Additional "From Further Afield" Articles


Who Is My Neighbor?
Published: 11/1/2011 11:25:08 AM


When I first found out that I’d be serving the Lord here in Hungary, I was thrilled. My parents, though supportive and excited for me, nevertheless had many questions. What exactly will you do? Who will you work with? What will you eat? Where will you live? While the answers to the first three questions are fairly straightforward - teach English and share the love of Jesus; my colleagues in the school and my missionary colleagues abroad; food - the answer to the fourth presents a bit more intrigue. You see, I live in a former convent.

The buildings of the convent surround a courtyard, in which stands a Lutheran church. Historically, The Lutheran Church of Gyor has had its share of hardships. The first Lutheran church was closed in 1747 and given to Catholics. After Joseph II’s Edict of Tolerance in 1781, the Lutherans were allowed to build a new church but it had to be built in a courtyard without any towers. It also had to be built outside the city center. This church still stands now, more than 125 years later, and it (along with the Lutheran school) is what I see when I walk out my door in the morning.

The convent buildings have all been converted and are now used for different things: the preschool, the church office, a tailor’s work-area, a classroom, and some flats, including mine. Other residents include a couple of families, two of my colleagues and their son, three pastors and their families, and an elderly woman. However, my most surprising (and newest) neighbors are the retired bishop of the Western District of the Hungarian Lutheran church and his wife. When I first saw them around, I was too surprised to even think, and so I greeted them with a simple, "Szérvusztok!” which is quite an informal way to greet a bishop. It's like saying, "Hey!” to the president of a company you work at…not the best idea. Luckily, my husband informed me of my mistake after I recounted the tale, and the bishop and his wife graciously overlooked my mistake; now I stick to a simple, "Jó napot!” (Good day!) or "Eros vár a mi Istenünk!” (A Mighty Fortress is our God!)

Even the most surprising of neighbors are still our neighbors. When Jesus talked about "loving your neighbor,” people were surprised – not by who was living next door, but by the radical idea that all people are our neighbors, regardless of race or creed (check out Luke 10). In my life today, I have more non-Christian friends than I’ve ever had before. Sometimes it’s difficult to connect with them; sometimes it’s difficult for them to connect with me. But they are my friends, and I deeply desire that they know the greatest friend of all, Jesus. The Friend that laid down His very life to redeem ours. As much as I tell them that message, the biggest impact is when my actions back up my words – when I am neighborly to others who I don’t agree with, or when I go out of my way to help someone rather than letting him struggle on his own.

In response to the great love our best Friend has shown us we get to show what a difference it makes in our lives – giving our neighbors a reason to wonder what our Friend Jesus is really all about.

Eros vár a mi Istenünk,

Sarah Berta-Somogyi

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