Hope Center Purcarj, Moldova – 2019
God can use an Afghanistan War veteran to work with kids...
The first thing you notice when you meet Ivan is his fatherly goodness. You can see it in his kind face. And then his handshake follows–large hands that tell you that they’ve done a lot of work in his lifetime. He invites us to come in and have lunch, and although today is not an “official” working day at the hope center, there are still children here. They come in any time of the week because they feel safe and loved. Ivan knows what their life is like in families broken by poverty and sin. He grew up on the streets of Purcarj. “I’ve played on the dusty streets of Purcarj just as these children do today”, he says. You would never guess he was an Afghanistan war veterean who almost lost control over his life when God found him and changed him, using Ivan today for a great ministry in Moldova.
There are only 4,000 people left in Purcarj, and many still travel from village to find jobs. Some never return, leaving their children unattended, and others do return but spend all the money they earn for alcohol and drugs. And then there are “normal” parents, who don’t drink and genuinely try to care for their children, but there really isn’t enough to feed so many children if you do not have a job. Perhaps you would say that there is no hope in Purcarj, and that would be true — If there wasn’t a Hope Center at the local evangelical church, where the believers have made it their ministry to care for these children who have no hope in their lives.
Three times per week about 30-50 children come right after school to do their homework, to get a good hot meal, and to play on the new playground in the yard. Sister Lida teaches them Bible lessons, and Shenya (Ivan’s wife) is the “super cook”! The kids love the food she prepares for them.
Once a month on a Saturday, they host a day camp for 70-100 kids, and in the summer, they conduct Summer Camps for up to 100. Camp ministry is one of the most effective ways to reach out to children. Even parents are glad to see that the local Christian cares for their children and spends time with them teaching them good things. On regular Saturdays, they conduct special workshops to teach skills and crafts (like cooking and knitting for the girls) and on Sundays all the children participate in the church Service.
15-year-old Valerya conquered our hearts with her smile. She found a place of shelter and people who care in the Hope Center, but even more importantly she learned about Jesus who loves her and who is always there for her needs–because He lives! Valerya accepted Jesus. Today her mother also attends the small church that runs the Hope Center. Jesus has become the true meaning and purpose of Valerya’s life. When we asked her what her greatest desire was, she said, “ I want to see Jesus!”
Quite a few parents started going to church because their children are regular attendees of the Hope center. It is still a small church with only about 30 people in attendance, but Ivan tells us that there are many more people interested but ashamed to walk over the doorstep of an evangelical church.
“Just like myself, years ago,” he says. He was too ashamed of his lifestyle that he was afraid of coming to church. He had served in the Afghanistan war over two years. Wounded and traumatized he became a heavy alcoholic when he returned to Moldova. Despite that, he met and married his wife and soon after their son was born, but Ivan could not find a way back into normal life. His wife’s grandmother was a believer and used to tell him about the Bible, but it only upset him and he hated her for it. When his wife came to know Christ in 1990, he could not accept that either, and yet he was far too proud to admit that he was longing for what she had found.
Then he met another war veteran who had become a believer. Ivan talked to him and told him of his desire and embarrassment when it came to attending church. “No problem,” said the man, “I will go with you”. When Ivan arrived at the church, he was overwhelmed by the love of the believers. He finally gave his heart to Jesus, and in 2009 he went back to serve as a missionary in his home village of Purcarj. The church there had only three members at that time.
“Some people ask me where I take strength and power from to just keep going, “ Ivan told us. “Because there is the ministry in the church and in the Hope Center. There is my family with several foster kids my wife and care for, and then we built the new church building with Bible Mission with the Hope Center…but I just know that God gave me the task to do all of this. It’s His work, and He always provided. When we started building the Hope Center, we didn’t have a cent, bue we had God!” and then he adds, “ We just have to serve the children of Purcarj. I know what it’s like to grow up here. They need a future, because they are our future!”
Thank you for your support for the Hope Center in Purcarj, Moldova, and for giving Children (and parents a chance to find hope in the living God!
– Beate Peters, Bible Mission Germany
Bible Mission Global
U.S. Executive Director
5600 Wyoming Blvd.NE #180
Albuquerque, NM 87109