Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Cellar

“Csodalatos” found its way back to the Cellar, and was installed at the front. How anyone got that huge framed canvas down the narrow winding stairs of the Cellar is beyond me, but there we found it, early Saturday am as we arrived at the school for class.

But I need to tell you about the Cellar.

Arnold and Detty (short for Bernadette) are Hungarians who lived in the US for a number of years before returning to Hungary. Although Arnold was in no way interested in living in Hungary, he felt God calling the family back. They began to explore Baja a bit, and found prices higher than they could afford. Then, after one exploratory trip, Detty returned to California while Arnold continued to explore; he was shown a property in the old historic district of Baja—the former Jewish neighborhood, until the Jews were deported by the Nazis to the concentration camps.

As Arnold was being shown the building, which also cost far more money than they had, he was led down into the basement—a dark, dirt-floored, unfinished space, where Jews were hidden from the Nazis. Poking through the gloom, he suddenly stopped, and found himself saying, “We’ll take it.”

He called Detty, back home in California. She encouraged him to buy it. The family moved over shortly after that, in (I believe) 2005.

They converted the basement into a beautiful brick-lined ‘hang out’ space, with vaulted ceiling and a set of drums. The Baja Spirit Church and the King Arthur School of Language was born. Up one block, adjacent to the old Jewish Synagogue, they bought a home, spacious and welcoming to all.

To say Arnold and Detty are pastoring a church and own an English Language School does not begin to tell the story. Out of the box is putting it mildly. I don’ t know if they would recognize a box if it fell on them. It’s hard to describe their full-on approach to life and ministry. I liked them both instantly on meeting them, Arnold climbing down a ladder from a vine he was tending, Detty drying her hands from a meal she was preparing. Hospitality oozed from them.

Their school is amazing. Their home is amazing. Their family is amazing—three boys and the feisty Contessa, five years old. The coffee Arnold makes us each morning is amazing. The garden they’ve created at the school is amazing. The Cellar is amazing. Their two dogs, chocolate labs, are also….well, you get the idea.

Every night we meet in the Cellar to debrief the day with the kids coming for the art camp. Although the Artslink team has probably connected in the least with the kids (taken up by the graffiti challenge), our dance and music teams have had great interaction. We heard the stories each evening: conversions, healing, young men pledging themselves to purity (no small matter in a country with rampant sexual perversion, trafficking and pornography). The Bill Drake Band closes us with worship, and usually a dancer or two spurts out from the crowd, unable to resist movement, and the children join them—those who haven’t already fallen asleep on the couch.

We have visited the gardens, the Jewish synagogue, spent some time in its gardens, where a Holocaust memorial is located, and learned the mayor at the time opposed the Nazis. I sit on a couch in the part of the Cellar and think about the Jews in hiding. Once again, our connections and outreaches touch a huge swath of history, and I wonder what our place is in God’s story for Baja.

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