These past few days have been completely full; full of opportunities to serve and to minister as a team, full of poverty and physical needs, full of illness and difficult lives, full of children and abandoned elderly to love, and full of ‘sheep without a shepherd-lost soul whose greatest need is Christ. What a humbling privilege it is to be used as instruments in the hand of our Savior to shine light into darkness and share the hope of the Gospel and the love of Christ with the hopeless and the unloved.
Tuesday and Wednesday were both village days; Tuesday we split into two teams and served in the villages of Tiganesti and Brusturi, and Wednesday our whole team spent the morning visiting the abandoned elderly at Dumbrava, Aripa and Tinca, and the afternoon and evening were spent in Tinca.
On Tuesday I was with some of the others in Tiganesti, and the Lord worked many wonders in this village! The church has 3-5 members attending on a regular basis, with a maximum of 7. Their pastor also pastors 4 other churches, so He is only here about once a month. In fact, he was not excited about us coming, thinking that none of the people of the village would come to our children’s Bible school, ladies’ meeting or church service. He didn’t plan to attend the service himself, thinking no one else would be there. Yet we saw the Lord open doors to share in many homes of those who need Him. He gave us numerous opportunities to share the Gospel. He allowed for us to hold Bible school in the school just as the children were being let out for the day, so every one of them stayed, were loved on by the team, had a wonderful time, and heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. He brought 27 ladies to the ladies meeting that afternoon (!!!!) and the church was full for the service that evening! Darlene, her life a beautiful picture of God’s grace, shared the story of His work in her life through her ALS with the women. Her testimony of complete peace and His power in her weakness brought tears to my eyes, and to the eyes of many of the village women as well. That evening, Pastor Dustin brought a powerful message from the Word. What a blessing to see our Father granting His creatures opportunities to hear the Gospel! The pastor and the 3 church members who came were amazed at what the Lord had done in their village that day.
Wednesday was perhaps the day that has most touched my heart. We visited the 3 homes for the abandoned elderly started by our dear brother, Viorel and his wife. They pour out their lives sacrificially every day to care for about 160 abandoned people in the name of Jesus Christ. As Papa Thomas said, there is absolutely nothing glamorous about their job. Nothing at all. They cook, comfort, feed, clean up after, dress and change diapers of men and women who are utterly helpless on their own. About once a week they bury another man or woman who has died in one of their homes. They deal with cancer patients, those who are mentally ill, paralytics and those with all manner of problems or illnesses. The conditions are far from ‘nice’, but Viorel and his wife say simply that they want to share everything the Lord has given them with others. He has blessed them, and now they seek to bless the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the dying.
After spending time in these homes, we went to the village of Tinca, a large gypsy village containing the poorest areas I have seen in Romania. Many people live in one-room huts made from the mud there in the village, with dirt floors and some with tarps for a roof. The children run around without shoes amidst trash, broken glass and mud. In the first home my team visited, there was a dead pig on the floor, waiting to become their dinner. On the couch (that also served as the only place to sleep for this couple and their 6 children), lay a dead chicken. I think when you see the physical needs of a people group like this, you become more aware of their spiritual needs, and how hopeless and pointless life is apart from Christ. I am so grateful for the family of brother Gabri, whom the Lord is using to shine the light of the Gospel into the darkness in the midst of filth and poverty. His testimony and the testimony of his family is truly amazing. He has been brought from darkness into light; changed from a murderer to a pastor; from being filled with hatred to being filled with love; from beating his wife to being a kind, gentle and loving husband and father. And now his life is being poured out as a sacrifice to his Father as he serves the people of poor gypsy villages, including Tinca.
In all of this, we see the hand of the Lord. We can see pictures of his amazing grace in the lives of the people He has created, as they are transformed by faith in Christ. It is such a joy to be (as a team) a tiny part of the work our Father is doing around His world.