JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
THE HUNGARIAN FIELD
"… it’s yours as long as you want", he said
I had a hard time deciphering my emotions travelling towards Hungary. What was happening now? Was the convoy not supposed to go back to the West? Did God want us to stay in the Eastern part of Europe? Did we have to continue sowing the good seed within the Soviet hegemony and would this seed mature and grow into a part of the last struggle for human freedom? In the long sweep of man’s history a few months were simply not enough time in which to detect significant movements. But I didn’t know that the Berlin Wall was about to crumble. It was now only a matter of six months – then the flood gates would open, and a new era would begin.
Of this much I was aware, something happened in the 1956-uprising of the Hungarian People. A fascinating and frightening story, which should never be forgotten. As the convoy approached the Hungarian border I was reminded of what happened at dawn November 4th that year in Budapest.
The battle for Budapest, which began on October 23, fell logically into three parts.
The first ended October 29, when the Russians, alarmed by unexpected resistance and wishing to withdraw for tactical reorganization, practically surrendered the city to the freedom fighters.
The second phase was brief, but extremely sweet. For five days Budapest delighted in the mistaken belief that Hungary was at last free of Russian domination and that some kind of more liberal government would replace the AVO (Allam Vedelmi Osztag – State Protecting Special Group) terror.
The third phase began on November 4, when Russian tanks stormed back into the city in force, imposed a worse terror than the AVO, and horribly crushed the revolution. The Russians not only won; they revelled in revenge.
In the dreadful days of fighting that were to follow, the young men of Hungary, without a leader, without generals and without lines of communication, marched out almost unarmed against the Russian tanks. What these young patriots accomplished against the Russian oppressors is an epic of human endurance.
The convoy, in two large parts, with forty muddy vehicles passed the Hungarian border. Apart from the large mobile homes, wagons with tent equipment, workshops, the school, the chapel, the farm, the big trailers and Land Rovers, there followed a minor group of small vehicles. We drove down the main road of the town of Szeged in the direction of a church, passed in front of terraced houses, whose white transomed windows were edged by a hundred years of soot and grime that no mere washing could ever remove.
I went to the house of a superior civil servant of the municipality, whose name I’ve almost forgotten. A difficult Hungarian name; something like: Gyorgy Szabo…
A dog began to bark in answer to my ringing the bell. It was a sound that started one end of the house and rapidly approached the door, taking up a raucous position behind it. A large dog by the sound of it, and not too friendly either. A man’s voice said something in Hungarian, and the barking ceased at once. The porch light flicked on – although it wasn’t yet completely dark – and the door swung open. With a large black retriever sitting to attention by his side, was the man, who was going to be of great help to us for the next year.
The temperature was in the low seventies, the air clear and fresh, the trees trying their best to put on springtime colours, as my new Hungarian friend led me to the green on the outskirts of the city. The afternoon progressed, and the man from the city hall offered me more and more. "The green is yours," he said. "For as long as you want!"
I was particularly thrilled to hear the last words. I was in need of time, so that Gisèle and I could leave for Denmark, and we didn’t have to bother about a site for the camp.
My friend, the civil servant, was a sort of small manager in the chain of people around the mayor. He probably earned a few thousand dollars a year, and wasn’t due for a raise for a very long time. He could only dream of promotion, but that day he was a king. The city belonged to him and he gave me everything, I needed. None of his commitments were in writing, of course, but to me they were just as valuable.
"I’ll give you. As much as you want. You don’t pay!"
I took the offer with a serious face. He rubbed his hands together as if he couldn’t wait to spend more municipality-money.
"Yes, we need water." I answered almost in disbelief.
"You’ll have it. As much as you want. No pay! It’s yours. All yours."
The grim images of the last days' troublesome journey flashed before my eyes, and I was happy to find a haven. Yes, I thanked the Lord that he had opened this door to us at this difficult moment.
"What about if I leave for Denmark for a time," I asked.
"Tell you what I’ll do," my new friend said. "I’ll send people to set up the water and the electricity for you. And whatever you need in the future, you just tell your men to contact me."
"You are sure there is no conflict coming up?"
"Nothing that I can foresee. You just leave in peace. Everything is under control!"
… and with this greeting Gisèle and I and the children prepared to leave for Denmark. But first we had to bring the convoy to the site.
It was a green field with only two small roads that opened out into the street. Until this moment this plot of grass had seen nothing except perhaps wretchedness or very ordinary events, but now the time had come, and it was a lovely evening in May, when the Pilgrim Convoy rumbled on to the site. If it is true, and I believe it is, that the whole of creation ‘waits in eager expectation for the Sons of God to be revealed" (Rom.8:19), then this small Hungarian meadow came into its own historic moment, when we arrived. Indeed, the remainder of its life may fail to experience anything as significant as this. Did I hear the mountains and hills around the little field ‘burst into song before me’, and did I hear ‘the trees of the field clap their hands’ (Is.55:12)? On this very site the big four-masted tent would be erected, and night after night the gospel would be preached, and many souls would pass from death to life. Astonishing healings would take place and demons would be sent to the pit.
Now years have passed but every evening when the sun sets yonder spreading over that Szeged-meadow its atmosphere of memories, it will remember those pilgrims it once received and the songs of praise, which ascended from the big, white gospel-tent.
That night everything outside the Szeged-field was dark and deserted. The only light around seemed to be the light shimmering around the pay phone at the corner. I made my way towards it, as though it were a mirage in the desert. I desperately needed to get through to Denmark. I had to hear a voice confirming that it was right for us to leave. Somebody who would tell me, that something was prepared for us, when we arrived in Copenhagen.
My voice was trembling, and the operator wouldn’t help me get through to Denmark. She spoke Hungarian, which is to be considered the sixth most difficult language in the world, and just a little English. "You give me specific number!" she said, "I not allowed to…"
"I don’t know any specific number outside the 0045, which I have already given you," I said thickly, "but wait a minute, there is a phone book here."
"I very sorry, I not allowed to…"
There was a click, and a mechanical voice came on and gave me a number in English. The operator must have felt sympathy with me after all. I dialled it quickly, so I wouldn’t forget, so quickly that I must have done something wrong and lost my Hungarian coin.
I had one more quarter in my pocket; it was my last one and I groped to find it. Finally I did and was about to bring it up to the slot, when suddenly it slipped from my fingers. I pitched forward after it. For a minute I was looking on the ground, when suddenly there was a rushing noise in my ears. In falling, I had grabbed for the phone and knocked it off the hook, and the busy signal the receiver made, as it swung back and forth, sounded as if it were coming from a long way off. Then I heard a voice… speaking Danish… I had got through!
It was Bjarne Kjær, my good friend and brother in the Lord. I explained quickly my situation. Bjarne is a businessman who has his own way of taking care of things. He doesn’t mind doing his share of research but he is a man of decisions. He likes to work with real problems and real solutions. Always ready to go an extra mile to give a helping hand, Bjarne is productive; no lengthy processes with him. Decisions are made on the spot! "How long will it take to come back home?"
"That’s fine. Say by May 28th?"
"All right! We’ll have things prepared for you!" His voice grew soft. "Tell Gisèle that we have a solution! She will get more room for her children!"