As Paul Gericke and his wife, Tanya, prepare to serve in Romania there is only one word that comes to mind: excitement.
“We are excited about the real potential of a ministry in Romania, excited about believing in what God is going to do, and the fruit that is going to come from this,” Gericke, a Briercrest College and Seminary theology graduate, explained.
“Our heart is there, we are passionate about what is coming up, and we have a real passion to see hearts and lives change over there. I am also just so excited about what God is going to do in this whole process in terms of really changing my wife’s and my heart and our lives as we are able to serve in this way. I think the main thing is just excitement in terms of really being excited in the call that God has on our lives.”
It is a call that began several years ago for Gericke during a short-term, Grade 8, missions trip to Romania.
“There was a team that was going from my church, so as a 13-year-old kid I jumped on that team. I was probably too young to really go on that trip and appreciate it, but I fell in love with the country. Even at a young age I felt like God was saying there would be some significant work down the road there for me,” he explained.
“So I kept going back after that. I went back right after high school and have taken a number of teams since then, so it’s just been this progression. My heart was there right from the start and my heart has been there ever since and I have really wanted to see that continue on.”
While Gericke has always had a heart for Romania, he admits he never considered he and his wife would be serving there long term until a few years ago.
“About two years ago we just felt like God was calling us to a more significant role in Romania than just short-term trips. So we prayed about it, but weren’t totally sure what that looked like for us,” he explained.
“Then there was this camp property that was purchased about 13 years ago for the propose of running summer camps and sort of doing leadership development and doing Bible school like stuff in Romania, but they just haven’t been able to get it off the ground. So we really felt like that was really our calling and our role was to step in there and see that get started.”
Set to leave for Romania this September, the task of getting the camp up and running feels like a natural fit the couple, who have been running vocational Bible schools (VBS) and youth programs in Romania for the past few years.
“We would go into different villages in Romania and just spend anywhere between one to three days there just to run a couple of hours of VBS. I think it was really through that that my heart grew in understanding what camp ministry can do there,” he said.
“For example, say you are in a village for three days. The first day you have 25 kids out, the second day 40 kids out and then the third day 60 kids out. You can see this growth and momentum, which is neat. Then going back years later you see the kids who kept the crafts and the stories and you can just see that they really, really appreciate it and grew in that.”
Plus, Gericke added, camp ministry is a ministry that Romania desperately needs.
“Romanian people really do have a heart for young people, but you have pastors who are pastoring anywhere between five to 10 churches at a time, so they don’t have youth pastors, they don’t have summer camps, and a lot of churches wouldn’t even have Sunday school because the pastors don’t have time,” he said.
“There is just such a great horse games Kids games need for young people 17, 18, 19 years old to go and spend a significant amount of time studying the Bible and trying to figure out what it looks for them stepping into ministry or into their jobs whatever that might be. Those are just opportunities that a lot of young people in Romania just don’t have.”
Gericke and his wife are honoured to be a part of God’s plan for Romania and are excited to see what He is going to do within the new camp ministry.
“You look at summer camps that people have been associated with and the fruit that God allows to come out of that here in Canada. If you look, you can see how effective that ministry is. You also look at Christian environments like Briercrest and how effective of a ministry that is as well, just because students get to be in a Christian culture where they can be discipled and matured,” he explained.
“So we just feel like, man, this is going to be an incredible avenue for that in the country of Romania where that is just not really happening because of resources and their economic stand point. We just see a landscape in Romania where a camp like this is going to be huge in terms of development and growth for a lot of young people there.”
As Gericke prepares to head overseas with his wife, he is grateful for the time he spent studying and preparing for ministry at Briercrest.
“I feel like in a lot of ways being a theology student gave me a real good handle on biblical knowledge in terms of really loving the Word of God and really having a good grasp of what it means to be a disciple and what it means to preach about what it means to be disciple,” he said.
“And, of course, it helped to have the professors and be in relationship with them and understand how they processed what it means for them to be in ministry. That was huge in terms of just the preparation of walking into ministry. It gave me that kind of knowledge to walk in and have an understanding of what Jesus is calling us into as disciples and what it really means to surrender our lives to Him.”
As Gerickes move forward in setting up the camp ministry they are hoping to see thousands of lives changed for Christ.
“The goal is that once we step out of there in however many years that is, that there is a camp that is seeing thousands of kids coming to it in the summer where they are hearing about Jesus and being discipled,” he explained.