Thanks so much for your prayers and words of encouragement!
On Wednesday we sorted lots of supplies, handled some administration, and then visited the Children’s Hospital of Oradea. We specifically visited the ward reserved for abandoned or disabled children. It is always a heart-wrenching experience to be there. Yet, it is always heartening to remember that God is the “Father to the fatherless” and so we pray that according to His grace these children might have the opportunity to hear the gospel and experience the love of Christ.
Thursday was a full day of ministry in a gypsy village. We were able to support and minister through a thriving local church in this village. We were acquainted with this village through its pastor – a gypsy man named Pastor Godbrel. We met this man a couple of years ago in another gypsy village nearby called Tinca. He pastors churches in both villages. Our team (split into four groups) visited from house to house sharing the gospel and encouraging believers for about 3 hours. We then broke for some lunch and then began a two-hour children’s and ladies ministry. The ladies’ ministry was held across the street from the small village church in a home. Darlene reported that there were about 15 women there and that the ministry was both smooth and uplifting!
The kid’s ministry was quite crazy and at times described only by the word pandemonium! However, it was wonderful to see the gospel go forth numerous times through these two hours. One of the ways the gospel went forth was through the presentation and gift of a gospel bracelet to each child. The kids LOVE them! (Though this wasn’t supposed to happen, we saw one girl in the evening service who had at least six of these bracelets on her arm =) Pastor Bruce wonderfully walked the children through the meaning of the symbolic colors. The children were energetic and engaged as they repeated the colors out loud! We hope, trust, and pray that as the children wear them day after day they would be reminded of the Gospel.
Something special happened during the VBS that long-term friends of the foundation will love to hear and may even get teary-eyed over. Little Maria gave her testimony. With great enthusiasm and genuineness of heart, Maria stood before the gypsy children and shared how that she had placed her faith and trust in Christ alone a few months ago. She then urged the children there to understand that Christ loved them, died for them, offers forgiveness to them, and wants them to spend eternity with Him. Then she prayed…and I mean prayed. Her sincerity was palpable. And for Lewis and Mary and other long term members of the team, the magnitude of that moment was equally palpable. Just 9 short years ago, little Maria was born into a gypsy village just like this and was then abandoned. Her path from that point to this is nothing short of divine. This little gypsy beauty has been adopted twice and has become a witness to her kin. It’s a remarkable story and a glorious picture of the redeeming love of Christ!
After the children’s/ladies ministry, we gathered everyone in the church for an evening evangelistic service. It was packed wall to wall with people. There were over a hundred people from this small village packed into a room about the size of a large living room. It was cramped and chaotic. There was a bevy of distractions and yet for two hours the gospel went forth and it was glorious to be a part of. To hear the Romanian believers sing is exciting and to hear them spontaneously pray is both wonderful and convicting. One lady prayed until she wept.
Here is one interesting anecdote from the service: After I finished preaching to conclude the evening, the pastor got up and began talking to the people there. Later I was informed by the translators that he told the people there (as if for the first time) that in the mid-90’s he was a wanted man – wanted by the law for murder. He told them how that he had trusted Christ and that God had transformed His life. He wanted them to know that he was a noted sinner and was totally condemned but that Jesus had changed His life! What a testimony to the power of the gospel!
We left exhausted physically and yet uplifted in Spirit knowing that the village had been saturated with the gospel and that the local church had been edified and encouraged toward continued gospel advancement there!