MBC moves toward ending Romania partnership after 4 rewarding years

MBC moves toward ending Romania partnership after 4 rewarding years

By John L. Inman III
Contributing Writer

JEFFERSON CITYVandalia First Baptist Church had never been on a mission trip. At an annual meeting for the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), the pastor was challenged to go on a mission trip to Romania. The pastor accepted the challenge and led 21 people overseas.

“There is no church that is too small for mission work,” said MBC Partnership Missions Specialist Norm Howell.

In 2003, the MBC formed a four-year official partnership with Romania which will officially end in October. Prior to that, the MBC had a 10-year partnership with Belarus.

The first team to Romania from Missouri consisted of about 30 key pastors who went in October of 2003. Howell led the second team in January of 2004. He explained how the partnership has impacted First Vandalia.

“A lot of our MBC churches that have gotten connected to the partnership with Romania have had the history of their church changed,” Howell said. “They had to raise $50,000 to go and they raised it in three weeks.

“The second year they sent two teams. This year they sent over 51 people. This year they have also set up a partnership with the North and South Dakota associations. It is teaching them to be an Acts 1:8 church.”

At the annual meeting for the MBC Oct. 29-31 in Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach, there will be a night reserved for missions. Howell plans on having International Mission Board missionaries from Romania as well as possibly having pastors from Romania give a celebratory presentation (depending on whether they can obtain visas to gain entrance into the United States).

“I love the Romanian people,” Howell said. “They have been very hospitable. I had never been to Romania as my experience has primarily been in the South Pacific. It is a world of difference. Very quickly I fell in love with the Romanian leaders. I appreciated their vision of reaching their own country.

“In 10 years they have planted over 1,000 churches. We set up vision trips in which we would take them in and pastors representing MBC churches would go and spend a week with a Romanian Baptist pastor at his church. One church from Missouri and one from Romania getting together was the goal. Our objective was that the two churches would work together to then start a third church in Romania. It didn’t take very long as we were doing these things for it to grow and network from there.

“If the church would start partnering they would usually make plans to go back to Romania. I started recruiting more to go on vision trips. In 2006 we had 35-40 teams going doing medical missions, Vacation Bible School training, revival meetings, and evangelism and pastoral training. This year so far I have learned of 17 teams going.”

While this is the official end of the partnership, Howell explained why this will not be the end of an unofficial partnership and his plan for these partnerships.

“My desire is not that we would finish and never have anything to do with Romania,” Howell said. “I have worked with 70-80 churches that have solidly tried to set up partnerships and have sent teams. All of them have not followed through on trip after trip. The reason we do a four-year partnership is not to do four years and get out. Instead what I do is encourage all the churches involved in this partnership to stay involved in that partnership. Then what I’m doing is looking at another country and looking to get another 70-80 different churches involved there. And I want to continue to repeat this process every four years.”

Howell encouraged churches to get involved in missions if they are not already laboring in a foreign land.

“Your church can be involved in a partnership,” he said. “Maybe God is not leading you to be directly involved with our Middle Eastern work, Romania, El Salvador or Colorado. We will still work with you on your plans. But if God is leading you to be a part of one of these partnerships, then please do contact us. You can contact me or Linda Stockton at the Baptist Building. You can reach us at nhowell@mobaptist.org or lstockton@mobaptist.org, or you can call us at (573) 636-0400. We would love to hear from you.”