UNGHENI, MOLDOVA – As two team members from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) left a family’s home in the district of Ungheni, they weren’t sure what to think. They shared the gospel. The husband and wife listened, but they did not really have much to say.
The Moldovan couple did ask for two tracts so they could each have their own copy to read. Maybe they were interested, the team wondered. Maybe the couple did want to know more.
A few days later, the BSC team spotted the family at an evangelistic worship service that was presented by Moldovan Baptists and Convention staff.
More than 900 people packed the auditorium that had once been used to teach Communist propaganda.
“You came, you came,” the couple said to the team.
At the end of the service, the couple – along with Moldovans all across the auditorium – made their way to the front to publically profess their faith in Jesus Christ.
The weekend evangelistic services became the culmination of a week of ministry – March 9-19 – by BSC staff among the Moldovan people.
“I cannot remember a time in my ministry when I pleaded as I did with people to come to Christ,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC executive director-treasurer, who preached during the service.
“As I walked to the podium that night, I had my Bible and a few notes I had made in the Bible,” Hollifield said. “I was depending on God that night. The Lord was giving me the thoughts and the words to say even as I was preaching. I was dependent on Him for every word. Even after years of ministry, God taught me new truths about being dependent on Him and allowing Him to do His work.”
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Mike Sowers, left, shares jump rope duties with Ashley Allen in Moldova. Sowers and Allen, along with Kenny Lamm (seen playing to the left of Allen) took some time to spend with and minister to children in Moldova. BSC staff were in Moldova to work with a partnership that has been developed through the Office of Great Commission Partnerships, which Sowers leads.
Hollifield shared the story of Nicodemus with the crowd. “God impressed upon my heart that the Moldovan people were depending on the church and good works – the same things Nicodemus was depending on for salvation. But Jesus says that we must be born again.”
Orthodox beliefs are so ingrained into the Moldovan culture, Hollifield said, that the concepts of having a personal relationship with God and assurance of salvation are completely new ideas to many of them. Moldova is less than two percent evangelical.
Partnership and purpose
That week the BSC team from the Convention went in groups to homes throughout villages in the Moldovan district of Ungheni. Moldova, which is divided into 33 districts and is the poorest country in Eastern Europe, is bordered on the north, east and south by Ukraine, and on the west by Romania.
Through a partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova, the BSC – which sent a total of 11 staff on the trip – hopes to lead North Carolina Baptists to engage in evangelistic efforts throughout the 32 remaining districts. The trip was coordinated by the BSC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, which is led by Michael Sowers. The team shared the gospel and invited families to two evangelistic services held during the week. They also went door-to-door distributing food to people in need and sharing the gospel, and leading children’s camps throughout Ungheni.
“In the midst of an atheistic culture, God promised He would prevail. He promised that nothing would prevail against His Kingdom,” Sowers said.
“We are seeing what fervent prayer and God’s faithfulness will accomplish. God can overcome what seems like the most impossible circumstances to get His gospel to the nations.”
Hollifield and Chuck Register, BSC executive leader for church planting and missions development, led pastor’s conferences in three different cities: in the capital of Chisinau, in the northern city of Balti, and in the southern city of Cahul. Ashley Allen, director of Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries, spoke at two women’s conferences.
A need for churches
BSC staff also evaluated future opportunities and ways to involve North Carolina churches in reaching Moldova for Christ. More than 1,000 villages in Moldova are still without an evangelical presence.
“[The] vision for this mission trip was for our staff to set an example for North Carolina Baptist churches,” Register said.
“As churches consider adopting or embracing one of these districts, we wanted our staff to model that focus and emphasis. I never want to challenge North Carolina Baptists to do something we will not do.”
Two North Carolina Baptist congregations have already committed to evangelize two of the districts. An additional 30 churches are needed to commit to serving in the remaining districts.
Since returning from Moldova the staff has begun putting together resources, based on their experiences and what they learned. They hope to help churches as they prepare physically and spiritually for mission work in Moldova.
Hollifield shared how he hopes other North Carolina Baptists will be able to experience some of the same victories – and beyond – what the BSC’s team experienced in Moldova.
“I pray that many churches across our state will step up and respond to the plea for help in Moldova,” he said. “I believe if we can get enough North Carolina Baptists to serve in Moldova, we stand a great chance of shaping the future of that country as we see people who are open to the gospel come to faith in Christ and in turn, be discipled and reach others.”
For photos and videos, visit flickr.com/ncbaptist. To learn more about how to get involved in Moldova, call (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654, or visit ncbaptist.org/moldova. Or, contact Sowers at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5654, or [email protected].