For 20 years, Open Arms Outreach has been serving children and other vulnerable people in a region with much poverty. The vision is to plant churches that serve as community centres.
Calarasi county, located in the southern part of Romania, halfway between Bucharest and Constanta, is a poorer area both materially and spiritually.
To many Romanians, even evangelical Christians, it isn’t an appealing area. “In Calarasi there is a completely different world”, admits Brad Hayes, manager of Open Arms Outreach Romania, who moved to the Eastern European country in 2001. The vision he says God gave him was “to raise an army of children and less privileged people who would take the Gospel to areas in Romania it has not reached before”.
The Christian ministry was founded in 2003 by Brad and Nora Hayes. Its office is located in Calarasi county, a poor area both materially and spiritually. For over 20 years, members of this outreach have been investing in children and less privileged people, trying to show them the love of the Lord Jesus.
“We believe it is easy to forget the poor. It’s easy to overlook the less privileged, such as the gypsies. Let us remember the poor, let us remember those who are easy to forget”, Brad Hayes told Romanian Christian broadcaster Alfa Omega TV.
One of Open Arms Outreach major projects is to plant churches that will function as community centers. The hope is that new believers will be developed in their leadership and serve elsewhere in Romania and beyond.
“We want churches to be involved in the life of their communities: in each church there should be a community center or a community center out of each church”, says Hayes.
Aurel Stoian, who manages the NGO, adds: “Believers should work together to plant churches which, later on would develop into social centers. During weekdays the church should function not only as church services but also as social centers. We would like each member to be part of a church planting in another city and thus the Gospel would reach each individual in Calarasi”.
The team behind Open Arms believes there is a “historical problem in Romania” since in the past “there was too much satisfaction about people becoming church members”. But “Jesus said: ‘As the Father sent Me so I send you.’ Each believer is sent. We are not told to sit and relax”.
The involvement of the outreach in the life of the community is easily noticeable in children’s ministry because they represent the
Anca Buturugarun says it is “a huge ministry” that is “practically involved in the future”. Mihaela Constantinn love the “emphasis on spreading the Gospel, on reaching children with the Gospel”.
Alin Constantin teaches young people how to play the guitar. “If they weren’t taking guitar lessons, they would waste their time some place else and do things that do not impress others. To me this is more than spiritual”.
Volunteers speaking to Alfa Omega TV said the ministry has become a spiritual family for many and a community thorough which people grow.
In practice, ‘Open Arms’ Outreach is practically the answer to a group of women’s prayers, who at the beginning of the 1990s would pray to God to send missionaries to Calarasi, says Aurel Stoian. “It is a group of women who came to know the Lord, they had different gifts but didn’t have a pastor. Once a month on communion Sunday a pastor who lived in Unirea village where the first Pentecostal church in Calarasi county was born would come and teach them. They would pray and hope that God would sent missionaries to this place”.