Right after we got back home from Bulgaria, I got a phone call that disturbed me.
It was the mom of one of the girls who had come to know the Lord at English Camp, and who had asked to be baptized at the baptism will we have in 2 weeks at a lake outside of Eger. She was calling to tell me that she had forbidden her 18 yr old daughter from coming to our church.
I asked her why, and she said it was because we are a sect (actually she thought we were Methodists - and that Methodists are a sect). Then I explained to her that we belong to the Hungarian Evangelical Alliance, a group which validates that we hold orthodox protestant Christian beliefs. Then she told me it was because I wasn't Hungarian. I explained that I speak Hungarian and even teach the Bible in Hungarian (we were talking in Hungarian). Then she said it was because my wife wasn't Hungarian...
She went on to give me many other reasons, none of which held much weight. In other words, these weren't the real reason she was forbidding her daughter from attending our church.
She eventually told me that she simply doesn't think that becoming a Christian is a good choice for her daughter to make, because it will drive her away from her family and make her a social outcast.
Needless to say, this call was disturbing. And whats more disturbing to me is that this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened.
Here in Hungary - especially more in Eger than in Debrecen, this kind of attitude is something we have had to deal with.
Perhaps its hard in this area because there isn't really any other church like us - a young, modern, protestant church - but I also know that the other churches in town struggle with the same thing. I think another possible reason is that the older generation of Hungarians who were raised under Communism view religion in all forms as a negative thing - as detrimental and unenlightened.
Another issue here is that many Hungarian families are very tightly knit, and the parents are somewhat controlling. They often view the church as something which takes away their influence and control over their kids, in spite of the fact that we would never encourage kids to disobey or rebel against their parents.
People say that Europe is a "post-Christian" place, and I think there is much truth to that. We have had people in the church before, whose parents encouraged them to practice Eastern Religion or the New Age - but were not happy at all that their child (although already legally an adult) wanted to be a Christian. In America, even if a family does not consider themselves Christians or go to church, they still often view church as a good thing.
* Hungarians - what do you think about this? Am I getting this right, or am I way off?
I find it disturbing that in this part of "Christendom" being a follower of Jesus and studying the Bible is viewed by many as a bad thing.
One friend of mine in another town in Hungary leads a youth group, and they had the problem that their kids had stopped partying and their parents were upset by it, and started telling their kids - You need to leave that church! What they are teaching you is unhealthy! You are teenagers; you need to be going out and partying and having sex! That's the normal, healthy thing to do!
I have a catch-phrase that I always tell our church: Jesus makes you normal. And I really believe that to be true. The view of many people in the world of what is normal and healthy has been skewed so badly, that they call good what is evil and evil what is good.
When studying the Bible and being a follower of Jesus is called a bad thing, but premarital/extramarital sex is considered a good thing - something is wrong.
On Sundays right now we are studying through the Acts of the Apostles, and one of my favorite verses in the book is when it says in Ch 17:8, that in Thessalonica they people dragged some Christians before the city counsel and said: These who have turned the whole world upside down have come here too. My prayer is that God would use us here in Eger to turn this city "upside down" with the Gospel. If things are already upside down - where right is called wrong and wrong is called right - then turning it upside down again would be like turning it right-side up. Again, "Jesus makes you normal."
One thing I love about the book of Acts is that you see that through very small groups of people, God changed the history of Europe - and really the history of the whole world. I love that, because I know that God can use us to change our city - and I pray that He will.