Baptist Mission in Moldova
Baptist Mission in Moldova
Moldova is a country situated between Romania and Ukraine. It has a population of 4,5 million people comprising many ethnic groups - 65% are Moldavians speaking the Romanian language; the rest are Ukrainian, Russian, Gagauz (Turkish), Jewish and Roma people. Chisinau is Moldova’s capital and largest city.
Moldova is a predominantly rural country. Its fertile soil, suitable especially for the production of wheat, is among the best in Europe. There are also numerous vineyards and orchards. The irony is that in spite of its great potential, Moldova is the poorest country in Europe: 80% of its people live on the edge of poverty according to the European Union standards. Roughly one million Moldovans are scattered all over the Russian speaking world of the former Soviet Union, and in Western Europe.
The main religion in Moldova is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. However, allegiance to the Orthodox Church is often times inherited and nominal. The Baptist Union of Moldova has experienced excellent growth since the country gained independence in 1991 the number of Baptists has doubled. The Baptists enjoy freedom to preach the Gospel, train leaders and carry out missionary activities.
There are hundreds of indigenous leaders that are actively involved in planting new Baptist congregations. Let me introduce one of the church planters who was supported by the EBF and now is the pastor of self-sustaining congregation.
Interview with pastor Eduard Edu from Chisinau
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Eduard Edu and I’m a Baptist pastor in Moldova. I’m 33 years old, married to Victoria and we have 3 children: 7 years old, 5 years old and the youngest is only 2 months old. I studied theology in Oradea, Romania and later got involved in church planting work in Moldova. I participated in the IMP program in 2005-10.
How can you describe the congregation where your serve?
This is the Baptist congregation which is located in the north of Chisinau, in the district called Boikovo. There at least 200 thousand inhabitants and no other Romanian speaking Baptist church. The people here are usually bilingual: Romanian and Russian speaking. There are also ethnic minorities represented in our church: the Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Gagauz, Russians and Roma (Gypsy) people.
We normally have one service with two sermons: one in Romanian and the other in Russian. The Roma people have their own services as they speak their own language and cultivate a distinct from us culture. The mission work among the Roma people is quite new as it was started in October 2011 with two families only and now there are about 60 people involved.
The whole congregation numbers about 250 people and it seems to be rather good result because it was started in 2005 (seven years ago). Our Sunday School is comprised of 80 children and there are about 60 young adults. The congregation has two choirs and an orchestra. In summer we organize camps for children and youth.
There are 2 pastors and 3 deacons who share the leadership responsibilities. The church work is based on small groups and the method is simple: leaders invite their friends for a Bible study. There are several groups that meet in homes during the week. In summer there are camps which are the highlight for our people. They often join groups as they normally want to continue friendships from camps. The system of leadership is the following: the pastor leads a group for leaders every Tuesday which is open to any church member. The other groups meet on Wednesday – all at the same time.
What are the Gagauz people?
They are predominantly Turkish speaking minority in our country numbering about 250 thousands and are located in the south of Moldova. Their origin goes back to the age of Ottoman Empire expansion into Europe. However their religion is Orthodox Christianity (not Islam) and a considerable number of them are Protestants. Some of the Protestant churches send mission teams to Turkey and Azerbaijan since the language and culture are the same. The Gagauz enjoy a political autonomy and their capital is Komrat.
How the Baptist Movement started and developed in your country?
The Baptist movement was started in Moldova in the 19th century. During the Soviet time the Baptists experienced harsh persecution from the communist regime. Many leaders were under the surveillance of the KGB (secret service) and hundreds perished in labor camps. Training of pastors was not possible but in spite of these obstacles Baptist churches grew.
When Moldova declared its political independence, in 1991, there were 11 thousand Baptists worshiping in 130 churches. Now there are about 20 thousand baptized members in nearly 500 local churches and church plants. The Baptist Family of Moldova represents about one percent of the population, which is the best result in Europe. According to our estimates at least 15 thousand Baptists have emigrated from Moldova and live abroad. They also should be added to that number, I guess…
Baptist churches in Moldova are very missions minded. They not only witness to their neighbors but often send missionaries to the Russian speaking world – even to Siberia, above the Arctic Circle. The Moldavians are also involved in missionary activities in Central Asia where the Muslim religion is predominant (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan etc.). Every year about 40-50 leaders from Central Asia study in the Chisinau Bible College. After their education is over they go back to minister in the existing churches or start new congregations.
The Baptists in Moldova enjoy freedom to preach the Gospel, train leaders and do missions. And people are very open to accept the Gospel all over the country. Many of them take the opportunity after so many years of atheistic indoctrination and persecution which was everyday reality during the communist era.
What are the special blessings in your ministry?
To introduce people to Jesus so that they can know Him as their personal Savior and help them grow spiritually in their new discovered faith. Significant number of people joining our congregation are students who stay in Chisinau for a limited period of time and it is important to use the opportunity when they are open for the Gospel. Special blessing is also to do camps for children, youth and of course the survival camps for leaders.
What are the most demanding challenges?
We are a young congregation and one of the biggest problems is the church tradition. Some older people that visit our church criticize us because we don’t sing the traditional hymns but our members prefer choruses. Unfortunately great number of Moldovan people emigrate abroad. Out of the total of 4 million population at least 1 million live abroad. Majority of the people who emigrate are young and skilled, so the country is ‘loosing’ them.
Another problem is that our people don’t support enough their leaders. Often times the people don’t understand how difficult and responsible is the work of a pastor. They require a great deal from pastors but don’t support them appropriately. We try to teach our people the biblical way but the changes come very slowly. Another challenge is to find good equipment for our survival camps.
What are the best methods of evangelism in your nation?
Churches organize special Gospel services in their chapels (called ‘houses of prayer’), films can be shown and concerts can be performed with the Gospel message in the public halls including present in every village ‘culture house’, tracts and literature can be distributed in the streets and public places but the best and most effective method is to invite people to a private home, drink tea or coffee with them and share the Gospel message in a very informal way.
How did you come to faith?
Many years ago I went to a sport’s club. Someone witnessed to me by sharing the Gospel. Later I found out this was the son of a pastor. He became friend with me and invited me to a bible study group. He has always been good example of Christian attitude and moral authority to me.
Can you share some prayer requests?
Yes, you can pray for my sensitivity to God’s leadership as there are different spiritual struggles and crossroads. Pray also for better equipment to our survival (leadership) camps so that we can continue them. It had happened that the state authorities wanted to close our camp because of the poor quality of equipment. You can also pray for a better car for me as I have to travel a lot for ministry and my present car is very old 20 years) and often gets broken. My ministry could be more effective if I had a better vehicle.
Thank you for answering these questions. I trust that many Christians will pray for you while reading this interview.