Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Moldova has been an independent country since 1991. Though very close to the Black Sea, Moldova is landlocked, bordering Romania in the west and the Ukraine in the north, east and south. The main part of the country lies between two rivers: the Prut in the west, which forms the border to Romania, and the Nistru (Dniestr) in the east. On the eastern bank of the Nistru lies the breakaway region of Transnistria, a narrow strip of land that is legally part of Moldova but de facto functions as an independent state, with border controls, its own government, constitution, currency etc. Moldova recognises Transnistria as one of two autonomous regions within Moldova, the second being Gagauzia. The Gagauz people are of Turkish origin but are unique in being one of only two Turkish people groups that traditionally adhere to Christianity (Russian-Orthodox).
State of the Church: The vast majority of Moldovans are nominally Orthodox Christians, but most have no understanding at all of the gospel and have never had the opportunity to read the Bible. After the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a big spiritual openness and many people turned to God, but today there is no longer such growth in the number of believers. Churches are also very much affected by the massive emigration of the population and especially struggle with the loss of young people. Evangelical believers are often regarded with suspicion and in some places can face fierce opposition. In many places, however, the witness of the local believers’ lives disproves prejudices and with time builds acceptance by the population.
Socio-Economic Situation: Moldova continues to be among the very poorest countries in Europe, crippled by a high level of corruption, political instability and a failing economy. Extreme poverty, especially in rural areas, aggravates related problems like a high rate of alcoholism and an exodus of the working population to other countries, while often children and elderly are left behind. It is estimated that about half of the population are working abroad, but only a fraction is in their destination country legally (which makes accurate statistics difficult). According to World Bank estimates, over the last years personal remittances from Moldovans abroad have consistently accounted for more than 20% of Moldova’s GDP, one of the highest percentages in the world (the global average being 0,7%).
OM’s involvement in Moldova started with smuggling Bibles and Christian literature into the country during the Soviet Union, whereas a more focused ministry in the country began in 1995. Over the years an extensive and diverse ministry developed within the country, focusing on ministry areas like relief and development, youth and children’s ministry, developing and equipping local believers for ministry and leadership or offering short-term mission experiences to believers from around the world.
The beginnings and development of OM’s ministry in Moldova during its first 20 years can be traced in this booklet (which was produced for the 20-year-anniversary in 2015).