Love, loss and leadership
Esther Hippel | Moldova
It was a heart-breaking photograph—though merely a picture of an empty seat in a restaurant, with a short comment attached: “We used to celebrate our anniversaries here.” The date was 3 October 2012—what would have been the third wedding anniversary of Eugen and Dana Ciumac. This time, though, Eugen sat at the restaurant alone.
In February 2007 this young football-enthusiastic Moldovan had joined OM Moldova to develop their sports ministry. By 2009 his future seemed bright; found capable and trustworthy in his work and character, Eugen had been made part of the leadership team of OM Moldova and married his great love, Dana.
However, Dana was diagnosed with leukemia and, after one year battling the sickness, she died in March 2012. Eugen’s world fell apart.
Three years later, at the end of March 2015, Eugen was appointed as the new field leader of OM Moldova. He is a man with strong faith, deep love for God and honest concern for people—a man whose greatest desire is to reflect Jesus in his life and to encourage others to do the same. Here he shares about faith, leadership and why, despite personal tragedy, he still leans on God.
OM: Of the many things you have been involved in during your past eight years with OM, what has given you the most satisfaction?
Eugen: I get most satisfaction when I am on outreaches—seeing the way God can use a team that puts itself at His disposal and how the Word of God bears fruit. For this reason, summer is always the highlight of the year for me.
OM: How has it been for you to step into your new responsibility as field leader of OM Moldova?
Eugen: It is exciting to see that God has called me to this, but sometimes I am also feeling a bit worried—how everything will work out, how together with the team I will manage this transition from one period to another. There have been ups and downs, but it is great to see God’s hand with me.
OM: What excites you about OM Moldova and where would you like it to grow?
Eugen: It excites me to see a healthy team that is ready to do anything for God—this gives me strength. For the future, I want OM Moldova to grow from a field that has been receiving missionaries to also be one that increasingly sends them. I want to see our 20by2020* vision fulfilled.
OM: What do you find challenging about being responsible for a huge ministry, as well as a team of many people?
Eugen: I think I could accept it if the work suffers, but not if people suffer along with it. I consider that my biggest responsibility is for people. I am convinced that if we have a team of successful and fulfilled people, a successful ministry will follow from this. In practice, though, it is very easy to get too caught up in all the requirements of ministry and neglect this.
OM: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Eugen: What really gives me joy and motivation is hearing stories of transformed lives—and how OM can be part of this transformational work that God is doing. This makes it worth getting up and doing what I do, even if it is hard, even if there are challenges; I am motivated to make a difference.
OM: Three years ago you lost your wife, Dana, after one year of sickness. What helped you most through that period?
Eugen: It was faith that kept me going! God gave me what I needed to hear through His Word, and I was held up by friends who surrounded me, people’s prayers and the grace of God.
I still miss her so much and the pain does indeed come, but I keep reminding myself that there is someone invisible next to me who feels together with me, and His name is Jesus. Also, I remind myself of heaven—that it’s worth living my life for Him and one day I’ll be with Him.
OM: How was it to pray fervently over a long time for Dana’s healing, and to know many others prayed, and then have to tell them she’d passed away?
Eugen: Honestly, in the beginning, I felt that I had failed in my faith. I had tried so hard to believe with all my heart that God could heal her! So, at that moment, it felt like having failed a class.
But the way God spoke to me about His love after this showed me that I hadn’t failed, that Christians are not sheltered from pain in this world, that this is something He is taking me through.
Even though this was not what I had wanted or prayed for, I had a deep conviction that God is good. This helped me very much—not just for myself, but also when talking to others who maybe found it even harder to accept what had happened.
OM: How easy or hard is it for you now to expect answers to prayer?
Eugen: If something similar would happen to me again, I would again pray and believe with all my heart. God is and remains a great God, and if He didn’t do it for Dana, He can still do it for someone else. I can continue to have a vision, knowing that I have a God who is alive, who is the same today, yesterday and forever and in whom I can have absolute trust.
OM: What would you tell someone else who is in a dark place and doesn’t understand God?
Eugen: When pain hits, when you experience a loss, tragedy or trial in your life, you arrive at a fork in the road where you have only two paths to choose from: to reject the God who didn’t answer, or to entrust myself to Him and believe that He is in control, even if I don’t understand how this is possible or why it happened. I would tell someone who finds himself in that place to choose the second option! It is worth it! Don’t give up faith!
OM: How has this experience changed you?
Eugen: After God took Dana, I felt more loved by Him than ever before in my life, and I loved Him more than I had ever done before; but how this happened—you have to ask Him! What also grew was my faith in an invisible God—a God whom I can’t see and have not audibly heard, but who nevertheless touches me, whose love I can see so clearly and who does speak to me in my heart.
He reassured me I can do this through the faith He has given me. I am also better able to understand people who go through similar experiences; I know what loss and pain mean, and I know better how to help: what they need and don’t need. The most important thing you can do for them is to be there for them; give a hug if you’re present, pray for them—and there’s no need to talk a lot. What they definitely don’t need are sermons and solutions, comments like “God is forming you” or questions if maybe there is some hidden sin.
OM: Which person from the Bible can you most identify with?
Eugen: My favourite character is Joseph, because of his integrity and the way he reflected God in his life. His example helps me as I aim to reflect God in my life—for example, the way he replied to Pharaoh: “I cannot do it, but God will give you an answer”.
Of course, there are also others who set an example by showing the same attitude, like Daniel and his friends.
OM: What would be the most encouraging thing you would like others to say about you and see in you?
Eugen: Two characteristics I want to be known for are integrity and faithfulness in all that I am and do.
OM: How can people pray for you?
Eugen: I want to lead by example! I especially need wisdom, humility and a close walk with God—pray for these three to characterise my life!
Pray also for the leaders we still need in OM Moldova to continue the ministry and for the new initiatives we are currently preparing for: the building of the Doulos sports centre and the launch of our Missions Discipleship Training MDTe³.
*In 2013 OM Moldova articulated the vision to send 20 Moldovans into global missions by the year 2020.
Published: Monday, 13 July 2015
Credit: Esther Hippel