The snow has begun to fall transforming Budapest yet again. Gone are the colorful, ever-bustling Christmas Markets. Today, the snow blankets the city in a cozy winter white.

The ice floating down the Danube has made world news and is trending on #Budapest

benches in Deak Ferenc Ter
Gellert Hill
travelling the Danube ice
Danube in ice
couples on Vaci Utca
snow lunches

The Sunberg B&B

The Sunberg B&B
a gathering of feet in our home for Bible Study

We call it the Sunberg B&B, Grand-Central Station, and home. Too often messy, frequently full of beautiful chaos, and yes, sometimes even conflict. Life in the midst of this yellow, terra-cotta roofed house on the edge of Budapest is full. Very full.

The past few months, we have been bursting at the seams as our 6-person home has become the transition point for many people on their way to and from ministry across the field. We put most guests in the ‘loft’, which our daughters scoffingly correct with the word ‘corridor’. This is an argument of nuances, heartfelt because two of them used it as their bedroom for the first 3 years here. In truth, there are no doors, and one wall is open to the downstairs.  Continue reading “The Sunberg B&B”

I am THE refugee: Courage for the Journey

keleti_women_travel_Fotorkeleti_chris_hearts_FotorIt was Saturday in Keleti train station. My friend, Chris, was giving out cardamon-infused tea to refugees like an ancient elixer that puts the world right again.

We saw olive skin and dark eyes wrapped in a black hijab. She was standing, tall and straight, like a sentry left to guard all that was valuable. There were 2 kids playing around her feet and several women lying on mats.

‘Hello, my name is Amina, which means peace in Farsi.’  Continue reading “I am THE refugee: Courage for the Journey”

thoughts from the border

tent city. rosze, hungary border
tent city. rosze, hungary border

This post will be short because I am exhausted, but I just have to write. I just have to tell the story. I simply am not sure which story to tell.

I could tell you that at the catching point, which is Roszke on the Hungarian / Serbian border today, I was overwhelmed by the number of people and the needs. The basic needs and the aftermath of those needs – trash, basic health care, hunger. My friend Chris and i organized clothes for 5 hours and did not finish. When I go back tomorrow, it will be a mess again.

Continue reading “thoughts from the border”

the world waits in budapest’s keleti train station

the world waits in budapest’s keleti train station
a few trains pulled into Keleti on Thursday but no refugees departed
a few trains pulled into Keleti on Thursday but no refugees departed

After the first interview, I realize that I need a newspaper. The train station conversations occur on the ground, at the edge of tents, beside bed-rolls, on small blankets. I need something to sit on while we talk. Yesterday’s French newspaper, Le Monde, catches my eye and I pay the Hungarian clerk for my makeshift seat. 3,200 pairs of feet that have travelled from Syria to Turkey to Greece to Macedonia to Serbia and into Hungary or journeyed from Afghanistan, or originated in Pakistan transform this floor into a storyboard for a generation. These are the pages of human suffering and the unbreakable hope of the human spirit. This story is told to us by feet. So many feet. Continue reading “the world waits in budapest’s keleti train station”

In Hungary

The Shelter in Diosd is home to 7 families, which include 21 children. Without the shelter, these families be on the street
The Shelter in Diosd is home to 7 families, which include 21 children. Without the shelter, these families would be on the street
Carving pumpkins. We partner with the shelter, a secular organization to encourage the kids. The international school lets us use their facility.
Carving pumpkins. As we partner with the shelter, a secular organization, the international school lets us use their facility. Our goal is to encourage and interact with the children.
We interact with the kids weekly, the moms monthly, offer English classes, and host holiday celebrations.
We interact with the kids weekly, the moms monthly, offer English classes, and host holiday celebrations.
Children from the International Christian School in Budapest deliver presents that they collected
Children from the International Christian School in Budapest deliver presents that they collected
A doll waits for a special person to take her home.
A doll waits for a special person to take her home.

six ways your church can make a difference in anti-trafficking

six ways your church can make a difference in anti-trafficking
The Blue Bird Cafe
The Blue Bird Cafe
coffee anyone?
coffee anyone?

The Blue Bird Cafe is tucked into Budapest’s historic Jewish Quarter. It is Euro-whimsical with spirally staircases and bird-infused wallpaper percolating caffeinated warmth. Tourists like its vibe. Locals like its roast.  The beat of old school music can almost erase the memory of the 1940’s when the place of this cafe was a hell-hole of dying. Almost, but not quite.

Evil tapped a victory dance and the Nazi war machine devoured people. Thousands. Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. Here where the Blue Bird sings today. I used to say that if I had lived then, I would have raised my bony fist and screamed down the gates of tyranny.

But, I no longer voice that sentiment not since a Christian friend working for a secular, cross-governmental, anti-trafficking organization mentioned that he meets a lot of people like me. 

“Many people tell me what they would have done in another period of history, as if it would have birthed a different response in them. I tell them, ‘No you would not have.’ 

He says it matter-of-factly, “If the story of the current 32 million slaves in the world does not move you, neither would any other plea from humanity.[Tweet this @TSunberg]

In patient tones, I explain that the Church feels helpless. “Our hands are tied.”

“Like a 12-year old trafficked and sold for sex?” 

He watches me shift uncomfortably and then he implores the Church to act. Governments, NGO’s, and even global partnerships are not enough. The Church is uniquely situated to win this war and without an intentionally focused Christ-body, this generation loses the fight for freedom. 

we can do something
we can do something


1. Be aware of vulnerability

The plight of trafficked millions entered the global stream of consciousness at the turn of the 21st century. Today, there is issue-based recognition but, the root of dismantling the industry lies with creating awareness that prompts community development. When businesses, neighborhoods, organizations and churches begin to harness the power of their presence for active prevention, then, awareness becomes real power.

Multiple layers of society need to be educated about awareness. That education looks different for each group.  

Everyone must learn to spot and protect vulnerable people.

Vulnerable people, such as children, the impoverished, the neglected, must learn how to recognize and to reject exploitive persons. 

Those who would become exploiters must be aware that they have other economic opportunities.

2. Be present in difficult places

Governments and NGO’s have money, but often lack grass-roots infrastructures for effective prevention and rescue. The Church, however, is present at an unprecedented, hands-on level in communities across the globe. 

A strategic Body can root itself into a community and become that layer of protection to identify the next girl to be prostituted and the next boy to be pimped.  Being present to develop economic options that remove vulnerability and to establish financial independence is crucial.

To intentionally live and work with vulnerable people will develop relationships that can strangle the trafficking pipe-line.  This war will be won in a one to one, every boot on the ground battle. Effective anti-trafficking will not be sanctioned by government, or cured with programming alone. The end to slavery will happen when holy people, in combination with government and programs, are motivated to be actively present in hell on earth.

3. Step away from the church culture

For so long, Christians have enclosed themselves within the safe walls of the church and developed a vocabulary and culture that can sound odd to others. Secular organizations can be hesitant to partner, fearing manipulation or poor practice until we learn to communicate in authentic, professional and intelligible ways that are free of the christian dialect.

Healthy evangelization means working with secular people for temporal good absent of the pressure to lead them to Christ. Focus on building healthy relationships of respect and be ready to give witness when you are invited to do so. Pray.  Learn to see people as people, not as salvation projects. 

Trusting the Holy Spirit is not an abdication of our Christian responsibility, rather, it is a reliance on Grace to open doors and hearts.

4. Change the boy culture

Historically, the Church has focused on teaching women to dress modestly for the sake of her male counterparts. We heap guilt and responsibility on young girls to prevent men from being led astray by sexually suggestive clothes.  We have a ‘boys will be boys’ mentality that leads us to say much less to men and with much less fervor about their responsibility to submit their thought life and sexual practice to Christ.

Comparatively, Sweden has one of the most effective anti-trafficking cultures on the globe. Law enforcement prosecutes those who pay for sex, not the prostitutes and pimps. By targeting those who create demand and bypromoting media campaigns that create a culture of shame around paying for sex, the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality is crumbling. 

5. Stop sexualizing wealth

Sex sells – in the media, in sports, in fashion, in food, in cars, in video games. Sex is everywhere and men are inundated with warped messages of masculinity, power, and wealth. Culture perpetuates greed and lust. Breaking the connection between sexuality and material happiness demands that the Church takes a hard look at the idolization of money and wealth – inside and outside of her walls. 

6. Create economic alternatives

Statistics show an alarming rise in forced labor, with 50% of all human trafficking now the exploitation of people, including children, for work.

Just as sex sells, poverty creates disposable people. In his book, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, author Kevin Bales explains that the situation for a 21st century slave is graver than his 19th century counterpart. ‘Humans are  easily used up and discarded by those who exploit them. Today, an average illegal child laborer can be purchased for $90. At that cheap price, the smartest business decision is to simply use up a person and then buy a new replacement.’

Profit margin based upon cheap labor drives the industry but faith communities can create economic alternatives. How can you work with a pimp to create other employment options? Are there creative ways to help businesses be financially profitable without exploiting people?

Long before the Nazi war machine roared to life, Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ [Tweet this @TSunberg] Painful words, Mr. Burke. Some two centuries later, German theologian and anti- Nazi dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, echoed Burke. ‘We are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.[Tweet this @Tsunberg] Bonhoeffer must have pictured Nazi tanks as he made his plea. 

Our call is to go beyond patching wounds. The ‘spoke in the wheel’ that Bonhoeffer refers to is our life. Today, the Church is called to rise up, to move in and to speak out as the Jesus-body for this generation.

Pick up a spoke. Stop the machine.

so many people
so many people

 life graffiti