Today I would like to have an interview with Dan Smith. He has been living here in Hungary for more than 25 years. His life is an example for a lot of Hungarians, because he is humble, he does not live in affluence, he is always ready to serve God, he loves God very much and I know one of his callings is prayer..
Reporter: You are the founder of our chuch and this binds us together more and more. Really, I have this pastoral ministry at The House Church thanks to you. Dan: I remember when you first came to our church. I had the feeling that you would be a key person in the church and before I left and Steve arrived, I wanted to install you as the assistant pastor. However, I consulted with Steve asking his opinion. Since he did not know you, he asked that he could get to know you first and then he would make the decision. It seems that he saw the qualities in you too!
Reporter: How did you get to Hungary? Dan: Rose and I came to Debrecen as the administrators of the Eastern European Resource Center which was founded by the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. During the first three years, approximately 450 students took part in courses in Debrecen. About 400 of these were Romanian church leaders.
I directed a church choir in Charleston, South Carolina that sang at the opening service for a South Carolina Pentecostal Holiness conference. The speaker that night was the world missions director for the denomination. After the service I spoke to him and somehow God placed on his heart that we were the ones to be the administrators in Debrecen.
Reporter: Who said that you must come here? Dan: About two months after the chance meeting with the world missions director, he was in a board meeting and they still did not have an administrator for the EERC (Eastern European Resource Center). They gave us a call on a Wednesday, on Friday we traveled about six hours to their meeting and spoke with the board. On Saturday we accepted the call. The next week was their annual School of Missions. At the end of that week we were ordained as ministers with the denomination. Within three months, we sold our house, sold our two cars, sold our furniture, quit our jobs, raised the needed financial support and left the USA on December 30, 1990.
Reporter: Was it difficult for this to happen? Dan: It was five years before in 1985 when I first got the call for missions. I was watching a program on TV about Albania. They said that the government bragged that the last Christian had been buried under concrete. I began crying and said: "Lord, send me there!” However, it was a closed country. However, when Rose was a 12-year-old girl, she said that she prayed to marry a pastor or a missionary. I think God answered her prayer!
In 1985 we felt that if we ever go as missionaries that we had to have our finances in order and to get out of debt. We began taking steps in that direction. It was our desire to go as missionaries. What we lacked was the connection and you see that God provided that connection through a series of miracles.
Reporter:How did your family, parents and relatives receive this?
Dan: Everything happened in such a miraculous way that when we shared with our family, they knew that this was of the Lord. As my mother took this matter to the Lord, this is the scripture that she received to release us to go:
Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
What we did not realize at that time was that our decision had such an effect on our family members. My parents who had never flown on an airplane made five trips to Hungary to visit us. My sister got saved and she and her husband accepted the call for ministry and were also pastors in this church in Debrecen.
Reporter: Do you regret this decision? Dan: Never! It is the greatest honor. One day I was in Budapest walking beside the Danube River when I felt a strong presence of the Lord with this thought: "Had you not had the boldness to step into the unknown, you would still be in South Carolina teaching kids in the school”.
Reporter: How did you cope with the Hungarian language, the culture and the Hungarian food? Dan: In the beginning, I never got a "Hungarian” calling. (Now I have one!) I did get an "Albanian" calling. In Debrecen, our school worked with Romanian church leaders. They would all meet in Oradea and then travel as a group to EERC on Budai Nagy Antal utca. When God gave me the command that I was to study Hungarian, I resisted and there was a several-month battle raging within me over this issue. I told the Lord that He had never called me to the Hungarians, the language was one of the most difficult in the world. I could not make sense that He was commanding me to learn the language. One day God spoke this to me that convinced me that I was to study Hungarian: "You are not a missionary to the Hungarians, you are a missionary with the Hungarians!” For one entire school year I had 19 hours of Hungarian lessons each week. This was with the Debrecen Summer University (Debreceni Nyári Egyetem). It was such a fulfillment when this actually happened. In 1996 we became missionaries with the Hungarians in Albania.
On the question of culture, I have found the mindset of Hungarian mentality to be relatively easy to accept. Of course there are some differences but in the end, the USA culture originates in Europe. Speaking of food, I am glad that God did not send me to a country where the primary food is fish! I really don't like fish. Instead of having halászlé (fish soup), I can have jókai bableves (Jókai bean souup)! There was no adjustment to the Hungarian kitchen. I am just surprised that we do not find Hungarian restaurants all over the world. Wherever we go, we can find Italian restaurants, Chinese, Mexican, Greek. Why not Hungarian since the food is so good!?!
Reporter: Do you miss the USA? Are you homesick? Dan: In 2006 we returned to the States for what we thought would be one year. The reason was so that our children, who were born and raised in Hungary, could get to know their grandparents while they were still alive. (A good choice). This year turned into five years. There in Mississippi we were part of a church in a small town of 6,000. During just one year, 335 people got saved in that church. This revival continued. God used us in this work. However, even in that atmosphere, I was not content. I was homesick to be back in Hungary. When we returned in 2010, people in the USA could not understand why we would go back to Hungary. I said that it could be summed up in one word: inheritance.
Reporter: If I can ask, what is your source of income? Dan: We are supported financially by friends and churches that give to us each month. All of our lives we have been faithful in our offerings and in paying our tithe. In the 1980s we made a choice to not just pay tithe on our net income but to pay tithe on our gross income. I believe that in return, God has been faithful to us.
I remember when we were in Albania for a year (2003-2004), I showed a visitor our support list. I pointed to the large amount that a couple gave us each month. I then said something that I should have not said: "If they ever quit supporting us, we will have to leave the field”. MISTAKE. Later I checked the data on the email that they sent and at the same moment, they were writing us a letter..... "We have supported you all of these years but now we feel to begin supporting another family instead of you because they are in such need”. I called out to God and said: "Our help comes from You!” We began receiving letters from people saying: "God spoke to me that I am to start supporting you.”
Reporter: Was it difficult to adjust? Dan: I knew that it would be different and somehow I prepared myself for that. I did not experience the culture shock that many experience. I think that the biggest shock is when you go back to your own culture. You expect everything to be the same and things have changed. Specifically, I am the one that changed. I would imagine that you experienced this also since you have lived in three different countries: Romania, England and Hungary.
Reporter: What do you like about the Hungarians? Dan: I am not sure. One time Rose and I were in the states at a meeting. I was so tired that I did not want to see anyone. I just wanted to stay in my room and rest. Rose told me: "I was just in a shop and I was speaking to the owner. He is Hungarian." In a matter of minutes, I was dressed, out the door and down to his shop. I ended up giving him a very precious gift, my English – Hungarian parallel Bible that I was studying from.
Reporter: What it is that really irritates you about the Hungarians? Dan: When I get upset with people, I always remind myself that no matter which country they are from, people are people. Every country has good people, bad people. Intelligent people, simple people. If I am upset with someone, I try to not focus on the fact that they are Hungarian but that they are an individual.
Reporter: Do you keep relationships with Hungarian friends or only American friends that live in Hungary? Dan: We value both. Here in Hungary we have very dear Hungarian friends and we also have some very dear American friends.
Reporter: Do you like living here? Dan: Yes, we are very content.
Reporter: What do your plans look like? Do you plan to remain here or to go back home or move to another country? Dan: When Daniel was 5 years old, he was praying in Hungarian: "Lord, give us a good burial place for my dad”. Somehow, in this prayer was the prophecy that when it comes my time to die, it will be here in Velence. I still haven't gone over to the cemetery to find a good spot. Maybe when you come to visit, we can do that!
Reporter: I know that you have Albania on your heart. Can you say a few words about that? Dan: It is interesting that you see that because that is true. One time a minister from Debrecen was in the USA and traveled to visit my parents. This is what he told them: "Many people talk about Albania, Dan cries for Albania”. Even now as I write these words, there are tears in my eyes. My "Albanian chapter” is Psalms 126. The last two verses are: "Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall again come indeed with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Reporter: Does your family, your wife like living in Hungary? Dan: Yes.
Reporter: What kind of work are you doing now? Dan: First of all, our attitude is that we are to serve. Specifically, we lead worship every week, sometimes two or three times a week. In the last three years, a lot of my work has once again been in administrative work. During this year, I am the logistic coordinator for seven conferences or events.
Reporter: Where exactly are you staying? Do you own or rent your house? Dan: Where we live in Velence, it is my favorite place. We love our home. To tell the story of owning our own home is a miracle in itself. We have a wonderful community, excellent neighbors.
Reporter: Can you speak a little about your children? I know that they were an answer to prayer. Can you tell me about this? Dan: I see that God honored our decision with some beautiful surprises: Daniel and Marion. We were told by the doctor in the USA that we would never have children. We accepted this fact. After we arrived to Debrecen, Rose received a prophetic word that she would be a "mother to the nations”. She thought as a spiritual mother but the lady that gave the word said that it was a physical mother too. A lady from Romania also had a vision of Jesus going to Rose and placing a gift on her shoulder: a baby boy. Daniel was born 9 months 3 weeks later when we had been told that it was impossible. Six years later we got three prophecies that we would have a girl.
Both of them speak English and Hungarian at native level. They also study other languages. We believe that our work actually lays the foundation for what they will do.
Reporter: If you can give one statement to those that are reading this report, what would it be? Dan: I believe that God can use you. You just have to be willing to say: "Here I am Lord, use me”. I have to say that life has not always been easy. There have been many times that we were at our wits’ end. I do not want you to think that everything is just wonderful. There have been many, many times when we have been in the situation that "only God can help" (csak Isten tud segíteni). The good news is: God does help!
This interview was done in writing because we didn't have enough time do it orally. So I sent the questions by mail and Dan Smith answered them on the plane while traveling to the US. I would like to thank him again.
(This interview was done by Mihály Preg in April 2015)