Contact Us in the UK
- Phone: 01302 811319
- Mailing Address: 24 Elmfield Road, Hyde Park, Doncaster, South Yorkshire DN1 2BA
Contact Us in the US
- Phone: 202.468.4571
- Mailing Address: PO Box 5188 Wheaton, IL 60189-5188
I knew the driver simply as the ‘Bear Man’ and he was driving the horses and sledge way too fast. We were in North East Romania visiting a campsite that was about a metre deep in snow and it was freezing. If it was -30C then I dreaded to think what the wind chill was. Our church in Leicester, UK partnered with another church in the UK and several other churches in this region of Romania. It had been almost ten years since we’d started working together. At first a couple of us flew over and preached. Then we started to send mission teams who would do some children’s work in the local, very Russian looking, estate. Then Beni, the Romanian pastor, said why don’t we take some of the children out of the towns into the countryside. Why don’t we run some English style camps? That was the beginning of a joint work that had become two weeks of fun, games and gospel work. Now here I was visiting the site out of season. The ‘Bear Man’ was a local Christian who farmed and looked after the woods for the government and yes, you guessed it, the bears. ‘You really don’t want to see them at the moment’, he said, ‘they’re all hibernating, they’d be rather grumpy.’ I took his word for it. He was a great worker using his land to help the work of the gospel. He’d put up toilets and now I was viewing his latest building project, a house that acted as a dormitory.
Yet it wasn’t all easy. There was a suspicion in his church that he was getting rich out of the camps being held on his land and people were getting jealous. Work in this part of Romania is scarce, up to a fifth of the workforce live abroad to earn enough money for their family. And then some of the Christian parents were very uncomfortable about sending their children on a camp where they might have to sleep next to a gypsy. ‘They don’t wash’ they pointed out. The language and cultural differences between Romania and Britain weren’t altogether easy either. The women on our team needed to be dressed right in order to avoid offending their hosts.
Slowly however these obstacles were being overcome and our partnership in the gospel was developing into a fruitful one. The Romanian churches have grown, their youth work is thriving. For us in the UK it has proved fruitful as well. Our faith has been increased and our eyes opened. We were able to fly Pastor Beni and his wife Ioanna over to Britain to visit the two churches. He preached and somehow it cemented the relationship between us. The ‘Bear Man’ was keen to go, it was getting dark but surely it couldn’t get any colder?