One of the most notable differences between October and November is the weather! It has gotten cold enough for freezing precipitation but no heavy snowfall like that of Minnesota. However, it has been very cold. Oddly enough, the grass is still green and there are still leaves on some trees, but the invisible cold still grasps onto you if you are not properly dressed. I hope you stay warm where you are and if it is warm then stay cool! This November has been an exciting one.
Intentionally Living the Gospel
Tabby and I spent a retreat at the beginning of November in a small village in southern Hungary called Szálka with the rest of our awesome Central Europe cohort. After the retreat, we got the chance to meet and eat lunch with the acting Lutheran Bishop of Hungary, Bishop Fabiny. During our discussions, Bishop Fabiny mentioned the different sectors and goals that are important to the church. Some for example are the homeless and the Roma community but one that got my attention was reconciliation with “spies” during the Soviet regime in Hungary’s history. At first, I did not fully understand what he meant as I knew that Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union and the Cold War led many people to spy on their fellow neighbors for their own safety or reasons. But the truth is, I have no real say or expertise in the matter. After the meeting, the reconciliation with spies was still sitting in the back of mind as I was curious about what that meant for Hungary. It was not until Tabby and I visited the Terror Háza (explained below in the “Become Servant To” section) that I was beginning to understand or at least create meaning to what it is. From my understanding, the Soviet regime had a grip of fear and terror on Hungary so much so that any who opposed was subject to jail or death. This led to many people having to spy on their neighbors or fellow workers for their own safety or potential selfish gain. Though their actions may be inexcusable by some, there is another important perspective to take into mind which is what system led these people to perform these acts and make these decisions?
We live in a world where starvation, lack of water and resources can lead some to perform inhumane acts, but we also forget that political systems can do much the same. Tabby and I discuss what we would do if we were in their shoes but to me, one of the more important questions to ask is how did we get in this situation in the first place? This also highlights the importance and further complexities of Christs’ story for example how Christ treated tax collectors. We hear about the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and how Christ wanted to stay at his house to which he then was willing to give his money and possessions away to the poor. Many were able to fault Zacchaeus as being a sinner and a bad person for what he was (tax collector), but Christ saw through that and saw that he could attain salvation. In my view, Christ saw through those systems that shaped Zacchaeus into this despised citizen in society and saw him as the child of God he is. These systems shape and influence everyone, rich or poor, privileged or non-privileged, etc. therefore reconciliation is important for all of us in recognizing how and why we put ourselves in these situations.
Surrendering to Chaos
Tabby and I have been going to an afterschool program to help students practice and learn English for the past couple months. The program is in Ibrány, a 30-minute car ride North of Nyíregyháza. Ibrány is a small farming town so there are not as many educational opportunities as there are in the city of Nyíregyháza so the children that we are with usually come from a less privileged background with a majority from the Roma community. Though we have been going there most Thursdays for the past couple months, we still enjoy the new surprises that happen. Being around children between 8 to 14 years old, after a full day of school, can be a little chaotic. They are full of energy as the school day is over and they are with their usual group of friends that they see after school. Not only that, they are around adults that are not their teachers or parents. I believe that it is just a natural part of childhood to see how far you can test the limits of the adults in your life and see what you can get away with. Therefore, when I go to Ibrány, I can always expect goofy questions or Hungarian phrases to come my way to see if I can pass their tests. The truth is, I love it. Through the chaos of screaming, laughing, joking and playing children who speak a completely different language than me, I surrender and let it be, despite me wanting to create order. I will admit that at first, I was overwhelmed but as I have gotten used to the chaos, the children have become more comfortable with me. My shift in perspective let me see the importance of just being present. The goal is to help them practice and learn English, but it is also OK to let them be kids.
Letting Grace Win
I usually see myself as a good musician, amateur at best. I play the violin and guitar and pick up on tunes and overall music well. Therefore, any chance I get to play with the Roma College in Nyíregyháza on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, I am very happy and excited to. Tabby and I usually set it up as a music exchange where they can teach me some music and I can teach them some music I know. However, I have been so surprised and awed by their skill and how much they know! There have been multiple occasions where they would ask me if I knew some pop songs and I would say I know of some and they would begin singing and playing it (and here I am supposed to teach them English when they know more English pop songs than me). They have taught me some Roma songs on the violin and I have played a couple tunes on the violin for them, but whenever I am jamming with them, I am definitely not as good or knowledgeable. These jam sessions teach me the meaning of grace in that I do not have to be the best or know the most songs or need to lead the music in a certain direction, for these Roma college students accept me for the musician I am and enjoy the time we have in playing music.
Become Servant To, Not Service For
Tabby and I accompanied the Roma College to Budapest and one of our stops was the Terror Háza (Terror House). The Terror Háza is a museum located in Budapest that used to be the building headquarters of the Arrow Cross Party, a far-right party responsible for deporting 80,000 Jews and Roma to concentration camps around the time of WWII. Besides WWII, it has many exhibits of the fascist and communist regimes that took power during the 20th century and gives a tour on how each regime affected the people and country from listening to victims’ testimony to walking in the basement where the Arrow Cross regime tortured and killed hundreds. When arriving in Hungary, I knew that Hungary has a complicated history. The tour of the Terror Háza gave me the chance to take a glimpse of what life was like during WWII and under the Soviet regime. The stories and history are heartbreaking but posits the dark reality of what fear and oppression can do to a country and humanity. It is still a little dumbfounding that all of this happened within the last 100 years. So how does this relate to becoming servant and not service? I believe that in order to become servant to a community, you must understand the complexities with their history. I try to remember that Hungary today is half the size of Minnesota! Yet it has all this recent tragic history which definitely shapes the people and society today. Though I may never fully understand or know Hungary’s complex history, getting the opportunity to learn of it through the Terror Háza was a great experience and good first steps in getting that understanding.