God Story
A thrift store in Romania brings hope

“Let’s pray before we open up shop,” said Michelle, launching into a daily ritual that had become as important to the employees as it was to her. As she prayed for God’s blessing on the day, muffled sniffling and sobbing erupted right next to her.

The crying grew louder as Dina struggled to control her emotions. Behind a veil of long dark hair, tears coursed down the young woman’s face. Michelle brought the prayer to a premature close and, putting her arm around Dina, said, “Would you like to know Jesus personally?”

Dina nodded.

As the other girls went to open the store and receive the first customers of the day, Michelle prayed with Dina to receive Christ. The tall, slender, outgoing young woman had only been working at the second-hand store for a month, yet it seemed God had brought Dina there specifically for this moment, orchestrating everything in detail to accomplish his purposes in her life.

Like most other people in her part of Romania, Dina would never have considered crossing the threshold of an evangelical Christian church. She didn’t trust it. Those who attended such a church were snidely referred to as pocaiţi—repenters.

Michelle and her husband Kevin had arrived in the impoverished region fifteen years before to join an evangelistic and church-planting ministry. Despite their efforts, the church wasn’t growing; the Romanians rarely came again after a first, curious visit. A German brother recommended opening a second-hand store.

Michelle took an old, ugly, cinderblock building and dressed it up to look attractive and inviting. The store gradually took shape, offering household goods and clothing for minimal cost.

In the winter, in a village where none of the other shops were heated, the second-hand store offered both literal and figurative warmth as the furnace roared and the employees greeted the customers in a friendly manner.

An always-full coffee pot made people feel at home. Soon, even the local policemen began coming in on their breaks to enjoy a hot drink. As word spread, people began driving an hour from all directions, just to shop and enjoy the hospitable atmosphere.

To run the store, Michelle hired women from the community. This brought unchurched people into contact with the gospel while helping them economically.

Plans to build a medical and dental building also took shape. Kevin and Michelle asked GEM’s Design Group to design a new building on land they were able to purchase. Its lower level would become the new store location, but construction workers were nearly impossible to find in rural Romania.

Then, the pandemic hit. As construction projects in Europe ground to a halt, the Romanian builders returned home.

Through her husband’s work constructing the new building, Dina came in contact with Michelle and was hired to work in the shop. Now, one month later, she had received new life in Christ!

Her friend Sara, who also came to Christ through her previous employment in the second-hand store, had laid the groundwork, telling Dina about faith in Jesus. God had orchestrated the whole thing, and Michelle just happened to be standing next to Dina when she was ready to receive salvation.

Sara and Dina both came to faith through a warm and welcoming environment that showed them Christ’s love while simultaneously helping to meet their economic needs. This is “Business as Mission” in action!

 The original article was shortened.
Source: GEM

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