Jews for Jesus in Budapest
Did you know that Budapest has the largest indigenous Jewish population of any city in Central or Eastern Europe? About 100,000 Jewish people reside in Budapest—plus thousands of Jewish tourists come each year to visit the Neolog synagogue on Dohany Street (the largest synagogue in Europe), the Jewish museum and the former wartime ghetto—as well as places associated with the history of the modern state of Israel, such as the birthplace of Theodor Herzl.
You might recall that Budapest was one of our Behold Your God cities, and we held a campaign there in 2005. Over the course of three weeks, campaigners handed out 549,000 broadside tracts and prayed with 44 Jews and 90 Gentiles to receive Christ. Two hundred and seventy-seven as yet unbelieving Jews and 305 Gentiles gave their contact information to hear more about Jesus. Since then, we have been hoping that God would open a door for an ongoing Jews for Jesus work in that city.
Kata Tar, introduced in our October 2010 newsletter as a missionary trainee, was born and raised in Hungary. She completed her first phase of training at our New York City center and she spent the second phase serving in our London branch. Now she is back in Hungary, where our European Director Avi Snyder also resides with his wife Ruth. As Avi mentors Kata and a team of volunteers is developing, the work is taking hold!
The following article will give you a feeling for Kata’s heart for evangelism, and her insights, as well as for some of the ministry opportunities that God is bringing us in Budapest.
Sowing and Reaping
By Kata Tar
I have heard some Christians suggest that with post-modern evangelism, we must earn the right to speak, meaning we must show the Messiah in our lives so people become open to hearing our message. Others are adament that the Bible doesn’t promote evangelism by friendship or lifestyle, but by proclaiming the word of God. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, not by seeing a good Christian life.
The truth is, evangelism is not an “earning the right” issue, nor is it a matter of pitting one method versus another. Evangelism is a process of sowing and reaping. We can be sure that if we sow there will be a harvest. We might not see the crop, but we can still rejoice knowing that the word of God will bear fruit, even as Jesus said,
“And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps. ‘I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors” (John 4: 36-38).
Sometimes, when we encounter people with hearts ready to accept Jesus, we are tempted to pat ourselves on the back, as though our story or holy life or communication skills or our evangelistic method was especially powerful. A true farmer would never think that he can reap without anyone having sown the seeds, and knows that rain, sunlight and good soil cause the seed to grow.
At other times God gives us the grace to see the harvest of the seed we ourselves have sown. What I find is this: God uses holy lives to open and soften hearts and ears to hear and to receive the proclaimed Word. We can’t say He uses only one (holy lives versus the Word or vice versa) and neglects the other. Recently I have seen both in our fledgling Budapest ministry.
Last fall, we were having our staff meeting in a café. We were all wearing our Jews for Jesus hoodies since we were going out to the streets after the staff meeting. Suddenly, a young woman who had been watching us for awhile approached me. She turned out to be a student from the Jewish school where I used to teach. We’d had deep conversations about life during a field trip. She asked where I’d been doing since leaving the school. I told her that now I was telling people about the Messiah. “The Messiah?” Her eyes lit up. “I want to hear more about this.”
We met two weeks later. Sofi shared a lot about her life: her parents have divorced, her father has become blind. Her mother, who grew up in an orphanage, only recently found out about her Jewish heritage. Sofi carefully listened to my story of finding Yeshua. She wanted to meet again to study the Bible together. In parting she said, “It is easy to receive what you say, because you radiate something that makes people trust you.”
That “something”—the fragrance of the Messiah—is the very thing that causes some people to shut me off. But I also realized that God used our earlier friendship as a gateway for a spiritual conversation. What a privilege!
A couple of weeks later, I received the name and phone number of a Hungarian Jewish lady who had stopped to talk to Aaron (an intern with us) at Deák Square. But when I phoned Erika, she said she wasn’t interested, since she had been through “all this stuff.” I was curious: what stuff? She said that she had gone to Israel and that she had talked to priests and to rabbis, and right now she didn’t want to talk about it. Still, I asked what she thought about Jesus. She said that Jesus is cool and it is good to follow his teachings.
I politely mentioned that Jesus’s teachings involve pretty radical statements such as: “I and the Father are one” and that those who don’t believe in Him will die in their sins. That was the point when she could have hung up. Instead, she continued the conversation and became more and more open, and more and more attentive. We talked an entire hour! At the end of our conversation, Erika thanked me and she said she wanted to stay in touch.
Erika had never seen me. She only knew me through this conversation, which was strongly focused on the Word of God and the gospel. Yet she smelled the same sweet fragrance of the Messiah that had attracted Sofi, because God’s hand was on both of them and the Father was drawing them.
May God have mercy on us to live a life that speaks to others of Him, but may He also give us boldness to proclaim the truth even if people may not like it!