New Bethlehem’s Leatherwood Church Completes Week of Service in Romania
The team, the first of three consecutive teams from Leatherwood who will travel to Romania throughout July, found themselves immersed in a multitude of activities ranging from hosting a vacation Bible school to performing work at a church camp for children and teens.
The trip was coordinated by Leatherwood Pastor, Doug Henry, and Romanian resident missionaries Daniel and Maria Hurrelbrink of Barnabas Ministries. Daniel is a graduate of Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School and has called Romania home since 1992.
The partnership between Leatherwood and the Hurrelbrinks dates back to even before Henry was hired as the pastor of Leatherwood in 2005. While that support was monetary in nature, Henry and his congregation decided to increase the church’s involvement in Romania by sending a mission team to the country in 2016.
The team that just completed their work was the first team from Leatherwood to return to Romania since that first visit three years ago. According to Henry, the trip served the purpose he hoped that it would.
“This first trip back was great and we got to really experience their ministry to kids and teen in Sebis,” explained Henry. “Even though we had to endure traveling for two days and sickness, it was well worth the effort of coming. It was good to see God use some of the members of our team who were on a mission trip for the first time.”
Two members of the team were completing mission work for the first time.
While mission work outside of one’s own country can undoubtedly be outside of the comfort zone for many, Henry was impressed with how well the nine-man team created friendships while in Romania.
“The first team really did an amazing job of forming bonds with the local children and teenagers.”
The focus of the mission work that the team completed was a three-day kids camp which is comparable to America’s version of vacation Bible schools. The camp, which lasted roughly 5-6 hours per day, was organized and coordinated by Heather Gourley. Gourley, who owns Little Bird Preschool in New Bethlehem also had two of her five daughters, Sam and Megan, by her side to help with the camp each day.
“I thought it was fun,” said Gourley about the three-day camp. “The language barrier was intimidating at first but once I got used to working with the interpreters it worked out well. The language barrier was the biggest obstacle but I feel like I was still able to make connections with kids and pour into their lives. It just took a little extra effort.”
Each day of camp consisted of games, Bible lessons, lunch, and crafts.
On the final day, all of the kids in attendance had the chance to cool off in the Romanian heat with a fun water day.
Henry was very excited to report that eight children in the camp chose salvation for the first time.
While the Gourleys were opening up the camp, Henry and Leatherwood Youth Pastor, Ray Shreckengost, spearheaded a second group that split their time between helping at the kids camp and working at the Hurrelbrink’s church camp preparing it for the camps that would be taking place in the upcoming weeks.
The team spent the day mowing grass, raking, picking up apples from the orchard, and performing other routine maintenance work to prepare the camp for the busy weeks to come. Henry was quick to point out that although the members of the team may not see the immediate impact the camp clean up had, it will be readily apparent in the coming weeks.
“They spent a good amount of time investing in work they won’t see the fruits of by getting the camp in Laz ready for the camps the next two teams will host,” explained Henry. “The first team put in a lot of physically and emotionally draining days, and I know the Lord is going to reward their efforts.”
Shreckengost explained how it was special to be able to help clean up the camp as a team as opposed to Daniel Hurrelbrink doing it by himself which is the regular practice.
“The behind the scenes work at camp is extremely time-consuming for one to two people to undertake,” explained Shrekengost. “It is extremely necessary, however, to make certain that all of the kids have a great experience at camp. It was very rewarding to be able to see the finished product.”
In addition to the camp and work, the team also had the opportunity to provide box loads of toys to children at a local preschool.
The team even made an effort to teach some of the locals the game of American football. Following a youth group session with teens and young adults, the large group overtook a nearby soccer stadium to take a stab at teaching American football.
Ray Shreckengost III, a rising sophomore on the Bulldogs’ football team, said it was evident that the teens had not ever played American football, and it appeared as if they had never watched the game, either.
“It was like teaching a young group of kids how to play football for the very first time,” joked Shreckengost. “With multiple passes taking place on each possession, it turned into an interesting game.”
Although the summer’s work for Leatherwood in Romania is only one-third of the way complete, Henry could not be happier with how the first trip back to the country turned out for his team and is looking forward to growing the relationship between New Bethlehem and Romania.
“I would really love to see our area churches and organizations adopt this ministry and this town in Romania,” concluded Henry.
“There is so much good we can do there and for them with our time, talents and money. I would love to see multiple teams of people going over each summer to help with Barnabas Ministries and Dan and Maria Hurrelbrink.”
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