The trip to Hungary in August was to attend the Christian Associates annual all-staff gathering called CONNECT. About 300 people in our "tribe" attended a week long conference, coming from all over the place to connect with friends, listen to challenging teaching from the Word, and enjoy the peaceful forest setting. For me, this trip was the perfect opportunity to meet the very people that my role is designed to support. Those who have gone out with CA are real "John the Baptist" kind of figures - more comfortable in the wild, living in a way that runs counter-cultural to most of what we hold dear in America. They are the kind of believers that have successfully redefined "normal" Christianity, and their version seems to be much closer to the radical, revolutionary type we see portrayed in the person of Jesus; the Founder of our Movement. It would be impossible to meet these folks and not want to say, "How can I possibly help you?" Fortunately, our Operations Team can help them, providing the kind of logistical, administrative, financial, and personnel resources that make it possible for them to go about their calling without distraction.
We flew into Vienna, Austria, and I must say that was underwhelming. I was expecting to see Alps, hills alive with the Sound of Music! Vienna is flat. But it is also old and beautiful in architecture and, of course, rich with the music of Mozart and Strauss.
Vienna is also home to an amazing cathedral named after Stephen, one of my favorite figures in scripture.
The actual CONNECT Conference was held an hour away from Vienna, in a sleepy Hungarian city called Sopron. The setting is exactly what I picture as Bavarian - though I was disappointed in the lack of Bavarian creme available at any given time. The people were a bit dour, maybe residual feelings from their communist era. But the climate was pleasant, the forest was thick and ancient, and the city center spoke of a time when Christianity was at the epicenter of culture. I was blessed to see this place and hope to return in the future. I searched plenty of shops to find truly Hungarian crafts to bring back for friends, and after multiple tourist traps, we finally found the real Hungarian mall - the place where locals go to shop. They were surprised to see tourists in their market, but welcomed us (or at least our cash) and helped us pick out the items that they enjoy daily. As always, the beauty of a culture is found in the hospitality of its people, and in this regard, Hungary is a beautiful place.