Donald J. Morrison reports on gospel ministry to Romanians and Russians in Moldova’s rural countryside.
My recent 10-day missionary visit to Moldova, in Eastern Europe, was, as always, memorable. A craving to share the gospel with as many souls as possible was my primary reason for this trip, besides helping the poor and needy.
At Chişinău I was met by my kind Moldovan Christian hosts, who drove me by car on a 3-hour journey to Cahul, a city in the south-west corner of the country, bordering Romania.
This was my home for the next 10 days, and from where my kind-hearted hosts provided lavish hospitality. My extended waistline is proof that they looked after their Scottish guest exceedingly well! They always do.
Since my last visit, the country has been plunged into turmoil, after the disclosure that $1 billion had disappeared from three of Moldova’s leading banks through dubious money-laundering schemes.
In two days, it seems this vast amount of money was transferred to UK- and Hong Kong-registered companies, then deposited into Latvian bank accounts whose ultimate owners are unknown. Moldova has, for a number of years, been identified as a hub for money-laundering, with criminal cash making its way through the country before landing in offshore havens.
Within days of the scandal, street protests erupted and financial aid from various institutions across Europe was frozen. The corruption scandal has thrown Moldova into economic and political chaos, and led to the collapse of the government — five times, in fact, within 18 months.
While some criminals have been arrested and imprisoned, other super-rich Russian oligarchs are being investigated for their involvement in what is now regarded as the ‘great Moldovan Bank robbery’.
And all this debacle is happening in (wait for it!) the poorest country in Europe! As I reflected on all this, I realised that the heart of man is as corrupt and sinful in Moldova as it is in Scotland and elsewhere. Truly, the heart of every problem, as the Bible reminds us, is the problem of the heart: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9).
We had hardly reached Cahul, before we were soon out on the streets of this town — which has population of around 35,000 souls — with the gospel. I found that people in general were receptive to the truth of God’s Word.
Of course, those staunchly attached to the Orthodox Church were an exception, with some showing hostility to the good news we endeavoured to lovingly share with them. One man made his angry views clearly known. He bellowed, in Russian, ‘You evangelical Christians think you know every truth. Well, you don’t. Keep your beliefs to yourself. Your likes is not welcome around here’.
An ally of Rome, the Orthodox Church has little time for biblical Christianity. Not only does it reject the true gospel of Christ, it also exerts great effort to prevent other people from seeing this gospel. Many genuinely converted souls incur the wrath and scorn of family members, as well as government officials.
You will be delighted to hear that we did not keep any of our ‘Christian beliefs’ to ourselves! In fact, we shared them with everyone we met all day in the market square that was teeming with people doing their Friday shopping.
It was a great joy to give out a mountain of gospel literature and materials, in Romanian and Russian, along with a number of Bibles. Many conversations were entered into, with quite a number willing to speak and ask questions about the Christian faith.
The Scotsman in their midst inadvertently attracted some attention while I gave out booklets to those passing by. They discerned I wasn’t a local when I commended the gospel in their own language, ‘My dear friend, can I commend to you the way to heaven? Jesus Christ is the only way to get there’.
I had to summon help very quickly, every time, as I could hardly say very little more, in either Russian or Romanian.
One person I could speak English to was Maia Sandu, who was standing as a candidate for the next president of Moldova. While she was busy trying to win votes on the streets, I was endeavouring, with God’s help, to win souls.
After being pointed out, I went over and spoke to her about her need of Christ and salvation. She expressed surprise that someone from Scotland should be witnessing in her homeland about the gospel. Being receptive, she was happy to accept ‘good news’ literature in Romanian, her first language. From reports, it is understood that she is one of the few ‘clean’ politicians in Moldova.
Although, sadly, she lost the presidential election, coming in second place, our hope and prayer is that she will come to ‘win Christ’ and become a faithful witness for God and his Word in her own country.
Another memorable highlight of my trip was when I was invited to ‘preach and witness’ at a college campus accommodation block. The night I spoke, there were around 35 students present, all eager and enthusiastic to hear the truth of God’s Word.
My language translator had lifted my spirit after assuring me that I could speak on anything and everything that the Bible teaches about God, Jesus Christ, sin, heaven, hell, salvation, the cross and repentance.
After reading a few Bible verses, I then endeavoured to preach the Word, urging them to repent and believe the gospel. At the end, their inquisitive minds asked a wide range of questions, which were a joy to answer. Hearing I was a Scottish missionary, they asked me to give a brief word of Christian testimony and then share with them how and why I had dedicated my life to full-time gospel work.
Hunger for Bibles
Mr Gabriel, who is also a minister to a small rural village congregation, told me that his greatest need was to secure a large quantity of Bibles, both in Romanian and Russian, to freely distribute among the students he ministers to here on a regular basis.
While he is able to give out small New Testaments, he told me that many students would love to have their own personal copy of the whole Bible — which he can’t do at the moment, simply because he doesn’t have them.
I assured him that we would make every effort to bridge this vital link, by providing as many Bibles as he wanted to give out to students hungry to read the Scriptures. Please pray for Mr Gabriel and his invaluable ministry among the students, that many of these boys and girls will become sons and daughters of the King of kings, and raised to serve the Lord in their own country.
To be concluded