We went to build a chapel, but God built so much more.
We were four guys from the forgotten Middle of Nowhere, USA. Yet we have a God who doesn’t forget about us. When the chair of our mission committee at church asked for volunteers to go to Hungary to help another forgotten village construct a chapel, it was my Sunday school class that answered the call.
I arrived the second week of the project. We picked up a Hungarian national, George, who now lives in London, to help on the project. He is a superior carpenter. I came to the site, and didn’t understand how our group of five would have a chapel finished in four days. I set to doing what I could and praying a lot. Slowly, we covered the frame with boards. The ends of the building were much more detailed, and our Hungarian brother handled those with Chuck, our team leader.
Locals would pass the site and wave to us. They would say “Halló” to us. One resident brought us some of the most wonderful coffee. The former mayor was always willing to help in whatever ways she could. I thought nothing of this until I was told that the locals wouldn’t even acknowledge the first team that went to lay the foundation and put up the structure. Clearly the return visit showed the village that the larger Christian community cares about them and was there to give to them.
I tend to take in my surroundings and ask a bunch of questions. I noticed the street sign across from the church and asked if George would translate it for me. Szentmargitfalva’s chapel sits on “Peace Street.” I noticed that a new playground for children had just been placed, and sand was delivered on Thursday, then meticulously groomed. I saw a village taking real pride. George let me know that villages without churches are considered too small to be important. The inhabitants are looked down upon. Now this village would have a point of pride, and they are expanding to welcome others.
Thursday was the day when everything changed for me. George’s dad and brother, from other places in Hungary, joined our team. Another father and son pair from Germany became part of our team that evening. They brought pews, an altar, and a pulpit that had been in their church before its remodeling. After unloading everything and finishing for the day, we all went back to the team house, where we shared a meal.
Since there were not enough chairs for everyone, we all hovered around the kitchen table. Together we assembled a meal from what we had and placed it on the table. I watched as people took something, rejoined conversations with others, and went back for more later. Everyone had their fill, and there was plenty left over. Although the fathers didn’t speak much English, sons served as translators, and we were all able to communicate.
Later, we had devotions together and two testimonies were given. One was in English, translated to both Hungarian and German. The second was in German, translated to English and Hungarian. It was beautiful how people had come to Christ in different places in the world through different means. We all share the commonality of Jesus, no matter where we come from, what occupation we have, or how old we are. I saw a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven in a borrowed home in Hungary. As I prayed, I thanked God for this opportunity, looking forward to when we might later fellowship and have no need of translators.
We worked through Friday morning, and then we had a magnificent lunch with a family from the village. This was a huge gesture of hospitality for us as strangers in their town. We were almost finished as the 3:00pm service was about to begin, so we all stopped work and sat down in the formerly German pews.
As the service progressed, the pastor, Laci, included us foreigners from time to time by translating into English for us. This service was clearly about God’s provision, about the Hungarians, and about Szentmargitfalva. There were originally six locals who signed up to be founding members, but as Laci went through a question concerning the faith of those wishing to join, another couple wanted in. After another question, three more wanted to join. Laci went back through the questions for everyone to answer. We should all have such a desire to be involved in the family of God that we just cannot remain in our seats.
That evening we returned to Budapest to fly out the next day. I was reminded of the ongoing rift between the EU and Hungary. I checked a news site and saw the political division in the States. When left to our own selfish desires, we end up with separation and disagreement. For one week in Hungary, I was able to see how community can be forged by showing the love of Christ to one another. We went to build a chapel, but God had something much larger in store, something he had been working on for many years. Now I am wrestling with how we can set up opportunities for such community to be built here in Flyover Country, USA.
– By Wayne Tarrant, OMS Hungary Volunteer