Tuesday, September 8, 2015

the humanitarian crisis on our doorstep / on the front lines of history

The international media has picked up recently on the humanitarian crisis that is happening in Hungary. The truth is that the flow of migrants into Europe through Hungary has been happening for months. Recent issues have really put a spotlight on what has been going on here in Hungary.

We've been able to help the past few month by taking humanitarian aid to the refugees after they got processed and dropped off at the Szeged train station. A group of local volunteers has really led the charge in caring for these people on their journey. People from our church & others have been very generous in providing funds for us to give what we can. It's allowed us to be build bridges with the volunteers. 
helping migrants at the train station in Szeged

 Last night I went down to the border where these migrants cross over into Hungary and are held at camps for processing to meet friends from Budapest & Vajta who came to help. They brought blankets & mats for people to sleep on, I loaded my car with food. I wasn't prepared for the situation I encountered. Literally 5 minutes before I arrived, hundreds of migrants broke outed the camp& wanted to start walking to Budapest.they were stopped a few hundred meters down the road at a roundabout when the police locked it down, but about 100-150 did make a run for it and started walking up the M5 to Budapest (170km / 105 miles). The other 400-500 people just sat in this roundabout not wanting to move. I asked the police if I could help being a bilingual pastor & many of these people speak English.  They asked if I could help them tell the people they need to go back to the camp to get registered because without papers, according to EU law, they can not travel to Western Europe. The situation was so tense, when I went to talk with people, a couple of policemen escorted me. 5 minutes later they asked me to get on the loudspeaker and tell everyone they need to go back. So I jumped in a police car & explained to everyone why they need to go back. After hearing me, an Arabic man from Sweden who is here to give humanitarian aid, asked if could say in Arabic what I said in English.  Thankfully the crowd began to make their way back to the camp.
a heated standoff between migrants & the Hungarian police
what I encountered last night

After the situation calmed down, I was able to deliver the food I had to the camp of refugees & a few cases of coca-cola for the police who have been working 18 hour shifts for the last week or so.

As I left the scene later in the evening, the thought that struck me was, “this is history happening before our eyes”. I believe that in 30-50 years, what is happening now will go down in history as the event that reshaped Europe. I’d be foolish to say if it’s for better or for worse but I do know that this wave of migrants has started and will not stop in the near future, as a matter of fact, the numbers will only continue to increase in the weeks to come. the solution to this problem is way above my pay grade! 
the conditions people are living in

So what are we do to? honestly, I’m torn, I know that in this large number of people who are coming into Europe there are “bad elements” & unfortunately that can’t be stopped. What I do know, is that thousands of people are already here. I’ve been around many of them and they are people from all different walks of life who simply want to escape the horrible conditions in their homelands and make a better life for their families. can you blame them? most immigrants who went to America went with the same intentions! 
it's hard to see but the path on the right is how people are entering Hungary

Here is what I propose, why don’t we treat these people with the dignity and respect that they deserve as image bearers of God? I understand that they come from a different culture than us in the West & I understand that they’ve been taught to hate the “Great Satan” of the West, but what if we, people who claim to follow Jesus, reach out to them as Jesus would? Would Jesus care for immigrants? Would Jesus give food, drink, and a blanket to His enemies? Absolutely, Jesus even died on the Cross for His enemies. 

So even though I have conflicting thoughts on the issue, I’m going to have to go with what Jesus says, “whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42). 

So as long as the Lord provides us the supplies, we will continue to do what we can to minister to these migrants coming into Europe at our doorstep. 

this being the case, I’d like to ask you 2 things…

  1. pray for us & pray for this whole situation
  2. prayerfully consider supporting this work toward the refugees financially.

 If you’d like to donate funds to this ministry, please contact me at kyleodi@gmail.com and we can work out the best way for you to get the funds to us so we can get aid to those in need as soon as possible.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

doing church differently

this last Wednesday we did something we’ve never done before. We took our Wednesday night service to the streets of Szeged. The main reasons for this is the current immigration crisis that is happening at our doorstep, as between 800-1300 refugees cross the border at Szeged every day (20% of which are young kids). Golgota Szeged has, over the past few weeks, has given generously so that we can provide some humanitarian aid to these refugees. 

because of this crisis, I invited the “A Vision For Life” team (http://avisionforlife.com)
from Vajta to come minister to the refugees with us. The team that came was about 65 people. That amount of people would simply overwhelm the refugees and the volunteers at the Szeged train station. So we decided to divide their team and our church members into 3 groups. 

I led group #1 at the train station as we talked with and delivered humanitarian aid to the refugees.  The other groups were led by guys from our church. Balázs led about 20 people in a prayer walk around Szeged, and Norbi lead a group of about 20 as they shared the good news of Jesus on the streets of Szeged.  It was an amazing evening for all 3 groups.

a group of refugees just arrives at the Szeged train station after being processed by the police
What I experienced at the train station, talking with many of the refugees (about 200 showed up in the 4 hours that we were there), was very insightful. I talked with people from Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, among others. most of these people have been walking for months, fleeing their country. I talked to one young man from Afghanistan, who left last year on July 29th and is hoping to make it to Germany or England to make a better life for himself. Another man I talked to from Bangladesh, fled months ago, because he is a Hindu and is fleeing from the attacks of radical Islamic forces. But the highlight of my evening was talking with a woman and her 2 sons from Syria. After I noticed that she was wearing a cross bracelet, I asked if she was a Christian. She said yes, and when I asked her story, she said she left Syria with her boys (14 & 10) because of the fighting in Syria & the persecution against Christians. Turns out her Dad was a pastor in Damascus and my friend Andi & I prayed  for her and her children right before they boarded the train. She was very, very thankful. I also spoke with young men from Syria who fled because they did not want to fight and all they wanted is peace. Many of them left at the behest of their families. 
me, Tibor (CC Csantavér, Serbia), and Jeremy (AVFL pastor)

 There are some things I took away from being at the train station…

#1. All people, regardless of race, nationality, or religion are image bearers of God and are to be shown honor, dignity an value (this is the message that I told a French news reporter when he interviewed me Wednesday night).

#2. giving someone a cup of cold water (or in this case humanitarian aid - bottled water, tooth paste, hygiene products, etc.) is not only pleasing in the eyes of God but an amazing blessing to those in need.

#3. there is real evil in the world and it needs to be stopped. If there were peace in the homelands of these people they would never have left on this journey of thousands of miles to try to make a better life for themselves. 

#4. there seems to be no end in sight to this wave of refugees fleeing into Hungary. Praise God, a lot of money has been provided (by Golgota Szeged & the AVFL team) so that we can continue to take aid to the volunteer group helping the refugees for weeks to come. 

a group of refugees arrives around 11pm
If you read this, would you please pray that the Gospel would reach those people (mainly muslims) who are fleeing their homelands and coming to Europe. Some people say that this is all in the plan of Islam to reconquer Europe. My impression is that this is not the case. Thousands are crossing into Europe daily, via Szeged, hoping for a better life. That “better life” is found in Jesus and now is the time for the Christians in Europe to see these refugees not as enemies or threats but as people who so desperately need the Gospel. And maybe, just maybe, the first step in showing them the love of Jesus is giving them a bottle of water after journeying for months on foot in conditions that we couldn’t even imagine?
a heartfelt message at the train station

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

the humanitarian crisis in Szeged

the humanitarian crisis in Szeged

with all the has been going on in the world (the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage in the US, establishment of an Embassy in Cuba, Greece defaulting on it’s loan payment to the European Central Bank / IMF) not much, if any attention has been given to the growing humanitarian crisis happening here in Szeged.

For weeks now, refugees have been fleeing Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and making their way to Europe. For the first time in the 16 years I’ve lived in Szeged, these refugees have been flooding into Europe through Szeged like never before.  A friend of mine, who is a policeman, told me that 52,000 people entered Hungary illegally last year seeking refugee status. Because of the situation in the Middle East the flood gates have opened and thousands of people everyday are crossing the border from Serbia into Hungary in the hopes of obtaining refugee status in the EU. 

Szeged does not have any refugee camps, so when people get here they find their way to the train station and board trains to the refugee camps in places like Debrecen (where some of refugees are coming to know Jesus). These refugees arrive in Szeged completely exhausted from traveling thousands of miles on foot and squeezed in inhumane conditions in cars & vans. A group of people started to meet these refugees at the train station to offer them help, food, water, hygiene products, etc. This small volunteer movement has caught fire and has been highlighted in the Hungarian news. 

 On the news today, I heard an interview with a sociologist who talked to some of these refugees. One thing they told him was that the way they were treated here in Szeged was the first time in a long time that someone treated them as people, not as cash cows.

As this situation has been unfolding, I’ve felt that it’s our Christian duty to help these people who are the foreigners & outcasts of society. Jesus taught us is Matthew 25, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Tonight, after church, we took our first carload of humanitarian aid to these refugees. While at the train station, we asked if we could talk with one of the organizers. Fortunately, we were able to talk with a very kind woman. I told her that I’m a pastor of a church and we, and other churches, want to help. She said, that during the night, there has recently been tension among the refugees. And she said it would be great to have a pastor there to help deal with the spiritual issues of the refugees. So in the coming days / weeks, as I can I will be out at the train station ministering to refugees. As a church, we are doing what we can to add supplies to help those in need. A heat wave will hit Hungary this weekend, so we’re going to be buying lots of water to keep people hydrated. 

I know that we might not ever see these people again, but that isn’t the point, the point is we must obey Jesus and care for those who are in need. So, I’m excited about what the Lord is going to do through Golgota Szeged, and though the other churches in Szeged, as we seek to just minister to Jesus as we minister to the refugees.

Please pray for us, for Golgota Szeged & all the churches in Szeged, as we seek to minister the love of Jesus to people who are in such dire need.


Monday, May 25, 2015

2015 spring church and family update

Today is Pentecost, which is a holiday here in Hungary, and because that means I have some free time, I’d like to let you know about what’s going on here in Szeged.

Church stuff

the church is doing well. We seem to be in a season of weddings and births.  I’ve already officiated one wedding this month with another this Saturday.  One family welcomed their 3rd child in September and a couple that just got married last August, will welcome their 1st child this September. Things like this bring joy to our hearts and we wanted to share these with you.

Though we have joy in these, it also makes us keenly aware of the singles in our church and those who are struggling with infertility. Please join with us in prayer for them.

Last year the college chaplain of one of the Reformed churches here in Szeged, had the idea to have a Christian festival here in Szeged similar to festivals he and others have taken part of in different parts of Western Europe. Szeged is known for it’s many festivals throughout the year and this year in September will be what is called the “tágás tér festival” (it means “wide open square” festival). This will be an interdenominational Christian festival with concerts, four discussions, workshops, exhibitions, and sporting events. Because the Catholic church still considers us a cult their leadership has insisted we not be named on any promotional materials and really didn’t want Golgota Szeged involved but our friends at the Reformed & Baptist churches have pushed to make sure we're involved cause they believe that Golgota Szeged will be a valuable member in this venture of faith. 

on our part, we’re looking at planning a charity run during this 3 day festival to support the pediatric ICU. The reasoning behind this is that people here in Szeged aren’t really interested in the church & a charity run around the event will draw people that might not come to a Christian festival and if they come hopefully they will stay and see some of the other events / booths. Also the pediatric ICU is always in need of money to care for kids. This will take a lot of planning on our part but we believe it'd be great for us to show our love for Szeged in a tangible way.  Pray for open doors & open hearts as we plan the charity run and that people would come and hear the Gospel during this festival.

Personal stuff

 Life has been extremely busy for us, as both Odi and I are teaching at local schools. Being bi-vocational has been difficult but good. We’re really looking forward to the summer break to catch our breath a little! :-) 

we’re also looking forward to moving into our new house next month. The building process has been very trying and we will be so happy to finally be moved in and enjoy our new house.

 I was hoping to make it to California at the beginning of July for the Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors Conference but it’s just not going to work out this year. the finances just aren’t there for me to make the trip this year. maybe next year we can go as a family to California. 

 the girls are doing well. We continue to take Zara to physical therapy for her back and a couple months ago, Kiera got glasses because one of her eyes is crossed. Life is full of challenges, as you all know. 

prayer points

 - for God’s blessing and provision upon our family
 - for wisdom in dealing with the kids health issues
 - for God’s blessing and anointing as I speak at different churches / events
 - for God’s blessing upon Calvary Szeged and for church growth.
 - for fresh vision for the church.
 - for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit upon us and the church


kyle, odi, zara, kiera

 here is the info through Calvary Chapel Vista on their website. you can give here (http://www.calvaryvista.com/give-2/) you just need to follow the process and when it asks for the donations put the amount in the "missions" box and in the memo note that it's for "Kyle & Odi Eckhart in Szeged, Hungary". They then will get that to us with our regular monthly support the beginning of each month.

 through Calvary Costa Mesa, you can give here (https://www.easytithe.com/f/?k=6SSHN0DEHB4KG6DH) all you need to do here is go down the scroll down list to my name and the money will be sent to us.

thank you for prayerfully considering this!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

winter 2015 family & church update

Church stuff

as I sit down to write this newsletter I realize that it was 20 years ago this week that I was making my final preparations to move to Baja, Hungary for 1 year to help at the church there. by the grace of God, that 1 year has now turned into 20 as February 21st marks 20 years of me living & serving Jesus here in Hungary. I am truly amazed and humbled that God allows me to do what I do. I am truly thankful to God & to all of you who have over the years partnered with me through prayer & financial support so that I can be part of what Jesus is doing here in Hungary.

since it’s been a few months since we’ve written, let us share with you what’s been going on with us & in the life of Calvary Chapel Szeged

Once again the members of our church prepared Christmas packages to take to 2 gypsy villages in Romania. This is something that we've been doing for a few years now & we are blessed that we know where the gifts are going. 

Last September we changed up the format of our mid-week Bible study. It was on Wednesday nights that I taught through the Bible. Now that I've taught through the Bible, we felt the Lord leading us to make some changes. Not to fear, we are still teaching the Bible but we're teaching in a rotation. Right now there are 4 of us in the rotation. This has eased the burden on me, as I'm teaching English at a bilingual high school and it allows me to focus more on our Sunday service. We are currently teaching through the life of David. What we've also done is set apart the 3rd Wednesday night of the month for worship, prayer, and communion. We've seen God bless the changes He has led us in.

 The Lord has given me a lot of opportunities to teach in the past & I have a lot in the future. Since April I've been helping, advising, and teaching on a monthly basis at a new independent church plant in a city called Orosháza, which is about 60km from Szeged. The leader of this church & his wife really love Calvary & have reached out to me being the closest Calvary to them. I blessed to be part of what God is doing in this new church plant. 
teaching at the new church plant in Orosháza

 As I've mentioned in the past, we've got a really good relationship with the Szeged Baptist church. The youth group regularly invites me to teach there, which is always a great joy for me. Once again they've asked me to speak at the national youth conference that they are organizing here in Szeged in March. I'll be speaking about what it means to be a "digitally active" Christian. 

 To my great surprise, I've been invited to speak at the Calvary Chapel Scandinavia conference outside of Stockholm, Sweden at the end of July. I'm humbled by the honor to go & teach and see what God is doing in Scandinavia. Turns out the Finnish wife of the organizer used to be a part of our church about 13-14 years ago. 

 Odi continues to lead worship on Sunday  mornings and meets regularly with our worship teams to practice & learn new songs. 

family stuff

 it’s been a hard couple of months for us as a family. Odi’s grandmother, who many of you knew, passed on to Heaven in December. This marked the 3rd hard Christmas for us. We rejoice knowing that Mami is in the presence of the Lord and with those who have gone on before in faith. 

 Right before Christmas Zara came down with the chicken pox and that began a 6 week period where at least one of us were sick. We’re all better now, but it wasn’t fun being sick for so long.

 As we shared back in October, Zara has a curvature in her spine, like Odi. According to the x-Ray, her curvature is already 20 degrees.  At this point the doctor has recommended swimming & physical therapy. Zara is going swimming twice a week with her kindergarten class & we are taking her to physical therapy twice a week. We are trying to do physical therapy with her at home at least 4-5 times a week but it's hard to motivate Zara to do the exercises. Please pray that she would continue to have a good attitude about doing her daily exercise.

Kiera is starting to show signs of having a curved spine so we are starting to do the physical therapy with her as well. 
Zara & Kiera dressed up for the Farsang (Carnival) event at kindergarten

One thing we both know is that we want to avoid putting our kids through the “traditional” forms of treatment for scoliosis. Odi had a brace growing up and it wasn’t helpful at all. Both the orthopedic doctor & the physical therapist support our decision cause they know that movement is more important that a brace. 

God has given both Odi & I opportunities to teach English to help make up what we are lacking in terms of financial support. Odi is teaching at an elementary school & I'm teaching at a bilingual high school. We're thankful that God is providing for us this way & that we have many opportunities to share with co-workers & students. We know that God has us in these schools for a reason!

a request

 I’d like to share a request with everyone. I’ve been in Hungary for 20 years & the senior pastor of Calvary Szeged for 15. Every year I get the invite to the Calvary Chapel senior pastors conference in California. This year the conference is July 6-9. I’ve never been able to go but I would really, really like to go, be encouraged & connect with many of the pastors in the Calvary movement. A plane ticket for me to go to the conference is $1500. Would you pray about helping make it possible for me to make it out to the conference this year? if you would like to make a financial donation to help make this happen you can follow one of the 2 links below. thank you so much!!

prayer points

 - for God’s blessing & provision upon our family
 - for wisdom in dealing with the kids health issues
 - for God’s blessing & anointing as I speak at different churches / events
 - for God’s blessing upon Calvary Szeged
 - that God would continue to use us & Calvary Szeged as lights in this wonderful city
 - for God’s provision for me to make it to the senior pastors conference in CA this year.

support the work

if you'd like to support the work we're doing here at Calvary Szeged you can do so by sending your tax deductible donates through either Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa or Calvary Chapel Vista

 here is the info through Calvary Chapel Vista on their website. you can give here (http://www.calvaryvista.com/give-2/) you just need to follow the process and when it asks for the donations put the amount in the "missions" box and in the memo note that it's for "Kyle & Odi Eckhart in Szeged, Hungary". They then will get that to us with our regular monthly support the beginning of each month.

 through Calvary Costa Mesa, you can give here (https://www.easytithe.com/f/?k=6SSHN0DEHB4KG6DH) all you need to do here is go down the scroll down list to my name and the money will be sent to us.

thank you for prayerfully considering this!


kyle, odi, zara, kiera