Roger Purdom writes of God at work in Romania; he chairs One Challenge's Board in UK.
I have had the privilege of seeing this in action yet again in the northwest of Romania. I am part of a small UK mission charity ‘Operation Romania Trust’ (ORT). We work with a team in Oradea who are seeking to reach families with the good news of the gospel through a practical demonstration of the love of God.
The OC Vision is Healthy Churches working together to reach all nations.
The OC Mission is To mobilise Godly and effective church leaders to reach all nations.
Let me share some stories of this mission in practice.
Triumph in adversity. I went to the only Christian University in Europe - Emanuel University in Oradea – for a very special graduation celebration. The highlight was the graduation of a student who has been sponsored through university by ORT. This is our first student but it won’t be the last. Crina graduated in Romanian and English languages and she is hoping to become a teacher. She had a sad childhood – her father died when she was 5 and her mother left home with another man, leaving Crina and 3 younger siblings – 2 brothers and a sister. They were taken into a Christian Children’s Home where they have been brought up ever since. What an excitement for the Houseparents (as we would call them). We pray that she will find the right job and be really successful but also be a great testimony to her faith and trust in God. I asked her if she would have been able to go through university without the sponsorship. “I don’t think so,” she told me – another testimony to the work entrusted to ORT. A young Christian student who will now have the opportunity, not only to teach, but to share her faith journey with many young people.
A faithful God. Come with me to the home where Dad, Mum and 2 girls live. This is a lovely Christian family. Dad was a Fire Fighter in the village but one day he didn’t turn up for work at 2.00pm and no-one could make contact. Mum was away from home at the time and couldn’t be contacted. At 6.00pm, after numerous attempts, one of the Fire Fighters from the station went round to the home to find Dad collapsed on the floor, having had a massive stroke. He had lost his speech, he was paralysed down one side and he couldn’t move. Thank God for those Fire Fighters who did everything needed to get Dad into hospital. He has made a remarkable recovery and the family give thanks to God. He can walk, although his right side is still affected. He is getting back the use of his right arm but he has no grip with his right hand. He has a wonderful smile on his face. We were able to read and pray with the family when the girls got home from school after their morning classes. Dad and Mum speak of the faithfulness of God.
Transformed accommodation. We went on to see another family – Mum and 2 children, Dad was at work. When we met them last year they were living in one small room with no natural light. Thanks to a generous gift from a Christian they have now moved into their new home on the other side of the road. It was rather derelict when we saw it but this time – what a transformation, both internally and externally. The interior has been decorated; the ceiling is no longer about to touch the floor and they have two good size rooms and a smaller room where they can cook. The garden along the side and at the back has been cultivated and there are signs of plenty of vegetables being produced in the near future. This family is a testimony to God’s goodness through a generous donor. The family are from the Orthodox Church but they have never experienced such love as this.
Tragedy – is there any hope? The next family was Dad and Mum and 5 children – living, cooking and sleeping in one room. Dad is trying to build another room at the back of this room but is hindered by lack of money and also a family bereavement when his mother died very suddenly having gone into hospital for a routine check-up. Dad was both sad and angry and spent most of our time together crying. I was able to pray with the family. Mum was worried that Dad was going back to his drinking. This was a home filled with anger, tears and fear. All we could do, at the time, was to pray with the family.
Desperation to hope. Our final family was a mum with 4 girls. Dad was in Germany working to get money to send back home but this wasn’t really working out, so he was going to come home. But Mum talked about his physical abuse in previous years. The oldest girl is 12 and the youngest is 2. Mum is only 28, so a very young mum. She goes to the Baptist Church in the village. Her sister died of cancer recently, not knowing she had the illness. This has caused the family a lot of grief. She talked about her relationship with God not being good at the moment but that she had read Psalm 34 and prayed with the girls that day. We prayed with her and then she prayed – there was hope as she prayed.
Mission to men. For the first time the team in Oradea had arranged a Men’s week-end for the fathers and grandfathers of the families being sponsored. There were 21 of them who came to the campsite set amongst the Apuseni Mountains which is part of the Carpathian Mountains.
Many of these men are Christians but when, through my translator, I sat with some of them and listened to their heartbreaking and challenging stories it made me realise again that none of us are immune from the roller coaster of life. It was an amazing couple of days. God was at work and many friendships were made; many tears were shed and much food was eaten.
Some of the men were in tears as they left and asked Nelu and Ani “When is the next one!”
Just as Jesus used many ways of reaching out to people He met, so I witnessed this same mission during my trip to Romania.
This is the mission that OC is involved with – reaching out to men and women with the good news of the gospel both in word and in deed and in action.
Leaders in Africa
Good leadership in churches and communities benefit their members. Here is an interesting article on how leaders are emerging in Angola, Central Africa Republic and Kenya with wide influence in society as well as churches.
A Rich Garden: Non-Clergy Leadership in Africa
Take a moment and think about the Christian leaders in your local community. Who are they? What is their background? How did they come to serve God in their area of influence? A quick inventory will probably reveal many different kinds of people serving as leaders. Around the world this is becoming more and more the case. Pastors and other ordained or full-time ministry staff play a key role, but many others are involved. The Africa Leadership Study (http://www.africaleadershipstudy.org) tried to understand a bit more about these non-clergy leaders within the African Church. Explore their findings.
One Challenge is sponsoring two Family Matters events on 7 May 2016 in Worthing and on 21 May 2016 in Littlehampton. Click on the town name to see a leaflet.
Being Light, Seeing Light
Richard Marshall recalls a memorable visit to Romania.
I was privileged to travel with seven others to Romania in December 2015 taking shoeboxes filled with presents to poor Roma* communities and to children in two orphanages.
Significantly, we partnered Christians in the local churches who have a ministry to these deprived and vulnerable people 24/7. Ours was just an eight-day period of hard yet rewarding work as we delivered food parcels and shoeboxes to very grateful recipients and prayed with folk in their one-room homes. The Romanian brothers and sisters that we met have a holistic love for these poor people in their midst. They share practical things such as wood to keep warm over winter but they also openly preach the Gospel and it was exciting to participate in church services in the deprived communities.
Light in the dark winter nights is even brighter. Back in the main town we joined a Christmas procession with lights from candles and torches shining the way as we sang carols and prayed over buildings of significance such as council offices and schools and, together with the mayor, asked for God’s blessing on those in authority in the town.
We also introduced and led a number of Christingle services in the Roma villages using the symbols of an orange (the world), a red ribbon (blood of Christ), sweets (fruit of the earth) and a candle (Christ the light of the world) to share the Gospel – the oranges and sweets were soon consumed!
Without street lights, distributing shoeboxes after dark walking on muddy paths was somewhat hazardous but worth it just to see the delight of the recipients once inside their homes, and back outside seeing the stars in the heavens - clearer than we have ever seen before.
‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out’ John 1:5. We were privileged in one Roma village, which members of the church had visited for years, to pray with people for the first time sharing the Good News of Jesus’ birth, singing carols and listening as a number of the Roma community sang back to us. Then, what excitement as two people came forward to commit their lives to Jesus. The light is now shining in their hearts.* Roma people are commonly called gypsies.
(Image by davosmith at openclipart.org)
Richard Marshall is a member of the board of OC International-UK, the charity with the working name One Challenge.