I am sorry for taking so long to blog, but we have been staying with a Roma family and have had no internet for a week. I have much to catch you up on, as it has been a remarkable week.
Our first stop in Guirgui at the little Roma church was significant. Upon entering the little room where the church meets, about the size of a good-sized bedroom for us, after I bumped my head on the low door, we were engulfed in warmth and love from the 20+ Roma believers gathered there. We were treated like old friends, which surprised us since we had only been there once before. I had wrestled with what to preach and finally decided on Colossians 3:1-17. It was a simple sermon, just walking through the text. I focused on “murdering our sin,” 3:5, as people who are now raised from the dead. I do not think they had ever heard anyone preach through one passage like that and the effect was powerful. They couldn’t stop talking about it. Even more importantly, through this sermon the leaders finally realized what we were trying to teach in our Pathways program.
The next day when we reached Zimnicea for the training, Bogdan, the “pastor”, began telling all the other men about the sermon and how much it affected him and how that is how he wanted to learn how to preach. Of course, all this was in Romanian and I do not know exactly what he said but he said he was ashamed that he had been preaching his thoughts and not the Word of God. He thought you had to jump around to a lot of passages to make a point. He was amazed that I could just explain what one passage said and that his people could understand and be impacted by it. As time went on, it seemed that all the men gathered caught that same understanding.
As we had stated, we came uncertain to say the least at how this training would go. Actually, we assumed it would not go well, like last fall, and that it would be our last training here. The change this year was so great that it actually qualifies as a genuine miracle. Twice as many men showed up and they were so enthusiastic and caught on to what we were teaching so well that we were stunned. It became one of the better II Timothy workshops that Steve or I had ever conducted. I have no idea what happened. Our communication for months had been terrible. As of two weeks ago, I did not even think anyone had been invited to the meeting. But here they were, excited and prepared and most who had been in the training last fall had passed the training on to others. I frankly am embarrassed at how little faith I had that God was doing anything with us in training the Roma. Now it is full steam ahead.
Nelu, our Roma Network leader who introduced us to the Roma in Romania came to the training. He had not been to the last one and really didn’t know what we were doing. The workshop really impacted him as well and he wants to go home and train his leaders in this new method and then try to set up trainings for us in Central Romania. Having him become enthusiastic about Pathways could be a significant breakthrough. We have a training planned in November and in March next year and he plans to be at both.
We stayed with the pastor Paul and his family (in the Pentecostal Church in Romania, it is very difficult for anyone to be called a pastor, especially if you are Roma. Paul does not call himself a pastor, pointing to the ground he says, “I am just a deacon.” He is one of the sweetest, most sincere and hardworking pastors I know). They were so gracious and loving to us, as we have found all the Roma believers to be. Steve told them their home was a “House of Encouragement” and he was right. They would sing Romanian hymns to us in their little kitchen after dinner each night.
Edie’s experience was somewhat less spectacular. The women were welcoming but the translation did not always go so well and some of the women could not read. She is so faithful to keep on loving them even when she really can’t talk with any of them because of the language problem.
We are now in Craiova staying with our friends the Drolls, who have arranged for us to meet with various groups of pastors over the next several days. We are sleeping in their living room which could make it interesting with an already full house with 5 kids. We do not know what awaits us here or in Portugal or Germany, but we are trying hard to trust the Lord that He knows what He is doing even if we don’t. Thanks so much for all the prayers from so many of you on our behalf. Your work on our behalf sustains and gives us strength.