At this time last year, I was just settling into a new world – assuming four months in Budapest constitutes “just settling.” But now, how have things changed? How does my life look now that I’ve been settling in for 15 months?
The best way to put it, I suppose, is to say I’ve found my place here. In the beginning, understandably, I was a bit lost (literally and metaphorically). A new place is hard to adjust to but a new city, job and culture is a whole other ballgame. Eventually though, I found my footing. And more than that, in this new place I found newness in myself.
It never ceases to amuse me the blindness people have to their own worth or goodness or strength, even in spite of the constant assurance from those loved and trusted most. The letter I sent out last year is a great example of this. I was questioning my usefulness or purpose here in Hungary; needing to remind myself that the work I’m doing is meaningful and that by offering myself in honesty and true intention, I am enough to walk along this path with my partner in a valuable way.
And don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s difficult to continue putting one foot in front of the other. Being away from friends, family, food, pets and your own personal normal is hard. But for me, I simply had to keep moving – keep walking forward even when I didn’t feel the self-assurance or courage that I wore on my face, and eventually the world became a little less scary. The constant symphony of my pounding feet was all the support I needed to keep stepping a little farther away from my comfort zone.
Time has a way of changing us without fuss or celebration. It’s one of the most amazing things about life and one of the scariest, too. Time moves us even when we feel cemented in place, petrified of the future and of the changes that come along with it. Time comforts us during the growing pains and homesickness. It heals us after heartache. It shares in the joy and happiness of a moment, but it also moves us farther away from moments we want to hold on to forever.
I’ve grown into my life here. Better yet, I have made a life here, and there are several factors that have aided in this “nesting” process, most notably the unbelievable warmth and welcome I have felt from my friends in Budapest. I’ve heard many stereotypes about Hungarians since I moved over here and one of them is that Hungarian people are not very friendly or they’re somehow closed off. Now, on a superficial level this may be true. Perhaps people walking down the street may seem a bit cold, and you definitely don’t really see people being overly friendly on buses or undergrounds (really, who is?), but I have seen firsthand that Hungarians possess extremely warm hearts and that they will walk to the ends of the earth to help those they care for. I cannot express how honored I am to be considered a “friend.” I can only hope through my friendship I can somehow reciprocate their generosity and express my overwhelming gratitude.
In addition I’m extremely blessed that my Global Mission Intern position has allowed me the freedom to learn, grow and truly stretch into this experience. I realize opportunities like this most assuredly do not come around every day and I’m beyond lucky to have such a tremendous amount of support and trust coming from my sending organization. I have always felt like a colleague in their eyes instead of an inexperienced twenty-something, and when you build on a solid foundation of mutual-respect, which I feel is represented so well in Global Ministries’ mission and core values, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish.
I still have until the beginning October but I can’t help feeling that everything has turned on its axis. My perspective is no long counting how long I’ve been here, but instead counting how much time I have left. It’s hard to believe that I flew over to Hungary in October 2012. At the time I knew very little about my position at the Reformed Church in Hungary and even less about the place I was going. I feel as though the glimpses I found on the Internet were just that: glimpses. I was never going to get a true feeling for the culture or food or language by reading words on an electronic page. But fortunately for me, one of the first things I learned upon arriving is that the Hungarian people love their culture, their roots, history and language, which I will freely admit I love as well (even if on a lower level of understanding). And as soon as I arrived, I was caught up in a whirlwind of history and stories. I couldn’t help feeling like a child sitting on my grandfather’s lap listening to stories about the way things used to be. My imagination was, and still is, entranced with the history of this place and these people; with the Istváns and Bélas, the Turkish occupation, the Habsburg Monarchy, the freedom fights and revolutions and the intense impact the reformation had on this country.
Throughout this experience, learning has been my immense pleasure and the best possible gift I could have received. My eyes have been opened in a way I never could have imagined when I first
set off on this journey, and as I inch ever closer to the end of this adventure, I must intentionally and purposefully keep my heart open and accepting to every experience – let this place imprint on my soul and in the process maybe a little of myself can find a home in the hearts of others.
may my heart always be open to little... (19)
may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old
may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it's Sunday may I be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young
and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there's never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile
- e.e. cummings
Amy Lester serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Reformed Church in Hungary, based in Budapest, Hungary. Her ministry is possible because of funds provided by Week of Compassion of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ. Amy serves as a facilitator of international communication, writing proposals to international organizations, receives and guides the international guests, and many other duties.