No Longer Undercover: A 30–Year Legacy of Raising Up God’s Leaders in Eastern Europe

13 Nov


Go to the northeast corner of the intersection. Your contact will be wearing a black ski hat and have a large rolled up newspaper under his right arm. You will greet him with the name Gyuri. He will show you what to do next...

When we moved to Hungary, we were operating behind the Iron Curtain. Communism was in effect, and churches were under strict censures. No one except the pastor could do any ministry at all, and pastors were severely restricted and controlled. People who shared their faith sometimes disappeared.

All of our ministry had to be done in secret, and we operated with code names and security procedures. Top Gun was the big movie back then, so our code names came from that movie: Goose, Maverick. We had been asked to model and teach discipleship, working together with an underground seminary. They would connect with people wanting to take some of our discipleship courses, and we would be sent in undercover to teach.

Meeting “Gyuri” was my first assignment. I’d been in Hungary for a while now, studying language, and I was chomping at the bit to do something. So I was beyond excited when we got the request to teach a group of college kids near the Austrian border and I was selected to go.

I arrived at the intersection and saw the man: black hat, newspaper. I approached cautiously. “Gyuri?”

“Brad.” A huge smile came over his face, and I knew this guy was the right man. No poser would have a smile and joyful spirit like this. We shook hands.

Then immediately he turned and started walking. After just a bit he stopped and looked in a store window. “Are we window shopping?” I asked.

“No. I’m making sure we’re not being followed.” He was checking the reflection of the glass and his peripheral vision. We walked a little farther and then he stopped again, glancing around nonchalantly for the same reason.

Eventually we reached a residential neighborhood. We walked up to a house and Gyuri knocked on the door. The door was opened and we walked inside. But we didn’t stop there. Gyuri led me through the house and straight out the back door into the alley. We made a short jaunt down the alley and then stopped at a different door. I followed him into a small room that was completely packed with college kids. There had to be about 75 students in a room that was meant for no more than 25. Their hunger to learn about God—in a country where talking about God was illegal—was unlike anything I’d ever encountered. The kids parted like the Red Sea to let me through to the front of the room. And that was how I taught my first undercover theology lesson.

Things went on like this for awhile. Many secret missions with many packed rooms. But then something miraculous happened. The wall fell and the communist empire began to crumble. Nobody dreamed that the wall would come down so quickly and that things would open up like they did. All of a sudden we didn’t have to hide anymore. We could be out in the open and it changed everything.

We saw right away that there weren’t enough churches to go around, even if all the churches were filled to capacity. So we started planting churches, and training church planters. But as we worked to train leaders for the church we discovered a problem. There was a huge vacuum of leaders in the church, and no one wanted to step up and be a leader. Why? Because the only leaders they’d had in recent history had been really bad—it had been hundreds of years since leaders had had a positive impact in the region. There were literally no positive role models when it came to leaders, and many times when we would bring up good examples, even from the Bible, people would respond, “That’s a good idea but you can’t do that here.” They just couldn’t imagine a good leader in their country.

What happens if you don’t have good leaders in the church? Why was this a problem? Well, without leadership that knows where they’re going and how to get there, you are just in survival mode. “Surviving” made sense under communism, but the survival mentality hadn’t ended when communism did. A lot of churches were stagnant. The idea of getting a vision from God of where to go and then going there was a foreign concept for them.

So we ended up doing a lot of leadership training. In order to help churches thrive and spread the gospel, we needed to find the people who were willing to step into that risky space of leadership and support them!

Eventually they began to appear and now, thirty years later, we have leaders who are making a huge impact on their communities. One emerging leader we trained is now my boss; he leads the CRM partnership organization here. His anointing for ministry and the trust and respect he has in this region are unbelievable. Other leaders we’ve mentored and supported over the years have led their churches and denominations in ways that have deeply impacted society and created hope for some of the most vulnerable populations in their countries.

We went into Eastern Europe undercover, and God commissioned us to uncover the leaders he was calling to impact this region. The resulting transformations have been astonishing.

CRM has more than thirty years of ministry in Eastern Europe, and more than thirty years of stories—stories of leaders we’ve mentored and trained, stories of visions that are being birthed out of that. We’ll share two powerful examples with you this week.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brad Baker has been with CRM since 1986 and lived in Hungary since 1987, where he also met his wife Agi. Brad trains and mentors leaders and mission teams in Eastern Europe, working with CRM Ethne and CRM’s Hungarian Conext partner, Barnabas Csoport.

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