Our Mission Location: Romania

Welcome to Romania

The History of ITEM Work in Romania

ITEM’s lengthy history of working in Romania began in 1998 with Pastor Ion Vasile whose vision was to plant churches in and around Campina, a city an hour’s drive north of Bucharest, Romania’s capital. Campina, about 30,000, rests at the foot of the Carpathian mountains.

 

Pastor Ion wanted to utilize trained leaders from his home church to plant more churches. Also in 1998, Jack Schaffner, a member of Kirk of the Hills in St Louis, met contact Pastor Ion while traveling for his business. Mr. Schaffner relayed the details of his meeting with the Rev. Jonathan Taylor, one of the Kirk’s pastors. Rev. Taylor, also serving with ITEM began to explore how ITEM might help train these Romanian leaders to serve in the kingdom. Thus was born Maranatha Bible College (MBC), meeting in the facilities of Pastor Ion’s home church.

 

Soon instructors began traveling to Romania to teach at MBC. They enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Pastor Ion’s family with whom they stayed. Pastor Ion, thinking ahead, had built a spacious home to accommodate his family of six children, instructors for the new school, as well as space for visiting students.

 

From 1998 to 2007 dozens of students came to Maranatha from the growing network of churches being planted in and around Campina. These students received solid Reformed teaching over those years and became leaders in the church network, now numbering around 5 churches.

 

Then in 2007 Romania joined the European Economic Union. While this brought western European products and prices to Romania, Romania’s workers continued to earn only eastern European salaries. Within a short time, many young Romanians began moving to western Europe to find better paying work in such places as Italy, Spain, and France so that they could send funds home for their families in Romania. By 2008 MBC experienced such a loss of students that ITEM and Pastor Ion reluctantly decided to suspend classes after the May graduation.

 

The labors of the instructors, however, were not in vain. The students trained at MBC soon began sharing their faith with fellow countrymen in the new Romanian enclaves in Western Europe. Soon Romanian Reformed churches sprang up in Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. We actually trained missionaries without realizing it. Meanwhile, MBC remained dormant until 2014.

 

Sensing that perhaps it was time to reconsider serving in Romania, Director of Development, Will Hesterberg, himself a former instructor at MBC and at Bucharest Theological Seminary numerous times, contacted Pastor Ion. Soon a conversation began about whether it might be time to reopen MBC and Pastor Ion readily agreed. It appears that about two dozen students from Campina are eager for training. The ITEM Board decided at its fall meeting to send several instructors early in 2015 to determine the feasibility of a longer term of training. The PCA has also been planting a church in Brasov, Romania, which is about one and one-half hours from Campina. There may also be an opportunity help train some of the leaders in that young church through MBC.

 

Teaching in Romania

In flying from the US to Bucharest, you’ll be struck by how modern the Bucharest’s airport is. After arriving you’ll go through Passport Control and then pick up your luggage. Proceed through the “No Declarations” into the main hall where you will be met by one of the Vasile family, your hosts to the week. You will travel by car about 1 hr. to Campina at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.

 

The Vasiles (father Ion, mother Helen, oldest daughter Ioanna, oldest son Andre, then Daniel, Emmi (Emmanuel), daughter Christina, and youngest Tim who is still in college. All but Helen speak fluent English and often serve as your interpreters. Most of them can help you with any computer problems you might encounter. You will eat all your meals with them; Helen is an excellent cook. They will make you feel like part of their family. You may want to bring some nice little gifts for the family, candies, a good theological book, towels, scarves, or ask Ion if there’s something in particular he’d like from the US.

 

You will have your own room with a comfortable bed, desk, and quiet to study and reflect. Meals are usually served around 8:30 am, 1:30 pm. and then a late supper because of classes. You will share a bathroom with some of the family but it’s never busy.

 

When flying to Romania, plan to leave the US Sunday afternoon, or you can fly out earlier, if you want. Fly overnight to Europe arriving in the morning and then on to Bucharest arriving around 2-4. You’ll be driven to Campina, eat early supper maybe around 5-6, and rest. Tuesday through Friday class is from 5:30 to 9:30 with a dinner of a sandwich, cookies or dessert, and tea or coffee in the middle of the class time. The Saturday class is from 9-12 to finish up. Then there’s lunch with the students, a Q & A session, and then the exam. Plan to preach 1-3 times on Sunday in their local churches. The people are delightful and they will be singing some hymns and choruses you will recognize and feel free to sing in English. Plan to fly out on Monday morning and you will arrive home sometime Monday afternoon or evening depending on your flight connections.

 

The class format consists of lecturing but with plenty of time for spontaneous questions. The interpreter will have your general class notes well in advance and they have been translated into Romanian. Certainly add your own experiences, study, insights, and thoughts. Expect about 20-25 students of various ages and abilities. They are preparing for various ministries such as pastor, elder, Sunday School teacher, church leaders, missionaries. They ask great questions and love good jokes. Get to know them in the breaks and learn their names.

 

We recommend that the exam be open notes as we believe it’s more important to know where to find answers than to know what the answers are. The questions should focus on larger issues connecting the material and practical experience and ministry. Questions such as “How would you ….use…share… etc.” are good approaches. Of course important  content should be tested for also. You may want to give an out of class larger essay question instead of an exam but keep in mind that then you should supply the grader (s) with the answers you will be looking for.

 

If you want to stay a little longer or come a little earlier the Vasiles are fine with that. They are very gracious hospitable people who love to show you their Romania. About 1 hr. or so north into the Carpathians is the beautiful community of Sinia with an Orthodox monastery you can visit, a real castle of Romania’s last king, and a pleasant village with lots of shops and restaurants. On the road to the castle are lots of local little crafts booths with beautiful tapestry, cloth work, embroidery, wooden toys, etc. at reasonable prices for souvenirs or as gifts to your supporters. Do plan to visit the castle and tour it for a reasonable price. When out eating, be sure to pay for your host’s meal since he/she has driven you to Sinia and given of their time. Your host will help you with bargaining with the locals. You might even ask to go to Brasov further into the mountains; about another half hour further from Sinia. Brasov is a beautiful city of about 300,000 with an old world European flavor of narrow cobblestone streets and old buildings and shops. Offer to pay for the gas, maybe about 20 dollars, and for any meals there.

 

Campina is perfectly safe for you to walk around in as well as the nearby hills. But don’t get lost. Pay attention to where you are. There is a very modern market called Kaufmanns with everything you can imagine – foods, clothing, shoes, medicines, etc.