We thought before coming here we just wanted to go and get on with sharing the gospel,’ Agi tells me.
However, after four years studying at All Nations Christian College, Agi and her husband Jesse say they are now much better prepared not just theologically, but practically, for life in Mongolia. They hope to be heading there long-term in summer 2022.
Learning new things
Encouraged by OMF and their sending church in Winchester, the family enrolled at All Nations in 2018. From leafy Hertfordshire, the college trains people from a wide variety of nations and denominations to serve cross-culturally through a range of undergraduate, postgraduate and flexible learning courses. The family were supported every step of the way with prayer, finance and a steady stream of encouraging notes from supporters and friends, which Jesse says ‘enabled us to keep going’ through some tough times. So what did they learn from their time at All Nations?
‘It challenged us and made us think about why we believe what we believe,’ Agi says. For example, ‘This person, from this denomination in this country, has grown up in an environment where this [theological position] is a key thing. But that’s not necessarily so key in my culture, or the church that I grew up in,’ Jesse reflects. Having the space to consider big issues like baptism and the end times from different perspectives, through Bible study and in-depth conversation, was a key part of the course.
Outside of theology modules, Agi also loved learning about anthropology, which involved looking at cultures – including her own Hungarian culture – from another angle, and exploring the best way to share the good news of Jesus across cultures.
Jesse explains how their theological studies were put into a practical context at All Nations.
A module on ‘holistic community transformation’ fit just the kind of ministry they are hoping to do in East Asia – covering everything from sharing the gospel through words to living it out through practical deeds such as building hospitals and digging wells.
They learned that the challenge is bringing these things together to truly bless communities, so that a team working on different parts can together share the good news of Jesus Christ in all its fullness. ‘If you only focus on the physical, and you’re not bringing them to Jesus, then what are you really doing? But if you’re only preaching the gospel, and they’re still living in a dire situation, then you’re not helping them either.’
Jesse also had the chance to study Mongolia and talk to cross-cultural workers already serving there. He would recommend this preparation for fellow cross-cultural workers. ‘When you arrive in that country, you already have that basic understanding of how you might begin to share the gospel. So you can hit the ground running.’
Learning to work alongside people of different cultures, ages and theological positions was one of the most helpful things about studying at All Nations, Jesse & Agi tell me. One of the major reasons missionaries return home, Jesse explains, is not necessarily the difficulty of living in the country, but the challenge of relating to workers from other cultures.
During their studies, the family lived on site in an international, multicultural community with their three young children. Agi says living in community like this deepened their understanding of what they’d been learning. After lectures, ‘you then go and have lunch with that person from a different culture that you’ve just learned about.’
Jesse adds that as students do the washing up together, ‘you get past the small talk quite quickly.’ You soon get to talking about everything from lectures to the challenges of moving your family overseas. It opened their minds to how they can interact better with people cross-culturally.
For the whole family, Jesse says, living at college was ‘hugely beneficial.’ While managing their time was a challenge, being there together meant their three children had friends around them in a similar situation. They quickly learnt to connect with kids from other cultures, for example the families from OMF Netherlands also studying at All Nations. ‘It’s like a village of friends living together,’ Agi comments. They also had helpful conversations with other parents about topics like schooling options that they would have missed were it not for their time at All Nations.
‘It’s different to other universities,’ Agi sums up. ‘It’s not just academic studies, it’s also about spiritual formation as well as practical and interpersonal skills. Our time there was really valuable and precious.’
OMF (UK) Content & Books Coordinator