Sunday, February 03, 2008

February Letter

February 2008
Dear Family and Friends,
A couple weeks ago I was talking with my friends Jason and Kris about the almost 2 years they spent ministering in Australia, this after more than 10 years of youth pastoring in the states. And now, after so many years of ministry, the future seems a bit uncertain for them. Then Jason said: It doesn’t really matter what we end up doing, we just want to serve the Lord.
My heart leapt at the simple longing of serving God and also at the act of service as vocation. In recent weeks I’ve experienced such a deepening of this longing that it can almost be described as an ache to serve. My heart and thoughts linger more and more over Galati, Romania and the little drop-in center called Casa la Valle where I hope to serve impoverished children and their families. For me, where I am right now, I have such great joy at the thought of being at the drop-in center, loving kids, and simply serving. I am recognizing this longing not only as a desire, but as the call to vocation.
I read some interesting thoughts on this in the magazine Modern Reformation (Our Calling and God’s Glory, Gene Edward Veith, volume 16, number 6, November/December 2007, p. 25),
“As contemporary theologian John Pless explains it, (Martin) Luther understood that the Christian is genuinely bi-vocational. He is called first through the Gospel to faith in Jesus Christ and he is called to occupy a particular station or place in life. The second sense of this calling embraces all that the Christian does in service to the neighbor not only in a particular occupation but also as a member of the church... here the Christian lives in love toward other human beings and is the instrument by which God does His work in the world.
“We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and the neighbor,” said Luther. “He lives in Christ through faith, and in his neighbor through love.””
I’ve been so grateful and humbled by those who have given to me as I seek to serve in Romania. I believe we are joining in faith in the service of giving to our neighbor as God does His work in the world through us. By the time you read this letter I will hopefully have a ticket and departure date set for the end of February and on my way to do that for which my heart aches. I am still in need of supporters and would ask that you’d consider becoming a monthly supporter.
Your prayers are needed. If you could remember me daily or as often as I come to mind, I’d be very grateful. Please pray that the children who come to Casa la Valle would live in Christ through faith and in their neighbors through love. Pray for those who work with these kids and love them. Pray for my heart and mind, that with all that I am I would love Jesus and glorify His Father. As I said in my last letter, I’d also appreciate your prayers in these areas:
• Adjusting to a new language and culture.
• Protection in travel and health.
• Housing accommodations, lack of privacy, differences in living standards, lack of accustomed conveniences.
• Loneliness and homesickness.
• Developing new relationships with Word Made Flesh community and those we serve.
• Need for wisdom, compassion, self-discipline, boldness, power, love, and to be filled with the Spirit of God.
• Future ministry opportunities in Moldova with Word Made Flesh
Many people ask me questions about Romania, so below I’m including a few notes on Romania from an article written last year by David Chronic, who also serves in Galati with WMF. I hope you find it helpful.

Thank you and my love to you,

• The massive structural aid of joining the European Union (EU) has stabilized the Romanian government, spurred investment and curbed corruption. But Romania is postured to give much more than it gets from the EU. Romania represents a large population (22 million consumers), cheap labor, and abundant natural resources that are already being bought up by the west.

• Romania ranks as the second most corrupt country in Europe – one out of five questioned persons declaring they had to pay a bribe recently. Globally, Romania ranks fourth in the top nine most perceived corrupt nations (Gallup Worldwide Corruption Index).

• As many as 120,000 preteens and teenagers from Eastern Europe are taken annually to Western Europe to steal, beg and engage in prostitution under the threat of beatings and rape (International Organization for Migration). In Romania in 2005, more than 2,500 victims of trafficking were officially registered, 366 victims were children (UNICEF). But Poupard, the UNICEF Representative to Romania, says these official figures are way off the mark and the actual number of women and children who are smuggled into other European countries and sold into prostitution is much higher. Poupard believes poverty is the main reason for child trafficking. A Geneva police official says that parents receive up to $6,000 or more per child for a three month leasing period – a sum that far exceeds the normal family income.

• In spite of a booming economy and EU integration, children continue to live on the streets. According to the Care Project of Romania, there are no accurate figures on the number of street children in Romania, but it is estimated that only in the capital of Bucharest alone, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 children living on the streets and over 9,000 in the entire Romania.

• As of 2006, there are 76,168 children in the care of the state (0-18 years old). 27,188 are in residential institutions while the rest are living in substitute families (National Authority for the Protection of Children's Rights). There are no skills training or job placement services for children in residential care, which creates a high probability that they will gravitate to the streets where they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and crime (U.S. State Department). At least 9,000 babies are abandoned every year in Romania (UNICEF). There are still reports of babies being purchased (for more than $9,000) and stolen from hospitals (Caritas).

• UNICEF says that 16 years after the revolution, about 20% of the country’s children live under the poverty line. Furthermore, it has been established that a little over 1,000,000 children lived in poverty in 2004, while some 360,000 lived in abject poverty, accounting for 24.4% and 8.2%, respectively, of the total number of children under the age of 18.

• Our hope is not in politics or economics or even in our ministry among the poor; our hope is in the Father who passionately loves this people and who is working by His Spirit to redeem and transform it. Informed with these statistics, I invite you to join our community in interceding before the Father on behalf of those who are suffering from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Pray with us that God’s will is done and that the Kingdom comes in Romania as it is in heaven.


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