It’s been just over one week since two planes and long car ride brought me to Braila, Romania—my new home for the summer. Here’s a look of how God has been at work thus far.
After moving into the Home of Hope and getting my head around local transportation and grocery shopping in a foreign language (thank God for Google translate), I’m starting to feel settled in Brăila. With daily temperatures climbing to 36 degrees celsius, it’s taken some time to adjust to the amount of energy required for otherwise routine tasks. Waking up on Sunday morning (June 19) felt surreal and it was a joy to attend church and embrace many friends I have not seen since last summer—not to mention the 17 children with whom I shared a van ride to and from church!
On Sunday evening a number of small groups from the church travelled to the nearby village of Sutu for an outreach event in which a man named Fred* shared his testimony. Fred was previously involved in a gang in Braila, but his life was transformed when he encountered Jesus and the message of the gospel. While people gathered in a backyard to hear Fred’s story, others brought a van full of kids to a nearby park where local children to join in on our activities. Afterwards we invited these children to attend our upcoming summer camp.
Please pray that the church in Brăila would continue to boldly share the gospel with the people of this city and the surrounding regions, and that many children would attend our upcoming summer camps.
Evangelism and Discipleship
I knew that the the focus of my efforts here would be evangelism and discipleship, but last week I learned about new opportunities to work in these areas. For example, Pastor Mark* and the church in Braila have come alongside a local Pastor named John* and his small church of 17 people in the neighbouring village of Macin (“Muh-chin”). Pastor John has a sincere desire to see the gospel advance in Macin and is eager to have the people of his church trained and encouraged in evangelism. Lord willing, this summer I will have the opportunity to teach a short course on evangelism to people from both of these congregations.
Please pray that God would strengthen me in equipping these men and women to share the gospel, and that they would be filled with sincere love for their friends, neighbours, coworkers, classmates etc. and a desire to make Christ known.
Back in Braila, my hope is to spend the summer working closely with four of the current youth leaders: Oscar, Sam, Andrew, and Phil.* I’ve had the chance to build relationship with these young men over the past few years, and am excited to grow with them as we study Scripture, pray, and serve together. The goal of my time with these youth is to intentionally equip them to make disciples after I’ve left. That said, it’s one thing to learn about evangelism and discipleship, but it’s another thing to be sent out together to tell people about Jesus. Lord willing, I hope to take some of them to share the gospel in Macin and support Pastor John’s church.
Please pray that God would instil a passion to make disciples in each of these young men (Matthew 28:18–20).
I’m encouraged to see God already creating opportunities for this to take place. This week, Sam was eager to introduce to me to his close friend and classmate James. James identifies as an Orthodox Christian, but this is very much a cultural marker and not a claim of true faith in Christ. Together, Sam and I are praying for an opportunity to share the gospel with James and help him understand the difference between religion and relationship with Jesus. We also hope that he will join us at our youth camp later this summer.
Please pray that God would open a door for Sam and I to share the gospel with James (Colossians 4:3), and that James would respond with repentance and faith.
Shifting Spiritual Climate and the Youth Crisis
Reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones has allowed me to have a number of conversations about the shifting spiritual climate in Romania. Although nearly 82% of Romanians identify as Eastern Orthodox, this number continues to dwindle while an atheistic and post-modern attitude is growing among the nation’s youth and young adults. What’s more, there are incredible challenges facing the first generation to be born after the fall of the communist regime in 1989. By the time they are in high school, many youth are already struggling with insecurity, anxiety, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, etc. Moreover, job prospects are very scarce in Braila which contributes to the sense of despair that many youth feel. In this context, prostitution has become rampant in Braila and many young girls fall prey to false affection of local pimps before being forced into the sex trade throughout Europe. It’s estimated that the average Romanian woman will have 3-4 abortions in her lifetime—giving Romania the highest abortion rate in Europe.
The Glorious Hope of the Gospel
I am encouraged by the truth that amidst the darkness in Braila, there shines the glorious light of the gospel. Our resurrected King Jesus stands before a generation of young people who feel anxious, fearful, unloved, and trapped and says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In addition to meeting with the young men I mentioned above, I will also be leading larger youth meetings while we await the arrival of Vince* who will join staff at the church and serve as a Youth Pastor. Would you join me in praying for God to work mightily among the youth of this church?
Please pray that each and every one of these youth would hear the gospel and respond with faith to the hope and freedom that are found in Jesus. Also pray that God would grant Vince and I unity and common vision for the youth ministry in Braila.
Would God be so gracious to not only rescue this generation from brokenness all around them, but to raise up these very youth as passionate followers of Christ who impact the world by making disciples of all nations.
Yours in fulfilling the Great Commission,
*Names have been changed for privacy.