On the road throughout Europe

24 Sep, 2015 | International
OM International
Bus4Life is part of a church service in Romania.
From helping trafficked victims on the streets of Budapest to working with churches and school children in the Romanian countryside, and from traversing highways to little country roads, OM Europe’s Bus4Life rolls on, loaded with  literature about the one true Life-giver and providing hope and fun events wherever it goes.

“The main idea behind the ministry is to come alongside local churches and OM teams in the Eastern part of Europe,” said Esko Maki-Soini (Finland), the Bus4Life director. “With the bus as an added attraction, it is easier for the churches and OM teams to organise special events in order to bless their local communities. Through this ministry a large number of Bibles, Christian books and CDs have been distributed and numerous conversations taken place.”

Esko spent a few years in Eastern Europe during the Communist era when the Bible and Christian literature had to be smuggled in. To watch the major changes—the fall of the so-called Iron Curtain, the new opening towards the West and the enormous opportunities it brought—Esko also realised the need for continued ministry to the local churches.

“At the time, the churches were overwhelmed with the new openness,” he shares. “Today, this is no longer news, but the need to reach out with the Gospel is certainly still there.”

Recognisable in Hungary

In Hungary, the school children were excited as they recognised the large bus. From the previous visit they remembered the programme where puppets were used to share the true story of Christmas, not to mention the gifts they had received.

Over 2,300 children and more than 200 teachers received CDs and booklets with the message of Christ. Over the years, through prayer and the work of the Lord, the relationship with the school has grown, said Esko. The same is true for many of the 25 institutions Bus4Life visited.

In another ministry opportunity, Christmas became special for women in prostitution in Budapest when they were invited into the bus, which was festively decorated with a Christmas tree, ornaments and even a guitar-playing Santa. A local church provided gifts of chocolates, cosmetics, Bibles, Christian books and calendars.

A partner organisation working with Bus4Life, called Table 22 ministry, regularly reaches out to the girls on the streets. Bus4Life helped provide a warm and safe shelter for chats and coffee, offering counselling and the possibility of meeting with a social worker. Many felt alone and abandoned, and God was often the topic of conversation. The team tried to comfort, encourage and share the Father’s love as an answer to the cries of their hearts.

The team also ministered in a small village, working with the local church there for the first time. They held an event, complete with a puppet show, crafts and Hungarian folk games, geared toward families in the local park alongside the Bus4Life.

“It was quite a small event,” said one OM Hungary team member, “but the pastor was encouraged by the working together of the church members, and he has invited the team back to help in future events.

“For us as OM Hungary, this is so encouraging, as it is part of our vision for the Hungarian Church: for us to be partners, helpers and encouragers to the many pastors in small churches throughout Hungary.”

Encouragement in Ukraine and Romania

When Bus4Life visited 10 small towns in western Ukraine, 1,000 Bibles and Christian books were sold. A Christian publisher commented that these sales had helped them survive financially in the midst of the crisis in the country.

The bus was also part of a family summer holiday camp in the Rivne area. Each day for a week, a different church hosted Bus4Life in a camp, totalling over 1,400 participants reached by the ministry. Fun family activities took place alongside a Bible lesson and a Gospel presentation. The churches were ready to serve and share about God; one church decided to do a mini-version of the camp every other week in the same park throughout the summer. For another church, the outreach served as a kick-off to a three-day family weekend.

In Hateg, Romania, youth from a local church sang next to the bus, which created an opportunity for the team to hand out fliers and New Testaments. A doctor joined the outreach and performed over 150 glucose tests and countless blood pressure screenings. The team sold Christian literature and gave away hundreds of Christian booklets to children and teens.

Sunday school classes visited the Bus4Life to hear about OM’s ship, Logos Hope, in the context of the Bible story of Noah.

“[This resulted in] many children getting a real passion for missions,” said Raluca Cardos, with OM Romania. “The staff also met with several youth interested in joining short term missions. The Bus4Life helped provide opportunities for the church to reach out, and their enthusiasm was an inspiration for the OM team.”

In January 2016, a second bus will be ready to hit the road, and the first bus will retire in December after many years of faithful service.

Please pray for the ministry to bring the hope of Christ to those who have not heard, as well as encouragement and support to local pastors and churches and OM teams across Eastern Europe.

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