Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Ten important things I learned in Moldova: part 2

Following on from this post...

6. 'Do not forget to entertain strangers' - One of the unique things about the Moldova summer team is that, after the camp, we go home for a short stay with a Moldovan. I wrote about this experience last year. This time, I went home with a non-believing guy called Valentin to his home in a village called Coju┼čna. Once again, I was reminded of the poverty that exists even in Europe. The different this year was that Valentin's grasp of English and my grasp of Romanian were on a par (i.e. very low). However, I was blown away by Valetin's hospitality and discovered that it's actually possible to communicate a large amount, even when verbal communication is very limited (although I am hugely grateful for a Romanian phrase book I had, and an ancient Russian-English phrasebook that Valentin owned!).

7. 'I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want' - Last Sunday the team split into three groups and attended three different evangelical churches in Chi┼činau. I had the opportunity to attend Christos Pentru Moldova, a Pentecostal church in the city centre. It was a really interesting experience. Perhaps the thing that will stand with me longest was the sermon, on trusting in Christ in financial difficulty. Moldova is Europe's poorest country and the pressures of lack of money are very real. It's tempting to think that something other than the gospel is needed when there is severe financial pressure. Of course it's right to aim to alleviate these problems, but the sermon reminded me that Christ is sufficient even in times of great lack.

8. 'But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us' - My friend Cathy Midmer, who'd co-led two previous trips with me, used to always say that being in Moldova makes a British person feel their weakness. It's true. Everyday activities that would normally come very easily all of a sudden become things that are risky and hard. Add the inevitable bout of illness to the mix and you're made to feel very weak. But with the difficulties we faced this time, it was more obvious than ever that the British team were frail and, like everyone, possessing their own honest shortcomings. One of the CSC staff workers commented that she'd always secretly thought that the British teams in Moldova were somehow super-human. This year she'd realised that we struggled like everyone else. But I think this led to greater glory to Christ. It was Christ that kept us going, and when we were whittled away he remained, just as Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 4.

9. 'We live by faith, not by sight' - As I mentioned in the previous post, we spent early morning team times on camp studying 2 Corinthians 1-6. I'd looked at this letter a number of times before, but it came alive as we moved through it methodically. The 'gospel' and 'ministry' of the super-apostles impacted me like never before: a gospel of glory and ministry that celebrated present comfort, the seen and the special. I was convicted by how easy I find it to slip into super-apostle thinking, where I am bothered most about what I see, and lose confidence in the Spirit's gospel transformation being what really matters. Even on the camp, it was easy to get most excited by external things rather trusting the Lord's work in people's hearts. And so the experiences of difficulty were helpful, refocusing me (and the team) onto what really matters: the eternal, internal work of gospel transformation, when the heart is God's true target. As well as some Moldovan non-believers, members of our team were moved to real openness, honesty and repentance regarding a wide range of areas of their lives. When Christians are honest about their lives, it can be tempting to despair at all the messiness. But we live by faith and not by sight. And so it is much more wonderful when hearts are changed than when Christians live a false life that outwardly looks sorted.

10. 'And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit' - Perhaps the thing above all that I will remember from Moldova 2009 was the deep work of transformation that the Lord did through his Word and by his Spirit. Nearly every member of our team experienced deep spiritual renewal as they were shown their weakness and sin and driven back to the cross. Several members of the team came face to face with sin and with situations that they had buried for years. The Lord granted some of our team members deep forgiveness. At the same time, at least four Moldovan students professed faith for the first time on the camp, and several others left the camp counting the cost of following Jesus. I have returned reminded once more of the powerful transformation of the gospel and the life that it brings.

Perhaps the three weeks in Moldova this time were three of the most intense weeks of my life. It's difficult to find words to describe some of the things that went on. But please join me in praying that this summer team might prove to have the long-term fruitfulness that I think it might have had, both in Christians and in non-Christians. Pray that the Moldova 2009 summer team might prove of tremendous value for the kingdom.


Chris said...

just amazing.
cool to hear about artur & stefan!
glad you're back

Dave K said...

great summary.