Hungary Blog from Pastor Dave – Day 3
May 8, 2017
Maybe you have noticed the power of one. This is not the power of rugged individualism so prized by American culture so much of the time. It is not the worship of the island whereby there is no contact with anyone else except oneself. The power of one, is much more like the salt and light of which Jesus speaks. It is the discovery that inside each life there is a power to effect a kind of lasting difference in the life of the human family or the wider creation. Today we were witnesses to the power of one who by living inside the One strengthens everyone around them.
So our journey took us to the Synod Office (national headquarters) of the Reformed church of Hungary, our ecumenical partner in this part of God’s world and a sister church of the Reformed family of churches. Kearstin has been working in this office offering her English skills for website development and other things written, as needed. Here we met Balazs Odor, Ecumenical officer for the Reformed Church of Hungary and the European Representative to the Common Global Ministries board. We also met his wonderful colleague Dia who works with Balazs in the Ecumenical office.
Our conversation began with a presentation about the Roma mission of the Hungarian Reformed Church. This mission to Europe’s historically most visible nomads is something that has gained acceptance within the Reformed church over the past 20 years in ways that have even surprised members of the Hungarian church. Balazs followed this presentation of one of his colleagues with a heartfelt conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing the Reformed church which for many years lived first under the shadow of the Nazi’s and then under the oppression of communism. During those years, the survival of the church was the highest priority.
Now that the immediate weight of those realities has been lifted, Balazs shared that the church is faced with a new challenge, or some might say opportunity. The pressing question now is, “What is God calling the Hungarian church to be and do in this time in which they find themselves?” Truly this is the question of all forms of church in every place and time.
As Ecumenical Officer of the church, Balazs is an interesting and vital bridge both for the Reformed church of Hungary and for the church worldwide. He feels both the tension of a past in which being insulated from the wider world assured security and the tension of the present for the church to be engaged in new ministries and new ways of being an expression of the Gospel. His is a vital voice in both directions. What a privilege to be with this one and his colleague, Dia!
From there it was on to Kalunba where Kearstin has worked with the ministry to refugees, many of whom have come from Syria and Iran and many other places far and wide. Here we met Dora, the amazing head of this ministry. The refugee situation is both complex and simple. The complex piece is that people coming from widely different places and cultures have much to tend as they seek to establish their lives in a new location while learning a new language. The simple piece is that all these people are God’s children, worthy of love simply because they are part of the God’s beloved family.
You may have noticed, however, that simple truths do not necessarily equate with easy realities. There are mixed opinions in Hungary about refugees, as there are among some in the United States. There are differences of opinion within the church about what the mission should be regarding refugees who are not Christian (should they be converted or not). Despite all of this and the threat that Kalunba might not survive these complexities, there was at least one powerful voice that would not let the vision of faith to serve immigrants die.
That voice was Dora’s, the director of this program who would not let the heart of Christ and the call of the prophets be silenced. Because members of her own family had themselves been immigrants along the way (some now in the United States), this one woman of Hungary challenged the church and others around her to continue the mission of tending God’s people in their place of greatest need. Now, this work is not done by Dora alone – not in the least. But her voice on behalf of the voiceless, reminds all who come in contact with her that we are not islands unto ourselves, but members one of another.
Sometimes, if we are paying attention, we may discover our own calling to share the power of one. So it was that prior to our trip, one of our members, Bill, focused in on the need he heard about for men’s dress shirts so that refugees at Kolunba could go for job interviews. Bill took it upon himself to get 28 new dress shirts by working out a deal at Kohl’s. No sooner had the dress shirts been put on hangars at Kalunba when one man, recently hired by Starbucks took one of the shirts so that he could begin living into his new life. Everyone smiled because of the power of one to encourage another.
From Kolunba we went to the church where we had worship the day before, St. Columba’s Scottish mission. Here Kearstin has found an amazing English-speaking faith community that is truly an intersection of worlds. Of the many stories that we heard from Pastor Aaron and Associate Pastor Njeri, the power of one was no more poignantly felt than with the story of Scottish teacher and missionary, Jane Haining. She came to serve as a teacher of Jewish and Christian girls at St. Columba’s prior to World War II. Once counseled while back in Scotland not to return to Hungary due to the shadow of the Nazis she replied, “If the girls need me in days of sun, how much more do they need me in days of darkness.” On May 4th, 1944, members of the Gestapo took her away from the school and sent her to her death at Auschwitz. Within two hours of the Gestapo’s visit at the school the children were taken to other places. Through Haining’s life witness and sacrifice, the power of one served to save others who would have died.
Just one more thing we observed today: There is something our group has noticed about this power of one as it shines through Kearstin’s life. Her colleagues say that she “sparkles”. We would agree. She knows the secret that one person, driven by the passion and fire of love, can be a force for good that helps those around her discover that they are standing with her on holy ground. It is the power of one living inside the One. We saw much of it today in different ones and together our lives were strengthened – and so too, the life of the world. Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dave Long-Higgins
Sr. Pastor, David’s U.C.C., Canal Winchester, Ohio