MBC president calls for churches to get involved in Romanian partnership
By Allen Palmeri
September 28, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – The first year of a three-year partnership between Missouri Baptists and Romania Baptists is not accomplishing all that it should, according to David Tolliver, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs.
“I think the partnership is struggling,” Tolliver said. “I’d like to see more response. In my opinion, we ought to have 300 Missouri Baptist churches that are already partnered.”
MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Norm Howell agreed that the partnership is “not as strong as what it ought to be” with 30-40 Missouri Baptist churches involved in active partnerships with Romania Baptist churches. Howell said he is hoping for 45 new partnerships in the fall and 25-30 in the spring to give the MBC a foundation of 100 firm partnerships.
“We’re just not getting the churches,” Howell said. “The people are just not going. If we had more churches that would take up an active role in that, then we would see something happening.”
Pisgah Baptist Church has been partnered with Bethel Baptist Church in Botosani, Romania, since Sept. 7, 2003. A team of 14 short-term missionaries from Pisgah went to Bethel Baptist Church July 4-16 to participate in Vacation Bible School work and revival meetings. It marked Tolliver’s second trip to Romania, where he has been actively involved in leading the MBC’s effort to develop church-to-church partnerships for the purpose of church planting in and around Romanian villages.
“Now I’ve got 13 other people preaching the Romanian message to our church, and we’re already planning our next trip,” Tolliver said.
A total of 35 children at Bethel Baptist Church professed faith in Jesus Christ during the July mission trip, Tolliver said.
The Pisgah group was divided into three revival teams, with Tolliver, worship leader Mark Spohn and lay preacher Dale Meehan all proclaiming the Gospel. The teams were able to carry the Gospel to four villages – Tudora, Poiana, Braesti and a village near the border of Moldova. Tolliver recalled how God used him in Poiana, in a church were attendance had dwindled to about seven people.
“The night I preached there were probably about 60 people there,” he said. “Most of the town came out, including the mayor. Now the church has really been picked up and they’re running in the neighborhood of around 30.”
Tolliver said he is encouraged that the pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, Cristian Mihok, is carrying on work in all four of the villages the Pisgah group visited. Bethel runs about 120 in Sunday worship.
Botosani is a city of about 140,000 people in the northeast corner of Romania, near Ukraine and Moldova. Tolliver met with the president of Botosani County, who is the equivalent of the governor of a state in the American system of government.
“I prayed for him and for what they’re doing there, and he basically gave us his blessing to do whatever we wanted to do,” Tolliver said. “Had we not achieved that, it would have been difficult to even work there. There’s no law against having the Baptist church there, but the (Romanian) Orthodox priests will threaten the people in their communities not to go to it. Cristian has had incidents where people have come, and then they didn’t come back, and finally he saw them and they said, ‘Oh, the priest told us we couldn’t come back.’ So it’s very strong Orthodox, and the people are very closed to the Gospel. It’s a very cold area spiritually.”
Tolliver said his church will send another group of missionaries in February, when he has been invited to preach a winter revival.
“In Romania, they have a saying, ‘Winter is the summer of the soul,’” Tolliver said. “That’s the time when it’s ripe and people can’t get out and do much. They’ve told me the snow may be waist-deep when I get up there, and so they may as well go to church. That’s the best time to have revival.
“The people who go to Romania will experience people who are genuine heroes of the faith. It would be to the benefit of every Missouri pastor to partner with a church over there if for no other reason than to go over there and meet these people and find out what kind of person it is who can stand up under Communist persecution and preach the Gospel.”
Tolliver said it would be appropriate for Missouri Baptists to call Howell at (800) 736-6227, ext. 620, and ask how they can help with the partnership.
“Maybe it’s just partnering with Pisgah, and we’re not going to do anything but pray, and you’re going to send us prayer requests every week and we’re going to tell you how to pray for Bethel,” Tolliver said. “Maybe five of them team up together and all they do is send one pastor over there to preach revival. But in some way, become involved in the partnership.”