Faith Church in Budapest, Hungary

"On the Sunday before the transplant surgery my pastor prayed for me and anointed me with oil," Horváth told Charisma. "I got into an ecstatic state. People tell me I was dancing like David, but I did not know it myself."

When the medical professor who had been treating Horváth for six years examined him the next morning, he became very upset.

"The professor got angry," Horváth says. "He said my artery had been 75 percent blocked the previous week, and now there was nothing. He shouted at me: 'Have you gone to the U.S.A. or to Germany for surgery without telling me!'" Horváth's condition had been deteriorating for so long that the professor was unwilling to accept the evidence of his own instruments.

"I was taken back to my room," Horváth continues. "After a while the professor came by, and I was able to tell him that God had healed me. He was an honest Jewish man who feared God, and he believed me. He actually blessed me, and declined to bill me for the final visit."

Kornél Illés, 34, who pastors the Faith Church congregation in Salgótarján, one of the largest outside Budapest, was not physically healed, but he says God took advantage of his broken leg to bring him to repentance and then into the ministry. The fracture prevented Illés from continuing the karate training that was and had been for years the focus of his life.

"I was on the beach, swimming with my plastered foot in a plastic bag," he remembers, describing the day in 1989 when his life turned around. "A friend showed up and told me he was about to visit a place where he was 'loved by everyone' and that I should go with him. Karate was out anyway, so I went along."

The Faith Church outreach that he visited with his friend did not change Illés' life at first. He had a hard time believing that the young man dressed in jeans who was preaching was a "proper priest."

Illés says he could sense something meaningful in the young man's sermon on the prodigal son, but he resisted the altar call, thinking it must be a "trick." The pastor resumed preaching and began to name secrets in Illés' life.

"I suspected that he had been talking to a friend about me, and I stonewalled again, but finally he began mentioning things that I had never shared with anybody," Illés said. "Unintentionally I moved forward as if somebody was pushing me! It all felt very abnormal--I was still wearing my beach clothes!"

That night the karate fighter gave his life to Jesus and says he experienced "a complete forgiveness of sin and God's manifest love and presence."

Illés says the Lord spoke to him, saying: "I will change you and make you fit for My service."

Illés immediately set out to reorganize his life. First he brought the girlfriend he had been living with to the next meeting. She surrendered her life to Jesus, and the couple separated for a year, before marrying.

Three years later, in 1992, Illés became a Faith Church pastor and assumed responsibility for the Salgótarján congregation, which by then had grown to 130 members. Today Sunday attendance fluctuates between 1,000 and 1,500, and Illés also oversees four new churches in the region that are attracting hundreds of people.

Pastor Illés says people are drawn primarily by the supernatural revelation of God's goodness, but also by miracles in which people have been healed of epilepsy and cancer. Many come to church seeking deliverance from poverty because the region has become one of the poorest in Hungary since the fall of communism, after which most of Salgótarján's factories closed down.

"But among our church members there is no unemployment," Illés points out. "Many run businesses, employing others. Thirty families have built homes of their own, and other families have moved to bigger apartments. The way the Lord has blessed me financially--one out of seven brothers and sisters in a working-class family--is a great testimony in the city."

Changing the Nation

From the first beginnings of Faith Church in 1979, when Sándor Németh started meeting with seven people in a Budapest suburb, his work has been completely dependent upon the supernatural guidance and intervention of the Holy Spirit, he says.

Unlike many east European church leaders, Németh has never accepted Western money, and he shakes his head when the subject of Christian speakers from America who offer their services--for exorbitant fees--comes up. He said he is not very interested in what he calls "international spiritual streams."

"Europe is different, and east Europe is different again," he states.

Németh speaks only Hungarian and travels little. The first person he says who influenced his life spiritually was "an elderly Pentecostal lady in a wheelchair" who prophesied--before Németh was even a Christian--that he would preach to the multitudes. British Bible scholar Derek Prince is one of his longtime friends and, to a degree, an influence.

"I suppose Faith Church has traits of classical Pentecostalism, discipling and the faith stream," he reflects, "but I do not normally think in such terms."

Future plans at Faith Church include turning the movement's attention to the numerous villages across Hungary where they hope to knit together small, independent companies of believers.

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