A Roma Pastor for a Roma Church
by Lászlo Erdei-Nagy
For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.
2 Corinthians 10:18
When I was 10 years old, I started to serve in the Alsózsolca Roma church. Once I learned to play the guitar, I became responsible for singing and worship there. After that good start, as I grew older, the wider world somehow attracted me more and more. I began to play the guitar at gatherings—balls, parties, and weddings—and I got used to drinking alcohol too.
When I was 20, I married Bea, but alcohol almost caused an end to our marriage. Alcohol made me aggressive and unbearable. The situation was so bad that Bea left me alone for four months. She could not bear the stress anymore. In my great loneliness, those months became a wonderful gift. God spoke to me during a Bible Study. Since that point, I have played the guitar for the delight of God alone and only in ministry. The congregation was really happy seeing this change in my life.
A Call Unanswered
My calling to become a pastor became very strong in the 1990s, when I founded a choir in our church for Sunday services. This ministry had a big impact on people’s lives. We had Bible studies in people’s homes and the houses were full. At one such Bible study, as I was listening to my father’s sermon, I heard God’s voice saying to me: “Instead of your father, you will preach.” I got scared and did not take the voice seriously. I had great respect for my father, and I thought that this was only my stupid idea. Therefore, I did not tell anybody about it. As days went by, this experience passed out of my mind.
Then my pastor, who was Hungarian, suggested that I start studies and go ahead into spiritual ministry. If I did this, the Roma church could finally have a Roma pastor of its own. This experience feels as clear as if it had happened yesterday, yet I still hesitated. I had many excuses. First, I thought I was not the appropriate person for this ministry. Second, my father wanted to study theology and become a pastor—but he could not manage it, which distressed him, being a great disappointment. Knowing my father’s situation, I did not want to provoke him. Third, I did not consider myself to be smart, and I thought that graduate or theological studies would be too difficult for me.
This was my reality, and for these reasons, I again said no. Then I tried to forget the matter altogether.
Commended by God
Still later, my pastor, who knew all my excuses, asked me to ask God about this calling. That evening, I prayed with my wife for a clear answer from God. The next day, we read these words in 2 Corinthians 10:18, “For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.” Then I realized that God had commended me for this ministry, and I would be doing God’s will if I said yes to this call.
So, in September 2000, I started my studies, and I graduated from secondary school with good results. This was all beyond my imagination and, I thought, beyond my capacity. Afterward, I entered seminary. Thanks to God, I have a diploma. In 2007, the bishop of The United Methodist Church in Central and Southern Europe appointed me as a local pastor. We celebrated this event on the 55th jubilee of the founding of our Roma church in Alsózsolca. After 55 years, this congregation had a Roma pastor at last.
I will serve the Lord and hope that, from its beginning, this Roma church will not pass away without fruits. I believe that God wants to continue the mission of our Roma church in Alsózsolca.
Lászlo Erdei-Nagy serves as the pastor for Alsózsolca United Methodist Church in Alsózsolca, Hungary—the oldest United Methodist Roma congregation in Europe. This article originally appeared in the May-June 2013 edition of New World Outlook.
Photos of the Roma in Hungary, Alsózsolca, the oldest Roma United Methodist congregation in Europe. Photo: Benjámin Sztupkai
Children are very much a part of worship services at the Alsózsolca Roma UMC. Photo: Jan Snider
The new United Methodist Church in Alsózsolca, Hungary, still under construction. Photo:László A. Khaled
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