It all started with a snowball fight.
Community members coming from warmer countries rushed out on the quayside on a beautiful white morning as the heavy snowfall blanketed the surroundings in tranquillity. For some, it was their first time experiencing snow. Inevitably, a snowball fight soon erupted. In the midst of screams and shouts, those caught in the crossfire quickly noticed two men hurling snowballs at them – two unfamiliar faces joining in the fun.
Mariana Peres (Brazil) and Carrie* (Africa) spotted them and started a conversation with them. They found out that the two men come from Turkey and Hungary respectively and were currently homeless due to retrenchment from their jobs. Realising the needs of these men, Mariana and Carrie started talking deeper with them and called other community members who spoke Arabic and Hungarian to join in. They even brought hot tea from the ship to offer to them.
Through translation, Mariana explained the Gospel through a One Wish flyer to the Turkish man who is a Muslim, while Gyonggyi Legradi (Hungary) spoke directly in the Hungarian man’s heart language. “Bravo, bravo…” said the Turkish man as Mariana shared of God’s love.
“It’s not just bravo, it is true!” replied Mariana, desperate for the man to understand God’s love for him. “If you are willing to take His hand, he will take care of you.”
After some time in the freezing cold, community members wanted to care more practically for the men and invited them onboard for a shower and a hot lunch. They were faced with some initial rejections from the Muslim man who was afraid it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to enter a Christian ship. With the assurance from community members that he would be most welcomed, the two men came on board.
They looked amazed as they came on the Riverboat, looking around in curiosity. Through their time on board, they repeatedly thanked community members; the appreciation they felt for the warmth and hospitality received was evident. Mariana gave them the Bible in German and Turkish and invited them to come again whenever they want. A local German working with the Riverboat for the port visit in Mainz also offered to get them in touch with some companies appropriate to their skills.
Since that day, the Hungarian man came back to the Riverboat four times and even brought his friends who also live on the streets with him. Each time he visited, he became more open with Gyonggyi, sharing that he became addicted to alcohol and lost his house and job after the demise of his family in a car accident. He eventually ended up in Switzerland where he begged in front of a church. The church took him in and he came to be baptised. Till date, he enjoys reading scripture from Proverbs everyday.
Gyonggyi extended her hospitality each time they visited, despite being kept busy between her work onboard as well as other visiting friends. At the end of the port visit, the Hungarian man together with his friends who have benefitted from Gyonggyi’s kindness pulled the little money they have and bought her a box of chocolates to thank her. “I was at a loss for words,” Gyonggyi said, recalling how she received the gift with tears. “I couldn’t offer them much except for a shower and a lunch, but they were truly thankful.” May the reflection of God’s love and kindness through community members bring about a transformation in the lives of these men.
*Name changed for security reasons