Vibrant partnership continues between Pisgah, Romanians
March 22, 2005
EXCELSIOR SPRINGS – It has been said that “winter is the summer of the soul.”
For the people of far northeastern Romania, the cold temperatures of winter provide the backdrop for the warm breeze of the Holy Spirit to melt hearts and change lives.
“It’s not at all the way we would do it in this country, but in the northeast corner of Romania, the harsh winters cause people to be less mobile and therefore more available to attend the nightly revival services,” said David Tolliver, immediate past president of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs. “Also, the meager living conditions of Romania are exacerbated by the cold of winter, and people seem to be more open to hearing about and believing in the promises of God.”
When Pastor Cristian Mihoc first asked him to come and preach a revival meeting, Tolliver said that he wondered about the effectiveness that an English-speaking preacher would have preaching through an interpreter in a revival setting. And he questioned the response the meeting would receive in the middle of winter. His Romanian partner pastor responded immediately.
“They will come and they will listen, because in Romania, winter is the summer of the soul,” Mihoc said. “Their bodies are cold, but their hearts are warm and open to the Gospel.”
So in February, armed with a Bible, some sermon notes and a brand-new winter coat, Tolliver and James O’Dell, associate pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, boarded a jet bound to Romania.
Even though this was his third trip to Romania, Tolliver said that he learned several new things on this trip.
First, it is a lot colder in Romania in February than it is in July. Last July, Tolliver led a group of 14 people from Pisgah Baptist Church to conduct Bible schools and evangelistic services in Botosani and three of the surrounding villages. Pisgah Baptist Church is involved in a church-to-church partnership with the Bethel Baptist Church in Botosani. Bethel Baptist Church also is the sponsoring church to three Romanian church starts in the villages of Braesti, Tudora and Ungureni.
The Pisgah mission team divided up into three teams to conduct three Vacation Bible Schools in the mornings and two in the afternoons. There also were three preaching services each evening, all fighting heat.
Heat was not an issue during the February trip. The temperature in Botosani was about 5 degrees Fahrenheit and the snow was almost 10 inches deep.
“It was very cold,” Tolliver said. “But it proved to be true that winter is the summer of the soul.”
In a report to Pisgah Baptist Church, Tolliver also noted that each trip to Romania has taught or reminded him of the source of his strength, the satisfaction of sacrifice, serenity in the midst of a storm, the superiority of a serious attitude toward God, and the security of His salvation. Tolliver recommended that every Missouri Baptist church participate in a church-to-church partnership with a Romanian church.
“You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars traveling to Romania to benefit from a relationship with these heroes of the Christian faith,” he said. “And your participation could be as simple but significant as prayer.”
Although Pastor Mihoc and Tolliver did not meet until the Pisgah team arrived on the field in the summer of 2004, the two men are kindred spirits. Both have a heart to grow the churches they serve by reaching lost people for Christ and discipling Christians. Even when they preach, with Mihoc translating for Tolliver, they think alike and have similar preaching styles, Tolliver said.
“Preaching through an interpreter is an exciting experience,” Tolliver said. “It is refreshing and rewarding to make your point and explain the meaning of Scripture in English and then watch the faces of the Romania people light up when they hear the point made in their language. You can tell when they understand.”
Tolliver first went to Romania with Roy Spannagel, MBC associate executive director. He was in the 2003 annual meeting of the Romanian Baptist Union when the original partnership agreement between the Romanian Baptist Union and the MBC was signed.
“Everything we have done in our partnership has grown out of the expressed needs of the Romanian church,” Tolliver said. “Even now, the Bethel Baptist Church council is preparing requests for us. They are compiling a list of their needs, spiritual and physical. Once we receive the list, we will begin to pray about the needs that God would have us to meet. That determination will be the basis of our 2006 mission trip to Botosani.”
In 2004, Pisgah responded to a request for help in the areas of Vacation Bible Schools and evening preaching services. And the requests from Mihoc have continued to flow.
“One of their greatest needs was to provide a youth camp for the young people of their church and city,” Tolliver said. “Since our partnership is a church needs-based partnership, we began immediately to think toward that kind of mission trip.”
While O’Dell and Tolliver were in Romania last month, they put together the more intricate details of that upcoming youth camp.
“While we were in Romania, this time we took the one-hour trip from Botosani to Campulung Moldevenesc to visit the site of the camp,” O’Dell said. “I am excited about the upcoming youth camp. I have participated in — and led — several camps, but this is the first one where one of the requirements for the youth of the church to attend is that they must bring a lost friend with them to camp.”
Mihoc is looking forward to a great harvest of souls in the upcoming summer camp as another Pisgah team arrives. O’Dell, who will lead five youth and five adults on the mission trip, has a saying of his own.
“If winter is the summer of the soul, this summer will be the harvest of young Romanian souls for Christ,” O’Dell said. “Please pray for us as (we) share the love and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a place that is close to our hearts, but a long way from home.”