In the years that followed I remained faithful to this promise. I cannot remember a day in the past 57 years that I did not pray for the persecuted church and for the poor children of Romania and of the world. As a young pastor in the 1980’s, my church devoted its mission outreach to supporting bible smuggling into the Eastern European countries. We collected finances for the Underground Church and sent relief packages to poor village Christians. In the US we worked with refugee agencies to assist families as they arrived in America, having escaped from Romania, Poland, Russia, and other Communist nations. Our emphasis was to help families and individuals to find employment, Christian fellowship, transportation, and connect with a network of people who could help them through their transition time. This work produced many connections and life-long friendships. After the overthrow of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, these friends put us in touch with their family members back in Romania. By 1994 we had developed a network of Christian co-workers that united to establish a new ministry in Romania. But wait…..before I tell too much of my story….there is one important detail that must be shared. In 1994, Richard Wurmbrand came to Texas to visit some of his Romanian friends, who were also my friends. I was invited to spend the evening with the family and to meet Pastor Wurmbrand. As I explained my promise, made as a child, and my divine call that had become my life-long mission, Pastor Wurmbrand gave me his blessing to begin my ministry in Romania. Yes, I was surprised and amazed at how God had arranged the meeting and set the timing for the eve of my work and ministry in Romania.
Bringing relief supplies to flood victims near the Ukranian border.
The year was 1960. The place was Gonzales, Texas. As a young boy of 9 years, I sat at the kitchen table with my Jewish-Christian grandmother listening to a radio program titled, The Christian Jew Hour. On this particular day the program featured a Romanian pastor named Richard Wurmbrand. As I listened and watched the tears roll down my grandmother’s cheeks, we heard the story of how Pastor Wurmbrand was tortured for his testimony in Communist Romania. He shared stories of the children of clergy who become exiles in society, living on the streets and searching for food in the trash containers. The people in the towns were afraid to help them, knowing that the secret police or Securitate, would suspect them as being a dissident also. As the program finished my grandmother turned to me and said with her deep accent, “You must promise me and promise God that you will always pray for the persecuted church and especially for the poor children who have no home and no one to love them.” I remember clearly my reply, though it has now been 55 years, “ I promise that I will always pray for these people and if the day ever comes that I can do more than just pray, I will do all that I can do to help them.” And so it began. A destiny? A Divine calling? A purpose and a mission? Yes, all of the above.
From 1994-2001 my wife and I worked with government agencies and independent ministries in Romania. This included outreaches to the sewer children, establishing homes for older girls who were living on the streets, bringing supplies and support to government orphanages and children’s homes. We worked with many poor village congregations to build churches, hold revivals, and provide teaching and counseling. During those years Phyllis and I served as directors for a non-profit organization that owned and operated an orphanage near the Ukrainian border.
God greatly blessed our efforts during these years. It seemed that the homeless and abandoned children were everywhere, behind every bush, and inside every vacant warehouse. Our orphanage was full and could hold no more children. As I prayed about the plight of the abandoned children, God led me to an abandoned building in a small mountain town. With Providence as my friend, we were able to raise the finances to purchase and renovate the building and turn it into a home for 90 children. For thirteen years my wife and I devoted our lives to this orphanage and to rescuing children to keep it filled. Over 200 children have passed through the doors during these years, with new destinies, rescued from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God.
In 2015 we began a new chapter in our work in Romania. In the years since the fall of Communism, many things have improved in Romania. Much of the country has become modernized as the European Union has invested heavily into the Romanian economy. This has made a significant improvement in the lives of people living in larger cities, but poverty and unemployment are still out of control in the rural areas of the country. Especially among the Gypsy people of Romania you will still find extreme poverty. This is partially due to discrimination within the culture, and partially due to illiteracy, lack of employable skills, and an atmosphere of hopelessness. The focus of our present work is to bring hope and deliverance to these poor people. This is a mission area of great need and neglect. It is not the pretty and comfortable mission project of the modern cities. The people in these impoverished villages have prayed and cried out to God for years, asking Him to send His people to begin a work among them, a work to rescue the abandoned and unwanted children, a work to bring relief to the widows and the elderly, to start Feeding Centers where a nutritious meal is provided daily, and most of all….to demonstrate the love of God through actions and not just through sermons.
My wife and I will soon begin our 25th year as missionaries, working in Romania, and my 59th year of keeping my promise to Granny and to God. God has blessed us and united many ministry friends and co-workers with us to fulfill this mission of love. With the help of God, this new chapter of our service will bring glory to His name and touch many lives with His love.
In the report that I have shared above, i have told how God led me to this mission field in Eastern Europe to devote my life to His service. My story is incomplete and maybe even a little misleading. I must tell you, dear reader, that Phyllis, my wife of 44 years, is the real hero and the real missionary. In our Heavenly Father's Providence, He made us a team to bring glory to His name and to accomplish His purposes. If you ever read any article, written by me that touches your heart, remember that it was Phyllis who edited it and smoothed out my rough edges. If you correspond with our Texas office, it will be Phyllis who pours her heart into each letter that she writes, sealing each envelope with a prayer for the friend and co-worker that it is addressed to. If you call our office to ask a question or offer a comment, it will be Phyllis who drops everything to make sure that you receive the attention and honor that you deserve. "Matushka/Popadya" Phyllis is the real hero of this team.
Praying over a container loaded with supplies and donated items, bound for Romania
Richard Wurmbrand and a younger version of me back in 1994.
Children receiving a nutricious meal at one of our Feeding Centers
Missions for Romania
serving the poor in romania since 1994
Rescuing castaway children from the streets for over twenty-two years