The whole family was with me on this trip, Pam, Benjamin(21), Bryan (19), and Laura (16). Pam’s parents, Ed and Doris Knight had graciously planned a ministry trip to Greece for the extended family, helping with most of the funds for that, so it seemed right to add an intended Romania/Moldova trip at the same time, rather than in the fall. I was anxious to see friends and fellow believers there in Romania once again following my trip in November of last year, and very happy that Pam’s parents were willing, in their 80s, to plan such a venture in Greece.
Sorin Prodan, the HeartCry Missions director for Eastern Europe picked us up in Bucherest in his red van. It was hot and the van is not equipped with air-conditioning. We renewed our friendship while sweating profusely. After visiting the second largest building in the world, Ceaucescu’s mansion (second to the Pentagon in size), we made our way to Rimcu-Sarat to see Cosmin and Christine (now expecting #1) and to preach to their small church. This church members would be indicative of many such believers who would listen to our messages over the next ten days. Bryan and I both preached in this first meeting, and Benjamin, Bryan and Laura sang. A dance band played outside our window until 11:45 p.m. that first night, and the shower had only cold water that night, but we were sound asleep for our first night in Romania.
After Rimcu-Sarat, we were off to Moldova. We crossed the border at Chula, the city where we were to be for three days of ministry. What a joy to stay with Anatol in their Communist-vintage apartment building. These apartment buildings we stayed in were poorly built, which all admit. But there is nothing much else to choose from, and singe-dwelling homes are expensive and not available. Communism did not promote excellence in archetecture or art, but his wife had fixed her home up very comfortably and we were so happy to be there. She was so kind to cook great meals. We preached for the church meeting in the high school, and for another church in another nearby city. Again, Bryan and I both preached and all sang. Even the family as a whole sang together, including me and Pam.
From Moldova we traveled back through the eastern side of Romania, preaching in various locations. In one place we even helped pour concrete for a small, new mission church. The memories all rush back when I think of those wonderful people. On three occasions, including once in Moldova, we gathered with the HeartCry missions area teams. This usually consists of about eight or ten workers, doing various ministries, who exist for the ultimate goal of seeing churches planted in and around the city in which they are located. They work hard and faithfully, and live frugally for the sake of the gospel. I love the concept and believe God is blessing this work immensely. I’m extremely thankful for Paul Washer and his team of zealous workers in various places of the world, and I’m thrilled o be a part of helping these humble and eager workers. If all goes well, I’ll have a similar opportunity in India with them next year.
We flew to Athens and up to Alexandroupoli to stay at Karis Camp under the supervision of the one solid evangelical church there and Panos, their pastor. They showed us such hospitality as we worked at the campgrounds. We painted and pulled out seaweed from the Aegean, and cleaned and cooked. We also preached for this church of about 60 or so, located in a city of 80,000. There are perhaps a total of 80 believers in this whole city! While there we visited the ruins of Philippi, and stood where Paul was brought before the magistrates (really generals) of this military city. Since Benjamin had spent semester studying the book of Philippians, and had memorized it in Greek, we were especially interested in this experience.
From here we took the train to Katrini and enjoyed the hospitality of Harry and Joan and Ignatius, Christian laborers in this thriving city. Harry and Joan run the Benjamin orphan ministry, helping orphans who live in homes of relatives to have a normal life and to be exposed to Christ. Ignatius heads a ministry that connects American business people with Grecian business people as a way of building friendship for the gospel. We visited the amazing tomb of Phillip I and Berea, the city that eagerly listened to Paul after he was ousted from Thessalonica, and we stayed in a hotel with air-conditioning, something we had not enjoyed for a couple of weeks.
We then took the train again to Athens to stay with the AMG International Ministry’s sports camp, Cosmovision Center. AMG was founded by Spiros Zodiates and has had a presence in Greece, his native country, for 65 years. It is perhaps the most established ministry in the country. Here we worked in practical ways to prepare the camp for the teenagers who eventually came from Bulgaria, Serbia, and Slovakia. During this trip, Fotas (Director of the AMG Ministries) Mary (his wife—a superb cook, btw), and George (director of the camp, brother of Fotas), showed us such love and care. They planned for us a few days of ministry in refugee feeding centers in Athens, as well as preaching and singing in their church. There are 11.5 million people in Greece, but 5 million of them live in Athens. And, amazingly, one million of these are refugees. So, feeding and helping refugees is a huge Christian enterprise. We helped with two of these centers. One of them is run by a brother who is sent out by Tom Ascol’s church. Tom had asked me to look Vince up, so I was thrilled this worked out. In that center, Bryan preached boldly on the difference between Muslims and Christians, since many were from Muslim countries. These are often educated people who have left countries like Afganistan because of pressures.
We also visited Corinth and, of course, the Acropolis and ruins of Athens. We were particularly excited to see the stone in Corinth where these words appeared: “Erastus, the city administrator, built this road at his own expense.” This was likely the city treasurer Paul spoke of in his letters. Our guide, James, was a master of both biblical and acheological data.
This trip provided a unique opportunity to minister together with my whole family. They really applied themselves to the work of meeting people and engaging young people and adults in discussions about the Bible. They spoke and sang and loved people. We learned many things from these believers about how to minister in their context and are hopeful that we added something by way of encouragement, and truth, and usable concepts to aid them in their work. Out of this may come various additional ministry opportunities, such as publishing of our books and further conferences.
May God bring many to Himself in Moldova, Romania and Greece.