Friends in Need

“We have received so much love and support from you amid our numerous crises, and now wanted to return the favour and express our friendship also through raising funds,” said Bishop István Bogárdi Szabó on Sunday, during the worship service of the Korean-speaking Reformed Congregation in Budapest. During the service, the Ministerial President of the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH) handed over the 11,000 USD donation raised for the support of the survivors of the May boat tragedy, as well as of the bereaved families and orphaned children.

Less than two months ago, on 29 May 2019, in the evening hours, the Hungarian tourist boat Hableány capsized and sank in the Danube after colliding with a cruise ship called Viking Sigyn. There were 33 South Korean tourists and 2 Hungarian staff on board; only seven of them survived the deeply shocking tragedy. Immediately afterwards, on 30 May, the Reformed Church in Hungary (RCH) initiated a fundraiser for the support of the survivors, as well as of the bereaved families and orphaned children. “We would like to express our solidarity towards our Korean brothers and sisters in this way as well, for they have always helped us when we were in distress,” said István Bogárdi Szabó, Ministerial President of RCH when announcing the fundraiser.


Our church is sending the funds raised to its recipients via the Korean-speaking congregation, therefore on July 14 István Bogárdi Szabó handed over the amount collected to the Korean-speaking Reformed community in Budapest.

The Budapest congregation of our partner church, the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) was founded in 2007. Since 2011, their worship services have been held in the Office Headquarters of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary. On 15 November 2012, our Synod incorporated the Korean-speaking Reformed Congregation operating in Budapest, thus making the community a part of RCH with a special status with no territory of its own, similarly to the German-speaking Reformed Congregation in Budapest and the Scottish Mission.

Keep them in our prayers!

In his speech, István Bogárdi Szabó recalled that the last time he had visited the Korean community in Budapest was when the congregation had been celebrating its tenth anniversary - that was a meeting of true joy, unlike today, which is overshadowed by sadness. “We are remembering the accident that shook us to our core. Apart from offering our prayers, we felt we needed to help in other ways, and that is why we initiated the fundraiser,” said Bishop Bogárdi Szabó. When handing over the 11,000 USD sum, he asked the congregation to deliver it to its intended recipients.


“The Bible says that we only find out who our true friends are when we are in need.  Since we have received so much love and support from you amid our numerous crises, we feel that you are our friends - remarked István Bogárdi Szabó. - And now, we wanted to return the favour and love and express our friendship also through raising funds.”  The bishop also added that our thoughts are still with the victims of the tragedy.  “We should all keep the families of the victims in our prayers, let us ask the Lord to support and encourage them.”

Christian hope

Jeong Chae Hwa, pastor of the congregation expressed his gratitude for the donation, and he emphasized that they did not expect such extensive support.  “We did not expect Reformed communities to pull together to such an extent. We are positive that this help has been given to us by God through the church, the people and Bishop Bogárdi Szabó, and we are deeply grateful for that,” he said.


When asked, Jeong Chae Hwa recalled that he had had a difficult one and half months behind him, as it was he who facilitated communication between victims’ family members arriving in Budapest on the one hand and authorities and doctors on the other.  He also said that South Korea was shocked by the tragedy as they had never experienced anything like that before.  It was especially difficult to provide support for family members, who had lost a parent, a child, a brother or a sister. “It was a sad event for the state and the people, and Koreans living in Hungary were also utterly distraught.  But, just like the congregations of the Reformed Church in Hungary, we prayed and implored the Lord, and we commemorated the victims,” he added.


The pastor believes that a tragedy always poses a great challenge to those affected by it, but as Christians we can look beyond our difficulties. “What we must keep in mind is the fact that they did not die, they went home. When performing the memorial service for the victims, I sang and cried together with the mourners, but I reminded them that it was only a farewell to the kingdom on earth,” said Jeong Chae Hwa. “It is our hope that Heaven is awaiting us, where we can live forever and praise the Lord - together.”

Written by Zsuzsanna Farkas

Translated by Erzsébet Bölcskei

Photos by László Sebestyén