East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 2004, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Moldovan Outreach to Central Asia and Russia

Oleg P. Turlac

The College of Theology and Education (CTE) in Kishinev, Moldova, was founded and received its official government registration in 1995.   A Russian-language Bible school founded in 1993 by Bethel Evangelical Christian-Baptist Church (Fiodor Mocan, president) and the Romanian-language Trinity Theological Institute (Valeriu Ghiletchi, president), founded in 1994 by Moldovan Baptists, merged in 1995 to form CTE. Mocan was elected president of the new school, while Ghiletchi assumed the responsibilities of academic dean. To date a total of 490 students have completed its programs in theology, missions, Christian education, and social work.

Missionary Possibilities
CTE's leaders from the beginning have been mindful of missionary possibilities.   They did not limit their vision to Moldova alone, but dreamed of training students for missions in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.   In 1995 the first students from abroad began to arrive.   They were from the Caucasus and Siberian and Far East Russian regions including Yakutia (Sakha) and Chukotka.   Students also came to CTE from two Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union.   The goal has been to educate future leaders who will return home as missionaries and church planters.   This vision requires training students in theology in the Russian language in order to enable them to proclaim the gospel clearly to their own people in their own languages.

Also in the mid-1990s, several Gagauz students from southern Moldova were studying at the Protestant Emmanuel Bible Institute in Oradea, Romania.   Gagauz, numbering approximately 234,000, are ethnic Turks who never converted to Islam, but instead embraced Eastern Orthodoxy.   Related to the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks who conquered the Byzantine Empire, they withstood centuries of enticements and subtle pressures to accept Islam.   Some of the 2,500 to 3,000 Gagauz who are Protestants have been sent as missionaries to fellow Turks in several Central Asian republics ( Praying for Turkic Ethnic Groups; Kirk Johnson, "The Christian Gagavuz Turks of Moldova," unpublished paper, 1993).

The Role of Joseph Ton
Gagauz students were able to study in Oradea, Romania, due to the vision of Dr. Joseph Ton (pronounced Tson) who was then president of Emmanuel Bible Institute.   Under the Communists, this Baptist pastor had endured house arrest, grueling interrogations, and finally, in 1981, exile.   From 1982 to 1995 he served as president of the Romanian Missionary Society, Wheaton, Illinois, which devoted itself to supporting Evangelical churches in Romania.

Dr. Ton had a vision to reach beyond Romania into Moldova and other republics of the former Soviet Union.   Along with young people from Moldova he invited several students from Russia to study in Oradea.   Ton's involvement in the lives of Moldovan students at Emmanuel Bible Institute proved to be vital to the existence and vision of the College of Theology and Education in Kishinev, Moldova.

In 1997 one of the Gagauz graduates of Emmanuel Bible Institute, Victor Ormanji, a native of Cheadir-Lunga in southern Moldova, returned home after receiving his B.Th. in Oradea.   Initially he planned to stay in Cheadir-Lunga, but because of Dr. Ton's influence he began his teaching career at CTE as instructor in missions and head of the missions department.

A Change of Leadership
In 1998 Valeriu Ghiletchi, academic dean of CTE, was elected to the Moldovan Parliament, the only Evangelical Christian-Baptist to serve in this capacity to date. In 2001 Ghiletchi was elected president (bishop) of the Moldovan Evangelical Christian-Baptist Union and in 2002 became chair of the board of trustees of CTE. Rev. Mihail Malancea replaced Ghiletchi as CTE's academic dean in 1998.   This professor of church history and theology and pastor earned a B.Th. from Bucharest Baptist Theological Institute, an M.A. from TCM Institute for Biblical Studies, Austria, and is pursuing a doctorate in Islamic studies at Bucharest State University.

The Bachelor of Missions Program
In 1998 under the leadership of Mihail Malancea and Victor Ormanji, CTE launched a Bachelor of Missions program with an emphasis on ministry in Central Asia.   This ambitious and far-sighted three-year program has developed into a comprehensive course of study including Study of the Koran, Introduction to Islam, Historical Development of Islam, Principles of Discipleship in the Muslim World, Culture of the Muslim World, Theology of Islam, Ministry to Muslims, The Church and Its Status in the Muslim World, Human Rights in the Muslim World, World Religions and Cults, as well as Arabic and Turkish language instruction.

Dr. Ton became an active supporter of this missions program.   As an adjunct professor, he often visited CTE, taught classes in the areas of theology and ethics, and provided necessary encouragement for the leadership of CTE.   In fact, members of the faculty of CTE like to speak of Joseph Ton as their "spiritual father and mentor."

Keys Ministries
Dr. Ton put the leadership of CTE in touch with the U.S.-based missionary organization, Keys Ministries (http://gardenchapel.org/missions/keys).   Founded in 1993 in Liverpool, Pennsylvania, its stated purpose is "to glorify God and make Him known here and throughout the world by providing resources for Christian leaders." Keys became very instrumental in providing support for CTE's new missions program.

Joseph Ton and his wife, Elizabeth, had been friends of Palmer and Joan Long, members of the Evangelical Free Church of Hershey, Pennsylvania, since the late 1980s.   Dr. Ton's appeal to the Longs to provide scholarships for Gagauz students in Romania struck a responsive chord, in part because Palmer Long had had "a very keen interest in sharing the Gospel with the Turkic people since serving in the U.S. military near Ankara [Turkey] in 1962-63" (letter to the author, 4 January 2004).   As director of Keys Ministries, Long first led a team to Moldova in May-June 1998.   Since then Keys Ministries has sent mission teams to CTE twice a year to teach English as a second language.   It also encourages U.S. professors to teach at CTE.

To Siberia, the Far East, and Central Asia
Vyacheslav Grini, Peter Litnevsky, and Vladimir Gladkevich, graduates of CTE, serve in Chukotka near the Bering Strait in Siberia.   Yuri Vylkov serves as a missionary in Bulgaria.   In the Yakutia region of Russia, Lyubomir Tataev, a 1998 graduate of CTE, and Alexander Kravchenko, a 1997 graduate, have joined together in ministry.   Viktor Koval serves as a missionary in Yoshkar-Ola, while Mikhail and Inna Biryuk serve in Chita in the Russian Far East.   Evgeny Shablenko, Alexei Botnari, Pavel Belev, and Sergey Kul'kov serve in different regions of Russia, while Mikhail Arabadji ministers in Turkey and Nikolai Khripko ministers in the Odessa region of Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Verbitsky and Emil Agaev founded a Bible school in Shymkent (Chimkent in Russian), Kazakhstan.   The Bible school in Shymkent became the first satellite school of CTE.   Igor Kohaniuk, a graduate of CTE's Bachelor of Divinity program, started a Bible school in Tajikistan in 2003.   In the fall of 2003 CTE's professor Serghei Namesnic traveled to Tajikistan to teach homiletics to 34 students at the Bible school in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.

Keys Ministries initiated a partnership with a new extension school in Central Asia in January 2004.   This extension school is currently training 32 believers for ministry.   CTE faculty also travel and teach at this extension school ("New CTE Extension School, Tajikistan," Keys Ministries (January/February/March 2004).   See also Serghei Namesnic, "Pe urmele apostolilor," Pulse of Ministry , no. 4 (2001), 29-30.)

From time to time CTE faculty members visit schools in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan and teach one- to two-week modules.    In February 2003 Professors Sergey Germanov and Alexander Girbu traveled to Kazakhstan to teach at the Bible school in Shymkent.   They also visited Uzbekistan and taught courses in a Bible school there.   Professors Malancea and Ormanji travel to Asia at least once a year to teach at CTE's satellite schools and to recruit new students for CTE's missions programs.

A Multi-Ethnic Campus
The graduating class of 2003 was the largest in CTE's history.   One hundred and thirteen graduates (75 graduates of full-time programs and 38 graduates of the part-time program) received diplomas in theology, missions, Christian education, and social work.   British missionary Ron George, adjunct-professor of Islamic studies at CTE, was the main speaker at the graduation ceremony.   Students have come to study at CTE from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Korea, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Currently students of 20 nationalities of the former Soviet Union are enrolled in CTE's programs.

Oleg P. Turlac is dean of theology at the College of Theology and Education, Kishinev, Moldova, and a doctor of ministry candidate at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama.

Oleg P. Turlac, "Moldovan Outreach to Central Asia and Russia," East-West Church & Ministry Report 12 (Fall 2004), 7-8.

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2004 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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