Ministry in Romania
The Revolutions of 1989 changed the world as we had known it since World War II had ended. The events began in Poland in the summer of ’89 and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Most of the changes came as a result of peaceful resistance but in Romania the overthrow and execution of their cruel dictator, Nicolai Ceausescu, was a violent uprising against the oppression these people had faced for decades.
Gene and Ethel had been ministering “under the radar” in Romania since 1982, smuggling in Bibles, money, and especially encouragement, to believers in Communist Romania. So when the Iron Curtain was torn in two at Christmas, 1989, they were among the first to begin an open work in Romania. Goodnews Outreach, GO. Inc. was incorporated in Feb. 1990 and the work began in earnest.
Goodnews Outreach was established “For religious, educational, charitable, benevolent, and eleemosynary purposes. It is our aim to promote the cause of world missions in evangelism, the teaching of Bible doctrines, and the training of others for religious service by supporting missionaries and national workers, building Bible schools and churches, engaging in religious broadcasting and distributing literature.”
The first open project in Romania was the distribution of approximately 60.000 Romanian bibles in this country where Bibles had been illegal for many years. But that was only the first of many colossal efforts in this country. During the years 1990-1995 countless shipments of Bibles, humanitarian aid in the form of medicine and medical supplies, educational materials, and funds, poured into Romania through Goodnews Outreach. We took overhead projectors to every medical school in the country and boxes of up-to-date medical books were given to each of these schools. We had printed a custom designed medical dictionary/New Testament that was given to every medical student in Romania!
During these years, Bill and Arlene Zawko served as resident missionaries in Romania representing GO in this vital work. The work and projects in Romania during these years were so many and varied, it is difficult to recount all that was done. Villages received the gospel through evangelistic crusades that were held in civic and cultural buildings. These crusades lasted several days and included the showing of The Jesus Film in Romanian on a large screen for public viewing. Hundreds accepted Christ as personal Savior due to this effort. GO partnered with Life Water International in a well-drilling project that established a well in each village along with the evangelistic effort. This gave clean drinking water that was accessible to the villagers…along with the Water of Life that we gave.
There were also efforts in child evangelism, teachers training, instruction in two Bible schools that were established after 1990, small group Bible studies, and the establishment of an English speaking church that was well-attended by college students who were vitally interested in knowing more about the outside world. One of the most vital efforts of GO was the financial support given to struggling congregations in the building, rebuilding, and establishment of churches after the long years of communism in this country. Other forgotten groups, such as Gypsies, orphans, prisoners, and the hospitalized were not forgotten. Projects involving all these sub-cultures were initiated.
After 1995, the efforts of Goodnews Outreach broadened and were no longer as needed or as focused on the country of Romania. But we can never forget the vital/front-line work that was our beginning.