Supporting Sub-Carpathia

2016. február 02., kedd

The Hungarian Reformed Church Aid and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea have recently given donations to Sub-Carpathian aid projects under the Diaconia office there. As a part of the Sub-Carpathian Action Plan, the HRCA regularly helps the Hungarians living beyond the border, and PCRK members were recently moved to donate when the Rev. Kim Seon Koo visited the region last year and spoke about his experiences there with congregations around the world. According to Béla Nagy, the Lay President of the Sub-Carpathian Reformed Church District, things are slowly improving in the region thanks to international support, but there is still much work to do.

There is no lack of products in the stores, but the number of customers is low. Prices have risen more in the last year – the price of the bread alone has risen by 80% already since last May. In Sub-Carpathia, an average pension or salary today is 1,200 hrivnya (around 14,000 forints). The prices of gas and medications have risen too. The war in Eastern Ukraine has made life even more difficult there. Due to the draft, many people have escaped from their homeland because they didn’t want to risk their life in a pointless war. Many people have gone to work in Hungary and Western Europe and from there they help their families. Some families leave together – a trend that is becoming more frequent.

Due to the ongoing military and political crisis, there are large amounts of dubiousness and stress in the whole of Ukraine, and including Sub-Carpathia too. Public services are stalling and the healthcare supply is decaying; families often miss standard toiletry kits and foods. These basic needs are the reason why the HRCA continues the work in Sub-Carpathia and visited the region again in the middle of January.

In Dercen, Balázsér, Nagybereg and in eight other Sub-Carpathian towns, they helped the everyday lives of the people with flour, pasta, canned food, tea, coco and cleaning stuffs and toiletry kits. Altogether they gave ten tons of donations to people in need. They supported the hot food crisis kitchens for indigents with three million forints, they gave nearly two million forints for maintenance of institutions, and they also donated 300 thousand forints to the Bethlen Gábor High School in Beregszász. The Budapest-South Reformed Presbytery contributed to the donations with 2.2 million forints.

“It was a wonderful feeling. We were on our way to the crisis kitchens with the supports when a leader of an institution called me desperately. He said that if we don’t bring any support the next time, then they have to close. He reacted with a huge relief when I’ve told him the help will be there in hours,” said Pál Sándor, the board director of the HRCA Foundation.

Sub-Carpathian Hungarians are forced to escape because of the wars in Eastern Ukraine, the drafts, the inflation, and the everyday problems of living. In Bereghovo (Beregszász), almost 150 doctors and nurses have quit and begun looking for jobs abroad in the hope of a better life. According to Béla Nagy, the Lay President of the Sub-Carpathian Reformed Church District, those who leave are those who are needed to build God’s Kingdom. He thinks there is a need for peace, jobs and proper wages. The Lay President sees a great need to build an ambulance station and a Christian hospital in Beregszász – for this he asks for help, because, as he says, there is no time to waste; the Sub-Carpathian Hungarians are in great danger.

“I don’t want to run away,” said Béla Nagy. “Our fathers, mothers did everything for their offspring to have a future here. I’m doing the same. The situation of the Hungarians living in Sub-Carpathia is very difficult, but this is not our fault that we have been torn apart from Hungary for a hundred years. This is getting more and more difficult nowadays; it is a sad situation, my heart aches, because a lot of young brothers and sisters, among them professionals, leave, with whom we could build God’s Kingdom.” The migration of the doctors is a great problem in Sub-Carpathia. Just from Berehovo (Beregszász), 145 doctors and nurses quit their jobs and traveled abroad to work recently.

“I believe that there will be change. God will not let the Sub-Carpathian Hungarians be lost,” says Béla Nagy about 2016. “We have to do everything too, to have jobs for the pastors, the doctors, the teachers and everyone else, and to get proper wages as well. We need the peace too; we can’t let an armed conflict happen again. If there will be peace, I believe that the men will come back,” Nagy says.

According to Béla Nagy, there are positive signs too, despite the poverty. “It seems like a small thing, but there was never a skating-rink at Beregszász, but now there is and the downtown has even lit it up with a floodlight. During local elections last October, two Hungarian parties joined forces and now in the local and district governments, and in the parliament, there are Hungarian representatives. The mayor of Beregszász stayed Hungarian too,” says the Lay President. He adds that, “For these successes, the Church did a lot too – now there are those in office who should have been in decision-making bodies for a long time.”

As Béla Nagy says, Sub-Carpathia is a treasure, and to keep it, there is a wide need for further collaboration. Of course there is help now too: the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid, the Hungarian Government, and plenty of Hungarian local governments and congregations support the Sub-Carpathians. The Lay President says thanks for these, but he asks for more aid.

Recently, a group from the RCH and from the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea visited the Diaconial Office of the Reformed Church in Sub-Carpathia to show their solidarity and support for the important work that is being done there for Hungarians across the border. The group visited and learned about the many types of social ministry that the Diaconia office runs, like a sustainable farm to supply nourishment for the citizens, the crisis kitchen that makes use of all the wonderful products from the farm, a retirement home for the elderly, and a crisis center for victims of domestic violence.

Not only did this joint group drop off supplies donated from the HRCA, but the PROK mission co-workers serving in Hungary also brought a generous donation on behalf of Korean congregations from both Korea and Germany to support the vital work that is being done in the region.

“Last year I stayed here and I visited so many places and was impressed with how Beregszász and the Sub-Carpathian church reacted to the needs of the people,” said Rev. Kim Seon Koo, who has been serving as a mission co-worker together with his wife, Young Eun Chung in Budapest since 2013. “We found a very good example of the ideal church in a suffering context and I told the people here that I would share their story when I went back to Korea and I did. Every time when I had a sermon there I explained about the situation in Beregszász and I asked them to pray for the people here and to think about a concrete solidarity exchange. These people have been praying since then and they actually sent a concrete devotion after Christmas. I am here now to not only deliver their devotion, but also their prayers and love – things that are very important at this time.”

Text by, MTI and Kearstin Bailey

Photos by Kearstin Bailey

You can read more about the recent joint trip to Sub-Carpathia from the RCH and PROK on our Global Mission Intern’s blog.

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We encourage you to read our  former GM intern Kearstin Bailey's blog about her time, spent in Hungary.