A massive celebration was held in Budapest’s Papp László Sport Arena on Sunday to officially commemorate the 500th anniversary of a key event that paved the way for the spread of Christianity in Hungary.
As part of the festivities, Evangelist Will Graham was asked to give a Gospel-focused message to more than 8,000 in attendance.
For followers of Jesus Christ in central Europe, the date 1523 carries a significant meaning. That was the year that the first pastors of the Anabaptist faith—the theological ancestors of modern-day Baptists—arrived in southern Hungary. Throughout Europe, these Christians gave their lives for their theological convictions. Some—including Dr. Balthasar Hubmayer, a well-known Hungarian leader who was a contemporary of Martin Luther and John Calvin—were burned at the stake.
Organizers of the celebration encouraged believers to bring their friends and family who did not know Jesus Christ, and Graham preached a message about His death and resurrection.
“Sin may be fun for a while, but it doesn’t last. It wears off. It causes you harm. It damages you physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sin will destroy you,” Graham said. “That’s why we need Christ. That’s why Jesus died on the cross.
“Some of you are desperate for hope. I’m here to tell you—there’s hope at the foot of the cross.”
When Graham gave the invitation for people to respond in repentance and faith, the first group to come forward was made up of several teenage girls, holding each other’s hands as they rushed to the front. They were followed by hundreds more, young and old.
Afterward, Anna* shared through an interpreter that she came forward to accept Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. “She was really touched when Graham was talking about sin,” the interpreter said. “She felt sinful herself. She felt that she should come to the front. She also felt that her sins were forgiven.”
Another of the girls joined into the conversation, with the interpreter relaying: “She has just admitted that she was harmful for a lot of people, but she knows now that she has a new chance [with Jesus] and it will be different.”
At the end of the evening, one of the happiest men in the whole arena was Dr. Béla Szilágyi, president of Hungarian Baptist Aid, who had served as Graham’s interpreter at the event. He had a front-row seat to watch as so many placed their eternal hope in Christ.
“Was it not incredible as people were flooding down as Will was presenting the Gospel?” said Szilágyi. “The sincerity and passion, you could really hear the heartbeat of Jesus, the words of Jesus, the love of Jesus.
“Sometimes it is difficult for me to speak because of all the emotions and how great it was to see these people having their eyes open and basically thirsting and drinking the words that Will was speaking. When the time came for the invitation, they could hardly wait. They were flooding down. They were running down. … It was a night to remember.”
*Name changed to protect privacy.