Coffeehouse Ministry: Connections in a Hungarian Village
With tables and chairs ready to receive guests, the front porch of the small concrete building – which used to function as the village’s only bank branch – offers a welcoming space to rest and get a snack or drink. The coffeehouse is called Feltöltő Kávézó, which translates from Hungarian to something along the lines of a “fill-up” or “top-up.”
With the aid of architectural design by GEM’s own Design Group, the coffeehouse opened in the summer of 2021. The café provides the only restaurant-like gathering space in this little Hungarian village of Tiszadob, population 2700.
Located next to a small community center, many people come and go past the coffeehouse on foot or bicycle, waiting to collect a weekly donation of food brought in from a nearby charitable organization. While sitting on the porch, the loudspeaker from several blocks away can be heard, offering announcements pertinent to the village, whether related to school activities or other events.
Some people in the village have electricity and running water. Others do not. These families depend on water from the spigots that are located on most blocks of the many dirt or gravel roads. In a place where parents are given extra government support for each additional child they have, some poorer families tend to be very large.
Two churches have dotted the landscape of Tiszadob for many years, one Catholic and one Protestant Reformed. Both consist of only a handful of members.
James’ wife, Virag, grew up in this village located a couple of hours northeast of Budapest, near the Romanian, Slovakian and Ukrainian borders. When she left after school to pursue opportunities in the UK, it didn’t occur to her that she would move back several years later with her family to do ministry in this quiet little place.
Meeting at church in the UK, James’ home country, the couple married and started their family there. But each time they visited Hungary to see Virag’s family, James felt a tugging on his heart about the spiritual need there.
“Because, really, so many of these people will just live their whole lives without hearing the Good News or having the opportunity to respond,” James shares his heart for the people.
As they felt God compel them to invest in ministry in Hungary, they reached back into Virag’s roots to re-enter this little village where she grew up. Though they weren’t sure exactly what they would do after they arrived, James and Virag stepped out on faith and moved to Tiszadob with their young family in 2019.
While James continued the process of learning the extremely difficult Hungarian language after their family arrived in the country, together the couple began dreaming of opening a local café ministry.
Implementing crowd-funding for the project, Virag and James envisioned a space for the local community to gather with access to beverages, snacks, games, a playground, film nights or live music. Of course, more than simply being filled with cake or coffee, the deeper desire was for people to be filled mentally and spiritually as well.
By summer of 2021, the building had been secured and renovated, and the coffeehouse was finally able to open. With hard work as well as provision from God and God’s people, the vision for a café and community space in this small village became a reality!
With a warm atmosphere, the coffeehouse consists of several tables, a children’s play area, a small counter with an espresso machine, and a kitchen at the back for making sandwiches. The menu is simple and affordable, with treats like ice cream and cake that are popular with the local children.
On a shelf in the corner lie a few copies of books Virag has written, including the story of their young son, Luke, who passed away a few years ago after battling a long illness.
Providing a safe and comfortable place for people to know and be known by each other, James and Virag are always seeking new ways to connect with the people of their community.
This year’s big project has been clearing out the side and back areas of the café, which were originally more jungle than garden. But after some hard work and the help of some community members, the space has been cleared and finished with pavers, allowing for outdoor space that can be used for meeting, playing games and more. It even has a basketball hoop!
Virag works at a local children’s center, seeking to connect with disadvantaged families there. And, in addition to running the café, James has also started working with the Reformed church in the village to connect with youth, young parents and older people, through a community garden, local kids’ art exhibitions, and various other events like an Olympics Day.
One event was a Mother’s Day church service and community meal. People who wouldn’t normally go to church joined in, including some local youth and even one of their mothers. Afterward, everyone enjoyed the Hungarian tradition of cooking a meal in a huge cauldron over an open fire and eating together!
With their two preschool-aged daughters, James and Virag live and work in a simple manner in this little village, engaging in hospitality ministry whenever possible. As they seek to love their neighbors and share the hope of Christ with those around them, they have invested their entire lives to reach the people in this small village. And they are expectant and hopeful that God will bring a good return on this investment.
Please pray for the ministry in Tiszadob:
For God to continue to provide opportunities for key relationships in the community.
For more workers to join in the future, perhaps a Hungarian speaking intern to help with the café.
For new ways to develop community using the coffee shop, perhaps through music events or new menu items.
For the youth group and kids to get to know Jesus and his great love for them!
Julie Workman is a storyteller serving with Greater Europe Mission in Brno, Czech Republic.
Photos: Joel Workman, Czech Republic