Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Ten important things I learned in Moldova

Yesterday evening the UCCF Moldova summer team arrived back in Luton after 15 hours of travelling. It was the last stage of an incredible three weeks.

I'd rarely - perhaps never - previously had the opportunity to see the gospel at work so powerfully in the way that it was during our time away. To be honest I'm still finding it a bit difficult to process everything that went on. But here are ten things I'll remember:

1. 'He who began a good work in you will carry it on to the day of completion' - It was so encouraging to see ongoing growth in many of the students I'd met in previous years. ┼×tefan (a room mate on camp three weeks ago) now works as an accountant and is active in his local church - I was so grateful to God for letting me bump into him again. Another former roommate, Artur is about to start as a volunteer with CSC (the Moldovan equivalent of UCCF) on a programme a bit like UCCF's Relay; Victor (who became a Christian on the camp two years ago) is to start training as a priest in the Orthodox Church, looking to apply what he's learned and serve the saviour he loves there; Tanea (who became a Christian on the camp last year) is going strong as a believer. It was also amazing to see how several friends from last year have softened to the gospel over the past twelve months. There are other stories just like this. It's brilliant to see that our ministry is not 'hit and run' and makes a real difference in the long term.

2. 'I urge that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for those in authority' - Until this trip I guess I'd had quite a romantic view of the former Soviet regime. But over the course of the trip this time it became evident how in Moldova - a former Soviet country with an elected Communist government - this sort of governance plays out. It's a strange time in Moldova. The upcoming elections are the most important in the country's history. Meanwhile, the government seem paranoid about 'destabilising influences'. As Westerners working with students - perhaps those amongst the more politically active in Moldova - we were viewed suspiciously. Roll on endless bureaucracy given to our Moldovan hosts. The whole system works on fear: a real fear of negative consequences if you don't do as you are told. Having had just a taste of this, I've realised how difficult it is to be in this sort of system (especially to be a Christian). Pray for the upcoming elections, especially for the Christians standing to reform the system.

3. 'Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn' - Due to the culture of fear that I described above, our team ended up having an ultimately unnecessary brush with the authorities. What followed was really invasive and painful for some of the members of our team. One of the things that I'll remember, though, was the way in which our team pulled together. I've never really been part of a group of Christians that has modelled all suffering when one part suffers in the same way. Deep love for each other and deep love for Jesus was behind the deep emotional response that the group showed.

4. 'We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the hardships we suffered in the Republic of Moldova. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure... But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God' - I felt out of my depth for nearly all of our time away. Day to day different situations emerged where things just seemed to be spinning out of control. I know that several other individuals experienced this too, especially in the situation I sketched above. There were a whole series of pressures that I'd never experienced in leading other summer teams. On the mornings of the camp, the British team studied 2 Corinthians together. It was very appropriate. Together we realised the great blessing of being made to cast ourselves once more upon Christ and his Spirit. In our time of debrief, several people shared that they had experienced the joy and freedom of this, even in situations of pain and pressure.

5. 'I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh' - In the evangelistic Bible studies on the camp this year, we used an adapted version of The World We All Want course. In my opinion, one of the real strengths of the course is the way in which it emphasises that real change is impossible without the Holy Spirit, but with the Spirit change of heart and desires is possible and realistic. As this truth penetrated people's hearts, we saw amazing things happen. In our orientation, the British team were convicted of deep sin as we went through these studies - especially regarding trust in works, rules and law to change oneself, rather than the Spirit. On the camp, many Moldovan non-believers camp to crave this indwelling of the Spirit, realising their helplessness to see real heart change without his special work. One girl, just before she trusted Christ, asked a member of the group how many times she needed to pray to receive the Spirit's indwelling. She was amazed to hear that, if the prayer was genuine, she needed to turn to Jesus only once to be forgiven and receive his Spirit. What a privilege it was to bring this good news!

Part 2 follows in due course...


Ben Carswell said...

Pete - Great to read the news of your time in Moldova. It's a great country with many obvious needs, but none more pressing than the spread of the Gospel. Look forward to reading part 2.
Trust you are well & ready for your move to Donny (or are you there already?).
God bless mate,

peterdray said...

Hi Ben, thanks so much for your comments. We move early August hopefully. Congratulations on your wonderful news!