One Soul saved is worth more

             Than your Life

         

             "When and if,I get to Heaven ,I'll be on the look out for

              A Hungarian who speaks English with an Irish brogue!"

 

Many years ago I was handed a bookmark which bore the following inscription: ONE SOUL SAVED IS WORTH MORE THAN YOUR LIFE.  It was the simplicity of the wording of such a very powerful declaration which made  this enormous impact on me.  

  Could this possibly be true?   If so, wouldn't I be totally lacking in common sense if I didn't ask the Good Lord to afford me the opportnity to do something about it.   And that is what He did.   My daughter Sheba and her school pal Clodagh were enjoying a vacation in Hungary.   Standing in a bread queue an elderly gentleman behind them could not resist joining- in, their chatter.   They discovered he was a retired Jewish university professor who, in order to make ends meet, gave lessons in English.   Immediately, they invited him to tea, discovering quickly that he was a man of integrity.   He assured them that the cost of that meal, was almost half the amount he was forced to live on, for a week, the year being l983 and Hungary still being a communist country.   He told them that every member of his family had perished in Auschwitz but miraculously, in the most convoluted of ways, he had escaped and had emerged from that hell-hole in skeletal form.   

  Putting God firmly out of his life, he lived alone and unforgiving.    The girls discovered that while his knowledge of English was perfect, his pronunciation was weak, and this was the crack which God gave us in order to give us entry into his life.    Sending him parcels of the books and materials which they discovered he sorely needed, we made sure to include some of my stories with tapes to match, in the hope that his heart might be touched by the Christian messages.     ( When, and if, I ever get to heaven, I'II  be on the look-out for a Hungarian who speaks English with  an Irish brogue!).      Imagine our joy, when months later, we received a letter from him accepting our invitation to our home in Dublin with the wonderful news that he had made his peace with God.     Exactly one week later, another letter followed, from one, Dr. Laszlo, who was one of his English- lesson pupils, telling us that his old and much-valued professor, and friend of ours, was found dead at his desk.  

  laszlo appeared to know everything about us and told us that he hoped to be one of a group, who had got special permission to visit Malta for one week during the following months and who would be very happy to meet us.   

  And so to the Lilliana hotel in Bugibba one day in May, where we found a larger-than-life and genial Laszlo laden with gifts of Hungarian sausages and half a ton of paprika.   He was the only child of a widow who had just died and, who he assured us, was a daily church-goer.   Now living alone with his chickens, ducks, cats, dogs and a goat called Rose, he was the local medical practitioner in a rural community in the south of Hungary .  If not always paid in cash - money being a very scarce commodity - he was generously paid in kind by his friendly patients usually in the form of large flitches of wild boar and, becoming a cordon-bleu cook, invited all his comrades to a monthly get-together. He was great fun. Sadly, we discovered that there was no God in his life and it was crystal clear that we should do something concrete about it.      

  The following June saw the arrival of Betty and Laszlo as our guests for two weeks.    Who was Betty?   A 5O - something, no- nonsense, down-to-earth and full of wisdom lady, who was like a  mother to Laszlo and who, he assured us, was the brilliant surgeon from Budapest, who had  operated on him for melanoma, thus saving his life.

  Every morning they dashed off to Paradise Bay with packed lunches, returning punctually in time for the evening meal with the family and sometimes neighbours.   I have  never in my life met two people who so enjoyed living.    

   Everything pleased them and their appreciation of our hospitality was humbling.   Some of our kind neighbours and a few friends also invited them for a meal.    Our room was filled with their fun and banter and how they appreciated the excellent Maltese wine and liquer made from local honey.    

  Never late, on their last night with us Laszlo was missing.   Eventually he burst in the door saying: "I so sorry to be late. I go to mass in the village and it was too tall.  Do you please allow Betty and me to say this Grace for the very last time!"

   Before the car arrived to take them to the airport, we were furtively beckoned into the kitchen by Betty.   "You will not see Laszlo again dear friends; his operation for melanoma was not the success he thinks it was; he will die soon; it has travelled too far.   Thank you for making his last days so very happy!"     

  He  spent yet another great few weeks in Rome as guest of my son Oisin and eventually, in the poignant wording of Beska's telegraph: "Very gently, our Laszlo has just slipped  

away! "Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas siorrai do.   ( May God give him eternal peace and rest! ).

 Anita Kilbride-Jones,

Saint Paul's Bay, MALTA.

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