Heath Rada, Moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the PCUSA’s message at Easter 2016
Today is Good Friday. How amazing it is to be followers of Christ, and to share in that experience with other followers around the world. Our delegation leaves Hungary today, a country and city (Budapest) which barely resembles the one Peggy and I visited more than 25 years ago when “the wall” had just come down. Then we saw a struggling city with devoted people, where much repair was needed, few commercial signs were seen, but people were filled with hope and dreams about the new life which lay ahead. Numerous citizens, specifically Christians, were filled with hope, with vision, with a faith that God would move them into a new space of peace and fulfilled promises. And they were willing to work in a spirit of love to make it happen.
Today we see a bustling, vibrant, beautiful city. It is a place with repaired and power washed buildings where one can see exquisitely detailed architectural features on buildings which were erected in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Elegant homes as well as office buildings have been lovingly cared for and restored.
Similar to 25 years ago, we still see a people who are committed to their faith, and who are once again caught in the crossfire of a new reality – where the future is in their hands, and yet, there is no certainty about what comes next. Much of our effort has been focused on the plight of the refugees, the people who have entered or passed through this country in massive numbers. And we have been impressed by the people who are willing to give their lives in service to those who are homeless, abused, frightened and have been forced to leave their homes in Syria and other places. It is interesting to note that historically refugees have been part of Hungarian life for generations. That is not a new phenomenon. But the massive numbers of people who are now fleeing for safety are new. And its impact on the infrastructure is extraordinary. How do you take hundreds of thousands of people entering your country of 10 million people in a short period of time, and provide housing, education, medical benefits, and other services without threatening your current citizens? And yet, is that the question which should be asked? How do Christians turn their backs on their sisters and brothers in need? It is painful; there are legitimate questions; there are no easy answers.
Meetings with the leaders of the Reformed Church in Hungary, Hungarian Interchurch Aid, and also with the rector of Karoli Gaspar University, a 7000 student Christian University, we learned of the new challenges which face this country. In addition, being hosted by the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid staff, and witnessing the extraordinary work being done by St. Columba’s Church of Scotland in Budapest were blessings to each of us. These are people who once again are looking at an uncertain future through the eyes of faithful servants. And they are willing to turn that faith into action.
We shared Maundy Thursday Communion with the St. Columba Church family and it was beautiful. But surrounding us in worship was a spirit of love, of inclusion, of service and of sacrifice. This congregation is providing services to refugees, and especially to children, in ways that boggle the mind. They are united in their commitment to serve God by feeding and housing God’s children. May God continue to bless their important ministry, as well as that of the other groups with whom we met.]
As we leave for Athens this morning, two members of our group are not with us. Last night they rode for ten hours in order to be with some of the refugees on the border. They were to sleep in the car, and it was a grueling trip. Four of us were advised to remain behind in order to leave early today for meetings with officials in Greece. We have just received word that our two partners who were stopped at the Romanian border and kept for a lengthy period of time have been released and are travelling to meet with us. One never knows on these journeys when a new challenge may arrive. We are grateful for their safety and look forward to seeing them tonight.
Again, I wish to thank the Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte for their support of this trip, and their invitation for me to share in this pilgrimage. And I urge all who read this information, if you are interested, to go onto the Web page of Myers Park Church to see the daily blogs which are being posted as well as the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance facebook page. It is a joy for Peggy and me to be journeying with Laurie Kraus from the PCUSA Disaster Program, Derek McLeod and Taylor Stukes from Myers Park Church, and Burkhard Paetzoid, one of our wonderful Mission Coworkers in Europe.
Originally published on the Moderator’s blog.