We have had a fantastic mission and fact finding trip to Eastern Europe. Thursday afternoon of last week Mike and I arrived in Chisinau, Moldova and headed directly for the hotel to recoup from the travel over. Ghena picked us up at 11:30 a.m. Friday and we started our journey North to Larga picking up fruit, vegetables and flowers along the way for the wedding. We arrived about 6 p.m. that evening and assisted a bit with wedding preparation. The family had been decorating and setting up all day.
Saturday we arrived at the town meeting hall for the ceremony at 11 a.m. and joined the family along with about 200 guests from Ukraine and all over Moldova including the many churches Ghena oversees. I had the honor of conducting the actual wedding ceremony for Ghenadi and Romina and delivered a message on love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. Ghenadi is the oldest son of the three biological children in the Bulgari family. Romina has no biological family in her life and has spent the past several years in the care of Valentine’s family, the worship leader and deacon of the church in Larga. Wedding festivities lasted well into the evening. We had the honor of assisting with clean up and tear down from 7:30 p.m – 11:00.
Sunday morning Mike and I both spoke in each of three churches. First up the Larga Church at 10 a.m. then on to Coteala at 2 p.m. and finally in Trestieni at 4 p.m. Mike gave a beautiful greeting, expressed his love for the Church worldwide, shared meaningful Scripture and described how God has brought us together in partnership between Larga and Wrightsville Beach. I taught on Mark 2:1-12 challenging the churches to think outside of the box when it comes to sharing faith and life with those God has put in our path. Many thanks to Igor and Ghenadi for translating as necessary.
Monday we had the opportunity to discuss future ministry opportunities, hear reports of present and past ministry and heard plans for the two camps WBBC has now funded. The entire Bulgari family and close ministry friends will direct and run all aspects of the ministry at each of those weeklong events. The youth camp is scheduled for July 3-9 and has 100 youth registered. Amazingly, the local government has approached Ghena about offering the same camp for children in government care for the weeks of July 10-16, 17-23 and 24-30. This is an unheard of opportunity for a Christian, non-orthodox organization to be encouraged to present a Christian camp for children and teens in governmental care. While we don’t have the funding at present to help make this possible, we are prayerful that the Lord will provide. The family camp already funded by WBBC will be held at a different camp facility August 1 – 6. There are about 45 families signed up totaling about 150 people! These families include believers and their non-believing friends. What an amazing opportunity for families to be immersed in God’s love and teaching. Several families are now active in the various churches and have been baptized as a direct result of camps held two years ago.
Monday afternoon we treated the family to an extended lunch in Briceni. What happy faces as they enjoyed a meal of pizza, lemonade, soups and bread. We put a bow on the three hour event with ice cream. While pizza might be a weekly event for some American families, this was only the second time in two years the family has dined together in this restaurant. What a treat topped with many ear to ear smiles! On the drive home we had the honor of presenting the family with funds raised and pledged by WBBC to fund the two camps along with several special presentations. In addition to camp funding, we delivered countless ministry t-shirts and a duffle bag filled with clothing for newborns through toddler provided and prayed over by ladies of WBBC. Dina and the ladies of the church will use these to bless expecting and new families in their churches.
Once back in Larga, we toured the new home of Ghenadi and Romina purchased by leadership and friends of WBBC. You may not be aware, but in addition to the $8000.00 committed by the missions team to fund the camps, a group of passionate, mission minded believers came together to provide $9000.00 to purchase a once in a lifetime property for the family. Ghena and Dina have a modest home filled to the brim with children. A house just a block away has been on the market for about five years. Tied up in an estate situation, the owner offered it to the Bulgari family just two months ago at the unbelievable price of $9,000. We presented the idea of this property to leadership of the church and to a few friends in Wilmington and Pinehurst. Just a few days later the funds were in hand for the purchase and immediately transferred to Moldova. Ghenadi and Romina now have a generous property complete with two outbuildings and a very large garden. As they find their stride in marriage, they will begin hosting the many adopted children of the family. Located at a prominent intersection in the heart of town, it is our hope and prayer that this house as well as the main house will continue to be a lighthouse of hope for the people of Larga.
Tuesday we began our drive back to Chisinau about 10:30 a.m. in search for handmade crafts to serve as physical reminders for the church of our partnership and friendship with the beautiful people of Moldova. Wednesday we hoped to connect with a ministry from Aneini Noi, but conflicts on their end came between us. We boarded the 13 hour train to Bucharest at 4 p.m. as we embarked on quite the evening of cross country travel. Thursday morning we arrived in Bucharest at 7 a.m. We spent the morning resting and the day taking in a few historical sights and getting a handle on the city proper.
Today we met with Sara Smith, toured the ministry facilities ofAn Anchor of Hope Romania and visited one of four orphanages with her. It is fair to say that we are humbled by her commitment to this ministry and her passion for reaching forgotten and unloved children of Romania with the incomparable love of Christ. From the moment she stepped out of the car teens flocked around her with hugs, high fives and shouts of, “Sara! I love you!” The vision was planted in her heart some ten years ago while visiting Bucharest on a mission trip from Liberty University while she was completing her Master’s Degree in Psychology. She moved to Bucharest to live full-time in self-funded ministry eight years ago. Today she has two American couples with children living in Bucharest full-time as missionary house parents along with several local staff. They have a group of apartments on the edge of town near the orphanages which are funded by Wilmington Based Christ Community Church where orphans formerly housed in the government facilities now live with house parents. In addition, they have a mission house with duplex units. Sara and her two foster children now live in one side of the house and the second side is completely for ministry purposes. This facility hosts a daily Christian preschool for countless children who would otherwise spend their days with no teaching and little interaction in the orphanage. The ministry offices are housed in the duplex as is lodging facilities for 8 – 12 mission team members to stay and eat on site.
Quite the opportunity for WBBC to serve here in Bucharest, Romania as well as Larga, Moldova. Much more information to share in the near future.
Mike and I begin our first leg to Munich about 10:30 p.m. Eastern time. Justin leaves about 12:30 a.m. Eastern time for London and Jim about 1:30 a.m. Eastern time for Istanbul. Please lift us all up in prayer as we begin our journey home.