The Life Belt Programme, a joint effort of the Reformed Church in Hungary and the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid, has given hope to families whose life changed dramatically due to the rise of the monthly installment of foreign currency based bank loans. As the Church Aid was busy working out a scheme to help families in need, they weren't expecting any reaction from abroad. Some help, however, did come, and this incident proves that the worldwide Reformed church links its members together in truly unique and personal ways. Interview with Johanna Meyerin.
We know that your support came all the way from Holland, and you live there. What else can we know about your background?
I run an art gallery with my late husband's paintings. I am 74 years old and I bought this gallery to exhibit these precious paintings. I'm an active member of the Reformed church in Amsterdam, but I also feel open towards other denominations, because I know that Jesus works through His Holy Spirit in other Christian churches as well.
How did you hear about the Life Belt Programme in Hungary, and how did you get in contact with the Reformed Church Aid?
I saw a short film on a Dutch TV channel. The film introduced the situation of a very poor family with seven children. The family was summoned to the local mayor's office, because their financial situation was rapidly deteriorating due to the foreign currency loan problems. The children were taken away from the married couple on the spot, even though the youngest child was only two years old. The family was separated, the children were placed in other homes. I myself have eight children, and I understood what it must have felt like to lose your own children like this. I immediately had the idea to donate some money to them, so they could be reunited or their situation could be improved.
Is this all the information you have about the family you have helped?
Yes, but I would like to meet them in person, so I'm planning a short trip to Hungary in the near future.
Do you know about people in Holland who might have the same financial problem?
The situation in Holland is very different. Families don't have to face the same financial challenges. In my country, poverty is hidden from the public eye. Poor people are directly supported by the government.
After seeing the TV programme about this Hungarian family, what was the first thing you did? How did you try to contact the Life Belt people?
I made a few calls to find out their phone number. I was put in touch with a worker from the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid. I told her that I wanted to offer some financial help to this specific family.
Did you help other families in the past or is this the first occasion you have felt the drive to give support?
I have some good contacts in India, and I even visited there about a year ago to offer some help to poor people, poor families. Whenever I give money, I always take the opportunity to share my faith. My children have grown up and they are independent. So why should I keep all my money to myself? Giving money is also a privilege: a great opportunity to share the gospel of Christ in a very personal way.