Scholarship and CompassionLiving out the ‘Missio Dei’

by Elaine Vaden, JSM-Langham Scholars

A woman we’ll call Faith returned to Moldova from years of servitude in Turkey, Israel and Serbia, where she had been abused and mistreated as the victim of traffickers and pimps. Her suffering had really started when the authorities in Moldova removed her and her six siblings from her parents, due to her mother’s drinking and physical abuse. At age 12 she was raped by seven men, and at 18 she found herself married, then beaten and humiliated by an abusive husband. With her identity totally distorted, Faith fell into prostitution and total victimization.

For a Langham scholar like Vladimir, combining doctoral studies with ministry to women like Faith didn’t seem compatible. Young girls suffering from abuse and hunger, and children left on the streets, seemed a world apart from his books and research. ‘My initial understanding was that the only way to help abused women in my society was to pray for them and get them into the church.’ And, as a pastor, he first focused on teaching and preaching. But Vladimir’s wife Yulia was already drawn to the thousands of young women in Moldova who were paying just six dollars to abort their babies. Working with a local abortion clinic, Yulia had received permission to speak to these women before they went in for their abortions. Soon she was invited to speak in public schools about sex apart from marriage, and the devastation that abortion brings.

In 2004, as part of his doctoral studies, Vladimir was assigned a research paper on Luke 4. Digging into the passage, he made a ‘surprising’ discovery: holistic ministry and social responsibility were founded on Jesus’ ministry. In verses 18, 19 he read: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Today Vladimir serves as president of Beginning of Life, bringing not only shelter and job training, but Christ’s gracious love and freedom to those formerly imprisoned by human trafficking, domestic abuse and abortion. The organisation serves the most destitute in Moldovan society and, through their work, Faith and others like her have found love and hope for a new future. Vladimir has been supported by John Stott Ministries (Langham Partnership in the USA) for his studies at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, and he is due to complete his PhD in early 2012. His dissertation topic, ‘Rethinking Missio Dei among Evangelical Churches in an Eastern European Context’, finds fulfillment in the Beginning of Life work which he is leading.

Pictures courtesy of Beginning of Life, Maldova.