Dependence on God leads to fruitful harvestby BSCNC Communications
UNGHENI, MOLDOVA – As the two team members left the family’s home they weren’t really sure what to think. The team shared the gospel and the husband and wife listened, but they did not really have much to say.
The couple did ask for two tracts instead of just the one, so they could each have their own to read. So maybe they were interested; maybe they did want to know more.
A few days later, in a packed auditorium of nearly 900 people on Saturday night, the team members spotted the family in the crowd. “You came, you came,” the couple said to the team.
At the end of the service, as people all across the auditorium made their way to the front, so did this couple. The joy that radiated from their faces was all the testimony needed that this mother and father now knew Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
All week long the mission team, comprised of Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) staff, went in groups of two or three or four to homes throughout villages in the Moldovan district of Ungheni. They shared the gospel and invited families to the evangelistic services Saturday and Sunday night.
People came, and people responded to the message of hope shared by Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer. The message was one Hollifield had prayed over for quite awhile, and one God did not give him until he arrived in Moldova.
“As I walked to the podium that night, I had my Bible and a few notes I had made in the Bible. I was depending on God that night. The Lord was giving me the thoughts and the words to say even as I was preaching. I was dependent on Him for every word,” Hollifield said. “Even after years of ministry, God taught me new truths about being dependent on Him and allowing Him to do His work.”
God led Hollifield to John 3:16 and the story of Nicodemus. “God impressed upon my heart that the Moldovan people were depending on the church and good works – the same things Nicodemus was depending on for salvation. But Jesus says that we must be born again,” Hollifield said.
Orthodox beliefs are so ingrained in the minds of Moldovans that having a personal relationship with God, and the assurance of salvation, are completely new concepts to many people. Moldova is less than two percent evangelical.
Yet, on this cold winter night, God spoke as Hollifield preached and people came to faith in Jesus Christ.
“I cannot remember a time in my ministry when I pleaded as I did with people to come to Christ,” Hollifield said.
John Miron, president of the Baptist Union of Moldova, said local pastors would continue to see fruit. “What we saw during the service is probably not the totality of the results we will see. The Holy Spirit will continue to work."
The weekend evangelistic services served as the culmination of a week of ministry throughout Moldova. Moldova, which is divided into 33 districts and is the poorest country in Eastern Europe, is bordered on the north, east and south by Ukraine and on the west by Romania.
Eleven members of the BSCNC staff, including Hollifield, served March 9-19 as part of the partnership with the Baptist Union of Moldova, coordinated by the BSCNC’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships, which is led by Michael Sowers.
Hollifield and Chuck Register, BSCNC executive leader for church planting and missions development, led pastor’s conferences in three different cities: in the capital of Chisinau, in the northern city of Balti, and in the southern city of Cahul. Ashley Allen, director of Embrace Women’s Missions and Ministries, participated in two women’s conferences.
The team also spent the week going door-to-door distributing food to people in need and sharing the gospel, and leading children’s camps throughout Ungheni.
Miron said combining physical help, such as distributing food, with sharing the gospel will make a lasting impact in villages throughout Moldova, as people respond when someone does something for the good of the entire community.
The goal for the partnership is for North Carolina Baptists to engage in evangelistic efforts in each of the remaining 32 districts in Moldova.
As two North Carolina Baptist congregations have already committed to evangelizing two of the districts, an additional 30 churches are needed to commit to serving in the remaining districts.
More than 1,000 villages in Moldova are still without an evangelical presence.
“My vision for this mission trip was for our staff to set an example for North Carolina Baptist churches. As churches consider adopting or embracing one of these districts, we wanted our staff to model that focus and emphasis. I never want to challenge North Carolina Baptists to do something we will not do,” Register said.
BSCNC staff who participated in the mission trip used their ministry throughout the week to explore possibilities of future partnership development that may open other avenues of ministry for North Carolina Baptists in Moldova.
Since returning from Moldova the staff has begun putting together resources, based on their experiences and what they learned, to help churches as they prepare physically and spiritually for mission work in Moldova.
Hollifield also appreciated the opportunity to see and experience some of what North Carolina Baptists will experience as they go and serve in Moldova.
“I have been challenging North Carolina Baptists to be willing to give of their time to take the gospel to people in other areas of the world. This trip was a fulfillment of the things I’m asking other people to do,” Hollifield said.
As Hollifield prepared for the trip he prayed for God to give him a love for the Moldovan pastors, and to break his heart over the lostness in this country. As he served in Moldova and served among pastors and deacons, God answered his prayers.
“The pastors had such a hunger to learn new spiritual truths. Many of them do not have opportunity to receive much theological training, and the majority of the pastors work other jobs in addition to their work with their church,” he said.
Hollifield said he is grateful for Register’s vision to involve Convention staff in a mission trip like this, and for the work Sowers did in serving as team leader for the trip. “Michael Sowers has done a tremendous job helping North Carolina Baptists develop a strategy for missions mobilization, and connecting them with opportunities for long-term missions engagement in areas of our nation and the world that are unreached with the gospel,” Hollifield said.
“I pray that many churches across our state will step up and respond to the plea for help in Moldova. I believe if we can get enough North Carolina Baptists to serve in Moldova, we stand a great chance of shaping the future of that country as we see people who are open to the gospel come to faith in Christ and in turn, be discipled and reach others.”
Sowers is grateful for the movement of God that Convention staff witnessed in Moldova.
“In the midst of an atheistic culture, God promised He would prevail. He promised that nothing would prevail against His Kingdom,” he said.
“We are seeing what fervent prayer and God’s faithfulness will accomplish. God can overcome what seems like the most impossible circumstances to get His gospel to the nations.”
This is the first article in a series about the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s staff mission trip to Moldova. To learn more about how to get involved in Moldova, call (800) 395-5102 ext. 5654 or visit www.ncbaptist.org/moldova. For photos and videos, visit www.flickr.com/ncbaptist or www.vimeo.com/channels/2012findithere