Esteem Them Very Highly in Love
Partnership is a word that would very well sum up our (almost) 5 years in Budapest. Soon after we landed in December of 2011, we began to attend a church called Agóra that had been planted the year before. The two pastors who planted it, Trey Shaw (IMB) and Hamar Dávid, asked me (Ben) to join them as the 3rd leader in July of 2012. Since then, I have served in a variety of roles depending on the needs of the church. Most recently, and perhaps the best fit so far, has been the Steward of the church and Manager of its space, a community center called the Forum.
In these years we have interacted with many Hungarians, and several of them have become very dear to us. This probably resonates with many of you, connecting with nationals in your own context. One of these Hungarians is a young woman called Kata. We met Kata about two years ago when soon after visiting the church, she began to sing on the worship team. She and a few of the other worship team members were invited to our home for supper, hospitality being a big part of our ministry. Our firstborn hit it off with her right away, something that hadn’t yet happened between him and a stranger! She was warm and friendly that evening and every other time we interacted with her.
Last March, we heard that she had quit her job and was looking for work. I was beginning to wind down my activities at Agóra and the Forum in preparation of our summer return to the USA. I had a very long to-do list that seemed impossible to complete at any level. I approached Kata about assisting me for the last 6 weeks we had. We were also looking for a new babysitter, and she agreed to watch the boys for a few mornings each week in addition to helping me. To say that she was a life-saver would be an understatement. She helped me accomplish 10x more than I would have alone, and allowed Megan to have an occasional break that every Mom needs. We grew closer to her, and were able to pray for her a few times.
In conversation with Trey, one of the pastors, we learned that she had been discussing with him her questions on some deep, theological issues. I was able to share with him something Kata had recently told me, “I love Agóra, I love my boss, and it is YOU!” Agóra is a place for healing in Christ and a big part of that is being a safe space for questions. Hungarians are highly intellectual and so group discussion has always been a strong part of our DNA. Kata felt safe enough to share her concerns, to ask her questions, and she wasn’t mocked or shamed as she likely would have been elsewhere in Hungarian society.
1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another,”
This is what we did for Kata. It didn’t seem like much, simply thanking her often for her help, and letting her know how valuable she was to us and to the church. It’s not just Kata, though. From our pastor, Dávid, to the other members of the worship team, to the leaders in the church, they all labor diligently. It is our joy and privilege to get to know these people, to love on them, to feed them on occasion, and to esteem them VERY highly in love. That is what we should all do for our partners, because many times their own society does not.
By: Ben Naylor, Serving in Hungary