"It is our understanding that around this time many people feel lonely and want to kill themselves," said 41-year old Laszlo Banfi the founder of the Hungary based operation.
Banfi, who is known as "Rev. Laszlo", told BosNewsLife in Budapest that his International Christian Internet church now has up to 4,000 members who conduct "hundreds of thousands of visits" to the website a month.
He started the project march this year, despite protests from some traditional church leaders and media outlets. A Catholic church leader has reportedly threaten to sue him, but so far Rev. Laszlo has not yet received any court documents.
"They have accused me of running an illegal business, but I never ask for money, because I have been blessed as a successful business men." He is closely working with United States Rev. Glen E. Howard, the founder of the International Church of Budapest, which is involved in several Evangelical projects.
Although Rev. Laszlo has been preaching the Gospel for 25 years, he had a troubled past. "As a child I became a gang leader and was involved in robberies, drugs and anything you can think off," admitted the pastor, the child of divorced parents.
"It came to the point that my mother wanted to place me in a special home for difficult children when I was 12. When I found out, I wanted to kill myself, but I did not know how." During that time he remembered the words of his grandfather, an Evangelist, who lived in the same home.
"On the 3rd of October in 1972 at noon time I decided to become a Christian, because I saw no way out of my problems. so I took a little brochure of a testimony of a young boy and at the end there was a prayer and I went on my knees and said this prayer. I experienced the touch of god and began to cry as I Received Jesus Christ as my personal saviour."
And apparently not without results. "Since that time my life started to change dramatically. I even began preaching to other children." His activities in than communist Hungary brought him into serious trouble.
"I had a job in a foreign trading company and as a young man was offered in 1982 to work in Kuwait or Lebanon." The director said however there was one problem. "It is not a problem that you are not a member of the Communist party and not a member of the Communist youth movement," Rev. Laszlo quoted his boss as telling him.
"He told me also that it was not even a problem that I visited church every Sunday. "The problem was that I preached too much and prayed to much for people. He added that when I would keep silence, that he would offer me the job. If not he told me that I would never receive a good salary and never reach a high position."
MINISTRY OF GOD
Rev. Laszlo told the director that he would think about it for three days." when I came back in his office I told him that I thanked him for appreciating my work but that I rather choose the ministry of my God than the position abroad."
My boss said: "Comrade Laszlo, this will mean you will never have a good salary and that you will have never any position." When Rev. Laszlo walked to the door, he was was asked to come back. "He said: "Can I tell you something personally? In your case I would have made the same decision. I was stunned."
But there were difficult times ahead, till nearly 7 years later. "God blessed me abundantly. In 1988, when Hungary began to open to the western world, I was asked to be the foreign trade director of a Canadian company.
RED CARPET TREATMENT
One day I had to go to a business meeting with the same company where I was told not to expect a high position. I was walking on a read velvet, and began to cry, as I thanked god for giving me the same or even a higher position that I could have ever received."
Rev. Laszlo, who is married with two children, now works as a consultant and is leasing several shops. "It provides me the income that is necessary to do gods work." he was even able to finance promotion texts on two street cars (trams) running in down down Budapest. "You have one new message," it says referring to his internet church, and the mobile phone age.
He believes it is important to preach the Gospel in post Communist Hngary, where even the government recently expressed concern about the implications of wild capitalism and the new found freedom.
CONFESSION OF SINS
"The Internet church gives people the opportunity to confess their sins to God. We do not believe they need a priest to do so, a for instance the Catholic church does." Rev. Laszlo gives people the opportunity to send an e-mail with a time they want to pray. They can call him, and stay anonymous.
"It is something between them and God. I have received many phone calls from people with marriage problems and other difficulties." Although his website (www.istentisztelet.hu) is still in Hungarian, he soon hopes to expand it to an English language site.
"I feel that there is a need for people to reach us. We are there for people who can not visit a regular church. It is not our intention to take them away from their congregations, but rather to encourage them to be a Christian."
The both fluent English and Hungarian speaking pastor said that anyone wishing to talk to him can reach him December 25 via phone number: (36) 23 330 459 between 21.00 and 24.00 CET or on other days. From Hungary via phone number: 06 23 330 459. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org