When the Lord builds a house…
What impresses me the most about Youth With A Mission (YWAM) here in Iasi is not what the Lord is doing through our Mission now, but what God has been doing in this place for over 25 years. Many of those who have spent time here have heard me share the story of this house. Let me write it down this time, so that the glory of our Lord might shine even brighter and for many more people to know how “He is building a house” in Iasi.
More than 25 years ago the place where YWAM Iasi is located today was bought by the 1st Baptist Church to house their pastor. It is a beautiful, cozy place which once belonged to Iasi Botanical Garden, a bit isolated from the city noise, but without public transportation closer than 15 minutes away. The Baptist pastor lived here and the other half of the house was bought by Doina and Costel Ghica, a wonderful family with 4 children from the Brethren Church, all very brave and committed people!
At this time in the house two risky and amazing things started to happen: a house church and a private business. This was totally unimaginable in these times as it was strictly forbidden to come together in private homes for religious services, and the whole economy was controlled by the communist state. Costel started a funeral services business and many Christian leaders from different evangelical churches who had lost their jobs due to their Christian convictions worked here sculpting marble for tombstones. They were actually preparing funerals for the communists! During this same time the small church was growing in Doina and Costel’s house. Scores of people, most of them intellectuals, students and artists got to know Christ, worship Him, got baptized and became His disciples in the very room which has become our present day classroom. These were the times when the evangelical Christians from different denominations came together for secret study and discipleship courses supported by the ministry of the Navigators. Bibles brought into the country with great risk were buried in the yard by these courageous Christians to hide them from the communist security forces.
The Baptist pastor eventually moved to another city. In 1992 one of the greatest Romanian pioneers of the evangelical faith, Marcu Nechifor, moved to Iasi and the 1st Baptist Church offered him half of the house. He was a person who could not be forgotten by those who met him, with a contagious love for Christ and for the gospel. His wife started a ministry for street people in their part of the house. It lasted for several years, with its share of ups and downs.
This house church also experienced an outpouring out of the Holy Spirit when the Lord spoke insistently to them through visions and prophecies. This kind of charismatic manifestation was not usual in their group, but they respected these “words of the Lord” and believed them. Then the Revolution came in 1989. This small church knew how to use the political freedom to make God’s Kingdom grow. Doina and Costel’s dining room was becoming insufficient for the growing church. In 1998 they rented a hall for worship and preaching the Word of the Lord. Today, this church still keeps growing and making disciples with the same commitment, enthusiasm and serious involvement in society.
At that time brother Marcu died and his wife moved away. The church had outgrown the house and the economic situation changed dramatically, so the Ghicas sold the property. Jonathan and Helene Tame, English missionaries and pioneers of YWAM in Romania, had already visited Doina and Costel Ghica once. They still remember how they felt during this first visit, that one day this property would belong to YWAM. When the house went up for sale the Tames bought it in part by selling Helene’s apartment in London. They transformed the whole house around the old dinning/meeting room. Together with Becca Albinston Dautermann, another YWAMer from New Zealand, Helene started a pro life ministry for many young, pregnant women who were single and without any support. YWAMers organized this home to offer a shelter for them and their babies. During 5 years 37 young mothers found support here and their babies were saved from abortion through this ministry. Some of them are still involved in our programs.
Becca went back to her country, Helene and Jonathan moved to Cluj, where they started a biblical worldview coffee house and then moved to Switzerland for another season in their ministry. In 2005, under the direction of Mari Blaj, the YWAM Iasi team decided to start the first Crossroads Discipleship Training School. We were looking to rent a house to run the school. It was exactly the time when the Tames were looking for someone to give the property to for ongoing ministry.
This was the beginning of the second season of YWAM Iasi. Since then we have run two Crossroads DTS for families and singles over 30 under the great leadership of Helga Nurnberger from Germany. We have sent 4 teams out on short mission trips to Morocco, Tunisia, Moldova, Siberia (Rep. Buriatia) and India. The ministry to single mothers continues to run, though with a different focus. We also run seminars, publish and distribute books, and have a counseling ministry.
The Lord is continuously enlarging His Kingdom by using this house. Hundreds of people pass by, ready to learn more, looking for help, thirsting for deeper understanding of truth, needing counseling or simply asking advice. 2006 was a difficult year for us when we canceled different projects, including a French DTS in summer and the Crossroads DTS in autumn. It felt like a year of failures; but deep inside we felt the Lord’s will was done. We do not say this as fatalism, but as a result of prayer and analysis.
The future is still in front of us. The ministry to single mothers turns to its 3rd phase (with the necessary adjustments) under the coordination of Annie Bievliet from France. This April a team of historians, put together by Mari Blaj and Nico Salcudean from YWAM Medias, will go for a research mission in Tunisia. In June we will start the first school of biblical worldview in Iasi – a longtime dream; and in autumn we will support the first DTS in the Republic of Moldova, in partnership with YWAM Kiev. Then in November Mirela Balteanu will lead an outreach from our base to Morocco. We are currently looking for a new manager for the publishing house. Next year will be a real turning point for us. Mari Blaj will resign as base leader and we are still praying for a couple who will take over and continue the vision of changing mentalities in this part of the world in various ways and methods.
We are sure you find enough subjects for praise and requests for prayer in this story. Look at this nice place! Think about this incredible “house story”, where physical, spiritual and eternal lives were saved. And come visit us. You are more than welcome!!!