When God first called Istvan to minister to the Roma, he was well established in a successful teaching career. Apart from the obvious physical and economic needs he witnessed, Istvan felt unsettled by the many unmet spiritual needs within the Roma community.
Istvan began pastoring a small church in a rural Roma village. Not long afterwards, his faith was tested when he received an offer for a prestigious position as a school director in the capital city. He prayed about whether he should accept, but clearly sensed the Lord’s prompting to stay. Some of his friends and coworkers didn’t understand. “Many people ask me, ‘what are you doing here?’” Istvan says. “Other people are angry with me, because I'm accepting the Roma.”
Since then, God has greatly blessed Istvan’s ministry to the Roma, who have embraced him despite their mistrust of outsiders. Most are receptive to his message, but some feel so burdened by their sin that they question why God would freely offer them forgiveness and freedom. Others are bound by occult practices or trapped in a life of organized crime. “You need to accept them and love them,” Istvan says. “And if they feel it, they will believe what we are telling them.”
“You need to accept them and love them,” Istvan says.
Though some Roma can read Hungarian, Istvan has found that they typically demonstrate little motivation to do so. This presents a challenge for ministries who hand out written tracts or Bibles to the Roma in their villages. “Even when they start to read the Bible, they don't really get what they read, so they stop after a while,” Istvan says. But with solar-powered audio devices like the Messenger and the Torch, the Roma people are able to engage with Scripture like never before.
And this is just the beginning. Istvan plans to distribute more In Touch resources and hopes that one day soon he’ll be able to host a Life Principles Conference for Roma pastors, equipping them to shepherd their people. “Hopefully, God will provide so that we can give the Bible to more and more Roma.” Because for Istvan, there’s nothing more beautiful than when a person surrenders their life to Christ. When he or she gains a new hope and direction for the future, the result is undeniable. “You can see the changes in their lifestyle,” he says. “A total change in the quality of life as well.”