I feel like a frustrated sponge – already too saturated to take more in beauty and unable to do my job – but this is what I was made for! As humans we’re created to enjoy beauty – drawn to the things that please the eyes of our souls. When I see something truly beautiful, I sometimes describe it as making my eyes feel “juicy.” Imagine things like lush, green grass after a few weeks of springtime rain, the sun setting over the sea, or an intricate work of art. It’s like taking a bite of the perfect nectarine and the juice is so sweet and runs down your chin – only this all happens in your eyes. I sincerely hope you’ve experienced it.
More often than not in Budapest, I find myself with juicy eyes. It’s different in its beauty than other cities I’ve experienced – with the old next to the new, clean next to the dirty, the once destroyed turned into something even more precious, all the while forcing us to remember what once was and long for what could be. Artist Makoto Fujimura has written, “Beauty is in the brokenness, not in what we can conceive as the perfections, not in the "finished" images but in the incomplete gestures.” I see this in the bullet holes that remain in sides of buildings and in those areas of the city that haven’t yet been touched, those neighborhoods where no one has yet begun to wash over the past. I see it in the beautiful bridges that are flanked by crumbling buildings. I see it as old ladies fill their homes with whatever they deem as beautiful, whether it all “matches” or not and as homeless people make homes for themselves in corners of the city.
This city and country have, undoubtedly, been broken. It’s a place that has suffered and persevered and succeeded and then been brought back down and over again. And that brokenness, paired with “incomplete gestures” to fight against and work toward unachievable perfection create an atmosphere of beauty that provides inspiration. I believe it is because of this that the city is so full of artists, musicians, dancers, designers, contractors who do the work of renovating the broken. Everywhere you look there are gestures toward a finished image that will never be complete.
At the coffeehouse I run, we have hosted an artist named Dóra Votin. Dóra once showed some work that she’s done over the years with old, discarded planks of wood. She takes the ugliest parts – the knots and holes and chips and burn marks and fills with them with gold and metal and precious paints and emphasizes those broken pieces and they become the most beautiful. That is what Budapest is to me – a city with good reason to be hopeless, full of brokenness and ugliness, but that is instead becoming a precious stone, a city of “gold.” A city of such beauty that it makes one’s eyes juicy.
As the tram continues down the tracks, brining me to my neighborhood, I smile. It’s a neighborhood that is constantly under construction, constantly experiencing renewal – which means it’s constantly filled with cranes and trucks and dug up roads. And as annoying as they are (and as often as I trip over the uneven sidewalks), I walk around with wonder, being drawn always to remember what was and look forward to what will be.
– Posted by Cassidy, who is overwhelmed at the beauty of Budapest and longs for spiritual renewal which is energized by the gospel to accompany the physical renewal happening all around her in the city.
Some years ago I began to earnestly make this practice a reality in my life. Because I became a follower of Jesus as a child, I have sometimes slipped into an apathetic attitude towards the miracle of the good news and my own desperate need for it. Preaching the gospel to myself every day has helped me break out of that apathy, and it has recently also been helping me face some significant ministry challenges.
Each and every day, I must remind myself that before I met Christ, I was counted among the "walking dead" all over this planet. Men and women who are in active rebellion against God and are facing a certain destiny of eternal separation from their loving Creator. But somehow, amazingly, unexplainably, God chose me to receive new life through His son. And not only did He breathe new life into my rebellious body, but He adopted me as His son, alongside His very own son, Jesus. He did this so that the new life which has been breathed into my body would be an example to a dying world of God's patience and grace towards other rebellious humans. And the reason he gave me this "death-to-life" story is so that I would to join Him in His work in this world.
I was dead, but now I am alive. And the purpose of that new life which has been breathed into me is so that I would bring glory to God and invite others to experience this new life as well. This is how people like the Apostle Paul (in Ephesians 2) and the Apostle Peter (in 1 Peter 2) described the gospel.
But even though I am filled with this new life, I live in a dying world.
In writing about his own death-to-life experience, Martin Luther described this world using a more "earthy" version of the word "privy". When I read that recently in Eric Metaxas' excellent biography of Martin Luther, I could completely relate — because there are most certainly times in which the world to me seems like a $#!@-house. And living as a made-alive man in a dying world sometimes feels like it has the potential to strangle the life right out of me.
Here are a few current examples: I want so badly for the church that I lead to more vibrantly display the gospel in our neighborhood, but I can't seem to make the progress I desire … I'm having some major relational challenges with some people who are close to me … Our car broke down last week and the cost of the repairs exceed the value of the vehicle … A misspelling in my name on official documents threatened our foundation and had me tangled up in bureaucratic red-tape … a misunderstanding with a construction contract meant that a colleague and I spent three hours sitting across from two lawyers trying to sort out the mess … and that's only just the start of my little corner of the world at the moment.
All of these things have been causing me to feel dead inside, and I realize that I even sometimes behave like a dead man, too. Can you relate?
There seems to be a steady gravitational pull in this world toward deadness. And because of that, God has shown me that the reason I must preach the gospel to myself every day is to remember that I am NOT dead – I am ALIVE!. And that it is only the new life that God has breathed into me which makes me distinct from the dying world in which I live. What's more, it is God's plan that by seeing expressions of the new life that God breathed into me, the people around me who inhabit this dying world would desire to find new life themselves.
So I'm preaching the gospel to myself every day, in order to remind myself that through Christ, I am alive! Of course I will face struggles and challenges every day in this dying world – should this surprise me? But the gospel has brought me from death to life. And that by seeing the life that lives in me, others will see Christ.
Can you relate? What works for you when the gravitational pull of this dying world threatens to strangle the new life out of you? How are you able to live "totally alive" in a dying world?
— Posted by Mark, who leads the team of EFCA staff serving in Budapest.
There are currently a number of unique opportunities to join the ReachBudapest team in disciple-making and church multiplication in Budapest. 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)
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"
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