Our First Ever Moldova Pastor's Conference
What an amazing time at our first ever Justice & Mercy Pastor's Conference here in Moldova. We had pastors and their wives come from all over Moldova to a conference center just outside the capital city of Chisinau. We rented the entire center, and it was an incredible experience. Praise God for such a special time of teaching, worship, fellowship, and refreshment. Our God moved in a mighty way, and everyone loved it.
These pastors and their wives are incredible servants of God. They love the Lord, His church, and their villages. One pastor and his wife serve in the village of Soroca. When the orphanage in their village closed, they adopted 8 of the children! And, they still feel like they are not doing enough to meet the needs of all the children in their village. Another pastor told me of spending time in prison under communism. But, he said most pastors did. Pavel and his wife, Ulila, have been married for 45 years and have served their church faithfully through extreme persecution and through the good time of recently moving into a new church building that they had been working on for a long time. Another pastor and his wife were so thankful just to be there because they had not had a vacation in many years. They have six children, and this (being paid for through many of your gifts to JMI) was such an incredible blessing to them.
Under communism, each church was only allowed one pastor and one deacon. The pastor and their wife had to do all the ministry - preach the Word, care for the sick, minister to the children, reach out to their village. We spent much of the time in prayer and encouragement. Thanking them for being so faithful in a country of such need. We also helped them develop a discipleship process for their church and taught on leadership. As God moved, they began to grasp the vision of empowering the people in their church for ministry. The joy of seeing them ask God for a greater vision for their church and their village was so exciting. The last day was filled with great enthusiasm as they shared their God-given vision.
Steve Davis, the Founding Director of JMI and Missions Pastor at Rolling Hills, and Mary Katharine Hunt, our Executive Director at JMI, presented the idea of partnering together in the work of ministry. As churches in the States adopt a village in Moldova, the ministry to the orphans and vulnerable children can be furthered and the churches encouraged. Already we have some partnerships like this in various Moldovan villages and with some amazing pastors. All the pastors were excited about partnering with JMI to reach their entire village through Christ. Through Community Centers, child-sponsorships, educational opportunities, we prayed and thanked God for what He was starting here.
Kelly Minter and Angela Thomas taught and encouraged the women. This was such a special part of the conference. Many of the pastors and their wives already feel so alone in ministry. The fellowship at the conference was incredibly rich and deep. But, especially the women. The men are out doing ministry, and many times the wives feel so isolated at home. To see these women open up and to see their husbands responded was so encouraging. It was beautiful to join with them in the smiles, the tears, and the love.
Each pastor and wife shared that it was one of the best weeks they had ever experienced -
all glory to our great God. As one pastor said, "You all made me feel important - and I don't think I have ever felt that way before." Another pastor said, "I didn't know what to expect when I heard foreigners from the US were inviting me and my family to a conference and paying for it all. Did they really care that much about us? But, after being here, I realize that you people are not foreigners because...Foreigners don't take pictures with my family and me. Foreigners don't spend time getting to know me personally. And, foreigners don't weep with me for my country." This is truly the bond of Christ.
The last day we gave certificates, Bibles, and books to all the pastors and their wives. I cannot express how grateful each pastor and wife was for this experience. So, on behalf of them, I want to say thank you to everyone who prays, gives and serves our God with JMI. What an incredible impact for Christ we are seeing in Moldova, the Amazon, and South Africa. You are making a difference.
As we were leaving the conference center on Saturday, we saw some Americans checking in. As we talked with them, we found out that they were US Special Forces - Green Berets here to train the Moldovan Scorpions (their Special Forces). Our US guys were great. We hit it off, and they told us "what they could" of what they were doing and where they had been (Syria, Iraq, etc.). They were really interested in what we were doing and hearing all about the ministry. As I walked away, I thought, "Actually, these pastors and their wives are the real Special Forces of Moldova. They are on the front lines of ministry. God's Spirit is working through them to engage the spiritual darkness and to bring Hope and Light in a formerly dark place. They are important to us and to the Kingdom. And, I pray they now know it."
I'm so thankful for what our God is doing through JMI. We are truly seeing the country of Moldova change. There is movement among the orphans and churches. And, by God's grace, we are allowed to be on the front lines of ministry. Today, another one of our Rolling Hills mission teams arrives to partner with a church and a pastor in the village of Carpreni. It is like waiting for the reinforcements to come. With our American team, our Transitional Living kids and the pastor and his wife in Carpreni, God is moving in this village in a mighty way. I love what God is doing, and I truly believe this is just the beginning. God is transforming a country from the inside out. All glory to His Name!
Jeff Simmons is the Founder and Lead Pastor of Rolling Hills Community Church in Franklin, TN. He also serves as the President of Justice & Mercy International, a nonprofit that exists to make justice personal for the poor, the orphaned and the forgotten of the world. His faith in God and role as husband and father motivates him to be the leader he is and to do the work he has been called to.
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