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Inspiring Nations

by Stephanie Cooper | Staff Writer

Stepping into Ambassador Bálint Ódor’s Ottawa office, it is easy to sense the pride he takes in representing his home country of Hungary. His workspace is immaculate and well-organized, tastefully accented by Hungarian cultural decor. He greets his guests warmly, projecting a dignified demeanor.

The 42-year-old economist and European Union specialist arrived in Canada with his family in November 2014. Like most ambassadors, he seeks to build relationships with like-minded people in order to further the interests of his country.

When David Imbrock enters the room and greets the ambassador with a warm handshake, the friendship between the two men is evident. David is the Senior International Representative with the Christian Embassy, a ministry of Power to Change Canada. Within weeks of the ambassador’s arrival in Ottawa, David and the Christian Embassy’s Executive Director Darlene McLean knocked on his office door to welcome him to Canada. Their mutual faith in Jesus quickly established common ground and a deep friendship between them.

“It was a very nice gesture,” Ambassador Ódor says of David and Darlene’s initial visit. “I appreciated their interest in me and was very happy that there are organizations in Canada based on religious values.”

An important role of the Christian Embassy is to link people together for mutual benefit, which is advantageous for diplomats like Ambassador Ódor seeking to make new connections. However, the Christian Embassy is unlike other embassies in Ottawa. “They can ask us what our main problems are, how they can help with programs, and how they can pray for us. Other embassies cannot do this,” the ambassador elaborates.

The Christian Embassy’s willingness to help with personal as well as professional challenges makes them a valuable resource for diplomats, especially those new to Canada with few established relationships. When Ambassador Ódor and his family first arrived in Ottawa, they were looking for a church community to join. They sought the advice of Darlene, who provided them with a list of options. “We went to all of them and we picked one,” says Ambassador Ódor. “We’ve been going there ever since and are very happy.”

As his relationship with the Christian Embassy progressed, the ambassador was invited to read Scripture at their 2016 Christmas dinner, a formal evening where diplomats, parliamentarians and business leaders enjoy a festive meal, live music and an inspirational guest speaker. Although Ambassador Ódor had another engagement that evening, he raced back and forth between the two events so he could still participate. “I think he had to wear running shoes,” David jokes.

The invitations have not only been one-sided. Ambassador Ódor reciprocated the kind gesture to the Christian Embassy on multiple occasions, introducing David and Darlene to various Hungarian dignitaries visiting Canada.

This past year, the Hungarian government also extended a significant invitation. The Christian Embassy was invited to Budapest for the Hungarian Prayer Breakfast and the International Consultation on Christian Persecution—the government’s first major conference to call attention to the brutal violence against Christians in Africa and the Middle East.

“Dialogue between leaders will contribute towards policies that are good for all citizens.”

David and Darlene humbly accepted the invitation to connect with leaders in Hungary. They invited several Canadian members of Parliament (MPs), prominent business leaders, and the President of Power to Change Canada to join them in strategic interactions with leaders in Budapest in October 2017.

Hungarian President Viktor Orbán at the International Consultation for Persecuted Christians.

“Four out of every five people oppressed due to their religion are Christians,” says Hungarian President Viktor Orbán at the International Consultation for Persecuted Christians.

The trip to Hungary was one of the most extensive international delegations in the Christian Embassy’s history. They experienced open and honest conversations with many political leaders about practical applications of faith. “To see how God opened doors was more than we could ask for or imagine,” says Darlene.

“The Hungarian government was unbelievably generous with their time,” says Power to Change President, Rod Bergen. “We were meeting people daily from early in the morning until late at night. There are a number of leaders in the political, diplomatic and business sectors in Hungary who are clearly standing for their faith. This was a time of mutual encouragement and extending ties that will continue on into the future.”

Several MPs from the delegation have already spoken out about Christian persecution, raising the issue in Parliament and taking to their social media platforms to inform Canadians. Another MP, who will lead future National Prayer Breakfasts in Canada, was inspired by the Hungarian event and believes a bolder proclamation of the gospel is needed.

“Hungary is standing alone in Europe for their Christian values,” explains Darlene. “The MPs who travelled with us said that what they saw and heard in Hungary gave them hope for Canada.”

For more than three decades, the Christian Embassy has been a bridge between leaders in Ottawa, across Canada, and around the world. “Dialogue between leaders will contribute towards policies that are good for all citizens,” Darlene says. “It is important for political leaders of Christian faith to be challenged and equipped through frank exchanges.”

But the Christian Embassy does not exist solely to strengthen ties between politicians. When asked what the Christian Embassy has to offer diplomats, MPs and business leaders, David replies, “Professional connections and eternal life [through Jesus].” By building these relationships, the Christian Embassy ultimately seeks to inspire leaders with the Person of Jesus Christ.

“Evangelism is expressing—both verbally and through our actions—what it is to know Jesus personally and what a life transformed by Him looks like,” says Darlene.

“When engaging in spiritual conversations, we are more process-oriented than results-oriented,” David adds. “We don’t focus on just jumping to the end. In sharing the gospel, we are not pushy. But at the same time, we are not shy.” He emphasizes that it often takes years to build trust with politicians and diplomats. “In so much of what we do, we don’t see an immediate response. However, sometimes things just happen, seemingly out of nowhere. It is because a seed was sown long ago.”

The Christian Embassy’s relationship with Ambassador Ódor and the Hungarian government is a connection that has been built over time and is based on mutual trust. In Canada and Hungary, the
results will continue to unfold for years to come.