Month: February 2016


The final exam was today. What an outstanding group of students. Highly motivated, intelligent, living out their faith…and very hungry! I celebrated the closure of the class by treating them to pizza. Certainly not to Chicago standards, but 30 pizzas were consumed pretty rapidly.

Going out to a restaurant is a rare treat for them. They deserved it.


I have been humbled by these young men and women. Course assignments and class discussions were at times sobering to read and difficult to hear. Many of them grew up in orphanages. Not that they didn’t have parents…but their parents could not or would not take care of them.

One of the girls wrote that the moment she received Christ as her Savior (her family is Russian Orthodox), her father told her to get out and never come back…she was 12 years old.


Many have grown up without a father in the home or had one who was an alcoholic or physically abusive. Accepting God as Father was a hard reach for them. And yet, the love of Christ is written all over their faces. Every one of them are actively involved in ministry…street evangelism, visiting the elderly and orphanages, conducting basketball camps, youth ministry, and teaching English and art classes.

I will miss them.


Later that afternoon, I met with Compass supported missionary Dennis Bowen, who just happened to be in Chisinau teaching a counseling course at the University Divitia Gratiae. We had a very informative and insightful discussion with the Academic Dean and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University, Dr. Mihail Malancea concerning the spread of Islam and the current refugee crisis in Europe. We also discussed human trafficking in Europe with a graduate research assistant who is writing a paper on the subject.


At the end of the day, I attended the prayer meeting at Kishinev Bible Church. It began with an exciting announcement…the contract for rental of a new facility was signed today! I had a tour earlier in the week. This facility will be the new home of the church, the seminary, ministry offices, a Romanian speaking service and a launch pad for new outreach ministries for at least the next five years.

Their prayers were exciting, passionate and thankful. That comes through in any language!


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 6-7


A very meaningful way to close out the week and my time here in Moldova. Dasvidaniya…for now.

Culinary Delight

You may be wondering what the food is like in Moldova. I’ve already mentioned the amazing Gagauz kivirma and the Ukrainian borscht, but today for lunch, I had solyanka, a thick, spicy and sour Russian soup offering a mix of fresh and cured beef and pork. It has become my favorite. I’m not sure I’ve seen or eaten it’s equal anywhere in Chicagoland.


Soups are always given before the main course, which in this case was baked turkey with plenty of vegetables.


While Moldova is not exactly a major destination for tourists, it does boast for having the two largest underground wineries in the world. I had a rare afternoon free to visit the Cricova Winery, just outside Chisinau. Cricova is not only famous for its wines, but during World War II, it became a hiding place for Jews, in wine barrels, during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.


Cricova has over 60 miles of tunnels housing 1.25 million bottles of over 653 different kinds of wines.


Among the elite guests besides myself, have been the Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, Brejnev, Gorbachiov, and Putin. Secretary of State John Kerry also visited recently.


The oldest bottle of wine in this labyrinth of subterranean passageways is a 1902, “Jewish Easter Wine” from Jerusalem. An offer of $150,000 to purchase was declined.


Just so you know, I by-passed the wine tasting opportunity…

A Conversation with Tatiana Covalciuc

I caught up with Tanya this afternoon. She is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Kishinev Bible Church. I wanted to get an update on what God has been doing through her ministry. Tanya visited The Compass Church several years ago at the invitation of CompassGlobal. It was great to see her again. As we develop partnerships, we want to build into ministry counterparts sharing vision, ideas, and resources. Tanya told me today that her two-week internship with CompassKids radically transformed the direction of children’s ministry at KBC.


When she returned to Moldova, she implemented what she learned and observed:

  1. Went from a single group of children of all ages to dividing age groups.
  2. Began meeting with and training volunteers.
  3. Developed branding for the ministry.
  4. Began a planning calendar two to three months in advance.
  5. Recruited a prayer team from elderly shut-ins.
  6. Required lesson preparation several weeks in advance.
  7. Began English classes as an outreach twice per week.
  8. Recruited her own intern!
  9. Developed volunteer rotation.
  10. Recruited 15 new volunteers with one helper each.
  11. Began using older teens to serve.


She is excited to say the least! We want to extend invitations to our global partners from multiple ministry areas to build into more, like Tatiana. It is making a difference!

Glorious Mystery

Class was hard today. Hard for me to teach…and I’m sure, hard for students to listen. We studied the doctrine of Salvation…discussing election, predestination, foreknowledge…among other things. Scary stuff.

Regardless of where you land on the theological spectrum of such topics, I prefer to think on such things as, well, actually…glorious.

Our God is wondrous…amazing…mysterious. He purposed something so breathtaking…that even myriads of angels…pause from their exaltation and adoration of the Holy One, to take a look (1 Peter 1:12).

We dove into the deep end by looking at Romans 9-11. I encouraged them to think about four “much more” applications from these chapters:

  1. God’s grace is “much more” amazing than we think.
  2. Sharing the gospel is “much more” urgent than we know.
  3. A posture of humility is “much more” vital than hearts allow.
  4. Bending a knee in worship is “much more” glorious than we imagine.

After plowing through these chapters, Paul breaks out in doxology in Romans 11:33-36…because he can’t help it:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Paul couldn’t contain himself pondering such mystery! My class couldn’t either…we worshiped for thirty minutes after the discussion…


God Finds Us In The Crowd

Have you ever been out in a large crowd? You know, the kind where you can barely move, people bumping up against you…you find it difficult to make your way out? Crowds can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. You can get lost in them.

I spoke at Kishinev Bible Church yesterday afternoon. Evghenni Sologubenco, the church’s pastor, translated for me into Russian and also served as my prop holder! My text was Mark 5:24-34. This is the story of a woman who had an affliction for 12 years. She had come to the point of desperation in her life. It was her last chance. The Bible tells us that she was out in a large crowd trying to make her way to Jesus. She was alone and empty inside…even though she was in the midst of hundreds of people. Ever feel that way?

Mark tells us that all she wanted to do, was to somehow get close enough to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment. She wasn’t looking to talk with Jesus. She didn’t want Him to see her…let alone ask Him to heal her. She must have felt deeply embarrassed and ashamed. According to Jewish law, she was unclean…and anyone she touched, would become unclean as well.

Except One.


Somewhere along the way she heard that the fringes or tassels on the prayer shawl of the Messiah would heal her. In fact, Malachi 4:2 says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” The rabbis taught that this verse referred to the Messiah, who would have healing in the wings or tassels of His prayer shawl.

She passes by hundreds of men wearing prayer shawls in the crowd that day and goes directly to Jesus. Reaching out and touching one of the tassels…she immediately was healed. She felt it. Jesus did to.

In an amazing act of love and compassion, Jesus turns around and asks, “Who touched me?” He looks for her in the mass of people…and in the most significant moment of her life…finds her…turns His face toward her…and says, “your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” The word used for “healing” here, is also a word used for salvation.

Placing her faith in Jesus Christ not only healed her physically, but far more importantly, it cleansed her of sin, and brought her into a forever relationship with the One who had turned His face toward her.

Lost in the crowd? Not when Jesus is out in it. He has turned His face toward you.


The Hebrew embroidered on the collar reads, “Blessed are You Lord God, King of the universe. Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to wrap ourselves in the tassels.” Wrap yourself up today in the love of Jesus.

Small Group Encouragement

My wife and I have been part of a small group at The Compass Church for many years now. We meet every other Sunday afternoon. Yesterday, I was able to Skype with several in the group. It was good to see their faces! Even from 5,176 miles away, it was a great encouragement to know that they were praying for me…and not only me, but Moldova was on their minds. One member of our group took this picture of a license plate she saw the other day in Naperville. I’m not quite sure of the significance of the Montana–Naperville–Moldova connection, but there it was…a prayer prompter roaming the streets of Naperville. Pray for Moldova.


Prijatnovo Appetita

Last night, I was invited to dinner at the flat of a couple who serve on the ministry team of Kishinev Bible Church. They are Gagauz. The Gagauz are a Turk people from southern Moldova who speak a very distinct Turkic dialect. Since I was a special guest, they served me the favorite of the Gagauz, “kivirma”. Kivirma is a layered pie stuffed with sheep’s milk cheese and soaked with sour cream before baking. Not to be missed!


I had borscht for lunch today. The combination of beetroot and beef is hard to pass up. This came from a seasoned Moldovan culinarian who has been making this recipe for over 50 years.


There is a McDonald’s directly across from the building where I’m staying. Only one of three in the city. It’s not even a temptation. I’m not sure that it’s even real food…but it’s always crowded. Kivirma and Borscht are worth coming to Moldova for.

Jesus said in John 6:55, “For my flesh is real food and my and my blood is real drink”. I didn’t plan the sequence of my recent two meals. But the kivirma kind of reminded me of that real food…the borscht of that real drink. While so many are following the crowds to McDonald’s, Jesus has invited us to sit down at table…with Him…to eat and drink the real stuff. “Prijatnovo appetita”.

Stairs to Nowhere

The name of Karl Marx came up in my class today. Marx wrote in 1843, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” My students, while too young to have personally experienced the full impact of an ideology that sought to eliminate the existence of God, certainly see the sting it has had on the older generation who still long for those “better times” under the Soviet system.


I felt that sting today. In the afternoon I again went on visits with the elder care team. We rang the door bell of an apartment on the visitation list. Fully expecting an elderly woman to answer, I was greeted by a beautiful 10 year old girl, excited that visitors had come and especially excited to see an American, so she could practice her English (her vocabulary was about as extensive as my Russian, but she was trying hard!). She was the granddaughter of the woman who quickly appeared at the door to welcome us (I have not posted their names or pictures to protect privacy).

At first I thought the little one was just visiting, but soon learned that her mother had died of cancer when she was three. Her father abandoned her, claiming that he could not take care of her.

As we spoke to the grandmother, now in her mid-seventies, I commented that her grand-daughter must be a great blessing to her. “Nyet”, she said. “The government gives me only $10.00 a month for her”. I wasn’t expecting that. The granddaughter whose eyes had lit up, now dropped them, looking down at the table. “My life was better in Soviet times…it was easier. I had more, but now I have nothing…God has done nothing for me.” She didn’t want to talk much about God.

Marx created stairs that lead to nowhere…people are still trying to climb them. Religion the sigh of an oppressed creature? “Nyet!” The Apostle Paul declared in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” I walk by that staircase every morning…it is in the building just outside my classroom…now a bold reminder to pray for this grandmother and her granddaughter.

The granddaughter recently has been coming to Kishinev Bible Church…pray that her grandmother will not be too far behind.

Hitler, Stalin, and the Power of a Transformed Heart


I met Zina today. She is 93 years old. Kishinev Bible Church has an elder care visitation program that regularly visits these forgotten ones. Over 75 are on their list. Zina was born in 1923 in a small village which is now part of Ukraine. Moldova had unified with Romania in 1918, but the merger made a pathway for the emergence of Soviet Moldova. Russia always had an interest in the Romanian culture. Zina grew up in a very difficult time.


In 1939, the Stalin-Hitler Pact was announced. A few years later Zina was married and she and her husband were able to secure their own home. Then, Moldova was named the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. Romania joined forces with Germany in an assault on the Soviet Union. During that time, Zina’s home was bombed and completely destroyed. After the war they were able to find another home…much nicer than the first. But Moldova was returned to the Moldovan S.S.R. Due to her husband having a friendship with a Jew, the anti-Jewish purging that began in Chisinau in 1903 was still in full operation, and Zina and her husband were taken from their home and sent to the work camps in Siberia.


While at the camps, many people froze to death due to the harsh winters. Zina and her husband shared a small cabin with a curtain partition to provide some separation between two families. They received one log per day for a fire. The fire would never last through the nights. Their water supply would freeze solid until the next fire could be available. Zina’s right arm became frostbit. When faced with amputation, she refused, telling the doctors that she wouldn’t be able to care for their baby. Her arm healed.

Eventually they were released from the camp and moved back to Chisinau…into their home! Then her husband died. Her son died. The Communist government seized her home, as they did many others without any payment, to make way for a school. They gave her the apartment that I visited today…probably 10×15…generous of them.

Zina is a woman who has many reasons to be bitter and angry. But then she was introduced to the person of Jesus Christ through the ministry of Kishinev Bible Church after a neighbor in her apartment building invited her to the worship service. Lost two homes, her husband, her son, victimized by two evil regimes…but found Jesus because of a neighbor in an apartment building that she didn’t want to live in.

While I was assisted by an interpreter, I could almost understand her. Not her Russian words so much…but she had a sparkle in her eye and a burning passion in her heart for Jesus. That communicates in any language.

Putting the Pieces Together

Have you ever put one of those 1000 piece puzzles together? They seem almost impossible. My mother loved them and we always had one out on a card table in the living room when I was growing up. It would sometimes take months putting it together…everyone in the family would work on it…sometimes just in passing by. I would always sneak a piece and hide it in my room. I wanted to be the last one to complete it…to have the privilege of finishing it.


I told this story to my students this morning after each of us had shared how we had come to Christ. We talked about how God put the pieces together in our lives…all in miraculous ways…opening our eyes to the truth. I had them read through Luke 24:13-35. After the resurrection, Jesus shows up and begins walking along with two men on the road to Emmaus. These men were still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But Jesus opened their eyes showing them that He was the last piece. I would have loved to had been there.


I broke the class into groups and gave each of them a few pieces of a puzzle I had brought along. Of course none of them could tell what the puzzle was at first. That’s what life without Christ is like. So they came together and began using their combined pieces to put it together. The only problem was…I was holding the last piece. Old habits die hard!


God has given us a great privilege…He’s entrusted us with the last piece of the puzzle…the good news of the gospel. Maybe some of us are hiding it in our room. But He has called us to take the last piece to every tribe and language and people and nation. May God open eyes to the truth. May we hear the stories of miracle after miracle…like I heard this morning.