A Man Named Laszlo

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
    who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
    who gives breath to its people,
    and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
    I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people
    and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
    to free captives from prison
    and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

  • Isaiah 42:5-7

The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.  So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

  • Acts 11:1-3

“… I said.  ‘It’s quite a mess.’  His desk was piled so high with newspapers that, had one more sheet of paper been added to the pile on his desk, it would have slid to the floor.
“’Well,’ said Laszlo, ‘that’s how my life is inside – all mixed up.  I take long trail before I come here.  In 1939 I had to join the army.  Against my will, I served with the Nazi side, until American Third Army capture us.  Then I prisoner of war for two years.  Finally, you call me and I come to America, and I not give thanks.
“’And my schooling.  So long I be in army, I do not have what you think. …’
“Finally after writing forty-eight letters, Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut indicated they were willing to accept Laszlo in spite of his credit deficiencies, if I would recommend him, which I did. …
“’You don’t know how much he has hurt our student body,’ they told me.  ‘Nobody likes him.  He criticizes all of us, the way the girls dress, if they wear lipstick or high heels, and the boys whose clothes are loud or who smoke.  As a matter of fact, we have come to ask you on what basis you recommended him.’
“Then, I myself understood the whole undertaking clearly, for the first time.  I could now interpret it to them.
“’He has come from an old world into a new one.  A slow world into one of frightening speed.  He stands on your campus alone, cynical, confused and afraid.  He doesn’t know the answers of love.  Those will have to come from you.
“’You young men are studying for the ministry.  You are disciples of Jesus Christ. …
“’Can’t you see what this means?  Laszlo is among you as a symbol of the Christian calling.  What message will you take to the world, when three hundred of you don’t know what to do with him?
“’ Here, I think is your assignment.  You go back to your campus.  Put your arms around that little fellow and help him and love him … even if it breaks your heart!  For that is the meaning of the cross.

  • Russell. S. Tate, The Risen Christ – Have You Met Him?

In all the books that I have quoted, there are very few of the authors that I have seen in person or even on television, but for this one, I count him as a brief, but dear, friend.  Rev. Russell S. Tate had retired after serving as pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Kennewick, Washington when we met him twenty-six years ago.  It was hard not to meet him.  He seemed to stand a head higher than anyone, but he was so rail thin that I daresay that he barely weighed a hundred pounds.  After breaking the ice, there was one row of folding chairs that became the Tate and Rackley row.

We had been going to the church for some time when Russell and I had a long conversation.  He saw a spark of something in me.  It was buried deep at that point.  I had just suffered 365 days of unemployment.  I had uprooted my family and moved them from northern Mississippi to the high desert of south-central Washington state.  I was alone, with no friends, and nearly penniless.  But in talking with me, Russell could tell where my heart was.  He gave my wife a copy of his book when I again lost my job nine months later and I prepared to move to Pennsylvania.  He wrote a tender note on the inside cover, saying we would always be remembered, and I still remember him 25 years later.  He was born in North Dakota on September 11, 1919.  I wonder if he or Laszlo are still around.  The odds are not in either gentleman’s favor.

But as for Laszlo, he had been a Hitler Youth.  His father was killed in an American air raid on their village.  He had no idea where his mother was, only that she had travelled into Hungary and was trapped there under Communist rule.  He had hardly any high school education at all before being conscripted into the army.  While living with the Tates, he worked during the day and commuted to night school in Indianapolis, while Rev. Tate preached at a church about 20 minutes from the city.

Laszlo was ill-prepared for seminary.  His poor English skills caused him to lag behind.  He became the night watchman and continued his education, but he eventually dropped out.  He may not have finished seminary, but many of those seminary students that travelled from Connecticut to Indiana by train for one purpose, to complain about Laszlo, took Rev. Tate’s assignment, becoming lifelong friends with Laszlo.  Laszlo met a German orphaned refugee, and they married.

But in the full story, Laszlo had been dumbfounded by Rev. Tate and his wife.  They did things for him out of the kindness of their hearts.  He thought there must be some hidden motivation, probably money.  But, no.  They opened the doors of their home to a virtual stranger.  His entire life, until he became a POW, had been one of hardly any civilization.  It was dog eat dog.  It was hold all your feelings inside and hope that you never really had feelings.

The Tates shared Jesus with Laszlo.  They expected nothing in return, and it took some time before he could accept Jesus into his heart.  It was just so foreign to everything that he had experienced up until that point.  But Jesus’ Love conquers all.

In our world today, there are many political ideologies that wish to eradicate Christianity, a few battling for power within the USA.  Christianity poses the biggest threat to their plans.  There is so much division in the streets around this world that it is quite easy to respond in kind.  After all, these people have embraced the polar opposite to what God wants from us.  Why should we show them love?  We show no love because we are a little like Laszlo.  He never experienced love.  He had no role model in which to emulate.  We may have had that role model, but it is a scary world out there and when you face an uncivilized predator, like many wild animals, you must look larger than you really are and prepared to fight, hoping that they give up their attack and look for an easier prey.

It is so easy to respond, “Same to you, buddy!!!”  But it may be dangerous, and much more important to say, “In spite of your attitude toward me, God loves you and I do too.”

Russell and Jeanette Tate showed love to a frightened boy in a man’s body.  It was not easy, but taking up our cross and following Jesus was never meant to be easy.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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