When Dublin First Baptist Church signed up for an international partnership in January 2013, they did not expect it would include a teenage girl from Moldova spending her summer with them. But Tabitha Mesina left her small, southern Moldova village of Vadul Lui Isac in June for nine weeks of ministry in Dublin, N.C.
The 18-year-old is a talented, rising high school senior who speaks French, English, Italian, Romanian and Russian. She wants to serve God in missions.
“I want to do what God wants me to do,” Mesina said. “Before I came here, I asked God to show me how He wants to use me. Every sermon that I hear is about missions … about going and telling people about God. It is like a confirmation that I should do missions.”
Cameron McGill, pastor of the Dublin church, said, “There are amazing similarities between Tabitha’s home church in Moldova and Dublin First Baptist. Both are in small towns, both have a lot of young people, and in both cases the churches are a big part of their communities.”
Mesina met Cameron and Tiffany McGill last November when they visited her church. Her pastor, Andre Ciobanu, visited Dublin last year.
“Bringing a teenager to America for the summer is not something we thought we would have done,” McGill said. “We spent a week in their village, and we really connected with Tabitha and her family. They are a very devout family – her dad is a deacon, mom sings in the choir, her brother and sister are active in the church. They are the epitome of a church family.”
Mission teams are strongly advised against inviting Moldovan nationals to come to America. Many nationals live in deep poverty and believe life in America is glamorous. “But much of what they have in the village, to me, is far more precious,” McGill said. “I preached a sermon in the village and said, ‘if you ever get what you think is valuable, you may discover it is not worth what you thought.’ I illustrated it by explaining that a racing dog’s career is over if he ever catches the rabbit, because he will realize that what he was chasing wasn’t worth it.”
But they invited Mesina to work with the youth in Dublin for the summer. When her parents agreed, they began a five-month process of praying, completing online forms and waiting for a response from the United States Embassy.
“It is difficult to come from Moldova to here,” Mesina said. The embassy is reluctant to grant visas since there is a strong attraction for Moldovans to stay in the states.
“We pretty much felt like it was a long shot,” McGill said.
She was assigned an interview at the embassy in the capital city of Chisinau on May 14.
“I was very nervous,” Mesina said. “There are two people who do the interviews at the embassy. There is a lady and a man. I was praying that I could talk to the lady, because I thought it would be easier to talk to her. I heard that most of the people who talk to the lady usually got [approved for] the visa, but those who talked to the man did not really get a positive answer. So, I prayed God would send me to the lady, but He didn’t. He sent me to the man.”
She explained to the agent that her church has a partnership with the church in North Carolina, that a team from Dublin visited their church in November, and that a team will be coming again for Christmas this year.
“He listened to me, and he asked me what I am going to do in North Carolina,” Mesina explained. “I showed him the invitation I have from pastor Cameron. My pastor wrote a letter to the embassy to say that I am a member of the church, and he will guarantee that I will come back to Moldova after the summer.”
The American agent listened and responded. “I will give you the visa. I am a believer, too, and I trust you to do exactly what you said.”
Mesina was surprised. “I was praying before I had the interview, that if it was God’s plan for me to come to Dublin, He will make it happen.”
Her summer experience was not limited to Dublin. Mesina worked at the church’s youth camp in the N.C. mountains, sang in many services, shared her testimony in several events and participated in the church’s New York partnership for a week.
McGill said Baptist leaders in New York were “amazed at how Tabitha reached out to people in N.Y. She’s pretty quiet around us, but if there is somebody of another language or they look like they are not fitting in, that’s who she gravitates toward.”
Her favorite part of the trip was working with children in Vacation Bible School events in Brooklyn and Queens. Mesina confessed that she was taken aback by some of the extroverted expressions of people in N.Y., especially in the subway and the open displays of homosexuality.
“That was the first time that I saw that. In our country you don’t see that. So that was not a nice experience,” she said. “In my country you are not really free to express whatever you think. Some things are forbidden.”
Mesina loves her homeland, but is open to serving in another country. “I am happy that I was born in Moldova. That country, my family and my church helped me to be the person I am today. God has put many amazing things in my life. But, I would like to go to another country if that is what God wants me to do.”
McGill is pleased that his church got involved with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s office of Great Commission partnerships. “I want to encourage pastors to not be scared of missions,” he said. “It’s not going to hurt your church – it’s going to strengthen your church, and it’s going to strengthen your walk with the Lord.”