Moldova has one of the highest rates of divorce globally. It also has the highest rate of labour migration, with 45% of the population working abroad. The result is that 21% of Moldovan children are missing at least one parent. This has led to the ‘fatherless generation’.
At Imago Dei Church, we want see young men transformed by Christ and living lives that are opposite to this phenomenon. In July, we held a retreat for seven men aged 15 to 19, all of whom come from broken families. Most either suffered from their father's physical absence or their father was drunk, abusive and disrespectful. Our goal was to create opportunities for deep conversations about what it means to be a good father and husband and how important it is to know salvation in Christ in order to become so. We wanted to help them grasp a biblical view of what it means to be a true man.
We spent three days together in 'Codri' (the largest forest in Moldova), sleeping in tents, cooking outside and getting involved in all sorts of different challenges. Every activity and discussion was based around our three topics: man as a provider, man as a protector and man as a priest.
For man as a provider, we challenged the boys to prepare tools and go out and catch fish for lunch. Later on, they had to build a small house in the forest with nothing but an axe and a shovel. Through this, we taught them that we are called to provide for our families - not only with food, money and shelter but also affection, emotional support and conversation, and to put time aside to spend with our children and wives.
For man as a protector, the one point that I wanted to make sure the boys remembered is that the biggest treasure that they have to protect is their own heart. In order to protect their families, friends, church and community, they need to learn first of all to protect themselves. To illustrate this we challenged them to execute an activity where they had to protect themselves and the home base.
For man as a priest, we taught the young men that everyone is a priest. Some people worship money, others worship themselves, others worship alcohol or their career. We challenged the boys to one day lead their families in worship of the one true God. We spoke about the gospel and the work of Jesus Christ and challenged them to worship the only one worthy of praise. As a powerful illustration, we explored a difficult cave. The boys had to work as a team, pay attention, be patient and have full dependence on our guide. It showed them that the man is the one who will guide his family in worship, either towards selfish worship or towards correct worship of God.
Each of the activities, and the evenings around the fire, gave us opportunities to have deep, biblical conversations with the boys. We shared stories and testimonies from our personal lives and it was amazing to see older men from our church sharing about the things God has done in their lives. Some of the boys were brought to tears sharing about their own experiences at home and their relationships with their fathers. We challenged each of the boys to consider knowing Christ as Saviour and asking him to help them build a different family situation to the one they were raised in.
Viorel shared, ‘I have learned new and great things. As a husband, I really look forward to applying what I’ve learned. Many out there are ignoring these principles, going from bad to worse.’
Stas said, ‘In this amazing camp I was able to learn great, positive things. I experienced teamwork and witnessed examples of real men. My desire is to apply these principles in my own life and become a devoted husband and father.’
There is much joy in our hearts when we see how these young men are confronted more and more with the gospel through everything we do with them. We look forward to seeing their lives transformed and, years from now, leading healthy, Christian families.
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