I have just arrived in Chisinau, Moldova today. The Compass Church has been partnering with Kishinev Bible Church Ministries for a number of years now. Just in case you’re wondering about the spellings, Chisinau is Romanian, Kishinev is Russian. The country speaks both languages, although since the fall of the Soviet Union, there is a growing desire to move away from Russian, speak Romanian and align more with the west…with English rapidly becoming desirable as a second or third language.
I met Evghenni Sologubenco about seven years ago in Hungary…but that’s another story. He is one of the teaching pastors at Kishinev Bible Church and the president of Moldova Bible Seminary. At that time, he extended an invitation to me to teach at the seminary and I’ve been coming ever since.
Evghenni met me at the airport today and took me to lunch. We began talking about doors being closed in our lives…and in our ministries. They are facing such doors in their ministry with the church. Earlier last year they lost their lease agreement at the school where they had been meeting. The door closed. This forced them to find another location, which they did, but it caused them to meet in the late afternoon. This brought challenges to their growing children’s ministry…since little ones often nap during that time. Just a few weeks ago, they were told that they could no longer use this location. Another door closed.
What do you do with closed doors? Well, I guess you could try to reopen it, kick it in, or give up on ever going through another one. Or, you could trust that God is opening one you currently cannot see is there. I shared with Evghenni about a time when a door closed in my life. It was hurtful, if not a little embarrassing. I thought for sure though, it was where God was leading me. But it wasn’t. Initially confusing to say the least.
When I was in my third year at Bradley University in Peoria, IL. I was facing major challenges with life direction. I was in the business school, but with one problem…I didn’t like it…at all. I was growing rapidly in my new found faith and the prospect of working in the business field became less and less desirable. God was tugging at my heart. I was eager to study the Bible and serve in full-time ministry. I began searching for an alternative. Somehow, I was told about Wheaton College, that it would be the perfect place to recalibrate my life toward ministry. I applied. I was called to come visit and meet with several of the professors in the Bible department. Everything went great and I began making plans. My acceptance letter finally came in the mail.
But there was one problem. It began by saying, “We regret to inform you…” I read that two paragraph letter over and over again. How could this be? My heart was right, the timing was right, the school was…well, I thought was right. The door closed. I was hurt, confused, embarrassed and felt like a complete failure. But I had never left God’s thoughts.
I ended up staying at Bradley, changed my major to history, went to Dallas Theological Seminary, then to Trinity International University for a doctorate, serving in ministry at The Compass Church for the past 32 years. How could this be? The door was closed. But I had never left God’s thoughts. I had professors at each of those schools become some of the biggest cheerleaders in my life. All because of a closed door.
Back to lunch. The conversation quickly turned to another door. Perhaps one that is wide open. Closed doors bring new vision. Space is opening up for lease in the heart of their ministry target area. The prospect of a new, more secured location is creating kingdom thinking. They are talking about expanding ministries, adding a Romanian and even an English speaking service, a men’s ministry (the absent father in Eastern Europe is commonplace), gaining additional accreditation for the seminary, and developing their reach to children and students.
We dreamed for a couple of hours about the door God was opening. I was cheerleading…all the while thinking about that letter…that I’ve kept. I now serve as the Campus Pastor at Wheaton…just a stone’s throw away from the college. God has His unique way of reminding me that I have never left His thoughts…and reminding Evghenni…that he hasn’t either.