Every semester, 50-60 eager university students attend one of my two-hour seminars during their mandated training week. During this week, just prior to vacation days, all students must select from a variety of seminars presented by their professors or guests. The sky’s the limit on topics, so I strike a balance between professional topics for teacher education students and personal topics for students in any major. "Dating for a Healthy Future" (for women only) is a seminar I’ve repeated several times. It’s always filled to capacity and this semester, a couple of men actually attended! The university has a religious heritage, so sharing biblical truths and my personal faith, while perhaps not expected, is certainly not rejected. University students are often openly searching for answers about the meaning of life. These students are engaged in the discussion and often ask hard questions; honesty is in abundant supply.
What tips can you give us about making a relationship deeper? What helped you stay married? Marriage isn’t important in Hungary. Why would a certificate make a difference? I don’t want to marry but I want to have a good relationship.
Lively discussion ensues as students talk in small groups and challenge one another’s views. And always, I tie it back to God’s word and his instructions for marriage. After two years at the university, I am noticing repeat customers and actually remember some of the students’ names! After the presentation, I offer students a chance to sign up for discussion groups that will take place outside the university. Usually about 10-15 students are interested, and some of them contact me individually to meet. In June, the discussion topic will be Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. Please pray for our meetings – that the timing will be right and students will have open hearts. They are always eager to stay after class and share personal stories, and these discussion groups will give us a chance to form real relationships.
Few professors are Christians, but there is a small presence on the faculty at this university. One of the professors tells me that our prayer times are most precious to her; she so appreciates taking these students before God and asking for their salvation.
Other opportunities to speak present themselves periodically in the educational world, and there is always a way to weave in the love that I have for Hungary and the reason that I feel God has called me there. Please pray for the harvest as we labor together to bring the gospel to the lost!
Posted by Robin, an educator and disciple-maker who splits her time between living in Budapest and the US.
There are currently a number of unique opportunities to join the ReachBudapest team in disciple-making and church multiplication in Budapest, including joining the faculty of the Hungarian public school that Cindy writes about above. See the opportunities …
Sometimes the conversations, which are mainly in Hungarian, take quick turns into topics that are difficult for us to follow because we're still learning vocabulary. In these times, it is such a joy to know God is at work in us as we pray, trust, and wait for the conversations to come back around to familiar ground. It is also so kind of God to allow us to observe Dávid, the leader of our church-planting team, speaking clearly and his wife Judit, leading the students from a place of close relationship both with the students and God. This week as the students brought up suicide as the opposite of waiting on God to answer our prayer either with “Yes, or no-it would not be good for you, I have something better.” (Suicide is a common topic with the students. Hungary has a very high suicide rate especially in males according to the World Health Organization.)
In Matthew and Luke, Jesus says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” “In ‘thanksgiving’ we recount blessings received and thus strengthen our confidence and enable ourselves to wait trustingly for what we pray." (Martin Luther)
One of the students this week processed that verse in this way: ”We are giving thanks to God for his answer in advance as we trust Him and wait on the answer.”
It is such a joy to hear and see God at work in these teenagers. This Kingdom community continues to grow in students and depth. My heart is moved as many of the students are the only believer in their family.
– Posted by Cindy, who along with her husband Harold is a part of a pioneer church-planting team in Óbuda, the 3rd District in Budapest.
There are currently a number of unique opportunities to join the ReachBudapest team in disciple-making and church multiplication in Budapest, including joining the faculty of the Hungarian public school that Cindy writes about above. See the opportunities …
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4: 37–41
Sometimes I’m in the storm, sometimes the storm is in me. After serving for two years on the ReachBudapest team, I returned to the US to jump into the process of becoming a long-term member of the team. This meant debriefing, reapplying, and raising more support to return all while living stateside. It is a year of in-betweens, feeling the burden of having my heart in two places. One rich asset to my time in the States has been participating in The Orchard Network Residency program. Designed for pastors, church planters and missionaries, the residency involves learning and growing and in the areas of life, skills, and doctrine. I’ve had the great privilege of learning from different leaders at the church and, through our training sessions, have grown in my theological foundation for ministry. Through this residency, my love for God’s word, the local church, and global missions has continually increased. There is a sweet camaraderie amongst participants, and it is a joy to see how God is at work in the Chicago area and around the world.
My heart aches to be in Budapest right now, but this season of in-betweens is how God is teaching me to be still, to be patient. He is teaching me the importance of the local church, and He is calming the waters of my soul. It’s a season of waiting, in the calm and stormy seas. When the wind starts to blow and the waves rock my boat, I sense Jesus commanding not only the waves of the storm to be still, but my own heart as well. In these last couple months of home assignment before heading back to Budapest, I am thankful for the stable foundation of God’s word, for the body of Christ, and for the message of the Gospel, our motivation for all that we do.
– Posted by Betsy, who is learning to rest in the assurance that Jesus is in the boat.
To discover how you could join the ReachBudapest team, click here to see available ministry opportunities. You can find more information about The Orchard Network at their website theorchardnetwork.org
If you would have asked me in 2009, as we were preparing to move to Budapest and devote ourselves to disciple-making in a different culture, whether I imagined that I would be building friendships with Afghani refugees, I probably would have found it easy to say "no". At the time, there was no indication that our work in Hungary would include a focus on Muslim people.
But all of that changed in 2015, when God began bringing people from some of the hardest-to-reach nations on the planet to the cities of Europe. Today our harvest field includes a significant number of Afghani people who fled from Kabul due to the violence caused by the Taliban, and are now setting in Budapest. A number of these families live in a refugee transition home where I volunteer regularly, and I am seeing God at work. One young couple in the home, expecting their first child, are brand new Christians. My prayer is that God would use this couple mightily as disciple-makers among their own people.
What if Budapest is the place where Afghani people meet Jesus? What if a worldwide movement of the Spirit among Afghani people would radiate from Budapest?
One of our biggest challenges in reaching these Afghani people is language. Adults generally have very limited language ability in both English and Hungarian, so evangelism and discipleship will most effectively happen in the Dari (or perhaps Farsi) language.
Do you have a heart for Muslim people? Do you already speak Dari (or Farsi), or are you willing to learn? Could God be calling you, or someone you know, to Budapest in order to reach Muslims for Christ? Let's talk! Drop me an email.
– Posted by Mark, who continues to discover daily new depths to the statement, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways". (Isaiah 55:8)
The ReachBudapest team is motivated by the knowledge that God has shaped each one of us for a particular place of influence in society. He's given us skills, experience, and passions that equip us for a "space" or "lane" that is uniquely ours! We want to enter into those spaces as disciple makers, inviting people into relationship with Jesus and into community with other believers. As a result of professional connections made over the years with other educators, I was invited to give a teacher in-service at a public school. The local church sponsors this event annually, where students are dismissed for the day, and while teachers are in professional development sessions, other teams of church volunteers work with the school’s janitors on projects to improve the physical plant. This is but one way that the believers seek to support their local schools throughout the year.
I was asked to develop sessions that would inspire the teachers while giving them practical ideas for student-centered instruction in their classrooms. And by the way, the 60 or so teachers would have students ranging roughly from first to eighth grade. My first thoughts: “Wow, God, what an opportunity you’ve provided! Thank you!” My second: “ That’s impossible! I have no experience in Hungarian curriculum and instruction. A day off of school where the teachers VOLUNTARILY come to an inservice? Now that’s pressure! I’m not even sure it can be done well given the spread of grade levels. How can I possibly make this work? Help!”
Help was on the way! My most creative colleague “just so happened” to be joining me for a research trip in Budapest and its surrounds during the same timeframe. Having worked together as professors of education for over 15 years, we’ve developed a trust and a presentation style that complements the best in one another. “Guess what?” I cheerily told him. “We’re adding a teacher in-service during your trip!” Despite the fact that we weren’t at all sure what to expect, we set to work making plans that could be morphed at a moment’s notice into several different directions.
As we traveled to the school that crisp November morning, I was a bit apprehensive. I had met the pastor of the church and one of the teachers at the school, yet knew very little else about the situation. My colleague admitted to being scared (repeatedly and to anyone and everyone, only half in jest). In our own educational system and culture, we have been successful, but in a new context, we had little confidence in our own abilities to bring anything useful to this group of teachers. And make no mistake; the teachers of Hungary are VERY intelligent! We prayed for God’s favor and direction and plunged in!
We could not have received a more gracious reception with the faculty! They were attentive and adventurous, participating in all kinds of group activities. They laughed at our jokes! We all had fun and learned from one another. We affirmed their expertise and they drew from ours. We chatted at lunch and parted at the end of the day with an invitation to continue the dialog as educational colleagues.
We count it a great privilege to have the honor to work alongside local Christians who are reaching out through their schools, supporting and blessing their community’s faculty on a regular basis. Our prayer is that we, alongside local believers, will continue to be the aroma of Christ in their lives (2 Cor 2:14,15) for the sake of His gospel.
– Posted by Robin, an educator and disciple-maker who splits her time between living in Budapest and the US.
ARE YOU A TEACHER INTERESTED IN USING YOUR PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE TO MAKE A KINGDOM IMPACT IN BUDAPEST? WE'VE BEEN ASKED BY A HUNGARIAN PUBLIC SCHOOL TO RECRUIT A TEACHER FOR THE ENGLISH FACUTY. THIS TEACHER//MISSIONARY WILL ALSO JOIN A CHURCH PLANTING TEAM IN THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY! READ MORE…
It is so exciting to see God work in new and unanticipated ways. He never ceases to amaze us in how invites us to participate in His work in the city. One of the long-term goals of the ReachBudapest team is to have an expanded ministry presence in Budapest, and to contribute to the launch of new churches in those locations. In the past year and a half, God provided an opportunity for our team to participate in the launch of a new church in the area of Kőrösi high school in Óbuda, the northern part of Budapest. The church planting team is led by Dávid, a Hungarian seminary student who is also the religion and ethics teacher at the high school.
On of our roles on the church planting team is to lead an English Club for parents and friends of the students at the school. These classes, while not evangelistic in nature, help to build relationships even though language is a challenge at times. Many questions arise during the discussions in class, and when this happens we take every opportunity to share our love of Christ and the hope we have in Him. In December we had an “American Christmas dinner” at our apartment in Óbuda. (photo below)
Every Wednesday after school, Hungarian teen believers are meeting with Dávid to study the Bible. They are inviting their friends that are searching for truth. The students have many questions about the scriptures, life, and what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. This is the beginning of a church and we pray that God will grow and expand it in His time.
This Christmas we gave Hungarian/English parallel Bibles to the adults in the English classes and to the teens. Several have shared with us that they have begun reading the God's word regularly! One couple memorized John 3:16 in English and recited it to the English club after we returned from Christmas. Please pray that as this new young church takes root, that God will use these Bibles for His glory.
There are currently opportunities to join this and other ministry projects Budapest. We're currently praying that God brings many more to join the ReachBudapest team. For more information click here.
– Posted by Harold, who along with his wife Cindy is a part of the church planting team at Kőrösi High School in Óbuda, on the northern edge of Budapest.
Playing games at Harold and Cindy's flat after the "American Christmas Dinner"
With this beautiful Hungarian advent song, the ReachBudapest team wishes you a blessed, Christ-filled Christmas! (click the play button to view the video.)
This is important because one of our goals is to add to the life of the community. Through these artists, we are able to connect with more people in unique ways that touch their hearts. In the two years we've been open, we have established relationships with customers, musicians, artists, and other business people in the area. We have ample opportunity to interact with people daily and share with them the Peace so many of them are searching for. It happens in spiritual conversations we have with customers as they celebrate joy with us and pour out their griefs with us. It happens between us as colleagues as we are being constantly refined by each other to be more like God. It happens in the gallery as artists express the beauty of creation. It happens on the stage, through beautiful music that moves souls. It happens as musicians ask to come back again and again – not just because of the great setting but because “there’s just something different” here. It happens as a musician who has become a dear friend takes the time to help us with a marketing project. These are spiritual, gospel-filled opportunities that happen regularly and we are thankful.
– Posted by Cassidy, who lives and works in Budapest, spending her time helping the coffeehouse to be a place where deep relationships form and where people encounter Jesus, the Prince of Peace
[NOTE: There are a number of opportunities to participate in the work of the coffeehouse! If you are interested in learning about how you can support the project with your prayers, or through a financial investment, contact Cassidy.]
Being new to Budapest, I am in a transition phase of fighting between immersing myself in cultural adjustment and pursuing God’s ministry for me here. Pursuing the “real work” involved in being an artist missionary in a cross-cultural context. I put “real work” in quotation marks because ministry can’t be turned on and off, but extends to every part of life. Therefore, since there is so much new right now, there is a lot to adjust to that goes beyond just developing the arts ministry.
I’d like to share a story that illustrates just one of these moments of growth where I fall upon God’s grace in this saturated time of newness.
I was on my way to pick up groceries for a breakfast we bring to a transitional home for refugees. I’m feeling pretty peaceful; this moment feels like it has purpose. Lately I have been tempted to demonize the mundane or purely pragmatic and idolize what I perceive to be significant, groundbreaking or exciting. My whole attitude and conviction for what is productive and not productive has been rocked since my move to Hungary. Here I am, during a quiet morning at my local grocery store, doing a simple task that is productive and constructive for my ministry. I think to my self, “This is such a minimal task, I couldn’t possibly mess this up – finally something so basic that has limited opportunity for confusion – etc. I’ve got this.”
I look down to the purple post-it note in my hand and read my grocery list as I come to the realization that I am going to need a shopping cart instead of a basket. I have yet to grab a shopping cart in Hungary. I think to myself, “That’s cool, no big deal…” while stepping into yet another situation of learning and uncertainty.
The carts are locked, and require a returnable coin to unlock them. I take out my lowest value coin and put it into the slot to unlock the cart. Nothing happens. I keep trying until I give up, I’m on a time crunch. I figure, I probably used the wrong coin, but instead of trying a coin of a different value, I enter the store and grab two baskets. They stack, they roll, it’s not that unusual of a solution, right? Rolling and stacking the baskets quickly proved to be more of a ridiculous solution than just carrying them as they rattled around on the ground while I walked, so I rearranged my things and carried them in my hands instead. As I am perusing the tea section, I see in my peripheral vision a woman walking towards me. She starts speaking to me in Hungarian with a laugh in her voice. I get the idea that she finds my basket solution quite humorous, and is telling me that I can use a cart. I am always humbled when others help me instead of letting me just bare with the consequences of an unconventional solution to a given problem. After a confusing back and forth between this woman and I of broken Hungarian, body language, facial expressions, trying to go through a gate the wrong way in the heat of the moment and animated gestures, this woman gets a cart to me. She laughed and I expressed my gratitude as she took my silly baskets away from me. I was so thankful for her willingness to step in. (I’ve been using a cart for this grocery run ever since.)
It is during times like these where I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9-11.
Being in a new country is disorienting. There is a preconceived idea that God has equipped me with strengths and that my weaknesses are a stumbling block to living out these strengths. However, time and time again the contrary proves to be true. God uses these times of misunderstanding to His Glory. For some reason, he never gives up on us and is glorified in our striving, no matter the outcome. He does not care if we cannot always be in our “strength-filled” element.
When I think I am being productive, the roadblocks of cultural misunderstanding and a stunted ability for what productivity used to look like creeps in. When I don’t think I am being productive, God uses it. The moral of the story is, my effectiveness in ministering well here is so unbelievably dependent on God, and I constantly forget this and try to do it on my own.
I am not perfect, God calls us on the journey towards further sanctification, but instead of purely making it a series of messing up and correction, I think there is a way to do it with joy in an acknowledgment of the abundant amount of grace He gives us. We get to do this within community and free from shame. It takes courage to admit our imperfections, but He is not startled by our imperfections and brokenness. We are free to be in relationship with God no matter where we are in life. Our right and wrong doings cannot get in the way of God’s power and love. We are only debilitated to the extent that we are deceived from the truth that our true identity is in Jesus.
The chains of pride are disguised in the appealing appearance of competency, strength and power. These are all good things, but can either be used rightly as they were intended or exploited. Humility gets twisted to look like weakness, laziness or just so backwards that there is complete blindness to right intention. In reality, humility is an underrated and grace filled link to recognize God as all-powerful and good. Humility is a blessing that frees us from relying on our own imperfect selves and limited worldviews.
What are you working for that feels “super important” but can become a pride builder or distort your relationship with God and/or others? It is not worth it. You might not have to lose this thing, but it is best if you surrender it to God. See it in a new light. Invite God to redeem it.
“Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39
I am trying to do this. It is easier said than done, but exponentially more powerful done than said. Be covered in grace, guided in humility and motivated in love.
— Posted by Anna
Interested in learning more about the ReachBudapest team? Click Here to visit our homepage.
— Posted by Betsy
We're pleased to share a new introductory video piece for the ReachBudapest team! Special credit to the ReachGlobal Europe filmmakers for helping us tell the story of our city. Watch for several more ReachBudapest pieces coming from this team in the near future.
Interested in what made news this year in Budapest? On December 13, 2015, the Budapest Times presented “in one concise package the year’s most fascinating stories, whether they be economic, political, cultural, sporting or among the hundreds of other happenings that went on every day.” (read the entire article)
Of course, this is the opinion of only one news outlet. In a year in which members of the international press spent months in our city, it seems as if some of the most newsworthy events of the year may have been overlooked.
(photo credit: Rebecca Harms)
Timothy Keller rightly posits that “Cities have more image of God per square inch than any other place on earth.” The city and surrounding metropolitan area of Budapest (pictured above), with it’s population of nearly 3 million, is home to almost one third of the residents of Hungary. Budapest is the place of economic, political, cultural, and academic influence for the nation. The ReachBudapest team is praying that it becomes the place of gospel influence as well. EFCA president Kevin Kompelein and our ReachGlobal Europe colleague Mike Edwards discuss the significance of the city, as well as the unique posture the EFCA movement brings to engaging the important urban areas in our world today. Read the full story at EFCA Today.
The KMK is a ministry and community center in Budapest’s 11th district that serves four churches and thirteen ministry and civic organizations. Nearly 1,200 people pass through doors of the KMK weekly, attending a worship service, ministry program, community event, or as a guest at the coffeehouse.
The motto of the KMK is “The place that brings us together.” We see this motto expressing itself in the “bringing together” of churches, ministries, and ministry leaders from diverse backgrounds in an expression of unity that will cause people to see Christ (John 17), as well as in the “bringing together” into relationship and community those who know and follow Jesus with those who are yet to know Him.
Representatives of the organizations served by the KMK gathered on November 24, 2015 to share updates of how God is at work in and through their ministries. Watch the complete video, below.
God is calling the ReachGlobal team in Budapest to a broader physical presence in the city, and towards the fulfillment of this calling, we’re asking Him to bring us new teammates who will publicly live out their Christian faith in the space God has prepared for them on the cultural highways of Hungarian society, invest themselves into the lives of disciple makers, and contribute to the formation of new communities of believers.
Is God calling you join us in the work of proclaiming the gospel in one of the great historical cities of Europe? There are innumerable ways in which your God-given gifts, abilities, and experiences could contribute to the redemptive work He is doing as the gospel transforms Budapest, making it at a place of regional spiritual influence.
The following SHORT-TERM (12-23 month) ministry opportunities are currently available. (Do you sense that God is calling you to a LONG-TERM (2 or more years) role in Budapest? Let’s talk about how God may have uniquely prepared and gifted you to join our team in the work that He is doing in our city!)
PROVIDE TECH SUPPORT AT AN ART CAFÉ COFFEEHOUSE
The humanities, including art, music, literature, poetry, and more, are one of the most significant cultural highways in the city of Budapest. Use your technical skills with audio, video, and lighting and join the programming staff of an art café coffeehouse that seeks to use concerts, exhibitions of art, and other cultural experiences, to build bridges of relationships within this highly secular, art appreciating, society.
TEACH CONVERSATIONAL ENGLISH IN CASUAL SETTINGS
Hungarians are interested in improving their conversational English skills, and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of conversational English clubs allow plentiful opportunities to build bridges of relationship and to communicate the gospel in word and deed. Besides conversational English clubs, English language discovery Bible studies, game nights, nature hikes and city outings are among the opportunities to use the English language to share spiritual truth with Hungarians.
BE A VISUAL / DIGITAL STORYTELLER
In a secular society that demonstrates a belief that “God is dead”, there is inestimable power when believers tell their personal stories of a living God who is actively at work in their own lives. Serve churches and Christian organizations in Budapest by helping followers of Christ share their stories in compelling, visual ways. (Special skills needed: Experience in visual communication / storytelling and video editing. Must provide own equipment.)
DISCIPLE HUNGARIAN STUDENTS
Each summer, many Hungarian teens make a decision to become followers of Jesus Christ as a result of Outreach English camps in Budapest. Join the ReachBudapest team and walk alongside these teenagers as they begin their lives as disciples and grow to become a generation of Hungarian disciple-makers!
TEACH ENGLISH IN A HUNGARIAN PUBLIC SCHOOL
Public high schools in Budapest are regularly seeking native English speakers to join their staffs as volunteer English teachers. In this remarkable way, God is opening a door for followers of Christ to have a place of relational and spiritual influence in one of the most secular sectors of Hungarian society. (Special skills needed: Degree in education, TESOL training a plus. Teaching experience preferable.)
For more information on any of these opportunities, or for further information, contact us at: email@example.com
A year ago we were still frantically placing chairs and cleaning up last piles of rubble. A year ago we barely knew each other but had to somehow figure out how to work together as a team. A year ago some of us couldn’t even communicate in each others’ language!
Now – 36 concerts, 9 exhibitions, and various other programs later – we are like a well-oiled machine (almost!). We can communicate, we know where everything is, musicians regularly grace our stages, people await the new exhibition each month, and we can make darn good coffee. We’ve invented new drinks, adjusted prices, and learned a countless number of things about God, ourselves, and the world we serve.
What a joy it’s been to see the coffeehouse develop as we get to know the people walking through our doors. It’s a privilege to be able to work in a setting that allows time to sit and talk with strangers, to get to know new people, and to build lasting friendships. As we move into the second year, I hope that we’ll continue to do the things we’ve been doing so far: serving fantastic coffee, creating relationships with our community, supporting local musicians and artists, and looking more like Christ through it all.
Cassidy Baker, Café Program Manager
(to view a gallery of photos from the first year of the café, CLICK HERE)
Over the course of this most recent Lent and Easter season, I read through a Lenten devotional by NT Wright, called “Lent for Everyone.” It was really a quite impactful devotional—I often ended up reading what I had read that morning aloud to my roommates as we began our days, simply to share in the richness of thought it contained. This was also the first time I had so intentionally and so fully walked through Jesus’ story during the season of Lent and by the time I arrived at Easter weekend, both in the physical world and in Matthew, I felt the movements of Jesus’ life on earth in a new way. I held a fuller picture of Jesus’ work on earth, a better understanding of what it meant when he said at the beginning of his ministry that “the Kingdom of God has drawn near”. He was declaring that God himself had come down into the muck and mire of his creation, and was bringing this Kingdom with him. I realized that this very holiday was the culmination of that movement—that Easter weekend was the weekend when Jesus brought heaven and earth together in a way it never had been before, and that out of that connection, something new was being formed. Out of the messy collision of this communion God was and is working, even still today, to bring transformation, redemption, newness, with Jesus as the King.
Through this experience I was struck by how this transformation seems to work, that this culminating point in the Christian narrative is one that I often still act out on a micro level over and over again in the day-to-day every day of life. As a Christian, and specifically as a Christian engaged in full time ministry, I am often living through little Good Fridays, Holy Saturdays, and then Easter Sundays, in a rhythm that ebbs and flows with the movements of pain and joy, loneliness and community, work and rest that are inevitable in such a line of work. In this rhythm, I am confronted with the paradox of the Christian life: it was finished once and for all 2000 years ago, yes, but I look around and realize that it also isn’t yet. Because while all is ultimately now set right, somehow simultaneously nothing is right. I live through moments where life is full of sorrow or confusion or hurt, as though Jesus has just died and even hope is hiding from me. I live through moments when the world is numb and the work is hard, and seems as though Jesus had just stayed dead in the ground. And then, of course, there are the moments when joy and hope and life break through, and it is as though Jesus has risen again. And then the cycle repeats itself.
Now it is true that through in each of these emotional moments of life, Jesus is actually still risen, it is true that what Jesus heaved as he took his final breath holds as always true even when I feel like it isn’t…it is, truly, finished. But, in a strange way, in order to declare this it is as though I have to trudge through the experience of this ultimate event over and over again. Though frustrating sometimes, I find deep beauty in this process. In going through it, I am shown that the work of Jesus wasn’t a musty, stagnant, solid thing meant to stay bound, caged in time 2000 years ago. This event was meant to be active and moving and alive. It was meant to be fluid, it was meant to transcend time. It was meant to be lived and relived by the world, and by us, over and over and over—yesterday, today, and then tomorrow again, each time re-declaring its truth to a world that often wants nothing to do with it. In this way, Jesus meets the pain of this world here, now, today, and responds to it directly, right here, right now, today. This constant re-realizing of the Easter story is not something to fear, nor is it something to push away as lack of faith. I think it is redemption in motion.
Alongside this recent reflection, I was reminded of the “Grand Inquisitor” chapter of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. It is in this chapter that Alexei says nothing in defense of his religion, even after his brother Ivan (the most intellectual of the four brothers) exerts himself completely setting up what he views as the ultimate argument for his unbelief in God. Instead, Alexei answers Ivan’s questioning and argument in the same way Ivan’s Christ responds to the Inquisitor’s attacks, giving his brother nothing but a loving, comforting kiss. When I first read this chapter of the book I remember being amazed at how frustratingly Biblical this answer is. This response somehow echoes of the God who answered Job’s cries for rescue from suffering, not with an explanation or immediate relief, but instead with a long exhortation saying nothing more than he is God and Job is not. It likewise echoes of the Messiah who, though the Jews hoped he would ride into their world in triumph and on a war horse, instead rode in on a donkey and his triumph was in his death (and resurrection). Both of these answers to the very real question of pain were, to say the least, underwhelming. Like the kiss with which Alexei bestows on the problem of pain, on his brother’s pain, these answers seem to ignore the question completely.
But the beauty in these answers is that perhaps, by ignoring the question, they more fully address it. The answer takes onto itself the painful reality that has birthed the question because it does not try to explain, argue, or fight away this reality. In this way the answer, if that is what it is, is able to instead hold the weight of the question. The answer seems to show, though it gives no direct resolution, that answerer knows what is causing the asker to ask, and in acknowledging this addresses the root of the question.
If we stop and think about it, what other answer could we want than this? God, in response to Job’s suffering offered himself. And God himself, in the person of Jesus, offered himself as the answer to the oppression and slavery his people felt by taking on himself the full weight of the oppression, the very root of the oppression—sin. What fuller answer could have been given? He didn't explain or argue away the question, he didn’t explain or argue about why he came to die instead of fight. He only said that this is the way it had to be, and accepted the question as valid enough to die for. And in doing this, he removed the threat of even death itself from his people. From the whole world should it choose him.
And so, in the moments when I live through the Good Fridays, Holy Saturdays, and Easter Sundays of life here in Budapest, I see the call to live like Christ in this sense. It presented itself recently when a friend shared with me about hurt and pain present in her life right now. My first instinct was to try to convince her of the hope and truth of Christ and Christianity (though it is true), to explain away or fix her hurt. But I thankfully resisted this urge, and instead listened to her and prayed for her. I am thankful because, though I wanted to fight against it, I was witnessing a Good Friday moment—a moment when I caught a glimpse of the hopelessness and helplessness that weighed on the cross that Christ carried. In the Good Fridays and Holy Saturdays, I learn from Christ to resist the knee-jerk urge respond to the pain of this world by trying to fix it, trying to present it with answer to justify or argue against it or argue it away or into submission. I learn from Christ, rather, to carry it, to be in it, and allow his Spirit to move instead of me. I share in the sufferings of Christ this way, remaining as a faithfully present witness to this pain. And though I may pray without ceasing for my friend, and though to this friend God may seem dead, I cling to the hope that this is just Good Friday. That though Jesus seems dead, as Tony Campolo famously declared, “Sunday is coming!” Choosing to shoulder her pain, I cling to the promise of Christ for her, that this is not the end, that the final Word hasn’t been spoken. In doing this I declare the truth of the death and resurrection of Christ here. Christ is here, moving in this world. His work was not nailed to the cross or even stuck under the boulder of the empty tomb of 2000 years ago. It is moving and active, carried by his Spirit, in Budapest, right now, today.
This morning as I reached for my public transportation pass, I dropped a 50 forint coin in the process. It bounced aside to escalator platform next to me, and I left it there, thinking, “Maybe it’ll make someone’s day to find a happy little coin later on.”
I went down the last escalator and walked down the platform to wait exactly 4 minutes and 30 seconds for the next metro train, as I had just missed the previous train. I’ve become more and more okay with missing the train, since my friend Gabor reminded me, “Don’t people know that there’s another train coming in just 4 and a half minutes? Why do we need to rush?”
As I leaned against the green mosaic wall, an old man came up to me. He had seen me drop the coin on the escalator, picked it up, and had come to find me on the platform to return it to me. His small gesture was striking. Perhaps my expectations are too low, but in any culture, in any city, I would not expect a stranger to take time to return something of such little value. Kindness is a welcomed surprise, a refreshing moment. Kindness like that from a stranger is balm on the wound of my imperfect perception of who we are as people. It reminds me that people can feel a natural compassion for someone that they have never met. I love these unhurried moments.
Posted by Betsy, serving a 23-month term in Budapest with EFCA ReachGlobal.
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE YEAR (from the Budapest Times, December 16, 2014)
The Budapest Times is unrivaled among English-language print publications in the capital for its coverage of the week’s most important national stories, whether they be economic, political, cultural, sporting or among the hundreds of other happenings that go on daily in a major European city. Here, in one concise package, we present some of the important and fascinating news developments of the past twelve months. (read the entire article)
We can see messages and images of physical renewal all around us today in the neighborhood. Buildings and public spaces are being rehabilitated. The park next door is becoming a truly beautiful place. The new subway line is pumping new lifeblood into the community. Formerly deserted retail spaces are now filling with new businesses. The neighborhood has a new sense of hope, because things are renewing on the outside.
But there is a problem with renewal that only comes on the outside, because the truth is that renewed buildings will one day fall again into disrepair. Graffiti may, unfortunately, decorate the crisp clean walls of the Metro4. New businesses may one day close their doors. All those things which brought such hope will eventually disappoint.
We know that just as this city is in need of outward, physical renewal, the need for spiritual renewal is much greater. Hearts are cold; marriages, families, and lives are broken; hope is lost and disappointment has left its mark on the lives of those living around us, and we can see it on their faces. But if the physical, outward renewal that initially brings so much hope will one day disappoint, what message do we have for those in need of inner, spiritual renewal?
The biblical writer Ezekiel was acquainted with broken, disappointed, hopeless people. And speaking as God's prophet, he wrote: "I will give you a new heart, I will put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my ways."
We have found that there is a hope that does not disappoint. It comes not from renewal on the outside, but by renewal on the inside. It comes not from fresh paint or new tile, nor from a new dress, a fresh hairstyle, a change in job or a new spouse. This kind of lasting renewal is what Ezekiel wrote about when he spoke about trading a heart of stone for a heart of flesh.
Our opportunity in this unique season here in this community is to share stories and images of that true spiritual renewal, that inner renewal. Our opportunity is to be modern day prophets hope, following the example of Ezekiel and Isaiah and Jeremiah, speaking boldly of a true and lasting Hope, a Hope which does not, will not, cannot disappoint. A hope and a future which comes only through a restored relationship with Creator God through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
And the coffeehouse is committed to that purpose, to being a place where the aroma of coffee meets the fragrance of Jesus Christ. It is for that reason that we created this space, it is for that reason that we gather here tonight to celebrate what God has done in providing everything that was necessary for it to come into existence, and it is for that reason that we will pray to dedicate this space to God's glory and for the advancement of the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ.