“Arrivals” – April 2016 prayer letter

We usually like the word “arrival.” It often accompanies positive events. With the arrival of Spring, the children have enjoyed being outside and even working in the yard. In addition to Spring, the Lord has blessed us with some other arrivals.

Our new team member arrived on March 17th, Sarah Bodaly. We have loved to see the 20160317_213701Lord orchestrate so many of the details. The Lord provided a nice place to rent and wonderful landlords. The Lord provided a Romanian teacher for her. The Lord also provided a way to get her belongings here cheaper, quicker, and more efficiently than originally expected.
     Please pray for Sarah as she adjusts, begins Romanian lessons, and awaits the approval of her residency permit application.

Simeon David Gross was born on Saturday, March 19th at 3:15 am. He weighed in at 3.03 kg (6 lbs. 11 oz.) and 50 cm (19.6 in.) in length. Not only did we see the Lord’s provisions with Sarah’s arrival, but we saw His hand in Simeon’s, too.
20160319_120409     We had planned to go to the capital city on Stephanie’s 36 week appointment and stay there until the birth. The day before, I was leading the Sunday evening Bible study at our house, and Stephanie started to have regular contractions. When they continued for an hour and a half, many being only 5 minutes apart, we quickly loaded up and sped to the capital. The entire way there, the contraction, though not the strong, painful ones, were consistent. When we arrived at the hospital, though, they stopped and did not begin again. While waiting in Chișinău, wondering how this would all work out, we were able to do some other preparations for the baby and pick up Sarah from the airport. The evening after the Hughes picked up Sarah and her luggage to take her to Soroca, Stephanie began to have contractions again. This time we went to the hospital, the contractions continued and Simeon was born.
We were grateful to the Lord for providing the Buck family to help watch our children during the night of the birth. The Lord met so many needs through working out the many details.

Over the past couple months, we have had some visitors come to the Thursday and Sunday meeings. This past Sunday, some believer friends had sent several people our way. One man is Ukrainian and speaks only Russian. He was very happy to find out that Jacob preaches in Russian and we also sing Russian hymns along with Romanian ones. He said he plans to come back.
Three years ago, when shopping for a home to buy, we were considering buying an apartment from a couple who went to the Pentecostal church in town. She and her adult son came this past Sunday after being invited by a friend of ours who works for her. Please pray for these individuals, some who have been saved and some who we do not know about their salvation, to know and follow God’s will.

A week ago, we had the joy of getting to move upstairs in our house. The bedrooms are now finished. I underestimated how long it would take to finish our house. What I had hoped would be done September of 2014 was not done until April of 2016.
We moved upstairs just three days before Stephanie’s parents arrived for their visit. The children are enjoying their time with “Grammy and Papa.” We have also enjoyed having the finished room in our house for company.

After the English lessons on Tuesday evenings, we have a Bible study for those who wish to stay. The study lasts only 30 minutes. Though some have come only once, Ala has been the only one to faithfully stay for the study. We have spent the past four lessons studying “How we do NOT become a child of God” and then “How we DO become a child of God.” After this past week’s study, Ala said that she had repented of her sin before but was unsure of actually being saved. Please pray for Ala as she thinks through what we have shared from her from the Bible regarding salvation.

February 2016 Prayer Letter

February has come to a close and this year has already been full of activity and encouraging fruit from past and current labors.

At the end of last year we started renting a meeting place in the middle of town that serves 20160219_140558for Sunday and midweek services as well as Tuesday English classes. This past Sunday, a man who lives nearby joined us for the morning service. Years ago he had attended the Adventist church and has since not been a part of any church. Please pray for Victor as we find out further where he is spiritually and help him take the next step.

Over the past year, Jacob and I have been going door-to-door, wondering when we would see some fruit. Recently an older man from town visited our services. It was a man we had met in our door-knocking. He is Baptist, but his wife is Orthodox. She did not even want him talking to us at his own door. Under the guise of going to the market, he visited for part of one of our services. Please pray that he will continue to come to grow spiritually and be encouraged.

About a year ago, we had talked with a man named Ioan, who was open to talking further about the Gospel. Due to him not being home or working in other cities or Russia, we were not able to follow through with a follow-up meeting until last month. We finally were able to meet with him and share in depth the Gospel. He may be leaving to work in another country again soon. Please pray for the Lord to continue to work in his heart.

photo (4)A couple months ago, we started giving free English lessons in order to meet more people and share the Gospel with them. We have had between 15 and 20 people most weeks. Some are Pentecostal, some unregistered Baptists, and some unsaved. We have a Bible study after the lesson in which students may participate. While we were expecting the young adults to be the ones to stay, our only student to join us for the Bible study is a 70 year old woman. Though only one person, we rejoice in her hunger for God’s Word and to learn more. Please pray for Ala and our students.

We have seen the Jehovah’s Witnesses around town for quite some time but have had few encounters with them until recently. We even had a meeting at my house with two men who have been JW’s for a number of years. They said they have never heard the Trinity explained that way before. Please pray for us to have wisdom and answers for the JW’s we now know and for the Holy Spirit (not an impersonal force) to work in their hearts.

Recently Stephanie has been having complications with her pregnancy. She started having contractions at thirty-three weeks. We made an emergency trip to Chisinau where she was hospitalized for observation over night. For the next week she stayed in Chisinau and visited the hospital several more days for shots and ultrasounds. The medicine stopped the contractions and now she is home on bed rest and taking medicine for the next few weeks. Please pray for me as I care for her, the children, the house, and my own responsibilities.

We have been anticipating the arrival of Sarah Bodaly, our new team member. She is scheduled to arrive mid March. The Lord has already provided housing and a language teacher for her here, which are harder to find that you might think. Please pray for her safe arrival and adjustment.

Though someone has been working upstairs, he is still repairing problems that were left after the hired construction team completed their work and left. Cracks keep appearing, so our worker has been mending all of those. He should be able to start priming and painting very soon. We should be able to move upstairs within a matter of a few weeks, Lord willing.

All-in-all, please pray for us all to handle all that is going on right now. I am behind on some work from last year and working through the unexpected issues that are popping up. Please pray for us to love, train, and nurture our children and prepare for the little boy we hope to meet within the next month. Thanks again for your prayers for us and the financial support.

November 2015 Prayer Letter

Building. This word brings different thoughts and words to mind: progress, teamwork, cost, investment, and plain old work. The past couple months have been characterized by this word “building.”

I had mentioned in our September prayer letter about my follow-up visit to the village of Zgurița to share the Gospel with the family who lost their 4 year old son to a drowning accident in August. Jacob and I were asked if we could deliver a bed that someone had donated for that family. The wife and teenager son welcomed us, gave us a delicious meal, and then allowed us to talk more about the Gospel.
The wife, Ana, told us that in addition to us talking with them, the Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses have also visited them. She said she is confused and wants to know how she can know who is teaching the truth. We talked for almost 2 hours on this theme with her and her son, Andre. Both were very open and attentive. We shared the importance of God’s Word being our basis for truth and how to weed out false teachers. Please continue praying for other open doors to talk with this family and for God to open their eyes to the truth.
In November, I had the privilege to preach for a pastor friend’s church’s evangelization like I did last year. The Lord gave grace with my Romanian. It just flowed. Another man preached after me and gave the invitation, and a man named Valera came forward and publicly testified of trusting Christ that night. The pastor from another village who had brought him told me that he had been witnessing to him for 5 years. Please pray for Valera since he lives with family who are opposed to anything other than Orthodoxy.

We did decide on a place to rent for the church to meet. It is in the middle of town, near20151021_182049 all routes of public transport, and has two rooms, a restroom, and a heating system. The storefront was recently remodeled, except for the floor. The owners allowed us to tile the floor and reimbursed us for the material and labor. We enjoy having a place to meet for Sunday mornings, Thursday evenings, and for meeting with individuals. Thank you for praying for us to find a good place to rent and for us to have good landlords.

12291031_10153192327983053_6324550877040356735_oBUILDING OUR HOUSE
Right before Thanksgiving, we finished our indoor toilet room! Also, we have a construction team working to finish the upstairs of our house. Lord willing, it will be finished by New Years. Stephanie, Ana, and I are sleeping what will become the dining room, and the other children are sleeping in what will be the living room. Everyone is very excited at the prospects of actually having bedrooms. We will also have an office/guest room. Please pray for the work to finish well and for the talks I have had with the workers about Christ to grow.

The first electrician hired to work on our upstairs was seriously injured at another location, causing serious burns on his face and arms. Jacob and I have visited him a couple times in the hospital and began witnessing to him and his wife. Other men in the hospital room have heard us speak and have also been given Gospel tracts.
Another man I have witnessed to before but did not want to hear it has opened up to discussing the Bible recently. Please pray for Sasha and Vasile (the electrician) as I continue to talk with them about the Lord Jesus.

With joy we announce that we are expecting a little boy. Our seven seater car will be full, Lord willing, in April. So far, the baby seems to be healthy. Please pray for Stephanie and this little life and for us to grow as parents.

September 2015 Prayer Letter

In missions, we often focus much on the term “church planting.” If we are not careful, though, we make the establishment and growth of a church the end goal. If we do not see the results to that goal we would like, we cave in to compromise in order to create the desired results. We can end up having many people in the church but few true disciples. While we do desire to establish and grow the church here, our actual command is to make disciples through evangelism and teaching. Our prayer is that the church will simply be a result of us being faithful to His command.

With this goal in mind, we end up witnessing to or ministering to people that will never11914904_1545319439054824_2841058944854763470_n actually become a part of our church here in Soroca. In August, I received a phone call from some Christian friends of ours whose friends had lost their 4 year-old son to a drowning accident in a village about 30 minutes away. Because the boy was not baptized as a child, the Orthodox priest there refused to do the funeral. I received the phone call asking for help. Because the family there knew little to no Romanian, I did not feel equipped to conduct the funeral. I called the pastor friends I knew to see if one of them could go with me and help but none were able to. I was then notified that a Pentecostal pastor was found to lead it and I would give one of the messages. You can read a detailed account of the funeral on our website: grossmissionaries.com.
About a week after the funeral, I returned to visit the family with the Christian family we know here in town (the wife of this family translated to Russian for me). The family whose son had died supposedly made a profession of faith some time ago. We went thoroughly through the Gospel and answered from the Bible questions they had in regards to their son and his death. They did not make any decision that day and are still struggling with the loss of their son. Please pray for Alexei and Ana (the parents) and for wisdom for us in making future visits with them.

Some people we minister to and even see join the church may be with us for only a short period of time. Jeanet’s husband will be finishing his work here in Moldova soon and moving on. He is still waiting to find out where his next contract will be. This also means that Jeanet does not know if and when she will be able to find a good church to be a part of in the future. She is currently back home in Germany and has found a Baptist church in her town for while she is back home. Please pray for the Lord to guide them to a place where she will continue to have a good church to join.

A couple weeks ago, I started back again with Russian lessons. We had about 6 months of Russian lessons about three years ago. While those 6 months were priceless, they are insufficient. On a regular basis, I meet people who only speak Russian. Jacob, who speaks Russian, is not always with me, making me very handicapped when he is not around. Our language teacher from Hîncești called me and told me about a language teacher who just moved to Soroca. Since I had not told her that I was looking for a teacher, it was quite providential. Please pray for me to grasp Russian well. Also, please pray for my instructor, Nadia. This week, I found out that a Baptist family from where she used to live was very influential in her life. She even stated that she was “saved,” which is not something most Orthodox would claim. Pray that the Lord will use our conversations during our lessons to bring her closer to Christ.

During my first trips to Moldova during my years in college, I worked in Eric Chapman’s evangelistic camps. I have often wondered if I would run into campers later on during our ministry in Moldova.
A couple weeks ago, Jacob and I were traveling back to Soroca and picked up a young man who needed a ride. We found out that this young man, Grișa (Gree-sha), actually lives in our village, not far down the road. While on the way to his house, I started sharing the Gospel with him. He then told me that this sounded very familiar and that he had heard this at a camp almost 10 years ago. After talking, we found out that he was at the Chapman’s camp the same summer I was there. His life right now is far from God but he is open and wants us to talk more. He stopped by here yesterday for a little and we talked some more. Please pray for Grișa to repent and become a follower of Christ.

Jacob and I are working on several projects right now in order to evangelize more people and disciple believers. Soon we plan to begin evening English lessons followed by a Bible study for those who wish to stay afterward. We also have very little room at times on Thursday Bible study nights at the Hughes’ apartment. Due to these reasons, we are seeking a place to rent for ministry. While looking at locations, we’ve had opportunity to witness to some of them. One lady, Natalia, is battling cancer. Another man, Vasile, is an affluent businessman. Please pray for us to be bold witnesses for Christ but also to find the right location to rent.

A Moldovan Funeral

We arrived at the house in the village of Zgurița an hour before the funeral was to begin. A group of people from town were waiting outside the house and at the street for the funeral to begin. After taking off my shoes, I walked back to the room of the family’s house where the parents’ were weeping while stroking the head and hair of their almost 5 year old son who had drowned and now lay in a small casket. The once full of life and active boy, now pale, lay there with empty eyes gazing towards the ceiling. The father whispered a “thank you” when I told him that I am so sorry and that we are praying for them. Though an Orthodox family, the priest was nowhere present, having refused to do the funeral since the boy was not baptized as a baby. Instead, there was an Adventist pastor, a Pentecostal pastor, another Christian friend from our city, and myself to carry out the funeral plans.

We sang in Russian, prayed, and had a message before carrying the boy’s body in the casket outside where the crowd awaited us. There was more singing and more preaching. My Christian friend preached the Gospel and I am not sure about all that the Adventist preacher said. Since the Pentecostal pastor was of the opinion that schedules and programs hinder the free leading of the Spirit, I did not know when my turn would be to give my message. The messages up to this point, though, included several parts of what I had already prepared, leading me to an edited message.

The casket was then loaded on the flatbed truck, along with the weeping mother and sister, who was about 5 or 6 years old. The father and his two older sons followed behind with hands on the back of the truck’s bed. The rest of the crowd followed behind on foot with us as we sang hymns off and on for half an hour in route to the cemetery.

When we arrived to the freshly hand-dug grave, the casket was set beside it with the two straps for hand lowering it into the hole rest underneath. I was then told it was my turn to speak. With everything thus far in Russian, I did not know what to expect from them once they heard Romanian. Maybe it was due to the switch in language or the fact that I have an accent that is quickly noticeable that people seemed very attentive. God gave such wonderful grace. My mind often wandered back to January of 2013 when we lost Enoch since I received the phone call last night asking for me to come and participate in the funeral. The Lord helped me with my emotions during the message. I mainly stayed in 1 Corinthians 15, talked about the Gospel, Christ’s resurrection, and the hope of the resurrection for those who repent and believe in Christ. I encouraged the family to not be afraid to weep, to not be angry towards God since He’s not the enemy (and that they need to look to Him through this time), and to thank God for the time they did have with their son. Afterwards, I thought of how the message could have been different or better, but I can’t change that now.

We sang some more and had another message from the Adventist pastor. The young sister crying next to the casket made me think of Abby when we buried Enoch and the struggle she had for a year and a half of being angry towards God for it. It hurt to see such a young girl hurting so. We sang more while the casket was nailed shut, lowered into the grave, and the grave filled in with dirt.

The family seemed to show a different emotion by this time. A sense of another step of closure was completed. Their bleeding hearts received a dose of treatment in the grieving process. The father, mother, and remaining three children huddled together.

We walked back to their house and the family who had just buried their son worked to fill the line of tables in their driveway with food for friends, family, and those involved in the funeral. Though in America the tradition has friends and family bringing food to the grieving family, the Moldovan tradition is the inverse. Which tradition is better? Watching the grieving family immediately turn their focus to serving food created a temporary distraction. Maybe it was not a bad thing at all, if they did not have to go into debt to provide it, as many do here. We ate delicious Moldovan food. Though the table was filled with food on plates, no one has a plate to eat off of… just a fork, slice or two of bread, napkin, and cup. The father’s friend who was drunk before the funeral kept asking me questions once he found out I was American. People began to talk. It truly seemed medicinal to the emotions of the human heart.

While it was the end of what will be remembered of the short life of this little boy, I pray that it will be the beginning for this family to seek out the truth of the Gospel. Would you please pray for this family to seek God through this seemingly tragic event in their lives? Would you please pray that what was done today would bring Christ glory and stand out positively in stark contrast to the hopeless religion of the Orthodox Church? Would you pray that we would have further opportunity to meet with and minister to this family? Would you pray that God would use this to bring this family to faith in Christ? Would you pray that I would not take my children for granted and remember that I have no guarantee of tomorrow with them? Would you consider what God would teach you through the events of today in a small village here in Moldova?

2015 July Prayer Letter

Much has happened since our last prayer letter. I had one typed up to send in May but more things kept happening. The following have been the highlights.

We were trying to get permission to have a spot at the markets to have Bibles, tracts, and public location to witness. We spoke to the interim mayor who told us it was not his jurisdiction. When we talked with one of the market managers, he changed his story from what he originally told us. Our next step is to call the owner of the markets. We have tried several times to find the manager in office again but to no avail. Pray for wisdom as we continue to seek the needed permission.

On June 7th, we had the joy of baptizing Jeanet and our daughter, Abby. The owners of a hotel in town allowed us to use their swimming pool and refused to take any payment. They opened the pool for us an hour earlier than the public hours to accommodate us. For baptisma number of years, Jeanet has wanted to be baptized after trusting in Christ, but due to living in different countries for her husband’s work, she has not had opportunity. We praise the Lord that He led us together for this time and allowed us to baptize her. We were blessed to hear her testimony of her being raised Catholic but later understanding the Gospel and being saved through Christ alone. Abby was thrilled to follow the Lord in baptism. Please pray for Jeanet and Abby as they continue to follow the Lord.

A group from our sending church, Heritage Baptist Church, came for a week to help us with work on our house. Though we did not requested the help, we thank the Lord for construct teamputting the idea and desire in their hearts. We loved seeing familiar faces again and getting to meet someone new that had joined our home church since our furlough. The week gave us an opportunity to get to know the men better. Thanks to their help we were able to take a giant step towards having two bedrooms upstairs before the end of the year. We were humbled by the men’s sacrifice of their time and money to be a blessing to us. The men’s testimony had a positive effect on Moldovans in town, too.

While the group was here, Pastor and Mrs. Sevilla joined us in holding our first VBS here in Soroca. The first day, we had no children join us for the first half hour;, but shortly after, we ended up having about 15 children. On the third and last day, we had about 20 children. Our theme this year was the Word of God, with each child receiving a RomanianVBS Bible on the last day. The children listened very well and were excited to have their own Bible and ask to take more for other family members. Pray for wisdom as we consider having a regular outreach to children in our area and seek to reach their parents.

The whipped cream and cherry on top of the group’s visit was having our pastor and his wife with us during the week and our church allowing them to stay with us for an extra PastornIweek after the group left. We loved the encouragement, fellowship, and counsel. Pastor went on visitation with Jacob and me, allowing him an even better glimpse into Moldovan life and our work here. Mrs. Sevilla helped with just about everything and was a blessing to Stephanie. Our children had “adopted grandparents” for two weeks before their real grandparents came to stay a week with us, too.

Our visitation each week leaves us wondering what will happen next. Many people do not Visitationwish to talk with us, some allow us to talk to them about Christ, some are drunk when they answer to door, but sometimes we have some extremes. One man threatened to call the police and called us lazy for not having “real” jobs. This last week, though, we were invited into two apartments and were able to share the entire Gospel. Please continue to pray for faithfulness, boldness, compassion, and wisdom on our part as we share the Gospel each week.

Ana birthdayThis week we celebrated Ana’s first birthday. We thank the Lord for her and believe her middle name (named after my grandmother), Joy, is very fitting for her. Please pray for us as parents to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

March 2015 Prayer Letter

First of all, we thank you for taking the time to read through our “battle reports” and praying for us and those we mention. Your prayers help in the spiritual warfare that we face.

Thank you for praying that we would receive our renewed residency permits. We have received them and found the process this year to be the easiest thus far.

Thank you for praying for peace in Ukraine, though the situation between Russia and Ukraine is far from a complete resolve, the peace treaty has had a positive effect in halting the active fighting for now. Please continue to pray for further stability.

About a month ago, Jacob and I started going door-to-door using a religious survey to help people consider their relationship with God and find those who are wanting to know from the Bible how they can be saved. So far, we are finding this to be an effective means of gaining good contacts for return visits. One lady did not want to listen at first, declaring that we have our religion and she has hers. She continued talking with us and by the end of 45 minutes, she wanted a Bible from us and was thankful for our visit. The next week, the security guard at our bank pulled me aside and politely asked me some questions. Knowing that I must have been one of the two Americans who visited his wife, shared with me that it was his wife to whom we had given the Bible. Please pray for the follow-up visits to yield fruit as we share the Gospel.

We have had Gospels of John printed, designed flyers, and are preparing the notes for the in-home Bible study topics that we plan to advertise around town. We have tried to meet with the mayor to get permission to set up a table at the markets but without success. Thus far, the times we have gone to the mayor’s office, he has been out of town. Please pray for that meeting to come to pass and for us to receive the permit.

At the beginning of February, the Filipino lady, Jeanet, returned to Moldova from her holiday in Germany. Upon her return, Viola Hughes started a Tuesday Bible study with her, which Stephanie and Abby also attend. Jeanet shared with us her desire again to be baptized. Jacob and I met with her to study what the Bible says about baptism and to answer her questions. Lord willing, we will baptize her the first Sunday in April. Please pray for her to continue growing in the Lord and also for her husband to trust Christ as his personal Savior.

On my way home from picking up Ana’s birth abroad certificate and passport, I picked up an Orthodox priest who was hailing a ride. Ironically, it was Valeri, the same Orthodox priest I had picked up on my way to Chișinău the month before. It was sad to hear him talk on the phone and give the prices for icons (over $30) and tell me during our conversation that only God knows whether an individual will go to heaven after he dies. Though thankful for the opportunity to witness to Valeri again, it was a sad reminder that most of the people here live in darkness.

On a family note, Ana is now 7 months old and should be having her first tooth showing inIMG_20150124_121212 the near future. She loves her new walker and being able to get around now. Abby, Caleb, and Daniel are looking forward to the warmer weather. Surprisingly, we have not seen much snow at all this winter, which is extremely unusual (I think you all received our share, in addition to yours). Please continue to pray for our family to grow spiritually and for me to be successful in this top priority of ministry… my family.

Thank you all again for your love, prayers, and support.