This morning, I had the privilege of a lifetime: not only did I have the privilege of preaching the Word, I had the privilege of preaching the Word to a Hungarian house church. The time leading up to the preaching did not give me the sense of awe and amazement, for that came as I began. My interpreter Agi, sitting to my left in the picture above, had to take a complex language of English and translate it into a more complex language in Hungarian.
I preached from the English-Hungarian translation Good News for Modern Man. No, it’s not the tightest, most literal translation around from Greek to English, but this Bible contained actual Hungarian, so it was of use. (By the way, thank you Larry and Melinda Ewing, IMB missionaries not only for asking me to preach, but also for giving me a copy of this Bible. I will treasure it to my grave.)
I met with Agi a few minutes before the service times to come up with a game plan. She had been tasked with this numerous times, but I hadn’t preached with an interpreter since 1996 at a Chinese church in Trinidad & Tobago. We agreed that I would preach a sentence then she would interpret. At least one could understand English and Hungarian equally well, but most only spoke either Hungarian or English, but not both.
All of us were excited and encouraged to see 37 come to this house church–the most they had ever had. The living room was crowded and hot, with fans a blowing (no A/C in their flat), and folks had to sit in their hallway. What a nice problem to have! It goes to show how important these relationships are, especially when our crew from ARBC comes as they have for the last 13 years. The first team that went in 2002 or 2003, they had six come for their first meeting. Today they had 37, a number of whom are not yet believers.
As I preached, I saw blank faces, waiting eagerly for Agi to tell them what I had just said. That’s an interesting thing, waiting for a reaction that long. But I did see some who were encouraged, and also some who were shifting in their seats. See? The Word has power and authority that is not bound by language or culture.
I taught on the topic of “Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake” from 1 Peter 3:8-18. My aim was to show them how to endure suffering through three key concepts:
Pursue unity through the body of Christ (3:8-12)
Put your eyes on the person of Christ (3:13-17)
Put your mind on the work of Christ (3:18).
Every single person in that room: unbeliever, believer, missionary, Colorado team! The unbeliever needed to realize the cost of following Jesus but also the reward of Jesus! The believer needed reinforcing as they sought to invite others to house church and study. The missionaries (Larry and Melinda) needed reminding of this on a number of fronts. And our Colorado team? We needed to remember that as we begin our ministry at the university tomorrow, and as we see to advance God’s kingdom through ARBC where we live.
And the beauty and rigor of the Word began to move. Seeds were planted. Hearts were stirred. Believers were strengthened and comforted. New believers gained perspective. Unbelievers soul-searched. I was humbled and ground to a fine powder at see God move and His Son exalted in a country eight time zones away from home.
I intend to never allow my heart to believe that God’s Word isn’t powerful enough to change hearts, lives, and churches. For this Word must reverberate through the entire life of our church, from Sunday School, to Connect Groups and SNAPs, to our Business Meetings where all teams stand up and share something that God has done and how they intend to glorify God in their work.
Yes, Lord Jesus!