By Bryan and Pam Risner • BMA Missionaries to Romania
‘“Would you lead a team to Romania?”’
I was standing in the kitchen of my house in the small town of Morrilton, when I was asked that question. My response was quick and simple: “Absolutely! I can do that with no problem.” The rest of the conversation seemed like a blur. I hung up the phone and immediately searched the map to see where in the world Romania was!
If I was being honest, up to that point I had not heard about Romania or Volunteer Student Missions (VSM) before 2015. My background was in law enforcement and student ministry. In 2015, one of my students, Katelyn, went to the midnight missions meeting during the SOAR conference and signed up to go on a mission trip. I didn’t even know she signed up until her mom cornered me one day after church. After sharing her concerns, I volunteered to go with Katelyn, which helped her mom feel better about letting her go on the trip.
This series of events led me to call the VSM office to introduce myself. That summer mission trip started the process of changing my family’s life forever. Romania is a beautiful country, filled with the most hospitable people I have ever met. It is like stepping back in time, some 50 years ago. Romanians are hardworking people who raise their food and focus on family. During that trip, I was introduced to the Roma people, also known as gypsies, the most hated group in Europe. I spent two weeks with three American teens serving in Romania and sharing the gospel that summer.
My wife, Pam and I went together to Romania in 2016, both of us serving as team leaders. Pam fell in love with the country and people. We led a much bigger group of teens that summer, and God did amazing things that year. Pam and I talked quite a bit after we returned home. We even discussed the possibility of one day moving to Romania as BMA missionaries. Little did we know that God was about to send us much more quickly than we expected.
In 2017, we led our third VSM team to Romania and included our kids on that trip. Melody, Lindsey and Landon traveled for the first time halfway around the world. I watched how God matured my kids during that trip.
God was preparing my family to serve in Eastern Europe, and we were scared to death. Although we had no idea what to expect, we said “yes” to God, started the deputation process and officially moved in July 2018. Angela Rice and the 2018 VSM team helped my family move to Romania that summer. VSM played a major role in our training and equipping, leading to a much better transition.
We are so thankful for VSM and the many hours that go into the training, preparing, equipping, mobilizing and sending teams every year to countries worldwide. VSM has not only changed my family’s life, but countless students’ lives each year. VSM is a great vehicle to help teens and adults be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Volunteer Student Missions also played a role in getting us to Romania. The last VSM team I led actually moved our family. They traveled with us, took our bags so we didn’t have as many to pay for, unpacked, put things away and helped set up our new home. Volunteer Student Missions’ Team Romania usually conducts VBS with our churches; but one year, they helped with our youth camp, preparing crafts and lessons and serving in various ways. Many students came to Christ at that camp.
VSM trips help our ministry because everyone wants to come out to meet the Americans. Many more people attend when we have teams in from the States, which is a blessing to the missionaries. We love to have teams come to serve with us. It is a time of encouragement for our family.
One Romanian friend told us that when he was a boy, Americans came to serve on short-term trips. His family was believers, but there were still reservations between believers and the Roma people. For him, Americans coming, Roma children running right up to them, then hugging each other without reservation impacted his heart, even though he was already a believer. It encouraged him to have even more of a relationship with the Roma people.
If you are considering going on a mission trip, think no further than the Volunteer Student Missions department of the BMAA. Just make sure you are ready for a life-changing adventure.
— Volunteer Student Missions serves BMA churches by sending out students to serve with our missionaries. This is so important because many of our past and long-term missionaries first went on short-term trips. Our prayer is that God will use this time spent on the mission field to call the hearts of our youth into full-time missions, but we also pray that God will call 100% of students who serve in short-term missions to be lifelong missions supporters. For many people, both students and adults, going on that first short-term trip changes everything. For more information, visit bmamissions.org/vsm.