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 (
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.