The story of ywam budapest
During the Soviet communist era YWAM began sending small short-term teams into Hungary to pray and discretely distribute Gospel literature. The first YWAMers to make Budapest their home were Jeff and Maria Gilbertson in the late 80’s. With the fall of communism in 1989 YWAM Amsterdam adopted Budapest as a target city. They began sending teams to pray, connect with pastors, and to seek open doors for the Gospel. Hal Young led teams from Amsterdam in 1990 and 1991 where they performed open-air evangelism in the squares. This personal, public expression of faith in God was then unheard of and attracted hundreds of curious onlookers at each event. Many began to come to faith in Christ, then hungered for Biblical teaching, discipleship, and fellowship in the Body of Christ.
Hal moved to Budapest in 1992 to continue teaching, discipling, and preaching the Gospel to the lost. Steve and Barbara Johnson led a DTS outreach from Amsterdam that spring. They did music evangelism in the squares led by student Phil Ulrich. Together they ran a mini-DTS, taking a bus load of young Hungarians to Bulgaria and Istanbul. Vision was ignited in these young believers to reach out to the nations. Phil and others joined Hal and his small team as momentum built around the creative music outreaches. Cindy Hunt started Power Night where young Hungarian disciples crammed into our small 6th district office flat on Szekely Bertelan to worship and share in fellowship. Krisz Simonfalvi, Pali Terecskei, and Angela Kontor were the first young Hungarians to join staff, adding their musical skills to the outreach effort. Steve and Barbara finally moved to Budapest in 1994 to pioneer the first DTS in Hungary. There was a strong sense that Budapest would to be a significant training and sending base. Fund raising began to purchase a building. The first of many that fell through was the Pest-Buda Mozi in the József Attila lakotelep, Bp. District 9.
More bands were formed such as Salt, Rat Rag, 5:20, Lelkes Allatok, Morgan and the Tramps. CDs were recorded. Music tours and outreaches became common throughout Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey and into Central Asia throughout the mid to late 90’s. Hal married Brenda, DTSs continued, the sound system was purchased, Rock For Life Festival was launched in 1998 by Randy Morgan. Training continued under the leadership of Ron and Bonny Thiesen followed by Kim and Cindy Hunt. DTSs were held in rented school buildings, guest houses, apartments, and worker hostels. Each new school was a huge effort to pull off – packing up, moving in, setting up, packing out, and doing it all over again until the Barbie House was secured in the 14th district for several years of relative stability. Students came from all over the region to be trained and sent out. Younger school leaders such as Jasmina Ristic and Mirjam Bos were raised up and released. Hye Don Lee led the first SBS which was cut short due to visa issues. Steve, now acting as Base Leader, pursued the purchase of the Kerepesi building. Having raised the funds and in process with legal issues, the building was sold unexpectedly to another buyer. This was a heartbreak for the team and appeared to be a major setback, yet God in His faithfulness had something better in store! The team had so much to learn.
In February 1999 Rézkígyó Coffee House was birthed in a rented basement on Hajós utca. This began an encouraging nine month trial period which ended with us wanting more. It was working! Non-believers were coming to this artsy non-religious venue and being exposed to the Gospel. The closure of Hajós utca sparked a re-energized commitment to search for a building of our own. Ádám Balogh was the first to discover it. After a major team effort of prayer, hard work, and perseverance, and by the hand of God, Paulay Ede u. 15 was purchased on September 9th 2000. The base office was quickly relocated, toilets made functional, and the construction project was underway. Rézkígyó was reopened again as a Friday night ministry in April 2002.
The Hungarian funk tribal rock band, Rengeteg, was founded by Matt Schellenberg. Street outreaches continued on as a main ministry of the base, strengthened by the support of Terry Williams. Rézkígyó was established as a respected well know ministry, cooperating with various Hungarian ministries and musicians. Marie McKenzie initiated and led grass-roots ministries including English clubs and book clubs. The base took some strides forward in structure and organization during the early 2000’s. With the base again back under Hal’s leadership, DTSs continued to be offered each year, still in rental facilities, until God led the team to purchase King’s Gate in 2007. Training expanded with the School of Worship and School of Biblical Studies. The first full SBS was completed in 2010 by leader Heidi Kovacs. King’s Gate provided housing for some staff members and created a warm community for visiting outreach teams. Meanwhile fundraising efforts and construction continued on the Paulay Ede building far beyond what was ever expected.
Steve again resumed leadership of the Base in 2011. Finally in April 2012 the phone call came that had been so long awaited. The final funds needed for completing of the Ministry Center had been given! The news of this provision put into effect a year-long final renovation push. With the vital help of Samuel and Rachael Warne and Laci Szederkenyi, the project was completed. On September 7, 2013 the newly finished Coffee House was dedicated to the Lord, nearly 13 years to the day after its purchase. God was faithful to complete what He began. The enduring vision that the base had carried for creating an urban outreach center in the center of Budapest suddenly became much more within reach. Training went through a dry spell during this period but the establishing of a Training Task Force precipitated plans for a new DTS and gave promise for rebuilding a strong and vibrant training program.
Many wonderful staff have contributed to the effort of YWAM Budapest, having labored in faithful service to the Lord, some persevering for months and even years. The conclusion is that YWAM Budapest belongs to God. It is His vision, His love for Hungarians, His plans, His people, and His resources that started it and sustain it. We who labor are privileged to take part. The future is bright as long as we cling to Him. More chapters are to be written by many more talented and godly YWAMers who will come and take things a step further. He who started a good work will cary it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.