Treasures in Clay Jars by Andy Willis
It was April 22, just a few days after Réka Posewitz had died, and Emese Pósfay took me aside before Sunday worship.
“George confirmed her, you know. I have the pictures at home.”
I didn’t know. But in the days that followed, I learned about an amazing connection among members of our congregation that goes back to Caracas, Venezuela in the 1950s.
World War II brought violence, instability, and foreign occupation to Hungary, and many Hungarians were forced to flee. Among them were three people who would later become part of our congregation in Geneva: George Pósfay, Emese Koppányi, and Réka Posewitz. Their routes were different, and none of them knew one another in Europe, but all three eventually ended up in Venezuela, in the city of Caracas, where many Hungarian refugees were finding a safe home and a new life.
Réka came as a child around 1948. George was sent there as a young, single man in 1952 to found a church for the diverse immigrant population and to serve as pastor for the Hungarian community. And Emese followed in 1959, after she and George were married in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she had grown up.
So there they were, in a carefully kept scrapbook on the shelf in Emese’s apartment: photographs of a 1955 confirmation class in Caracas. George stands in the back row, a young pastor with a gentle smile, and beaming, front and center, is Réka, age 13, clutching a bouquet of flowers.
There’s much that I find moving in this story. The passing on of faith from one generation to another; the story of refugees finding community and hospitality and a new home; the care that George, and then Emese, took in preserving the pictures themselves, keeping the memory of these ordinary, sacred events alive.
And then there’s the fact that here in our congregation in Geneva, half a world away from Caracas, these lives would meet again. Réka moved to Geneva in the early 1960s and soon began work as an interpreter with the U.N., so she was already settled here when George and Emese arrived in 1971 for George’s work with the Lutheran World Federation. For decades the families continued to meet and share memories of life back in Venezuela.
They always remembered their long history together, but for many years, the confirmation pictures had been forgotten. It was about ten years ago, Emese remembers, when a group of church members were gathered to celebrate Réka’s birthday, that she thought to pull out the old scrapbook.
Réka was delighted with the photographs. The dementia was beginning to affect her memory then, but Emese says she could still name every one of the students she was confirmed with.
“We have this treasure in clay jars,” Paul wrote to the church in Corinth—the riches of God’s grace in the most ordinary of places. Those treasures are all around you—in old photo albums, in stories passed down, in lives that have made a difference in your own. Pay attention to them, and give thanks.