This post is the second in a series concerning the life and ministry of Mihály Kornya, the Peasant Prophet, who preached the Gospel for more than 30 years in Hungary and Romania – (Part 1 here).
We know that Kornya’s evangelistic work started early. In the oldest roster of members of the Salonta church, Kornya is first on the list and his occupation is listed as “Missionary.” His wife oversaw the farm work and their children worked in the fields, while Kornya was gone on his many evangelistic tours. His first efforts extended to towns and villages within about a 60 kilometer radius of his home town.
One illustrative anecdote comes from his first preaching tour. Kornya and his son-in-law Laszlo Bálogh entered the village of Biharugra. As is the habit of the villagers, they were sitting on benches in front of their homes. The pair of missionaries introduced themselves to various sets of villagers as simple farmers, just as the apostles were simple fishermen, and announced that they wanted to hold worship services that afternoon or evening. No one offered them hospitality or expressed any interest at all.
Finally, one old man spoke up. “I would receive you into my home,” he said, “but you know I have an ungodly son-in-law who would not like you.”
Then, from behind a fence, they heard a voice, saying, “Well, if am that ungodly man because of whom you are not allowed to come in, then just come in.” The son-in-law invited the preachers to in to eat a meal. Kornya started to pray over the meal when the wife of the “ungodly” son-in-law yanked the food off the table, saying, “Do not give thanks like a cow on the ice in front of me!”
Commenting on his wife’s behavior, the young man said, “And they think I am ungodly!” Kornya and his companion got up from the table and left the house, accompanied by the son-in-law, who guided them to another house where they would be welcomed. At this house they were invited to attend a service at the local church. After the service, a crowd gathered at the home of their hosts and Kornya preached to them. A rumor circulated that the two “Nazarenes” were “playing wild” at the home of their hosts. Three young men arrived, carrying brass cuspidors for the purpose of beating the visitors, but when they saw the owner of the house and his son both quietly listening to the preaching, they did not dare carry out their purpose.
Thirty years later, the ringleader of the young ruffians received baptism from Mihály Toth at Salonta. When informed of this, Kornya commented, “You see, folks, after thirty years the seed came up.”
During the early years Kornya also traveled on evangelistic tours with Henrik Mayer, at which time he learned much from his German mentor. By 1881, Kornya was traveling on his own as an independent missionary, baptizing converts and organizing churches.
When he saw a need, he was willing to sacrifice in order to meet it. Two Hungarians went to Germany to train in Oncken’s seminary. One of the two, Andras Udvarnoki, would return to pastor a church of 800 members in Budapest and to begin the first Baptist college in Hungary. To meet their urgent financial needs, Kornya sold a span of oxen and sent the money to Germany. This would be the equivalent of a farmer selling his tractor. On more than one occasion he also sold oxen in order to give toward the construction of church buildings.
Kornya’s home was a center of hospitality. Maria Kornya could never be sure how many would appear at their table for dinner. Their hospitality afforded an opportunity to give food to the needy, to give encouragement to Christians and a gospel witness to the lost. To visitors from afar, sitting at Kornya’s table was like taking a seminary course. Even more, it gave people the opportunity to see that Kornya backed up what he preached by the way that he lived. Visitors saw an instructive pattern of Christian family harmony.
One incident put Kornya’s hospitality to the test. When Kornya was in the grain dealing business, the fifth room of his house served as his granary. One evening as Kornya and his company were returning from church, they heard a noise from the room in the direction of the attic. A dark figure was trying to lift a sack full of grain. Noiselessly approaching the thief, Kornya helped him put the sack on his back. Embarrassed, the thief wanted to put the sack down and leave, but Kornya insisted that he take it, saying, “You must need it and that’s why you came. Later when you will have grain, you can give it back.” After the thief reluctantly accepted the deal, Kornya insisted that he stay for supper. The thief was forced to sit down, listen to family devotions and eat the meal. He finally escaped with his sack of grain. That thief eventually repented and trusted Christ as Savior.
Look for future posts featuring more about the ministry of this remarkable servant of God.
David Potter serves as a missionary in Hungary with Baptist World Mission.