Just as our slogan implies, The Philippian Fellowship is focused on being a bridge into Eastern Europe, and thereby connecting believers to one another. In 1999, the Lord brought Roland Lussier, a businessman, and Jon Bubar, then a missionary with Word of Life serving in the Czech Republic, together at a local diner in Waldoboro, Maine. Both of these men discovered that they shared a common burden, a burden for pastors in Eastern Europe. Many of these well-trained men of God had to work one or two jobs to be able to be in the ministry. It cost fifty to sixty thousand dollars to place a US missionary in Eastern Europe. While these folks have a great love to serve the Lord, most do not speak the language or know the culture and often stay a short time and return home. Jon and Roland felt that the fifty to sixty thousand dollars could make ten to twenty of the national pastors full time. They began to pray, dream, and plan. They soon came up with a plan to link churches in Eastern Europe with churches in the US in a sister church relationship centered on mutual prayer, encouragement, and financial assistance.
They were soon joined in this new ministry by Jeff Norton, a retired military helicopter pilot, who had lived and served in Europe. On a snowy day in Bremen, Maine in late 1999, The Eastern European Pastor’s Fund was born. First Baptist Church in Waldoboro was approached and asked to consider becoming the pilot church for this new ministry. The church whole-heartedly embraced this idea sharing prayer requests, pastoral support, training as well as work team and financial support with several churches in the Czech Republic. Thus began a wonderful relationship that has been a blessing to both churches.
New missions are always learning and growing. The name was changed to The Philippian Fellowship in March of 2005 to better communicate our mission and to allow for the growth of the ministry to other parts of the world, as the Lord would direct. We soon found ourselves called to minister to pastors and churches in Hungary and Romania. The Lord continues to broaden the scope of our missions as we have recently begun to minister to an orphanage and an abortion rescue ministry in Romania. Changes are always coming as the Lord directs. The Philippian Fellowship is currently guided by a 7-member board of directors.
The purpose of The Philippian Fellowship, shall be to solicit and provide various means of support and encouragement to Evangelical Pastors, churches, or ministry leaders who are currently serving in various countries, and who meet the criteria for sponsorship as established by The Philippian Fellowship. This will be accomplished by fostering a close relationship between the sponsoring church or individuals and the pastor, church, or ministry leader being sponsored. This support shall include, but not be limited to: the financial support, prayer support, technical assistance, counseling, training, and encouragement, as required to allow a pastor, church, or ministry leader to either initially pursue or enhance their ability to effectively minister within the developing nation.
THE SITUATION AT HAND
After fifty years of Communist oppression, the church in Eastern Europe is finally free, but what will they do with this new-found freedom? Enrollment in their seminaries is down, and with the super-heated economies of the eastern block nations racing to catch up with the European Union, many ministers are forced to choose careers in the secular market. For a relatively small amount of support, pastors like the ones seen here can be fully funded. For a relatively small amount of time, church leaders can be encouraged to a biblical method of outreach and church health.
The Christianity that emerged from the ashes of communism is not soaring in the light of newfound freedom; rather it has become insular, almost afraid of the thought that someone may still be watching. It is the task of the pastors to embolden the faithful in the face of the most daunting obstacle of all… indifference. These brothers and sisters in Christ have paid a price for their faith that most of us can’t imagine, and they need our help.
Although sending missionaries, in some cases, is a valid response to the needs of the Eastern European church, there are many well trained ministers in place who already speak the language, understand the culture and are already placed in key ministries in their native countries. For a fraction of the cost of sending an American missionary to Eastern Europe, a national pastor, ministry leader, or church planting missionary can be placed at a full salary into an area of need. These ministers already speak the language, have some form of formal ministry training, and are already in place and ready to work.
These are men of vision. They are leading their churches and ministries with what little resources that they have. They are expanding their boundaries to reach all areas of society, and are excited about the ministries that God has called them to. If you listen to their stories, you will not find defeated Christians, complaining of their lack of resources, but rather you will find confident pioneers, empowered by the hand of the Almighty.
The Philippian Fellowship uses a network of national contacts to locate key church leaders in need of financial support and establish relationships. Full accountability is maintained through that network, and 100% of all funds given for national ministries is given directly. The Fellowship also helps to foster these relationships through emails, phone calls and visits.
These relationships, whether sister-church or individual in nature, have already proven to be perhaps a greater blessing to the churches and individuals in the USA than their European counterparts. This style of missions gives both churches and individuals a hands-on approach and a greater sense of ownership. It also encourages church members and individual supporters to not just give financially to missions, but to partake in missions themselves, especially thru prayer.
The relationships forged through this program have also afforded the sister-church American pastors great opportunities to minister to their brothers and sisters abroad, including holding marriage seminars, pastor retreats, youth conferences, summer camps, work projects and other forms of ministry. The possibilities are endless and the impact is immense.
The best we can do is support these faithful ministers physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially, so they can be free to devote full time effort to their ministries and to help them fulfill their vision of a thriving church in Eastern Europe.
Eastern Europe is filled with missionaries who don’t need to be trained in the language, who have shared intimately in the difficult histories of these countries, and are fully conversant with the needs of the church and the subtleties of the diverse cultures. These are the pastors and ministry leaders of Eastern Europe.
Years of persecution have robbed Christianity of its vitality and its voice. To the latest generation, that voice might as well have been speaking a foreign language. They had learned the voice of atheism, cynicism and doubt. Today, less than one tenth of one percent of the population would call themselves “born-again”. Of that tiny population only a small percentage attend church on a regular basis.
Is now the time for you or your church to seek out, pray for and support one of these true visionaries? We urge you to prayerfully consider the possibilities of partnering with one or more of the ministries we support.