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Romanian Baptists energized, hopeful amid exhausting refugee aid efforts

Romanian Baptist and Brethren church volunteers deliver food and supplies to a drop-off site in Ukraine. The resources are taken to the site each time a van is filled up. The supplies are purchased with funds donated by U.S. churches.

Pastor Sabin Boruga deletes the photos as quickly as they pop into his WhatsApp group text. The images of horrific scenes discovered in Ukrainian towns devastated by the Russian invasion filter in the text stream alongside hope-filled, encouraging pictures of Romanian Baptists serving refugees along the border.

“My heart can’t handle the photos of the bodies so I delete them … and while I’m not one to cry easily, watching fathers having to leave their families at the border with the kids grasping to hold on to them gets me,” said Boruga, a Baptist church planter in Sighisoara, Romania.

Boruga shared his story with The Alabama Baptist and TAB Media Group on April 9 while in the Huntsville area visiting churches and ministry donors.

“Romanian Baptist churches were the first to take in refugees,” he said, noting pastors have been working nonstop since the war began in late February. Some are at the border providing food, clothing and other resources; others are managing the makeshift dormitories set up within church buildings.

Church leaders moved quickly to adapt ministries to care for the overwhelming immediate needs of the more than half a million Ukrainians flowing through Romania, Boruga said.

Pushing through exhaustion

“It is exhausting … but God is using us and we don’t want to complain,” he said. “Still, we are working to keep the pastors (and other church leaders) from burning out, asking them to take turns, to get sleep and to talk about what they are experiencing.”

Boruga travels the country encouraging those who are serving while also making connections between those gathering supplies and the workers serving on the frontlines. He said he personally spends time each morning in prayer and journaling his thoughts to maintain his own sanity. “I want to fix it all, and I can’t. We can’t help everyone, and it’s hard to have to pick who to help.”

Talking it out with his wife and other mentors helps him cope as well, he said, something he’s encouraging pastors across the nation to do for themselves while also learning how to help the Ukrainians verbally process their trauma.

“Our pastors are taking online courses in trauma counseling,” Boruga said, noting the growing need for trained counselors to help children and adults work through their pain. Counselors who speak Ukrainian are especially in demand, he said.

‘This is our time’

“God is using Romanians for such a time as this. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, but we also have to use our mouths to share the Gospel and make disciples,” he said. “God can use this time for many people to know Jesus Christ. … And Ukrainians are coming to Christ and being baptized.

“God brought missions to our doorsteps. … This is our time … and He gives hope in the dark times. … God is going to give us the wisdom for how to do it. We want to be found faithful.”

Boruga and his wife, Mirella, are native Romanians but spent four years in Crockett, Texas, in the early 2000s serving West Side Baptist Church while Sabin studied at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. They returned to Romania in 2009 and have been focused on making disciples, planting churches and training pastors since then. The Borugas have two children, Emily, 14, and Ioel (pronounced Joel), 10.

Boruga recently earned a Ph.D. in church revitalization from the University of Bucharest and serves as vice president of education for Sibiu (Romania) Baptist Association, which is in partnership with Alabama’s Madison Baptist Association.

Alabama connection

Ron Lynch, church and community ministry director for Madison Association, works with associational missions partnerships and has known Boruga since a team from the association first visited Romania nearly a decade ago.

“We have taken teams to do various projects and retreats for the pastors and churches of this central Romania area for the past eight to nine years,” Lynch said, noting the next team heading to Romania in late April will assist with the ministry to Ukrainian refugees.

Boruga described the current situation and ministry needs with photos, video clips and personal stories during the April 7 ministers conference at Madison Association. He also spoke to groups at Whitesburg Baptist Church and Oak Park Baptist Church, both in Huntsville, on April 10 and visited with several ministers and other leaders one-on-one during his stay.

Boruga shared these prayer requests:

  • For wisdom.
  • For God to help workers reach the refugees for Christ.
  • For opportunities to share the Gospel with the refugees.
  • To be a light in the darkness.
  • For the health of the pastors and volunteers.

To learn more about Boruga and his ministry, visit goronow.com.

    About the Author

  • Jennifer Davis Rash/The Alabama Baptist