News Articles

Encounters in Romanian cities yield lessons on making disciples

BACAU, Romania (BP)–Tom Smith knew what his purpose was for going to Romania. “My job was to go and partner with the Romanian ministers for two weeks so that the work can continue once we are gone,” he said.

“I wasn’t there to tell them how to do ministry, but to work hand-in-hand with them and encourage them,” said the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary master of divinity student. Working with a team of missionaries and local church laymen affiliated with Romanian American Mission from Frankfort, Ky., Smith saw his major responsibility as discipling those with whom he was working, including 20-year-old Ovideo (Ovi) Huluba, his translator.

Smith tells of one incident that showed his efforts paid off. While shopping for souvenirs with Huluba and his fellow seminary student, Chris Latting from Greenwell Springs, La., the threesome saw two homeless street boys rummaging through a trash can. Concerned about the 90-plus degree temperatures, Smith offered the young boys his bottled water.

Latting recalled seeing the boys, who appeared to be 6 or 7 years old, the day before from his hotel room’s fifth-story balcony. “I heard some people yelling at them to scram, or whatever word they use in Romanian,” he said. Now they were right in front of them. “These little guys were a sight. They had dirty clothes and dirty faces and big brown eyes.”

He and Smith decided to give each boy their power bands (bracelets which used colored beads to symbolize the plan for salvation). “When we kneeled down and took them off of our arms and tied them onto theirs, I thought about what Peter and John did in the temple courts,” he said.

“They had no money but they did have the presence of God.”

Even so, they felt helpless about communicating the bands’ message to the children in their own language. Taking his cue, translator Huluba, from Bacau’s Biserica Crestina Baptista, kneeled down to the same level of the children, explaining what each color in the bracelet represented.

“I marveled at how well Ovi was working with the boys,” Smith said. “He shared with those two little guys that God really loved them,” Latting added.

In response, one of the street boys asked, “How can Jesus love me?” He overemphasized the word “me,” his body plainly indicating his disbelief.

Eager with questions, his companion pulled out pictures of Jesus, popular Eastern Orthodox icons, from his pocket. Using the pictures, Huluba explained that even though the crown of thorns was meant to mock or make fun of Jesus, he meekly took the insults and the pain.

“I couldn’t understand all that Ovi was sharing but I know that it was touching their hearts. I was watching their eyes,” Latting said. “Their eyes were telling me that what they were hearing was good news to them.”

When Huluba told the street boys that God wanted them to live with him, their eyes grew wide and they asked, “How can we live with God when he lives in heaven and we are down here?”

After Huluba explained to them how this could be possible, he told them that they didn’t have to be alone on the streets, that they could ask Jesus to be with them and they could ask Jesus for food and protection. “As I watched Ovi share Jesus’ love, I was so grateful for how confident he had grown since we first met him the week before,” Smith shared.

He was also touched by the way the boys responded. After Latting threw one of the boys his Louisiana State University ball cap, he walked away “singing so loud and so out of key. Yet, it was the most precious sound to me and Chris,” he said.

Helping people help other people make disciples is the greatest feeling in the world. “I may have been there for only two weeks, but I feel like I made a difference for those who are still there in Romania doing the work of the Lord.”

Meanwhile, when Ashley Bell, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary master of divinity in psychology and counseling student, traveled to Romania, she knew she would be working with youth and children, but what she did not know was that her life and the life of her Romanian translator would be forever changed on a rainy afternoon.

Even as the afternoon’s activities with the children were going well in Iasi, storm clouds brewed above, bringing along with it a gusty wind that was blowing away the children’s paperwork and the field’s loose sand. When the children began running home to take cover, it became obvious to the Romanian American Mission team comprised of Romanian volunteers from Biserica Crestina Baptista Nr. 1 and Americans, that it was time to move along themselves.

While taking cover in an apartment where they had met for lunch, fellow seminary student Shannon Baker began sharing her testimony to the Romanian youth group with the help of Bell’s translator, Andreea Macoveschi. After Baker finished, Bell asked Macoveschi to share her testimony.

Meekly, Macoveschi declined the invitation and left the room. Following her, Bell asked about her relationship with Christ. Macoveschi, 13 years old and having been raised in the Iasi church, realized she had never accepted Jesus into her heart.

However, as the tears streamed down her face, she did that day.

“Things were never the same after she asked Jesus into her heart,” Bell recounted. “Andreea suddenly became this bold leader, willing to share her faith with anyone who would listen.”

In fact, the next day, Macoveschi shared her testimony with a group of 20 children from the village of Dancu. One young teenager, Romana, approached Macoveschi and asked her how she could know Jesus too. Macoveschi led her in the same prayer that she had prayed to receive Christ. Romana was then given the opportunity to help coordinate the rest of the children’s activities with Macoveschi and Bell.

As the mission team moved into a new village, Tirgu Frumos, Macoveschi continued her newfound boldness in helping lead 82 children in Bible school activities. On the last day, she and Bell led a group of children in a biblical “Follow the Leader,” walking around the village and pointing to normal, everyday scenes that inspired biblical discussions.

“When we saw a gift store, we shared about the free gift of salvation,” Bell said. Similarly, they shared about the meetings in the temple courts while sitting on the steps of the Dancu cultural center and, picking up stones from the dusty sidewalks, about the sinful woman whom Jesus protected by his exhortation for those who are sinless to cast the first stone.

“Andreea had heard these stories for most of her life, but as she shared the stories, you could tell that they had more meaning to her,” Bell shared.

“To our amazement, we had 12 people in our little ‘Follow the Leader’ group,” she added. “We excitedly shared about the 12 disciples and how God used them to witness of his love and his saving power, to their communities and to the world.

“When I think of Andreea, I am amazed at what God can do in a person to make them a bold witness for his name’s sake,” Bell reflected. “She may be starting right there in Iasi [and its neighboring villages], but the whole world is before her now. I am so grateful that I could share in this most important decision in her life.”

Meanwhile in Comanesti, Romania, 11-year-old Albert, who was dying from leukemia, shared, “I want to be a missionary.”

“Albert, you are already a missionary,” said Jerry Guthrie, a New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary masters of divinity student, reminding him of his faithfulness in providing translation to the Romanian people who listened to Guthrie as he preached and provided pastoral leadership.

“Everywhere I stepped, he stepped there beside me,” recounted Guthrie, working with the Romanian American Mission team. Though having been diagnosed only six months ago, Romanian doctors have done all they can to battle his cancer.

“My prayer is that Albert will be healed of his disease and have a long life,” Guthrie said.

In addition to helping with translation, Albert took with him multitudes of commitment cards, yellow cards that are normally filled out when someone makes a decision in faith (to become a Christian, to rededicate one’s life or to ask for more information).

“Every day, Albert would bring me back scores of cards already filled out” — the results of his own personal witnessing, Guthrie said.

Albert’s faithfulness was just one example of God’s faithfulness in leading the Romanian American Mission volunteers during their June 29-July 13 mission in Romania.

In the Romanian cities of Bacau, Comanesti and Iasi (and their neighboring villages), mission activities included Bible school for youth and children, preaching in Romanian churches and in open-air evangelistic meetings, home visitation and street witnessing. RAM volunteers also ministered to waiting patients at medical clinics where RAM medical teams offered free medical advice and supplies to nearly 1,750 patients.

As a result of all these efforts, an estimated 700 professions of faith were recorded and more than 2,800 Bibles and tracts were distributed, helping to set the stage for future Romanians to go into the world and make disciples.

Information on serving with Romanian American Mission can be obtained by contacting Wayne Ball at 1401 Cassandra Place, Brandon, MS 39042 or (601) 825-8977.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: BIBLE SCHOOL ACTIVITIES, SISTERS IN CHRIST and MISSIONARY.

    About the Author

  • Staff