A little looking back, and a lot of joy, hope for the future and a celebration of gladness… this is how I could describe that very important event on June 5, 2016.
Twenty-five years ago something was started… God gave a vision to a man who was a relatively new believer to start His work in Hungary, in a town close to Budapest. The man obeyed and started the Free Christian Church in Szigetszentmiklós. With that small beginning, the calling of Joseph Gere started to unfold. He started to serve as a pastor in the church with his wife, Lilla Gere. They held meetings in the local community hall and year by year their numbers grew. Then Joseph received a new vision from the Lord – the church would need its own building. The pastor obeyed God’s Word again.
In June, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of our church and also dedicated our own church building that was built from the donations of church members and friends and constructed by the manual labor of the church people. This is our home now. It contains all of our hearts and our labor. This building stands as God’s amazing blessing and miracle. Many times this building was waiting for work to be done while the bank account was empty. But the Lord always provided what was needed, sometimes in peculiar ways, like through a kind pastor friend who took up an offering for us in his own church.
So we had many reasons to celebrate on this day in June–the quarter century anniversary of our church and the official dedication of the church building.
The celebration began at 4 p.m. The worship band prepared a mixture of favorite songs from the past 25 years. For many of our guests, this was the first time they heard contemporary worship music. It must have been very different from the traditional hymns they are accustomed to.
Many friends who had participated in the life of our church joined us for the special celebration. They greeted our church with kind words and shared God’s Word with us. Several IPHC/Hungarian Free Christian leaders were present along with Peter Lakatos, the bishop of the IPHC/Hungarian Free Christian Church, and Rev. Terry Fowler who is the IPHC Chief of Staff and assistant to the IPHC Presiding Bishop.
Pastor Bert Phagan and his team joined us as well. Pastor Bert was born in the U.S. but has been living in Belgium for 20 years, where he has started new churches and ministers as a pastor. After greeting the church, he and his worship team created a real party with their worship music that was very joyful, festive and special.
It was a great joy to invite some of the prominent people of our town because in one way or another they all contributed to the fulfillment of our pastor’s vision. Among these people, there were quite a few who were not believers or came from different denominations. This special celebration touched their hearts.
The mayor of our city kindly greeted the church and told us that even though he is not physically present at our Sunday morning services he still has a reason to feel like a church member. Since his house is across the street from the church building, he regularly hears our worship music. He assured us that he didn’t mind.
We received many remarks about how it was obvious that God has been working in our church. We received a beautiful bouquet of flowers and gifts from the leaders of the community hall, where our church met for 21 years. Their appreciative words were very important to us. They said something simple but remarkable–at the beginning, they never believed that our church would last so long and after so many years would have so many enthusiastic young people in it. Even in their eyes, this was a real miracle. We believe we showed them that when God is with us and we work together then it becomes obvious that what is born is not an emotional rush or a passing whim, but something real. Something that is based on love, commitment, togetherness and thirst for God.
At the end of Rev. Terry Fowler’s great message, a local politician came to him with tears in her eyes and told him how much she was touched by the message. She felt like the whole message was speaking to her and touched her heart greatly. She also shared how she wanted to use what she heard in her work as a political representative.
During the celebration, we had the opportunity to thank many people who had helped us over the past 25 years. So many people have contributed to help our church operate and complete our building. Our sanctuary was completely full with guests and members. After the meeting, we served delicious food and a huge birthday cake.
We had a great afternoon and evening; we felt the presence of God’s Spirit; we had many wonderful testimonies, speeches, and messages that brought smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes. I believe that many people were touched as we experienced the presence of the Lord. We believe that seeds were sown.
Was it only a celebration? No, it wasn’t… it was a little looking back, with joy and hope for the future. We saw not just the result of God’s work so far, but the work as it continues. We are thankful that we could be part of the celebration, and the past 25 years. It is great to know that God and the church are counting on us. This gives us strength for the next 25 years and for even more still to come!
By Kinga Bellai-Répássy