About Us: History and Ministry
A Brief History of Word of Life International
When Word of Life Founding Director, Jack Wyrtzen, began preaching in street meetings in 1934, no one envisioned the world-wide ministry that Word of Life Fellowship would become.
As the ministry expanded into radio broadcasts, rallies, youth camps, overseas missions and Bible Clubs for local church youth programs, the evangelistic zeal never changed. The primary goal of Word of Life has always been to share the Bible's message that men can have their sins forgiven, receive eternal life, and begin a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Eventually this goal led to a Bible School program to train young people as future Christian workers and leaders. The first Word of Life Bible School was started in Brazil in the 1960's. In 1970, the second Bible School (with a present enrollment of over 700 students) was started in the United States, near the location of the Word of Life International Headquarters in Schroon Lake, New York.
Since that time other Bible Schools have been founded in several of the nearly 50 countries around the world where Word of Life missionaries are working.
A Brief History of Word of Life Hungary
Word of Life's involvement in Hungary goes back to the early eighties when evangelistic teams from Word of Life Germany began traveling to several Eastern Bloc countries. During their travels, special relationships were begun with a number of churches and individuals, which eventually opened the doors to further opportunity in Hungary.
In 1983, the Overseas Director of Word of Life, Paul Bubar, met a Hungarian businessman which led to contacts with high-level officials in the Hungarian government. Although we were able to have several weeks of youth camp in the summers of 1985 and 1986, the political climate seemed to indicate that we would not be able to begin a full-time ministry here. But in the spring of 1989 the Lord opened the doors to begin negotiations with the government, and in April, Word of Life Hungary (Élet Szava Alapítvány) was incorporated. During this same month, the Lord led Eric Murphy and his wife, Lynne, to become the director of the newly formed ministry.
In June, 1989, an agreement was reached with the government allowing us to lease the 78 acre castle property in Tóalmás. When discussing the method of payment, we were asked to provide free weeks of camp for children of the members of the trade union which owned the property. We agreed to provide a week of camp for 430 youth each summer - which was actually in lieu of any type of lease payment. God not only provided the property, but the campers who needed to hear the gospel! The same facility that had once been used in the communist era to teach atheistic values would now be used to proclaim the Word of God.
The Murphy’s arrived in January 1990, with only 187 days to prepare for the opening of the first summer camp. Considerable renovation was done, including the installation of showers, bathroom facilities, a sewage treatment system, dredging of the lakes and re-organizing the dormitories into more efficient usage of space.
The Lord led a Hungarian lawyer, Ildikó Barbarics, to join the staff. Her help was invaluable since all the renovation and all seven weeks of camp that summer were done totally through her translation and legal work. We look back and see the hand of God as he met every need for such an undertaking to be successful.
In 2000, a friend of the ministry stepped forward and formed a Hungarian corporation that purchased the property from the Hungarian government. The property has since been donated to Word of Life Hungary.
In May, 2004, Alex Konya, was appointed as the new director of the Word of Life Hungary ministry. For 10 years, Alex had been the Academic Dean and a professor in the Bible Institute.
The present staff consists of many Hungarians, as well as American and German missionaries who serve with us in ministry and support roles that include managerial, teaching, office, translation, housekeeping, cooking and maintenance responsibilities.
Overview of the Word of Life Hungary Ministry
Word of Life Hungary’s camping ministry began on our Tóalmás castle property with seven weeks of camp during the summer of 1990. In 1991 the camping season was extended to 10 weeks. In the twenty-one summers between 1990 and 2010 more than 19,000 campers have spent a week with us. Of these, several thousand have made public professions of faith in Christ, while many more have made personal commitments of dedication to live for the Lord.
The weeks of summer camp are filled with sports and games and solid biblical instruction. Each day there is a morning Bible hour and an evening meeting that includes special music, skits, and messages from God's Word that challenge the youth to trust Christ for salvation or to walk more closely with Him.
The first three weeks of youth camp are for children ages 8-12. The remaining weeks are for young people ages 13-20 and are theme-oriented. During these weeks the campers receive special instruction in vocal or instrumental music, basketball, soccer, volleyball and computers, as well as English and German language instruction. The final week of the season is generally a family camp.
To conduct summer camps with as many as 200 campers each week requires a tremendous staff of counselors and helpers. The Lord has faithfully provided us with such a staff each year.
Other Camps and Conferences
Throughout the time Word of Life has ministered in Hungary, much of the focus has been on evangelism and discipleship apart from the regular summer camping season. There are winter camps as well as special conferences, such as the annual Bible Clubs Conference in the Fall, and the Ladies Conference in the Spring. We also occasionally host other ministries which desire to use our facilities. In 1992 and again in 1999, Word of Life Hungary hosted Euro-Youth, a Europe-wide youth missions conference conducted by Word of Life International, in conjunction with its many fields in Europe. Because of our central location between Eastern and Western Europe we are often a stopover point for various ministry teams that are traveling in or through Hungary. We have also hosted a number of groups from American Christian high schools.
Apart from ministry at our facilities in Tóalmás, Word of Life Hungary has always been very active throughout the country. Almost every weekend of the year, Word of Life team members are in Hungarian churches speaking in their regular services or helping them with various special events and programs that include various forms of evangelism and discipleship.
The Word of Life Hungary Bible Institute opened in September, 1994 with 22 students from two countries, Hungary and the United States. Now, as many 60 students study here in a given year. Our graduates include students from 30 different countries. The details of the Bible Institute program can be found on the other pages.