Planting Life-giving Seeds in Southern Romania
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19,20
This past May I had the wonderful experience of traveling to southern Romania. I was part of a team of pastors and women leaders aptly called “Pastors On Assignment”. We held two conferences – one in Constanta at the Black Sea and the second in Târgoviste which is about 75 miles from Bucharest. It was my first missions trip and it was my first experience as a participating leader of a women’s conference. The fear of standing in front of the women left the moment I stood in front of the podium. You see, the Lord had given me something so strong to impart that there was no room for hesitation…
THERE’S ALWAYS A FIRST TIME
In 1997, I joined the Board of Mission Connection. As its Director, Paul Grimes exhorted us that in order to be an effective board member, he recommended that we make every attempt to join an outreach trip to Romania in the next two or three years. At the time, I made a personal commitment that I would try to do everything I could to make this possible. In late August 1998, I made up my mind to join an outreach for May 1999 called “Pastors On Assignment”. I thought I could at least offer my administrative skills and perhaps stand with others in prayer. Little did I know that my part would be so much more…
PREPARATION FOR MINISTRY
Throughout those last nine months of preparation before departure, my heart’s cry was “Lord, I know about the importance of missions in my head, but I need to know it in my heart. Please give me a heart for the nations.” In October I was privileged to join PRAYERTEAM for a weekend at Moravian Falls, South Carolina. Many, many years ago this was the site that Moravians from Germany settled. The Moravians were known for their sense of community as well as their commitment to the Gospel and sending missionaries. During my visit to Moravian Falls I was constantly reminded of the decades of prayers offered from those mountain tops. I joined my prayers to theirs and sang Ruth Heflin’s song, “I ask for … [the name of a country]” . Upon my return, I daily sang, “I ask for Romania. I call her by name. I present her to the Father, in Jesus’ name.”
RESEARCH ON ROMANIA
As the months drew closer, I began to research the history of Romania and in particular, the areas where the team of pastors would be holding the conferences. The horror of Ceaucescu’s reign of terror, the persecution of the church, and the sorrows of trying to rebuild the country after 1989’s over-throw, and the continuing poverty – all of these things and more, gave me a deep compassion for the people of Romania. I found some very interesting facts which propelled me towards deeper prayer and a greater vision.
Romania has been known as “The Bread Basket of Europe”. Perhaps this has occurred because of the Danube River’s delta. It has brought rich silt and soil to this land. Today, it is a tragedy that Romania must export most of its agricultural products to maintain its economy. Food is so expensive. It’s no wonder that those who live in the villages and the countryside seem to survive better as they all have their own personal gardens. More about that later … Also significant to me is the fact that Andrew brought the “Bread of Life”, Jesus, to Romania.
ANDREW, APOSTLE TO ROMANIA
Tradition and early church writings state that Andrew once visited the Black Sea shores at Constanta, the location of our first conference. Andrew’s name means “a stout and strong man”, with the Greek name as Andreas, meaning “manly”. Andrew was the First Disciple. Although at first a disciple of John the Baptist, Andrew and John the Beloved were led to receive Jesus when John pointed Him out as the Lamb of God. Andrew immediately told his brother Simon (later known as Peter) that he had found the Messiah. And so here, we see Andrew as the First Evangelist. Although he returned to his occupation as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, when he and Simon were called by Jesus, Andrew became the First Follower. Andrew was also called as one of the First Apostles and was numbered as one of the four most intimate with Jesus.
Andrew is not mentioned very often in the Gospels. But his name is mentioned on five very interesting occasions where Andrew was the means of an introduction to Jesus. First of all, he found Jesus and immediately went and told his brother, Simon. (Mk 1:14-18; M t 4:18-20; Jn 1:35-40). Secondly, at the Feeding of the Five Thousand, it was Andrew who found the lad with the 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Thirdly, Philip brought the Greeks seeking Jesus to Andrew to present to Jesus (Jn 12:20-22). Finally, we see Andrew mentioned when Jesus discussed the end times (Mk 13:3-4) and in the Upper Room at Pentecost in Acts (Acts 1:13).
PRAISING, PREACHING, AND EXHORTING
Although the Bible does not mention Andrew very often, the early church had its traditions about the ministry of Andrew. It is said that he preached in Scythia (a large country in the north of Europe and Asia), Asia Minor and Thrace. It is thought that he founded a church in Constantinople and ordained it’s first bishop. At the end of his life, tradition states that Andrew came to Patrae, a city of Achaia where the Roman proconsul was enraged that Andrew continued to preach and refused to sacrifice to heathen gods. I read one account which hinted that Aegeas’ wife was converted. Upon Andrew’s refusal to cease from preaching, Aegeas is said to have had him severely scourged and then crucified. To make his death more lingering, Andrew was fastened to the cross with cords instead of nails. He hung there for two days praising God and preaching and exhorting the spectators to embrace Jesus. The cross is said to have been in the form called crux decussata and is commonly known as the St. Andrew’s Cross which is in the shape of an “X”.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ANDREW TO ROMANIA
As I studied Andrew’s life and the significance of the fact that he preached at Constanta, I was struck by many things pertinent to our conference theme. The Director of Mission Connection and our conference leader, Pastor Paul Grimes’ overall desire was to have us teach about Evangelism and Church Planting. To me, one of the greatest ways to evangelize is to share your testimony of Jesus with those at home and in particular, your immediate family. Bringing others to Jesus was Andrew’s primary goal. So many were blessed because of his fire. In actuality, he was Peter’s “father” and therefore, he was “grandfather” to the three thousand who were won to Christ by Peter’s testimony on the day of Pentecost. One of the greatest tasks we have as Christians is to share Jesus with others. Andrew did this with great success.
INTERESTED IN SERVICE, NOT POSITION
In Andrew’s life I see humility as he never achieved the prominence or success of Peter, James or John. It seems that he was more interested in service to others than in position for himself. He left all and followed Christ. As we see at the miraculous feeding, he was a blessing to all who were despairing and had gathered to hear Jesus. Andrew’s ministry was personal and not public. Most of the women of Romania remain quietly hidden in the background. And yet, they are the ones who could be the most effective to win the lost to Christ. My prayer, therefore, was that our team would symbolize Andrew’s ministry. And that as we carried the Gospel message to the shores of the Black Sea in Constanta as he once did, that revival would be sparked and travel through Romania.
THE DANUBE RIVER
The Danube River is the second longest river in Europe and the longest river in Central Europe. It is the only river that flows east to west. It begins in the Black Forest of Germany and empties into the Black Sea at Constanta. It courses down through Romania, crosses it and spreads into a large delta and a network of channels, lakes, reed islands, tropical woods, pastures and sand dunes. This large delta shelters over 300 species of birds and countless fish from royal sturgeon to carp and perch. Over 1150 plants range from oak forests to water lilies.
With over three hundred tributaries, the Danube unites eight countries: Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Its watershed area touches seventeen European countries. This river serves as a channel for local trade among the nations on its banks. “The current NATO bombings of bridges along the Danube in Yugoslavia have left huge chunks of concrete in the river, jamming up freighter and barge traffic along the 1,750 mile artery that stretches from Germany through the Balkans to the Black Sea.” (MSNBC.com 4-9-1999) The river freight trade includes iron ore, steel, wood, and fertilizer. The recent bombings have caused real economic damage to Romanian shippers.
THE RIVER OF GLORY
My spirit leapt as I began to realize the significance of the Danube River to Romania And more importantly, to Pastors on Assignment. If only… If only… If only our conference in Constanta, where Andrew first stepped ashore with the Gospel and where the Danube empties, could be the beginning of something marvelous for Romania. The prayer in my heart was for our team to bring the light of the Gospel and that it would shine from Constanta, up the Danube, course through Romania, and that it would continue through and unite those other seven countries. I prayed that the Prince of Peace would bring peace to this war-torn land and people. What a wonder if our small team could spark such a thing!
MAKE ME A CRUISE MISSILE LORD!
A few weeks before departure, as I was praying, I was prompted to ask the Lord to make me a “cruise missile”. I wanted to be so tuned up and tuned in that whatever I brought to Romania would be targeted and precise. A few days after that, Paul Grimes said he thought Pastors On Assignment would be a “launching pad” for revival to Romania and across the Black Sea to the Muslim nations.
A week before departure, Shirley Weaver, of A Clear Trumpet, called me and asked, “Do you have your launching gear on?” The Lord spoke to Tiance Morgan, a fellow team member, about the fact that our team was like “Apollo 7”. Oddly enough, just a few days before we left, Apollo 7 was in the news as they had found the capsule that returned to earth. It was going to take several weeks to bring it up from the bottom of the ocean. As he introduced Communion during our last service in Targoviste, Pastor Rick Bloom mentioned the fact Communion was celebrated in outer space. Guess which mission? Apollo 7
One final note. A couple of days before I left, Bobbie Jean Merck’s Overflow magazine arrived. Guess what was on the cover? 11 Fighter Jets and the article was about Authority, Precision, and Order! “I am certain this is God”s heart and that we should be harvesting mightily from every eternal seed we have planted for many years… we must not compromise the convictions of our heart in the name of peace… Authority is anointing… Authority and responsibility demand accountability… Being trustworthy increases our God-given responsibilities and assignments… 1999 — the Year of the Divine and that includes divine order… Divine order releases divine authority and divine authority releases divine glory. Our calling is to glory… authority: the pressure of a weight, to be. Authority is weight. Glory is weight. Therefore, authority and glory work together… ‘Enter now into My rest.’ Rest means to cease from work and meditate on the glories of God. Divine order is God’s promise to you!”
AS SIMPLE AS A SEED
I was only two days away from departure and the Lord strongly put it in my heart to buy 115 packages of seeds. You see, we were expecting at least that many women to attend the conferences in Constanta and Targoviste. Thank heavens for Wal Mart’s Garden Shop and Home & Garden’s special on 5 packages! With those seed packages neatly tucked away in my suitcase, I began to seek the Lord for His reason for sending me. What was the message I was to bring to those women? “The message was in THE SEED ~ the seed”. What I was bringing to those women was just that — The Seed (Jesus) and the seed (what the Holy Spirit had implanted in my spirit for them). My message was to reach out and stand with the women around you … in your home, your church, your neighborhood, your work. Each of us is a seed planted by God to be watered, fertilized, and grown to bear fruit and give Him glory. What was so strong in my spirit was the fact that all I brought was a seed. It was their responsibility to plant it and see it grow. Tiance Morgan, Lori Haraldsen, and myself were only three ladies among a group of pastors from America. We didn’t have all of the answers. But, what we did have, we gave to those women. My prayer was that much fruit would remain.
We three ladies who gave the conferences in Constanta and Targoviste were amazed at our reception. The women were so beautiful, warm, and welcoming. It tore our hearts to see the poverty, illness, and the desperate plea in their eyes. They received our messages well, but I think more importantly, I felt that our prayer time afterward and our meals together were even more significant. There was a holy fire present as we prayed with them and for them. We taught them the beauty of praying with one another – to stand with their sisters in need. (Because of the language barrier and need for interpreters, it was a marvelous way to “teach on our feet”!)
All in all, it was a life-changing experience for me. I’ll never be the same again. “The Future is NOW for Romania!”
A FEW SPECIAL MEMORIES
A few days before I left, I went to the local book store and purchased a beautiful 18″ walnut cross. I carried it in the bottom of my suitcase all the way to Constanta. On the evening before our conference, I walked out onto the shore of the Black Sea and planted the cross in its sand. I prayed that the Lord would do all He planned and that I would be His willing vessel. I prayed again for revival in Constanta and throughout Romania, even as Andrew brought the Gospel to their shores. I then carried the cross to Targoviste and walked across the city with the cross in full sight and planted it at the Bible Institute.
Children of Ludesti, Romania
One of my favorite experiences was ministering to the women and children of a Gypsy village called Ludesti. We were given a tour of several homes in this village. They had very little, but you should have seen those walls! The women put up crocheted awnings, or stenciled, or painted beautiful pictures.
As I mentioned earlier, each home had its own garden for food. I was delighted to see some flowers among the necessities! I still remember the beauty of the children. You have no idea how beautiful the young Romanians are. Beautiful faces and skin.
What a tragedy to see the change after they reach their thirties, especially in the women. The women work so very hard in the home and in the fields. Their labor and long hours take a toll and when they are forty, they look like they’re sixty.
While we were in Constanta, I couldn’t help recalling the wonderful prophetic words and Klaus’ song, about “River of Glory”. I kept praying, “Lord, let Your river begin to flow at the Black Sea. Let it flow across this nation and up through the countries along the course of the Danube. Let it begin with Pastors On Assignment, Lord. Please bring revival to this land.”
THIS IS A FOREIGN COUNTY!
When we left Constanta for Targoviste, we were able to see the huge Danube River channel. And a bit farther down, our bus stopped so that we might see the actual river. We got out of the bus and began to walk. At first what appeared to be the river we discovered was a flooded area. Huge numbers of trees were coming right out of the water. There were many fisherman with their boats. It was wonderful to see the huge carp they were catching. They proudly lifted up their ropes to show us their catches. We continued to walk and found ourselves on the bridge itself. The river was awesome to see. I began to sing, “I ask for Romania”.
All of a sudden Ovidiu Tanase, president of the Bible Institute, walked back and told me, “Do not to take pictures, continue to walk straight ahead, do not turn back, and do not stop.” The soldiers were eyeing us suspiciously. At the middle of the bridge, Paul Grimes, Ovidiu, and a fellow teammate were in deep conversation with the soldiers. They wanted the cameras and they wanted money. All of us kept walking as fast as we could. Ovidiu came running up to the bus which had gone ahead to the other side of the bridge with panic in his voice as the soldier wanted everyone’s passport. We all began to pray. Truly, I was reminded of Peter’s imprisonment when the church prayed all night. Thankfully all worked out and they didn’t keep the passports. We continued our journey. Apparently, this bridge is the last line of defense before the Black Sea as well as the first line of offense and is very important to Romania. And our visit was during the Kosovo Crisis. For that reason, the soldiers must obey the rules, no matter how innocent we might be. [A funny note: my feet hurt so much from all the walking, that I was wearing my bedroom slippers for the bus ride. Little did I know that I’d have walk to the end of the bridge!]
Another interesting point was that there were storks all over the place. Strange. They even had huge nests built right by the side of the road at the bridge’s end. They are magnificent birds and their nests remind me of the eagle’s nest. I found it prophetic in a sense as storks always bring the babies. Lord, may it be that Pastors On Assignment birthed something wonderful in Constanta and Basaraba and that the Danube River will indeed be that River of Glory!
A CONFIRMING SCRIPTURE
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.
What profit has the worker from that in which he labors? I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor — it is the gift of God.
It is an exciting time to be working in Romania. The fields are truly ripe unto harvest.