It is with great joy that we announce to you the hiring in January of our newest full-time MEK Hungary team member, thanks to the generous pledges of 7 of our North American Baptist churches. His name is Feri Oláh and he recently wrote down his testimony, “A Roma Journey,” for us to share with you. I can’t think of a better way of introducing him to you than in his own words:
My name is Ferenc Oláh and I am 44 years old. I live in Zsámbok, Hungary with my wife, Judit, and our three children. I have served as a pastor in the local Evangelical Church for 18 years and also work as a mason.
I was born into a large family with 8 children. The Catholic religion was important to my parents and because of this I had to be attend Catholic religion classes. I really liked the Bible stories but they did not touch me deeply. My mother talked to us all the time about God, but I did not know the Lord in a personal way.
My mother got cancer when she was 37 years old. I think that was the first time that I remembered to pray to God. After one year of struggle my mother died and left me and two of my younger brothers alone with our dad. I was 14 years old at that time. After I lost my mom I tried to find my peace and comfort in religion, but I did not find it.
Later I went to Budapest, to a high school where I lived. There I got to know sin deeply. I also joined a Boxing club, where I could fight with my anger, sadness and spiritual and physical pain. Not too much later my nose was broken and I had to finish my boxing career. After this I didn’t have any chance to drive down my anger, so I tried to find relief in night life. But I got to the point, when that was no longer enough.
At this time I met my wife and one year later our first daughter, Szabrina, was born. They gave me a reason to live. But three years later we found out that Szabrina was sick. This broke my heart and I felt again the old pain about my mother’s death.
Not much later, like 3 months, we met with a young man, who spoke to me about the love of God. He asked me if I knew and believed how much God loved me. After this question I felt angry and I answered, „If God loved me that much He would not have taken away my mother and He would not have let my daughter be sick.”
He answered me with the story of Job, how much he needed to suffer, but still he was faithful to God. The man’s eyes were glowing differently than ours. He asked if we wanted him to talk more about God at another time. We told him to come any time to our house. After this, we met weekly. We came to know God and His plan for our lives more and more.
I understood in 1998 at Easter, how much God loved me and how He sent His Son, Jesus, to wash away my sins and how Jesus paid with His blood on the cross. I gave my life to Christ. A new life began in me. At that time many Roma gave their lives to Jesus and our church was formed.
God placed me in His service: in the beginning in worship and children’s ministry. Then, after two years, I became one of the leaders in our church. After our church founder was led to another ministry, my brother and I took over that role with all the joy, trouble and responsibility. God led me through many struggles and falls in those 19 years, but I also experienced God’s overflowing grace in my life, which cleansed me, raised me and strengthened me.
I wanted to know God better and His plan deeper and His will for my life more fully, so I did a two-year Bible school. I believe that God has called me to my nation, to minister to Roma people. In the last few years, I was invited to start many Roma churches or encourage them, even beyond our Hungarian borders.
Eighteen months ago I was invited to lead singing and worship at an evangelistic outreach in Boldog with the MEK team. God showed us then that our vision and goals are the same as MEK’s. I believe that in the current situation among the Roma that their communities and society can only change if they place their faith in Christ alone. I think it is very important to instruct them with the Word of God so they can rise up out of their poor conditions.
I have experienced that many mission agencies want to help the Roma in their struggles by giving them aid. But this doesn’t cause a change in their thinking, but only helps them keep doing and living the same way they used to. The vision of MEK is totally different, and I agree totally with it. The Roma don’t need financial or humanitarian aid and help all of the time, but rather change in their roots.
I believe that God will bless my work and ministry with MEK.
Note: The hiring of Roma workers is of prime importance to MEK. Too often non-Roma Christians sit in committee meetings to decide what is best for their ministry to do for the Roma people, without having any Roma present! This leads to waste of time, money and other precious resources. It also demeans the Roma themselves and hinders their growth.
It is MEK’s conviction that the Roma nation will not be won by Hungarians or Americans, but by mature Roma believers, like Feri and his wife, Judit, and children, who know the culture, world-view, mind-set, habits, fears, hopes and beliefs of their people first-hand.
Feri Oláh is a seasoned Roma worker who has prepared himself for full-time Christian work. He understands the principles of wholistic community outreach and development. He will be a vital member of MEK Hungary.