Romania/MBC partnership excites IMB leader
By Allen Palmeri
June 22, 2004
Missionaries see God’s handiwork
BUCHAREST , Romania – It was a war-room atmosphere that Larry Carnes, International Mission Board (IMB) strategy coordinator for Romania , had been anticipating.
His counterpart in the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), State Church Planting Director Jerry Field, and Norm Howell, partnership missions specialist, had flown across the Atlantic Ocean for their first visit to the Bucharest office of Onesimus Mladin, general secretary of the Romania Baptist Union. On May 21, his office became a setting for strategic planning of sorts as the parties focused their attention on evangelism and church planting – the goal of Missouri Baptists who have entered into a three-year partnership with Romania Baptists. A large color map of Romania in the background served as a backdrop to all of the creativity that Howell and Field were exhibiting along with the in-country experts, Mladin and Carnes.
Carnes is the longest standing IMB missionary in Romania. Come December, he and his wife, Peggy, will have served there 10 years.
“The Romanians are in kind of an identity crisis,” Carnes said. “They’re coming out of communism, they’re trying to be Western, they’re trying to be European, there’s still a lot of Eastern elements that are involved. A lot of them really want to run with an American model (of ministry) that may attract some but won’t really communicate the Gospel to Romania in such a way where we can penetrate Romania the way we need to. So what we’re trying to do is find biblical principles instead of just American programs.
“American programs look flashy and sound good, but Romanians don’t have the money and the expertise to perpetuate programs even if they worked. So we’re trying to find ways that, with their own resources and their own people, they can penetrate the cities and villages with the Gospel. Where we’ve not done so well is in the cities. Our missionaries right now are starting to focus on an urban model of church planting, because the Romanian model is more of a village approach.”
Carnes said he first felt the call to missions in 1984. He became pastor of Providence Baptist Church, Gastonia, N.C., and the church entered into a partnership with a Romanian church from 1992-1994. Through that partnership, the Lord led Carnes and his wife to become career missionaries in the eastern European country. They were commissioned in December of 1994.
“We began to really develop a heart for Romania,” Carnes said. “We thought that was how God was going to fulfill that sense of calling, through the partnership, but the more we were involved, the more we had a desire to be there full-time.”
Peggy said the call was confirmed in 1992 while on a church-sponsored trip.
“We were up in the middle of the country, up on a mountain, and we knew that this was it,” she said.
That same year, Carnes remembered Mladin picking him up at the Bucharest airport and driving three hours at a high rate of speed because they were running late. It was a memorable experience – one of many they have had.
“He drove like a true Romanian,” Carnes said. “We were late. In fact, we had a friend of ours sitting in the front seat, and another friend in the back seat said, ‘Oni, we don’t have to get there in such a hurry.’ And Oni says, ‘But they have supper ready for you.’ And my friend says, ‘Dead men don’t eat.’ That was the theme of our trip that time.”
With dozens of Missouri Baptist volunteers scheduled to roll in like waves in the fall, Carnes is excited. Strategically, he has delegated more of the work in the more-evangelized west to the Romanian Baptists while the American IMB force looks to penetrate the darkness of the east. There are now 27 IMB workers in Romania; Carnes supervises 19.
“It’s helping the lay people bridge over to the lost people,” he said. “ Missouri volunteers help motivate and encourage the lay people in the churches to reach out to their neighbor. They give an occasion for the church people to invite or to approach the lost people.”
The Carnes have noticed a difference in the spiritual realm from their previous post in Timisoara, in the west, and their current location in Bucharest, the capital city of 1.9 million.
“There is deep oppression throughout the entire country, but you feel it more on the other side of the Carpathians (the mountain range), which is where we live now,” Peggy Carnes said. “It’s the Turkish influence that came in.
“It’s the call that keeps you there. You’re always encountering spiritual darkness. It’s there. It’s at every corner.”
Larry Carnes agreed with his wife that the call that brought them to Romania is sufficient to keep them there.
“It’s just a sense of God’s still at work here, and He still shows me that I’m to be a part of this, and I rejoice in it,” he said. “This is a wonderful place to be involved in His work. There are obviously frustrations and difficulties, but God is at work.”
For Peggy Carnes, who has spent about one-half of her married life in Romania, the call has seen her through.
“We have a love for the people,” she said. “God continues to bring that love to mind. There have been times of great joy. There have been times of deep sadness and sorrow, just struggling, but you just come back to the call. If you love Him, He opens your heart to love the people.”