August 2020 Newsletter

Dear MI/MLI ministry friends,

We hope this newsletter finds you and yours well.  We know COVID-19 continues to create a number of complicating circumstances for everyone everywhere.   

Even so, we trust that, like the MI/MLI ministry team in the US and Romania, you are experiencing God’s abiding presence amidst the uncertainties.   And we hope you know that your continued involvement in this cross-cultural ministry partnership is a source of real encouragement for everyone involved.     

On the one hand, we are disappointed that some ministry operations in Romania had to be suspended this summer: namely, Alpinis camps and short-term mission trips originating among US partners.   

On the other hand, thanks to some very sharp minds and extreme discipline and creativity, we are pleased to share with you three very positive ministry moments.  

First: while operating expenses in Romania have been significantly reduced and some ministry activity has been curtailed due to COVID restrictions, we are pleased to inform you that—at this juncture—MLI has not been forced to shut down any existing ministries.   For the hundreds of church leaders, children, youth, and families served by MLI, this is good and important news.  Thank you for your part in making this possible.  

Second: on July 4th, the entire Missio International Board “visited” with the Deborah House girls and MLI leadership via ZOOM on site at the Alpinis Retreat and Conference Center.   It was a special time because the girls had prepared a thoughtful July 4th program to mark the American holiday, including red, white, and blue clothes and home-made colored banners.  It was a unique time because so many of us—in very different locations around the world–were all sharing the same “space” together at the same time.  The constraints of social distancing, and the anxiety that has come with the distancing, seemed to fade away just a bit during this “remote” but very real gathering.  

Also, during this same time, Missio International board members experienced a virtual tour of the Alpinis Expansion Project led by Emil Toader (MLI’s President).  Despite financial short-falls and restrictions relative to COVID, it was extremely encouraging to hear again Emil’s vision for growing the ministry and see the progress of construction on the Alpinis Expansion Project.   

The strategic commitment to increase the number of lives impacted through this retreat-conference ministry remains!   “Walking” through the dining hall and the assembly space and “standing” on the edge of the deck overlooking the mountains was a powerful and timely reminder of God’s pleasure in this project.     

Third: for nineteen years now, every summer, Mt. Bethel United Methodist (Marietta, Georgia) has sent a ministry team to Romania through Missio International.  And this year, they determined that not even a global pandemic would prevent them from the experience!  Accordingly, the church designed and delivered a first ever Virtual Short-Term Mission Trip.

With high levels of collaboration between Mt. Bethel team leaders and MLI leadership, Mt. Bethel was able to do a “virtual mission trip” on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for two consecutive weeks in early July.  Each “visit” included a brief devotional given to the girls by someone on the Mt. Bethel team.   The girls were then able to do crafts and projects each day related to the devotional. In addition to the devotionals, Mt. Bethel was given a virtual tour of historic Timisoara with the girls providing narration. The team even received some Zumba instruction from the girls at Deborah House which brought lots of smiles and laughter!

The Mt. Bethel team used the funds raised for their trip for craft supplies and personalized gifts for each of the girls.   Even more generously, funds not allocated for the international trip were then donated to the Deborah House!  On the final day of the virtual mission trip, following the devotion, the girls at Deborah House blessed the team with a beautiful rendering of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”  Of course, more than a few tears were shed!  

The generosity and tenacity of the Mt Bethel Deborah House team is a perfect example of the fruit of an intercultural ministry partnership founded and grown in Christian friendship over a sustained period of time.   Thank you, Mt Bethel, and the volunteer leaders (especially Darlene McKeithen and Chris Duncan) who invested the time, talent, and treasure to make it all happen! 

In fact, while these virtual experiences arose out of necessity, the Virtual Mission piloted here by Mt. Bethel may be a model we wish to continue with and or without COVID constraints among new and existing partners.  If you are interested in hearing more about this new opportunity, please let us hear from you!  We’d love to explore it with you further and customize a virtual mission trip that will serve the ministries of MLI and Christ’s work in the life of your church.      

As the girls reminded us: “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”  And so for as long as that is true, we are happy to continue to facilitate strategic ministry partnerships among God’s people in Romania and America.