Thursday 17 August 2017

Summer 2017 Update

Hi friends!

A big hello to all of you, our amazing supporters! First, we want to say a big THANK YOU for you all and for your continuing support of us and the ministry that God has blessed here in Romania. We think about each of you often and we're constantly amazed and thankful that people like you continue to support us, even though we're so far away. Because of the intensity of our ministry schedule over the last few months we haven't exactly been keeping you all up to date as much as we would like, so we're sharing an update with you today re-capping the last few months of ministry here in Romania. We'll be sharing about the last half of the Bible School which ended on June 17th, sharing about Jerry's trip to Capernwray Hall in England for the Torchbearers International Staff Conference, and updating you on what's been going on at PdF this summer!

Ministry Update: 

First of all, we want to thank each and every one of you who were praying for us during the time of the Bible School. Looking back we know it was God who sustained us during that incredibly busy season, and we know He heard and answered your prayers for us. The Bible School went incredibly smoothly and it was a huge success. The students enjoyed the program and it was such a privilege for us to watch them grow in their understanding of God's word and in their relationship with Him. The students were challenged daily with local outreaches, Bible reading and Bible memory assignments, book reports, fitness requirements, and outdoor and cultural challenges. Of course, there were many small matters that came up each day that required Jerry's attention and so a large part of his job became "putting out fires", so to speak, with students and logistical situations. This is to be expected the first time a program runs, so we took it in stride and trusted God to work out the details - and He did. We learned so much during these three months and feel much more equipped to handle the Bible School program next Spring. The planning for next year's Bible School has already begun with meetings and planning the weekly schedules, booking lecturers, and accepting student applications. Please continue to pray for the Bible School next year - for many students to register and for the planning and decision-making process as it unfolds over the coming months.

It's hard to believe that 4 months before the Bible school began we had no students signed up. Jerry began a bi-weekly prayer meeting for PdF staff and volunteers to pray for the Bible School, for students and teachers, and for God's will to be done with the program. Looking back it is SO obvious to us that God heard every one of those prayers - and He answered them! We will be starting regular prayer meetings for next year's Bible School in September and we look forward to seeing how God works in next year's program!

There were so many highlights of Bible School for us, and one of our favourite components of the program was Wednesday night Family Group. On Wednesday evenings, the students would visit one of the staff families in groups of 3 or 4 and enjoy dinner with the family with the purpose of getting to know the staff and experience their culture. We had the pleasure of hosting all the students in our home for dinner many times and it was always a highlight of the week for us.

We also enjoyed taking students to church with us each week. Our church in Brasov, Biserica Harvest Metanoia Brasov,  was so welcoming to the students. On the last Sunday of Bible School we led worship at church with the students and the church prayed over the students and hosted us all for a pizza lunch and ping pong tournament after church. It was such a great opportunity for the students to experience a Romanian church family and learn about the mission field of Romania, specifically the Brasov area.

Other Bible School highlights included the 3 challenges of the program - the Cultural Encounter Challenge, the Outdoor Team Challenge, and the Mission Outreach Challenge. Chrissie and the kids weren't able to attend the challenges with the students, but of course Jerry went along on each trip. Each challenge was a time of learning and growth for the students, where they could apply everything they were learning in the lectures during the week. Getting them out of the classroom and into challenging situations really helped to develop their relationships with each other and with God, and this was a very inspiring thing to witness.  

The Mission Outreach was a highlight for many of the students as they had to completely plan and prepare a day camp for 50-60 youth. They prepared skits centering around the life of Queen Esther, several personal Bible devotions that they shared in small groups with the youth, they lead interactive songs and games, prepared food, and gave personal testimonies. At the end of the event we saw several youth invite Jesus into their lives for the first time, which was amazing to be a part of!

We are so excited to continue keeping in contact with the students and hearing all about how their lives unfold going forward. Because the Bible School at PdF is a Mission Bible School, the goal is to disciple students and equip them for future ministry in the context of missions. Since many of them are young and only beginning their post-secondary education, it might be several years before God calls them to local or cross-cultural ministry. Please be praying for the fire that God has started in their hearts during their time at Bible School, that it would continue to grow stronger and not be snuffed out by the world. And please pray that one day God would use each of these students in ministry to further His kingdom, and that He would be preparing them for that time in their lives.

It was very sad for us to have to say goodbye to so many of the students we'd developed close relationships with, and truthfully it felt a little lonely here at PdF without all the Bible School students around all the time.

But we weren't lonely for long - one of Jerry's main responsibilities for the summer is to mentor and disciple the Summer Team volunteers who come from all over the world to work at PdF in the kitchen, on the housekeeping team, and on the construction/landscaping team for 6-8 weeks. The Summer Team volunteers have been working hard at PdF and it's been fun getting to know them. We host them in our home once each week for a bible study and prayer time, and Jerry has enjoyed working alongside them in the summer programs. Since the Summer Team volunteers come from Canada, the US, Germany and Romania, Jerry finds himself speaking English, German, and Romanian at any given time, which he enjoys.

For those of your who aren't familiar with Torchbearers, there are 25 Torchbearers International Centres all over the world (PdF is one of them) and every 4 years as many staff as possible from each of the centres gather at Capernwray Hall (the original Torchbearers Centre) in England for a week-long staff conference. Jerry was fortunate enough to be able to attend this International Staff Conference this year and it was an amazing time of refreshment for him. He was able to meet many of the Bible School staff from other centres and connect with them, sharing stories and advice with one another. Jerry also helped to organize a Principal’s meeting (for Bible School Coordinators) mid-way through the week which was a special time for them to learn from each other and build relationships that will continue for many years to come. Jerry also gave a presentation about the Bible School at PdF in one of the main sessions, and showed a short video of our first Bible School's highlights. 

Now that summer is in full swing Jerry has been busy again, not only with the Summer Team but also with his High Ropes Course training (he'll be taking over leadership of the High Ropes Course for the next 4-5 months while some of the other staff are away in Germany on a short sabbatical) and leading groups in the ropes course. Jerry really enjoys being in the ropes course, but to be responsible for the safety and management of everything regarding it is quite a big challenge - especially when he's giving instructions in German or Romanian! The Ropes Course is an excellent ministry tool - participants are stretched to their physical limits while they complete the course and once participants  come down from the course they participate in an in-depth debrief to help them draw parallels from their experience in the course and relate them to their understanding of who God is and how He works.

Jerry was also a leader for the Outdoor Challenge camp that finished last week. The Outdoor Challenge camp ran for the first time this summer, so Jerry worked hard with Ebbe and Stefan to plan and run the program. They had over 25 participants who came from all over Romania. It was a fantastic week full of outdoor adventures, spending time in God's word together in the book of Joshua (Jerry preached a sermon on their multi-day hike in the mountains), and even competing in an outdoor adventure race on the last day of the camp. The participants had to complete a course in teams with challenges like climbing, biking, running, swimming, running upstream in a river and climbing over a large dam, all while carrying an 8-kilo watermelon. It was a great way to end an adventurous program!

As we look forward to the slightly more relaxed fall season, we'll be re-focusing on our Romanian language learning. Jerry hopes to take another Romanian language course this fall, and he'll also be working hard on planning next year's Bible school program. He'll also be working as a leader for a correctional program happening at PdF in September for troubled teens from Luxembourg. He'll be sharing his testimony with the youth in German and sharing with them how God redeemed his life. 
Jerry will also be leading groups in the Ropes Course this fall, and the PdF staff will come together at the end of September for the 2-day yearly planning meeting.

Family Update:

After the crazy spring season we experienced with Bible School we knew it was important to re-group as a family and take some time away from PdF at the beginning of July. Although the Bible School was a huge success, it was an incredibly stressful and strenuous time for our family unit. With Jerry working very long hours and going for weeks without a day off, our family life suffered quite a lot. It's no surprise that the last year of our lives has been an incredibly challenging one for us - re-locating our family to Romania and all the stress and preparations that preceded our move, our first 3 months dealing with constant illness, food poisoning, and the stress of language learning, and all the other challenges of settling into a new life in a foreign country that have continued since our move to PdF last November. Our family life has begun to show a few signs of strain, which is very common for new missionary families, and we know we need to do something about this by making family time more of a priority. We spent a few days in the nearby city of Sibiu, absorbing some Romanian culture, and then drove a few hours to the Black Sea in Bulgaria for a few days of rest as a family. 

While Jerry has been busy this summer with the volunteers and the summer programs, Chrissie and the kids have enjoyed playing outside as much as possible, jumping on the trampoline, and visiting the local farmer's market each week.  We've also had Mary Ionescu living with us for most of the summer (she's the 16-year-old daughter of Manu and Feli Ionescu, the family we lived with last fall for 3 months), and the girls have loved having Mary around. She's been a big help around the house and has spent lots of time with the kids, and it's been so nice for Chrissie and the kids to have Mary around when Jerry's schedule keeps him away from home so much.

This week we celebrated our one-year anniversary of our move to Romania. It's so hard to believe that it's already been a year since we left Canada, but at the same time we feel like we've lived here for years already. Romania has definitely become our home and even though we'll always be foreigners here, we couldn't imagine living anywhere else at the moment. We've been through some incredibly challenging situations in the last year - acquiring a reliable vehicle, getting our visas, Miriam's sickness and hospitalization last fall, ongoing food-related health issues, Chrissie's broken shoulder, managing cultural differences in both work and in life, experiencing ethnic isolation as the only North Americans at PdF, language barriers, etc. but there have also been many times of incredible blessing as God comforts us with the assurance that we are walking in step with His plan for our lives and His will for us, that HE prepared far in advance of our understanding. We trust Him and know that we don't need to worry because He is enough for us and His grace is sufficient for us because His power is made perfect in our weakness (1 Corinthians 12:9).

Despite how difficult the last year has been for us, we are more sure than ever that this is exactly where God has planned for us to serve Him. We have never experienced such a strange combination of stress and God's peace all at the same time, and in spite of the challenges and difficult times, our desire to be here in Romania is stronger than ever. We know without a doubt that this peace and confidence in our calling is a gift from God and we are more thankful for this than we can even express. Now that we've hit the one-year mark we are really settling in to life here, and it is so so sweet. We're so thankful!

Prayer Requests:

- Please pray for the yearly planning meeting in September to go smoothly and for many details to be worked out effectively for the upcoming programs in 2018.

- Please pray for our language learning this fall, for God to provide a way for Jerry to take another language course and for sufficient study time. 

- Praise God that He has provided financially for our family over the last year through our amazing supporters. 

- Please pray for our kids' language development as they begin to attend school again in September, that God would continue preparing them for their future years in public school here in Romanian and German, and that they'd begin speaking with ease to their German and Romanian peers.

- Praise God that our food-related health issues seem to be over!! We haven't had food poisoning or food-related illness in many months and we are SO thankful our bodies have adjusted to the food here. 

- Please pray for our continued health this fall as the school year begins again, and for us to find a reliable family doctor and dentist here.

- Please pray for the upcoming Bible School in the Spring of 2018 - for many students to apply and register and for all the preparations for the program.

- Please pray for volunteer staff for the Bible School next year - we're praying for an RA couple (or a single guy and girl) to help Jerry with the day-to-day running of the Bible School and overseeing student life for the duration of the Bible School program.

- Please be praying for the fire that God has started in the hearts of the Bible School students during their time at Bible School this year, that it would continue to grow stronger and not be snuffed out by the world. And please pray that one day God would use each of these students in ministry to further His kingdom, and that He would be preparing them for that time in their lives.

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