We headed out from Bucureşti Thursday morning, catching a tramvai (tram) to a metrou (subway) to a tren (train) to an autocar (coach bus) to Rotbav. Rotbav is a beautiful village of 1,000 to 1,500 people that’s only about 120 miles but 3 to 6 hours from where we live. It’s a neat little town, and it would be our home away from home through Sunday afternoon as we enjoyed fellowship and ministry with Spiritual Revival Church.
Thursday, our train to Braşov was late, so we missed meeting up with the greater portion of the Spiritual Revival crew. But Pastor Peter and Dan (pronounced “Dun” here) waited for us so we’d get on the right bus from Braşov to Rotbav. Dan is 6-foot-something, became a Christian in March, and translates many Sundays. He has a very easy-to-like personality, and I really enjoyed getting to talk with him and learn about life in Romania.
Anyhow, Thursday was pretty basic as we met everyone else, got situated at the Bible school where we’d be staying,/ and listened to a message shared by George (an Australian-born Greek now living in Romania and married to a wonderful and lovely woman whom I swear sounds like Dracula when she speaks English) all about the need to live in holiness and to use our time wisely. My favorite time, though, was when we met with our small groups. It was awkward at first since no one really knew me and since I spoke only English, but we took turns sharing our testimonies, and soon we were good friends. I was amazed at the goodness of God and the variety of those who follow him. What a wonderful God we serve!
Friday, Jake had the pulpit. George had planned to have 3 sessions today, and Jake had prepared to talk about “Who is the Holy Spirit?”, “Why do some resist Him?”, and “Being filled.” But Romanians enjoy their mealtimes more than George must have thought, so he trimmed things down to two sessions. And the response was so divided after the first that Pastor Peter thought it best to make the last into a question-and-answer time. It was good, but in some ways it became a time for a few very adamant people to complain about the abuses of the Pentecostal church through the years (and in Romania there have been many). But the day ended with a very clear announcement from Pastor Peter that we must not base our theology or our practice on our experience but rather on the Bible, and so he would believe for, challenge, encourage, and stress the need for being baptized in the Holy Spirit in order to be a properly empowered witness.
My favorite moment this day was staying up late talking with the guys about tongues, healing, miracles, etc. Although many questions were left unanswered, I saw some who were very adamant against tongues come to the conclusion that they could not be considered unbiblical, and that all Christians must seek a greater filling of God’s presence, whether they speak in tongues or not. It was interesting since some only spoke English (me!) and some only spoke Romanian (Dumitru, the most adamant against tongues). But it was a profitable time.
Saturday was our day for evangelism. It started with Pastor Poinara (probably spelled wrong) introducing Michael Bentley. Pastor Poinara looks a bit like Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings, but he’s awesome. He was the first Christian in Rotbav, and his faith was matured during the years of communist repression. He leads a Christian counseling ministry right now, and one of the summer classes is about how to cast out demons. Now this is a Christian counselor I can like! Also, he learned to speak in English when he got filled with the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and English came out. How sweet is that! Anyhow, he has a wonderful spirit about him, and I hope to work more with him in the future. Rotbav is a tiny little down, and there are few Christians there.
Michael Bentley is an interesting man. He’s been following Jesus for 52 years, g
oing all over Europe sharing the gospel. His main method for evangelism is passing out tracts, and he’s been to jail over a dozen times and kicked out of about ten countries for spreading the gospel this way. I definitely enjoyed getting to hear his stories of how God used him through the years.
I spoke in the afternoon on the idea of getting an encounter to then be an encounter, how we are called not merely to share facts about Jesus but to help people actually encounter him. I shared lots of stories from the last eight years of working in Spring Green, where I saw many uninterested people suddenly become interested when they got healed, received a prophetic word, etc. It seemed well-received, but time will tell what the people do with it.
One of the highlights of Saturday, though, was going out to the village and sharing the gospel. We passed out tracts, knocked on doors, prayed for the sick, and released the presence of Jesus wherever we went. People here were much more receptive to talking than I had anticipated. Even those who disagreed with us were willing and open to talking and receiving the literature. By the end of the afternoon, we had witnessed a number of prayers for healing (three paralyzed women, one of whom came to church the next day), a few key prophetic words (a word about a car accident opened up one man to hearing the gospel, another word about a man’s son opened up the man and his neighbor to hear), some words of knowledge (one very clear word about one man’s particular sin left him stunned), a few prayers for repentance, and a whole lot of people challenged with the reality that Jesus alone saves, not the Orthodox church, not our good deeds.
That night, I stayed up way too late talking with Ady (a young man whose father cut off ties with him when Ady came to Jesus four years ago and chose to be baptized). He told me all about his own life, Romanian history, and everything in-between. Ady speaks great English, and he translates just about every Sunday at Spiritual Revival. He’s got a calling to the ministry, and I’m sure we’ll see him preaching before too long. (Plus, I plan to bring him along to share the gospel with us one of these days.)
Sunday was kind of a “wrap-it-all-up” day. We had a powerful meeting where 7 new people came to the service. At least four rose their hands saying they were ready to surrender to Jesus, including a girl from the church who was still following the Orthodox faith. People (men and women) were crying and smiling and reveling in the grace of God. Yeah, it was a good meeting. 🙂
In the afternoon, we packed up, hopped on the bus, and began our trip home. Since our train was running late, Jake and I were able to join the whole church on the world’s cheapest ($7 for a ticket) and slowest (average of 25 mph) train. I sat with Costel, Flori, and Daniella (not sure how to spell it in Romanian). I learned a couple Romanian card games (Macaua and a really fun one that involved shouting such phrases as “Sărut mâna, Părinte!” and “Bonjour, juvet!”) and had a great time of fellowship on the 5-hour train ride.
By the time I made it home, I was spiritually refreshed, excited about what God did, is doing, and will be doing and full of the joy that comes from friendship. But I was also completely drained physically. Seriously, I’m exhausted!