Developing Wider Mission Work2017. március 28., kedd
The RCH’s Theological Faculty of Károli Gáspár Reformed University recently held a conference in partnership with Interserve about persecuted Christians and the church’s mission. Members of the theological school, as well as church leaders, were in attendance to learn more about international mission work.
The Reformed Church in Hungary recently partnered with Interserve, an international mission society, to discuss "Persecuted Christians and the Church's Mission." On March 20, around fifty people from various backgrounds gathered at the Theological Faculty of Károli Gáspár Reformed University to hear from Interserve professionals about their work and how it connects to the RCH’s current and future mission work.
Interserve seeks to see lives and communities transformed through encounters with Jesus Christ. They work to make Christ known through holistic ministry, in partnership with the global church, amongst the neediest people of Asia and the Arab world. The RCH has been supporting Interserve financially for many years and strongly believes in their important work.
Eszter Dani, Head of the RCH Mission Office, gave opening words at the start of the conference, telling those in attendance that, “In the world, many people are persecuted because of their religion, but the Hungarian government has taken steps to help the persecuted. Participants in this conference must now search together for how you can get involved in the work of God.”
The conference began with a devotion from the RCH’s Presiding Bishop István Szabó who spoke about the importance of mission in the life of the church. Bishop Szabó discussed the plight of persecuted Christians around the world and the importance of supporting them. He told the group how pleased he was that the Hungarian government is taking this issue seriously through the establishment of the Office of the Deputy State Secretary for Persecuted Churches. "Christians want to come here because this country has been freed from its Christian oppressors throughout history," said Szabó.
Rev. Dr. József Zsengellér, the Dean at Károli, then shared words of greetings with those in attendance. "Working for Christ and being a Christian is not without difficulty,” he said. “The aim of this conference is to have discussions and reach a common point in talking about action items to help people who are suffering in the name of Christ"
Next, the Hungarian representative from Interserve, András Jó spoke, explaining to the crowd what their vision of mission in the world looks like. "Many times when we say mission, people are afraid and they imagine that we just want people to convert and we press them to it. We don't do that though. We work together with churches that are already there in the areas where we serve."
The next speaker was Hungary’s Deputy State Secretariat for Persecuted Churches, Tamás Török, who detailed the government’s work in supporting persecuted Christians around the world. Török told the group that it was imperative that we come together to make these countries of origin safe for the people living there. He said that it was shocking, on a recent trip to Iraq, to see the effects of the war there. “After the army goes through there are still many steps to make Christians secure,” he said. The government’s priority is helping those who have chosen to stay in their nations to rebuild their communities, and Hungary cooperates with these countries to do this important work. Török continued, saying that, “It's important to fight for reunification among different religious and ethnic groups. The international community must help in this work."
Area coordinators for Interserve then spoke about their region-specific work, telling the audience that the organization seeks to, “serve spiritual needs as well as physical needs.” The work that Interserve does depends on its context, so mission work looks different throughout Asia and the Arab world – the regions that Interserve focuses on. One thing that stays the same, however, is the dedication to community-based work. "If we want to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, we must be useful and valuable members of a community," they said.
Rev. Dr. László Gonda, Associate Professor for Mission and Ecumenical Studies at Debrecen Reformed Theological University, then addressed the conference participants. Rev. Dr. Gonda spoke about different approaches to mission within the RCH, highlighting that mission can happen in the inner renewal of the church, evangelism from the church that radiates outward, and also service that the church provides in society. Mission work in today’s world can be difficult due to changing contexts, a changing Christianity, and changing ideas about mission itself. “The most important thing we can do is give authentic testimony," Rev. Dr. Gonda said. He ended his talk by giving the audience practical ways to get involved with mission work – through prayer, “adopting” a missionary, donating money for specific projects, partnering with mission organizations, and theological training partnerships.
The conference brought together a mix of people, both ordained and lay, students and teachers, mission workers and church leaders, all to learn more and be inspired by mission work in the wider world. As the RCH continues to develop its international missions, support abounds from within the church itself and within organizations like Interserve.
Article by Kearstin Bailey
Translation work by Petra Kecskés
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