Locked Down But Not Out!

Mark Sipos is pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Szeged, southern Hungary. Szeged is the third largest city in Hungary and is the location of a distinguished university. Mark planted the church which has around 30 members. The church was the location of a successful SGA Mission School which finished early last year.

Hungary went into lockdown in March and the ministry of New Hope Church had to adapt. Sunday services were livestreamed on YouTube; Bible studies moved to Facebook; and Home Groups met on Zoom! Despite these challenges, there have been encouragements. More people accessed the online service, including expats. One Hungarian woman living in Germany started to “tune in”. She lost her job in the crisis, but as a result of hearing the Gospel proclaimed online, has found a Saviour!

The University of Szeged closed its doors and students returned home. However, some foreign students were left stranded by closed borders. This provided an opportunity for New Hope Church to reach out in support. One stranded student was so touched that he started to watch the online services. He has since professed conversion and become an active attendee at post-lockdown gatherings.

Mark, Csilla and children

Mercifully, Hungary was not as seriously affected by the virus and the government started to ease restrictions in May. Gatherings were permitted where families and not individuals must socially separate.

Fine weather allowed the church to meet outdoors in a garden while vulnerable members still “attend” online.

The challenge for the church now is to move virtual attendees into physical attendees. Mark comments that when lockdown restrictions were lifted, people were happy to meet him in a coffee shop, but less willing to attend church.

Mark and Csilla are in the process of building a house in the small town of Mórahalom (pop. 7,000), 20km west of Szeged. They plan this to be the location of a new church plant as the town is in great need of a Gospel witness. The only place of worship is a Roman Catholic church where only 40 regularly attend.

Mark and Csilla have visited the house on several occasions to work on the garden and meet their neighbours. They have found them friendly and open to talk about spiritual matters. The town’s folk were impressed that Csilla, a doctor, should get her hands dirty! This is a small but important witness in a farming community.

Cantavir Serbia

Country borders in Central and Eastern Europe rarely follow language boundaries. Whole regions of Hungarian speakers can be found in surrounding countries.

Mark has been developing links with Hungarian speaking pastors in Romania and Serbia.

Each country had its own set of lockdown rules and Mark has sought to support these pastors as they negotiated these. He has also been instrumental in organising the new English-Hungarian SGA Bible School in Čantavir, northern Serbia.

Čantavir is a large village in the autonomous province of Vojvodina. The start of the school coincided with lockdown and had to be delayed.

Please pray:

For the continued growth of New Hope Church.

That new converts will be established in the faith.

The commencement of the Čantavir Mission School.

The strengthening of fellowship between Hungarian Pastors.

For Mark as he balances the demands of church, work and a young family.