Each week as Linda and I traveled to Tapolca for our work with Shaun and Sondi Carlaw in the English Clubs we would take Highway 77 from Veszprem, which was the last leg of our trip down to Tapolca. One of the small villages we would ride through was Nagyvazsony. As you approach the town there stands Szent Istvan Templon (Saint Stephens Church), abandoned and deteriorating. I imagine in a different time and place it was a majestic and proud house of God for this little village. It was a haunting view on each drive by, to and from Tapolca.
This past week I stopped and took some pictures and walked around the building. I tell you, my heart was breaking as I thought of the many baptisms, weddings, worship services, funerals and holiday celebrations that must have once taken place there. A center of activity and social gathering for the Hungarian people, now abandoned. A relic of the past, no real purpose. Left to the forces of weather to bring shame on the community and nation. It became for me a symbol of the hardness of heart of a lost people.
I did a little investigation into the town of Nagyvazsony and found that it had a remarkable history during the Soviet occupation and was even referred to as “Little Moscow” on occasion. There was an 89 acre Soviet military base and was a place for placement of nuclear weapons and disposal of nuclear waste. You can only imagine the impact of the communist rule and culture on that community. A Godless culture that pushed faith and its practice into obscurity, and the House of God went along for the ride.
There is a warning here for all of us who are faced with a culture determined to exist without acknowledging its Creator. It should spur us on to be faithful in our witness of Christ. A church stripped of Christ and His power is destined to obscurity and made irrelevant in a postmodern era. A church stripped of Christ is a place stripped of love and concern for others. It is a place where the proud and mighty rule, and the meek and lowly are excluded and marginalized. The very group Jesus came to serve, love and save. A church without Christ delegates beautiful buildings to museums and small places to the dust heap.
I know this drive down Highway 77 in Hungary will forever change my prayer life for the church of Christ. May we all be faithful in what God is calling each one of us to do, each according to the gifts and talents that God has given to us. Pray fervently for the people of Hungary and those who serve our Great God in their midst. Pray fervently that Jesus Christ remains the focus and reason for our faith, for all those who call themselves Christians. There is no greater reason for the church than to be the bride of Christ.
Serving Our King Together!
Rich and Linda Stienstra