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These people are crazy, thought Gyöngyi Légrádi when she volunteered at the OM GO Conference for the first time in 2010. But in a good way!
Gyöngyi (sounds like ‘juhn-jee’) had heard about OM in her home church in Hungary, and now as a volunteer at the conference, she was amazed at the enthusiasm she witnessed from 18- and 19-year-olds, who were even younger than she was, going to serve in foreign missions.
“Some of them have never been away from home longer than two weeks,” she said, “but they still go and follow because that call from the Lord is so strong that they just cannot resist. And when I saw these people, I said, ‘I want to become one of them.’”
After hearing the testimony of a Hungarian couple who had served on the mission ship Doulos, Gyöngyi decided to join Logos Hope for two years. She served in the kitchen and later in finances, using her background in accounting.
It was also on Logos Hope that she first heard about an idea for a European riverboat ministry. She tucked the idea away in her mind, thinking that if indeed a riverboat ministry ever materialized, she would join it because that would be the way a mission ship would reach landlocked Hungary.
‘Something new God is doing in Europe’
After her commitment on Logos Hope ended, Gyöngyi volunteered again at the GO Conference. She met a woman serving in Austria with OM East who shared about the team’s need for a bookkeeper and a Hungarian speaker. The team wanted to reach out to women in prostitution in Austria, sadly many of whom are Hungarian. Gyöngyi had found her next place to serve.
After a year and a half in Austria, the dream of the riverboat that Gyöngyi had first heard about years before was becoming a reality.
“When I heard about the Riverboat, I knew that that would be the end of my commitment in Austria because I felt like God was calling me to that,” she said. “If it would be possible to sail down the Danube [into Hungary] one day, I thought, I want to be there even in the pioneering part of this project and be part of something new that God is doing here in Europe.”
Gyöngyi joined the Riverboat’s finance department for its pilot voyage from January to March 2018, sailing from the Netherlands to ports in France and Germany. God would use the call that was years in the making to again reshape her life.
A lesson in trust
The Riverboat’s main outreach was an escape room experience called The Agency, which was created for Christians to learn about living lives on mission. Each room held a different challenge designed to highlight a characteristic of God.
One part of the experience was the Trust Tunnel. The participants were blindfolded and had to carry a metal bar over and around obstacles. As they worked, a crew member would encourage them, though, of course, the participants couldn’t see where the voice was coming from.
“The purpose of that was to show that even if we don’t see anything, we have to trust in God and keep pushing forward,” Gyöngyi said.
While in the Netherlands, some friends of Gyöngyi’s went through the Agency. Unbeknownst to her friends, Gyöngyi asked if she could play the role of the voice in the Trust Tunnel for them.
“And when my friend started going, I started talking, and she said, ‘Gyöngyi?’” Gyöngyi recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh no, she recognized my voice.’ She kept coming, and at the end, of course, they could take off the blindfold, and she could see it was me.
“But this taught me a lesson. She felt secure in the tunnel although it was dark because she could recognize the voice that was talking to her. And I think this is the same with us in our walk with the Lord. When we know Him that intimately, we can recognize His voice in every situation, no matter how dark it is. We will keep pushing forward and hold onto God because we know He is leading us.”
A home for a Hungarian Bible
Gyöngyi’s other favorite story from the Riverboat happened at its final stop in Mannheim, Germany. One morning, Gyöngyi and her teammates partnered with the Gideons organization to hand out Bibles at a nearby train station. Among the many German copies on the group’s table, a lone Hungarian New Testament seemed to call out to Gyöngyi.
“I sensed this from the Lord, and it was my desire to give this Bible to somebody today,” she said. “I didn’t want to go around and look for this person, but I asked God in prayer to send me this person directly.”
The last 30 minutes of the outreach came and went without a Hungarian speaker to give the Bible to. But a teammate encouraged Gyöngyi that the Lord would answer her prayer yet that day.
After lunchtime, Gyöngyi and a friend were returning from a walk around the city when they walked past a fellow crew member talking with two homeless people. The Riverboat crew had reached out to many homeless people in the last months, talking and praying with them and inviting them onboard for a shower and meal. Not wanting to disrupt the conversation, Gyöngyi walked on by. But two minutes later, her phone rang. It was that team member calling Gyöngyi to ask how she had handled bringing homeless people onto the ship in previous ports.
“I asked him why he had called because I had just passed by him,” she said. “The most amazing part of the story was he said, ‘Oh, that’s great that you are nearby! Please come back, because I think these people speak Hungarian.’
“I thought, wow, that’s amazing. I was just smiling, and I said to the person when we got there, ‘I have something for you in my pocket.’ I handed him this New Testament, and he was happy about it.”
Gyöngyi and her team members invited the two men onto the Riverboat, where the men could each receive a hot shower and enjoy some time in the cafe. Gyöngyi sat with them for a few hours to hear their stories and pray for them.
“I could tell them, well, I cannot help you and solve your problems, and I cannot give you a lot of money to have a better life,” Gyöngyi said, “but I know somebody who can change your life and give you hope and turn around the situation you are in.”
A heart for her own people
Gyöngyi had joined the Riverboat secure in her calling to it, but she had no idea what she would do in March after the pilot project ended. But the transition group formed on the Riverboat for people in her same situation helped her find her way. Of the 80 or so community members on board, around 25 participated in the transition group to discover what God might be calling them to next.
The group focused on seeking direction through activities such as mind mapping, recognising personal gifts, listening to speakers, and having discussions. One speaker said something that would stick with Gyöngyi: “Your calling might be something to do about something that upsets you.”
“Because if it’s upsetting, you want to change the situation, and you cannot just sit still and do nothing,” Gyöngyi said.
The thing that bothered her would become clear when she started hearing reports from OM’s International Leaders Meeting in February about how many missionaries different countries sent out.
“I was sitting there thinking, probably Hungary is somewhere on the bottom of that list because we hardly have anybody who is going into foreign missions,” Gyöngyi remembered. “And I said, ‘I want to do something about that. I want to change that.’
“I never really had a heart for Hungarians. When I thought about missions, I wanted to go somewhere else. But during the last two years, I somehow felt that the Lord is giving me a heart for my people, to do ministry among them and motivate them to step out and see the world because it’s so big out there, and there is so much to do.”
Gyöngyi is now taking a sabbatical, but this fall, she will join OM Hungary’s mobilising team back home, working to see more ‘crazy people’ like the ones she met at her first GO Conference.
“We want to challenge Hungarians to step out of their comfort zone and go into missions, probably outside of Hungary first, and then they can bring home their experience, and we can multiply,” she said. “And I want to tell them, ‘Go and follow God’s heart,’ because He’s there working in so many different places.”