Wow, it has been a really long time since we’ve made any posts here, but it’s about time we get back to it. Today’s post is mostly a collection of videos. Our church, Biserica Piatra Vie (Living Stone Church), supports a missionary to the city of Bucharest, who shares the gospel, passes out gospel tracts, and simply spreads the good news about Jesus and the gospel around town. His name is Daniel, and just a few months ago, he married Maria. They’ve been living in a tiny room in his mother’s home, but there is not hot water or a kitchen, and the bathroom is outside (it gets cold here in winter in Romania).
God put it on our hearts to help them, but we weren’t sure how. Not being able to find an affordable place for them to live, Jake got the idea to use one of the popular online fundraising websites to raise money for Daniel and Maria to build themselves a home. Daniel used to work in construction in Finland, so he had plans all ready and only needed money to buy materials and hire his brother to help him.
Well, after only a few weeks of the fundraiser going live, the money was raised, and immediately Daniel and his brother Marian got to work. Jake has helped a bit, and he’s gotten some great clips of the work being done so far. Check them out below. While you’re at it, pray for Daniel. Pray that God would continue to bless his evangelism in Bucharest. He’s gotten to talk to so many people about Jesus and been able to follow up with several who want to know more, and we want to see God multiply this fruit and see a big harvest reaped for His glory right here in Bucharest!
Here’s the link to the Crowdrise page about Daniel and Maria’s home: A Home for Daniel and Maria
Last week, I received a really unusual call. I had been frustrated about doing a lot of evangelism, developing relationships, meeting people, etc. but so little of it has led to noticeable, lasting fruit yet. People have been willing to talk with us about God and even meet up a couple times, but it’s been difficult to build strong, lasting relationships with people centered around the Gospel. Our prayer has been for disciples, followers of Jesus, fruit that remains, to the glory of the Father.
So last week, my phone started to ring. I looked down at the number, which came up as “Alex Unirii.” When I meet people, I try to put their name and number in my phone with something that I can remember them by, because in Romania there are so many similar names and I already have a hard time remembering everything. So I have an “Alex Street Preacher,” a “George Australia,” a “Kaze Elim Church,” an “Andreea British Accent,” and an “Alex Unirii,” among others.
“Alex Unirii…” I thought to myself. “It can’t be… That’d be crazy…”
So I answered assuming that it wasn’t Alex who I had met at Unirii, because I never expected him to call. “Hello?”
“Hello, this is Alex. We met at Piaţa Unirii last year. Do you remember me?”
“Yeah, of course,” I said, remembering the odd series of events that had led to our meeting.
“I owe you a cup of coffee, don’t I? I want to talk more about this stuff you were telling me about, about Jesus and churches.”
And so we decided to get together in a few days.
That’s nuts, I thought as I hung up the phone, wondering at the amazing God we serve. Last year, when we moved to Romania, our friend Susie, who we affectionately called “Grandma Susie,” came with us for our first month, to help watch the kids as we got situated, learned about the city, and figured out what we were doing.
On her last Sunday with us, we took a cab to visit Missio Dei church, which was meeting a short walk from Piaţa Unirii. For some reason, the roads around the piaţa were all blocked, and our taxi driver refused to find a way around, preferring instead to drop us off on the side of the busy plaza.
We knew the general direction the church was located in, so we started walking that way, planning to figure things out eventually. It was a really hot day, painfully hot. I think we all lost a few pounds of sweat as we walked, and Susie started to feel really weak. In the middle of the piaţa, we saw a tent with people giving out cups of cool water.
“I need some water,” Susie gasped, so we walked over.
Susie was funny because she unashamedly spoke English to everyone she met in Bucharest. “Thank you so much, young man. God bless you for this water,” she told the young guy who handed her a cup.
“You speak English.” he noted, and then, like most Romanians we meet, he asked the obvious question, “What are you doing in Bucharest?”
I don’t remember exactly how Susie responded, because I was preoccupied trying to figure out how to get us all to the church, but it was something like, “This young man and his wife moved here to tell people about Jesus, and I came to help watch their kids for a month. I’m leaving soon, but they’ll be here for a long time. You should meet up and hear more about Jesus.”
Alex, the young man, my “Alex Unirii,” explained he was interested and would love to know more, so we exchanged numbers and I promised to give him a call.
Well, over the next 3 months, I called him about 10 times, he answered a few of those times, but we never were able to get together, so then I just stopped calling, figuring he wasn’t interested.
And now here he was, almost a year later, calling me out of the blue like this.
God, this is crazy. Only You would do something like this, I thought to myself, excited to see what He would do.
Well, last night, I got together with him and his fiancée, I shared the Gospel, I told Him my testimony, we talked about life, food, plans for the future, the church, and, of course, the beautiful Romanian countryside. Alex shared how he really wanted to follow Jesus, and he really liked the idea of the church, but everything he saw in the church seemed so different than what it should be. People seemed so concerned about buildings, money, and stuff that didn’t matter, rather than just following Jesus. We agreed that things shouldn’t be that way.
“I want to help you,” he kept saying. “Right now, I need to find a job, but I want to help you any way I can. Money, translation, showing you around, anything. I want to help.”
After almost three hours that passed as quickly as 15 minutes, I felt like I had just met our Romanian counterparts, two people who I felt closer to than made natural sense. We come from different worlds, we barely know each other, they’re just beginning to search for God, but He began knitting our hearts together last night, and I’m excited to see where He takes things from here. To start with, Alex and I plan to get together once a week to go through the Gospel of John together and talk about what it looks like to follow Jesus, so pray that God leads him into a real relationship with Himself in the process.
Before we parted, I prayed that God would guide them, protect them, and continue to work in their lives. When I got done praying, Alex shook my hand and told me, “Thank you for showing us the path,” and I left, in awe of our all-powerful God who can draw people to Himself even through a cup of water on a hot day almost a year ago.
And that, my friends, is evangelism, Grandma Susie style.
Since moving to Romania, we’ve been praying nearly every day, “Lord, send us those who have a similar heart to us. Send us those willing to reach this city for You. Send us people not afraid to reach Gypsies, the homeless, street kids, college students, young families, or whoever God sends our way. Send us those who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty!” And God has been sending people to us.
A few months ago, we met Robert when we were visiting a big church in town. We instantly connected because Robert has a heart for the homeless and wants to do something to reach them for Jesus, and we have a heart for everyone, so we were a good match. 🙂
We’ve gone out a couple times delivering food to the homeless, but I think we’ve come up with a simple plan that’ll be really fun to keep doing consistently.
Near where Robert lives, there is a nondescript building that you would easily walk right past without thinking anything of it. Tucked in the midst of some ancient trees and an overgrown lot is an old building that serves as the base of an organization that exists to assist the homeless. On a rotating basis, the building is used as a clinic, a classroom, a counseling office, an art studio for the homeless, and, what drew our interest, a free bathroom and launderette.
Every Monday, the facility opens its doors for the homeless to come and wash their clothes, shave their 7-day-old five o’clock shadows, get a hot shower, and walk out feeling new.
“People are there all day long,” Robert told me, “so it would be a great place to give away some food.”
Homeless ministry is tough. People sometimes take advantage of you, they take your help for granted, they don’t want to change, etc. So I went in this past Monday morning with a thick hide on me.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Overall, we handed out about 10 liters of hot pasta and about 30 tracts to the homeless men and women who gathered, and everyone seemed genuinely excited and blessed to have a couple young guys surprise them with a free meal. No one scowled at us, and almost everyone’s face lit up as soon as we told them we had some homemade hot pasta. Romanians (especially in Bucharest) don’t smile for no reason like we do in America. If a Romanian smiles, you know they’re really happy. Whenever we handed out a plate of food and a tract, we told them, “Mâncare pentru stomac şi mâncare pentru suflet.” Food for your stomach and food for your soul.
My favorite moment was when an old man with crippled hands approached us gingerly and asked for food. As he ate, he told us about his previous experiences in church. After his first plate, he still looked hungry, so we asked if he wanted more. “Da,” he said shyly, so we piled on another portion. This time, as he ate, he told us, “You can pray for me when I’m done eating.” We felt honored, and we prayed with all our hearts for this man who Jesus loved so much.
I also loved the guy who came bouncing over to us, shyly asking if he could have another helping, throwing in, “This is really good. I like it a lot.” That’s Kaufland’s cheap macaroni noodles and spaghetti sauce for you.
My least favorite moment was when we ran out of food. I had carried all the pasta I could possibly bring on the subway, filling our biggest stock pot with a ludicrous amount of spaghetti, but it wasn’t enough. We scooped out platefuls of spaghetti for just over an hour, providing one warm meal to 26 hungry men and women, but it barely made a dent. Streams of people would keep coming by all day, long after we were gone, and that itself was just a small portion of the over 5,000 homeless living on the streets and in the parks and sewers of Bucharest.
Just as we finished scooping out the last of the pasta, an old man walked over. “Do you have any more?” he asked. “No,” we apologized, “we just ran out. I’m sorry.” He walked away disappointed but understanding.
Afterward, we met with the director of the nonprofit, learning more about homelessness in the city. She’s been working with the homeless for 16 years, so she knows a little about their situation here. Though the situation is varied, most of the homeless here are a result of economic problems, most tracing their woes back to the fall of Communism.
Communism was bad for Romania, but it did provide a job and a home for all. When the revolution happened, factories closed, people lost their jobs, bills went unpaid, and families fell apart through divorce and separation. Countless men and women ended up on the streets with nowhere else to turn.
With the recent economic crises worldwide, homelessness has been increasing in the city.
While we were discussing things, the director mentioned, “We’ve got to understand this problem is our responsibility. No one else is going to fix it. That is what is so hard to get people to understand.” When she first started helping the homeless in Bucharest, very few people wanted to help. Now, slowly, people are beginning to take responsibility for changing things, seeing the need to do something to help.
Unfortunately, the situation is pretty much the same in most churches, Orthodox, evangelical, or otherwise. Many homeless complain of getting kicked out of churches, even if they’re going honestly and not to beg. I’ve experienced both sides of it. I’ve been at churches where homeless street kids have snuck in and gone from one person to the next during an altar call, trying to scrounge up a few lei. But we’ve also had some good friends, who aren’t homeless but look it, kicked out of a church because they didn’t dress nicely enough. Both situations make you feel sick inside.
After our conversation, Robert and I were interviewed by a Bucharest newspaper about what we were doing there. The interview lasted about an hour, and at one point, I was asked, “Why are you doing this?”
I thought for a minute and answered, “Honestly, the reason I’m out here is because Jesus said to be out here. He told us to love the poor, to give generously, and to treat others as we’d want to be treated.” I recounted the story Jesus tells in Matthew 25:31-46, about those who fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, and clothed the naked. He tells them, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Ultimately, God’s heart is not Communism, a forced equality where some are more equal than others, to borrow from Animal Farm, but He does expect us to take responsibility for the hurting, the poor, the hungry, and the naked in our lives, bringing healing, help, food, and clothing.
And, most importantly, bringing the message of Jesus.
Robert and I plan to keep going every Monday morning to bring plates of food, but ultimately, our prayer is to get a Bible study going for these guys. If they’re not comfortable (or welcomed) at churches, then we’ll just bring church to them.
Pray for God to use us, not just to alleviate a little hunger, but to bring the Bread of Life that satisfies every craving, the Water that never runs dry. And pray for the other 4,974 homeless in Bucharest who we didn’t get to meet this past Monday.
1 Corinthians 1:21 states, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.” (Good ol’ KJV)
In context, I think Paul is referring here to the content of our preaching being seen as foolishness in the eyes of the world, not the mere fact that we’re preaching it, but street preachers the world over have used this verse to explain why they preach open-air, even though it seems offensive, foolish, annoying, or old-fashioned… and in that vein, I will use it too. 🙂
I get it that not everyone reading this will preach open-air, and probably a lot of you are even offended by the mere thought of it. I used to be just like you, so don’t worry, I’m not gonna get offended if you don’t wanna jump up on a street corner and start shouting about Jesus. But regardless of your persuasion, I enjoy it, and street preaching has never been classy or high-brow in the eyes of the world. It has, however, been one of the main ways the Gospel has spread, throughout history and the Bible. If you read the Bible without judging it through your modern perspective, I think you’ll have a hard time finding a method of spreading the Gospel that is more prevalent than open-air preaching.
- Proverbs 1:20 – “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice…”
- Judges 9:7 – “When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them…”
- Jeremiah 11:6 – “And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem…”
- Isaiah 29:21 – “…lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate…”
- Matthew 3:1 – “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea…”
- Luke 16:7 – “And [Jesus] came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people…”
- Acts 2:14 – “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem…”
- Acts 17:17 – “So [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.”
- Acts 17:22 – “So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said…”
Charles Spurgeon once said, “It would be very easy to prove that revivals of religion have usually been accompanied, if not caused, by a considerable amount of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places.”
George Whitefield said, “I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields.” and “I now preach to ten times more people than I should, if had been confined to the Churches.”
John Wesley wrote in his journal once, “I preached on the green at Bedminster. I am apt to think many of the hearers scarcely ever heard a Methodist before, or perhaps any other preacher. What but field-preaching could reach these poor sinners? And are not their souls also precious in the sight of God?”
Anyway, our friend Alex Grigorescu invited us to join him in some street preaching near Piata Obor last week. I was excited to go, hearing horror stories from other ministers here of the dangers of street preaching. I overheard one seasoned missionary saying, like a salty old sailor talking about the whale that got the best of him, “If you wanna prove your stuff, just get out on the streets and do some preaching. You’ll find out what you’re made of real quick.” Others told me stories of having angry dogs let loose on them, boxes of knives thrown at them, and the usual rude comments and angry gestures. Needless to say, I was excited.
Well, to skip to the end of the story, it was a lot more mild of an experience than I expected. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I honestly was hoping for more anger, demonic manifestations, and fits. A riot would have been really nice. 🙂 Half joking. Though I have always liked Acts 17:6 – “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…”
We did get a few people shouting, “Go back home!” “We’re all Christians here!” “I was born Orthodox and I’ll die Orthodox!” and some Romanian phrases I haven’t learned yet, probably because they’re a little more vulgar. Most people just ignored us, a lot looked quietly mad, a few shouted at us, and a handful were really open to the message.
Overall, it was an OK experience. I’ve had times of street preaching that were a lot better and times that were a lot worse. I honestly felt like I didn’t make a whole lot of sense at times, but some people were genuinely interested in hearing us preaching.
My favorite moment was when I passed a tract to a young man from Sweden who quickly asked in English, “What’s this?”
Let me preface what follows by saying I normally answer more intelligently than I did on this occasion, but for some reason everything got jumbled in my head and came out kinda’ mixed up.
Hear me out as I offer some lame excuses. I wasn’t expecting someone to talk to me in English, so all I had in my head were Romanian phrases I had been reciting silently to myself. Besides, I didn’t know how much English this guy spoke, so I was trying to think through what words he would be familiar with. On top of that, I figured he was Romanian, and Orthodox, so I was trying to answer in a way that was sensitive to his cultural background and wouldn’t just instantly make him closed to the Gospel. It was really noisy and people were everywhere, shouting, talking, running, and it made it hard to think straight. I was cold and my brain wasn’t working so well. All these factors combined to clog my thoughts and trip up what I was trying to say. At least, that’s the story I’m sticking with. 🙂
Regardless, I include this here first for your amusement, second for your instruction on what not to say, and third for your encouragement. If God can use this, He can probably use you.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Uh, well, it’s the message of the Gospel,” I answered, feeling a little like Ned Flanders.
“What’s that mean?” he asked.
“Umh…” and this is where things got really stupid as I tried to explain the Gospel in a way that Orthodox Believers could grab ahold of without just ignoring it as “not Orthodoxy.” So I sputtered out something like, “It’s about Jesus, that He died for us… There’s Hell, and it’s real, and we all deserve it.” I don’t think I succeeded in explaining the Gospel in a way anybody could grab ahold of.
“I don’t want to go to Hell,” he said somberly.
“No, that’s good. I mean bad, Hell is bad, but it’s good you don’t want to go.”
“What do I have to do?” he asked.
“Just tell Jesus you want to live for Him, that you’re sorry for the sin in your life. And live for Him,” I explained poorly, resorting to Christianese and bumper-sticker slogans.
“It’s that easy?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
After asking if we were Mormons (boy do I get tired of this question!), he had to run, but he gave me his phone number and said he wanted to get together and talk more about following Jesus.
Please pray for this Swedish college student, that God would continue to speak to him and lead him into a relationship with Himself through Jesus. And pray for me to make a little more sense next time! 🙂
A couple weeks ago, we were invited to preach at a church in the town of Barbulești. Barbulești is a small, cramped and dirty Gypsy village of about 5,000 people. Half the buildings stand unfinished with dirty cement exteriors like the church above. The other half are either little ramshackle huts or giant Gypsy mansions decorated with gold, silver, and gaudy regalia, like the one here near Cluj. Barbulești is a strange little town. It used to be one of the worst areas of Romania, home to Gypsy crime lords, gang leaders, and murderers, but about 15 years ago, everything started changing – some of the most notorious criminals were locked up, others died, and others repented and became good, God-fearing citizens. Now, the little town is known more for poverty than crime. A few years ago, it made news when France kicked a bunch of Gypsies out and sent them back here. You can read about that and some of the current predicaments of living in this town here.
Anyway, we were invited to preach at a Pentecostal church in town. The first thing I noticed when we came through the doors was that all the women were on one side, with head-coverings of course, and the men were on the other, like a lot of the older, more traditional churches in the country. Side note: when we were done with the service, we all thought it was funny that the women’s side was substantially dirtier than the men’s. Candy wrappers, clods of dirt, tissues, and plastic cups littered the women’s side, but the men’s was left virtually spotless.
We had three of us preaching that day, and I closed the service up, preaching a message about Jesus coming to destroy the works of the devil, which means we can be set free from bondage to sin, sickness, addiction, demonic torment, or any other bondage of the enemy. Jesus defeated all that stuff, so we could live in freedom!
After my message, we called people forward for prayer, if they needed anything from God, physical healing, release from demonic torment, victory over sin, whatever.
No one moved.
Dang, I started thinking, did I even make sense? Maybe they didn’t understand what I was saying…
Then suddenly one man boldly walked forward, then another, and then this whole swarm of people came forward for prayer. We were surrounded by maybe 75 or 100 people all wanting prayer. So we split into two teams and got to work, praying for God to move in this church, praying with all our hearts for people to be set free from the power of the enemy, praying until our throats hurt and we had no more strength left.
Honestly, I don’t know if we saw any miraculous healings or deliverances that day, and it broke my heart. We prayed for so many people, and I know God promises to answer and bring healing, but it sure seemed like nothing was happening. One person after another came forward asking for freedom from addictions, demonic torment, nightmares, insanity, ongoing headaches, stomach diseases, diabetes, deafness, blindness… on and on the list goes.
I want to see God move here. I want to see people delivered from sin and demons and sickness and torment, just like the Bible promises. A lot of people I’ve met in Romania’s churches (Pentecostal or otherwise) say they believe God can do it, but they don’t think He’ll do it here in Romania. Like people in America, they say things like, “That’s what God does in Africa or China or India, but He doesn’t do that here.”
That might be a nice excuse, but it’s just not Biblical thinking. Nowhere in the Bible does it say God can only heal in Third World nations or really poor places. God is the same everywhere, and I’m sure if Jesus were walking the streets of Barbulești, he wouldn’t tell all the sick and demon-oppressed, “Dang, guys, sorry. If you were Africans I might heal you, but since you’re Europeans, I just don’t know if I’ve got it in me.”
When Jesus went to a town, he routinely healed all who were sick and oppressed. Even in Nazareth, where people were full of unbelief, it says in Matthew 13:58 that Jesus, “did not do many mighty works there.” He did mighty works, just not many. Jesus heals the sick and releases those oppressed by sin and demonic torment, even in the face of unbelief. That’s just what He does.
Lord, help us! Move in Romania like you did in Judea! Heal the sick, deliver the tormented, free the captives, comfort the oppressed!
Jesus said that if we want to see the kingdom of God, we need to become born a second time. When he told this to Nicodemus in John 3, he was confused and asked facetiously, “How can someone crawl back into his mother’s womb?!” Translation: “What on earth are you talking about, Jesus? That doesn’t make any sense.”
A few weeks ago, a new person showed up at our meeting with the Gypsy communities along Mihai Bravu. 78-year-old George, from Transylvania, had just come to town and moved into one of the free rooms at the house where we meet. I think we all honestly assumed he was already a Christian. He seemed really nice and normal, and I guess I figured that by the age of 78, he surely had run out of reasons to resist God and given in. Or if not, surely no amount of preaching by us young guys would convince him otherwise.
I tried to get a picture with George that night, but people kept getting in front of him or pushing him out of the way. In the photo above, he’s just to the right of the man with the leather jacket.
Anyway, when Andrei, a high school student from Elim Church, shared his testimony of how God had changed his life, forgiven him, and freed him from drug and alcohol addiction, he began to ask if anyone wanted to turn from sin and trust in Jesus. My first thought, to my shame, wasn’t, “Awesome, I can’t wait to see people get right with God,” but something more like, “Well, everyone here is either already saved, so clouded by sin and religiosity that they think they’re saved, or too old to care anymore, so I hope Andrei doesn’t get disappointed when no one responds.” Ouch. Yeah, that bad.
Thankfully, God chose to go with what He wanted and not what I expected.
George came forward for prayer and explained, to my surprise and embarrassment, that he wanted to finally, once and for all, repent of his sin and trust in Jesus. He was tired of living for himself and was finally ready to become a new man, born all over again.
Well, OK, then. I like when God proves me wrong and does something amazing despite the fact that I’m expecting so little.
So we prayed with George, who refused to stand during prayer, despite his bad knees. He preferred to come to God on his knees in humility rather than standing in the presence of his King. As we prayed, we asked that God would fill him with power to live the Christian life and to be a witness to those around him. We prayed for healing and strengthening of his worn body.
When we were done praying, he got up, saying he had felt an intense amount of heat coming off our hands, and now all the pain was gone from his legs. Praise God! He restored George’s heart and his body.
Every week, we pray for George to get healed – he’s always got some new sort of pain or ailment that comes up, sometimes an old pain or ailment that’s returned. And every week, God heals him of whatever new pain has come on his body.
Be praying for George. He’s made a commitment to follow after Jesus, and we want to see him finish strong. He may only have a year or two left on this earth, or he may have a few decades – either way, our prayer is that he’s prepared on that final day to walk boldly into the throne room, knowing who it is he’s lived for these last years of his life.
Every week we visit the drug addicts at Vasilica’s, we never know who’s gonna be there or what they’re gonna say. A few weeks ago, we walked in and were surprised to see a young, well-dressed, bright-eyed man in his 20s. He stood out from the normal wild-eyed street junkies that we normally find there.
And then he spoke in fluent English, something that threw us for even more of a surprise.
Stefan (not his real name) introduced himself and explained his history with heroin addiction. He had been on heroin since he was a teenager, and though he had tried to quit a number of times, he kept returning to it and just couldn’t break free. He then launched into a tirade about how things are hard in Romania, that life is better everywhere else, that if it weren’t for the government or his parents or his friends or his bosses, his life would be good. “God is unjust and doesn’t care,” he concluded. “God has made these problems for us.”
“Well,” I stopped him, “the problem is not God’s fault, it’s ours, it’s the sin we give ourselves to. Until you take responsibility for your own rebellion against God, nothing is going to change. God didn’t create the world with evil, but we continue to allow evil to win, first in our own hearts and then in our families, our cities, and our world. You’re so busy pointing at everyone who’s wronged you, but meanwhile you’ve taken the life God gave you, and you’ve given it to drugs and selfishness. You’re the one to blame for the problems in our world, not God.”
“Me?” he gasped. “What have I done? I’ve done nothing!”
“Yes, you,” I continued. “God created you to bring peace and love and healing to this world, but you’ve abandoned Him and instead given yourself to selfishness and rebellion.”
“Oh, because I’m a junkie, huh?” he asked.
“No, I’m not just talking about the drugs, but everything. For you, it’s drugs. For me, it was hatred and lust in my heart.” Then I shared my testimony with him, about how God convicted me of sin, forgave me, and set me free from anger, lust, and addiction to pornography. “We’ve all rebelled against God. Though He intended for us to bring good to the world, we bring evil. So if you see evil, it’s your fault for not repenting and turning away from it.”
Then he asked me more about what God was like, and I explained to him that, unlike the picture we often have of a stern father ready to pounce on us, God is loving and kind, merciful and compassionate, waiting for us to repent and run to Him to be forgiven.
“Is your father alive?” I asked him.
“Yeah, and he’s a great father. He doesn’t like what I do, but he understands. He lets me do the drugs and doesn’t say much.”
“Well, God is the best father ever,” I explained. “He’s a father who understands us perfectly and constantly gives us everything we need. He’s got the best in store for us. Yet we’ve taken a look at what He has for us and told Him, ‘I don’t want that. I want to do my own thing.’ Time and again, we disrespect our father, even though He’s so good, way better than any earthly father.”
“You would never dishonor your own father, right?”
“No,” he answered, listening intently.
“But you’ve dishonored God. You’d never tell your own father, ‘Get lost, Dad. I don’t care what you want,’ yet that’s exactly what you do to God. He died for you, but you don’t even care.”
In all, we talked for about 45 minutes, most of the time focusing on how God is a good father we’d never want to dishonor. Then we prayed together, that God would reveal Himself to Stefan as the good, loving Father He really is.
After he left, Vasilica, who didn’t understand anything Stefan and I were talking about, told us some of his background. She knows all the junkies in her “parish” very well, and prays for them constantly.
Listening to Vasilica, it became clear that God had set up this encounter on purpose. “His parents are politicians,” she explained, “high up in the government.” She told us what offices they held, but I won’t put it here out of respect for confidentiality. “He comes here often, but they’re embarrassed by him. There’s a clinic where he can go to break the heroin addiction, and he really wants to go because he’s tired of the drugs, but they won’t let him register because they’re too ashamed. They don’t want anyone to know they’re son is a heroin junky. He could get help, he could get medication to make withdrawals easier, but they’re just too concerned with their own reputations.” Essentially, his parents were willing to sacrifice their son to maintain their images.
“But he loves them so much,” Vasilica went on. “He would never dishonor his father, so he respects their desires and stays away from the clinics.” Like a good son who wouldn’t dream of bringing hurt or dishonor to his earthly father, Stefan stayed away from those who could help him kick the heroin, so he wouldn’t shame his family.
The reality is that Stefan doesn’t really want to be free yet. I don’t doubt that his parents are resisting his attempts to get help, but if he really wanted to be free, he would be. He’s not at Vasilica’s every time we visit, but when he is, he doesn’t looked good. Pray that God stirs a holy hunger for freedom inside him, a fire that won’t let up until he’s completely freed from the addiction, a fire that’ll burn even without access to clinics, medications, or programs. And pray his parents wake up and get their son some help.