When László Petró was growing up in Hungary, the government kept an eye on churchgoers. Under communist rule, the country kept track of which children attended church. Bible studies were prohibited and rarely mentioned.
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László Petró was first deterred from having an English Bible camp at his school in Hungary but North Carolina Baptists changed his mind. He saw how this group from America was treating his students and his teachers. “This week changed not only me, but many of us,” he said.
As a result, it was only in 2012 when Petró, then the principal of a school in Nagyhalász, came into contact with people of faith for the first time. That year, Hungary had passed a law allocating care for some of its poorer schools to nonprofits in the nation.
Hungarian Baptist Aid was one such nonprofit, and Petró’s school, one of Hungary’s poorest, fell under its jurisdiction. In 2014, N.C. Baptist Men/Baptists on Mission (NCBM), a partner of Hungarian Baptist Aid, came to lead an English Bible camp at Petró’s school.
NCBM, funded almost entirely by the North Carolina Missions Offering (NCMO), receives 41 percent of the funds from the offering.
In addition to the project in Hungary, NCBM also conducts mission work in six other countries, sharing the gospel in these nations and providing holistic services, such as health care and renovations.
When Petró was first presented with the idea of having an English Bible camp hosted at his school, he said that the camp’s religious nature deterred him. But then, he saw the way that the North Carolina teachers treated the students. They encouraged the students, he said. They were positive and did not scold the children, treating all of them – both the Hungarian students and the marginalized Roma students – with kindness.
The camp’s structure was much like that of a Vacation Bible School – the students went from station to station, learning about different aspects of the English language, American culture and the Bible along the way.
“Every day there’s a Bible study class in which they learn the gospel, but then all the other five classes can weave the gospel into the games they play and the lessons they teach,” said Alicia Jones, on-site coordinator for the Roma Project, full-time missionary to the Roma people and teacher at the camp.
The students who participated in the camp were very intelligent – they were 100 of the school’s brightest students, selected by the principal.
However, they had no knowledge of anything in the Bible. Neither did the chaperones – public school teachers who supervised the students and sat in on the sessions.
“This work is very important because the door is wide open right now for us to share the gospel in schools in Hungary … it’s important for us to come and offer these camps to them while we have that opportunity,” Jones said.
Their work reaped a harvest. At the end of the weeklong camp, the students performed what they had learned for their parents at an assembly. The students sang Christmas songs and quoted Bible verses in English, and at the end of the night, an altar call was given.
“I watched in amazement as the principal (Petró) and his wife, teachers of the school, workers from the cafeteria, and parents together with their children flooded to the front of the gymnasium in response,” Jones said. “More than 150 stood together, praying to receive Christ and afterwards began crying, dancing and celebrating their newfound faith.”
“This week changed not only me, but many of us,” Petró said. He and his colleagues, who once did not know the Lord, now live their lives to show the love of Jesus to others. They carry out projects to fix the houses of families who cannot do it themselves, they give out meals to those in need, and they sponsor children in other countries.
Although much has already changed at Petró’s school, he still looks forward to how God will continue to transform his life – his family is preparing to be baptized, and he would like to plant a church in the future. “All these things are plans, and I trust the Lord that He will make these a reality,” he said.