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Gainesville family speaks about ministry in Romania

POSTED: June 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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This is the apartment in Bucharest, Romania, where the Cox family lives.

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When Dave Cox met the woman who is now his wife, they were both college students at Furman University in South Carolina.

Dave and Jennifer Cox had at least two things in common from the start — a love for the Lord and a passion for mission work.

"Before we got married, we felt this call to serve the Lord oversees," Dave Cox said.

After getting hitched in North Carolina, Dave Cox was obligated to spend four more months as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Caribbean.

"We had our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, with no electricity," he said. "It was a good start to our marriage."

Nearly 20 years later, the couple, now with three children, still has that missionary zeal.

They have spent most of the past 12 years as missionaries in Bucharest, Romania, building a community of Christians one convert at a time in the city of 2 million people.

And Sunday, the Cox family, complete with Johnathan, 16, Joel, 14, and Emma, 11, spent the day speaking to the congregation of First United Methodist Church about the challenges and triumphs of being missionaries in a new, economically vibrant Romania.

Home in Gainesville until early January, the family will make use of its seven-month stay stateside by speaking to Christian groups about missionary work. Dave Cox also will pursue his Master of Divinity degree and hopes to be ordained a minister this fall.

Susan Wright, president of First United Methodist Church’s Seekers Sunday School Class, said the Cox family is a part of a small group of missionaries at the church. Other members are doing mission work in the Caribbean and Honduras.

In Bucharest, the family lives in a 700-square-foot apartment located in a large, tree-filled neighborhood. Each day, they venture out into the streets, schools, churches and medical clinics of Romania hoping to enliven the city with the love of Christ. But getting the good news out isn’t easy.

Since the country joined the European Union in 2007, purchasing goods with credit cards has become a new trend, and property values are soaring.

"Our biggest challenge now is that Romania’s becoming a more prosperous society. And as people become more prosperous, they get busier, and that sometimes means less time for your spiritual life and outreach to the community," Dave Cox said.

In her presentation to the Seekers Sunday School Class, Jennifer Cox said she and her family aim to expand the services at the Open Door Medical Center in their neighborhood.

Currently, Jennifer Cox works with the crisis pregnancy program there and hopes her fundraising efforts can help support a day care program, English classes, legal assistance, as well as a food pantry and prayer center at the Open Door clinic.

Jennifer Cox also works in the library and leads prayer classes at the Bucharest Christian Academy, where her children go to school. The school of about 80 kindergarten through 12th-grade students has been operating from three residential buildings, but the rent is rising, and a single school building is needed.

She said alternatives for English-speaking students are few and costly in Bucharest, and she is seeking funding for a new school property.

The Coxes said they noticed an opportunity to serve the Lord in their first short-term missionary trips to Romania during the early ’90s. Dave and Jennifer Cox told the Seekers class about the challenges Orthodox Christians in Romania face in overcoming the idol-kissing traditions and clergy-imposed barriers between congregations and the word of God.

"We saw the need for some new churches to be planted that had Christian liberty. ... Some of the churches, there’s so much tradition, you wonder if you can find Jesus there," Dave Cox said.

Jennifer Cox said the Romanian clergy discourages the congregation from reading the Bible, believing that it’s too difficult for a layperson to understand.

"In Romania, there’s a proverb that if you read the whole Bible you’ll go crazy," she said.

Despite the difficulties the missionaries encounter in their efforts to lead Romanians to Christ, Dave Cox said the best thing is feeling like he and his family are exactly where God wants them. He said he enjoys seeing the effects of his family’s ministry take hold in others.

"We’re also seeing Romanians go out as missionaries to other countries themselves," Dave Cox said. "The most encouraging thing we see is the transformation in individual people when they come to Christ. We see them grow in love, hope and happiness, and then they share the good news with others."



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