The old white van caused excitement when it passed a girl walking on the road with her grandmother.
The girl cried out, “It’s them; it’s them!” recognizing the OM van as it continued on its way to the river that lay beyond Zaluceni, an out-of-the-way village in northern Moldova. Several OMers rode inside, bringing kitchen and camp supplies for OM Moldova’s “River Outreach” team. The rest of the team arrived by raft on the river later that evening.
Zaluceni is a quiet village where little of interest happens. There are no evangelical churches or believers here, or in the larger surrounding region. Each summer, OM outreach teams visit in faith that this will change.
The next morning, the River Outreach team met in the field where they would lead the children’s program. Eagerly waiting, a crowd had already gathered, of not just children but parents, grandparents, youth and other curious villagers.
“Ever since hearing of your arrival yesterday evening, my granddaughter has been so excited, she couldn’t wait for morning to come!” a woman said.
And another insisted, “My girl didn’t want to eat breakfast. She didn’t want to lose any time coming to the field; she was so afraid of missing something!”
While OM Moldova is eagerly welcomed in many places throughout the country, that welcome is tangibly stronger in small villages along the river, like this one. OM’s teams witness the children’s joy and excitement, their parents’ gratitude, the openness of most local authorities, and a general thirst for God that leaves the teams amazed and humbled.
“We are waiting for this all year,” a woman explained from the green field near Zaluceni. “There is really nothing for the children here, and nobody comes to offer them anything like what you do.”
The excitement of games, bouncy castles and face-painting is not all that the children take away from the annual program. They remember Bible verses and songs from earlier years, and they respond to questions with a surprising understanding of gospel truths learned from previous teams.
The children of Zaluceni watched and listened, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, as the River Outreach team talked about the crucifixion, using an illustration where water was turned brown, then made clear again to demonstrate how Jesus’ death can make us clean from sin.
As this was happening, a team member overheard a conversation between two onlookers who were paying close attention. One woman seemed ready to believe the truth of it all. But her companion was skeptical. “How can that be possible—dying and coming to life again? Being freed from sin? We are not able to be holy, we’re too sinful!” she protested.
“Listen, they are telling you how it’s possible: through Jesus!” the first woman encouraged. The friend tried to dissuade her, insisting there is no way we can be clean from sin. Just then the illustration came to a close. The dirty water returned to a clear state, the children all gasped in amazement, and for the skeptical woman it was the remaining confirmation she needed.
“It is true!” she exclaimed with conviction. “We can be made clean!”
OM Moldova increasingly focuses its ministry on the least-reached areas of the country with the intention of establishing more local ministry teams: small teams of local workers who will live in unreached local communities for several years and help plant churches in these regions.
The spiritual openness and thirst among Moldovans is an opportunity OM wants to meet. The prayers and other support of OM partners are essential in bringing hope and salvation where this good news is welcome.