In 1992 missionary Rick Cunningham awoke from a dream in which he was teaching in a language he had never heard. God used that dream to call him and his wife Jan from Spain to Romania. In their first exploratory trip to Romania, the Cunninghams discovered the shocking reality that book translations had been outlawed under Communist rule, resulting in few available resources in the Romanian language. As developers of training materials in Spain, Rick and Jan felt the Holy Spirit impress them—“What you have done in Spain is tremendously needed here.” That felt need confirmed their call to move to Romania, but neither of them could have anticipated what would happen there.
The Cunninghams visited a library in Bucharest in 1994 and found thousands of English-language books available but only 25 in Romanian, and many of those were not suitable for training. From that moment they knew the kind of work God was asking them to do. They began small, hiring a single, college-educated translator for $150 per month, a fair wage at the time. As the ministry grew, they hired more full-time translators and eventually established a publishing house. After 23 years they have translated 150 books into Romanian, and they know they could not have done it on their own. “Both BGMC (Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge) and LFTL (Light for the Lost) have been great sources of help to see these books put into print and distributed throughout Romania,” Rick explained.
While their work may have started with books, it certainly didn’t end there, especially for Jan. While Rick worked with publishing, Jan invested heavily in children’s ministry by founding Kidz Romania, which prepares children’s church curriculum for more than 400 teachers and hosts ten teacher training seminars each year. As the Cunninghams trained Christian leaders in Romania, they encountered a few special people who felt God calling them into missions. However, Romania had no formal structure for sending missionaries, because leaving the country for that purpose was outlawed under Communist rule. “We believed that if young workers began to feel a call to missions,” said Rick, “then there would be Spirit-driven pressure to begin to see a missions-sending structure birthed.” And that’s exactly what happened.
In 2006 Rick began to work with several Romanian pastors to organize a missions agency. In the years that followed, they created an NGO from the ground up that became the Romanian Foreign Missions Board. Today it has produced 72 full-time career missionaries serving in more than 25 countries, and last year Romanian churches gave $1.4 million to world missions. What started as a dream to bring training to Romania 25 years ago has turned into a world-impacting ministry that far surpassed Rick and Jan’s wildest dreams.