POLITICAL CHANGE AND ORTHODOXY
Romania is a beautiful Southeastern European country about the size of North and SouthCarolina combined. It borders the Black Sea between Bulgaria and Ukraine. Rich in natural resources and part of Europe's bread basket, Romania has a fascinating, but tumultuous recent history. In the year 1989, the deposition of Nicolae Ceausescu brought major change to Romania. But the legacy of atheistic communism left Romanian culture scarred and broken. Wide-spread corruption, theft, immorality, poverty, and a pervasive disregard for the value of human life naturally resulted from a world system that denies man's Creator.
Because 87% of the population belongs to the Romanian Orthodox church, many assume that the country's culture is rooted in a Christian ethic. Unfortunately this isn't true. Even within the world's second largest Orthodox Church, Communism has left its seemingly indelible mark, and it is not unusual to find priests who are atheists. Both Communism and Romanian Orthodoxy's humanistic works-based theology have proven to be powerless to meet the Romanian people's real needs.
CHILDREN IN CRISIS
The breakdown of Romanian families has brought great suffering upon the children. Ceausescu required all Romanian families to have at least five children. But few could afford to feed families of seven. As a result, abandoning children soon became an accepted norm. Today even with an improving economy, Romania has over 80,000 orphaned or abandoned children in some sort of institutional care and an estimated three to five thousand homeless street children. UNICEF reports that 9,000 children are still abandoned yearly in Romania and that this rate has remained constant for the past 30 years. Sadly, some estimate that at least 70,000 Romanian children (not all of which are orphans) are involved in hazardous work, sex exploitation, forced labor, or some other type of criminal activity.
BMW's Romania team is dedicated to biblical church planting with a special focus. We see Romania's orphan population as the future leaders of Romania's biblical churches. Our passion is to see these abandoned children rescued by Romania's Bible-believing churches, raised in Christian homes, and as adults sent out by Romanian churches to plant more Romanian churches.
Relief worker Paul Myhill tells the following story:
There was an inept governor overseeing an important province...One day he was approached by citizens who were complaining about a giant pothole in the provincial capital's main street. The gaping blemish caused tires to blow out, hurtling cars into each other. There were many accidents. Furthermore, people crossing the street would fall into the hole. They experienced numerous broken bones, gashes and bruises...Citizens challenged the governor to immediately take care of the hazard. "No problem," said the governor. "We will put an ambulance by the pothole to be ready for the injured. "A few days later the citizens approached the governor again. They explained to him that the ambulance wasn't enough; that it was constantly being filled up and put into service while many pothole-accident victims suffered without attention. "No problem," said the governor. "We will assign more ambulances there for the task." A week passed and the citizens again visited the governor. This time they complained that, even with the additional ambulances, there were more accidents than the emergency vehicles could handle. "No problem," said the governor. "We will build a hospital next to the pothole." Many months later, a new state-of-the-art hospital was completed at great cost next to the pothole. Shortly after its opening, the citizens once more turned up at the governor's office. Angrier than ever, they explained to him that the hospital was completely full and that more accidents were occurring than the new facility could cope with. "No problem," said the governor. "We will lower the whole city to the level of the bottom of the pothole."
Although this joke comes from the Middle East, its seemingly absurd lesson can be applied to many efforts attempting to solve Romania's orphan problem. Countless dollars are pouring into Romania in an attempt to solve its myriads of symptomatic problems. Educational, political, and economic reform are in process and minimal relief (like that provided by the ambulances and hospital in the story) is available. But unfortunately, the Romanian government, like the provincial governor, is oblivious to Romanian's biggest pothole - a Christless culture.
QUESTIONABLE CHRISTIAN SOLUTIONS
As Christians the solution to Romania's problems at first seems simple. We must take the Romanians the gospel. This is true and many are attempting to do this through Christian education, medical care, orphanages, etc. At a first glance these programs seem like wonderful and even biblical solutions. However, a more thorough examination reveals that Christian mission work often makes the same mistakes as the fictional provincial governor.
For example setting up a feeding center for street children in Romania provides a platform for the gospel and allays a tragic symptom - hunger, but it also enables children to stay on the streets and encourages others to runaway. Orphanages, even Christian ones, cannot replace the family structure that God designed children to be raised in, and they produce young adults who don't know how to integrate into society and as a result often abandon their own children keeping the orphanages full. God does work through these systems, and He does save people, but primarily focusing on symptoms while paying little attention to the "pothole" is not the best way.
CHURCH PLANTERS ARMED WITH SHOVELS
BMW's Romania team is committed to filling in the "potholes". Our passion is to start biblical churches filled with compassionate Christians who will begin to fill in their country's "potholes" themselves. Instead of trying to reach Romania's lost children and youth through programs, we will reach them through Romanian believers. Our initial plan is three-fold:
1. We plan to encourage and facilitate the fostering and adoption of abandoned youth by Romanian Christians. God designed the family, and a family is what these children need. The Romanian believers can provide a home for these children who so desperately need one.
2. We plan to train and equip Romanians to give the gospel through Bible clubs and camps in local orphan care facilities. We will come alongside of Romanian believers to minister and to mentor the children, building relationships and proclaiming the love of Christ to them.
3. We will also partner with Romanians to give the gospel to street children through a church-based after-school ministry center. Romanian believers can minister to street children by sharing the truth of God's word with them, and by providing them a safe place to learn from and interact with Christian adults. When possible these children will be integrated into church families.
Our passion is to reach the Romanian people and especially the country's abandoned youth with the true gospel by equipping young believers to think biblically, to establish biblical families, and to take the gospel to their fellow citizens. We believe that by especially focusing on Romania's abandoned youth that we can raise up a strong generation of Christians who, armed with the truth of the gospel, can start to fill in their country's many "potholes". This is a huge undertaking, and we would love your support.
Perhaps you are able to pray for BMW's Romania team, or maybe God has been preparing you to serve in Romania yourself. Either way, we want you to be a part of our team as we take the gospel to Romania.
CURRENT ROMANIA TEAM
The Howerton Family
The Louk Family
Mission Statement: Our purpose is to exalt the name of Jesus Christ by displaying His power to save and transform Romania's abandoned, calling them out of a life of slavery to sin unto a life of joyful service for the Lord in His church.
Vision: To see biblical Romanian churches solve Romania's abandonment problems through biblical means and to see a generation of orphans and street children become incorporated into reproducing compassionate, indigenous Romanian churches.
If you are interested in joining the team or having more information, contact Dale Fries (Area Director for Europe). Also, additional information and weekly updates are available at http://thegospelinaction.com.