How do we feel right now? I think the best way to describe it is that our cup is full and running over. We thank the Lord for His many blessings and His working in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Praise the Lord that we were able to buy the van mentioned in the last prayer letter. We have already put it to good use with transporting people to church in the extra seats and taking tables, stroller, and other gear in the back to church.
We celebrated the Lord’s resurrection this year on the same day as Easter in America, which is not always the case. Including our family and Sarah, we had 19 people in attendance. We had a breakfast meal first and then the service. This year, Abby has started learning the violin, and Caleb and I started learning guitar. We played for the first time in the service for Easter.
Each Thursday evening in May, in place of our regular midweek prayer and Bible study, we have had a Family Conference. We made a conference workbook and had some free and discounted materials about the home for people. Six Moldovans came the first week, seven the second week, and nine this past week. While this may not sound like a lot, one woman who came the first week has come to every Sunday morning and evening service as well. She was saved and baptized in a Baptist church in northern Russia and had just found out about us. Another couple has come the past two weeks and plan to come every Sunday as well. One of my ESL students has also come each Thursday with her husband. The responses from those attending the conference has been very positive. Pray for the Word to have free course in the hearts and lives of those who have come. Also, pray for the last week of the conference to be used of God as we talk about the dangers of technology, including social media and pornography, and how to enable filters.
The Bible studies with the one man I had mentioned continue to go well. Since then, an older woman also wanted me to start Bible studies with her. Her son was coming to our church periodically before he moved to the capital city to find work. I am currently covering the topic of salvation with her. Please pray for salvation to be clear to her and for the man to grow in his walk with the Lord.
SUNDAY EVENING BIBLE STUDY
The lady I had mentioned in the last prayer letter who comes Sunday night to our home Bible study recently married and now comes with her husband each week. Ironically, her husband is the Orthodox young man whose father had told me I could not talk to his son when I had called a couple times. The Sunday evening Bible studies started three years ago with just a neighbor. We now have five coming regularly. Please pray for the work to continue to grow, not just in the city of Soroca, but also in our village of Zastînca.
My wife’s younger sister came to visit us for a week, along with her husband and three children. The week was one of needed refreshment, encouragement, and fellowship. We thank the Lord for the opportunity for them to come visit us.
Thank you all for your faithful prayers and support.
What else can I say other than God answers prayer! Join us in thanking the Lord for the blessings mentioned below and petitioning for the following requests.
Jacob and Viola made it back to America safely for their furlough. We thank the Lord for the safety thus far in their travels (I believe over 3,000 miles thus far in the span of just about a month). Please continue to pray that the Lord will strengthen, encourage, and refresh them during their time visiting churches, friends and family.
I had specifically requested prayer for help in using my time wisely and keeping up with my responsibilities during the Hughes’ absence. Thus far, the responsibilities are being fulfilled, in part due to the Lord providing some Moldovans to help in different aspects. Please continue to pray for me in this area as a number of unexpected but good responsibilities have been added to my schedule recently.
Thank you for praying for us to find a van. After much searching, praying, and seeking counsel from many sources, we decided on a van to purchase for our family. As I write this, a friend of mine from Soroca is on his way to Germany to check out the van and Lord willing make the purchase. The trip is about 25 hours each way, non-stop, add in the times to fill up, cross through customs at borders, and it is over 30 hours each way. Please pray for him and his co-driver to arrive there safely, the van end up being what we are expecting, the money transfer to arrive without problems, and for them to make it back safely with the van.
We thank the Lord that we were granted the two year residency permits. I always rejoice to see the new residency cards in hand, thankful for our service to Christ to continue here in Moldova. Though we will not be attempting this in the near future, please pray for us to receive permanent residency permits in the future. I inquired further at the migration office if this is a possibility for us. I was given a paper with the list of requirements, which we currently could meet, if we took a language test and worked on a couple other documents. This is a goal of mine within the next 6 years. Our lawyer said they don’t give out permanent residencies. Maybe the Lord would see fit for us to be the first.
During our ministry team retreat in August of last year, we specifically began praying for two things. First, we saw the need to gain entrance into people’s inner circle. We had people coming to services but not willing to come over for a meal or allow us to personally disciple them. We also saw that people we witnessed to through day-to-day life or visitation were not interested in us going further with the Gospel than the first visit. We began asking the Lord to allow us to enter into people’s circle of influence. Second, we started praying that God would raise men that we could disciple and lead along for Christ.
Over the past couple months, we have seen answers begin to both of these requests. One lady who had visited us our second year started coming regularly with her daughter to our Sunday evening Bible study. She was facing a very serious decision in life. Through a couple long conversations and much prayer, she chose to do what was right. Another man has started coming regularly each week and was also counseled in an important decision. He also has seen the validity of the biblical counsel he received and is following the Lord. On a weekly basis, I have been meeting with another man, going through a discipleship course. He lives outside the city in a village and would like to see a church planted in his village. I am also working to start a weekly discipleship with another young man. The majority of these have been men! Please pray for the Lord to continue to work in the lives of these dear people and to raise up strong, male, godly leadership.
OPENING CLOSED DOORS
Over the past couple weeks, I had tried to call a young man in another village to see if we could meet and talk about salvation. Both times I called, the young man’s father answered the phone. He asked me numerous questions very rudely and refused to let me talk to his “child,” a young man in his 30’s. I was told to never call again, and he made some threats. I thought that the door was closed. Much to my joy and surprise, the young man showed up at our house Sunday evening! He did not have time to talk much, but we did get to start talking. Please pray for this young man, who is strict Orthodox, to meet with me again and allow us to open the Bible to see what salvation really means.
Thank you all for praying for us and the work here in Moldova.
Much has happened over the past three months so buckle up as I whisk you through the update. During the summer, we broke from some of our regular scheduled events and focused on special summer outreaches.
May was the last month of our English Ministry before summer break. Though many did not come on a regular basis, 40 different people came during our 20 week course. About 7 people stayed at one point or another for the Bible study after lessons. No decisions for salvation were made but seed was planted and watered. Please pray for this outreach as we plan to begin again next month.
Each Friday in the month of June, we held a “Family Evening” outreach next to the Soroca Fortress and park. We offered games, crafts, and pamphlets of biblical advice for husbands, wives, parents, and children which also included the Gospel. Though few actual complete families came, a myriad of children and adults did come by and participate. We were able to talk to some individuals about the Lord, too.
During the last week of June, my mom, brother, and his wife came to visit. This was my first time to meet my sister-in-law face-to-face and my mother’s first time to be with our two youngest, Ana and Simeon. We enjoyed getting to be with family again.
Shortly after my family left, we drove back to the airport to pick up Deanna, a friend of Sarah Bodaly, who came to help out for a month, primarily with VBS.
Last year we did 3 days of VBS near our house in the forest. This year, we decided to do a 5-day VBS at our house and also redo the 5-day VBS in Soroca at our meeting place. Our theme was Creation with the Gospel being the focus on the end. I had a confrontation with the Orthodox priest from our neighborhood. He wanted us to take down our VBS sign that was outside our house and to leave the children alone. We continued along without any further conflict with him, thankfully. Both weeks combined, we had 45 different children come. Please pray for these children and for us as we plan to start a one-hour Bible club each week at our house to continue to influence the children that came.
August 1-4, we had our annual team planning retreat. We spent time praying and planning for the next year. We thank the Lord for the team God has brought together to serve Christ here in Soroca.
In the past we have requested prayer for our elderly neighbor Varvara. Anastasia, a lady in her nineties, who Varvara cared for in her home for many years, died recently. This has been hard for Varvara and has made her more receptive. I was able to have another conversation with her about the Lord after this and she listened better than any other time. She may be moving in with her sister to a different village in the next few months. Pray she will accept Christ before it’s too late.
Just yesterday, we found out that Sarah and Viola’s Romanian teacher decided to move to the capital. This has left them without a Romanian teacher (and me without a Russian teacher, since the same lady was my instructor). Would you please pray for the Lord to provide a really good Romanian instructor for Sarah and Viola?
Please note that BIMI has a new mailing address: P.O. Box 9, Harrison, TN 37341. Thanks and God bless you.
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 Lord 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.
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.
ARRIVAL UPSTAIRS AND OF STEPHANIE’S PARENTS
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.
ARRIVAL TO THE GOSPEL
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 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 for 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.
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.
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?