Hello from Gaming! Christine here, safely returned from the Budapest Mission, which was actually based mostly in Szentendre. I met some of my team on Friday April 6th, the day I arrived, but was able to get to know them more on Mission Immersion day. I found out there were 4 of us from the Washington, DC, area, which brought my heart so much joy! I recently have really fallen more in love with Maryland, and am proud to call it home so this was a great comfort as I jumped right into mission.
My team was led by students Peter and Grace, and it was such a blessing to have them in charge. We departed from Gaming via bus on Sunday morning, and headed to the train station to get to Hungary. I reflected on the Homily Father Seraphim had given for the vigil Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday. He shared that mercy comes at a cost, and that we must show mercy and be merciful if you want to receive it. God says to us “Here is my mercy?” but we have to ask ourselves do we doubt God’s gift of mercy to us. We cannot doubt but we have to believe, even if it seems impossible. Mercy is a sure sign of God’s love, and God has so much mercy on me as a sinner and imperfect person. He still loves me no matter what! I was grateful to keep this in mind as I tried to focus on staying present to each moment, and not to get caught up in the past or the future… but to know God’s mercy on me in this very present moment.
The journey was rather smooth except for one confusing moment of having to change the train car we were on, because half of the train was going to Budapest while the other half was staying in Austria. I realized early on that my camera battery was completely dead and wouldn’t work no matter how much I charged it. I was upset at first, but was quickly able to just offer it up to God and use it as a chance to be even more present to those around me. We ended up standing on a crowded train for a few hours without seats, but it was honestly one of the best train rides I’ve had. I felt like I was able to get to know my teammates even more before heading to the mission site. We arrived all together and were greeted by graduates of the Franciscan High School who showed us around Budapest. After some sightseeing and getting to know the Hungarians a bit, we caught the train to Szentendre and walked to the school to meet our host families. The eight FUS students each stayed with a current student of the High School, and I stayed at an apartment located at the school. We all felt so welcomed and I know I went to bed looking forward to the week.
We met up again at 8 am on Monday and put together a plan. We had a general plan, because we knew we would be speaking to different classes on various topics. We wanted to focus on Chastity but decided to build up to that and start with other topics as we tried to get to know the students. We ended up going to some of the same classes. In general, we broke up into smaller groups and went into the different English classes. Sometimes we had Q&A and some of it was playing some ice breakers and giving talks followed by small groups. We didn’t even have translators, because their English was all so good. Some of the lower level English classes still understood and we would keep it simple. A lot of the difficulties are more related to trying to speak it rather than trying to read it or listen to English. After the first day, when everyone went home to their host homes I was able to get coffee with Maggie, a former LCI student from Poland who married a Hungarian LCI student. We went to her favorite coffee shop and had such a great conversation about testimonies, suffering, God, and the beauty of our faith. She expressed how much she wants all of her students at the high school to be able to turn to God and be vocal about their faith. A lot of times, like in America, people are scared to talk about their faith openly.
Tuesday was the same as Monday, but we focused on personal prayer. After school we had a special program with Praise & Worship and Eucharistic Adoration. We gave a talk and shared testimonies on prayer, encountering Jesus in the Eucharist at Adoration, and had a mix of praise and worship and quiet prayer time. The Lord reminded me that I needed to stop comparing myself and my abilities to my team, and that I was enough just as I was. He really called me to “Trust without borders”, and I just kind of asked God, “Who do you want me to be?” and asked him to show me. Not too many students usually attend, but it seemed like a good amount came. It was incredible to know that God was present in the Eucharist, even though I was in a completely different country. I really love the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.
Later that evening, as the youth showed us around town I found out some of the host students have lost their mom. I was so sad, because I know the pain all too well. These teens were even younger than I was when my mom lost her battle to cancer. I just really felt like God wanted my team there and to show the joy and hope that we truly find in the Lord. I also remembered that during my small group in one class, there was a protestant girl and I was touched by how strong her faith was even though she didn’t agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches. She’s had some bad experiences, but she still loves Jesus so much. I felt like God just really wanted us to love these students, and meet each and every one of them where they were at personally. The wonderful encounters continued on Wednesday, but I was so happy when Thursday finally arrived.
Father Robert (the director), his students, and some of the host students took us hiking. It was incredible to just see their beautiful country, to see the amount of pride they have in their nation, and the openness and willingness to share their lives with us. It seemed like the FUS students with host homes were having deep encounters with their students, and were able to ask them about their faith life. I know it’s so important to talk about the things in life that really matter, and the Hungarians were sharing that people don’t really talk about things related to God, prayer, or chastity. I hope that God blessed all of our conversations, and that we could provide encouragement to keep talking about these things.
Our last day in the school was Friday, and we decided to focus on Chastity. It was a lot different than my last Chastity mission in Romania where we only met the students one time. We had met with some of these classes or students multiple times so it was nice to build up to the topic. I know for me I was able to share my testimony of looking for love in all the wrong places, and finally finding real love in Christ. We had small groups and just talked about what people thought about love, what lies the movies tell us, and why sex is meant for the beautiful sacrament of marriage. I think it went well, despite feeling like we didn’t have enough time. We may not see the fruits of our work, but that’s okay. We just have to trust that God will use everything for His good.
Saturday was a free day so I took the opportunity to explore Budapest more on my own, and tried to take in all the beauty around me. I really felt so loved by God in how He brought me back to mission, and showed me that this is where my heart is. I love God so much and want to share it, even if it’s just hanging out eating ice-cream. My team and I met back up on Sunday at the train station and headed back to Austria. I was truly blessed with a wonderful team, and met so many people on fire with the faith and so many people who are open to God’s calling for their lives. Thank you for all the prayers, and know that God is just so good and has so much love for every single person no matter what. There is so much power in the name of Jesus so never be afraid to profess it.
Christine Saah – CMC Missionary