In my last update, I mentioned that I was traveling to Romania, Moldova, and Serbia. Here is an update on the recent trip. Thanks for praying for me and for your support that makes these trips possible. I am only providing brief summaries here. If anybody wants the extended version, I will be happy to provide.
City of Brasov
We spent two days visiting with a church planter (Sorin Prodan). We were able to encourage him and hear more about his ministry. He has successfully planted a church of about 40 people in Brasov and looks to expand his work. I was able to preach there, and they said the word was exactly what they needed to hear that day.
City of Iasi (pronounced Yash)
The rest of our trip was spent here. We successfully started a TLI training center for pastors and church leaders who need theological education. This is a spiritually dark city and the need for the gospel here cannot be overstated. We worked with two pastors, Pastor Gabi of First Baptist Church and Pastor Ciprain of Second Baptist Church. We had a total of 26 students, and the number is to increase significantly. We learned that most people are skeptical of any new program that comes from America, since many have come and failed. They were waiting to see if this time it is worth anything. They loved what we taught (Hermeneutics) and want to be part of it.
In Iasi, God was at work in many ways through our being there. He opened our eyes to see the spiritual situation of the city and the condition of the church. The church in Iasi is struggling and therefore not really able to properly respond to the need for the gospel in the city. It became clear that the church first of all needs to take the Bible seriously before seeking to bring the gospel to the people of the city. As we taught how to interpret the Bible, a common theme in all the classes was that they did not know how important it is to put the Bible first in all matters of life. This is true of many in the churches that we got to know. TLI is committed to a three-year training of pastors and church leaders in Iasi. We pray that God will use this time to raise up leaders for the church who are God-fearing and Bible-focused in their approach to ministry. I am praying that God will provide someone who is willing to live in Iasi to help with the work there and also the mentor the young pastors.
I had many opportunities to listen and counsel with our pastor friends. They need help and say there is no one to help them. They are on their own, and have a longing for more workers to labor with them for the city of Iasi. I felt a strong burden for the city and even wept one night as we were talking about the need for the gospel there. It led me to strongly encourage our Romanian brothers on the team, who now live in America, to consider returning to Iasi to labor for the kingdom. They are open but there are challenges. Pray that God would help them make a decision.
Our next TLI trip to Iasi is in October, when we will be teaching Biblical Theology. We are praying that God will provide all that is needed for this trip to happen.
After Iasi, I traveled to the city of Chisinau in Moldova. Chisinau is about 160 km from Iasi. It was a good experience crossing the border. One pastor drove me that far, and I continued by public transport. My trip to Chisinau was to visit a small school called Moldova Bible Seminary. I learned a lot about the ministry needs of the school. If the Lord provides teachers, TLI will like to send them to help train the students there. As is Romania, the need for training is significant in Moldova. Most of the students that they train end up serving as missionaries in their home countries or other parts of the world. Moldova is well situated to reach most of Eastern Europe with the gospel, particularly former USSR countries. They only need to be equipped.
From Moldova, I flew to Belgrade via Vienna. I was picked up by Dr. Ondrej Franka, the president of the Serbian Union of Baptist Churches. We traveled from Belgrade to a small town near Novi Sad. I spent two days in his home learning about the ministry in Serbia. According to Dr. Franka, he is the head of a coalition of 75 Baptist churches in Serbia. Of the 75 churches, all but five are led by lay preachers. He sees this as a big weakness for the growth of the church in Serbia. In an attempt to provide trained leaders, Dr. Franka started a training program for pastors. The only problem is that the 20-25 students enrolled can only come together twice a month for a weekend each time. They have jobs and cannot afford to come for a weeks-long training program. Over the time I spent with Dr. Franka, we were able to talk together about his vision for training leaders for the church, some ways to organize the school, and how to find people called to ministry who can invest the time needed for training, etc. His appeal is that TLI will consider partnering with them to plant a well-structured theological school in Novi Sad to help train pastors for the churches of Serbia. Over the next months, I will be working to evaluate this request. I would love for us to do it and help provide future leaders for the Serbian churches. He also requested that we send someone to work with him short to long term to help him in planning for the school.
I returned very encouraged by what God is doing in these nations but at the same time, very burdened by what remains to be done.
You can pray that God will be pleased to provide laborers for the harvest in these countries.
- A qualified person with ministry experience to be willing to move to Iasi and live there. He will help with the work of training the pastors as well as mentoring young pastors.
- More students to come to our training in October. Pray that they will overcome the skepticism that they have for American ministries.
- Ongoing working relationship with Moldova Bible Seminary. That I will be wise in my counsel.
- Someone to be willing to move to Novi Sad, Serbia to help with the planting of a Bible school. For me as I evaluate their curriculum and make suggestions on how the school can be planted. Pray that God will move in the hearts of many Serbians to call them to theological education for the sake of the church in that country.