In Budapest (Hungary), there are three congregations of The United Methodist Church. The Hope Church is the smallest of them - but it has an amazing radiance, because it does not only carry hope in its name, but also lives it credibly.
About 13 years ago, the then 50-year-old Györgyi Vályi was invited to Hope Church in Budapest. Although she had attended church events since her childhood, she had never seen anything like this before: The group was mixed, even some homeless people attended the church services - and there was a pronounced social sensibility that still characterizes this congregation today.
At that time two older members were studying theology, and when Györgyi Valyi saw their enthusiasm, she wanted to expand her knowledge by studying theology, as well. Without any particular aim. Simply out of interest. And most important: without any idea that God might have a plan for her.
Studying alongside her full-time job was very hard – and in addition, she took care of her bedridden grandmother for several years. Looking back, it is clear for Györgyi Valyi: “God gave me the strength for all this.” Without his help, she would probably have given up.
As part of an internship in an old people's home, she led weekly Bible studies, which she continued after completing her studies with a focus on “social counseling”. At the same time, more and more ministry opportunities opened up for her in the UMC – until she was asked by the church leadership to take over the responsibility for Hope Church.
Györgyi Valyi hesitated. But then she read John 15:16 – and had the impression that God would speak to her: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you...”. With peace in her heart she said yes to this new challenge. Looking back, she confesses: “I began to understand that this turn of my life was not an accident, but God's plan.”
After more than 40 years as a beautician and entrepreneur, she was suddenly a beginner again. Her service in the church presented her with hurdles that had to be overcome – “and it taught me humility”, she admits. “I had to grow and learn day by day – not only in my knowledge of the Bible, but also as a leader.”
At the end of her first year, she became insecure because of the many difficulties. Was this really what she as supposed to do? Again, God spoke to her through the Bible: “Listen to my advice! Do not go to another field to gather corn.” (Ruth 2:8) In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new vocational certainty grew in her and she continued her ministry. For many weeks, it was not possible to meet in the rooms of the church. Contacts via the Internet and telephone became increasingly important. But during this unprecedented time, the church even moved closer together.
“There are not many of us,” Györgyi Valyi knows. “About 15 to 20 people gather regularly for the worship services.” However, she does not feel like a lone fighter because of this. “We keep in touch even outside the church, pray for each other and spend time together.” Above all, she emphasizes the social sensitivity of the church. Each and every one serves people on the fringes of society and helps to ensure that hope is planted in people's hearts in a very practical way. “Humanly speaking, we may serve beyond our means, especially since our average age is between 60 and 65 years. But because we are responding to a call we have received from God, we can also draw strength from above.”
But how is the hope of faith passed on concretely? Györgyi Valyi does not need have to think long: “Klári and Bandi preached to the homeless in an underpass until restrictions made this ministry impossible. Bandi has also preached in hospitals, and Klári works as a counselor in a home for mothers with children who are homeless or have fled from their violent husbands and fathers. Zsóka makes visits to an old people's home. With Nora's help, we have supported a Hungarian-speaking community in Transcarpathia (Ukraine) – financially and in other ways. Marika works with street children and visits Roma families in Tatabánya (60 km from Budapest). Betti and her family are involved in a Christian literature ministry. Kata is committed to helping people who are on their way from an alcohol disease to a new life.”
The Covid-19 pandemic may limit or redirect the activities and impact of Hope Church. It is, therefore, Györgyi Valyi’s prayer “that our church will recognize the way that God wants to show us”. She trusts that God has prepared wonderful things for those who love him. And while she confidently waits for this to become visible, she is working, in the midst of all the uncertainty of these days, to make Hope Church a church of hope for many people.
Source: UMC in Hungary / Urs Schweizer, Assistant to Bishop Patrick Streiff