Today, Joni and I attended a church service with Slavik, our host family's oldest son (23). Slavik is a real nice guy and speaks a little English. The funny thing about our family is that all of the children go to different churches in town, all of which are separate from their parents' church.
Moldovan believers saw their share of persecution under communism. The guest house that is being converted into our living space used to be a Baptist house church during Communist days. Anatoly told us of how he remembers being a boy and his dad pastoring the church when the neighbors would call the police on them.
The cathedral in the picture is a Romanian Orthodox church built in 1832 in the center of town. The top of the tall steeple you see was reportedly blown up by the Communists in 1962 because the cross was higher than the tallest Communist Secretary's office, which was not allowed.
It appears that the church is now flourishing here. Slavik tells us there are 50+ churches like the one we attended this morning (that's A LOT for a city of 800,000 on this side of the world). The service was progressive by Russian Baptist standards. One of the preachers used a powerpoint presentation, and we sang several American praise songs translated to Russian, with no hymns. Lots of young people, including young men, which I found quite encouraging.
Our host family told us that the Moldovan Baptists have sent over 800 missionaries to various countries over the last 10 years. I've met a few in my travels, personally, and heard of several others doing great work in Central Asia. Their churches have small groups meeting during the week, and also do evangelistic activities like hosting basketball leagues, teaching English, etc. Slavik wants to go to a missionary training school here then head out on the field for a while. 2 of his sisters are active in organizing Sunday schools in villages as well as church camps for kids this summer. Pretty cool stuff, I'm impressed so far.
I'd heard about big Moldovan churches and met several missionaries. It's clear God has blessed these people and equipped them for ministries.
*Request*- Joni and I go to a medical "clinic" tomorrow and will undergo several hours of "tests" to begin our application for work permits. This includes everything from blood work to psychological exams! Please pray for us; even I am quite nervous about tomorrow!