With the Soviet Union itself cratering (OKLAHOMANS 2, Chapter 14) under an avalanche of military casualties in its war on Afghanistan, the bankruptcy of trying to match Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense program, and a nation full of despairing alcoholics, the “Wall” dividing Berlin came down. East Germans en masse took it apart, block by block, brick by brick.
Oklahoma native and OU graduate Dave Robinson (OKLAHOMANS 2, Chapters 14, 15) and hundreds of other missionaries for the Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) mission organization, founded by Oklahomans Bill and Vonette Bright, continued their difficult, sometimes dangerous work amidst the Soviet Bloc nations. Across Eastern Europe, disgust with tyranny, the desire for freedom, and the empowerment of the spreading Christian gospel toppled one Soviet puppet government after another. At Christmas time, 1991, the Communist regime in Russia itself fell.
Within a few short years, the greatest earthly liberation of humanity in history had occurred. The first “domino” that fell, as world Communism imploded on itself rather than exploded outward, was Hungary.
With freedom came new challenges. By now Robinson was Cru’s Area Director for all of Eastern Europe and Russia. Whereas half the people he and his colleagues conversed with in Iron Curtain Hungary expressed interest in knowing about God, by 1993, in free Hungary, only 1 in 10 did. The typical five-hour conversation of the Communist days was now one hour. For with America and the West came not only the saving message of Jesus Christ, but the very different news of Playboy magazine and countless other worldly allurements.
Cru and missionaries from many other organizations struggled to get and hold the attention of a nation that was suddenly overwhelmed with outside influences with which it had no experience, or even knowledge, of dealing. The Hungarian government itself despaired as “sex, prostitution, sexually-transmitted diseases, crime and drug industries began to destroy the fabric of Hungarian society,” and for the first time an AIDS epidemic exploded. In addition, a flood of immigrants arrived from all over the world, including North Africa. “This migration led to worry,” Robinson said, “and worry broke the leaders, and they basically said, ‘We will work with Christians.’”
Only days after Robinson led everyone involved with Cru in Hungary in a full month of concerted prayer for the nation, Grész wrote to the Hungarian National Institute of Health. He hoped to obtain a basic, but scarce personal computer for his work with youth. No less than Dr. Dénes Bánhegyi, Chief of Immunology at Budapest’s St. László Hospital and National AIDS Coordinator for the Hungarian government, himself responded by phone.
“I’d like to meet with you and talk,” Bánhegyi said. “I’d like your director to come, too. Could we meet in my office in the AIDS hospital next week? I want to introduce you to people who are dying of AIDS. I think you can help me.”
Youth at the Threshold
Unbeknownst to Robinson or Grész, during Cru’s Hungarian month of prayer:
“Dr. Bánhegyi had been translating sex education material from America for a while. It was condom distribution, and not monogamous, not abstinence-based. Stuff that America had been doing for ten years because of HIV. It wasn’t working and Hungarian educators and parents were furious with him. His name was getting ripped in the newspapers, he was misspending money, and he was having anxiety attacks.”
“I’ve been working with our Hungarian educators for years now and they have no idea how to reach the young people of today,” Bánhegyi told Robinson.
A series of meetings led to a climactic, two-hour presentation by Robinson and two colleagues to Bánhegyi and other top national leaders from the Departments of Health and Education, “not about a curriculum, but about a movement, entitled Youth at the Threshold of Life (YTL)” to address the social and health problems of the nation’s youth. It pivoted around a stunning fact, and disgraceful legacy of atheistic Communism, that Robinson had learned through comprehensive surveys of the nation: 85% of Hungarian youth said they had not even one friend.
The proposal Robinson crafted with Grész for 13-16-year-olds, which might apply as well to twenty-first century Oklahoma teens, encompassed:
Increase the student’s capacity to make friends by building their self-esteem, self-confidence and communication skills.
Decrease sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), teenage pregnancies and AIDS.
Increase understanding of the dangers of drugs and decrease drug abuse and first time drug usage.
Prepare them for adulthood, marriage and family by helping to strengthen their moral foundations, value system and character development.
It included goals for the mostly-atheistic educators as well. These incorporated a penetrating apologetic, or justifying defense, exploring “Seven Reasons Why You Should Teach 100% of Youth at the Threshold of Life.” This was an academically muscular exploration of Hungarian and Western Civilization history, values, and distinctives, as well as what the great poets and authors of Hungarian history wrote and thought about Jesus Christ.
Throughout the two-hour presentation, Robinson spoke in fluent Hungarian, and the government leaders said not a word, betrayed not an expression. “We have failed,” he thought to himself. Nonetheless, at the climactic point of his presentation, Robinson told his stoic audience:
“My experience with Hungarian teens is that they are looking for a soul, because their parents are, too. A value soul. What moral knowledge is going to hold our nation together? Before you were Communist and atheist, you were a Christian nation. Because we think this needs to have a value that is character-based, and behaviors that need to change, we want to reintroduce them to Hungary’s best moral traditions.”
The Hungarian leaders asked, “How would you describe those moral traditions?” Robinson answered, “The ethics taught by Jesus Christ, Judeo-Christian ethics, and the relevance of a personal relationship with Him.” “That’s right!” the Hungarians shot back, proudly invoking “King Stephen, who founded us as a Christian nation,” and other Christian heroes of Hungary’s past.
To Robinson’s amazement, Bánhegyi suddenly extended his right hand to shake the American’s and said, “Excellent. I want to be your partner!” The Hungarian committed $20,000 to Cru and YTL, later to be followed by much more.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.