Greetings from a country where a man sentenced definitively to a two-year prison term may be about to become prime minister! That seems to be politics as usual here in Romania... Yet Psalm 11 still gives us the right perspective: "if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven; his eyes see...."
Yes, it has been more than two years now: the Lord by His gracious hand, using also His people in the process, has sustained and we trust that He will continue to do so. It is a busy time - but when is it not!?! Church life at Jina is quite demanding nowadays, with Christmas, New Year, as well as the annual prayer week starting on Jan 1 this time. All four of us are involved with the children's Sunday School and the Christmas play we are going to present on Christmas Day during the evening service. Alex and Adora lead the songs on instruments (Alex and the guitar, Adora on the keyboard), Ana directs the acting, and I lead the carol singing between the spoken parts. Though we've had around 60 kids show up for rehearsals recently, we expect well over 100 to come on Christmas evening, as they all expect a present. Please pray the message of Christmas will be clearly communicated, and that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin - the reason we actually have Christmas, and enables sinners to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord.
A more formal adult leadership training is in the works, though I would ask for prayer that those the Lord has in plan would actually commit. I am planning on going through The Nine Marks, one chapter per month. It is a challenge for many to commit to read one chapter over the course of a month, as reading is not a strength in a community where the most schooled of the leaders has a 6th grade education, and where they seem so caught up in trying to make a living. Many are away for months at a time, working either abroad or in other parts of Romania, coming home for a week or so, and then leaving again... Please pray the Lord puts this on the hearts of at least a few of them.
If some are dreaming of a white Christmas, I (and all of us) am dreaming of a ... warm church. We replaced the windows this summer, and that has helped, yet we are having a way colder winter that started earlier this year. Ever since we started at Jina in Nov 2014 we have been somewhat cold in church, yet this year is worse. The initial outside church insulation was poorly done, the heating elements are insufficient, the stove cannot manage the space it needs to heat even when we turn off the downstairs part of the building, and the tiles on the cement floor serve as cooling elements.... The temps at night drop into the teens (F), and fire is made only on Wednesday afternoon (for the evening service) and Sunday early morning for the day- the floor tiles never get a chance to warm up, and our feet are usually cold the whole time we are in church. Not complaining, just sharing my dream of a warm church. Spiritually warm as well, yet literally this time. I hope to have a specialist come and give us an idea of what could be done to address the immediate situation at least.
My role connected to Timotheus Biblical University is more demanding right now, as I need to complete a few articles in a short amount of time. I also need to continue working on courses, so more time needed...
Closer to home, there are again health challenges - we would appreciate your prayer for health and strength. Ana continues teaching and supervising the children, beside her many other roles. Alex has been accepted at Cedarville University (IN) and at Liberty University (VA) - we are now looking at scholarship and the means to enable him to start in August of 2017. Both Alex and Adora are busy right now with exams. As far as the house, it has been good, though the heating system needs some more work and adjustments, and other things inside and out ... Winter has caught us early this year, with sustained low temperatures, so we are confined to inside projects whenever we get to them. Please remember us in prayer that the Lord grants us what we need to accomplish His will and our mission here. We really could not do it without you, so we thank the Lord for each one who shares in any way in this ministry.
Alex and Adora had their Christmas recital with the choir at Betania Sibiu (they have been part of this choir for almost two years now) - here is the address/link to the service (if later, you could search the archives for the evening service on Dec 18, 2016): http://betaniasibiu.ro/media/liveb/
Also, they have posted some blogs on our site, if you wanted to check that out: www.daaaromania.org
This Sunday we celebrate both Christ's birth and His resurrection - may His celebration bring joy and transformation to us all and to many others.
In Christ's love and service,
Dan & Ana, Alex and Adora Istrate