Iasi is the second largest city in Romania, with a population of 400.000 people, majority of them nominal Eastern Orthodox Christians. Iasi is like a "Mecca" for Eastern Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe and the spiritual oppression is very high. There are very few Evangelicals (less than 4000 -Baptists, Pentacostals, Charismatics and Brethren all together) and most of the leaders of the churches there are untrained. We will be working with Second Baptist Church of Iasi to host a pastors conference where you will teach the TLI biblical theology curriculum. You will also have a chance to preach in churches.
Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.
We wrapped up a great week of teaching last night looking at the resolution and fulfillment of the Biblical themes we have been tracing all week. Last night we were looking specifically at Revelation 21 and 22. It was awesome to consider the new heaven and new earth and how the redeemed of the Lord will be together with Him in that new city forever.
Earlier this week Andrei and I had the opportunity to go to a meeting of the Baptist pastors in Suceava, two hours north of Iasi. We had a time of prayer and singing, then they studied the first chapters of 2 Timothy together. Not being able to understand Romanian, I simply sat back and pondered and prayed about what I was seeing. Here were 25 pastors of the Lord's Church. Many of the men were older grey saints who had been pastors back into the communist era. It was a study in years to look at their deeply lined faces and eyes. What must it take to lead a church through the times that they have seen, through persecution, and continuing marginalization? I began to pray and thank God for each man and His sustaining grace in their lives.
One man's face stood out to me. He was obviously the oldest gentlemen in the room and sat slightly bent, in a simple black suit and a halo of thin silver hair. Though he was worn in body, he was not worn in spirit, and exuded a deep peace and quiet dignity. After the meeting I asked our friend Gabi to introduce me to him. Mihai Metrofiu is over eighty years old and has been a pastor since 1970. He told me that during the communist period he was one of only four Baptist pastors in all of North East Romania. Now he is the only one left. I wanted to ask him more about his experiences but he began speaking of his prayers and hopes for the young people and young pastors of the church. Amazing. This aged saint's eyes were not on the past but on the future and what God would do through his church in Romania.
Andrei, Gabi, and I were able to share about the ministry of TLI with these men and how we might serve by providing training for their leaders.There was a strong response and the pastors were full of excitement and questions. They know this is a critical need, and that there are few opportunities I think TLI will have many new opportunities to serve the Romanian church as a result of these meetings. Please continue to pray for the Romanian church. Thank God for her pastors, and pray us as we seek to serve the leaders God is raising up.
Grace Mercy and Peace
Today, Thursday, was a busy day. After breakfast, we went with two local pastors to a Gypsy Bible Training School in a village outside of Iasi. It was very encouraging to see and hear about the work that God is doing there. A man from Kentucky, with a church-planter's heart, was called to Romania to start working with gypsies there. He has a two-year Bible program (not including the summers) that teaches gypsies about the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to make disciples themselves. After the two years, graduates receive a certificate. The cost is only about $12 (US) per semester, but many of theme don't even have that! We prayed for the brothers there, and even gave them a small donation.
Then, we drove back to Iasi and heard about the history of the church that has been hosting the training during the trip. The pastor told us how he came to be the ordained pastor there, and the journey of faith that the church is experiencing right now, including how to raise up and disciple the next generation. There are many things to be thankful for in this church, and it is evident that the Lord's hand of blessing is upon them. Yet, there are also some specific prayer requests, one of them being that God would continue to bless them with younger converts who remain "in the Vine" and seek to carry out God's commission. Also pray for the pastor that he would faithfully preach the word of God, and that his people would learn to trust his leadership more (Heb. 13:7).
Next, we had lunch with an American missionary for lunch at one of the local pastor's home. It was a wonderful opportunity to pray for him, encourage him, ask him questions about his sending organization, and get to know him more. He said it was refreshing to be able to speak with people from his home country, in his "mother tongue." (There is something stress-relieving about speaking in your original language, with people from your home culture and context.) It was a privilege to be able to lift up this brother and encourage him, even if for just a small time.
After our teaching time tonight, we also had a chance to go play "fotbal" (aka "soccer") with several local youth (mostly college age guys). The Romanians proved that they were MUCH better than the Americans! It was a lot of fun! Praise God for universal points of contact like music, soccer/fotbal, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit. Also praise God that none of us are sick or hurt.
Lastly, do be praying for us as a team to finish the week well; to teach well tomorrow night. Pray that we would all make our different appointments on time, including flights out of Iasi, since many of us leaving at different times (one of us on Saturday, and some on Sunday or Monday). Pray that what we've taught so far would make a lasting impact on the local pastors, and that it would change the way the read the Bible, the way they preach from the Word, and that it would grow in them a greater love for God and the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Dear family and friends,
We cannot believe how quickly the week is passing by. Today, we had some time to spend with Ciprian, one of the local pastors, and one of the things that he shared with me (Mircea) is how much he desires that the church he is pastoring would know the Scriptures. He has started to ask youth how their Bible reading is going and has been taking them through books of the Bible. Also, he told us about doing an outreach over the summer called "Bible Days" where people from the church interacted with the community to encourage them to read the Bible. The people that seemed interested in reading the Bible received a copy to read at home. Praise the Lord for how He is working through His people in Iasi!
We even had a chance to sing in a Catholic church, and while there Ciprian and Andrei had a chance to talk to the janitor, who was very open to visiting the Baptist church on a Sunday. Join us in praying that the Lord will save her for His glory!
We are seeing in the pastors and other students a continued openness to our teaching and no opposition or problems. So we ask that you would continue to pray that the Lord would keep them teachable and that He would grant us wisdom, boldness, clarity and humility as we teach through the lessons.
Tonight, a few of the members of the team were invited by the elders of one of the local churches to discuss the work of TLI. The elders, who are pastors of the association that Andrei and Ethan went to on Tuesday, are encouraged by our teaching and want TLI to return with many more classes! Also, please pray for continued opportunities to encourage the pastors and elders in the churches nearby. We yearn to see the Lord continue to transform the churches and raise up a generation who trusts and loves the Scriptures and who is yearning to take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth (Matt. 28:18-20)!
Mircea and Aaron
By: Jeff Lacine
Yesterday we arrived in Iasi after a six-hour journey from Brasov. 92.5% of the population in Iasi is Romanian Orthodox, and 4.9% of the population is Roman Catholic. Almost all of them do not understand the gospel, and most of them have not heard the gospel (which is the message that all of humanity is separated from God because of sin, and that Christ has come as the substitutionary sacrifice for sinners, so that all who put their trust in him receive the righteousness of Christ and have been united to God by grace alone). It is a tremendous privilege to be working with pastors who are laboring to spread a knowledge of God and his gospel in such a gospel famished area.
When we arrived in Iasi in the late afternoon we were invited to eat at the home of the pastor of Second Baptist Church here in Iasi. His name is Chipri and he is serving as our host. He lives in one of the many old communist block apartment complexes, in a small unit with his parents, wife and two children. As soon as we entered their apartment it was clear that he and his wife Sabina have the gift of hospitality. We were warmly welcomed into the home like family, and the ladies served us a memorable multi-course meal that will have us craving Romanian food upon our return to the US. It was a needed rest from much traveling, and their home was an easy place to relax.
Then we rushed off to Second Baptist Church where the pastors, missionaries, and other ministers were gathered for the first seminar on Biblical Theology. Andrei opened with a word of welcome, we raised our voices in praise to the King of the universe, and then we divided up into two groups. The primary reason we break up into groups is to allow sufficient interaction. The goal is that the pastors wrap their minds and hearts around the material so that they can own it for themselves and teach it to their congregations.
Some of first things that struck me about these men is that they are eager to learn, they love the Word of God, and they have many good questions. After the first session a pastor for Kenya came to me and expressed his sincere thankfulness for the teaching and his longing for teaching like this to be available for pastors near his home church.
We got back late to the hotel and debriefed about the first day of sessions, and then stumbled into bed for some sound sleep. Ethan and Andrei left to meet with a group of Baptist pastors in the morning and share with them about the vision of TLI (Ethan will write more about this tomorrow), and the rest of us took the morning off. We again went to Chipri's house in afternoon for another epic multi-course meal, and then headed to the church for the second evening of teaching. I was asked to go and teach a group of young adults (early twenties) from First Baptist Church for their first mid-week gathering of the year. I was able to share with them how God uses his Word to create life, from 2 Corinthians 4:6 and 1 Peter 1:3, 22-25. It was so good to make a connection with Gabi, the pastor of First Baptist Church. We were able to spend some time together in the car talking about trials in ministry and big decisions ahead. I will be praying for this dear brother in the Lord who God has called to the ministry of the Word in the midst of much opposition.
Then, we met back at the hotel to debrief. And now I am looking forward to yet another night of sweet sleep.
Dear friends and family,
We are now in Brasov (pronounced Braashov), Romania, after
twelve hours or more of travel by plane and car. Praise God for the unity that we are already
experiencing and good fellowship He is giving to us. Romania is beautiful, especially here in
Brasov, and we have already met some dear brothers and sisters in the
This morning we were at Providence Church which is pastored
by a friend that I went at Southern Seminary with, Sorin Prodan. We worshiped
with the church in singing, praying and the preaching of the Word. Andrei, Aaron , the pastor’s wife and I led
the church in the music , while Jeff preached from Exodus 6 on loving God more
than a life free of pain. He also
exhorted the church to trust in all that Jesus has done and know that there
will come a day when all pain, suffering, and death will be wiped away. For now we are to seek to trust in the Lord
through all the pain asking for healing and relief but ultimately clinging to
Him if the pain remains. After the
service we had the opportunity to talk with church members and even grab lunch
with some of them.
Tomorrow we are back on the road heading for Iasi
(pronounced Yaash) to meet the pastors, start teaching through the Biblical
Theology curriculum, and build relationships with them. One of the pastors from the last trip,
Ciprian, has been with us the entire time driving the van and fellowshipping
with us. What an incredible blessing it
is to fellowship with people that love the same Lord and are filled by the same
In the grace of the Lord,
Mircea B. Ionescu