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?

Hitch-hiker deja vu

A month or so ago, on my way to Chisinau with Daniel to work on applying for Ana’s birth certificate and passport, we had picked up an Orthodox priest who was alongside the road trying to hail a ride to the capital.  You can imagine the interesting chemistry that a Baptist missionary and an Orthodox priest can have.  He was not interested in talking about Scripture once he found out who I was.  I was able to get some conversation going with him and learn more about the priests here.  We separated amiably that day.

Wednesday evening, while driving back home with Daniel from Chisinau, having picked up our renewed green cards and Ana’s passport, we passed an Orthodox priest along-side the road trying to hail a ride (hitch-hiking is everyday life here).  It was dark and below freezing at the time.  Once he thankfully hopped inside the warm car, I found out that this priest has been trying to get someone to stop and give him a ride for the past hour.  Both he and I also quickly found out…..that it was deja vu, he was the same priest I had picked up last time!  I couldn’t tell if he was happy to know the driver or not 🙂  I offered to drive him to his house (which I was not expecting to be off the beaten path and add 50 minutes to our trek home).  We were able to talk some more.

I told him that I bought an Orthodox Bible in order to read to our neighbor and am interested in reading through the added deutero-canonical (apocryphal) books that are not in our Bible.  He said that if I read through the Orthodox Bible I will find “the truth.”  He was not convinced that, outside of the 10 additional OT books, our Bible and theirs says about the same thing.  He was still not interested in talking about Scripture.

He took a phone call and explained to a lady that the price of the icons had increased due to the devaluation of the Moldovan currency.  One of the icons was now being sold for 700 lei (about $40).  It was sad to know that some Moldovans will spend money for a picture of a saint or Mary, truly believing that it will help answer prayers or enrich their spiritual life.

I then asked for his input in regards to a situation with our neighbor, Varvara.  I told him how she is up in years and unable to do the good works that she used to and is worried about making it to heaven due to her decreased abilities.  I then asked him what he would tell her?  His response, “No one knows where they go after they die.  Only God knows.”  He was taken back when he heard me say that the Bible says we are not saved by our works and that we can know where we go after we die.  He then told me some three-fold system for salvation that included faith, works, and I didn’t catch the third.  He did not know about what Paul had written in the New Testament.  After 4 years of “seminary” and 4 more years of practicum (total of 8 years to become a priest), he showed very little familiarity with the Bible.  I encouraged him to read Ephesians 2 to start with.  He reluctantly took my contact info when we arrived at his gate.  My heart longs for him to pull off the vale of church tradition in order to see the light of God’s Word and beauty of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.  Providentially, we have now met twice…. and maybe we can again one day.  Please pray for Valeri to search the Scriptures and find true salvation through Christ.

Update on Moldovan Elections

Thank you all for praying. It appears that the pro-European groups won the majority of seats in Parliament. The Pro-Russian parties still hold many seats and were not far behind the others. In fact, the socialist party received the greatest % of votes and the communist party the third greatest %. The three pro-European parties came in 2nd, 4th, and 5th place but together make up a greater % to keep the Pro-Russian parties from controlling Parliament. So far, we are seeing a peaceful reaction, but PLEASE PRAY IT CONTINUES THIS WAY.

On another note, due to complications with needing to get our marriage license with an Apostille affixed to it, we still do not have Ana’s birth certificate nor passport. We are now in a time crunch with documents in order to reapply for our residencies here in Moldova. Please pray that all this comes together without problems. Wednesday we plan to work on renewing Stephanie and the kids’ passports.

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.

April showers…. of blessings, too.

Several praises today.  1.) Pulled more weeds.   2.) The Moldovans worked their skill and repaired the $100 part for about $1.50.  3.) Met with Maria today and spent quite a bit of time answering more questions about what we believe.  She is supposed to bring her Bible to work on Tuesday next week and we are supposed to have a Bible study during her down time at her store.  Please keep praying for her.  4.) Talked some more with Andre, a man who has a booth at the market.  He is only half convinced that God even exists.  We had some good talks about it.  Please pray for him to take steps of faith.

Doing things the Moldovan way…

Since our arrival back in Moldova, we found that all the apartments for rent are already taken that we had on the list we were compiling.  While we know there may come up other available apartments later, this led us to considering the possibility of living in our unfinished house by doing a quick fix on two rooms upstairs.  We talked things through and prayed about it over the past couple days.  Many Moldovans will live in a room or two while they work on finishing their homes, which often takes many years to do.  We are planning to do things the Moldovan way, too.

I will be leaving for Soroca, Lord willing, on Monday with a Moldovan friend of mine to enclose in one room for our living quarters and turn the other one into our kitchen/dining room.  We have electricity run to the house, I just have to run wires to the inside for us to have what we need.  We also need to make the nicest outhouse we can :0)  While out water will in the meantime come from the well right outside our gate, please pray that the running water project will complete in the near future and that we’ll have running water.  Please also pray for safety as my friend and I work next week.

An update on Dr. Natalia, too.  Stephanie had her appointment with her this week and was able to find out if there has been any spiritual progress.  She told Stephanie that she has been reading the New Testament and her daughter has been reading and asking her mom questions.  We thank the Lord for this progress.  Please continue praying for Dr. Natalia.

An update on Gregori.  I accidentally called the wrong Gregori this week and ended up getting the one who I had met with to share the Gospel before we left for furlough.  He is the one who has a son who he wanted me to meet but he never called me.  His wife and son are now going to a large Baptist church in the capital city, Chisinau, and he has given much thought to our discussion.  I asked him if he has repented and trusted Christ yet, but he said he has not.  Please keep praying for Gregori.

We made it…

We are officially back in Moldova and very happy to be so.  Our flight over went very well (though long and tiring).  Just in our first two full days here, I wanted to bring up some prayer requests that have come up.

  • All the apartments/houses for rent in Soroca that I had down to call are already taken.  When we first arrived in Moldova for our first term, it took about a month to finally find and move in to the apartment.  It would be great if we could find the place during our first week here.  Please pray for the Lord’s provision of a place to rent until we can get our house finished enough to move in it.
  • I accidentally called Gregori today, a man I had met while house hunting last year and met with to share the Gospel to him.  Found out that his wife and son are now going to a Baptist church in the capital city and he is still showing interest in spiritual things.  He has thought much of our meeting and was glad I had called him.  I asked him if he has repented and trusted Christ yet, but he said he had not.  I told him I would continue praying for him and would ask that you join me.
  • We are all still out of whack with our body-clocks.  Please pray for the needed rest and adjustment to the time zone.
  • I spoke today with the builder who did the new roof on our house and has been keeping an eye on it while we were on furlough.  We are needing at least one other person working with me on the house who knows what he’s doing (since I don’t).  Oleg, the builder, says he may be able to find us someone.  Please pray for the Lord to provide just the right person and to begin working in his heart as we should have plenty of time to talk about Christ.

Thank you for your prayers.