For some time, I’ve combined work as a full-time pastor in Wales with visits to minister to Christians in Eastern Europe, as part of the Barnabas Project of UFM Worldwide.
Laszlo is a pastor in Budapest. His church has a burden to reach out to the LBGTQ+ community in their city. They invited me for a weekend of meetings which included personal sessions with individuals, and public meetings. One was in the heart of the city where many in the gay community gather. My subject was ‘Is God Anti-Gay?’. We weren’t sure who would turn up, nor how they would react. About twenty people came – some were supportive while others came from a different perspective. However, they listened respectfully, and we had a valuable time of discussion.
On Sunday I spoke at Laszlo’s church about being clear about the church’s teaching on sexual relations, while also being welcoming to those who walk a different path. At the end of the meeting, many seemed to be deeply affected by the message, and the church has since been able to build some bridges with the LBGTQ+ community.
In November, I flew to Chišinau to visit a missionary, Maureen Wise, and to supply books for pastors. Dinu Moga, who runs a Christian Press in Oradea, Romania, has translated several books into Romanian and offered some to us at cost price. As I flew in from the UK, Dinu and his wife were travelling from Oradea with the books. We worried that it would be difficult to bring them across the border, as the guards are notorious for creating difficulties, even though we had all the necessary papers. When Dinu arrived at the border, the usual guard was off duty, and another filled his place. Dinu had never seen this border guard before, but he found he was a Christian brother. The crossing which usually took many hours was done in less than two! We all prayed with thanksgiving that evening.
Christians in Moldova knew revival in the 1990s and are known in the land as ‘the repentant ones’. Many are involved in sacrificial service, and the spiritual temperature among them is high. I had opportunities to speak, both in meetings and to individuals and we had enough books for about forty pastors. Among those I met were Ion, the Baptist Bishop, who was concerned that no book we brought in should have liberal theology. Vasile, a missionary in the town of Orhei, has gathered about 100 young people together, seeing in them a great hunger for God. When he opened the box of twenty-one books we supplied for him, he burst into tears as he had never had such a gift to help him. Then there were Sergiu and Elena, a couple now expecting their fourth child. For ten years they have lived in a home with no water or electricity so that they can reach the poor villagers in the remote area of the country. They mentioned a gypsy village, full of violence, where he has seen 100 people come to faith in recent years.
This is just a small sample of stories I could share. I’ve also spoken at a student mission and preached in Albania, met with students in Slovakia, mentored church leaders from all over Europe in a conference in Poland, discussed apologetics and church revitalisation, and mentored men via Skype. God is at work, and it is a privilege to be part of it.