In 1996, a group of eight seminary students started to minister towards homeless people living on the streets of Budapest. They provided them with sandwiches, tea and the gospel. After 3 years, a new group was formed so that the ministry could be more effectively organized. The Hajlék Misszió Alapítvány (Shelter Mission Foundation) was thus founded. This dedicated and regular ministry bore much fruit: in 2006 the official homeless shelter was born - supported by the government, feeding 80-100 homeless people every day.
On January 1, 2007 our church took over the running of the shelter. Located in the 7th district in Vörösmarty street, in a 120 square meter basement, the shelter is open weekdays from 7am till 2pm. We have 5 full-time staff and volunteers providing food, clothes, practical help and counseling.
So that this ministry of our church is differentiated from the original Hajlék Misszió (Shelter Mission), it is now called the Homeless Ministry.
|The Golgota Homeless Ministry is supported by the Hungarian Food Bank Association.|
“In the beginning God created... ,” stumbles the young man through the passage. He’s always beaming, always smiling. He is tall and sporty, his hair is stylishly cut, tattoos and piercings decorate his well-set body. He is homeless. It’s been a year now that he can’t find a job, and he’s living with his father in a refuge. He is only 19.
In the beginning. It could have been the end of ’97. It was the time when a number of Bible school students started a mission amongst homeless people in the inner city. Five or six of them went regularly to Déli Railway Station with a pocketful of sandwiches and an acoustic guitar. They tuned up and then started to worship God.
’Gyuri Kovács, the pastor of Mahanaim Church, taught us in the Bible School,” recalls Zsolt Barta, one of the leaders of the ministry. “We got a room in their church so we could hold Bible studies for the homeless who were interested. We gave out food, played worship songs on Tuesday nights, and held Bible studies on Fridays. At that time there were about 20-30 of them coming along, but their numbers grew quickly; soon we had to move into this basement apartment.”
András Meinich and his wife, Éva, came to the Vörösmarty street basement 7 years ago. Both of then had a full time job at the time, so they came every day after work. At first, Éva didn’t even want to be involved in the ministry. But András was praying fervently for her, and through this, she was able to persevere.
“We live in a flat with a typical kitchenette. We made the tea there and brought it here in huge kettles,” says Éva . ’We had bread and lard, canned fruits, pastries... whatever people contributed. Once a brother even brought in a huge pig!”
God called András and Éva to the ministry through amazing events. It happened seven or eight years ago, when András worked as a full time postman.
“I remember one night when I had to go to work. I got on the bus and a homeless man got on in front of me. My heart sank. I wanted to know what had happened to him. The bus was full and I had only two stops to go. Talking to him seemed impossible. Then all of sudden, two seats next to each other became vacant. I took one of them and he sat down in the other. Within a minute, he turned to me and started telling me his story. I didn’t have to ask a single question. In the end I could share the gospel. Later he received Christ, and his family got restored.
“I often had to set out to work early in the morning. My wife would cook portions of food which she would jar and pack with a slice of bread. Before the first metro in the morning had started, I would set out to the underground stations, taking these “goodies” with me. At first the homeless men just stared at me; “Who is this guy? Warm food at 5 am... After a while they were expecting me. And the thing that filled me with compassion, joy and encouragement was the tiny ray of hope in their eyes. I knew it was worth the trouble.”
Today, the mission reaches out to over 800 of those in need. 100-120 homeless people come to the mission every day. Many of them attend the services and the Bible study. Men, women and children. The men are the most enthusiastic, raising questions, even challenging us and each other. They want to find answers.
The Bible school students who started the ministry back in ‘97 have since got their degrees and found their calling in the countryside. But God has always provided workers, He has called others, so that new faces have come to join the work. Also one of the volunteers who had left later returned: Zsolt Barta, having “journeyed” for some time. Now he is full-time and leads the ministry.
Sándor could be in his fifties. He is an electrician. He had a good job and was making good money. He has traveled the world: Germany, Russia, and many other countries. He had put himself through business school, was involved in politics and was even appointed as a party candidate. He then got divorced, and his life began to fall apart. He studied Buddhism and Hinduism, but these communities couldn't help. Neither could the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they also gave up on him. Then he came to the refuge. He is seeking. He is interested in everything, always commenting and asking questions. He has faith; he has come to terms with God. There are just a few unresolved issues he still needs to work through.
The Bible study is soon to be over. The 19-year-old man is about to finish reading the passage.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth....”
A new world. That’s the very thing we need. A new world, a new place that is more spacious, where we can counsel people one-on-one. Where group-therapy and counselling are realities and where at least some of these men and women can find the refuge they need, to make the decisions and changes for a better future.
homeless ministry – get involved
There are opportunities to serve in the preparing and serving of food. Donations of clothing are also welcomed. Please contact Szilard Markus: firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission is located at Vörösmarty utca 17, District VII (in the basement).