A Ferenc Visky Rememberence

Feri bácsi preaching – how could one forget?

Rev. Ferenc Visly is one of the happiest things that ever happened to my life. When I was invited for the time, by his daughters Lidia and Maria Magdalnena,  to visit them in the village of Paleu, near Oradea, I did not know what to expect. After we met, we could never part ways. I have befriended his children and our paths have met many times afterwards.

I already knew the stories of his seven years in communist prisons, where he met Wurmbrand, and the deportation of his wife and seven small children in Baragan. But meeting the real people was a totally different matter.

For me, as an Evangelical, the classic Reformed and Pietistic participation in the regular Bible reading, discussions prayer and singing before every meal was a new discipline. And then, there were the church services. I had never heard sermons like this. And even if I got only parts of it through translation (unfortunately I don’t speak Hungarian) I could get the message in the spirit. I have never seen a man preparing his sermons like this. Days without end, reading, studying, praying, writing at his desk placed in the kitchen and (at least apparently) totally unhindered by all the noise and movements around him. At those times, he was mostly silent at the ‘table talk’, rather listening (to us, maybe, but surely to God). And, after all this, every Sunday morning was a treat a  spiritual banquet.

I will never forget that New Year’s Eve (some time in the mid seventies) when almost 150 people celebrated in their home, with almost 100 also sleeping there overnight. I have never seen such a mobilisation when bed preparation was started. The whole family was like a well let team on a battle ship. We all slept well, after telling stories, long into the night, but I doubt there was any space in the house where someone was not sleeping.

How could I forget the Eucharist we have all shared that night, when, for the first time in my life, after the consecration of the gifts, Feri bácsi asked me, a young Baptist, to distribute the bread and the wine. It was in that place that I learned the meaning of true ecumenism and that has changed my spiritual DNA, forever.

I owe much of what I am as a Christian to those experiences. Oh, how many heated discussions I have had with Feri bácsi when I still believed,  to his dismay, that a Christian could and should be an anti-communist (thank goodness, I have changed my views some years after that). He thought that anti-communism will, sooner or later, but almost inevitably, bring with it a hate for communists, which is incompatible with the Gospel of grace preached by the crucified Lord. Oh, how I wish this message would be heard by the many Muslim-haters that we see in the ‘Christian’ world today!

* * *

Now, for those who did not have the chance to meet Feri bácsi, but also for those who know him and treasure his memory, I have good news. There is a brand new Ferenc Visly Facebook Page available now. This is only at the beginning of it. I invite you to browse through it, see the pictures, read the stories and add your own.

Feri bácsi visiting Richard Wurmbrand in US in 1998

Reading all this you may be surprised to find in Feri bácsi a saint of Richard Wurmbrand’s caliber. Enjoy! And may he be a model for you, as he was for me.

And, before I end, I have to add that, as Richard could not be what he was without Bintea, in the same manner, Feri bácsi would have not been what he became without his saintly wife, Jucika néni, who could equally be a model for our ladies. Blessed is the people that still has such saints. May we treasure their memory forever!

* * *

I will return with a separate post about the publication of the first book by Ferenc Visky in English.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

7 thoughts on “A Ferenc Visky Rememberence”

  1. Feri Bacsi was one of the most extraordinary Christian leaders I met on my life
    And his children are really continuing their parents tradition and life example


  2. Danut thank you so much for posting this information. I have known about Istvan and Lidia Szabo and Istvan and Maria Halmen for several years. I finally got to meet them in May, while I was in Targu Mures. They gave to me a copy of both Ferenc and Julia’s books which I read on the flight back to my home in the USA. I have been very encouraged by these books.


  3. I read Julia Visky’s books, Two crosses and her biography in which she speaks about her deportation in Baragan. She was a woman of God and she inspired me very much.


  4. Ferenc Visky’s book The Foolishness of God speaks of the upside down kingdom of our Lord, in which suffering is redemptive and we can find joy in the most cruel and inhumane of places. The joy and candor with which he records his experiences of his prison sentence under Communism in Romania is very touching and inspiring, and serves as a reminder to all of us who find ourselves inconvenienced or unhappy that we must dig deeper to discover the answer to our question: where is God in this? Why is God in this? Visky’s stories remind us that it is because He is foolish. Our God is a fool–his wisdom is foolishness to man, and his foolishness is what saves us. Loves makes fools of us all, and those who experience this love know that their only response is to love in return, even if such love involves the foolishness of serving time in prison for the crime of, well, loving God. The book also is a testament of Christian community, without which Visky’s time in prison may have been unbearable. His dear friend and famous pastor, Richard Wurmbrand appears in many of the stories, whose extreme, radical and very human self creates much of the humor in the book. Other Christian pastors and theologians appear in different vignettes, with whom Visky has some theological differences, but the ecumenism of common suffering reminds the reader that, in spite of man’s constructs, where two or more are gathered [in Christ’s name], he fulfills his promise: there I am with them.


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