Three years ago, I met a young man named Bogdan at one of the camps for the Romanian ministry at which I am now serving (Joshua Project World Ministries.) Like the other youth at this camp, Bogdan was infected with HIV as a young child at either a hospital or clinic and had experienced ridicule, abandonment, and rejection due to contracting the disease. As a result, Bogdan was understandably sad, hard-hearted, and mostly...angry. I remember looking at him and thinking that it was an impossible situation. However, I was quickly reminded that we serve a God that makes the impossible, possible. Throughout the week, the truth about God's love and Christ's sacrifice was shared, however, it seemed that nothing penetrated Bogdan's heart. So hard was his heart, that I cried out for him one morning during our team prayer session. I weeped as I pleaded with God to soften and change what seemed to be a stone instead of a heart.
This is picture of the Bogdan I met three years ago. In this picture I see the tough, angry young man I met. What I mainly see are eyes that lack joy, hope, and most of all, love.
Regardless of what it looked like on the outside, the team and I could not see what God was doing on the inside. Over the course of the next two years, God continued to grow the seed that was placed in Bogdan from that camp in 2007, slowly breaking down walls and softening the exterior. Six months ago, Bogdan made a decision to give God control of his life, and three weeks ago, Bogdan was baptized.
This is the Bogdan I know today. This picture was taken last week at our first camp of the summer. In this young man, I see the peace, hope, and love that was missing three years ago. In this young man, I see my fellow brother in Christ. A radiant Bogdan attended camp last week. My heart was overjoyed as I watched him laugh with and hug others, but also cry as he prayed for the other young men and women at camp, asking God to change their lives as well.
Bogdan is making incredible strides in his new life with Christ. Not only is he faithful in attending the church plant that has started in our center, but he has cut off all ties with his former life and is surrounding himself with others that are choosing to live for God as well. He has even published a website at which others can learn about God. It's written in Romanian, but I would like to invite you to check out the incredible work of this young man: http://invatadespredumnezeu.com
I asked Bogdan if I could share his story for two reasons. Primarily, I want you to know the importance and value in sharing the Gospel, as well as the summer camps we conduct at Joshua Project World Ministries. Just because you may not see fruit from your labor, God is clear in Isaiah 55:10-11 that His word will not return void. It says,
"As the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
Secondly, I want you to pray for our brother, Bogdan. He is a brave, young man who is choosing to live opposite to the world around him. The world says that he is worthless because he has HIV and that it is hopeless to believe in a God that you cannot see. Even if he wasn't infected, the outlook of Romanians in general is dim. Recently, the government has increased taxes (for the umpteeth time,) even taxing bank accounts. They've sliced the wages of non-governmental works 30% this last month, and there are rumors of taking away the pensions of disabled children, like those infected with HIV. Without this pension, many of them will have no source of income at all.
So I beseech you to pray. Pray for Bogdan. Pray that he would be strengthened and encouraged by others around him. Pray that God would raise up other Christian men to walk along side of him. Pray that he would grow in boldness and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Most of all, pray for his protection. His, and our adversary, the devil wants to destroy his life. He may not be able to have Bogdan's soul anymore, but he wants nothing more to make him ineffective for the Kingdom of God to the point of robbing Bogdan of everything he has...even life. So we must pray.
I hope this testimony of God's work encourages you and increases your own faith in the things you've been praying for. Know that God is always at work and that your prayers DO have an impact. If you are a follower of Christ, you have the ability through Jesus, to stand in the throne room of God when you pray. James 5:16 says, "...The prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective."
So let's do it, let's be effective!