Friday, October 1, 2021

Hungary: 1938 Revival Fires

by Cindy K. Stewart

In August and September, we learned about the spiritual awakening which spread across Eastern Europe prior to WWII. If you missed those posts and would like to read them, here are the links:

A Pre-WWII Great Awakening in Europe

A Message of Hope in a Time of Need - Eastern Europe, 1937-1939

Courtesy of Professor John L. Heineman, Boston College

Today the story moves to . . .


After witnessing the changes taking place in the churches of Czechoslovakia, the chief physician for the Hungarian Railway, Dr. Alexander de Csia, invited Evangelist James Stewart to hold evangelistic meetings on behalf of the Evangelical Alliance of Hungary. Dr. Csia was burdened to see God work in his country, refusing to accept the attitude of many that revival in Hungary was impossible.

Hungary, Spring of 1939 

Stewart enlisted Christians to pray “around the clock,” and the participants each dedicated one hour a day for prayer. The first meetings were held in a small Methodist Hall in Budapest, but after two days the services moved to the larger building of the German Baptist Church. After two or three more days, the crowds overflowed this location. During the second week, the meetings moved to the big Reformed Church, seating 2000 people. Soon the overflow crowd had to stand in the center aisle during the entire service.

Budapest, 1930's. Courtesy of Velo - Touring

Just like he had done in other Eastern European countries, Stewart had scripture choruses and gospel songs translated and printed in booklets so everyone attending the meetings would have a copy. He introduced "Into My Heart," "Jesus Never Fails," "Yes, I know," "Wounded for Me" and other songs. It wasn’t unusual to hear these tunes hummed in shops and whistled by delivery boys riding their bicycles down the street.

James Stewart shared the message of John 3:16 and invited those who wanted to give their hearts to Christ to leave their seats immediately and go to the front. Hundreds of people surged forward, making their way through the overflow crowd in the aisles.

Budapest, 1930's. Courtesy of Velo - Touring

More prayer meetings formed in other parts of Budapest, and many Christians attended morning meetings on God’s plan for living a holy life. They left these meetings “determined to make things right in their own lives.” The campaign ended before Christmas but began again in 1938. The organizers rented the biggest concert and dance hall in Budapest, the “Redoubt.” In a few days, the crowds filled and outgrew the location.

And the results . . .

  • Many people turned to Christ.
  • Many Christians confessed sin in their lives, renewing their relationship with God and with each other.
  • New converts attended discipleship meetings.
  • School officials invited Stewart to speak to their students, including officials from Roman Catholic schools.
  • Students from the Baptist Seminary and Training School in Budapest went home to their villages and spread word about the revival.
  • Interested folks from all over Hungary extended invitations to hold meetings in their towns and cities.
  • Campaigns were set up in many locations throughout Hungary.

Andi Ungar, a Christian Jew, interpreted for Stewart at many of the meetings, and he and Ungar spoke as if they were one person. Anti-Semites criticized Mr. Ungar’s role in the meetings, but Stewart and the other leaders ignored the criticism.

A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit took place in the city of Debrecen in eastern Hungary. Debrecen had long been called “The Geneva of Hungary” and “The Calvinist Rome.” Services were held at the Reformed Seminary, established 300 years earlier. In addition to the evening gospel services, meetings for women and girls, for children, for prayer, for youth, and for Bible study carried on day after day. Many shared of the work God was doing in their hearts.

Budapest, 1930's. Courtesy of Velo - Touring

In the spring of 1938, Stewart held his last campaign in Budapest in “The Tattersall,” a horse riding academy. At the end of each day, “hired laborers quickly cleaned the huge arena, put down fresh shavings, and arranged 4000 chairs which had been rented for the purpose.” The chairs were gathered and stored after the meeting each night. Members of the Salvation Army and different Baptist groups formed a brass orchestra which accompanied the revival songs. Several thousand people attended the meetings each night during the two-week campaign. On the final Sunday, over 5000 young people from Budapest and the surrounding towns and villages gathered for a youth rally.

James Stewart left Hungary in 1938, but the revival continued to spread across the country, led by the Hungarian people. More souls turned to Christ. More hearts and lives were changed. Stewart returned to Hungary for short visits in 1939, 1940, and in 1946 after WWII. He was overjoyed to witness the revival fires still burning, despite the ravages of war.

Buda Castle and Danube River - Budapest. By Costel Slincu


Resource: James Stewart Missionary, A Biography by Ruth Stewart (Revival Literature, 1974)


Cindy Stewart
, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and inspirational historical romance author, writes stories of hope and love. Her first manuscript was a 2020 finalist for the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award of Excellence, placed second in the North Texas Romance Writers Great Expectations contest, semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest, and won ACFW’s First Impressions contest in the historical category. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of forty years. Their married daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren live only an hour away. Cindy’s currently writing two fiction series set in WWII Europe.


  1. Thanks for posting! This is so inspiring. I must continue to pray for revival here and now!!

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Connie! With God, all things are possible.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I am always inspired by these moves of the Holy Spirit in history.

    1. Thank you for commenting. Isn't it wonderful that so many came to Christ right before millions died in Eastern Europe during WWII?