On Mission for Christ by Chris Burnette, ’91
Dear Friends and Family,
Where to begin to describe my experience in Moldova? I will never be the same.
As you may know, our church partnered with Emmanuel Baptist Church, in Cahul, Moldova, to put on a martial arts camp for children and teens. Tae Kwon Do is the draw to get the kids to camp, so that we may love on them and minister the gospel to them. We had over 100 kids (ages 8 – 19) show up for camp! As with any group of kids that large, there were a few knuckleheads, but the great majority was eager to learn about Christ and anything American.
The camp itself is very rudimentary, but is Disney World to these kids – truly the highlight of their year. In showing them pictures of our family, I discovered that they have no concept of owning a home or vehicle, or even living on a paved street. Many of the teenagers live on their own. Most of the younger kids live with one parent, and the other parent is either deceased or works out of the country and sends money back home. Moldova was left in shambles when the former Soviet Union collapsed. The communist party literally blew up buildings on their way out. There are no prospects for commerce, and subsistence farming is the best a Moldovan family can hope for.
Our team consisted of 12 believers from the states, and eight from Emmanuel Baptist. Between their morning and evening Tae Kwon Do lessons, we got to know the kids by playing games and just spending time with them. A handful of the kids spoke a little English, and God helped me pick up on the structure of the Romanian language. I quickly learned that simply throwing a Frisbee with a Moldovan kid means the world to them. A bond was quickly established. These “strangers” showed me love that most American kids would be embarrassed to show.
We held worship services each morning and evening, and a Bible study midday. We gave each camper his or her own copy of the scriptures in Romanian. I had the privilege of preaching and leading worship music at the services, as well as leading one of the boys’ Bible studies. I had 17 boys in my group. Two were knuckleheads, but most of my boys were eager to learn about the scriptures. Learning to preach and teach via an interpreter was a challenge, but God helped me adjust quickly. The messages and study for each day followed a theme: Monday – The Gospel; Tuesday – Faith; Wednesday – Brokenness; Thursday – Fighting Sin; Friday – Trusting Jesus; and Saturday – Victory in Christ.
On Friday evening, God’s conviction fell upon our camp in a powerful way! As the message was preached, kids began to cry – broken, as God revealed their sins to them. I should say, these kids hardly ever cry; the harsh reality of their day-to-day lives does not allow for vulnerability. At the end of the service, we told the kids that the leaders would remain in the worship center in case anyone wanted to talk or ask questions. At first, only a handful of kids stayed to talk. One of them was Danik, a 16-year-old, and the “hardest” kid in my group. Confronted with the gravity of his sin and his need of a savior, Danik was broken. There wasn’t much I needed to say. Danik cried out to God to forgive him, and said he was placing his faith in Jesus Christ. I was dumbfounded; why, I’m not sure. We know God has the power to save, but sometimes He just amazes us, all the same. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw another group of six or seven kids walking back to the worship center. All of them were crying, seeking a leader to guide them to the Savior. This continued over the next two hours, until almost 30 kids had repented of their sins and placed their faith in Jesus. Once we had counseled all the kids, they stood around in groups and held each other as they sobbed, their cries turning from those of brokenness to cries of joy, as God freed them from sin and delivered them into His family.
In all my 40 years, I have never experienced the love and mercy of God in such a powerful way. Words cannot begin to do my experience justice. The following day, we awoke to an entirely new camp. Again, words fail, but it was as though a cloud had been lifted and the joy of these kids was free to shine through. At morning worship, the singing was five times louder than it had been all week. I told the kids this was because many of them were now singing for God instead of singing for me. Now their hearts were crying out in praise to the One who had delivered them from sin and death into newness of life.
Sunday morning brought a tearful goodbye. My little buddy Juliano, just nine years old, did not understand why I had to go back to America, and he begged me to take him with me. It took four tries to get him to smile for a picture. Praise the Lord, Juliano was one of those precious souls that put his faith in Christ Friday night.
We traveled the two-and-a-half hours from camp to the city of Cahul to worship with the small group of faithful believers at Emmanuel Baptist Church. What a joy to hear these brothers and sisters sing their hearts out in their native Romanian tongue – I couldn’t understand a word, but it was beautiful, all the same. I was asked to preach the morning’s message; what a privilege it was to share the Word of God with family whom I had never met, 6,000 miles from my comfort zone!
Lessons learned: God’s love breaks through any barriers – distance, language, age, and culture. We humans are all the same, in that we are broken if left in our sin, and we are all in need of the Savior. God doesn’t need me, he grants me the honor of being used by Him, for His purposes, as I make myself available. His strength is most prominently displayed in my weakness. God’s mercy and grace is more powerful than anything imaginable! He loves and cares for us more than we could ever comprehend.
I cannot thank you enough for the support so many have provided – both prayerfully and financially. I would ask for one more favor – that you would pray for the work that God is doing in Moldova. Please pray specifically for the boys in my group – Nicolae, Andre, Danik, Juliano, Valerui, Antone, Vlad, Aleksandr, Dennis, Lilian, Eugenui, Yuwan, Sorin, Valera, Demetri, Eure, and Dema. All but four of them made decisions for Christ. Satan will seek to make them doubt their new-found faith by any means possible. Please join me in praying a hedge of protection around these precious ones. The faithful at Emmanuel Baptist will be following up with them to make sure they get into a good, Bible-teaching church in their respective villages, and to make sure they receive the discipleship that is so critical for young believers.
God bless you,