In Europe’s poorest country: Moldova local church sends mission team
By Ann C. Wayne, special to the Salisbury Post
Dust covered their shoes as the Americans walked the rutted dirt roads through the villages outside Chisinau, Moldova, and handed out bags of food. The villagers have nothing but concrete block stucco houses with clay tiled roofs. They gather food from back yard gardens, and their meat roams freely within a rickety fence. Chickens, ducks and geese wandering and waiting until their destiny ends on their master’s table.
Dr. Bill Coleman, associate pastor of He’s Alive Church in Kannapolis, led a team of 20 people to Chisinau, Moldova from Oct. 9-18 this fall — four men and 16 women, ages 20 to 69, from new Christians to seasoned saints.
God bonded the team and used them to minister to people in the poorest country in Europe.
Coleman made his first mission trip in 2001, to India, and it lit a fire in him. Since then, he has been on 25 international trips and has led 23 of them.
He met Victor and Shanna Pascaru at a camp for Moldovan young adults outside of Carpineni when he taught there in 2006. Pascaru told Coleman he intended to plant a church, and they have stayed in touch ever since.
Every year or so, Coleman takes a team to Moldova. Pascaru’s church is just one of the ministries the team works with. The church is in Cainairi, a small village with about 5,000 people.
Pascaru met his wife, Shanna, while she was a missionary teaching English in Moldova. He was the pastor’s son at the church she was attending. They have six biological children and one foster child, a Moldovan teenager.
Pascaro planted Farul Church in their living room in Cainari five years ago. As they reached more people, they outgrew their living room and rented a building for three years. On Oct. 21, they moved to a new, bigger facility. Some members of the U.S. team helped with electrical work, painting and building a stage for the church. Pascaru said, “Allow God to use you and you will gain a satisfaction from God that nothing can replace. It helps the people you serve and helps those serving to be encouraged.”
Another former Moldovan, Ben Ostas, flew from his home in Massachusetts to Moldova to join the team. Ben met Dr. Coleman through a Christian Baptist Youth Camp in Massachusetts. The team adopted him into the group like a little brother.
The first day in Moldova was humbling and heart wrenching. The team visited Orhei Orphanage, a home for mentally and physically handicapped males from elementary age to adult. A former military base now provides a shelter for them to call home. The young men loved the bracelets and the balloon animals that were made for them. Though some could not speak, a hug or a smile broke any wall of communication.
Day two brought another set of emotions. The boys and girls at Cornesti Orphanage had no sparkle in their eyes. The U.S. team set up a parachute game, a tea light craft, and a Bible story about a lost sheep paraphrased by Molly Friedinger and demonstrated through a large storybook. Deb Sethna, who had never traveled abroad or served on a mission trip, said, “We gave these children a little bit of joy for a brief moment.”
The team also worked with Speranta Church in the city of Chisinau. Coleman made a connection with this church in 2004 when he traveled with nine pastors and an evangelist. Mihai Malancea, the pastor at Speranta Church, is also the president of the Bible University where Coleman has taught on previous mission trips.
On Saturday, the men went to help with electrical work and maintenance on the new facility for Farul Baptist Church, while the 16 women from the U.S. team met at Speranta Church in the city to worship with the women. Amy Schoolman brought the message and Trish Johnson gave her testimony. Amanda Kioukis led the worship and our women sang, “Jesus Loves Me” in Romanian, the dominant language in Moldova. Kariann Hartson said, “The most enriching experience was sitting in the church 8,500 miles apart from ours and we were completely united by one God. We were singing in our own languages, whether we could understand the other language or not.”
The women at Speranta provided a boxed lunch and the team from He’s Alive Church provided crafts after worship. Treasure boxes and wood frames were decorated with buttons, shells, lace and ribbon with words in Romanian for hope, faith and love. Tracy Michin manned the photo printer while I took photos of each woman. Some of the older women especially treasured their photos and couldn’t wait to put them in the frames they decorated. As the women left, Trish Johnson handed them a tote bag filled with toiletries, tissue holders and coin purses that she had sewn before the trip. Around 70 women attended this event.
Dr. William Wilson, who served as a visiting professor of Christian Studies in Shanghai, China, for six years was also part of the team. For three days, he taught college students from all over Central Asia. Most of them were former Muslims or grew up in the Muslim culture. “I had the chance to sew into the lives of these students who will go back to their predominantly Muslim culture to serve in a business or as a missionary,” he said. Wilson is associate professor of New Testament and Greek at Luther Rice College and Seminary.
On Sunday the group went separate ways. Coleman preached at Speranta Church in Chisinau and Wilson preached at Farul Baptist Church in Cainari. Amanda Kioukis sang and shared her testimony and Ellen Carnes and I shared our testimonies at Speranta.
In the village of Cainari, Ellen Carnes, a seasoned clinical exercise physiologist, led a medical clinic in Pascaru’s church. Local doctors, nurses and pharmacists joined her to reach out to the villagers. Amanda Kioukis, Amy Schoolman, Tracy Minchin, Phyllis Shirley, Brittany Wiggins, Carol Gurr, Trish Johnson and Lauren Boan assisted.
Other team members delivered bags of food to a nearby village, Baurci. Most of the people were elderly, and some used pieces of wood for canes. One 85-year-old woman asked the team to pray that she would die soon. Poverty and a lack of health care provoke hopelessness, depression and alcoholism, especially in the remote villages.
Andrea Kiser said, “A God moment for me was going into the villages to see how their health was and how these people continued to go about their everyday tasks regardless of their situations.” But their hospitality overrode their hardships. One couple caught two ducks in their yard, broke their wings so they could not fly away, and gifted them to Coleman. He was stunned when they handed him the ducks in a cloth bag. Women from Pascaru’s church prepared the ducks for the team the next day. Duck is a delicacy in America, but in Moldova it is a staple.
Another day Tracy Minchin organized a small festival. The parachute game was popular, with little inflatable sheep popping up in the air while children giggled and ran under the parachute. Coleman made balloon animals, translating with hand signals and animal sounds.
Inside, Ann Wayne shared the story of Noah’s Ark while Ed McAfee posed as Noah with last minute props for a robe and head wrap. His staff was an old broom found inside the one-room church. Toby Boan portrayed the ark animals and even pretended to lay an egg on one of the children when he portrayed the chicken. Everyone was rolling with laughter.
Even Petru, a young man who was wheelchair bound, grinned from ear to ear. His hands were callused from rolling the wheel chair through the village streets, so McAfee gave him a pair of gloves to protect his hands. He became the poster child during this trip. His grin was priceless. Carol Gurr led the youngsters in a song ,“Two by Two,” that carried out the Noah’s Ark theme. The children danced and laughed, though they didn’t know all the words. Later, a team member heard them singing the phrase “two by two” in English.
The mission trip was amazing, everyone agreed. They became a tribe, helping and ministering together. Toby’s daughter, Lauren, the youngest team member, said, “It was comforting having my dad on the trip.” Brittany Wiggins, another first-timer, recommends that everyone should go on a mission trip because it will open your eyes and make you humble.
One day Coleman took the team to the village of Orhei Vecci. At the top of a small mountain was a monastery and a cliff on the other side. A bearded monk was inside and small sleeping quarters carved out in the rock lined the room, dimly lit by candles. At the top was a cross carved in stone and that’s where the group gathered for a mountain top experience photo.
The team also spent time with young adults at Orphans Hands, an organization started by Phillip Cameron and his family and based in Alabama. They take orphans cast out of orphanages to prevent them from being trafficked, and teach them to love God. They also train the youth to be missionaries.
The U.S. team took canvasses and paint to the Orphans Hands home in Chisinau and the Moldovans provided a meal. Amy Schoolman shared her message again and one of the residents translated. One of the leaders, Nadia, painted a picture of the shirt that some had on that day. TOGETHER…TO GET HER means to rescue young women to prevent them from being trafficked. As everyone was leaving, Nadia handed Ann Wayne the painting and said, “This is for you.”
God moved that day and lives were touched. The last day of the trip, the team visited Vatra Village, where six houses are being built for young adults supported by Orphans Hands. They will live there while they are in high school and college until they are able to move out and support themselves. They share household chores and learn domestic skills so they can thrive in the outside world.
On this trip, grown men cried like babies around the table at night when God moments were shared after dinner. Those same men helped the weaker ones on this trip and they attend church each week faithfully and serve among the people and in the community. The women bonded and counseled each other through the entire trip. There was spiritual growth, especially in some of the younger Christians, and God changed all team members in one way or another.
Some may ask why local people go on foreign mission trips when there is plenty of poverty and sorrow right here at home. The Great Commission says in Matthew 28:19, “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…” Teams from He’s Alive are serving in the community through Opportunity House, God’s Supper Table, School Outreach, Elder Orphan Care, and many others. Toby Boan said it best, “Anyone that says that we need to worry about our own country and not help others needs to step foot in another country to see how they live. You’ll never know the difference in why we do it unless you go yourself.” One of the reasons we go is that we have so many resources in our churches in America that can help international churches with fewer resources accomplish their missions.
Molly Friedinger explained, “I cannot find the words for what I experienced on this trip. The life changing, soul stirring, heart-pouring experiences were of God and nothing else. No earthly words are stored up in my brain to use for explanation.”
Dr. Coleman holds a bachelor arts in business management, a masters in divinity and a doctorate in preaching. He feels that one of his roles in ministry is getting people to go on mission trips. He says, “It is life transforming; it takes you out of your comfort zone and widens your view of the world.” He said, “I am confident that God puts together the team He wants.” Coleman was amazed at how the team encouraged and helped each other. “It was a little microcosm of a church.”
Victor and Shanna Pascaru are serving with Beacon Missions International. Their host church in the U.S. is Beacon Baptist Church, 2110 Trawick Road, Raleigh, NC 27604. Their field address is Victor Pascaru, Chisinau MD 2028, C.P. 1064, Republic of Moldova, Europe.
The Orphans Hands website is orphanshands.org
The website for Speranta Church in Chisinau is bisericasperanta.md./
Photos taken by team members
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