Different but Similar

Sometimes it surprises even the seasoned traveller in the continent of Europe, just how varied and different the various countries are.

Hungary and Serbia are quite similar in size and population, but display some striking contrasts. Both are European countries, but whereas Hungary is markedly ‘western’ in character, Serbia retains much of an ‘eastern’ flavour in culture and lifestyle. 

Hungary is part of the European Union, while Serbia aspires to join this economic and political ‘club’.   

Russian Orthodox Church Szeged
Roman Catholic Church, Szeged, Hungary
Russian Orthodox Church Belgrade 3
Serbian Orthodox Church, Belgrade

Both countries claim to be ‘Christian’; Hungary is predominantly Roman Catholic, and Serbia is strongly Eastern Orthodox. 

Serbia has never experienced a significant Christian revival, but Hungary was strongly influenced by the Reformation of the 16th century, so much so that Debrecen in the NE of the country became known as the ‘Calvinist Rome’, that is, the centre of the Reformed faith in Hungary.  The Debrecen Reformed Theological Seminary continues to offer both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in theology today.

Not unsurprisingly therefore, the number of evangelical believers in Hungary far exceeds that of Serbia.  In a population of around 10 million, Hungarian believers number approximately 300,000. 

Serbia has a population of around 9 million, but there are only an estimated 50,000 believers in that land.  The great challenge in both countries is to maintain and ‘grow’ the faith in the face of the profound influence wielded by state churches.

This is particularly so in Serbia, where church and state are so identified that ‘to be Serbian is to be Orthodox’. 

Evangelical believers are widely suspected of being disloyal to the state, and continue to be the objects of harassment and discrimination in some areas of daily life. 

Evangelicals in Hungary are thankful for the freedom to worship, and also for the very pronounced support of the government for family life as governed by Christian principles.

SGA’s first involvement with Serbian brothers and sisters was in the context of camp ministry in the old Yugoslavia.  Avram Dega was one of the early campers and became one of the first friends of SGA, along with Dane and Melita Vidovic.  They had first heard of SGA from older people who remembered a visit by Peter Deyneka to meet believers in the church in Belgrade. 

In the early 1980s Dane and Melita met William Smylie and other SGA friends in Pancevo where Dane was at that time ministering.

Danko & Melita
Dane & Melita
Avram Dega
Avram Dega

The SGA team was on an extended visit taking in Serbia, Bulgaria and Macedonia.  With the fall of Communism Serbia became an independent country, and SGA continued its ministry support through the contacts made. 

In Hungary some of the early contacts were with Charles and Agnes Ficsor, and the secret production of Gospel broadcasts to be relayed into Good News Foundation in Orgavany.  Links were subsequently forged with friends in Bicske, and later Szeged, where Mission Schools were organized, from which we continue to see fruit today. 

SGA’s ministry in these two countries has developed, and challenges remain in bringing light into spiritually dark communities in both lands.