Eight at One Table
Each Sunday at church, we have a moment to greet people around us. Fairly normal, right? Well, the simple act of greeting fellow believers or church-attenders gets remarkably more complicated and less familiar when 1.) the people around me don't share a common language other than my incredibly limited Hungarian, 2.) the number of visitors on any given Sunday is pretty high in the capital city, and 3.) the people I met last week may attend any of the three services from week to week. How do we build real community, then?
That's where Table for Eight comes in. Every couple of months, people sign up for this event, are placed in groups at random, and contact each other to plan a meal. Friendships ensue. This past Saturday was the first time I was available for a Dinner for Eight. And what an introduction!
Our hostess lived outside of Budapest in a little village called Péteri, so a brief lunch together wasn't quite feasible. After a week of exchanging emails and making plans, a group of seven strangers set out on a journey to Anett's house.
Beautiful and much-missed sunshine greeted me as I emerged from the Nyugati Railway Station metro stop. I followed the flow of Saturday morning traffic to the previously agreed upon entrance and was quickly approached by Stefanie--a German and the other fluent English speaker in our group--who was relieved to find someone else headed to Péteri. Before long, our group was assembled and disembarking from the correct train onto a train platform in the middle of a snow-covered field. üdvözölök Péteribe. Welcome to Péteri!
After being welcomed into Anett's lovely home built in the garden of her mother's house, we all arranged our food on the ample table. Stefanie and I expressed our chagrin and gratitude as we discovered the rest of our group would be functioning in English for our sakes. The linguistic capabilities of others astound me!
Through the meal, we discussed many topics from the introductory ("What brings you to Budapest?") to the sensitive ("How do you perceive Hungary and the Hungarians you know? Do you find them depressed?"). Friendship really can come instantly when people share the common foundation of Christ, even if culture, background, and language don't offer similarities.
After a nice walk through the village in the gorgeously dimming sunlight, we returned to the house for tea, more dessert, and a time of singing and prayer. Before we knew it, eleven hours had passed! It was time for me to catch the evening train back to Budapest.
My mood was fairly sanguine as I found myself again at Nyugati Station. This time, streetlights and headlights shone all around. Let me tell you: Budapest is absolutely gorgeous at night! A day that had started out in uncertainty ended with lovely new friendships and an encouraged spirit. Dinner for 8 is not a bad way to build community!
See more pictures on my photos site. Link at right.