Today was an interesting day. It seems every Sunday ends up being interesting over here, but today was more so than usual.
First, I joined my friend and ministry partner Alex at the local LDS chapel (I have no idea if “chapel” is the right word or not). Alex and I aren’t Mormons, so I should probably explain this. A few weeks ago, Alex had met a couple of missionaries while he was out sharing the gospel. Rather than debating them or challenging them concerning the unbiblical doctrines of the LDS (which is more Alex’s natural style), he felt called to simply share his testimony with them, his story of deliverance from drugs, life-threatening disease, and a life of crime. The two were so struck by his story that they came to church with him the next Sunday. Later, they invited him to join them for their monthly “testimony Sunday” where the pulpit was open for anyone to share. Of course, Alex can’t turn down any chance to share his testimony, even if it means going to an LDS meeting.
To make a long story short, Alex miraculously packed his “three-day testimony” into 8 minutes, and left the group with a clear picture of what the one and only God and Lord, Jesus Christ, can do for a man. He kept away from debates, and just talked about Jesus. It was good. My faith was encouraged. Many there were seriously strengthened in their pursuit of God and challenged to trust in the finished work of the cross. And the local teacher (again, I have no idea if this is the correct term) even asked Alex for his card.
On his way out, Alex asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon, Iuliana complained, “You’re going to get Mormonized, Alex!” (in Romanian, of course), and then we drove on over to set up for the service at Piatra Vie.
On our way, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy a couple watermelons for snacks after the service. We ended up getting to pray for the saleswoman, whose leg had swollen due to salt issues and who suffered from asthma. In the end, we tried to pay for the watermelons, but she was so happy for the prayers that she refused the money and pressed another watermelon into our hands. I hate when it looks like I’m receiving payment for the work of God, but she was so happy to give them to us, I couldn’t refuse.
Anyhow, we made it to Casa de Cultura a Studentilor in time to set up for the meeting, and I was feeling pretty excited to get to share about the morning’s excitement.
When we started the meeting, we weren’t at all surprised that it was smaller than normal. The worship team from Elim had called us on Saturday to let us know they wouldn’t be able to help with worship after all; when they can’t make it, we usually lose about a dozen or so others. So we were expecting a smaller group.
But this wasn’t just a “smaller than normal” meeting; this was tiny.
I think the sheer smallness took all of us by surprise. It was just Jake, Jessie, their kids, Alex, and I. Thankfully, Jake’s got four kids and a fifth on the way, so we can honestly say there were nine of us there. Seriously, though, it was pretty discouraging looking at the clock and realizing it was time to start but nobody but the leaders were present.
Talk about a chance to “despise the day of small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:8-10). Shoot, even the Mormons had us beat by a factor of 5.
But, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, right? And “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…”, to quote Theodore Roosevelt.
And, besides, Jesus promised that whenever just two or three people gather together in his name, he will be right there with them, really and truly there (Matthew 18:20). And whether we’re many or few, Jesus is worthy of our worship. In fact, there are four living beings around his throne right now who have been there since before creation, and all they do is sit there with their hundreds of eyes locked in an unblinking gaze towards God, while they shout over and over and over again, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come!” (Revelation 4:8). Now, if God is worthy of those four living creatures spending all of eternity worshiping him, then surely he is worthy of us giving two hours to worship with all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength, and all our minds, even if nobody else is there with us.
So we decided to just worship Jesus, whether or not anybody else was there to worship him with us.
Well, it was only about thirty minutes later when a few others had arrived: Edi (a Romanian man who speaks English with a British accent and who has just started working his way through the New Testament), Olivia and Sarah (a Lebanese woman, who used to be married to a witch, and her four-year-old daughter), and Giani (a young Romanian business man who deals with hundreds of thousands of euros and yet always seems to be broke). So now we were thirteen, including five kids and one unborn baby. At least the adults outnumbered the kids, right?
Anyhow, despite the small numbers, we had an awesome time. We gave the whole service to prayer and worship, and the presence of God was there. People were praying passionately, others received prophetic words, and there was an overall sense of the glory of God and an expectation for great things. I loved it!
Still, pray for us…
1. More Romanians need what we have to offer: church without the religion. Pray for more of those who have visited us to become a part of the church family.
2. Our group really only barely understands worship. We’ll need to teach everything from why it’s okay to sing loudly and expressively to why women can pray out loud during the service. Pray for grace; we want to see people set free to worship God wholeheartedly and unashamedly and yet without chaos.
3. It’s easy to feel discouraged when people have been so fickle with commitment and when numbers have fallen so dramatically in the last month. Pray for all of us leaders to be encouraged and full of faith.
4. We need a van! I’m not sure how we do it, but somehow we manage to cram all the equipment and the leaders (plus kids) into one little car with four seats. Pray for us to get a van!
5. We want the glory of God during our services, not just exciting worship and insightful preaching. Pray for his glory to be here like it was on Mount Sinai, in the dedication of the temple, and over the tabernacle.