Adam Bartha and Monika Bartha-Bereczki
They had never heard of Knox College and didn’t know much about Toronto, or Canada for that matter, but they trusted in God and knew that He had a plan for them. Now Adam Bartha and Monika Bartha-Bereczki call Knox home.
The couple, who met while attending the Debrecen University of Reformed Theology in Hungary, have been studying at Knox College since the Fall of 2009 and have quickly become an engaged part of the community. When Monika was selected by Hungarian Reformed Church leaders to participate in an exchange program, they weren’t sure they wanted the opportunity. They were offered several chances to participate in exchange programs in different locations in Europe and North America. Trusting in God, though, they chose to apply last year and landed on the doorstep of Knox College in September.
Fully supported by The Presbyterian Church in Canada, Monika and Adam came to Knox through a partnership agreement between the PCC and the Hungarian Reformed Church. It provides students the opportunity to learn about the challenges of ministry in a context other than their own in the hope that students will be more effective leaders within their own congregations. Knox is grateful for the opportunity to have Adam and Monika in its midst.
Even with a warm welcome, Monika found life at Knox difficult to adjust to at first.
“I didn’t want to give up my work as a pastor because I really liked the village and the people,” says Monika, who worked in Letavertes, a small town of about 7200 people, outside of Debrecen in eastern Hungary. “It was very hard for me because I had a job there and in Canada I became a student again.”
And, the adjustment was more than just a change of roles. The city, the language and the diversity in culture were a shock to both of them as they weren’t accustomed to addressing professors by first names, seeing students living off-campus and they had never learned about Eastern philosophies and traditions in Christianity.
After struggling with a bit of homesickness, the couple settled into the tower apartment and have firmly entrenched themselves in the College community. From attending weekly community worship services and meals to both the residents’ and student association formals, and participating in various events and workshops put on by the College’s Centres, the couple are a visible part of the wider Knox family and have made fast friends with students, Faculty and staff alike. They’ve also become members of the local Hungarian church in Toronto in order to maintain a connection to home.
“Now we have more friends here than back home,” says Monika. “It’s important to be involved and not separate yourself. The key to Christianity is community, and I believe if you don’t belong you’re not being a true Christian.”
The exchange has opened their eyes to more than just a different way of life and scenery. Adam and Monika believe that the Knox Faculty’s passion for their subject matter and the way in which they support the students at the College, irrespective of backgrounds and languages, makes a difference in the education they received here at Knox and has taught Adam a lesson he will carry forward outside of the classroom.
“Coming here has helped me understand people of different cultures and backgrounds,” says Adam. “To know people, their lives, where they come from and find a way to help them — that’s what ministry is all about and is part of what I will take back to Hungary with me.”
It will be some time before they’re able to take what they’ve learned here at Knox and apply it in their ministry back home though. Monika recently applied to the College’s Th.D. program and was accepted, extending the couple’s stay here in Canada. Adam is hopeful that he can find work as a pastor and work on completing his Ph.D. from Debrecen University.