In northeastern Hungary on the west bank of the meandering Tisza River lies the town of Tiszaújváros. Today a refreshingly unassuming and modest blue-collar town, on the northern edge of the great expanse of the Danube basin. The city’s history, however, is unique. Astonishingly different from other cities across Hungary because of its relatively short history dating only back to the early days of the Iron Curtain era. Unlike nearly every town and city across Europe, the origins of the town do not begin in medieval times with cobbled stone streets and an old historical center. Tiszaújváros is an infant in historical terms and does not even predate the 20th century. In fact, retired residents of the town have lived longer than the city they call home. The construction of Tiszaújváros began only on September 9, 1955. Following the communist takeover of Hungary, the government, wanting to add industry and jobs, built the city as a model industrial communist city. Instead of ancient church towers, the skyline of the city has smoke stacks from the factories on the edge of town and countless apartment blocks built to house their workers. The streets of the city are perfect straight lines and squares laid out by modern urban engineers. Originally the name of the city was borrowed from the historical village of Tiszaszederkény, located just outside of the current city limits. Later, on April 22, 1970, a day which would have been Vladimir Lenin’s 100th birthday, the city was renamed Leninvaros, translated in English as Lenin City. Only in 1991 following the collapse of the communist regime in late 1989, did the name change again. Tiszaújváros was the name chosen for the city, named after the Tisza river flowing nearby. New Tisza City, the English translation, today is a very pleasant and beautiful town with a laid-back feel. The town compensates for the lack historical architecture with plentiful trees, flowers, and green parks. The earth below is teaming with thermal water making the town a popular hot spring spa destination. The city of about 18,000 people is also a centralized easy hour drive from the Bukk Mountains (part of the Carpathian Mountain range), Hortobagy National Park, and the UNESCO world heritage wine region of Tokaj. No churches were built or organized during the first decades of the city’s existence due to the communist era. There was no city prior to the communist era meaning that there is also no historical church building. In the 1990’s a Hungarian Reformed Church was built following the collapse of communism. The church has a more modern layout including an assembly hall, church kitchen, and guest rooms attached to the church sanctuary.
Tiszaújváros is the home of one of our summer outreach camp weeks and many people of this community have become dear brothers and sisters in Christ. The Hungarian Reformed Church of Tiszaújváros has partnered with us since 2015 in organizing summer outreach/English camps. We have always marveled at God’s providence and hand in bringing us to this town and community. It is a story worth repeating here as we can share the goodness of God and what He has done for us. The 28th of February 2015 was a Saturday. A cold late winter day, with flurries of snow blowing in the wind reminding us spring was still weeks away. We had been asked by the Peterfalva Reformed High School to drive and chaperone six students from Ukraine to Budapest for a Bible competition between high school students from across the Hungarian speaking lands. Leaving Budapest that afternoon, following the completion of the competition, a water line broke in our yellow 1989 Volkswagen transporter van. In classic VW vans, the engine is located in the back under the trunk area. After unloading the student’s luggage, I found the broken waterline. The black rubber line, with a leaking hole on the end as it entered the water reservoir, was long enough to cut off the damaged end and reattach to the water reservoir. The water-cooling system and broken waterlines had been a consistent defective problem in this particular VW van. I had in previous weeks inspected the water lines often and I was surprised this water line, still in good condition, broke. Two hours and 170 kilometers later, I was alarmed to see the needle on the dashboard rising again, indicating the engine was over-heating. Having no shoulder on my right, and the fast-moving cars of the Hungarian autobahn on our left, we had to keep driving a kilometer until the nearest exit to safely pull over. A waterline had broken again, evidently caused by a pressure problem in the cooling system. With an overheated engine and realizing there was a greater problem causing overpressure in the system, we could not travel on. We called a friend who looked in the Hungarian Reformed Church directory for the closest Reformed Church. He called the pastor of that church who graciously came to our aid, towing us back to the church. After being shown the church guest rooms that we could use for the night, groceries were brought to us for a late supper and breakfast the next morning. After worshiping with them the next morning, a friend from the Budapest area brought us his van to travel back with the students to Ukraine. One week later I returned to Tiszaújváros to get our van after repairs had been made at a local mechanic. The Tiszaújváros church had a been searching for a way to start an English-Gospel outreach camp and asked if we would consider helping them organize a summer camp. We have since returned every summer and have so very much enjoyed this opportunity to partner in Gospel outreach with friends and church members of the Tiszaújváros Reformed congregation in their local community.
Unable to return home to Ukraine during the quarantine and country lockdowns, we again find ourselves welcomed back to Tiszaújváros as we are living at the church, staying in guest rooms connected to the church. We are able to use the church kitchen, the assembly hall for a dinning/living room, and there is a big grassy church yard for our son Hans to play in. They are allowing us to live here as though it is our home. We are thankful and blessed by their warm hospitality. We marvel that our current “home” provided for us during the time of quarantine, all began through God’s providence, years ago with a broken-down van on a cold late winter evening.
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