March 18, 2017

The Sacred with the Mundane?

Jarod Thomas

It was the quintessential European street: a narrow, cobbled corridor strewn with tiny cars and draped in Austro-Hungarian architecture. I walked these Romanian avenues as a guest evangelist, holding one of over 2,000 meetings with the Romanian Union’s country-wide outreach.

Marioara Tulcan stands in her clothing store which combines regular business with discussions on religious topics and sharing Seventh-day Adventist literature in Arad, Romania. [Photo by Ciprian Savischi]

My pastor friend and I stepped inside a small bookstore that was tucked amid pastry shops, second-hand stores, and pharmacies. It was filled with books, having both familiar covers and foreign titles, and health food products that aligned with the habits of another culture. But this was clearly an Adventist book store, locally known as the Sola Scriptura Library. I greeted the two workers, purchased a hymnal of the beautiful songs I was learning, and we made our way down the street.

Later that week an errand took me to the same part of town, and my friend and I ducked into a different kind of shop. Looking for something special to take home to my family, my friend helped me navigate the traditional clothes on the shelves. In this store, too, I noticed some familiar literature. Brochures with the face of Jesus. An assortment of books on the shelf behind the point of sale. We’d stepped inside another center of influence, this one run by an Adventist member who mingled business affairs with spiritual passion.

I was introduced to the shop’s owner as a guest evangelist from the United States and conversed with her about the meetings taking place all around the city. She explained to my translator, face radiant with a smile, that one of her customers decided to be baptized in one of the seminars. Another customer that she was studying with had also made decisions, and would likely be baptized as well.

The striking difference between these two shops, at least when I was there, was the activity inside them.

The striking difference between these two shops, at least when I was there, was the activity inside them. My companion and I were the only patrons in the Adventist book store—planted in the center of this community that fuses European secularism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The Adventist Church Manuals, among other things, would have been foreign elements to the common passer-by. The clothing store, however, was disarming with its common, everyday wares. The door was constantly being opened by local people coming and going, turning their heads as we talked, and listening to our discussion about spiritual matters.

An institutional presence is important. Serving our membership and community with literature and resources is a critical part of our church’s work. And perhaps there are people in that city that trace their knowledge of God and His end-time message to that little book shop on the cobblestone street. But on that cloudy afternoon in Romania, the message to me was clear. The most powerful influence comes from people like you and me, doing everyday things while bringing Jesus into them.

Proclamation ministry is also important. Just ask the gentleman that traveled home from Italy to Romania for a two-week vacation. His trip happened to coincide with the two weeks that our meetings were being held near his family’s home. We both recognized that God had a purpose in orchestrating his schedule so he could learn new truths in his native language, and he expressed gratitude to God for the divine appointment. But it is the personal work—coming close to people with a spirit of compassion and unselfish love—that gives our message traction in the minds and hearts of those who hear it.

Incredible things are happening in Romania. Guest speakers have returned to America, Australia, and other places in Europe with stories of how God touched people through the great evangelistic effort that recently took place. But the greatest of stories may be waiting to be told on a sea of glass, somewhere in Eternity. They’re stories of everyday folks like you and me. People who mingled the sacred with the mundane, and rejoiced as lives were changed for eternity.