COLUMBIA — You might not expect an elderly man riding a donkey cart down a street to pull out a cell phone and text.
For Stewart and Patti Humphry, a Columbia couple working as missionaries in Hungary, this contrast between the country’s thousands of years of history and its new technology took some getting used to.
The Humphrys have spent the better part of the past seven years in Budapest, where they both teach in an English club, she leads a quilting club and he leads a men’s ministry. Stewart also is operations manager for the Europe Division Office for ReachGlobal, a mission with the Evangelical Free Church of America.
This month, the couple returned to Hungary, this time leaving their three children in college in the United States.
The couple never planned to be missionaries.
After spending 19 years in Columbia, where she worked as a physical therapist and he worked as a computer analyst for Shelter Mutual Insurance Co., they picked up stakes and moved their three children to Budapest.
The couple explained their life-changing decision with one word: willingness.
They saw a need for expanding Christianity in Eastern Europe, which Patti described as having “an ideology of atheism that left people feeling like they didn’t have hope.” And then they decided to act.
“It was opening up myself to say, OK, I’m going to go unless I see a door close — and it was wide open,” Stewart said.
While they remained dedicated to their decision, the couple was aware of how extreme it was.
After changing jobs, homes and cultures, the Humphrys are still convinced they made the right call. Their ministries provide a safe space for people to talk about living under Communism and enduring a revolution in 1956, Patti said.
“People have shared at quilting or English club that there are things about that period of time that they’ve never talked about or told anyone about until we’re talking about it there,” Patti said.
Although many Hungarians are traditionally Catholic, a large number of them would say that they don’t believe in God, Stewart said.
“Even as a layperson, not as a pastor, you know more than they know about the Bible," Stewart said. "So even though they have a history in the Christian faith, they really don’t know anything about it. It is so rewarding to bring the truth back that leads to hope.”