English, on the other hand, is relatively easy for Hungarians to pick up, and many students choose to study it in school. OMers in Hungary have been using the desire to learn English as an opportunity to share the gospel for more than 10 years.
“Since the youth are all learning English in school, but they are learning from Hungarians, it’s always an extra blessing if they can talk with native English speakers,” says Ilona Csernus (HU), one of OM’s English outreach leaders in Hungary.
Now, one English camp in summer 2017 that was born out of a long relationship with a local church has given way to a deeper and more lasting outreach.
OM team members got to know a church in the town of Szigethalom (see-get-hall-om), about 25 kilometres outside Budapest, through performing seasonal puppet ministry there over the last few years. In 2017, the pastor of the Szigethalom church called to ask if the OM team could help her host a summer English camp.
Short-term volunteers from the US and UK joined OM team members for the successful weeklong camp in August—one of three English camps OM led in Hungary last year. Around 40 youth came to the church to learn about Bible stories and songs in English in the mornings and to enjoy crafts, outdoor water games and other special activities in the afternoons.
A month later, the OM team received another call from the Szigethalom pastor.
“She wanted to have regular contact with the older students from the camp,” says OMer Jill Hitchcock (UK), who led the camp. “She asked if we could help with a Bible-based English class twice a month.”
With the goal of building on the relationships forged in the August heat, Jill, Ilona and another American team member have led an English Bible study twice a month at the church since October 2017. Up to 13 people, including students who attended the summer camp as well as some parents and other adults, have been strengthening their English skills through discussing the gospel each month.
“Our aim is simply that these young people would understand the essence of being in church and dealing with the Bible,” Ilona says. “Of course, my further aim is that they would build a personal relationship with Jesus. I also like that we can support the pastor.”
“Previously this church was a small, inward-looking church. Gizi [the pastor] has a real heart and vision for the church to be known in the community,” Jill adds. “You can see her heart to create a vibrant community of Jesus followers, just like we, as OM, want to see.”
Jill shares how one teenage boy, Tamás, took a big step of faith as a result of connecting with the camp and Bible study. Despite being proficient at English, Tamás was quiet during the week of camp, not revealing much about himself. After learning more about OM and missions through the Bible study, Tamás was inspired to go to the Netherlands for an OM Teens in Mission outreach in December. The OM team was excited to see him come out of his shell and learn to share his faith with others.
OM is already planning this year’s English camp at Szigethalom in July.
“We already have two helpers from the US and UK from last year who are signed up to come again,” Jill says. “I’m excited to continue building relationships with the church, especially with the teens who have attended the Bible study over the last year.”
Published: Wednesday, 14 March 2018
Credit: Jessica Alyea