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Go Ye Fellowship in southcentral Europe
is determined to be the ministry of choice for people of integrity who desire to provide the youth of Romania with the grace of the Gospel and hope for a better tomorrow.
|Building a bridge of grace from Italy to Romania|
|Our focus is the education of the Romanian youth and Italians. We impart hopefor this life and that to come.|
|We are primarily concerned with long-term development.|
|If we cannot do what we do through relationships and with integrity, we will not do it.|
|Our stance is clear and unmistakable. The reason for our work is the Glory of God.|
Parameters of Romanian ministry
"Romania probes child HIV infections
for first time." The Business Review.
The Year of Our Lord 2003
Fiscal Year Ending September 30, 2003
Organization of ministry
The purpose of this annual report is to update you on our progress in 2003 and share with you some of our planned directions for 2004.
Forward: Pragmatic Faith
Ministry Reports: tuberculosis | AIDS | Publications | Christian mobilization
Financial Report Numbers of donors grows. Donor base is more diverse. Amount donated grows. Number of missionaries grows.
Parting Word: How does one become a good middlebrow pragmatic?
How do I participate in this work? Print a donation slip.
"What do we have that is any different than what is offered by the
world?" This is a question we often ask ourselves, especially when
so many religious groups are no more loving or ethical than the "lost"
they are trying to "save". For too many people, religion has
become a mental affirmation and not an applicable truth. This is
the faith that James says the demons have.
The world needs the message of the gospel, of love, of peace, of joy. This is the message that brings hope. Whether we are referring to the US or to Romania, this is a message that is hard to find outside of Jesus Christ. In an attempt to do that effectively, one must cultivate a teachable attitude and a devotion to learning from others. He must have a voracious reading habit. He should have a passion to learn languages so that he can understand people first-hand, see the filters that each of us have and communicate with a minimum of filters and translators.
This year, God gave me the opportunity to correspond with a friend from the ivory towers of theological academia, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He has a fantastic grasp of things I could just dream about--Greek, the end times, etc. But, I can't think of any friends from university fellowship groups that would be unable to hold their own in a debate with him about the basics of the Christian faith and practice.
Needed: Pragmatic love
We are pragmatics. Compared to those with whom I brush shoulders, we are interested in studying things that are applicable and essentials of the faith. This prevents us from legalistic extremes where people apply laws to others that are impractical and counterproductive.
At Lehigh, I found experts in invention. In the Army, I found true patriots and this Spring nobody doubted their excellence when they marched into Baghdad in four weeks with so few casualties. So in ministry, I expected to find people like me who love God above all else. But this expectation was naif and unreasonable and, as you could well expect, resulted in disappointment. Most of us missionaries have families so, as I Corinthians 7:32-33 says, the needs of the individual and family are often more important than the commands of God. After 30+ years of single life, this is a hard principle to comprehend and even harder to practice. This old dog doesn't like this new trick, but if I am devoted to excellence in my marriage, perfecting this trick is a necessity.
During the summers of my college years, I worked with people who Wilfred McClay calls the lowbrows. Ashland Oil hired me at an oil refinery, cleaning spills, cutting grass, and aiding welders and pipefitters. These grassroot people were down to earth, practical people with little thought for how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Then, when I was in medical research, I daily interfaced with highbrow academia. There, theory and idealism often crowds out practical reality. They tend to be more pacifist and more left-wing--not an easy place for someone who prefers Rush Limbaugh to Howard Stern. Understanding both points of view is probably the reason why I am a middlebrow today.
As McClay observes, "The highbrows [have become] ponderous, impenetrable, professionalized academics, whose air castles of thought were surrounded by moats of jargon designed to keep the dabblers and dilettantes at bay."* However, the lowbrows "were the manufacturers and purveyors of commercial mass entertainment, with debased aesthetic standards and a coarsening effect on the populace." We live in a world where "political discourse was debased by the domination of the [lowbrow]... instead of being elevated by contributions from on high."
As a result, the vital center of ideas still stood largely unoccupied. The leavening effect the two halves of the American cultural schism might have had upon one another--and occasionally did have--was hard to find, and harder to sustain. Those few hardy souls who were able to cross over--a Leonard Bernstein in music, a Tom Wolfe in literature, a David McCullough in history, an Andrew Wyeth in painting--won the scorn (often masking envy) of the illuminati and were dismissed as middlebrows, popularizers, and sellouts. (ibid, p. 84)Content to be a middlebrow
"we were to remember the poor, which very thing I was also eager to do." ~~~The Apostle Paul (Galatians 2)
Poor children get poorer education (Ballantine, 1989; Macionis, 1994) and less exposure to the computer. Tuberculosis is so strongly viewed as a disease of poverty that children don't even want people to know that they are at the TB hospital. (They even renamed the hospital this year, to take out the word "tuberculosis" .) Romania has the largest TB popullation than any other European country. Since Jesus' ministry seemed to have more success among the poor, we feel that our ministry here is strategic and extremely well-placed.
The children in this hospital are from the lower strata of society, since TB affects the poor. Common vectors of transmission are being near someone with the bacillium who coughs, sharing eating utencils, and poor sanitation techniques due to no hot water. Also, researchers have just discovered that smoke from wood stoves produces an inflammatory response in the lungs, and this makes it 2.6 times easier for TB to infect someone. (Mishra V, Retherford R, and Smith K) Poverty increases the probability that a child will be subjected to these transmission vectors.
More Romanian children were abandoned last year than any time in Romania's history. However, the government (under pressure by the European Union) continues to close orphanages. The result is that many of these children get tossed in the streets.
Under such pressure, in July the hospital had to find a disposition for over half of the children under their care. Children with living parents had to be sent back to the parents indifferent to the fact that their home situations and sub-standard schools were the cause of their developmental retardation. First graders that can't speak, 2nd graders that don't know the alphabet, and 6th graders that can't read came from these same village schools to which they had to return. The children that are from unknown origin will be retained in the hospital or sent to an orphanage that will likely be soon closed, forcing them into the streets. Oana (see Annual Reports for 2001 and 2002) is still at the hospital while Rodica was sent to an orphanage inTargoviste.
Two floors were consolidated into one, healthy children with unhealthy children. This means that we started working with truly contageous TB patients and had to start taking more precautions against getting sick. Please pray for God to keep the healthy children (as well as us) healthy.
In this way, this state-run hospital reduced teaching staff, forcing into retirement anybody who is over 50 and has had 30 years of work. The director's position has been eliminated, so Ionel has been replaced by a lady who seems to be equally favorable towards our work. Nothing should have to change there.
Working at the hospital is very draining and could drive
a youthful couple of 30-somethings like us crazy. I don't know how
some of their professors manage when they are in their 50's and 60's!
Aurelia takes the kids needing help in basic education and I
usually hold computer classes. In the halls, the kids are
constantly fighting, yelling, and knocking on the doors, impatient for
their turn to learn. They will beat on each other with sticks
and any body part that can gather some inertia. Many of the children
who remain in the hospital have good reason to feel fortunate and
unfortunate at the same time. They are fortunate to have our
donors supporting them and people like Amanda (a short-term missionary)
visiting them. They are fortunate to not be among the
thousands on the streets. However, they have the misfortune of
being in a place where they are unsupervised most of the summer.
The summer time is the worst for these children.
The staff is short because they go on vacation. At best, the
staff basically leaves when we get there. At worst, we will go
days without seeing the people that are supposed to care for and
educate the children. Then it becomes a zoo with children walking
on ledges outside, leaning on patched screens three stories above the
pavement, or just beating each others heads on the stone floor. It
got so bad that we had to register complaints. Whether or not we
were the catalyst, some of the staff got replaced by young girls who
have impressed us in their first month on the job. Let me
introduce you to some of the children. Cristian is a 13 year-old that comes
from a very poor family in Arges. He was unable to understand
oral communication because he couldn't tell the difference in sounds
between letters, especially 'b' and 'p'. He was embarrassed to
be called upon to read because he couldn't. The kids would make
fun of him so he was very inhibited, compounding his problem.
Rodica (below) was 6 years old when
we found her several years ago. As I was doing a regular trip down the
dark unlighted hall of the hospital, there was Rodica, alone, standing on the black and grey
stone floor, gazing half at the green and white tiled walls and half
at the intervening space.
She was a bright girl and
quickly learned 16 colors. She had an attention span
as short as her temper, but she was soon tamed by our affection. Not
long after that, she had learned to count and her alphabet. By the time
she entered school, she was nearly normal. She is now learning to
multiply. Best of all for us, her punching has been replaced with
With Rodica and all the
children, we hope to introduce them to
a vital relationship with the Lord. On June 29, Ionela had a heavy heart to know the
Lord. She wanted to know if God could forgive her grandmother for
practicing witchcraft. After we responded
"Can God forgive me and love me?" I asked Amanda to chat with her
as we continued the service with the other children. After about
30 minutes of chatting in her broken English, Ionela prayed to follow Christ.
This is only one child, but it is one step towards the revival
that needs to occur in Romania so that the civilization can attain its
As with TB, Romania has the largest pediatric AIDS population in Europe, more than all the rest of Europe combined.
Our AIDS work is composed of two portions: The Romanian portion of HIVAnonymous.com and our sponsorship of the work of Erika Tonko with children in Timisoara who are HIV positive.
The site continued to grow and serve more people. We saw a distinct growth in unique visitors this year as you can see in the graph to the right. We estimate that we are in the top 0.1% of Romanian AIDS sites.
By the end of the fiscal year, we had become Romania's fourth most respected HIV/AIDS site and the country's #2 source for abstinence education.
How do I participate in this work?
Print a donation slip.
In November, Mission Network
News in the US, broadcast a segment on Erika's work.
Unfortunately, they don't name Erika and the person from
Greater Europe Mission (GEM) claimed it as solely their work. I
wrote to the broadcaster but they don't seem to want to correct the
error. (In reality, GEM is affiliated with the foundation
providing daily supervision for Erika, so they do have a right to
claim some part of the work.)
How do I participate in this work?
Print a donation slip.
'We recently came across an article stating that there are 50% more people on pensions or disability than there are workers! Many people have gotten pensions for "disabilities" such as varicose veins or crossed eyes. Retirement age was 55. Somebody years ago decided that this was a good way to keep down unemployment. The demographics and the strain on the economy from this is tremendous.'
We are working to develop the social capital of the country with English lessons and Bible-based character development. Let me give you an example of a recent get together with the kids.
"What do you do that makes people angry?" I asked the newly spiritually reborn children in our Bible story time. This led to a discussion on what sin looks like in their culture.
"I hit my sister," volunteers one. "I curse," confesses another. "I call my brother 'stupid'." These are some of the things they came up with and they decided to work on renouncing them.
Having the kids define sin is within their culture is what we were taught in the Perspectives class. It is so important to avoid putting requirements on them that make no sense in their culture (like the headcover groups do) as well as to ensure that you help them avoid sins that really disrupt the culture like is typical for Repenters.
I guided them to hold each other accountable. Whoever was able to go a day without committing their pet sin got a point in the next session's competition. (This is something that perhaps America could use. Last year, with Enron hogging the headlines, ethics was the rage. Now, morality seems long since forgotten, conveniently dwarfed by the gross offenses of a dictator half a world away. As Christians, however, we are not to compare ourselves to others to make us feel better. We are not to take comfort in that we are better than our neighbor but whether we are better than we were last month.)
Each of our classes finds the kids trying to respond to as many questions as possible. There is screaming, chearing, laughing and shouting. To the untrained eye, you wouldn't imagine that we are having Bible story time. Every point counts towards the special prize like a seashell from North Carolina or a candy.
They are so incredibly interested in getting together that they are begging to come every day. If I only had the time... In addition to Bible story night we have English lessons with the Bible, game night, and Aurelia even taught practical life-training (hygiene, manners etc.) These are with the adolescents. Then, there are the teens!!
iBiblioteca grew to over 900 articles during the year. A few of these are written by myself, but virtually all of them are links to articles written by some of the most famous Romanian theologians. I often field questions from visitors. Because of my background in research, I know better than to give my opinions. Instead, I refer to published works to provide answers for these seeking individuals.
As you can see from the graph on the right, for the time which data has been collected, there has been a rise in the amount of people to whom we minister. The two months of June and July were when our server was down. In July we found a new provider who is a professional and this is perhaps one reason why we have more visibility.
In fact, by the end of September, we were the #1 site on the major search engines for the following topics: spiritual growth, and Bible in Romanian. We are in the top twenty in many topics, including prayer and salvation. We have reason to believe that we are in the top 0.2% of Romanian Christian sites.
Iustin has been partnering with me in this work and we have been able to help him get computer trained and to afford a computer. He will be increasing his role in our Internet work.
The Italian Evangelical church is mostlyintroverted with little orientation towards a vision to reach the world for Christ. They consider Italy in need of receiving missionaries, not of sending them.
This year, we continued development of the Bridge of Grace from Italy to Romania. We want to motivate Italians to reach out to Romanians. This would serve two purposes. Italians need to expand their idea of the international Church and Romanians need evangelism and discipleship from people closer to their own culture and who have walked in their shoes. For more about this bridge, click here.
As is explained in the linked report, this Bridge of Grace is similar to the one my boss is building between Norway and Turkey and to one that the MacTavish's are building between Spain and Romania. So, we are not walking untrod ground but we have some great resources with people with whom we have had a long-term relationship.
For instance, as I wrote in
the section about Valea Iasului Hospital above, Ionela's grandmother
fits into the area that Paul G. Hiebert of
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School calls the "excluded middle".
From a practical standpoint, Protestants tend to believe in a
physical world and a spiritual world, the latter being a domain in which
God is virtually the only active agent. If pointedly asked, we
say we believe demons and angels, but do not usually recognize their
This arose "in the 17th and
18th Centuries with the growing acceptance of a Platonic dualism and of
a science based on materialistic naturalism.... The result,
Lesslie Newbigin has argued, is that Western Christian missions have
been one of the greatest secularizing forces in history." (emphasis
mine) The Orthodox and Catholics see a world with many more
messengers and active agents. Unfortunately, they believe that
these are saints while the Bible tells of many stories where angels
Through witches, ego-centered humans "seek to control supernatural powers through rituals and formulas to achieve their own personal desires." (ibid) The local evanghelica libera pastor puts a "Christian" twist on it, telling people that if your car doesn't start, you'd better determine for what sin God is punishing you. The implication is that you do what he tells you to do so that a deity will bless you with a car that starts. Teaching people that God can be controlled through our actions glorifies self, not our Father.
The Italians believers know
what it is like to escape the Roman Catholic saints orientation.
Weekly, they have to deal with people who consult witches, since
the average Italian spends an astounding amount of money to seers.
They emerged from Mussolini's dictatorship and poverty decades
before Romania dealt with Ceaucescu. They spent decades cleaning
up their acts to overcome a reputation for immorality almost as bad
as Romania's. Their social
and family-oriented cultures are similar as is their language and
and dictatorial histories.
The Internet is receiving ever increasing levels of travellers. Everything is available to the Romanians and Italians in their maiden voyage into hyperspace: pornography, cults, the occult, truth and urban legends. We see the need to present ultimate Truth, Jesus Christ.
Here is an overview of our ministry:
This year, I myself got trained so that I can more effectively train others. My first week of 2003 was at a Perspectives "intensive" course. One of the main thrusts of the course is to break down barriers between denominations and rally all to reach the world for Christ. This was already our work in Romania. We are trying to build bridges between all believers and help non-believers to establish a relationship with God.
To you, this may sound like clear common sense. But there are some missionaries and pastors, not to mention laity, who insist that their Repenter 4% is "God's movement in Romania." We had better compare what we understand of that Word with the assent of the saints, and not create a fracture and battles within the Body which germinate from peculiarities in our logical processes.
As you know, morality has been a keyword for us and this
ministry. Not long ago media seemed to "get religion" and
morality got some positive reviews. Time magazine selected
the three female whistleblowers, Sherron Watkins of Enron, Coleen
Rowley of the FBI and Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, for their Persons of the Year
Now, I don't presume to count myself equal to these brave
women, but I noticed many common traits. Two out of three of them
expressed a faith in Jesus Christ. All were overachievers in their
youth. Rowley discovered a lack of interest in ethics while
working for the government just like I did at
the University of Michigan. So, I felt good seeing that there
are others out there getting recognized for holding the straight
Gregory "Boyd suggests that Western worldview assumptions
may have turned the Church away from the mission of fighting evil to a
practice of merely explaining evil." (Hawthorne
S.) Thus, taking a stand for integrity with a society like the
Integrity InterNetwork puts you at odds with the Western Christian
worldview and doesn't make you any points with your fellow missionaries.
The Integrity InterNetwork is designed to address the atrocious
ethics of many people in organized religion in Romania. It was
established with certain criteria. First, they must agree to
follow Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives. Secondly, they
must accept that the Body of Christ includes believers in all
denominations, including Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. To
read our goals, click on the banner above.
This year, we didn't add many members but we did resolve some misunderstandings and bring reconcilliation to some missionaries.
This year, an article I co-authored about child
development was published in a Romanian Christian woman's magazine.
It was thrilling to minister in that way.
On the site, the most popular articles were:
With the caveat of James 4:13ff, we
have the following expectations for our work in the three countries. May
God grant us the grace to bless Him in whatever ministry He puts us.
Please pray for those who direct us at Go Ye, that God's will is
clear to them, as we submit to our authorities.
Here are the prayer requests I have
for you. Please beseech the Lord on our behalf.
2004 will have its challenges and opportunities. Through God we can make the best of both. Aurelia, Erika, Iustin, and I join all the children in thanking you for your participation in this ministry. Paul says in Philippians 1:7 "In the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me." Those who participate in our work, and even more those who mobilize others to participate share a vital part in fulfilling God's purpose around the world. It is an exciting era.
How do I participate in this work? Print a donation slip.
"First, it limits the scope of true biblical holiness, which must affect every aspect of our lives.Aurelia and her sister noted the difference in levels of pragmatism on our last trip to Moldova. Romanians are "more cultured" because they learn a great deal about things they will never use. (And we at Lehigh lamented the inutility of some of our classes!) They have a much broader education but are less practical. Tocqueville complained of our lack of philosophical education. America, he said, was where "the precepts of Descartes are least studied and best applied." Walt Whitman, Matthew Arnold, Sinclair Lewis, George Steiner and many other intellectuals complained, "America is a philistine society, interested only in the arts of self-aggrandizement and enhanced material well-being, reflexively anti-intellectual, utterly lacking in the resources needed to support the high and disinterested curiosity that is the stuff of genuine cultural achievement."(McClay, op cit)
"Second, even though the rules may be biblically based, we often end up obeying the rules rather than obeying God; concern for the letter of the law can cause us to lose its spirit.
"Third, emphasis on rule-keeping deludes us into thinking we can be holy through our efforts. But there can be no holiness apart from the work of the Holy Spirit--in quickening us through the conviction of sin and bringing us by grace to Christ, and in sanctifying us--for it is grace that causes us to even want to be holy.
"And finally, our pious efforts can become ego-gratifying, as if holy living were some kind of spiritual beauty contest. Such self-centered spirituality in turn leads to self-righteousness--the very opposite of the selflessness of true holiness."
“Superficial matters such as diet,
dress, music, family names or any number of other peripheral matters
are not what the gospel is all about... No people should reject Christ
because of a false impression that He is calling them to commit cultural
suicide by abandoning and divorcing themselves from their own
people. On the other hand, no 'cheap grace' should be broadcast such
as an easy, quick conversion.” (Op cit, p. 121.)
copyright © 2003-2006
Ballantine, J. (1989). The sociology of education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Colson C (1994) A Dangerous Grace, Dallas: Word Publishing. p. 53.
Hawthorne S (1999). Perpectives: Study Guide Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library. p. 25.
Hiebert PG (1999). "The Flaw of the Excluded Middle", Perspectives: A Reader Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library. p. 414.
Kraft CH (1999) "Culture, Worldview and Contextualization" Perspectives: A Reader, op cit.
Landes DL (1998). The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Are Some So Rich and Others So Poor? (New York: W.W. Norton). ISBN: 0393040178 Order The Wealth and Poverty of Nations from Amazon.com
Macionis, J. (1994). Sociology (4th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
McClay WM (2003). "Do ideas matter in America?" Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2003.
Mishra V, Retherford R, and Smith K. (2002) "Indoor Air Pollution: The Quiet Killer" AsiaPacific Issues Oct. 2002.