CHISINAU, Moldova (BP)–Georgia Baptist volunteers could be on the field in Central Europe as early as May as the result of a new partnership with the Republic of Moldova.
The ministry, evangelism, and church planting venture was formalized on March 6 in this capital city. Moldova, a tiny nation sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, becomes the second simultaneous international partnership for Georgia.
Boe Stanley, first vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention and director of missions for Rehoboth Association, represented the GBC Executive Office at the signing. The three-year agreement yokes the state convention, the International Mission Board (IMB), and the Union of Christian Evangelical Baptist Church of Moldova (BCM) as equal partners in the venture. The agreement will extend through the end of 2004.
The signing brings the total number of partnerships to five — the largest number ever in the convention’s history, says John Haeger, consultant in Mission Volunteers Ministries. Existing partnerships include France, California, Utah/Idaho and Buffalo/Rochester, New York.
The primary need for volunteers will be for evangelistic outreach, though some construction will be needed on a limited basis. Haeger said requests for a variety of needs are being processed and should be available for volunteers within a couple of weeks.
“The immediate need in Moldova will not be for church construction, as has been the case in other partnerships and which Georgia Baptists do so well, but for evangelistic outreach. The most pressing need is for new believers, not for new buildings,” Haeger added. The ultimate goal of the three-way partnership, Haeger stressed, is to work alongside the IMB missionaries and the national believers and to assist them to reach their own people with the Gospel.
“Americans are wealthy by the world’s standards and are generous to a fault. Without grasping that from the outset, Georgia Baptist churches could easily foster a welfare mentality. We do not want to foster a welfare mentality where we end up doing more spiritual and economic harm than good.
“The greatest gift that we can give to Moldova is the ability to maintain a church planting movement without the assistance of Georgia Baptists. We need to help the Moldovans understand that God’s provisional address is not in Georgia, but is God himself — and that God’s provision will still be available to them even after the partnership ends.
Stanley, who served as a missionary in the Philippines for 20 years, echoed those sentiments. “The more we can do to make the work in Moldova become indigenous by empowering the local believers, the more valuable our contribution. We are not there to do the work of evangelism and ministry for the Moldovans but to partner with them, to work in their shadow as they seek to reach their countrymen for Christ.”
The partnership may be new to Georgia Baptists, but the convention will be sowing in a field that has already been plowed by others. Several churches in Georgia and other states have been ministering in Moldova for the past several years, and Moldovan Baptists just concluded a partnership with the Maryland-Delaware convention.
David Crutchfield, who serves as Strategy Coordinator for Moldova with the International Mission Board, sums up the strategy for the next three years: “The less material possessions you put into the work and the more you empower the nationals, the faster the work will grow. We are just catalysts helping the believers to reach their friends and neighbors.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HOPE FOR THE CHILDREN, MOLDOVAN VILLAGE and DISCUSSING STRATEGY.