My first trip to Pitesti, Romania, was in 1995. I was a member of a team headed up by Bill Johnson and Harvey Starling. At the time there were four members of the church there. Our team consisted of 31 teachers. By the end of our ten-day stay seventeen Romanians obeyed the Gospel.
Bill Johnson and I came up with the idea of having children’s Bible classes that would be similar to our Stateside VBS sessions. Our first year to do this was 1997. We formed a team of thirteen teachers and began what came to be an annual trip every month of July. This became a very successful trip with over 600 children attending the Bible classes for the week. We had children ranging from five years of age to twenty-two years old. We placed special emphases on the teenage class and by the end of the week had more than eighty children in that class. We also visited two orphanages during the thirteen days we were in Pitesti. During our visit we took the orphanages a month’s worth of food supplies, and to each child a personal “goodie bag” that consisted of candy, toys, and various items of clothing.
By the year 2001 our Children’s Bible Classes grew to 2,238 children for the week, and we were officially called the Distant Learning Team. We also conducted numerous adult Bible studies, and had several baptisms. We continued to visit the same two orphanages and took more than a three-month’s supply of food and staples on this last trip. We always kept the emphasis of having a personal touch with the children. In doing this we spent an evening with them and gave each child his own personal “goodie bag.” We also visited the city’s Children’s Hospital. At the time we were there they had twenty-five babies. They had no diapers, no new bedding, and no bed cloths for the children. We purchased all of these items and presented them to the hospital administrator and helped with the distribution to each and every child. The ladies in our group spent many hours with the children providing that much needed personal touch.
The last thing we did was to visit a local nursing home. We took each of the 207 residents a bag of fruit and personally visited with each one of them. They mentioned that they could see the genuine love that was shown towards them, and that our purpose was to glorify God.
In 2002, we turned this program over to the local church. By this time the church had grown to 79 members and since several of them worked with us over the years, they were very capable of handling the Children’s Bible Classes themselves.
Instead of returning to Romania in 2002, the team went to Cabreuva, Brazil. We basically duplicated what we did the first year in Romania; howeve, we spent much more time with the orphanage there. A member of the church ran this orphanage and the children had many more advantages than those of Romania. Tommie Boles will be heading up a new team to go there, Lord willing, in 2004.
In 2003, our team consisting of sixteen workers began a new work in Omsk, Russia. We have started a basic children’s program like the one we started in Pitesti, Romania. Our purpose is to build up the Children’s Bible Classes and work with the local church until they can take over the classes themselves. We had nearly 600 children for the week plus we started an evening adult Bible class, and a question and answer period where 192 attended. One orphanage was visited, another children’s home was helped with sporting equipment, and an inner city children’s home was visited.
Lord willing, our plan is to return back to Omsk, (Siberia) Russia in 2004.