What does it mean for Missio Link International to focus its efforts on the
development of indigenous missionaries?
First, what do we mean by “indigenous”? Indigenous may refer to plants and people who are native to a particular place; in this case, indigenous refers to Christian leaders who are rooted in Romania by way of family, language, history, and culture. This is genius of MLI’s ministry vision—raising up local leaders who know and love the Lord Jesus and know and love the culture and heart language of the Romanian people.
And what do we mean by “missionary”? Like the original disciples, missionaries are people on mission empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the resurrection-life made possible in Christ Jesus. In the context of MLI’s work, this means carrying the gospel across man-made borders and barriers to announce and embody God’s kingdom, especially where there is social marginalization and spiritual alienation—conditions that are not uncommon among evangelical Christians, especially in rural areas of Romania and impoverished Rroma villages, and among refugees (Ukrainians fleeing for their lives).
The need to develop indigenous missionaries in Romania has never been greater because of the exodus of leaders from areas where they are needed. Whether people are leaving the rural areas for urban centers or they are leaving urban centers for international opportunities outside Romania, “brain-drain” and the loss of leaders/leadership in Romania is real, and it’s impacting the church.
In this regard, the conferences recently held among a host of pastoral-missionary leaders demonstrate MLI’s commitment to train new leaders for the new realities in Romania today. Over an extended period just a few weeks ago (March 15-28, 2023), more than
50 emerging leaders working in Fetesti, Giurgiu, Medgidia, Alexandria, Zimnicea, Cluj, and Timisoara (please see map provided) were inspired and equipped for mission outreach through the uniquely effective teaching ministry of Dr. Stan Johnson and Jack Ellet, longtime ministry friends from Zionsville Presbyterian Church (ZPC) and Tabernacle Presbyterian Church (Tab) near Indianapolis. The general theme of the conferences was related to Dr. Johnson’s book, The Sent One, a fresh look at the Gospel of John through a missional lens.
Here’s what a few participants had to say about their time with Dr. Johnson:
“Thank you to ZPC and Tabernacle Presbyterian for their love, shown for so many
years in such practical ways. And thank God for Dr. Stan Johnson, a special
brother and an extraordinary pastor who led us through a study of passages
from the Gospel of John. This year’s meeting challenged each of us to revisit
the calling we have received from God. Thanks also to the MLI team in Timisoara.
The organization of the conference and the logistics provided were exceptional” (Emmy Cira and the Genesis Church Team, Cluj-Napoca).
Beti and I truly appreciate the gift of being able to join others in this very special study of the Gospel of John. There are numerous aspects of this gathering that continue to linger with us…a more complete understanding of what Christ was saying and doing…a renewing of friendships and renewing a sense of community after the covid pandemic…the beautiful location, the exquisite accommodations along with excellent food and service. Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts…” (Hardi and Beti Kubassek, Medgidia).
“To be at a conference with Stan Johnson is to come closer to God. Stan has the gift of creating a framework for study AND stimulating fellowship. And what could be more edifying and challenging than to know the One who sent you so that you can better understand and strengthen your own sending…?” (Octavian Ivanica, Alexandria).
In fact, this conference is just one example of the long-term involvement of these two church communities in our ongoing effort to develop indigenous missionaries. ZPC and Tab have partnered with MLI since 1996, and since the beginning of this partnership, more than 200 members of these churches have traveled to Romania for fellowship and ministry alongside their church partners! With their support, nearly 25 churches have been planted—one church plant on average every year for 25 years!
For those of us who knew and worked closely with Eugen Groza (Founding President of MLI prior to his passing in 2018), it is no exaggeration to say that equipping God’s people through international partnerships was at the very heart of his vision for all of us on both sides of the ocean. It is great to see Eugen’s legacy continuing! Thank you to ZPC, Tab, Dr. Johnson, and all our church partners across the U.S. who undergird gospel ministry in some of the most remote places in Romania. While we know that not all our American church partners can write books and travel to Romania for an extended period, we deeply appreciate how all our church partners support the vision of indigenous leadership development that is at the heart of MLI’s ministries.
Praying for Peace
In the fifteen months since Russia invaded Ukraine, more than 8 million Ukrainians (8,255,288) have fled to neighboring countries. More than 2.4 million of these refugees have crossed the border into Romania. By the middle of May, more than 113,000 Ukrainians had received “European Union temporary protection status'” in Romania. Though numbers are hard to document, well more than 100.000 people have now died as a result of this conflict.
It’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed by the numbers and impotent in the face of such massive destruction and loss of life.
Instead, let us reframe our focus upon a handful of Christians who are meaningfully ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of Ukrainian refugees in Romania, a number of whom are friends and MLI ministry partners who have a daily presence on and across the border into Ukraine.
“Our efforts (over the past few months) to help refugees and people suffering from the war in Ukraine continue on two fronts. We provide support for the IntegrALL project in Tulcea, serving Ukrainian children and families in partnership with pastor Adi Popa. As well, we are transporting food and (relief) equipment to the Odessa area in Ukraine” (Emil Toader, President, Missio Link International).
What could feel like a “drop in the bucket” to us (in the US) may in fact be a cup of cool water to individual Ukrainians (in Romania) who are hungry and thirsty for both physical and spiritual nourishment amidst the ravages of war. Please join us in praying specifically for the good work of IntegrALL, Adi Popa, and for an end to this war!
The Body of Christ in Common Cause
What do you see in these two maps? Among many things that might come to mind—apart from a lot of black dots and blue bubbles!–we hope you see yourself and the work of God connecting Christians across the world.
While MLI has hundreds of ministry friends across the United States, many of these individuals are a part of churches that consistently support MLI’s mission in various parts of Romania. This network in America extends from the Northwest to the Midwest to the Southeast—from Portland (on the Pacific) to Charleston (on the Atlantic). We see a similar pattern stretching across multiple areas of MLI’s mission among 100+ congregations in Romania, strategic “cities (churches) set on a hill” shining brightly in what can be a very dark world.
Though distinct in geography and denominations, we are united as the Body of Christ in a common cause: to see lives transformed and communities changed through engaging Christian witness and action.
As you pause over the maps, we invite you to pray for:
- the thousands of believers in America and Romania who consider these dots and bubbles their homes and mission fields;
- the 453 men and women in 25 groups (among the blue bubbles) currently involved in bible study, leadership development, and spiritual formation courses through MLI in Romania;
- the U.S. church partners who are preparing to go on mission in Romania this summer–Mt. Bethel (Atlanta, GA) and First Baptist Church (Clinton, MS)
- a harvest in God’s Kingdom among us in Romania and America!
Strategic Ministry Investments
Washington Avenue Baptist Church, WABC (Cookeville, TN) is one of the best examples of a flourishing church partnership. Since 1997, through the visionary leadership of Mark Gaw (Senior Pastor) and Mike Stubblefield (lay leader), this mid-size congregation in Middle Tennessee has had a large-scale impact on hundreds of lives across Romania. In conjunction with Missio Link International, they are currently aligned with nine pastors who shepherd twenty distinct congregations in some of the most under-resourced communities in Romania, including churches in the more remote counties of Timis, Caras, Hunedoara, and Buzau.
A new element of WABC’s partnership that we are especially excited to share with you here relates to their empowering assistance of a Rroma (Gypsy) pastor, Bebe Prica, in the county of Buzau. He is part of MLI’s Leadership Development initiative where his capacity to make a difference is being magnified within his own very marginalized community.
Not only is Bebe an effective evangelist of the gospel, he is functioning as the hands and feet of Christ in their context, addressing critical physical and social needs for nutrition and education—and especially so among Rroma children.
For several years, MLI has encouraged and equipped these emerging leaders. Today, through WABC’s efforts, and in alignment with an established Romanian congregation in the vicinity, the impact of Pastor Bebe is growing exponentially. MLI’s director of Leadership Development, Florin, describes his work “as one of the most vibrant in the whole county of Buzau,” an especially tough to reach area of Romania that has had a long history of spiritual darkness and social difficulty.
For WABC’s enduring ministry friendship and their willingness now to invest in new initiatives, like the partnership with Bebe, we are profoundly grateful. Along with the other church leaders listed below, won’t you please pause now and offer a prayer for Bebe, his family, and the remote churches he faithfully serves in Romania.
- Pastor Antonie Carabas (serving congregations in Pestere, Constantin, Daicoviciu, Teregova, Tincova; Caras County, western Romania)
- Pastor Iacob Logos (serving congregations in Nadrag, Ciresu, Crivina; Timis County, western Romania)
- Pastor Gigi Negrea (serving congregations in Doclin, Binis, Surducu Mic, Moniom; Caras County, western Romania)
- Pastor Vasile Ghita (serving Lenauheim; Timis County)
- Pastor Ion Malancea (serving congregations in Farasesti, Tomesti, Romanesti, Curtea; Timis County)
- Pastor Ion Vasile and Pastor Emanuel Vasile (serving congregations in Campina)
A Word from MI Knoxville
Thank you for taking a few minutes to read the June 2023 LINK. Our focus here is on the work of MLI’s Church in Mission ministries. In the various articles, you will hear about new strategic church partnerships, leadership development offerings, and ongoing refugee relief efforts among Ukrainians—evidence of faithful witness, empowering international friendships, and dynamic service among God’s people in Romania and the US. May this guide you in prayer and encourage you as a ministry-friend in financial partnership with MLI.
Thank you for sharing in this work with us,
MI President, Knoxville
What's Coming Up...
- Hillsborough Matching Grant: July 2023
- Pastors’ Conference: September 2023
- History Makers: September 2023