February 2019
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More often than not, I show up at church and I hear two questions from the pastor. 1) Do you have a song? 2) Do you have a “short message?” This week was special. The pastor called me early in the week and so I had advanced notice that I would be preaching. It was Palm Sunday and the Lord put a message on my heart with different attitudes of the crowd that day.

Some gave all, throwing down their coats. Some gave what was convenient, throwing down branches. Some were indignant, some were curious and some knew the truth.

I felt God leading me to give an altar call at the end of the message and we had SIX people come forward. Five committed their lives to Christ for the first time. One made a recommitment. It was a joyous day. Now it is up to the church to disciple them in their new found faith.

Ranger Training Update

After much prayer, our leadership team felt that we need to postpone launching Rangers in Moldova. We have lots of interest but we felt God’s will for us is to wait.

Soon Andy and Nancy will return home for a year of support raising. We too will be leaving this summer. This would leave no-one in country to coach pastors and children’s leaders in the Ranger program.

Rangers will come to Moldova, in God’s timing. In the meantime, we continue to work on translating Rangers into Romanian. We have made great progress in this area. We are still waiting for the rights to duplicate from Royal Rangers International and then we will be ready to begin this long process. Once complete, not only will the entire country of Moldova be able to participate in Rangers, but so will Romania!

Where have you been?

If you were to ask me where I’ve spent the bulk of my time lately, it would be making preparations for upcoming teams. We’ve made many trips to Leova in preparation for the first team, surveying the entire city.

We met with the mayor, the school administrators, and the orphanage director to see how the church can assist them. We’ve tried area restaurants and searched apartments and hotels for the team. We’ve spent time with the church in Leova, encouraging them in their faith.

The prep work has been done and soon the team will arrive and the “fun” will begin. Pray for us as we continue to minister to the people of Leova.

Roadblock or cows in the road?

Sometimes I struggle with telling the difference between a road block and cows in the road. When a road is blocked, you have to find a different direction. When cows are in the road, you wait and they eventually move. God can speak to us through road blocks and cows in the road.

When Donna and I were newly married we took a ministry position at a church when we did not have a yes or a no from God. It was a short stay. Looking back, there were many “cows in the road”, God’s way of telling us to wait. Instead, we pushed past the cows and kept waiting for a big sign. We learned our lesson to listen to the gentle “no’s” that God sends our way.

This weekend we were supposed to launch our Royal Ranger training. We have faced some issues leading up to the event. A month before the event I wrote a promo letter that was to go to every pastor in Moldova. I sent it to the translator who was to send it on to be mailed. I found out that the letter did not go out, which means nobody actually knew about the training. No big deal, we can call pastors and inform them personally.

A few days later, the original trainer was having some issues and canceled a week before the event. No big deal, we found another qualified trainer and all was well.

But, the new trainer has different facility needs which require a change of location to a church that has a yard where we can make fires. No problem, it just means informing everybody of the change.

Two days before the training, Mark Broberg, director of Royal Rangers in Eurasia called and said “with all of the issues, maybe we should cancel.” But, I plowed forward anyway.

The next day our translator and I called many pastors, and by the end of the day we had 11 pastors committed to attending, plus many other people from their churches! Finally some good news! Could the cows be making a path for us?

Late last night I received a skype call from Russia. The new trainer has a problem with his passport and can’t come. So, today we called everybody back to postpone the training.

I believe in Royal Rangers. I was discipled in this program and I know it can make a HUGE impact on the kids and youth of this country. Am I pushing through the cows when I should be waiting patiently?

Please pray as we consider options for rescheduling this training. Pray that God will guide and direct us to the date/location that fits into His perfect will.

Starting a church backwards…

Usually in Moldova, a church plans to start another church. They choose a nearby city where there is no evangelical presence, they strategize, hold outreaches, and eventually build a church.

In one Moldovan village it was different. Pastor Anatol was driving back to Balti from Chisinau when he felt prompted by the Lord to pick up a hitchhiker. This man turned out to be the superintendent of schools in a nearby village. During the ride, Anatol shared his faith with the man. He also shared about Operation Christmas Child and how they partner with schools to give presents to children. The man asked if the church could provide any help to the school. Unfortunately, they had run out of presents.

But, not long after, a school canceled and Anatol and “Light of the world” church was able to provide gifts to the school. During this event, the director was so overwhelmed with the generosity of God’s people that he chose to accept Christ. He asked the pastor if he would come and do an evangelistic outreach in the village. The director gathered 100 friends and associates together for the event, and 10 of them received Christ!

At the event, the school director gave the church a building in which to meet. None of this was man’s plan, but God wanted a church in that small village.

God is moving in this village. We met with Anatol today and he told us this amazing story. Our plan is to find a church in America that will commit to help this village to plant a church. To pray for them, send teams to minister to the community, and to help financially.

Today’s meeting was not my idea. Missionary Andy Raatz allowed me to tag along. It is so exciting for me to see the bigger picture of missions as I meet leaders in this country and hear how God is moving!

“Tradition”

This week Donna’s school had a special treat. They were studying Eastern European history and watched “Fiddler on the Roof.” This was instead of me teaching them Bible and Music. As I prepared the movie for the kids, I listened to the first song from the musical, which is all about “tradition.”

In some Moldovan churches the women wear scarves on their heads. In our church, there is a man who stands up front during the worship and prays between each song. Although the worship team is all women, he is the “worship leader.” This is a “tradition” that does not allow women to be in leadership.

Last week I had the privilege to attend my second Pastor’s conference here in Moldova. It was different from last year because I knew a lot more of the pastors. I enjoyed fellowshipping with them.

During the conference, we brought in an expert trainer in Royal Rangers (a children and youth dischipleship program.) We want to bring this program to Moldova and we know this is a process. Step 1 was last summer when we had our first weekend training event. Step 2 was to bring in a trainer from a church that is currently doing the program well. Step 3 will come next month as we have a large training event for interested pastors.

The trainer (his name is Ruslan) had a half hour to explain the program to an audience of several hundred pastors. Those who are interested were to sign up to attend the training next month.

Ruslan started out fine with a nice powerpoint presentation, but a few minutes into the presentation he played a video. The video showed kids worshipping God through dance. You could hear a small gasp in the auditorium. Most Moldovan churches do not agree with dancing. When they saw dancing they immediately stopped listening.

We felt a sense of defeat as after day 1, no-one signed up for the training. But, the next day, Andy Raatz, full-time missionary to Moldova had a chance to preach. He shared a great message about how we need to look past our traditions to see what God is doing right now. He referenced the dancing in the video and it turned out to be a “God moment” where Andy helped pastors to think past their traditions.

By the end of the week, we had 12 churches sign up for more information about the training. We’re on our way!

Circuit Rider

Yesterday was communion Sunday in our church. After church the pastor invited me to help him at the other churches he has planted. Off we went with several deacons to the church in Brinesti for a 2:00 service. I preached, led music and helped with communion. God blessed the message and we encouraged the body of Christ.

Next came a 4:00 service at Orhei. I love this little church. They are so friendly to us and they do their best to minister to their community. They truly know what it means to be the body of Christ. God put a different message on my heart for this congregation (This was a great surprise to my translator). It was a message of peace and comfort.

After the service, this woman was crying harder than I have ever heard. I asked why and found she had just been informed that her son had died. He was 22 years old. I don’t know specifics but the death was unexpected. He was healthy but had some type of accident in a tai kwan do tournament that day. The body of Christ moved into action surrounding this woman with love. Mourning with her and loving her. Only God can fill the hole her son leaves behind.

On the way to the fourth church, there were policemen on the highway and so we slowed down. Out of the side window I saw a man lying in the road, followed by a buy parked about 20 feet in front of him. The man was dead and the police were directing traffic around him. I prayed for his family and hoped he knew Christ. The statistics would say that he wasn’t part of the 1% of Moldova that know Him.

After a few minutes we arrived at the church Riscova. Service began at 7:00. We walked through a muddy field to reach the church. There were three parishioners present. No heat. One dim light hung overhead. This church reminded me that it can be hard to be a Christian in Moldova. They walked through mud to sit on a cold, shaky wooden bench, shivering as they listened to my message.

I wonder if this is how the circuit riders felt. Traveling from church to church on their horses, encouraging God’s people. I love the church in Moldova. Especially the passionate believers who give up the comforts of home to fellowship together.

Happy New Year!

Greetings from Moldova! After a few slow weeks during Christmas and New years, we continue to do all that we can to make a difference for the people of Moldova. Donna’s school (Chisinau Academy) is back in session, freeing up three missionary families to minister to trafficked women, university students, and to learn the language. Wesley has been working hard meeting with area churches to introduce Royal Rangers, a children’s discipleship program.

It’s hard to believe that we’re already over two weeks into the new year! In Moldova, New Years is January 14th, so here the new year is only a few days old! The new year is a good time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. 2010 was a very productive year for us. Here are some of the highlights:

In January we had the opportunity to distribute Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. This opened up the opportunity for me to begin weekly ministry in the public schools.

In February, Donna and I coordinated the first annual Kid’s Convention. God moved in the lives of the children who attended as we challenged them to make their faith their own.

In March, Donna coordinated a retreat for Junior High girls. It was attended by Americans, Moldovans, and girls from other countries! They used hand-painted teacups as an illustration of how God made each girl special and for a specific purpose.

In April, we did several large children’s outreaches in the village of Cornesti. We ministered to over 200 children in that community. We were also able to encourage the pastor and children’s workers in the church.

In May, we held children’s outreaches in Nisporeni and Bubuieci. We had a team from Polson Montana and together we helped with church construction, school outreaches, and ministered to the women at the Freedom Home.

Over the summer we returned to America to share our heart for Moldova and to attend missionary training school in Springfield, MO. We shared at churches in Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, North Carolina and Montana over the next three months.

In August, we returned to Moldova and began to set up a new school, Chisinau Academy. Donna’s work expanded to include seven missionary students from three different organizations.

In September, a team from Maranatha Church in Forest Lake, MN came to Moldova. Together we worked on the Teen Challenge Center in north Moldova. We also spent several afternoons doing children’s outreaches at two villages.

In October, we met with children’s leaders from Orhei, encouraging them in their work and providing them with new ideas for their after school programs. We hope to bring Royal Rangers to their church next Spring.

In November, we met with the regional Royal Rangers director, to strategize how to bring Rangers to Moldova.

December was busy as we finished preparations for a Christmas program with children from the International Christian Fellowship. We performed “Christmas in Egypt.” This provided English speaking children with an opportunity to minister, even while they live in a foreign country. We must remember missionary children are missionaries too!

It was a productive year and we look forward to another year of fruitful ministry in Moldova! We already have four teams scheduled for 2011. We are working hard to equip and encourage a church plant in the city of Leova. We plan to launch Royal Rangers in four churches this Spring, and offer leadership training for them in March and August.

Thank you so much for your part in helping us to spread the Gospel in Moldova. Your prayers and financial support enable us to reach the children of Moldova for Him. He has a plan for you too! I want to challenge you to ask God how missions fits into His plan for your life. Perhaps He will call you to spend more time in prayer or send you on a short term missions trip. Maybe He will call you to give. Some may feel God’s call to serve Him full-time in another country! Whatever He calls you to do in 2011, let’s do it with the passion of Colossians 3:23-24.

Humbling…

Today was a long but productive day. I preached at two churches and presided over two communion services. I enjoy preaching in this country, but I was most excited to be preaching again in Orhei. I very much enjoy time spent in the villages.

I had a car for my preaching travels today. A Speed the light vehicle. (Thanks Andy and Nancy for the use of it.) Even with the car, I wanted to leave for church early and be there in time for morning prayer.

We arrived at church around 9 a.m. in plenty of time for prayer. When I got there, one of the deacons was asking the others if they knew enough English to tell me what they were about to do. I responded in Romanian that I knew what they were about to do. (I assumed he was talking about prayer time.) Off to the back room went myself and three other men.

What I saw when I entered the room was not what I expected. In the room was a bucket of water, two basins and two chairs. It didn’t take me long to realize that we were not in the room to pray for each other, but to wash each other’s feet. I was quickly escorted to a chair by the worship leader. I took off my shoes and socks and got the best foot-washing I’ve ever received. I’ve only had my feet washed one other time and it was more “ceremonious.” Just a quick wipe of the cloth and that was that. This was the real deal, including between the toes.

If you know me well, you know I strongly dislike feet. Donna knows it is a HUGE gift for me to give her a foot rub. But there was something special about this moment as I had my feet washed and washed someone else’s.

It was humbling. It made me think about what it must have been like for Jesus to wash his disciples feet.

In John 13:14-17 Jesus instructs them, 14 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

I wonder what is was like for the disciples to receive this treatment. Were they as shocked as I was? What was going through their minds as the great teacher did the job of the servant? If they felt any of the emotions that I did, I would imagine it was an experience that they will never forget, much like mine.

A Quiet Night

A picture from outside of Freedom Home

Donna had a rare Friday off of school and we had big plans to spend the day preparing for houseguests. Our missionary friends from Ukraine were coming for a few days to fellowship and take care of visa stuff. After sleeping in a little, I checked my email to find that our guests were not coming. They were having problems at the border and decided to return home. So, instead of preparing the house, we went to town to buy fabric for Christmas play costumes. We also wasted some time at a few other shops (the 15 lei store is a favorite fo ours.) We arrived back at our apartment around 5:00, looking forward to a quiet evening alone together.

About ten minutes later a knock came to the door. It was one of the Freedom Home interns. There is a girl in Freedom Home who was being moved out of the home because she has become too violent for the staff to handle. It’s always a difficult decision when someone has to leave the home, but we are learning that we cannot help everyone.
Anyway, this girl was not leaving quietly. In fact she had the entire neighborhood in an uproar. Some of our missionaries and the Director ended up at the police station explaining what was going on. To keep the girls safe, they were moved to our apartment.

We cooked dinner with them and spent the evening talking. We did our best to calm their fears, prayed with them and then we all went to sleep. The next morning we were able to take them home.

Pray for the Freedom Home girls when you read this. They have had a rough weekend and need the peace of God to be on their home and in their lives. They have many fears. The good news is we serve a God who can calm them.