VIGNETTES #3March 2, 2012
BEAUTY - On my way to Bible Study a few Fridays ago, with temperatures below zero, a pair of 80-something grandparents got on my Bus 7 at the Astoria stop with a very small, blue-eyed and well-wrapped toddler. She was tiny. They perched her on a seat and stood protectively against her as our bus belched and bucked its way along Rákoczy út. When they debarked at the Keleti Train Station, the bright little one, not more than one and a half years old, stopped and turned toward the bus with a kind of wonder showing on her face. Grandma took her hand and stood with her, to watch, as a large crowd exited, and a large crowd crowded in, a buzzer buzzed and the doors closed, and the engine revved, and the huge tires began to turn, and we slowly moved out into the flow of traffic. All this time the little one was gazing at each new phase and saying ’busz’, ’busz’ over and over, and though the grandpa was on his way to the Station entry, the grandma just stood with her grand-daughter, unpressing, while the little one learned almost every piece of what a bus is! I’ve seldom seen such beautiful grand parenting, - in any country.
PIGEONS? - Several of our children were here for a last Hungarian Christmas with us in December. We had to teach them to not open their bedroom windows, because pigeons that live in the courtyard behind us would fly in – in part because the previous hausfrau had fed them as pets years ago and in part because they prefer more warmth than that available from perching on our wide outer windowsills. We live very closely with them, and often monitor the weather from them.
This month, with temperatures consistently running at least 8 or 10 degrees below freezing, our pigeons are nowhere to be seen! The government, with great wisdom, over the last one to two years has found housing, even jobs when appropriate, for the huge numbers of human homeless who used to bed down, day and night, in our 13 or 14 most-heated underground subway entries. (Not only could this be healthful to the homeless – though critics complained that the new proviso interfered with their freedom and civil rights – it also meant that tourists (and citizens) could be more ’comfortable’ (= less harassed).) Thank God, it has also meant that Hungary’s had only 4 weather-caused deaths during the recent Central European cold snap instead of the huge numbers suffered in Ukraine and Romania.
But the pigeons? Who is housing the pigeons? Short of migrating, where is it that they find warmth, food and shelter in this metropolis? It must be exceptionally cold outside, or they would be here!
RIGHTNESS? (i.e. Identity-formation, nation-building) – During this country’s effort to find its Hungarian-ness once again, there are well-established forces here (and in the EU Parliament) who overtly challenge the way things are going. One quite visible and loud force is those „socialists” here, mostly graduates of the past regime’s Communist Youth Camps, who find it unbelievable that the citizenry voted against them and put ’social democrats’ into the majority government. (We know of individuals from England, Italy, who moved here just before the changeover of 1989, believing that this country would progress to the Sovietized paradise they were longing for. They are feeling deceived.)
And then, there is the other end of the spectrum, the extreme ’right’, who know that God is disparaging of this ’becoming’ nation, because it is not protecting itself against the global conspiracy which „is taking over Hungarian lands and money”, diluting its nationalism with undue foreign influence, (i.e., the exploitation by the East has only been replaced by exploitation from the West), and that the Church is the last bastion of this God-freed nation. These super-nationalists reject the majority because they aren’t making changes to their liking.
Both sets of dissenting voices increased in intensity when Hungary made public, last summer, its new Constitution, - its first since the Soviet-styled one of 1948! At issue are five points approved by the current majority Parliament: Hungary is a nation grown from Christian roots, marriage is between a man and a woman, inception of a fetus is at conception, the Hungarian National Bank should take loyalty oaths to the Hungarian nation (and its directors not collect disproportionate salaries), and judges should retire at age 65 like everyone else. Many of EU’s Parliaments are at odds with these five points, as are Europe’s and Hungary’s „socialists”. Though Hungary’s Prime Minister has said that his Parliament is open to Constitutional correcting by the European Union, since early January he has been bashed at Strasbourg’s EU Parliamentary hearings.
Yet, inconsequential Hungary, like a small David or a mere Esther, is drawing attention to these five issues for all 27 EU countries. Hungary is witnessing. Hungary is testifying. She is causing some EU delegates to re-examine their values (and the IMF to examine its reasons for making a loan?). Can the Church (64% R. Catholic, 21% Reformed, 11% Lutheran), the holder of these values in Hungary, in its influencing’s of Hungary’s majority leaders, be more right for this place at this time? Whether the majority is right or wrong doesn’t seem to be what is important here; national unity of values is identity-building, nation-building. Whatever the outcome, Hungary is finding its Self, its Soul!
TWO BIRDS WITH A BIRTH? – You’ve known from us previously that Hungary is one country among many in Europe which feels threatened by declining birth rates. And you’ve heard from us that higher education students as of a few years ago had to begin paying for their education; for most, student loans have been the only way to accomplish college or university study. But can you imagine, can you register the creative thinking behind the new policy announced last month, that any young parent who gives birth to three or more children can have his or her student loans erased! (And/or staying in the country after graduation for a reasonable number of years can also cut down on your student loan amount due.) Amazing?
GROUP LIFE – For some years, in Bloomington IN, I was a minister of adult programming in a large church. From small group theory, available at the time, and the reality of university-related adults’ schedules, we knew that groups running five to six sessions had the greatest chance of full participation for the duration. We were hard-pressed to continue spiritual growth groupings the usual 10-12 weeks, though infrequently a requested „specialty” group could make it, full force, for a semester.
So, it has been with great interest and pleasure that I’ve been part of the Friday afternoon English-language Bible Study group, now in its 19th year! Members say that they come because it is always so interesting, stimulating, and a source of fresh information. Always, since its beginnings by Erzsébet Abraham, it has been led by native English-language teachers and pastors. The singing, the prayers, the Bible work are all in English, though occasionally we pull out a Hungarian Bible to see what the familiar translating provides. The group has evolved through several forms and theologies: we used to staff three levels of learning (beginners, intermediates and advanced) and worked consistently from Scripture Union materials. Over the last several years, Yale Divinity School’s Resource Center has passed on to us materials from several denominations, or we leaders have written up our own materials to fill the group’s requests. Our singing, too, has expanded to encompass a more diverse exposure, with sections added to hymnals donated from Bethany CT to include youth camp songs, praise hymns, white and black folk hymns, and newer standards that aren’t in the old western hymnbooks. A number of years ago, our ages ran from 9 to 91; we’re now more like 25 to 85. And the whole group has progressed to an Advanced level, - Biblically, theologically, spiritually, conversationally, and in the care it gives its members – though its make-up is still interdenominational. Not often do any of us get the chance to belong with such intense continuity to a group who are learning and growing! What an excellent gift this has been!
Coralyn and Laslo Medyesy
Laslo and Coralyn Medyesy are missionaries with the Reformed Church in Hungary, based in Budapest, Hungary. Laslo serves as professor of theology in the Department of Theology of the Gaspar Karoli Reformed University in Budapest. Coralyn T. Medyesy serves as a teacher of Social Work and Diakonia at the Nagy Koros School.
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