The sheer will to help defies the threat of war
It feels as though the war is closing in. Yet the people already have so little to live on. Despite their own hardship, however, the people in the Republic of Moldova are helping Ukrainian refugees in any way they can. This is the situation of the brothers and sisters whom the Chief Apostle will be visiting this weekend.
The small country, which lies directly on the border with Ukraine, has a population of around 2.5 million. “With the beginning of the war, hundreds of thousands of refugees arrived,” reports Apostle Vasile Cone, who looks after the New Apostolic Christians in Moldova.
“The solidarity with the refugees from Ukraine is incredible.” And the New Apostolic Christians are helping where they can. “Our brothers and sisters share everything, even though they don’t have much themselves: shelter, food, clothing,” Apostle Cone relates. Dozens of people have found shelter with families and in church buildings.
A support network helps refugees
Aid was distributed at the Church’s own day care centre in Răzeni. The team there, together with the Church’s social service, looks after around 80 to 90 Ukrainian refugees every day. They not only receive basic necessities, but also receive psychological support. Children receive additional educational support and school materials.
The New Apostolic helpers in Moldova are not alone in this: support comes from New Apostolic members from all over Europe and from the New Apostolic relief agencies, especially NAK-Humanitas and NAK-Diakonia in Switzerland. The New Apostolic Christians in the Republic of Moldova are structurally part of the Regional Church of Switzerland. So help in the way of money and logistics comes above all from the affiliated charities of these two organisations. They not only fund aid projects of local organisations in Moldova, but also help New Apostolic families in Romania and Moldova who are looking after people in and from Ukraine.
The people’s readiness to help has met with a response: “Officials from Ukraine expressed their heartfelt thanks for the commitment of New Apostolic Christians and for welcoming refugees,” Apostle Cone reported.
Fear of war at home
Despite all the commitment, there is also fear in the Republic of Moldova. Fear that the war could spill over into Moldova. For decades there have been tensions with Russia, which continually threaten to destabilise the small country.
This goes back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 when Moldova also became independent. One region did not break away from the former Soviet Union at the time: Transdniestria. The self-proclaimed republic is under Russian influence and Russian soldiers have been stationed there since the early 1990s. Transdniestria, a separatist enclave in Moldova, has its own government, administration, currency, and military. But so far, no international organisation recognises the breakaway state as a sovereign state.
The missile strikes of the Russo-Ukrainian war are very close to the Moldovan border. And the Russian government is threatening to intervene if the security of Russian troops in the separatist enclave of Transdniestria is not guaranteed. The Apostle reports of families and young people leaving the country for Romania and Western Europe out of concern what might happen in the future.
Forty congregations in Moldova
This is the tense situation that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will get a feel for when he visits the country on 26 and 27 November. “The visit of our Chief Apostle is an event that the small flock in Moldova has been waiting for for a long time,” says Apostle Cone about the 4,100 Church members.
There have been New Apostolic Christians in Moldova for 30 years now. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Moldova declared its independence, the New Apostolic Church also had its first contact with the country. There were some people who had shown an interest in the Church so that ministers from neighbouring Romania came to Moldova in 1991 to conduct divine services.
A year later, Apostle Rudolf Kainz from Austria visited the country and dispensed the sacrament of Holy Sealing to 34 people in Chișinău, the capital of the country, thereby establishing the first New Apostolic congregation. Today there are about 40 congregations in the country, divided into four districts. Bishop Stefan Gavriliuc looks after them.
Seeing faith grow
Two divine services are planned: one on Saturday, 26 November in Orhei and another one a day later, the first Sunday of Advent, in Chișinău. A concert is planned for Saturday for which the young people have been practising for a while. Afterwards, an opportunity for joint discussions is planned. “I am sure that the visit will mean a special blessing for our faith and our personal lives,” said Apostle Cone.
The Apostle speaks of his brothers and sisters in Moldova with the greatest respect: “As an Apostle, it always gives me joy to see how faith, love, and hope bear fruit here, despite the insecurity and poverty. The difficulties, worries, and hardships have not made the faith smaller, but I have actually been able to watch it grow.”