|Touching Lives Around the World—Samantha Nelson|
(From the April 2009 edition of HopeSpeak)
It is always a blessing to be able to touch people’s lives for Christ and to see the difference that just a simple hug, a listening ear, a kind word or encouragement can make, especially when the Holy Spirit is at work in the process. This recent trip to Norway and Romania were no exception. There is no doubt the Lord was at work and He was touching hearts and lives.
The first week of February was spent in Norway, conducting meetings for individuals and groups, as well as teaching classes at the European Bible School (EBS). It was great to see how the students were so enthusiastic about learning how to share their testimony through Biblical illustrations, as Steve demonstrated it and then had a few of them share their own. They also learned how to help someone who had suffered abuse as we went through the book Reaching the Hurting and shared Biblical principles of help, hope and healing. During the process we were able to spend some one-on-one time with a few of the students. Here is one note we received:
“It was really good having you guys over here. Thanks for sharing and teaching! [My friend] is doing better; I can see that God is working on her. We started to pray together every night and it's good for both of us.”—Student at EBS, 2009
In addition to the meetings and classes, Steve conducted a revival series at the end of the week. The Lord moved upon the hearts of the people and helped them to see His great love for them. In fact, one translator was so touched by God’s love as it was being shared in the sermon that she began to cry as she was translating. Tears of joy; of hope; of knowing the love of God.
All too soon it was time to leave the beautiful white landscape of Norway and our beloved family in Christ and head to Bucharest, Romania. While the flight there left much to be desired (due to an unruly seat-mate [not Steve], not the flight itself), it was soon forgotten in the “busyness” of the work that lay before us, the sadness of Bucharest’s 75,000 stray dog population, and the joy of being with our Romanian family in Christ. Truly, the food and hospitality of the people is amazing. Those who love God let His love shine forth in bright beams! I want to express a very special thanks to the Morcov, Petre, Ciur and Papadopol families for taking such good care of us while we were there. God bless you!
The week started off with a meeting at the Romanian Union Conference office. We were to hold a seminar on pastoral sexual abuse the next evening and one of the officials at the Conference wanted to know exactly what we planned to discuss. Due to a recent situation of abuse in the Union’s jurisdiction, he was quite concerned that any discussion of the topic could become divisive. We assured him we were there to help and that discussing the topic would help the people not cause further damage. After all, God knew the timing of all of this (we surely cold not have known!) and we had received approval from the Union to speak on this topic long before the abuse situation became public knowledge.
The meeting the next evening was a precedent-setting meeting. To our knowledge, and according to what we’ve been told, it was the first meeting where pastoral sexual abuse had been discussed. You see, Romania was formerly a Communist country and, even though Communism is long gone, there are still some people who are afraid to speak about certain things. Abuse is one of them; pastoral sexual abuse is certainly one of them. All in all, the Lord blessed the meeting and those who were there to seek information, healing and truth about pastoral sexual abuse. In fact, after we returned to Illinois, we received this message via email, “I have a great news for you. A girl who was at Wednesday’s meeting [the meeting about pastoral sexual abuse], it was her first time in a Seventh-day Adventist Church and now she comes every Saturday.” We also received this note from one of the pastors, “…let me assure you that your efforts are not fruitless. You have contributed to a change of mind and helped many to become aware
A follow-up meeting was held the next day with a representative from the Union. Then, we began to prepare for the revival series to be held that weekend in the village of Cazaci. We spend the weekend with Alina’s parents (Alina and her husband Gabriel are the Norwegian and Romanian representatives for The Hope of Survivors), as her father is an elder in the church and helped to arrange for Steve to conduct the revival series there. Gabriel translated and did a wonderful job. (Thank you, Gabriel!) The meetings went incredibly well, by God’s grace. In fact, after the last meeting, the church remained full of people who wanted to meet with us privately for prayer and counsel. During those meetings, our hearts were deeply moved by what we heard and we sent many prayers to the Throne of Grace on behalf of these dear children of God. One young girl really reached into the depths of our hearts but I will leave that story for Steve to share later. He has already used it as a devotional many times and is writing it out, so it can be posted online. We fell in love with the people in the Cazaci Church and they with us. That’s God!
On February 15, there was a book launching of Puterea de a Mangaia (Reaching the Hurting) in Romanian. Thank you Chrisian Salcianu and Elena Pridie of Advent for your quick work in translating the book in time for our arrival! Also a special thanks to Pastor Ion Buciuman for allowing us the use of the Balta Alba Church to conduct this book launching. There were about 40 people in attendance and we had a great time of questions and answers and then a book signing. The feedback we have received has been that the book is very helpful and needed. In fact, Pastor Buciuman wrote a review you can read (if you read Romanian) at http://www.majesty.ro/RONDO-de-Ion-Buciuman/puterea-de-a-mangaia.html and he intends to use it in his prison ministry work as well. To God be the glory for providing such a needed book in the Romanian language!
Our last weekend in Romania was spent conducting the revival series at the Popa Tatu Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bucharest. Pastor Adrian Bocaneanu did the translation for the meetings and we are especially thankful for his cooperation in the use of the church for many meetings. The Saturday morning meeting was so full it was standing-room only. There wasn’t even a place for me to sit, so the pastor permitted me to sit on the platform behind Steve while he preached.
During our brief respite in Holland, we were blessed to be able to visit the Noah’s Ark replica in Drachten. You can learn more about this project at http://www.arkvannoach.com. It was incredible!
While there is so much more that took place, space prohibits me from sharing it all. Suffice it to say, the Lord went before us, stayed beside us, and blessed all the efforts—in spite of anything anyone tried to do to hinder the work. We were given invitations to return and do more speaking at a future date, and we even met people who have expressed an earnest desire to work with The Hope of Survivors in Romania. We praise God and thank Him for the special blessing of being able to touch lives around the world. We thank you for your support of this critical work around the world.