Albert Durkó, President

The first guest of our newly launched ReményCast podcast is Albert Durkó, President of  Hungarian Gypsy Missions International.

Albert was born in Békés, the fifth child of a seven-member family. He often introduced himself as the fifth child to his mother. Despite modest circumstances, they were raised in an environment filled with parental care, love, and a family atmosphere created by both parents, leaving a lasting impression on all the children. As a child of parents of faith, he practically grew up in the church. His life was distinctly, and strongly shaped by the Pentecostal community early on. At the age of ten, he decided to become a servant of God. He repented and was born again. This marked the intense beginning of his life. Even as a child, he took part in various service areas within the community. He assumed a central role within the community at an early age, establishing a library, organizing youth groups, and coordinating visits and assistance to the elderly. He pursued studies in water management at the Békéscsaba Waterworks, where he worked for five years. Meanwhile, he preached in local and district churches from the age of 18. From 1984 to 1989, alongside his work, he continued his studies at the Pastoral Training Institute of the Council of Free Churches. He began visiting the Roma settlement in Békés early on, establishing youth groups and coordinating activities for young people. Later, he was given the opportunity in Paks, entrusted with leading a church that was then small, numbering only thirty members. He became the pastor of the church in 1991. His work flourished here, and thanks to Albert’s organizational skills, the group grew to 150-200 members. The Mégis Van Remény (Hope Still Exists) association was also born here. In 1996, he received invitations from various places, but he chose to move back to Békés with his family. He got married in 1989 and has five children – a son as the firstborn, a son as the youngest, and three daughters in between. In 1996, commissioned by the National Church leadership, he founded and has been leading the Hungarian Gypsy Missions International ever since. Also, from that year, he serves as a church pastor in Méhkerék.

Interview with Albert Durkó 1

What was it like to be born into this family? What did this family mean to you?

I called my parents, both my mother and my father, “sweet.” To me, this truly meant they were the sweetest, the most wonderful. This expression accurately defined my relationship with them. Everything I learned and saw from them, the example they set, how they served us, as well as how they served the church and the people, I believe, has left a very deep impression on me and laid the foundation for my life and journey.

So, is the direction you are currently pursuing in your service related to your childhood?

Yes. There was a defining moment when it became clear that this would be my calling. At the age of ten, when I experienced a conversion and rebirth, it was ingrained in me that I needed to serve people. At the age of ten, I bore witness that soon the Lord Jesus would return, and everyone must repent. I myself am amazed at how the shy child I used to be, who avoided being in the spotlight and withdrew from others, found the strength for this. And since then, because I am still the same as I was back then. I don’t really like publicity, but every day I am in the public eye. I don’t particularly like speaking, yet I often have to stand in front of people and talk. Following God means living not according to my own natural tendencies but doing what God asks, often denying myself, yet doing it with a good heart and joy.

You were only ten years old when you found your calling. It’s incredible how young you were. Could you share the story of this? What do we mean by conversion? How does it happen?

Essentially, it’s a personal encounter with God. I decide that I want to be in communion with God and build a relationship with Him. It’s a transformative force that completely changes and renews a person. Although I experienced this at the age of 10, what is even more miraculous to me is when I see it happening every day – people that we serve turning away from the deepest misery, alcohol and drug addiction, sins, and unimaginable suffering, encountering God through the ministry of HGMI. Witnessing their lives, mindset, entire behavior, and lifestyle completely changing is one of the greatest miracles in the world. If someone is seeking God, they will undoubtedly encounter Him.

A system in which we lived at the time expelled Christians. How did you experience this then? You were very young when you committed and repented.

People looked at me strangely because I was a believer. This started in elementary school and continued into high school. Nevertheless, I was quite active in various aspects of life. Even the radio interviewed me, which earned me some respect from my surroundings. On one hand, they accepted what and Whom I represented, on the other hand, they argued with me, mocked me, and questioned where I would be in 20 or 30 years. Well, now they can see that yes, God is with me, and He has not abandoned me.

As a child, how did you respond to the question we all know well: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Have you reached the point you dreamed of back then?

At the age of 10, I said that I would be a servant of God. I couldn’t precisely articulate what that meant at the time. But that gave me a purpose: wherever I saw a need, I filled it because I wanted to be a servant of God. I did many things at home and in the church. For years, I cleaned the church or even sat on each chair individually, praying for God’s blessings on those who would occupy them during church gatherings.

Did you get to know your wife through the church?

Yes, through the church. In 1978, there was a significant revival among the Roma, and people from the Roma settlement started attending the church in Békés. From 1980, a wave of baptisms began among the converts. My father had been already serving in the Roma settlement at that time, establishing home groups, speaking about God, and teaching them. I decided to join him and lend my assistance. That’s how I started my service among Roma children, and my future wife was part of this children’s group. Later, she contributed significantly to organizing, started leading worship, and supported me in various areas. In 1989, I proposed to her, and we got married in September of that year.

Haven’t many people told you that you are crazy? What do you aim to achieve with the Roma people? Despite the numerous judgmental voices, you declared your desire to serve them, uplift them – and, above all, prioritize them.

This is the path that God led me to. That’s why the HGMI was established in June 1996. We began with three churches then, and now we have almost 170 churches. Indeed, I am  crazy about Christ. The real question we need to ask is who, or rather what, are the other people crazy about? Because everyone pursues something. Some are crazy about money, some about power, or perhaps about acceptance – we can enumerate many things on this list. Well, I am crazy about Christ. Therefore, I want what He wants. Of course, I encounter a lot of resistance, rejection, and negativity. Many condemn what we do or what we don’t do, but this is my service, my mission, what God has given me.

The vision is the conversion of 325,000 Roma people. Where are we now?

Currently, this number is around 10,000, at least within our system, but overall it hovers around 15,000. Even this is very good, but I believe that with teachings, leadership training, and building our system, we are at a stage where the steep rise and multiplication will truly begin. 2024 is going to be the year of miracles.

To reach the 325,000, financial support is needed, as there is a need to find and train people in many areas. How do you handle the responsibility of ensuring this? HGMI’s size is increasing, and the areas where the mission operates are expanding. How do you approach this?

This is a very complex question. Professionally, I am a pastor. In addition to that, I have to coordinate business activities to ensure resources for the mission. I need to build international relations to secure support, write grant proposals to bring in funding for development, training, education, for children, schools, and even for the elderly. We operate in many areas, but I believe that God is guiding us in this as well. Every financial resource is somehow arranged by God through miraculous means. Many ask me how I manage to focus on so many different areas. I honestly don’t know. It comes from within, and I don’t perceive it as something particularly special or burdensome, as others might see it. It’s natural for me because I’m not doing it on my own but through God’s guidance.

Have there been failures on your journey?

Certainly. Failures are the best things that can happen to us because we can learn from them. God has taught me through many failures and brokenness. When a person’s life shatters, that’s when God can truly shine. When my self, my ego, is shattered, that’s when God radiates through, that’s when Christ shines through my life. Then, I can do things that I couldn’t do on my own; He does them in me and through me.

In this rapidly developing organization, where do you, Albert Durkó, stand, and where are your dreams, your vision?

I first stepped onto the pulpit 40 years ago at the age of 18, and now I am turning 58. I have been serving the Lord in this way for 40 years. I served Him from the age of 10, but formally, I started preaching from the pulpit 40 years ago. Who am I now? I can only think that I am the same as when I was 10. I am not different, just as God has not changed. He is the same God who sent me back then, the same God who has been working miracles for me then and now. In this way, I am still the same 10-year-old as when I started on this journey. And I want to remain as such a child, as the Scripture says that the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children.

Everyone I talk to emphasizes how much love Albert has. Where does this immense love come from?

It comes from God; it can’t come from anywhere else. What I receive from Him, the love, acceptance, forgiveness, propels me through life’s challenges. He loves unconditionally and embraces. Essentially, I pass this on. In my life, it’s entirely natural. I am a channel, and I want to use this channel well, so it doesn’t get clogged but continues to pass on whatever comes to others.

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