Dear friends, family, and supporters, us, mom, dad and Daniela
The train is a somewhat fitting analogy for a Lehigh engineer.  And I know that even our newest and youngest donor, Ben, will understand the analogy. You may know that some trains use a third rail to obtain power, and the phrase is sometimes used in our vernacular today for something that energizes an issue, a group of people, etc.

For the past 6 months, we have been running on backup battery support from family and a few friends.  But, the train has continued to move forward. Let me tell you some of the highlights.

Rail #1:  Spiritual development via the media.

railroad rail
Lydia magazine Research shows that in the initial phases of evangelism, media is more effective than one-on-one evangelism or church planting.  Via our websites, about 240 people per day have been served with just the spiritual sermon or encouragement they need.  Every other day, through the "Eternal adventure" someone prays to receive Christ for the first time.  My article on child development was such a hit the first time that it was republished in 4 languages by Lydia Christian women's magazine (March 2005).
Marusica and Margaret on the swings.  

Rail #2:  Spiritual development, one-on-one.

railroad rail

Three months were in Germany where we have started a program to teach people how to understand the Bible, how to communicate and how to experience reconciliation in their relationships.  Although, I turned down the pastor position, a Romanian group (some of which are pictured below) that want to start a church named me "Bible study leader."  
Two months were in Romania where we continued to work with the children at the hospital.  We continued our Sunday night church service there.  Aurelia has been working with 4 children, including a 4th grader named Maria, who doesn't know any colors and can't read.  The teachers don't have time to tutor her.  I continued to teach the older, more advanced children to type so that they might have better opportunities for work.  One day, Aurelia brought 3 children home.  They had a great time playing on the swings in the park (above) and Ionut had ice cream for the first time in his life.

Finding the "third rail."

However, a lot of our time was invested in scouting out our "third rail" that may be able to impart the power to our ministry.  I contacted over a dozen ministries and applied to three that were closest to our vision.  The outstanding references provided by former employers, pastors, and friends meant that none turned us down.  
Of the three groups, our Advisory team and we unanimously chose CCWM (Cup of Cold Water Ministries) as the best partner.  Likewise, their Board unanimously approved us.  So, it seems that God gave clear guidance to all parties.  Some of the things that impressed us were:

  •   Established in 1978 to assist farmers in Bolivia, they have experience and see the importance of ministering to the whole person.  This experience should differentiate them from our previous partners.
  •   Small and flexible, they are very responsive.  
  •   Of the three groups, they seemed most personable and were the only ones interested in meeting face-to-face.  
  •   All their missionaries are multi-national couples, so they are more likely to understand Aurelia and me as a couple.  
  •   They have an understanding of the entire Body of Christ and believe that local people are best at reaching local people.  
  •   Thus, as we work with Romanians, we will continue to be accountable to Romanians who evaluate us.  
  •   Their senses of teammanship and humor. 
Lastly, but probably most importantly, they listened and were open to helping us fill a need.  During this gapping time between third rails, I experienced the gap to which Operation World (an authoritative missions guide) has been trying to alert the world for probably a decade.  If there is a group doing work with immigrants in Germany, I didn't find it.  So there are hundreds of thousands of people with no church in their mother tongue.
With third rail trains, junctions and other pointwork make it necessary to leave gaps in the live rail at times, as do level crossings.  Similarly, this period was a junction in our lives.  We didn't know where God's rails were carrying this ministry.  So, I took the opportunity of asking all our Advisors and crew for their impressions.  The response was that they saw that God was leading us perfectly.  They had more confidence than we did that the events of the past were His hand's leading.  They felt so strongly about the quality of our character that they want us to focus on satisfying the need in the churches for Christian character development.

The train must reach the station.

Compared to other continents, Christianity is growing much more slowly in Europe.  Christianity is growing 50 times faster in Africa and 43 times faster in Asia than in Europe.  Among major regions of the world, only among Europeans and the Arab Muslim block, is God's movement at a standstill.  The growth rate of Christianity is a negative 0.4% and growing increasingly negative! 

The third rail crosses the bridge.

Our focus is on Christian character development among the Romanians and immigrants that speak any of the 5 languages that Aurelia and I speak.  Our media work will share that focus.  Due to lack of resources, for the time being, we will lay aside our vision for the Italian-Romanian bridge.  (By the way, in my search for a third rail, I found no group with our vision for motivating Italian churches to missions.  But as I've learned the hard way, seeing a need doesn't constitute a calling to fill it.)  In our traveling from Germany to Romania, we have often served as a bridge from Romanian emigrants to the Romanians at home.  We brought hundreds of Euros back for this year's flood relief.  We took hundreds of dollars' worth of clothing, toys, and food to the children at the hospital.  In the pictures you see some of the kids receiving strawberries, including Georgica who shared them with his dad (right).

Applying power to the rail.

A third rail is no good without electricity.  So, now is the time that we need to call on you to provide the power to the rail with your financial support.  The initial burst of the shoe reconnecting will be vital to getting the train back up to speed and a constant flow thereafter is essential for it to get to its destination.  We are thankful to those of you who have been laying our support aside for just this moment.  We need every one of our old partners, and we also need new partners.  Could you consider if friends or your church may be interested in our ministry?  Please pray about it.  Donations should be sent to:

Cup of Cold Water Ministries
2580 North 3653rd Road
Sheridan, Illinois 60551

The check should be payable to the ministry and please include a note that says the donation is for "The LaBries".  

Georgica and his dad eating strawberries