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Pastor Moves an Atheistic Hungary

BUDAPEST, Hungary- Pastor Sandor Nemeth knows what it's like to live under an atheistic communist regime.

In the 80s, communist authorities tried repeatedly to destroy his congregation. But Today he leads one of the largest and fastest growing churches in Europe.

It began in a small house with a handful of people meeting in a Budapest suburb. The year was 1979.

"It was extremely difficult. We were in the middle of the communist dictatorship in Hungary," Nemeth said. "Young people started coming to the house and the spirit of God was moving in a powerful way and this raised the eyebrows of the authorities."

Organized religion in Hungary was banned by the state. Believers like Nemeth were forced underground.

"Christians were considered sub-human, second-class citizens. Many times the communist police tried to destroy the house. They wanted to bulldoze the place. The whole church was deemed a dead end street of history," he explained.

Thirty years later, that small underground house fellowship has transformed into the mega church called Faith Church, 50,000 members strong, with some 250 Faith Church branches meeting every Sunday across Hungary.

"I never imagined this and all I can say is that this is a miracle!" Nemeth proclaimed.

On a recent Sunday morning, CBN News arrived at the church around 8:30am only to find a sea of humanity already making their way to Faith Church on the outskirts of Budapest.

It was bumper-to-bumper traffic. The service officially starts at 10am. But by 9am, thousands had already lined-up inside waiting for the doors to open.

By 10:30 the main hall was packed and the band was just getting started. The balconies were full and so too the overflow area.

The people came from rural villages and far-away towns to be a part of what Pastor Nemeth believes are winds of change blowing through this former communist nation.

"I want Hungary and the neighboring countries to experience a true and genuine relationship with Jesus Christ," he said. "I want people to know the God of the Bible and to become born-again Christians.

Pastor Nemeth says there's not a Sunday that goes by without people walking forward to accept Christ or to receive healing.

"I was on the verge of suicide, but God rescued me. I found a place of restoration here at Faith Church," a church member said.

Many we interviewed spoke about what God had done for them through Pastor Nemeth's ministry. Take the Sava family for instance.

"When people heard the Sava name they were terrified," a Sava brother said. "There was fear because we were notorious."

The Sava brothers were once Hungary's most notorious crime family. Today, with the help of the church's prison ministry, many Sava family members have become born-again Christians.

"Since our repentance, when people say the name Sava, they are not scared anymore," the brother added. "That's because we have all changed and God is doing a new thing in our lives!"

On any given Sunday, you'll find prominent politicians, famous Hungarian artists, Messianic Jews, wealthy stock brokers and people from all other walks of life worshipping together.

In 2001, Nemeth went live on Hungarian television broadcasting the weekly Sunday service across the country.

"And this is having a tremendous impact on the society. We get so many positive letters from people who say their perception of Christianity has changed since we started broadcasting the Sunday service," Pastor Nemeth said.

And when he's not preaching, Nemeth is busy writing books, overseeing a political newspaper, or helping his wife run the church's own elementary and secondary schools.

He is currently drawing up plans for a new Christian university.

Absolutely stunning pictures of Budapest on all these postcards but also a stark reminder of the impact that 40 years of communism has had on this nation. Pastor Nemeth speaks of a spirit of cynicism as well as mistrust that's pervasive across this country.

"Communism destroyed our system of values. Families were disrupted, friendships were destroyed. The extensive network of secret spies forced people not to trust each other," Nemeth said. "What we are trying to do is to change all that. We want people to know there is freedom and forgiveness in the message of the Gospel. We want to set people free from the past."

But the past continues to trouble the church.

"Well, where the work of God is present there are spies, there are always informers, those who watch from the sidelines," he said. "I cannot imagine it any other way, especially here in this region. But I don't care if they are here. I just want them not to lie but to tell the truth."

The church has been repeatedly investigated by the Hungarian internal revenue service-- but has found no financial wrongdoing.

"Jesus was also under inspection so we also have to get used to such scrutiny," the pastor explained. "But nothing is going to stop us from preaching the message of Jesus Christ."

Its 4 p.m., some six hours after the service began, and Pastor Nemeth is finally bringing the service to a close.

On this Sunday, he urges his members to dedicate themselves to changing the spiritual landscape of their nation with the hope that one day, the message of Jesus Christ will be heard throughout the land.

"We want to see Hungary come out of its economic and moral crisis," Nemeth said. "In the future...we want to see committed Christians take up positions of influence so that they can help their fellow man and change the society."

*Original broadcast June 2, 2008.

Author: By George Thomas - CBN News Sr. Reporter

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