2024 has not begun the way in which we had planned it… but it comes as no surprise to our all-knowing and all-powerful God. Nothing surprises Him. Nothing is out of His control.
Mihi & Abby continue to deal with their respective medical difficulties. We are thankful that we have seen aditional improvements. And we have been given some additional suggestions to pursue as a result of a friend reaching out who is familiar with some of Mihi’s medical conditions. Mihi has some new supplements that have helped others in their battle with Lyme, so we will see how she responds to those. Abby’s heart continues to be “good for now” as the doctor says.
The whole family is battling the nasty cold/flu season that is upon us in Romania. That is par for the course of life really.
Pray for health & strength to do the things the Lord has planned for us to do.
Pray for wisdom so we can know what those things are.
Pray that we will keep our priorities not only in order, but that we will be effective in filtering decisions through those priorities. There is so much ministry around us that we could work 24 hours a day and not do it all. We need to say no to good things (which is hard to do), so that we can say yes to other good things. Just like money, we have a limited amount of time, and we need to steward it wisely. We are determined to strive to that end in 2024
alfAOmega - local church
There have been significant changes at alfAOmega – the primary local church here Bucuresti where we had been serving.
The background: Our elder board was comprised of Pastor Felix, Cristi (elder), and me (assistant pastor). Over the course of 2023, we began to sense some tensions and in December, there was a significant difference of opinion in our elder board on the direction for the church.
In an effort to gain greater perspective, older Godly pastors and leaders from the Baptist community were also asked to give input as well. We brought in the church’s former elders to advise. We spent days in prayer as a group. There were days of meetings until the early hours of the morning. Even though we added additional people from the church to each meeting (Elder board, former elders, the one deacon of the church, the leaders of the church’s home groups and the wives of all the men), the end result was the same. At the leadership level of the church, the majority voted along with us to remain in the church network that we have belonged to, and the minority said they believed God wanted them in a church outside of that existing church network relationship.
Because there weren’t any major theological or other issues of that nature at hand, it was in those final meetings with those older pastors and leaders that the decision was collectively made to see this as a Paul and Barnabas moment – where there were two different directions for alfAOmega, asking God to bless both. The two different directions are below:
1) Cristi who is leaving the network. (He desires to have a church without any direct ties to another church so that the culture of his church is not influenced by others.)
2) Pastor Felix & I who are continuing in the network in partnership with the mother church. (We believe that for AO to leave the network at this time would be a detriment to the church, and we can’t lead the church down that road.)
Although the church is between 70-100 on a given Sunday, there are only 38 official members in the church. Romania has different legal rules and regulations than the States regarding churches, and there are also many cultural implications to become a member of an evangelical church. In January, at our church members meeting, Cristi along with a large majority of our young adult ministry as well as a few others voted to start an autonomous church outside of that network/association of churches that we belong to. Because they were the majority of the church members that voted (the vote was 19 to 12), they will maintain the church name and our current rented location.
Both groups are all still meeting together for now, as we have entered a process of transition. Pastor Felix, Cristi, and I along with some others will work on trying to make this transition go as smooth as possible. We desire that the many baby Christians and those who are not saved but have a connection to our church won’t get lost in the process.
Prayer – Be praying for Pastor Felix and myself to faithfully minister to those who have been entrusted to us to shepherd. Pray for Cristi and those who are leaving the network.
Pray for us on a personal level. This has been a painful process for the entire family. Our kids have spent the last 11 years of their lives in this church, and now the church is going in a different direction from us, so they are feeling the loss of many of their friends from church. We feel sadness as well as we have invested in the lives of many and we see them as a church going down a road that we believe is filled with all kinds of dangers that are awaiting for them.
Pray for the 12 members that are with us as we look at different options going forward.
Varna Church - Live Global National Partner
Pastor George in Varna continues to faithfully serve the church there. He has been faithful for so many years, and every time we go there, and every time we hear of the work in Varna, we are encouraged to know that the church is having an impact not only in the lives of the congregation, but a great impact in the city around them.
Pastor George has expressed to us the desire to raise up other men to plant additional churches in their city. He also desires to also see his replacement one day be raised up and have the training needed so the church there can continue serving the Lord faithfully.
Men properly trained. That cost money. Thankfully, seminary training in Bulgaria is a lot cheaper than compared to the United States (I should know, after 20 years I no longer have a student loan from Seminary 🎉). If you would like to financially help the church in Varna, or to know a little more about Pastor George and the church and what they are doing, click here: https://liveglobal.org/partner/church-planting-varna/
Church Planting - Romania
I am preparing for a trip to Spain. It is there where I will be collaborating with others who coordinate coaching for church planting in their respective countries. Each of us are coming from different countries in Europe as we work to refine our countries’ process of coaching church planters. I am in a unique position in that those who are a part of this European church planting platform/collaboration are from Europe. The men and women I work with in Romania are Romanian. I continue to be an outsider in many ways as an American, and yet they continue to welcome me with open arms and together we are able to help and assist others as they plant new churches.
Pray for more churches to be planted in Europe. Pray for more churches to be planted in Romania. Healthy church plants grow through the lost coming to faith in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. We want to see more people come to know Him!!!
(Pastor Felix's wife)
Oana’s stage 4 cancer in her bones has stopped growing with the current treatment she is on. That is a praise! She is scheduled for a check-up to see if the cancer in other parts of her body has also stopped growing. Unfortunately, sometimes the treatments for cancer wreak havoc on not only the cancer but the rest of the body… and Oana’s been affected greatly by the treatment.
Pray for healing. God can heal her. But if He chooses to not heal her completely, pray for her, Pastor Felix, and for their two young girls Karina and Evi as they walk this difficult path together.
UBC22 - War & Refugees
The war in Ukraine continues on and more recently things have intensified again causing more people to become displaced. We still have 2 centers opened here in Bucuresti for many women and children as well as a few complete families that have found their way here.
We are thankful for the number individuals who continue to serve in our refugee ministry. Many have risen up and taken more leadership roles, allowing the pastors of each church involved to be able to focus on other ministries of their respective churches.
We began with a handful of churches not knowing how we could help… no one imagined that 2 calendar years later we would still be hosting refugees and continue to drive convoys into Ukraine with food and supplies for churches there who are introducing the lost to faith in Christ and meeting tangable physical needs in the process. What a blessing it is to be a small part of what God is doing.
Pray with us for wisdom in how to best meet the needs of the individuals who are in our care. Pray for safety for our men and women when they cross into Ukraine to deliver much needed food and supplies to our partner churches throughout Ukraine (we have some that are “on the front lines”).
Ionut & Estera - Live Global National Partners
Ionut and Estera are a young couple in southern Romania serving as the pastor at local church in the city of Bals. They have an amazing evangelistic ministry where they show the Jesus Film and other films in an open-air setting. They have a van, with an attached screen on the roof so it can be seen from all over. They do this in their city, and in cities and towns in southern Romania. (They also get invitations to help other churches around Romania).
Ionut and Estera are one of our Live Global national partners. This past year, Mihi and I were able to visit with them and encourage them as they serve in ministry. We continue to stay connected through our phones (but it isn’t the same as a face to face meeting), and our desire for 2024 is to go and visit with them more. Pray for our schedules to allow this, and that we can continue to be an encouragement to them. If you want to know more about them and the ministry they are engaged in, click here: http://liveglobal.org/partner/church-planting-bals/