First, I came to study at Georgetown College, KY and later made may way to Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, AL. In 1998, I came to Birmingham by myself. I was not married yet. In 2003, both Natasha and I came to Birmingham as I was pursuing the D.Min. degree at Beeson.
Back then, we were showered with love and formed many lasting friendships with Christians from churches and Christian organizations in the city. One of the churches was Shades Mountain Baptist. Natasha and I attended Shades during the summer/fall of 2003. We loved our Sunday School class, which was taught by Sue Ann Arnold, learned a lot from the preaching of pastor Danny Wood and experienced great time of worship led by Michael Adler and the praise team.
When I think about the time spent at Beeson, I remember how wonderful it was to attend Dr. Lewis Drummond’s Evangelism class at Beeson with Jeremy G. (now Minister of Global Missions at Shades) and Dr. Charles Carter’s Spiritual Formation Class (Pastor Emeritus of Shades) with Kym H. who was coordinating member involvement at the church.
We were blessed to develop (many others) a special friendship with Tori and Rush L. from Shades who came to Moldova on a number of trips. They fell in love with the country so much that they decided to actively involve themselves in Moldova missions on a continuous basis though Beyond the Vineyards. In February of 2018, they opened their home to us and hosted all of us as we attended the Global Impact Celebration -- a week of mission emphases at Shades.
In mid-August 2018, we at Turlac Mission had a great joy of hosting a team of 4 dear friends from Shades that came to Moldova. Cassandra H. and Tori L. have been in Moldova before. For Beth G. and Casey S. this trip was their first one to Moldova.
The team ministered in children's camp in Alexandreny, Northern Moldova and to teens at the cooking school in Beltsy, the second largest city in the country. Turlac Mission established the school two years ago in partnership with pastor Andrei and Bethany Baptist Church to combat trafficking in women from Moldova by teaching teens to cook with the hope that they will start their own business and will be able to support themselves.
In Southern Moldova, friends from Alabama were involved in the ministry of the Hope Anti-Trafficking center (town of Chadyr-Lunga), which Turlac Mission helps operate because of your support. The team met with Christian families of Vasiliy and Luba, Joseph and Sasha.
In the town of Komrat, the capital of Turkish-speaking Gagauz region of Moldova, ladies from Alabama led a conference for Baptist women. Cassandra and Tori shared form the Scriptures on practical steps of walking with Christ, the role of a Christian woman in the family and her involvement in church ministry. Casey and Beth led a training session at the tailoring school for teen girls that Natasha started in 2016.
As I interpreted for Tori and Cassandra and listened to them share about their walk with the Lord, I could see how well they connected with more than 25 Christian women that gathered for the conference. I realized that it really does not matter where one comes from. When we know Christ, we have that special connection with believers all over the world, for we all believe in God. Paul said it beautifully, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” (Eph.4:4-5, BSB)
As we were coming back to Chisinau, Moldovan capital, we stopped by beautiful vineyards. You can see them everywhere. Moldova is known for delicious grapes and grape products. For me, vineyards served as a reminder of a text from the Scriptures (Mat.20) about workers in the vineyard that were hired by the master at different hours of the day. It is true that no matter when and at which point of our lives the Lord called us to work in His vineyard, we all serve Him and have one purpose. We want to enlarge the boundaries of His Kingdom and show His love to people all over the world. At Turlac Mission we add, "one person at a time.”
As Cassandra, Tori, Beth and Casey were checking in for their flight to America at the airport in Chisinau and we were saying our good-byes, I kept thinking that as Christ's ambassadors we should rather say, "Until we see you again!" We part for now but Christian mission continues until Jesus comes and we see Him face to face (1Cor.13:12).