Couple focuses on evangelism, church plantingcomment (0)
May 15, 2014
By Bob Terry
Cameron Armstrong spends most of his days in parks. Most mornings he runs 5 or 6 miles through a string of city parks in the university area of Bucharest where he lives. But the important time he spends in parks is later in the day when he attempts to start spiritual conversations with students and others who come to the park to relax or pass the time of day.
On the day I visited the park with Armstrong, he took me to a specific bench. We sat for a few moments as dozens of people young and old leisurely meandered by. Few seemed in a hurry. The park with its green space, small lakes and unhurried pace provides a break from the hustle and bustle of a city with more than 3 million people.
Armstrong points across the way to a grassy area under a large tree. “Right over there I had a Bible study with a man for several weeks. We sat on a blanket and I taught him the Bible. I thought he would become a Christian but then he just stopped coming,” he said. “There are a lot of experiences like that here.”
Armstrong’s assignment through the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) Journeyman program is evangelism and church planting. He worships weekly in Agape Church, a church plant that recently became an official church. In Romania, a church must have at least 21 members to be considered an official church. Many of the members of Agape Church are young and are attracted by the church’s upbeat worship style.
“I try and get some of the church members to come to the park with me, so we can talk with others about Jesus,” Armstrong said. “My job is not only to talk to people about Jesus but to disciple others so they can do it when I am not around.”
Armstrong shared that he was hesitant to initiate spiritual conversations with total strangers when he first arrived in Bucharest almost two years ago. “But you learn to read their faces,” he said. “You can almost tell which ones are open to a conversation.
“That is what I want to help teach the people in my church,” he emphasized. “They can learn to share the gospel just like I do.”
Armstrong and other IMB workers use a series of five questions to initiate and guide their conversations.
Richard Clark, leader of the IMB Bucharest missions team, said inevitably there will be a time when a spiritual element surfaces and the conversation can be turned toward spiritual topics.
“We never emphasize we are Baptists. Our goal is to introduce them to the Lord Jesus, not to Baptists,” Clark said. “If we can get them into a Bible study, then we have a chance to tell them about how Jesus died for their sins.”
Generally the name Baptist is a put-off to Romanians. Clark said to be Romanian is to be Eastern Orthodox in the minds of many. The Orthodox Church is seen as the door to heaven, so many identify with the Orthodox even if they never participate in the church.
“That’s why we ask people to read the Bible and see what the Bible says. We don’t debate them about denominations, just what the Bible says,” Clark added.
Still IMB workers report numerous on-going conversations that may last for weeks. Armstrong explained that after the first conversation it is customary to ask if the individual is open to a second meeting. If so, the two will meet again, usually on the same bench in the park.
“Coming to the park is a regular part of the day for many of these people,” he said. “They have a set routine, so you will see the same people sitting on the same bench at the same time day after day.”
Clark said one of the important roles IMB workers play is helping national Christians learn to share their faith personally in a natural manner. “If we can help Romanian Christians learn how to do personal witnessing we will have made a contribution to the kingdom of God here,” he said.
Armstrong and his wife, Jessica, have nearly completed their two-year Journeyman tour. They will return to the United States this summer and are on a fast track to be reappointed as career workers.
“The Lord used this time in Romania to confirm our call to missions,” he said. “We look forward to investing our lives to help reach Romania for Christ.”