Before I left for Budapest, I was thinking, “A retreat in a city? Aren’t retreats supposed to be peaceful and relaxing and secluded? How could a city of 2 million people provide an atmosphere for retreat?” Our Advent retreat was different than I was expecting, and even rejuvenating on many different levels, such as:
- Spiritual: Every morning, we had worship and Bible study, and we concluded every day with evening prayer. I feel like I’ve been missing a communal worship experience in my life in Miskolc (church in Hungarian every Sunday is more confusing than it is spiritually moving). It was refreshing to worship and read the Word with other people who are having similar experiences as I am and who speak my native language. Our Bible studies focused mainly on Luke, the upcoming year’s Gospel, with each of us taking turns leading a Bible study (I had Luke 9:1-6).
- Creative: One afternoon, we went to a paint-your-own ceramics studio. I selected a coffee mug, since I drink a lot of tea at home to warm me up after walking outside (my main mode of transportation). My mug says “you are the light of the world”, to remind me to be the light during these dark winter days.
- Educational: We visited the Terror House, which is a museum dedicated to the terror and violence that Hungarians experienced during the 20th century. This building was the headquarters for the Arrow Cross party (Hungarian Nazi party) and the Communist political police. There were exhibits about the political leaders, elections, laws, trials, and the lives of ordinary people during this time period. I wish I knew more of the details of the history of 20th century Europe before visiting, there was so much information that continues to be relevant today.
- Physical: Hungarians appreciate thermal hot springs, which can be found all over the country (including Miskolc’s cave baths), so we visited the Gellért baths to experience it first-hand. There were pools at various temperatures, steam rooms, dry saunas, cold baths, and an exercise pool. Afterwards, I felt like I had a good workout, and slept really well that night. If you ever find yourself in Hungary, visit a thermal bath for a dose of culture and healing minerals!
Overall, our time together in retreat was just what I needed. Within the bustling city of Budapest, it was a time of reflection, of growth, and of energy. I felt renewed as I returned to Miskolc and to my work with the schools and the church.