Reflections at the end of Summer 2013

It’s strange how different life is for the Romeo family here in the United States. We’ve been back in North Carolina for three days now, and I find myself feeling like this place is foreign. The first twenty four hours are the most bizarre. After not driving for 3 months and basically living life within a 5 square mile radius, we go back to the large area of life in the United States.

Each time we’ve made the trip to Moldova, the first few weeks are strange as we acclimate to the local Moldovan culture and language. Over time, as God opens up new doors and we plug in more deeply, we feel more attached and Cahul transforms into our home.

Ministry is different for me here in the United States, at Redeemer Community Church. In Moldova, I’m a missionary member of the Emanuel team, and am a part of the day to day ministry of the church. When something is going on, I get a phone call or invitation to jump in. Here at home I’m involved in the life of Redeemer Community Church, but not in the same capacity. This is an adjustment for me.

Each time we travel to Moldova, it is harder to return back to North Carolina. I envision a time in the future where no return trip is planned. We’ll make our way to Moldova, settle in, and be there for the long haul. We feel that there are some things to finish first, the primary thing being my MDiv degree from Shepherds Theological Seminary. After that is done in two years, we will begin the process of what is next for us (perhaps not what, but “where”).

I made a promise to some people in Cahul to do some serious work on my Romanian. I began that process yesterday morning, spending time between two Romanian language learning books. I’m also using 1 John as a vocabulary builder. I read 1 John in the Cornelescui Romanian version, and look up all the words I don’t know. The first two days I looked up almost every word. Over time, as I learn one verse per day, I hope to build my vocabulary. What better way to do that then via God’s Word! I will continue to work hard, with the goal of preaching some sermons from 1 John next year in Moldova.

Chris

This Chapter Closes…

As you read this, we are hopefully on an airplane flying towards Munich, Newark, or Raleigh (or perhaps all three). This chapter came to a close all too quickly. This summer was eventful, filled with memories of the different camps, teams, and kids we interacted with.

We leave with mixed emotions, excited to see our church family back home, but sad to leave our church family here in Cahul. Our plan, Lord willing, is to return here May 2014 for the next chapter of “The Romeo’s in Moldova”. Next summer will be 3 months of camps and kids, as we pursue what God’s plan is for us here in Moldova.

Deb’s “Interviews”

Another highlight of the trip was the interview process that Deb put some of the TKD sportsmen through. The interview process consisted of us inviting some of the guys over to hang out at our house. Sometimes dinner or pizza was served, other times they just hung out.

During the “interview” process, Deb asked them questions about their walk with the Lord, their future plans, and what they are looking for in a spouse. This was both an interactive time and a teaching time. Some of the young men looked forward to their time in the “hot seat”.

I got to see Deb minister to the youth, offering encouragement and just loving them through conversation. This is a gift that she has: connecting with young people and being open to discuss any subject with them.

This group of young men will miss us dearly, and we will miss them also. They painted a message to us in front of the house, on the street, in spray paint. They used chalk the first time, and then came back with spray paint. The message said something to the effect of “Team from USA, we love you and will miss you”.

Moldovan Mexican Restaurant?

While Josh and Don were visiting from Redeemer Community Church, they offered to let the kids direct a specific day and choose some fun activities to do. The kids decided they would like to go to Chisinau to go bowling at Malldova.

We took advantage of the opportunity to see some of the sites in Chisinau, stopping at the World War II Memorial and also seeing some of the central downtown area. From there we went to “Mall-dova”. We started at the bowling alley, and had a great time attempting to break 100 per game. Josh and Don were in the zone, throwing some serious frames. Others of us were just trying to break 100.

After we finished bowling, we surveyed the available dinner options at Malldova, and let the kids make the choice of where they wanted to go. Lo and behold, there was a Mexican restaurant in Moldova. Now, in case you are geographically challenged, Moldova is not near to Mexico. They are quite far apart. As we walked into the restaurant, I thought to myself “There are no Mexican people working in this restauraunt”.

It took our waiter awhile to work up the courage to walk over to our table. We were convinced that we intimidated them, since they realized we were from USA, and would actually know what Mexican food was supposed to taste like.

We first ordered appetizers: chips and salsa. When the waiter brought out the two plates, we all looked at each other and laughed. The dish should have been called “Chip and Salsa”. The first plate had a total of 7 chips on it, with a salsa that tasted like ketchup. We decided to grin and bear it, and looked forward to our entrees.

I ordered a quesadilla, and Don and Josh both ordered Fajitas. When the food arrived, it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t Mexican. It was food that looked like Mexican, but tasted like Moldovan spices. Lauren may have made the most sound choice, when she decided I would take her to get a to-go order from the nearby KFC. 😉

The food wasn’t the best, but the company was good, and hey, how many other people can say they’ve eaten at a Moldovan Mexican Restaurant?

Chris

Preaching our final Sunday at Emanuel: Philippians 1:3-11

I have the great privilege to open God’s Word this morning at Emanuel Baptist Church. This is our final Sunday with our church family here in Moldova. I chose Philippians 1:3-11 as the passage to preach out. My prayer is that this text will encourage the believers at this church in the work that God is doing here in Cahul.

Here is a close approximation to what I will say this morning:

This is a difficult morning for my family and I. This is our last Sunday at Emanuel, with our Moldovan family. This current chapter of the “The Romeo’s in Moldova” is coming to a close. Our time here this summer has been a blessing, and the love that this Church family has shown to us has been great. We are truly blessed to be here with such a loving collection of brothers and sisters. God is doing big things here in Cahul through the ministry of Emanuel Baptist Church.
We have had the opportunity to serve alongside our Emanuel brothers and sisters at different camps, from VBC’s to youth to sport to teen camp. We have had two different teams that came and ministered alongside us. We have built deeper relationships with many of the sportsmen within the TKD ministry. It has been a great joy for my whole team to get to know the young people of this church.
This morning, I want to encourage you, the believers here at Emanuel Church, in the ministry that God is doing in Moldova. Let us rejoice together in all God is doing. This is not a message of award or achievement for any individual; instead, this message is praise to God for all the HE is doing here.
Let us open God’s Word to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and look at the example of how Paul encourages the church at Phillipi.
READ Philippians 1:3-11
1.    Man of prayer (vv. 3-6)
The Apostle Paul was a man of prayer. Think about the ministry of Paul: he was a traveling Pastor, moving throughout the world planting churches. When Paul planted a church, he did not leave it behind. Paul believed in praying for the churches that he planted.
In this text, Paul is joyfully praying for the believers in the Church at Phillipi. Paul puts other people and their needs in front of his own, praying for the people of other churches.
Looking closer at Paul’s example of prayer in verse 4, he describes two things: always and joyfully. Paul is constantly in prayer. He is always calling out to God, thanking Him for the many things that He provides for Paul. Paul is also joyful in his prayer. There is no malice in the way he calls out to God. He is truly joyful in what the Lord is doing in the churches that he planted and ministers to.
The gospel is a simple message that applies to everyone. Jesus Christ died on the cross, gave Himself for those who believe. He exchanged our sin for His righteousness. If you do not know Him and have not accepted Him as in charge of your life, today’s the day.
Paul is offering thanks to God because of the partnership he has with the church at Phillipi in the mission of the gospel. In the world of business, if we enter into a partnership, we say that we will work towards a shared goal together, not separately. Perhaps we have a challenge that is too big for a single person or company to achieve, but if we work together, we can achieve it.
If I win a contract to build a bridge over a stream here in Cahul, it would be crazy for me to try to build this bridge by myself. It would take me 50 years to build a bridge by myself. But if I join with all the people of Emanuel Baptist Church and we “partner” to build the bridge, together we can do it much quicker.
This gospel partnership is a fellowship amongst believers; this is why we call each other brother and sister, even though I live 5600 miles from here. We do not speak the same native language, we have different customs and ways of doing things, but we share one common thing: salvation through Jesus Christ.
A partnership in the gospel is agreeing to work together in gospel ministry, loving Jesus together and sharing the gospel message far and wide. This is encouraging to me, because many believers from around the world have a partnership with Emanuel Baptist Church in the gospel. My family feels this partnership; our church, Redeemer Community Church; Christ Baptist, and many other churches.
As fellow believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to pray for each other. Let us all grow as men and women of prayer, praying joyfully for each other in Christ, praying for the continued partnership in the gospel.
We have looked at what defines a man or woman of prayer. Why do we need to pray for each other? Paul shows us why he prays so passionately for the people of the churches he plants.
2.    Motivation to pray (v. 7-8)
We should be motivated to pray for each other because of the affection that we have for Jesus Christ. Paul says that he has a love for the people of the church at Phillipi in his heart. He has this love for the people because they are partners and partakers of the grace provided to them through Jesus Christ.
We are called to love each other in this same way, as an extension of the grace that Jesus Christ has provided us. None of us are saved by anything that we do. We are saved through the grace extended to us by Jesus Christ. Let us celebrate that grace together. Let us lift each other up in prayer because of that grace.
We are not imprisoned in the classical sense that Paul speaks of. He was actually imprisoned. He spent time in prison, and still prayed and wrote to the churches that he supported. He did not experience unhappiness in his imprisonment, because regardless of what happened to him, whether physical persecution or imprisonment, he could still express his love for these people in prayer.
Nothing that the world throws our way can take away from our ability to pray. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have hope! Hope is believing that what Jesus said is true; hope is knowing and longing for the day we meet Jesus face to face, because we know that eternal life is real. The world cannot strip us of our hope. Regardless of what the world sends our way: loss of a job, loss of a family member, loss of a house; we still have hope; we still know what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, and that is all that we need!
We must be people who partner in the gospel, and affectionately love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul uses the word “yearn” (in English). This is an emotionally charged word. It means to desire, but much more than just wishing something would happen. Paul is affectionate and truly passionate, in Christ, in his love for these people.
This should translate into praying for each other. Lifting each other up to the God who saves us. Offering prayers to God for each other, out of a genuine affection and care for the gospel, both here in Moldova and in the United States.
We have spoken of Paul as a man of prayer and his motivation to pray. Paul also provides us an example of how we can pray for each other.
3.    Example of prayer (vv. 9-11)
Paul prays four specific things for the church at Phillipi.
a.   First — Abounding love
Paul is praying that the people of the church at Phillipi will grow in an abundant love for each other. He is not just praying for the well being of the people, but is also praying that they will grow in love for each other. An abundant love is one that has enough to go around for all. Paul is praying for the community of believers, that they will grow stronger together, as one body.
         To imagine abounding or overflowing love, think about a glass. If we pour water from a pitcher into a small glass, the glass will eventually become full. After the glass is full, if we pour additional water in, the water is abounding or overflowing over the sides of the glass. Let your love for each other overflow, like the water in the glass.
         An abundant love is not a fake love. This is not a show to put on, but is truly an extension of the love that Jesus Christ has for us. We demonstrate this love abundantly for each other.
         How does Emanuel Baptist abound in love? It starts with praying for each other. By calling out to God for each other, love will abound. By continuing to be a family that loves and cares, love will abound. By being in discipleship relationships and small group settings, love will abound. By gathering each Sunday together to praise and worship our God, love will abound.
b.   Second — Approve what is excellent; be pure and blameless
Paul prays that these people will not settle for mediocre. Paul prays that their focus is on what is excellent. Choices were before the church of Phillipi, as they are before each of us. The choices are between good and bad. Paul’s prayer here is that the people approve what is excellent. Paul’s prayer is that the people consider knowledge and wisdom as they make decisions.
Paul prays that the people in the church be pure and blameless. He prays that God provides the purity to avoid bad choices. He prays that God maintains a standing amongst these people that leads to the fruit of righteousness.
How does Emanuel Baptist approve what is excellent? Continue in prayer for each other. Pray that God will bring much knowledge and wisdom to this church. Pray for knowledge and wisdom for the leadership, for Anatol, Gelu, Nicolae, and Ruslan. Pray that the Lord will guide them and bring them up in knowledge. Pray for your leaders.
c.    Third — Filled with the fruit of righteousness
The fruit of righteousness is an extension of the good works we are called to by God, the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is not an extension of anything that we do, but is instead God working through us.
         How does Emanuel Baptist experience the fruit of righteousness? By continuing to execute on the ministries that God has placed before you here in Cahul. Continue to pray for these ministries and the people that they impact. Pray that the gospel is preached clearly in each English class. Pray that the youth from camp that gave their lives to the Lord are drawn to teen club, to continue learning what God has for them. Pray that the kids club attracts many children from the local neighborhoods to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Pray that the Pastors can meet with students in the schools and make the students aware of Emanuel Baptist Church. Pray that this city will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!
         Why did Paul pray for these things? Why should we pray for these things?
d.   Summary – to the glory and praise of God
Paul ties all three of these things together, abounding in love, approve what is excellent, and the fruit of righteousness, and points them to their true purpose. That purpose is the same purpose of everything that we do: the glory and praise of God.
         Emanuel Baptist Church exists to glorify and praise God. Each member of this church exists to glorify and praise God. Let us never forget why we do any of the things we do in ministry. All for the glory of God!
Conclusion
I spend my time here this morning not to trumpet any of our individual achievements. Not to pat any of us on the back. I declare these things to remind us all how gracious God is to us. I declare these things to remind us how God is working in Moldova. How he is working in our individual lives. God is good, all the time. Take encouragement from this fact, Emanuel Baptist Church. Take encouragement in the fact that God is working here. Please pray for each other, with an affectionate love, because of the partnership that we all share in the gospel.
Pray for:
Encouragement for the brothers and sisters at Emanuel:
·      that they will stand firm in their gospel partnerships
·      that they will be motivated to pray for each other
·      that they will abound in love for each other
·      that they will focus on excellence, purity, and being blameless in the ministry
·      that we will all glorify God in all that we do

Sport Camp

For most of us, this was our fourth week of camp for the summer: Emanuel Baptist Sport Camp. This was Sarah and Daniel’s fifth week. “Sports Camp” or “Youth / Teen Camp” is the original camp activity. It’s been running for almost ten years, and was the start of how we became involved here in Moldova with Nicolae.

This was my first opportunity to attend Sport Camp. I learned some new things that we can apply to Martial Arts Camp. The team put together many different team activities, where the youth had to work together to achieve a goal. We need more of this at TKD camp.

Highlights from the week, in no specific order:

  •  Night time game in the woods, searching for American leaders. Each team had a map and one flashlight, and had to stay together (the team all signed off at each leader). It forced the teams to work together and collaborate. 
  • Photo game. Each team was given the same list of photos to be taken. Some had funny themes, like the wedding. Our team (Team Courageous) dressed Sarah Newby up like a bride and had her picture taken with a young groom (Nico Sauve), the smallest member of our team. We also decorated Anatol’s car like Moldovans do for weddings. The picture process was fun, as each team worked together to think up funny ways to top the other teams.
  • Being part of the Moldovian team. At all the other previous camps over the past four years, I’ve always been part of the American team. This was nice and different to not be an American this week. As a part of the American team, you are the center of attention in the camp. As a Moldovan leader, I could focus on the kids on my team, and get to know them better. I stayed in a cabin with Eugene and the other young men from my team.
  • Preaching on Wednesday night: I answered the question who is Jesus. I took the youth to the foot of the cross, explaining who Jesus is by what He has done. I was thankful for the cross that Fred Jr. built at Larga a few years ago, as it is still standing and is a powerful reminder of who Jesus is.
  • Hearing that many kids from camp attended Emanuel Teen Club on Thursday, and many of the kids from camp showed up. I am praying that many of the youth from Martial Arts Camp will attend the Teen club and begin to forge gospel centered relationships with the existing Christian youth at Emanuel.
  • Getting to know many of the Emanuel Youth and leaders better: I had the opportunity to spend time with many of the youth leaders from Emanuel. I especially enjoyed spending time with Pastor Gelu, walking the grounds as the “guard men”. Gelu’s heart is huge for God and for the youth here in Cahul.
  • Watching the Moldovan belt game: if you were here, you know what I’m speaking of. After watching the game for awhile, I still wasn’t clear on the rules. The kids are in a circle, with stacks of 2-3 kids at each location. One person chases another around the circle and tries to smack them with the belt. These kids play for keeps; no wimpy swings! If you got hit, it hurt.
  • Sitting in on a meeting on the plan for the new camp: Phil from Christ Baptist was here for camp, and many of the other leaders from Christ Baptist focused on the camp. We sat down with Anatol and Ruslan to talk about the design and next steps for the camp.
  • Night time youth worship jam sessions: after the evening chapel session, some of the youth, including my kids, would gather to play worship songs and sing informally. This was a powerful time, and a huge blessing to see Daniel in the middle of this, playing the guitar or the drum.

Chris