My 20 years in WV are drawing to an end – The Early years
It was the summer of 1995. For a year already I had been back to Romania from my theological studies in London. I was teaching theology and hermeneutics, and leading research at what became later the Emmanuel University in Oradea. I was travelling there across the country, for twelve hours by train, East to West, for a week to ten days every month. I had also started working, part-time, on my doctorate, on a theme of Eastern Orthodox theology. It was an exciting time, as we were trying to establish what we hoped will become, in time, one of the best evangelical theological schools in Europe.
Out of the blue, I have received an email message (yes, we already had email at that time!) from Charlie Dokmo, a former Navigator missionary in Eastern Europe, whom I met some time before the fall of communism. He was then the National Director (ND) of World Vision (WV) Romania and was trying to get together an Advisory Board. In view of our common Navigator past, he invited me to join this board. As I have found out many years later, my name was suggested to Charlie by another Navigator colleague, Chris Shore, who was for a few years a missionary under cover in Romania, doing a master’s programme at a Romanian university.
I must confess I knew nothing about WV at that time, but knowing Charlie and reading the documents he sent me I became interested and I joined the board. We were, at the beginning, three Baptists (Rev. Petru Dugulescu, Ioan Peia and myself) and three Orthodox (Fr. Vasile Mihoc, Dr, Pavel Chirila and Dr. Ioan Bocsan). You should have seen how stiff we were at the first meetings, each group sticking together on opposite sides of the table. Yet, in less than a year we became good friends and, by God’s grace, we were able to do together great things.
I remember with great fondness a board retreat we have organised at an Orthodox monastery in Paltinis, near Sibiu. It was really cold and it took some plum brandy and plenty of wood burning to warm us up, but it was worth it. It was really a ‘dreaming dreams’ exercise, with deep discussions, prayer and lots of laughter. It was there that we drafted many of the great things in which we were involved as a board in the coming years.
Among these, probably the most prominent were the three all Romanian churches gatherings that we have organised in Bucharest and Iasi, in 1999 and 2000, under the leadership of the new ND of WV Romania, my good friend Chris Shore. I think such a broadly ecumenical reunion has never happened in the 20 centuries history of the church in my country. I was for thirteen years a member of that group, nine of these while I was also working as a staff member of the regional WV team.
To be continued…