Tag: Hungary

A Trip Through the Land of Saints and Martyrs

 

The Voice in the Desert Community in Krakow, Poland, created vibrant worship paintings.

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” – Gerard Manley Hopkins

By Bruce Rooke

After two weeks in the land of saints and martyrs, we touched back down in Detroit.

Peter and Debbie Herbeck, and my wife Julia, and I had hopped through Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland, engaging with different leaders and covenant communities; sharing Word, prayer, and Pentecost with students and believers; and immersing ourselves in the deep living history of faith these countries hold.

When you come back from a mission trip, it can be like carrying a candle. You hope the fragile light of those smiles doesn’t flicker out in the rush of your returning and the demands of your to-do lists.

Fortunately, we carried back a bonfire.

The Spirit is strong here. Strong enough to break the iron bars of a dark Nazi cell in Auschwitz and outlast another forty-five-plus years of Communism. But what you remember—what stays with you after you walk the horrors of Birkenau or kneel before the blood-stained cassock of St. John Paul the Great—is not the weight of the crosses, but the resolute joy of St. Maximillian Kolbe and the Holy Father’s echo of the angels: “Do not be afraid!” And even though the people here are now facing many of the same challenges that we face in the West, there is longing for a God who is stronger than their fears, a God who dreams big.

Budapest, Hungary

Julia and I got a head start on some of those dreams by going to Budapest first, where we spent a wonderful time with Country Coordinator Deacon Zoli Kunsabo and his wife, Panni, at their “Only One” homeless shelter. The place resounded with transformed and transforming lives, and one chorus was heard over and over: “There was just something different about this place than all of the other shelters.” Deacon Zoli and Panni continue to dream big with God, as they pray with energetic excitement (as only Hungarians, like my wife, can!) for what God has next for them and their community.

Podolínec, Slovakia

After picking up Peter and Debbie, we drove with Bohuš Živčák, country coordinator for Eastern Europe, and another community member, Marek, to Podolínec, Slovakia, where we stayed in a 375-year-old Redemptorist monastery that once served as a concentration camp for hundreds of religious during the Communist oppression. There is a great sense of peace and welcome here.

The same can be said for The River of Life community that makes its home here. Founded by Bohuš and Redemptorist Fr. Michal Zamkovský, it continues to gather in and renew more and more lives. We had the honor of being with them at their amazing new community center that operates like a loving invitation to the abundant life. Children of all ages play together in the large outdoor space (without mobile phones or boredom!), and inside, the worship and deep prayer is somehow both public and personal. But as its name testifies, The River of Life is more than a reservoir, as it now flows out beyond its walls to love the ones He loves: from a nearby Catholic school, where a number of members are teachers (and where Debbie and Peter elevated and challenged both high school students and faculty), to the far reaches of Nairobi, Kenya, where they are now building new relationships in mission.

Kraków, Poland

After a Lord’s Day hike in the High Tatras, following in the bootsteps of John Paul II, we moved on (with aching legs) to Kraków, Poland. We took in the majesty of the John Paul II Sanctuary and its breathtaking mosaics, then went “next door” to kneel before the relics of St. Faustina within the Shrine of The Divine Mercy, bathing our prayers in the red and white rays emanating from the heart of the Merciful Jesus. We were with members of The Voice in The Desert, a vibrant young Charismatic Catholic community in the heart of Kraków. Later that evening, we joined in their bi-weekly open meeting, where 150 young people and families (leaving their shoes at the door!) worship and pray and dance and, yes, even paint their way through the night. Hungry for experienced teaching, they sat rapt as Peter passionately showed them their place in the history of the Charismatic Renewal. The Spirit was especially strong in the hearts of men there, as Peter and Bohuš called them to stand as chosen sons, stop cowering in their hidden sins, and seek the freedom and power that they have in Christ. The Heart of Christ beats loudly in this community, as evidenced by their radical hospitality and the many times the image of a heart is portrayed in the paintings they create, real-time, throughout the worship.

Bialystock, Poland

A six-hour train ride then took us to our last stop: Bialystok, Poland, and the Pentecost Life in Freedom conference. Beautifully hosted by the Ezechiasz (Hezekiah) Covenant Community, Peter and Debbie inspired the 300-400 people who gathered, in talk after talk (after talk!) that we are free to live large in Christ because we are chosen, we are saved, and we are sent sons and daughters of The King. Julia and I were privileged to share the testimony of our marriage, which proves, yet again, “jakże w spaniały jest nasz Bóg” (How Great Is Our God). The Spirit descended in the many prayer sessions we had throughout, from praying over the young people there, to the Charismatic call of Father George during Mass, to the many private Unbound and healing prayers that we had the honor of experiencing throughout the weekend.

Behind it all towered a twenty-foot-tall image of St. Faustina’s Merciful Jesus that served as the backdrop for the stage. As we stood dwarfed before it, its size seemed to capture perfectly how we felt throughout this trip: Our God is one very big God indeed.

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ November newsletter, which you can view here.

‘Only One’ Shelter Offers Guests God’s Love

Renewal Ministries’ Missions Administrator Kathleen Kittle recently served on mission in Hungary. You can read the full report here. During her time in Hungary, Kathleen spent a day with Country Coordinator Deacon Zoli Kunszabo’s wife, Panni, shown above at the Only One homeless day shelter. Below, Panni shares more about the Only One shelter, the mission behind it, and the people it serves. You can read more about Only One at its website, here.

By Panni Kunszabo

A real home means loving relationships, something we only experience in fragments until we reach our true home with the heavenly Father. We were created for this heavenly home, and we long for it after we arrive on earth as miserable little people. That is to say, we desire the presence of God. When we understand with our hearts what great love and acceptance our Creator has for us, we want to share this with others, especially those who are true beggars in this earthly home—those for whom no one cares, worries, cries, or mourns.

I talk of nobody’s children, individuals who belong to no one, who have no family with caring wings to cover them. At Only One, we lead and offer these people to God’s care. This is our vocation.

The people we care for do not know how to love, as they have not yet experienced it. The world expects them to live healthy, normal lives, but it is impossible for them. Their hearts bleed from open wounds—the pain of which they try to dull with drugs, alcohol, and periodic unhealthy relationships. These wounds then produce sins and thus more wounds.

In our little daytime center, we beg for the love of the merciful God to fill our hardened hearts so that, with them, we may love our starving guests. As we provide them food and clothing, and try to find them accommodation and work, we try to love them—for we can do nothing else. This is, after all, the only thing that makes sense in the end.[1]

We are open every work day in order that those who beg, or who live in shelters, on the street, or in poor unheated flats, can visit and be at home, can tell us what happened to them, can cry. We opened our doors seven years ago and since then, many thousands have honoured us with their life stories, often talking for hours, finally finding someone who listens. There were days when four hundred people visited us, other times one hundred. Nonetheless, we try to treat everyone as an individual and speak to the one before us as the most important one at that moment. I will share some of their stories below:

  • Kati was abandoned to state care when she was only an infant. When she was twelve, she found herself with foster parents who prostituted her to feed their own smaller children. Today, she is in her twenties, has lost her teeth, and is a drug-addicted prostitute.
  • Jenő lost his job after his eyesight weakened from work, and thus he was let go after thirty years of being in middle-management. At fifty-something, alone, having lost his parents, and not having a family, this university-educated, intelligent man has tried everything in his desperation. He was unable to return to his former employer, even as a warehouse worker. Slowly, the lack of income began to show in his small apartment. As he waits to reach retirement age, he does the jobs in the public works program. He cleans up after dogs in parks, and his health declines. You can no longer see who he was once upon a time.
  • No one knows why Jancsi’s parents placed him into state care when he was two years old. The family he was placed with made him live with the animals in the barn. When Christian villagers saved him at the age of six, he was still unable to talk. His family is unable to care for him and have entrusted Jancsi to us. He is autistic and mentally challenged and now over sixty. For seven years now, he has his own place at a table where he repairs radios with a soldering iron. In the evening, he goes “home” to his usual shelter, where the “keep a bed for him.”
  • Marcsi’s mother abandoned her and her six siblings to state care when Marcsi was only a month and half old. This may have been the last time she was given a loving hug. Their mother never visited them, and all the siblings, including her twin, were placed in different institutions, as was the custom at that time. The caregivers were not allowed to hold the crying infants, lest they become attached to them. That infant is now a woman of over fifty; she is frightening to look at, and is ostracised even among the homeless. She became a very particular lone wolf.
  • Upon arriving home from school one day, the then eight-year-old Peter found his whole family in a pool of blood. For some unknown reason, his father killed his mother, his younger brother, and then himself. In shock, Peter hid for weeks in the forest near his home until he was found. He still cannot find himself and is without a home today at the age of forty.
  • Hear the story of how Only One transformed the life of Tomi Olaj (be sure to turn on captions unless you speak Hungarian.)

These are some of the guests we greet every day.

We believe that God knows the horrific depths of the suffering these people have been through. We believe they, too, have been redeemed and are loved, even when to  human eyes they seem unlovable because of their behaviour and appearance.

We believe that we, too, have been brought out of our sins, from our own depths and misery, and we are witnesses to God’s desire to deliver us all.

There are times when we see the success of our ministry, when before our eyes someone who was once frightening becomes meek and mild and even becomes a daily volunteer and helper; when a drug-addicted Gypsy man becomes an irreplaceable colleague who returns every weekend to his place of birth, to give witness to the endless love of God. We know a young orphan of twenty who arrived the day we opened. He had already been in prison three times for burglary and had no home to return to, but when he came to our day centre, he said “yes” to the invitation of God and changed his life. Tom has had work for five years now, rents an apartment, is not homeless because he found a family in us.

We do not always see the fruits of our labour; our “only” task is to be together with our guests. We try to show them some of God’s merciful love until they arrive at their true home, the one prepared for all of us and where we all strive to arrive.

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:12-13).


[1] “On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth. The ‘talents’ are not distributed equally.  These differences belong to God’s plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular ‘talents’ share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed., 1936-1937.)