Having the opportunity to revisit the great spiritual milestones of yesteryear with a giant of the faith is rare indeed, but I had that privilege recently when I interviewed TWR semiretired missionary, Joseph “Joe” Steiner.
This month, Joe is attending a memorial service in Budapest, Hungary, for his paternal grandfather, who is being honored for his founding of the Baptist movement in that country. The legacy was passed on to Joe’s father, who became the editor of the Baptist paper in Hungary during the communist regime. Following in his father’s footsteps, Joe was honored recently during the 50th anniversary of TWR’s Hungarian broadcast ministry from Monte Carlo, Monaco. Since 1961, Joe was the producer and “voice” of the Hungarian-language broadcasts, aired from the transmitter site in Monaco built by Hitler’s engineers during World War II.
“During our 50 years, some pastors were imprisoned; others lost their permission to preach; my father was caught and beaten by the political police; there was a shortage of Bibles; schools taught atheism, some churches were closed; and people had to worship in homes,” recalled Joe. “There was no television in Hungary at that time, and people eagerly listened to their radios for news from the West.”
Joe explained, “When we started the broadcast, it was three months before the first letter came, and it didn’t come from Hungary. It came from Croatia. The communist government was monitoring broadcasts and censoring letters.” A friend of Joe’s, aware of the security issues, made it possible for him to acquire a “radio name,” which listeners would hear and Joe could use to collect listeners’ mail from the post office box.
“In the beginning,” Joe said, “it was very difficult. The quality [of the radio programs] was not good. Everyone knew the difficulty of getting broadcast material from my home country behind the Iron Curtain.” In God’s providence, people put him in touch with Hungarian Christians in other countries to help prepare and record messages and church facilities were made available to serve as studios.
Joe said the listeners were very responsive to the programs: “Farmers returned from the fields in the early afternoon to hear the Word of God, while others set alarm clocks so they could hear the late programs. We received letters from people who were saved, some of whom Marge [Joe’s wife] and I were able to meet. Drunken fathers stopped drinking. Marriage problems were resolved. Communist party members learned about God. A prisoner accepted the Savior through the programs. Just before her attempt to kill herself by drinking poison, a young girl was saved.”
Can you put yourself in the Hungarians’ shoes, imagining what it would be like to have Joe’s “voice” of the gospel in your own heart language break through the silence and hopelessness that ensnared them? It took the “united efforts of many Christians” to make the mission a success, Joe said, and it continues to do so today as TWR reaches into countries still largely hostile to the Gospel.
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