Teens team up in Romania

When British and Romanian teenagers teamed up this summer for Christian outreach, it proved a life changing experience. British teens travelled to Romania to join local teenagers from 26 July – 8 August as arranged by OAC Ministries (Open Air Campaigners).

They soon found themselves mixing very well with their Romanian counterparts who spoke fluent English. It proved a turnaround in matters ranging from shopping habits to an encounter with God.

For one teenager, his transforming experience began while getting practical training in creative presentation of the Gospel. He was learning how to paint lettering and art work to illustrate Gospel messages. The Romanian girl working alongside him asked, ‘How long have you been a Christian?’ He replied, ‘Actually, I’m not a Christian yet because I haven’t found God.’ The girl started to cry as she felt he was missing out on so much. This prompted him to talk with the youth leader who had brought the team to Romania, Rob Smith of St. Mary Magdalene Church, Bristol. He then realised he needed Jesus and came to faith.

‘The way that girl cried. That just wouldn’t have happened in this country. The Romanians were much better than us,’ sums up another team member Bobby Moore. ‘Everything they do, they do in His name. Basically, they live to serve.’

Others describe both the everyday and spiritual impact of their stay in Romania. ‘One of the things that sticks in my mind,’ explained Jack Oliver ‘was the difference in how much things cost. We were thinking, “This is really cheap”. But it wasn’t for the Romanians. Now, I’m a lot different with my money. If I’m out at the shops, I ask myself, “Do I really need this?”’

Yet Jack, who tends to be naturally shy, changed in other ways too. He was encouraged as large crowds stayed throughout open air Gospel meetings. Some joined them in coming to church as well. ‘I learned a lot,’ he said. ‘This helped me to become more confident and comfortable in talking to people about my faith. It’s definitely made me a stronger witness.’

Dubbed ‘the magnificent seven’, the British team included seven lads, six from Bristol and one from the Western Isles. All noted the contrast with their Romanian counterparts. They observed how very strong their faith was – and how this impacted all aspects of their lives. Everything from acceptable dress codes to nightlife was strikingly different. Yet their common wavelength made a lasting impression.

Bible teaching and training also incorporated innovative fun. Painting and using creative objects lessons were on offer. And one team member notes that their introductory puppetry session provided ‘a barrel of laughs’.

Consistently drawing crowds of up to 200 people, this outreach was organised by Korky Davey of Bristol together with Paul Wakefield, working in Romania. Both are OAC evangelists. Paul and his wife Julie have pioneered outreach work. Their strong team of Romanian Christian workers now conducts evangelism. They also built the centre where the teenagers were based.

OAC outreach is geared to reaching people where they are in every sense. Suffering from poverty, social problems and family breakdown, Romanians tend to be very open to hearing about how God can change their lives. On this outreach trip, a young man named Vlad came up to Korky after he presented a Gospel message.

Although the son of an Orthodox Church leader, he became a Christian after hearing Korky preach in the open air in 2003. Now a lawyer, he emotionally explained, ‘For the first time in my life I actually understood what it meant to be a real Christian! And I never thought I would see you – the same preacher – again in my life!’