Baneasa Community Center
By Eric Stoudt
In March of 2015 Lynn Koch led a ladies missions team to Romania, partnering with GT Church’s very own missionaries, Mike and Ana Dascalescu. The team ministered to the women living in the poor and depressed southeast region of the nation including the town of Baneasa. Lynn and her team used their skills and abilities to help fulfill the needs of the local women. They ministered through women’s tea events and medical outreaches while sharing the Good News to a people group desperately in need of Jesus. During their stay, Mike and Ana presented their vision to build a community center. The team visited the site that the future building was to be constructed. In visiting the empty lot, the team could feel the Spirit of God at work in Baneasa. Lynn tragically passed away in the months that followed her visit; however, the love she had for the Romanian people lives on.
The vision for the community center became reality as Mike and Ana experienced favor throughout the building process. They acquired the land and gained building permits much quicker than expected. Construction delays are very common and quick progress is rare in Romania, except when the Hand of God intercedes. It was apparent that He was at work behind the scenes. Mike and Ana gained favor with the Mayor of Baneasa and other officials in the town, which is crucial in moving forward quickly on construction projects. The remnants of Romania’s communist history are still visible in its political system with deep roots integrated into the culture of the country.
GT sent a 2016 Missions team back to Romania in August; nearly a year and a half after Lynn’s team was there. It was decided that the Community Center would be dedicated to honor Lynn and her passionate love for the people of the region. When the team arrived the construction of center was under way. The walls were up, the roof was on, but there was plenty of interior work to be done. The team arrived ready to help in any way they could and this team was large enough to serve dual purposes. They divided into two groups, a construction crew and a children’s ministry group. The construction crew was able to tackle some of the drywall finishing and installed the staircases at the center. The children’s ministry team traveled to the surrounding villages providing teachings, games and activities for the kids. In the evening, both teams came together for family-oriented services in the same towns the children’s team visited in the morning.
When leaving Baneasa, members of the construction crew were inspired to continue helping. After seeing the need and talking details with Mike and Ana, potential plans were developing for a possible return trip later in the year. Within one month, the second 2016 GT trip came to fruition. Two of the original team members recruited a third man and returned in September. This time they were equipped with fresh tools and were focused only on the construction work. The team took an entire week, working long days to make significant gains on some of the most difficult construction tasks, such as the installation of the tile flooring.
GT scheduled a 2017 team to visit Baneasa in September. The construction of the center would be complete and its dedication would take place during this trip. As the trip grew closer it became clear there was major interest in attending the dedication ceremony. God led the hearts of the team and cast a new vision to the leaders regarding the duration and the details of the trip. GT was able to offer two different departure dates for one Missions team. One group left five days before the other but the entire 13 person team came together for the weekend services at the center.
On Saturday, September 16th, local Romanians, government officials, church leaders from the region and the GT team gathered at the Baneasa Community Center for the dedication ceremony. About 300 people gathered for the dedication. The team from GT helped plan, set up, serve food and tear-down for the event. Christocentric, a Romanian worship band welcomed the community center’s visitors and the dedication began with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Once the ribbon was cut, cake and ice cream was served to the crowd to mark the occasion. The festivities continued and the attendees heard from Pastor Bryan Koch via a prerecorded message. Don Immel of PennDel district, who traveled with the GT team, shared a few words and other local speakers addressed the crowd. One highlight of the whole ceremony was when Lynn’s sisters Ronda and Renee presented a gift to Mike and Ana. It was a large portrait of Bryan and Lynn which will hang on the wall, in the main foyer at the center. It was a very special moment that took place on the community center’s tennis court, which in itself was symbolic, because of Lynn’s enthusiasm for the game. She was skilled on the court and often enjoyed playing. The day’s festivities concluded with a picnic style meal for the community while the music of Christocentric filled the air.
On Sunday approximately 175 people returned to the community center for a church service. Christocentric lead worship and God’s word was shared by Pastor Phil with Ana interpreting in Romanian. His sermon was sandwiched between two personal testimonies shared by members of the GT team. Many of those who attended the service were responsive to the salvation call given at the end of Phil’s message. After the serviced ended, the team led a backpack and shoe outreach for all the school aged children in attendance. They utilized a system of measuring the children’s feet and directing them to try on shoes. Many children left the community center blessed and ready for class, since proper footwear is a school requirement. The needs of the people in the town became very apparent to the team as they worked with children to find the shoes that fit. Many of the sandals worn by the children when they came that day were in terrible condition, but upon leaving the center, they had shoes that covered their toes. Many of the kids were also given a backpack. However, the best part was, they were told how the love of Jesus will be with them forever.
For most of the 2017 GT Romania Missions Team the trip was very short. They visited Baneasa for less than 72 hours, but it was a power packed three days that mightily impacted the town. The Dascalescus believe the dedication event will draw people closer to the community center. Once they become close to the center, the seeds of faith can be planted. The on-site team will be working continually to water those seeds, praying they will sprout and become fruitful. The Baneasa Community Center is a beckoning light in a region that has been full of darkness for many years. The dream became the plan, the plan became reality, and the reality is the dream come true, with the glory pointing straight to Jesus Christ. The hard work, commitment, and missions-minded leadership of Mike and Ana made the whole project possible. Additionally, the Dascalescus will agree that the entire process, from the first vision to the final dedication, has had the hand of God upon it, directing every, single, detail.