It is 5:30 in the morning, and Lagos is in the kitchen of the Balaton Centre (a facility of the Baptist Union of Hungary) beginning to prepare breakfast. Soon, families begin to arrive in the dining room, chatting and having coffee before sharing a meal together – now a daily routine. For more than 50 women and children, the Balaton Centre has become their home since they fled the violence in Ukraine.
These refugees, Roma people from an area of Ukraine near the Hungarian border, struggled to find a place to stay when they entered Hungary. Many faced discrimination along the evacuation route as well as the challenges of navigating border crossings without documentation.
But Hungarian Baptists welcomed them in. Marsha Scipio, Director of Baptist World Aid, had the opportunity to tour the centre during her visit to Eastern Europe in March.
“Hungarian Baptists saw a need, and they have responded. They are demonstrating compassion that reflects the heart of Christ,” she shares.
During her visit, Marsha met Lagos who serves as the response coordinator and heads up the centre’s efforts to provide for the refugees in their care. Many were sick, scared, and depressed when they arrived. “Sorrow and pain were on their hearts,” Lagos describes.
Lagos does the shopping as well as the cooking for the group. His wife, who was a teacher, finds educational exercises for the children. Afternoons consist of outings to a local playground, and a children’s minister from a neighbouring church also visits to minister to the families.
In addition, Hungarian Baptists are working to help families become legally established in Hungary. Since many do not have birth certificates and are unable to read, Lagos and other volunteers accompany them to the immigration office to assist with the required paperwork.
On Sundays, the Roma men join their families at the Centre. These men have been working and living outside of Budapest since before the war began, so Sundays at the Centre provide a cherished opportunity to reunite – particularly amid such challenging circumstances. Together the families share a meal and are invited to attend Sunday services. Attendance is not required but encouraged. “We never know when the Word of God will arrive in their hearts,” says Lagos.
Utilizing financial and food donations and drawing from an abiding love for people, Lagos and his team have been able to provide compassionate care for weeks – even when exhaustion threatens to overwhelm them.
“Sometimes I’m really tired. The day is long,” he says. “But we will do this as long as they need it.”
Marsha shares, “As I listened to Lagos, Leviticus 19:34 kept coming to mind: ‘The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love the stranger as yourself.’ His words and his actions toward these guests were acts of love.”
As the violence in Ukraine continues to escalate, Hungarian Baptists anticipate that their ministry has only just begun.
“Honestly this is just the beginning. More people will come from more complicated situations,” says Lagos. “But we would like to help, and I praise God we can help them.”
Lagos is just one of many Hungarian Baptists responding to this crisis. Within hours of the initial invasion, Hungarian Baptist Aid (HBAid) began transporting food, clothes, and medical supplies across the border. The Baptist Union of Hungary is working strategically with its ten Hungarian Baptist congregations located within Ukraine near the Hungary-Ukraine border to care for thousands of internally displaced people.
“They need shelter and food, warm clothes, care, and spiritual guidance,” report Baptist union leaders. “Our pastors fulfil all these needs, and they work day and night to provide them everything.”
We are grateful for the faithful ministry of Hungarian Baptists at this critical time and invite you to pray for:
Continued generosity and provision of supplies to meet the many needs of the internally displaced within Ukraine and refugees who have fled to Hungary.
Strength and endurance for Lagos and his team of volunteers as they serve the Roma people.
Sustaining power for pastors and church leaders who are seeking to meet physical and spiritual needs.
Peace and rest for the many refugees, primarily women and children, during this difficult time.