“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”
Facts tell, stories sell. Most anyone in the field of sales can rattle off that saying. And the amazing thing is, it’s true not only for the business world, but also for evangelism and discipleship. Before I went to Romania, I had never really thought about sharing a “testimony.” I share stories from my life with friends and people I run into about what God has done in my life, but I never thought about it as a “testimony.” So one of my takeaways from this trip is the value of the stories God has written in our lives, and how He uses those stories to show ourselves and our communities what a good Father He is.
For many Romanians, their stories are filled with heartache and hardship, but I think that’s a universal thing we can all relate to. No one lives life without a few banged up, beat up, broken-heart stories. And that’s what we were able to share with the Romanians, that even though we’re Americans, we experience hardship too. Each of our stories may be different, but one theme is the same: We’re all sinners in need of the repentance, grace, healing, faith, hope, and love that only comes from God.
Coming back from Romania, I was reminded of how destructive religion can be, and how freeing it is to not be ruled by it. Religion says that we must dress this way or that. Religion says that we must strive and strive to please God. With a heart ruled by religion rather than reliance on a relationship with God, we become focused on ourselves and results, rather than abiding in God. It’s the grace of God giving us good and honest hearts which leads us through the faith He has given us, to live out the good work God has given us to do. Without realizing that God is our source of faith, hope, and love, we become doers of religion, rather than delighting in who God is in our lives.
So with this trip, I was reminded of the freedom that God brings when we lay down our good deeds, striving, and people-pleasing. True freedom is finding confidence in God, rather than confidence in the things of the world. When we know God and know He knows us, we’re free to seek Him for how to live life. This brings so much freedom, joy, and peace to our daily lives.
But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
– Lydia Wallie
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Ephesians 2:12-16, ESV
Alienated, having no hope. This hopelessness stuffed the air in the Bucharest airport, aimlessly wandered the parks of the city, struggled in confusion through the shacks of the Roma gypsies. Although the Orthodox churches stood in solemn holiness, they remained empty spaces for religion, while the hearts of the people still staggered in separation. With less than a week to minister to the Romanians in Craiova, twelve Hillside Fellowship members sought how best an American church could serve what Romanians consider the Graveyard for missionaries – Southern Romania. Yes, there is hunger, which we visited in homes and shacks. Yes, there is neglect and abandonment, which we witnessed as children were left to care for each other. And yes, there complacency, where both destitute and affluent people wade in stale water when there is a flowing brook up ahead.
But Jesus. At Hillside we hear the phrase ‘Jesus Changes Everything’ every Sunday, from the pulpit to the tee shirts, and most times it is just that – a phrase. But when you sit across from an outcast amputee whose favorite book in the Bible is Job, you see Jesus. Standing in front of thirty dirty children listening to the story of Zacchaeus’s redemption, you see Jesus. Sitting with the pregnant dentist, whose eyes widen with each American testimony shared, you see Jesus. I believe the biggest impact our team witnessed while in Romania is not what we did, but the potential we saw. Because of our presence, many had a curiosity to listen to the Romanian nationals, who live and breathe the same air. Personally, the biggest blessing I received was not the home visits, or the gypsy children’s hugs, or the church service. But it was walking in the park, praying for the Romanian Christians. For their witness, but mostly for their courage to put aside the pressures and lusts of their culture and to allow Jesus to shine through.
Jesus is peace, He does kill hostility. But He loves working through His people to bring hope and freedom. Because in His wisdom, He not only brings the Gospel to the lost, but at the same time He restores and refreshes His people’s souls, promising to never leave us, nor forsake us.
– Elizabeth Dillard