We appreciate your interest & encouragement in our ongoing work with Christian leaders & churches in Romania. The recent trip in October 2012 was blessed of God & truly rewarding. We were disappointed in the Canadian Embassy’s denial of a visa to Alexandra Racheru, our International Ministry Intern. This happened during the final days of our trip, & required extending our time & travel plans at significant additional cost to try & seek clarification from the Embassy in Bucharest. We were not given an opportunity to speak to any official nor any satisfactory explanation, & sadly returned Alexandra to Onesti. To a certain extent our frustration has dissipated but our resolve remains strong. The highlights of all that went before are not to be overlooked & are noted below. Romania Mission Trip #5 was intentionally designed to be different from the previous four. Our desire was to cultivate new relationships & identify additional opportunities for partnership. We rented a car and travelled around the country! It was a productive journey! We called this our “Facebook Mission Trip” as most of the contacts & destinations were made/arranged through Doug’s ever-growing social media ministry. With over 1500 Romanian Facebook friends, there were more than enough invitations & opportunities to keep us busy!
- Our adventure began in Timisoara, the birthplace of the December 1989 Revolution. Our host Sava Tomin guided us through the Reformed Church where it all began, where Pastor László Tőkés lived & ministered. It was a very emotional experience to be standing at the rallying point that spelled the end of communism & Dictator Ceauşescu.
- Pastors Sava & Wendy Tomin became good friends quickly. If only we could have half their energy to serve Christ! What a welcome we received! Together they lead a dynamic new Christian community. The emphasis is on building relationships for discipleship/mentorship, & not so much on programs. We see it’s working well. Check out their Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kairos-Timisoara/294120700664
- Pastor Catalin Covaci, who on Easter 2012 began an International English-speaking church in Timisoara, International Grace Community, hosted us along with extended family, for a traditional Romanian outdoor B-B-Q at his home. We met with numerous people involved in a variety of ministries: an American doing refugee education & encouragement, a Romanian couple running Christian Kindergartens, & an American couple involved with “Precept Upon Precept” ministries.
- Our first Sunday in Romania was spent in Timisoara, so Doug was invited to preach at Stinca (The Rock) Baptist Church, where Catalin is Associate Pastor. Yvonne shared at the evening worship. Later we were blessed to be part of the regular Sunday evening Kairos leadership team meeting at the Tomin home. This group is a model of how to ‘do church’ in a way to effectively reach a new generation for Christ.
- In Oradea we met Corey & Diana Burba who founded & run The Beauty from Ashes Center for Orphan Girls. A delightful couple with two small children & a wonderful extended family at the Center. We were shown warm & generous hospitality by the girls. Truly a blessing. http://www.romanianorphanministries.com/
- Oradea was also the location of Charis Foundation. Located in a rural setting, this retreat & training centre is home to a number of interesting initiatives. The program “2 Cultures, 1 God” links international church groups with the ministry & culture of Romania, including outreach to Gypsy villages & congregations. Mona & Daniel Ciupe have amazing dedication to the call God has placed on them, as well as an obvious gift of hospitality. Great food, conversation & fellowship awaited us. The Nehemiah School of Discipleship resonated with us with its similarity to our goals of Barnabas Bridge: the offering of intentional quality training for Christian workers unable to attend Bible Schools or Seminary. Take a look at their website http://www.charisfoundation.info/
- Tg Mures was our next stop. This was a last minute addition to our itinerary & wow, it was a blessing from the Lord. Thanks to Eva Sebi Horvath & her extended family, we were given an enthusiastic ‘royal’ reception. Can you say “volumes of Romanian home-made cooking”? Pastor Anton Horvath has a moving testimony & the family dedication to a Gypsy church ministry through the years is inspiring. This was our first exposure to an urban Gypsy Village. We have maintained regular video contact with the Horvath family and hope to return for some ministry collaboration. We were really touched by the way aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters – the Horvath clan – joined us on an evening stroll through the downtown streets. Thank you Eva for introducing us to your city, church and wonderful family!
- In Cluj we met with Canadian Presbyterian Missionary Brian Johnston. Brian is an accomplished photographer, an ordained PCC Minister, and teaches English & music at The Protestant Theological Institute. Students here train for ministry in the Hungarian Reformed Church in Romania (and 3 other denominations) and we were thrilled to meet with several enthusiastic & competent students. We discussed their dreams for the future of ministry for their denomination. We were given a tour of an efficient student & volunteer led Christian telephone emergency assistance ministry. Find more information here: http://www.proteo.hu/elozo/index.php?oldal=english
- Cluj was also the city where we linked up with our friend Raluca Arhip, a Dentist who we met at earlier 2010 & 2011 Barnabas Seminars in Bacau. We enjoyed a morning together at the impressive Salt Mines tourist attraction in Turda. Look at what we found: http://www.salinaturda.eu/index.php?lang=en
- After a picturesque drive through Transylvania, including the Dracula-made-famous city of Bistriţa, we reached Suceava just in time for the Thursday evening mid-week service at Bethlehem Baptist Church where Doug preached. Pastor Catalin Covaci & Paula were gracious hosts, & were great tour guides. We pray for this couple as they reach people for Jesus, expand their ministry with children, minister to the poor, & finish supervising an impressive & much needed new building project. On Friday morning they arranged for a meeting with two women who run an amazing crisis pregnancy centre in the city. Also that morning we enjoyed the music and colourful costumes of a regional cultural festival in a local park.
- Week #2 started Friday with our drive to Onesti. Here Alexandra Racheru and her father George filled the next four days with good food, great Christian fellowship, & ministry opportunities. We met some faithful brothers & sisters that evening at the Brethren Church where Doug preached. Saturday provided an opportunity to preach at a new ministry led by Cornel & Dorothy Pascu. That night there were special guests from Norway & Denmark. We got to reconnect with Barnabas Seminar participants & good Danish friends Kjeld Lykke Olsen & Ena Lykke Olesen,. On trip #4 we got to see & hear of their exceptional ministry in 4 rural Gypsy villages. Sunday morning we returned to the familiar Trinity Pentecostal Church in Bacau (http://www.sfantatreimebacau.ro), where our Romanian connections all began, & home to all previous Barnabas Seminars. Doug loved preaching there again, & we enjoyed seeing Pastor Marian Paduret (http://marianpaduret.wordpress.com/), his family & the congregation. Preaching yet again that evening, we were thoroughly blessed by our visit to Bethlehem Pentecostal Church in Tg Ocna. This is a church that inspires us with its vitality, evangelism, & generosity. They have always been so supportive of our ministry. Thanks to Pastor Daniel Mititelu and his wife Geanina for their kind welcome every visit! The post-service fellowship & refreshment time last for hours and reminds us of St. Andrew’s Kimberley! It is so important to build into each other’s lives. Monday we both spoke at a meeting for youth, an evening of worship & fellowship at the Pentecostal Church in Onesti. It was a time of tears & smiles as Alexandra said words of blessing & good bye to each young person. Little did we know that the visa rejection a few hours later would change our emotions so quickly.
- Our remaining days included multiple frustrating days & non-productive visits to the Embassy in Bucharest. Resigning ourselves to no further possible progress, we spent time in Brasov, & Onesti with Alexandra & Louiza Andone. Following an emotional goodbye, Yvonne & I finished the extended time in Romania with some personal rest & relaxation in Brasov and Rasnov.
We must say a huge thanks to our hosts & also to our translators. Translating is as important as the preaching & teaching itself. One translator in particular, Alexandra, was kept very busy during our week with her. We are so grateful to the Lord for leading us to this work in Romania. We must acknowledge the kind & supportive congregation we partner with here in Kimberley. What a gift that they recognize this passion & call on our lives. There is no congregation like St. Andrew’s! Our ministry has been greatly enriched by colleagues Cathy McMulkin & Patrick Voo who each took an opportunity to come and teach in Romania. Who of you will be next?
Please follow us on Facebook so you will know of our 2013 Romania plans. We are looking for partners (prayer, financial, ministry & teaching). Check out the two blogs: http://barnabasbridge.net & http://dougjohns.net Doug is also on Twitter (@presrevdoug). Our emails are firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com Doug’s phone is 250-432-9531. Yvonne’s phone is 250-432-9584. If you sense God prompting you to support the cause with a donation, or by actually coming to Romania with us, we’d love to hear from you. Donations made through St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Kimberley will receive official Canadian charitable tax receipts. Online gifts with PayPal can be made on the Barnabas Bridge website. Our address is 117 Norton Avenue, Kimberley BC V1A 1X 8.
Enjoy the life that Jesus offers, Doug & Yvonne Johns, Kimberley, BC, January 2013