A City United

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we started a church.”

When missionaries Dave and Karmi Buckley look back just a few short years to where their church now stands, all they saw then was need. The Buckleys live in Budapest, a quickly growing city of close to 2 million people that is home to more than 40 colleges and universities. Budapest is a unique city, divided in two parts by the Danube River: Buda, built on the hills on the western side of the river; and Pest, which lies on the much flatter terrain of the eastern shore. But this leading European city in finance, research, and education is divided in a different way inside the Hungarian national church—young, college-aged students are leaving the church in droves.

These students increasingly seek English-speaking experiences, so several years ago the Hungarian national church approached the Buckleys about starting an English-speaking church on Sunday evenings. Young students could attend their Hungarian church in the morning, then an English-speaking church at night. The Hungarian national church even provided a list of potential attendees.

Dave and Karmi thought this was a good idea to pursue, so they moved forward in faith, rented a room in a community center on the west side of the city, and started holding Bible studies. They quickly gathered up to 20 people every other week at their meetings and, funny enough, even though they invited the list of Hungarians from the national church, those never came.

As the group matured, the Buckleys started to sense that God wanted to do more through their little community. When they started having Sunday morning services, God began to open doors to many facets of ministry. Now known as Riverside Church Budapest (RCB), the church reaches out to a large local group home, ministers to homeless people living on the streets, and even has events for people who don’t normally go to church—such as movie nights and even American football viewing parties.

The church has not been without its challenges. At first, they had a hard time finding musicians who could sing and play, and they had to set up and tear down each week at the community center. Now they have full-time access to an office space and four worship teams full of people eager to worship God through song.

Today, just a few years later, up to 120 people gather at RCB. People from all denominations and walks of life come together to worship and do life together, including a large group of university students. Recently the church grew to include a second Sunday service, which is a big step for the Buckleys—who never thought they would start a church in the first place!