“Thus far the Lord has helped us” (NIV). This statement from 1 Samuel 7:12 was the heartbeat running through all of OM Moldova’s festive activities to celebrate their 20-year anniversary this March. It is amazing to look at OM’s vast ministry that is happening in Moldova today and the thousands of lives that have been touched by it – and though this is also the result of the hard and faithful labour of many passionate workers, ultimately it has been a miracle of God’s doing.
It is a truth easily asserted in words, but talking to those in positions of leadership in OM Moldova and those who have been involved for a longer period of time, it becomes obvious that it is also a truth lived and believed with their whole lives. This conviction and the desire to give God the glory due to Him was also visible as they were leading through the programme of their main celebration on 27 March 2015. Almost 250 people had gathered to worship God as they looked back at the history of OM Moldova and appointed a new leader to continue this ministry. Guests had come from neighbouring Romania and from across the globe as far away as Brazil; there were leaders from OM International as well as former team members from Moldova and abroad. However, a big percentage of the assembled guests were representatives of various Moldovan churches: leaders of the national Church Unions and of local churches, from different parts of Moldova and from different denominations. In fact, there were Moldovan believers whom not many other occasions would bring together under one roof – but their presence at this event very much reflected OM Moldova’s heart.
OM Moldova’s mission statement defines their purpose as “Helping place Mission at the heart of the Church and the Church at the heart of the community” and from the beginning it has been their goal to work closely together with the local churches and under the supervision of the Church Unions, sensing that in their particular context they should not be setting up an independent ministry but support and enable churches to grow in their vision for and involvement in missions – globally as well as in their own communities.
As various church leaders shared short messages at the celebration, it was very encouraging to hear their perspective and thus realise how successfully this vision had been implemented. “OM Moldova has been a big blessing for our whole community; they helped us [i.e. the church] to get involved in the world around us and people were able to see the love of God,” Victor Antoci, a local pastor shared. OM Moldova was described as a model and support for the churches’ work of evangelism and mission, but while the speakers commended the ministry and admitted that especially in the area of social involvement the churches had needed to learn from OM, they most of all appreciated OM’s approach of partnership with the Church. “All the resources have come through the local churches,” emphasised Ion Miron, bishop of the Baptist Union in Moldova, “and thus the local churches were the ones who got in contact with the people who are in need.”
One speaker explained what these churches – mostly small and with limited resources – are concerned about when international organisations work in their neighbourhood: “Naturally these organisations want the best workers for their ministry. But where do they find these people? In our churches!” He then continued to share his appreciation that OM Moldova was not taking the churches’ best workers to do OM’s ministry, but were turning the churches’ often young, untrained and inexperienced people into workers and were introducing projects only to make them the churches’ ministry.
As OM Moldova’s new field leader, Eugen Ciumac, addressed the churches, he too emphasised his intention of keeping this partnership at the heart of OM Moldova’s ministry – and the pastors in turn affirmed their readiness to continue this journey under the new leadership. As they prayed for and blessed Eugen, officially appointing him to his new role, you could sense a mutual appreciation and support. “I am convinced he is the right person for this time!” one church leader was overheard saying about Eugen in an informal talk after the official programme had ended – a circumstance that maybe gives it even more weight than if it had been said from the stage. Also the fact that many of the speakers repeatedly referred to the story of Joshua – probably the best example of a good leadership transition in the Bible – conveyed a sense of approval, trust and support from all sides.
Eugen, like Joshua, might not feel quite up to the task but knows his utter dependence on God. And like Joshua he has the promise of God’s presence and the support and trust of the people he will lead – people who are confident that he is able to continue to serve the Church, to serve others around him, because first and foremost, like Joshua, Eugen wholeheartedly affirms that “me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15b (ESV).