and trying to understand the complexities of Yugoslav history. It seems that the political situation has stablised somewhat, but that the economy is still in a bad state, and corruption is rife. Life is hard, but the threat of conscription seems to have passed for the time being.
We had a Breaking of Bread meeting in the hotel room. Richard spoke briefly on the Mark reading, and we closed by singing Psalm 23 together. After further discussion on the Bible Zoltán left about 2230.
He meets from time to time with two Christadelphians in Subotica for a breaking of bread, and said that he had also met a Christadelphian who lives in Belgrade once. He said there was just the four of them in the whole of Serbia. He is very keen on the 'Wisdom' books of the Old Testament, and compares his Hungarian New Testament to the Greek to get a better understanding (e.g. the Hungarian apparently makes no distinction between pneuma (spirit) and psuche (soul)).
The next day we caught the train back to Budapest where were very pleased that a Seventh Day Adventist contact was waiting to see us when we arrived. Dénes teaches at a school for handicapped children. Almost as soon as he arrived, he got out the 1964 hymnbook that Richmal Owen had given him on an earlier visit and asked if we could sing. We sang a number of hymns based on Scripture, and read the relevant Scriptural passages. He seems to be very keen on our harmonised singing. He said he has learnt a lot from the Christadelphian meetings he has attended, and views us as friends. He showed us his prayer list, and indicated that he prays for us all every day.
He travelled by coach to England last August, but was turned back at Dover, as immigration didn't believe that he would return to Hungary. He was hoping to visit Michael and Richmal in the course of his visit. He seems to respect our teaching from the Word, as well as our singing!
On our last day we did some billing and explored some parts interesting parts of Budapest, visiting the Great Synagogue, a reminder of the thousands of Jews who were living in Budapest before the holocaust. A reminder too, that Theodore Herzl was born in Budapest. In 1897 he organized the first World Zionist Congress, which settled on Palestine as the site for the Jewish state and established the World Zionist Organization.
We met up with Julia again and had a good discussion. She was very keen to maintain contact and promised to email with questions that arose in her mind from her reading and asked us to come again to visit her, although she accepted that this will be nigh impossible in the short term for Abby from Australia! Before separating we prayed together.
We returned home from Hungary thankful for our heavenly Father's care. We hope that all we did was pleasing in His sight. Although progress is slow, there really does seem to be interest in the Gospel in Hungary. Our prayer is that the seed sown will bring forth more fruit to the glory of God.
Visit to Hungary, April 2004
The purpose of our visit was to meet as many of our English-speaking contacts as possible, to encourage and support our two Christadelphian sisters, to give two talks on the resurrection and distribute leaflets advertising the Bible correspondence course.
In the south of Hungary we spent two days in Baja with Beus Varga and Norbi Kálmán. Beus has completed translating "The Genius of Discipleship". She said she enjoyed doing this and she frequently referred to things she has learnt from the book.
Each day we did the daily readings from The Bible Companion and enjoyed discussing many aspects of the word of God. Beus told us that she and Norbi were easily able to accept what the Bible teaches because they were not coming to it with established church teaching in their minds.
Beus had publicised a talk on the resurrection, which Michael gave in the library, formerly a Jewish synagogue. Five visitors came along (plus Beus and Norbi) and Beus did an excellent job translating. Two of the audience turned out to be strong Calvinists and another was a Buddhist-turned-Roman Catholic. In response to a question about how we were different from other groups Michael re-enforced the point made earlier, that heaven-going is not a Bible doctrine. This led to quite a discussion on the location of the kingdom of God. A lady who told us she reads her Bible every day readily enrolled for the correspondence course.
On our last afternoon we walked to the Petőfi island and sat by the Sugovica river eating our lunch. Beus and Norbi introduced us to the skill of eating sunflower seeds. We enjoyed strolling around the island, after which we walked to the confluence of the Sugovica and Danube. We returned to the hotel and spent some time explaining Bible teaching about Satan and the devil. Richmal agreed to provide CIL Sunday School lessons for Beus to translate for her 9-year-old sister, Bianka.
In Szeged we met Zoltán Mészáros, a history teacher who, along with many Hungarians, lives in Serbia. He had travelled up by bus to go with us to Rusza to visit sister Zsuzsa Lovazsi and her husband Josef. They were pleased to see us when we entered their humble cottage, warmed by the Spring sunshine. Zsuzsa was confined to bed because of problems with her leg. She was pleased to see photos of people she knew from previous visits. Zoltán translated for us and contributed to a breaking of bread service. Galatians 6 provided a good basis for exhorting on the fruit of the spirit.
After billing extensively in Szeged, we took the train to Debrecen, in the east of Hungary. In the compartment we got talking to a young student from the University of Debrecen and gave her some Bible literature.
In Debrecen we met up with sister Enikö Major and her 10-year-old daughter Judit. Michael gave his talk on the resurrection at the Civis Hotel, and again five people attended. After the talk we had some interesting discussion with one of the visitors.
On the following day we visited a Calvinist contact, Krisztina Maklári, and talked about the contrast between the teaching of the churches and that of the Bible on the subject of death and resurrection. We looked up a range of passages with her and she listened carefully. Later, back in our guest house, we discussed with Enikö the readings from Numbers, Proverbs and Ephesians and broke bread together in memory of our Lord.
We located the Central Reading Room, where we met Dr Kati Nagy. She spoke of the communist era when faith in God was politically incorrect. She asked us if we had noticed the sad look of many Hungarians, which she said was because they were without hope. She talked of her love of English literature and we spoke of the value of knowing the Bible because it has influenced so much European culture. She accepted some Bible literature from us and said we could use the library in future for public talks.
We tracked down Richmal's correspondence student, Eva Molnárne, who gave us a very friendly welcome, introducing us to her sister, who also spoke reasonable English, and offering us some delicious home-made cake. She told us she wanted to learn about the Bible because, after the death of her grandparents, who were both strong believers, she had a dream in which her aunt was trying to tell her something. Eva believes that she will find what this is in the Bible. She explained she had not come to the talk at the hotel because she had had to work. She has a clerical job, using a computer, and indicated that it was not easy for mothers with children to get work, since employers in Hungary discriminate against them. She asked us about the film "The Passion of Christ" and we suggested she look at The Passion of the Christ. We encouraged her to read her Bible and not just the lessons, leaving a Bible Reading Handbook to help.
We took a bus to Eger, passing through Hortobágy, where we gained a good impression of the vastness of the flat puzsta. It was quite exciting to see the Bükk Hills rising in the distance as we got nearer to Eger, where we planned to distribute leaflets for the first time. We noted the strong Catholic influences and watched a mass taking place in the Baroque Minorite Church, with its heavy concentration on ritual and ceremony. We had a walk round the castle and enjoyed the views over the city, reflecting on the overflowing and drying up of the empire of the Ottoman Turks, as reflected in Revelation 9:14 and 16:12. The castle where we were standing had witnessed a notable victory over the Turkish forces in 1552. We spent Good Friday giving out leaflets in the SE of the city, finding many blocks of flats along the course of the Eger stream.
On Saturday we took the train from Egervád station to Silvásvárad in the Bükk Hills to the north. We distributed leaflets to almost every house in the village and also visited the stud of the beautiful Lipizzaner horses. On Easter Sunday we remembered the death and resurrection of our Lord, sharing bread and wine in our hotel room before distributing most of our remaining leaflets in the NW of Eger
We travelled by train to Budapest and went to visit Miklós and Csilla Zaymus. They have two boys in their early twenties and two children aged 10 and 8. Miklós is very interested in prophecy. Michael spoke of the emergence of the Old Europe, of the impact of terrorism in Spain (driving Spain into Old Europe) and the influence of the papacy. We referred to passages in Revelation, Daniel and Ezekiel.
Both are keenly interested in the Bible and had questions prepared. Miklós wanted explanations for verses that seemed to prove the doctrine of the Trinity, mostly from John. We approached this by explaining that the four gospels looked at different facets of the Lord Jesus Christ, using the four faces of Ezekiel 1:10 as a way in. We referred to Ephesians 1:4 to get across how Christ had existed in the mind of the Father from the beginning, just as God knows beforehand what our response to the gospel will be. This led to quite a discussion on pre-destination - a key Calvinist belief. We pointed out that Jesus was "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8), which did not mean that he was actually killed before his crucifixion. We talked of God's foreknowledge of Jacob and Esau's responses (Romans 9:10-14). God knew beforehand that Jacob would love the things of God and Esau would love only the things of the flesh. Miklós asked what Jesus meant when he said, "I am my Father are one," and we took him to the prayer of Jesus in John 17, "that they may be one, even as we are one". Jesus was, in effect, saying "we have one mind, one purpose". He asked, "What about Thomas, who called Jesus 'My Lord and my God'?" We showed how the angel at the burning bush (Exodus 3) bore the name of the LORD and could, like Christ, speak as God. We referred to Exodus 23:20,21 - the angel of whom God said "my name is in him".
Csilla talked to us about the strain of supporting her elderly parents and others. We shared some of our own experiences of trial and showed them 1 Corinthians 10:13 - God will not test us beyond our capacity. We looked at Romans 5:1-5 and talked of how tribulation can develop character. We emphasised the value of daily Bible reading. They told us they would like to receive "Glad Tidings" and we gave them the Bible Reading Planner. We stressed the importance of prayer and we prayed together before we left.
We spent the next morning with Stanley Johnson, an engaging 27-year old refugee from Sierra Leone. His mother died when he was 9-years-old and his father was shot during the recent conflict in Sierra Leone. He fled the country in 1999, when contacts assisted him to get to Hungary. He spent some time in a refugee camp and then was given a temporary permit. While staying with friends in Budapest he was stopped on the streets by the police and ended up in detention. It took seven months before his case was heard and he was immediately released. During this time, he had seen our advert for the correspondence course and had been working through the course, with Ernest Batey as his tutor.
We showed Stanley how God had brought good outcomes from Joseph's experiences in prison. We looked at Hebrews 12 - "whom the Lord loves he chastens" and James 5 - the exhortation to patience. Stanley asked about whether and how God was in control of world events. We went to Daniel 2 and 5 ("the most high God rules in the kingdoms of men") but explained that man is, nevertheless, responsible for his actions. He said he believed every human being possessed the spirit of God. We spent some time unravelling this, to distinguish between the breath of life and some claims about the Holy Spirit. He said that he really wanted to know how to be close to God. We looked at the early verses of John 15 and stressed the importance of listening to and obeying God's word. He indicated he believed strongly that the 10 Commandments were the basis of moral values - but how can we succeed in keeping them all the time? We talked about the need to keep trying but also of God's forgiveness in Christ, going to 1 John 1. He marked in his Bible the passages we looked up as well as writing them down carefully on a piece of paper.
After lunch we went to see a 7th Day Adventist contact, Dénes Palátsik, at the flat he shares with his mother. Margitta is a family doctor and had been in her surgery all morning but she welcomed us warmly and spoke of her visits to England. We did one of the Bible readings and had some discussion with Dénes about our understanding of the nature of God. Dénes was delighted to receive a copy of the "Joshua" CD-Rom, featuring the Christadelphian Youth Choir singing a selection of hymns.
Although the spread of the Truth is still slow in Hungary, we were encouraged by the number of people we were able to talk to about our hope; we feel confident that in due course there will be more fruit to the glory of God. We are thankful for the correspondence work, the record-keeping, the management of literature and the many other contributions of the Hungarian team, including our good friends in Hungary. Above all we are grateful for the prayers that ensure our heavenly Father's blessing on our efforts.