The following are a few reflections from just one man, with a very limited view (just 11 days!), on the state of missions in Romania one week after returning home.
After having some time to reflect on my time in Romania a bit more I have found myself becoming more and more impressed with the missionaries I met there. During the first 11 days of May I preached once in a Romanian church then spoke to the American missionaries through the E. Free Church stationed in Romania a number of different times…re-telling the story of God’s astonishing faithfulness to us through a great trial.
A worship team from Johnston E. Free (in the greater Des Moines area) included a bass player (Scott), a vocalist (Kathy), and the worship director…whose name is also Scott, and his wife Ann. When they were not leading in worship (which they did with excellence) they tended to the children of the missionaries and did so with genuine joy and inspiration.
As I saw the activities and crafts they did with the children I found myself somewhat envious. The things they did were that creative and interesting! As a team we functioned great together. I, as the outsider, found myself quickly accepted by the team as an insider. They all have a good sense of humor.
I want to take a few minutes here at the tail end of things to highlight just a few of the impressive ways that I have witnessed the effects of the Gospel in Romania. Previously I had imagined that missions
to Romania was just that…preaching and living out the claims of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit among Romanians to the end that Romanians would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And it is that to be sure.
What I didn’t expect was to see the wide variety of means and methodologies that were being implemented. Below I will list a few people and their particular bents:
- Dave and Jen are working in Bucharest among Turks who have come into a relationship with Christ. Their passion is to reach Muslims in Turkey with the Good News of salvation through Christ alone. There are currently three known Turkish Muslims who have come to Christ in the city of Bucharest (whose population is 2.5 million people). Dave and Jen have made several trips to Istanbul and have been encouraged to send as many Romanians as they can their way as the cultures are very similar.
- Doug and Jen D. Doug is passionate about the discipling of Romanian men to become more like Jesus Christ. Through his careful and deliberate one on one discipleship efforts rooted solidly in the Bible and historical theology a few men have come to saving faith in Christ, and just as importantly, are growing in their faith. Doug’s wife Jen graciously and selflessly serves on the home front caring for their four young children, thus freeing up Doug to fulfill what God has called them to do. They live on the fourth floor of an apartment building with no elevator. In just one small example of inconvenience keep in mind that every drop of water that they consume must be carried up four flights of stairs. Jen’s ministry is every bit as important and powerful as Doug’s for it makes it possible for Doug to minister to men. Jen also has several women waiting in the wings who are desirous of this kind of mentoring.
- Rich and Martha M. are American missionaries who have faithfully served in the church in Craiova (three hours by car west of Bucharest) for fourteen years. Rich is the pastor of the church and possesses a tender shepherd’s heart. The issues they face are not unique to the Romanian church. They are universal problems created by fallen men and women…whose sin remains consistent….only with a different language. I had the privilege of eating supper at their home one evening and can honestly attest to this fact: Martha can be credited with an outstanding home-made pizza. It is the best pizza I had on the entire continent of Europe! After supper Rich pulled out his White Mountain ice-cream maker and we proceeded to make a batch of delicious vanilla ice cream, which is all the rage in this land where ice is frowned upon and difficult to come by. The vast potential for ice cream evangelism is vastly underappreciated.
- Ed and Connie S. Ed is a former Campus Crusade worker who now serves among some of the top musicians in Bucharest. His passion is to have an effective gospel outreach to ethnic Romanian musicians. He has lofty ambitions to work with and produce some of the top musicians in Romania within the next five years. Ed wants to make a difference for Christ with music. He is also an interesting fellow who found himself just as impressed by my physical/muscular recovery in the past 14 months after being nearly 50 pounds lighter just 0ver a year ago, as he did by my testimony of God’s faithfulness through it all. It felt kind of nice to have someone recognize and appreciate the long hard hours I have spent in the pursuit of gaining back my former self…physically, and encouraged me to use my story as a living testimony among those at the gym. He too, cares about keeping his earthly temple in good physical shape. Ed is coming back to Minneapolis, Minnesota for home assignment this late spring/summer. He said he might stop by Des Moines to work out with me. The door is open Ed!
- Bill and Jane P. are both teachers at Bucharest Christian Academy. Bill teaches Bible and theology to secondary students and Jane teaches general subjects. The academy is committed to academic excellence. This is an important ministry to the parents of missionaries and their children.
- Tom C. is working on overseeing the translation of the entire Truth Project by Focus on the Family into Romanian (subtitled). He is in the Des Moines area right now seeking to raise up $50,000 to see this dream realized. He has already formalized permission and copyrights from Focus. If you are interested in supporting Tom in this effort you can contact me and I will put you into contact with Tom.
As you can see my time in Romania was an eye opening one in many ways. There are plenty of other people whom I could mention but I shall have to let it rest with this small sampling of those whose ministries are outside the box.
The country of Romania fancies itself as the gateway to the East. It is a transition country from Western Europe to Asia. Hungary and Serbia are to the west, Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, and the Black Sea to the east. Nearly 22 million people live in Romania. The average income in U.S. dollars is $3,830. The life expectancy of a male is 67 years…a full 9 years less than it is in the U.S.
With state sponsored Romanian Orthodox churches in nearly every neighborhood of Romania, and with the priests on the government dole, you can probably imagine the corruption and mistrust this must breed.
In the southern region of Romania known as Ultania (where I spent some time) there is an oppression…a spiritual darkness that exerts its influence into every facet of society…the local government (When I was there the mayor of Craiova was in prison for corruption related to bribery…but even that was only because someone else even more corrupt and influential than him, wanted to see him go down), the church, and the general way that people treat one another.
I could go on and give more of my view from the proverbial peanut gallery but I shall be content to let it rest for now. My eyes have been opened and my heart has been expanded.
From Earlham, Iowa with a new love and appreciation for Romania, her people, and the innovative missionaries who faithfully serve there,