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.

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.

2015 January Prayer Letter

God has given us a wonderful start to 2015, and we look forward to His working in our life and the lives of those here in Moldova.

At the end of November, Moldova held a very critical election. Would Moldova vote for the pro-European parties or one of the socialist, pro-Russian parties? The majority of people in Moldova speak of they days under the Soviet Union as the “good ‘ole days.” The elections were close, but the pro-European parties won. With the unrest in Ukraine, many people here in Moldova questioned how the election results would affect peace here. We thank the Lord that thus far, we have peace. Some violent plots by radical activists were found out by police before they were carried out. Please pray the peace would continue.

At the beginning of December we finally moved downstairs. We love having a kitchen with hot, running water, a separate room for the kids to sleep in, and all those rooms heated. All we have left to finish downstairs is the toilet room and bathroom.

Part of December was spent trying to apply for necessary documents. We finally succeeded in receiving Ana’s Moldovan birth certificate, renewing our passports, and applying to renew our Moldovan residency permits. Please pray for us to receive our permits.

In December, the Hughes and we spent a couple days to plan out 2015. The Lord worked in and through those couple days in unexpected ways. Having another couple to work with has shown us how iron can sharpen iron. We thank the Lord for the Hughes and how God has recently been working in our own lives to make us more like Christ. Please pray for us that we will continue to be conformed to the image of Christ.

We ask that this year, you join us in praying for fruit. Last year seed was planted and watered. We are seeing growth in people’s knowledge of God’s Word and of salvation. We patiently seek fruit, though. Please join us in lifting up the following:

Varvara, our neighbor who is over 70 years old and strong Orthodox, refused to let me talk to her at any length about the Bible when we first arrived here last year. As we have helped her, shown our gratitude for the fruit and vegetables she shares with us from her garden, and refused payment from her as an example of salvation being a free gift from God, she has opened up more than ever before. January 7th was the Orthodox Christmas, based on the old calendar. I was able to spend almost 2 hours talking with her after we went over to sing some Christmas carols to her (we went over on Dec. 24th with the Hughes to sing carols, but she would not let us since it was not the Orthodox Christmas). She knows every jot and tittle of the Orthodox traditions and lives of their “saints” but so little of what the Bible actually says. On their Christmas, though, we had a very good talk together about salvation and Christ’s work to save us. She believes one must do many good works to get to heaven. Now that she is older, she cannot do the number of good works that she used to and this concerns her. “It is very hard to get to heaven,” she told me. According to her, only God knows who will make it to heaven or not. I shared with her that God does know and has made it known to us, too, in the Bible. Refusing to even look at our Bible, she said she only would read the Orthodox Bible… so I bought one from an Orthodox priest in town. Please pray for Varvara to allow me to use their Bible to read to her and that she will trust in Christ’s finished work rather than the futility of her good works.

Maria continues to ask us questions and be very open. Due to the holidays and being really busy, she has not been able to start into reading the Gospel of John yet. Please continue praying for her.

Jacob and I visited Victor again last week. He has been reading in the Bible we gave him. Please pray that this would continue.

We finished studying through the Gospel of Luke with Nadia and are now into Acts. Her 10 year old grandson, Claudiu, has been regularly joining us, following along in the Bible. As Jacob pointed out, we came to minister to Nadia, but God knows what influence the studies may end up having on his life, too. The study in Luke made clear the Gospel to her and we pray that the study in Acts will make clear to her what the church is and what God’s plan is through the church. Please continue praying for Nadia and for her to see the contrast between the church found in the Bible and what is practiced by the Orthodox church.

We had previously mentioned Jeanette, the Filipino woman who is temporarily here in Moldova. After meeting her, she came every Sunday morning until she returned to Germany with her husband for vacation. She trusted Christ as Savior in 2005 and has been without a pastor or church for most of the time since due to her husband’s working abroad. When Jacob and I met with her before we had the Lord’s Supper, she told us she was not baptized yet but really wants to be. Jacob and I have found a place to hold the baptism after her return to Moldova in February. Please pray for her husband to have a soft heart towards the Gospel and for the plans for Jeanette’s baptism.

After talking to one of the men who had worked on our house this fall about Christ and giving him a Bible, I gave him an open invitation to contact me. Recently, he called me to find out how we were doing. Please pray for Oleg as we may be getting together this Sunday afternoon with both he and his wife.

Jacob and I would like to witness to people at the markets in our town and give out the Gospel of John and our contact info. We spoke with the managers of both markets and were told that we would need to talk to the mayor. Please pray for the door to be open to us doing so.

Thank you all for your faithful prayers and support for us and the work here in Soroca.

URGENT: Pray for Moldovan Elections Tomorrow

I know that we sent out a prayer letter recently, but we have several large items we implore you to take before the throne of God.

Tomorrow (Sunday) Moldova will vote.  The divide in Ukraine between those who want ties with Russian and those who would rather join with Europe is paralleled in many ways here in Moldova.  Around Moldova there are signs for parties that say “Moving ahead with Europe” while the Socialist Party (Communist Party) declares “Together with Russia.”  In talking with people today, there are many mixed feelings, mostly negative ones.  One person told us that they are concerned that the same conflict in Ukraine will erupt here as well tomorrow.  Others have said that they do not know for which party to vote since none stand out as trustworthy or as a clear answer to the many problems here.  I personally read through a couple of the party fliers that have been handed out.  I shook my head at the ridiculous promises some were making without any explanation as to how they could accomplish such goals.  This amounts to many empty promises in order to win votes.  In the past, missionaries ability to serve in Moldova have been threatened with the Communist Party was ruling.  At the same time, there are other problems that come with a greater connection with Europe.  We ask that you pray for the voting to allow us to lead a “quiet and peaceable life” here in Moldova.  Please pray for the government to have wisdom in dealing with people’s response to the election results.  Please pray for us believers to trust the Lord, regardless of the result.

Several months ago, I had mentioned a lady named Maria, with whom I had begun shard the Gospel.  Last week, Jacob and I went to visit her and see if we could pick up where I had left off.  Last week and today, we have continued explaining the Gospel to her.  With her Orthodox background, we are trying to be very clear and patient to explain the Gospel to her.  Today, she had several “aha!” moments.  She had really struggled with the idea that salvation is not based upon our works but faith alone in Christ.  She believed that all people are children of God.  We showed her that, even though payment in full on the cross by Christ, it must be personally received by faith in order for that payment to be applied.  In explaining passages of Scripture to her today, she bluntly asked us, “What must I do to become a child of God?”  She is soooo close to trusting Christ alone for salvation.  Please pray for Jacob and I to have wisdom in what we cover with her from the Bible.  Please pray for the seed that has been planted and watered to not be choked nor stolen but to bring forth fruit.  Her husband, a Russian, is against us simply because we are American.  Pray that we continue to have an open door with Maria.

Jacob and I also visited Oxana again, who was part of the previous Baptist church in Soroca.  When we tried to talk with her last week, she was talking with a friend and did not seem to want to discuss things with us at that time.  Today, she was open and talked much with us.  She was hurt by the situation in the pastor leaving to Russia and the church dissolving, leading to cautiously considering any other churches.  She said she wants to be a part of a church that is doctrinally sound and not just “church-hop”  Please pray for her as she considers allowing us to minister to her and possibly join us.

We also had a great visit with a man who invited me to come back and talk to him.  Victor is an insurance salesman and very busy.  We had a profitable visit with him today.  We gave him a Russian Bible, which he promised to read.  Please pray for him as well.

While picking up some items before heading home today, I saw a lady who did not look Moldovan, but Asian.  When I found out she did not speak much Romanian, I asked her if she understood English.  I had heard today that there was an American teaching English at one of the schools here and thought maybe she was the one teaching.  She very happily said that she does speak English and was surprised to find out that I spoke it, too.  Jeanette is a Filipino, married to a German involved in the road renovation project in Moldova.  She has been here for a little over two years.  When she heard that we are Baptist, she was very excited.  She trusted Christ as Savior back in 2005 and has been longing for Bible study with other believers here in Moldova.  Lord willing, I will be picking her up with the Hughes tomorrow morning to being to our service.  Usually Jacob preaches in Russian and I preach in Romanian.  But since only our two families meet on Sundays right now, we can switch to English for at least one of the messages tomorrow for Jeanette.  Depending on how the elections go tomorrow, she said she may be staying in Moldova longer.  Please pray for us to know how to minister to her and help her along with her walk with the Lord.  Also, please pray for us to have an opportunity to witness to her husband, who is not saved.

This week, we were able to begin witnessing to Abby’s friend, Sabina.  She has only been to the Orthodox church a couple of times.  She knows very little at all.  She believes God exists but could not tell me anything about Him.  Her reputation in our neighborhood is not good at all.  Please continue to pray for Sabina and for boldness for Abby and I when we go to visit her parents and talk to them about Christ.  Her father does have a problem with alcohol.

Thank you again for your continued prayers for us.