08 July 2009

Ministry Update Summer 2009

Well, it has been almost 6 months since I last wrote a ministry update, so I figure it is about time to catch you all up on what has been going on in our lives.

We are still here in Craiova, Romania, more determined than ever to stay and continue to work with our church, Pro DEO and with the student ministry OSCEC.

As before, I have broken this update into three sections: past, present and future.

Past Projects

Raluca and I were able to go to OSCEC's evangelistic Ski Camp in February as part of the leadership team. It was a nice, small intimate group of 14 people, about half of us from the church. This event had very little structure, allowing everyone to hit the slopes as often as he liked, but we were still able to have some good group discussions, which I led in the evenings.

We also started up the weekly English Lounge again in the spring, but instead of leading just one group, we had three different types of English Lessons! We contined the English Lounge itself, which is a discussion group for students who want to practice their English. We added a Book Reading group, for anyone who wanted to practice his reading and comprehension skills and Raluca led a Beginning English class for those who were not advanced enough to be part of the discussion group. These English classes are one of OSCEC's most successful outreach programs and we love that we are able to serve the ministry in this way. A number of the students from our classes will be attending English camp this month (more on that below).

I have continued to be utilized as a speaker both at church and ministry events. These have included preaching at church, speaking at the OSCEC Easter Celebration and giving the "Remember to be Romantic" talk at the evangelistic Family Cafe.

Current Projects

As I mentioned before, the way Pro DEO is structured, we meet once every two weeks as a whole church and on each other Sunday we meet is smaller house churches.
There are a number of reasons why we do it that way. Two of the most important are that it allows us to discuss the sermon from the week before in more detail and decide together how we can apply it to our lives and it put everyone in the church into a context in which he or she can develop more intimate relationships with other members of the church. One problem with this structure had been that the three home church groups had grown too large and they were losing a sense of intimacy. Earlier this year it was decided that a good solution would be to create a fourth home group and I have been leading that since the spring. This has been a lot of work for me, since it involves not just planning and running the Sunday morning meetings, but also being directly involved in the lives of each of the people in my group, actively creating fellowship that reaches farther than our fortnightly meetings.

Next Tuesday (14 July), we will be headed to English Camp! English Camp is OSCEC's major evangelistic event of the year. They invite college students to come and take English lessons from native English speakers for a week and at the same time, they introduce them to the student organization and to the basics of our faith. I am very excited to be going to an English Camp again, since it have a long history with these events. It was at an English Camp back in 1996 when I first fell in love with this country. Raluca and I have had experience being leaders of both the visiting American team and of the organizing OSCEC team (and Raluca has experienced being a student at English camp!). Given our past experience, this year we will be asking as liasons between the American and Romanian teams, helping to ensure everything goes smoothly. We will probably help to lead some of the English classes as well. Unlike Ski Camp, where we went alone, we will be taking our children with us to English Camp, much to the delight of our English Lounge students (who like our kids even more than they like us!). After a very hectic year, it will be nice to all get out of the city together.

Raluca is directly involved in a woman's ministry which she helped to start called "The Mommy Club". This group has been important in getting the women of the church to start connecting with each other more intimately again, which is one or Raluca's passions.

We continue to be involved with planning the Family Cafe events, which happen every other month. The final event of the six-part, one-year series will occur sometime latter this summer.

As always, we have a lot of evangelistic relationships which we are developing and growing, which all take up a lot of time and energy, but which are immensely fulfilling.

Future Projects

Once the students return to Craiova from their summer break, we will be starting up our third semester of English Lounge. We're not sure how many groups we will have this time, but we expect to pick up quite a few students following English Camp.

Given my success in the past at using table games as a way of connecting with students - both in and outside of evangelistic camps - I am considering starting up a gaming club as a way of making even more connections with the university students in the city. I am still praying about this and talking it over with other church leaders, but I will keep you updated as this idea takes form.

Thank you again for your continued interest in and support for our ministries here.

God bless.

06 April 2009

Marriage Seminar

From 24 - 29 March 2009, proDEO hosted a 4-day marriage seminar which focused on teaching couples how to have a Christ-centered marriage. The seminar was led by John Mabee, a family councilor on staff at Stonegate Fellowship, a church in Midland, Texas.

John, accompanied by two other couples from Stonegate, was here for almost a week and in addition to leading the seminar, his team also led last month's family cafe.

You can see a photo slideshow of the seminar here:


The pictures were all taken by Raluca and by Robert Dobre, a very talented young photographer who is involved with both proDEO and OSCEC.

28 January 2009

Resident Alien

That handsome card there in my hand is my brand new Romanian Alien Residency card. I am not officially a Romanian resident, which means that I can legally live and work here for at least the next five years.

This is a great help to us, since it means that we will not have to leave the country, apply for visas, or jump through any other hoops in order to remain here in Romania indefinitely.

Family Cafe

proDEO held its bimonthly "Family Cafe" this past Saturday evening. There were about 20 couples there, with roughly 1/3 of them being friends and family from outside the church.

This was the third of six meetings, which are built around the theme of "Building Healthy Relationships", but only the first which Raluca and I have been involved in. This month's topic was "Communicating Better" and throughout the evening we enjoyed a number of activities which shared this idea. There were interactive games, music, a short message/discussion and a skit!

I wrote the skit, but the really important thing about it was that it was performed by me and my inredible wife, Raluca. This was not only the first time that Raluca has acted with me, but also the first time that she has done any acting since we have been married!

(photo by Cristi Conea)

27 January 2009

Cat People

No, the title is not a reference to the classic Val Lewton horror film, but to us: the Chase family.

Yes, we are now officially "cat people".

It all started with my brother-in-law, Iuli. He had bought a cat for his office. Actually, he did not buy it. He had gone to the hypermarket (yes, that is a word here in Europe) REAL, which has a small pet shop attached, Zoo Mania. Zoo Mania has got a pretty good racket going, whereby it accepts unwanted cats, vaccinates them, de-worms them, etc. and then gives them away for free with the purchase of X amount of cat-related products.

So Iuli left REAL one day with a bag full of cat stuff and a (free) orange tabby kitten. He brought the cat (named Flexi, after Adobe's Flex program) to his office, where it lived for a number of months. But then as Christmas approached, Raluca - who had been working at Iuli's office on a regular basis - decided that it would be cruel to allow the cat to stay there alone over the vacation, so she insisted that we house it for the holiday.

And so, Flexi came to live with us, despite the misgivings of Raluca's mother and my insistence that I did not want to have to take care of a cat. The kids were delighted of course, since they have been asking to have pets since they learned to speak (I don't think our chickens really counted as pets). I kept reminding them that the cat was only staying for a short while, but as Christmas became New Year became mid-January and Flexi was still there, it became increasingly clear that the cat wasn't going anywhere.

Then last week, Raluca finally convinced her mother to agree to allow the cat to stay for good. That very day we took a walk as a family to REAL to buy kitty litter for Flexi. While shopping in Zoo Mania, we found a beautiful young Siamese kitten looking terribly frightened. The kids (and Raluca) immediately decided that we had to take him home, too. And since we were buying kitty litter anyways, if we just bought a few more things we could get him for free! (I told you they had a good racket going.)

After a quick call home to make sure we wouldn't be disowned if we brought home another animal, we soon left Zoo Mania with a bag off kitty accessories and a cat tucked snugly in my coat.

It was a few days before we could finally agree on a name for the new boy (he had previously been called Pufuleti), but yesterday we finally settled on Smoki.

So, what's my point in talking about our cats here in our ministry blog? More than just signifying that we finally broke down and got our children the pets they have wanted for so long, the decision to adopt not just one but two cats indicates - to us and to others - that we are here to stay.

We returned to Romania in November with the idea that we were going to try to settle here permanently, but there was a bit of doubt about whether or not that would actually happen. Right now it seems very clear to us that this is where we are meant to be and it seems certain that we will be able to remain here indefinitely. Which is not to say that we won't be coming back to the US at all; both Raluca and I have a number of freelance jobs lined up this summer and fall in America. However, it seems very unlikely that we will be moving our family back to the States anytime soon.

Which is why we could allow ourselves to become cat people.

Ski Camp

We are now officially involved in OSCEC ski camp 2009.

The question of whether or not we should go was answered pretty definitively when the money we needed materialized from a couple of different sources.

This evangelistic event will he held from 23-26 February 2009 in Straja.

There will be about 35 participants at the camp, roughly half of whom will be from outside of the ministry. The purpose of the camp will be to give these students a chance to interact with us (i.e. students and leaders of OSCEC) in a fun, relaxed setting with the hope that doing so will help to break down some of the stereotypes which exist in this society against "born-again" Christians.

Right now our biggest obstacle seems to be that there is currently no snow in Straja, which could seriously affect the "Ski" part of Ski Camp.

However, no matter what type of weather God provides for us, I am sure it will be a great opportunity for fellowship and evangelism.

26 January 2009

Christmas Banquet Video

Here (for your viewing pleasure) is a short video montage of proDEO's Christmas Banquet, which was held on 20 December 2008.

This was an evangelistic event and was attended by about 50 people from the church and about 50 people from outside of the church. Everyone who attended will receive a long-form DVD containing highlights from the evening's program.

16 January 2009

Comprehensive Ministry Update

As I mentioned in the previous post, we have been back in Craiova for two months now and have been heavily involved in ministry ever since returning.

Today, I want to briefly list the different projects which we have been involved in, so that you will have a better idea of the kind of work we are doing here.

I should stress that Raluca and I are not employed by the church nor do we receive any financial support from either organizations or individuals, so in addition to being involved with these various projects we are also both self-employed.

In addition to the major projects which are listed below, we are also involved in many different relational ministries. That is, we are creating, developing and strengthening numerous relationships both within and outside of the church, since we feel very strongly that this is a major part of God's plan for us here in this city.

Past Projects

The first major project which we were asked to be a part of was proDEO's annual Christmas banquet. This banquet is an evengelistic event, intended to make our non-Christian friends feel comfortable within our community and to give them a chance to hear a scriptural perspective on Christmas. Raluca and I were both part of the planning committee for this banquet, which took place on 20 December 2008.

This event was quite successful. There were more than 100 participants at the dinner (up from roughly 70 last year), 1/2 of whom were from outside the church community.

Raluca and I were also asked to take over an English language outreach ministry in early December. The "English Lounge" was a discussion group sponsored by OSCEC with the intention of raising awareness of the ministry among the student community and involving more students in evangelistic events (similar to the English classes which I taught back in 2000 & 2001). The previous leaders of "English Lounge" were a young missionary couple who had been living here in Craiova and working with OSCEC for a number of months. They ended up leaving Romania earlier than expected and instead of allowing this program to sputter off, we agreed to finish out the remaining weeks.

The structure of proDEO's Sunday meetings is to meet once every two weeks as an entire church for community worship and to hear a sermon. On alternative weeks, we break into three smaller home groups in which we discuss the ideas of the previous week's sermon in greater detail. Over the first month and a half, we attended every house group in order to make an objective analysis of the current state of this system and of each of the smaller groups.

What we have found is that by being so separated from the church for so long (almost two years), we were able to come back into the community and see certain things from a different perspective than those who had never left. Changes (both good and bad) which had occured slowly over time - and thus went unnoticed by much of the community - were glaringly obvious to us.

I have also preached at proDEO twice in the past month. I actually gave the last sermon of 2008 and the first of 2009.

Current Projects

I am currently working on editing a DVD of the Christmas Banquet, which the church plans on giving out to all of the attendees, so that they will have something nice to remember the evening by and to serve as a reminder that they are invited to join us again next Christmas (or any time before then).

We are both on the organizing committee of this month's "Family Cafe." "Family Cafe" is an outreach ministry similar to the Christmas banquet, but on a smaller, more intimate scale. In general it occurs once every two months; this months will be the third of its kind. Our intention is to provide a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere, where couples will be entertained and will also be exposed to topics which are relevant to modern families.

Future Projects

We have finished our commitment to lead "English Lounge", but we have agreed to start up a new version of the program starting in March. In addition to the English conversation group, we may also add an English Reading Book Club to the program.

Finally, we have been asked to be involved in leading OSCEC's Ski Camp this year. The Ski Camp is an evangelistic event (yes, we try to do a lot of evangelism here) to which Christian students invite their non-Christian friends. There will be skiing and other events during the day and discussions and other relevant interactions in the evening. It will be held over the course of four days sometime next month. Both of us would very much like to be involved in this camp, but the cost is fairly high (given our current income) and we are trying to evaluate whether this is something which God wants us to do (in which case, money should not be an issue) or merely something which we personally want to do (in which case, there are much better uses of our resources). We would appreciate if you would pray for us to make the Godly decission in this matter.

I believe that covers all of the major projects which we have been working on. We will provide updates to many of these events in the near future.

15 January 2009

Back in Romania

It's been a while since we have added anything substantial to this blog. The main reason for this is that we had been stuck living in the US for almost two years and - for many different reasons - the opportunities which we had to be actively involved with ministry were few and far between.

As of 5 Nov 2008, however, we are back to living in Craiova, Romania and we have plunged headfirst back into ministry, working with both our church, proDEO, and the student ministry, OSCEC.

Instead of just being here for a short amount of time, though, (yes, 6 months is a short amount of time for us) our hope and prayer is that we are finally back to stay. Ever since Raluca and I were forced to move to the US in 2001, we have felt that it was God's will for us to eventually come back to Craiova to serve him here. We believe that he has been using the 7 years in which we lived and worked in America to prepare us for the ministry which he has planned for us here in Romania now.

We'll be updating this page semi-regularly with updates on the various ministries in which we are involved here in Romania. We will also share more general prayer requests and occasionally offer up commentary on other matters of faith.