Houses of Prayer - How and Why?

A seemingly chance remark when William Smylie was talking with Victor Popovich (an official of the Moldovan Baptist Union), was the seed from which the profoundly effective and blessed SGA ‘Houses of Prayer’ project sprang. William mentioned how portable halls were used by many preachers in N. Ireland to take the Gospel into more isolated communities, and it immediately struck a chord in Victor’s mind. Could not this approach be used for their church planting strategy which so often struggled with finding a place to meet and worship? Investigations were made and with financial backing from SGA a number of small portable halls were purchased and located on suitable sites in several villages. These proved to be an excellent interim arrangement for small and newly formed churches, and believers were thrilled to have a place of worship for themselves, and to which they could invite their neighbours to hear the Gospel.

Not only was shelter from the extremes of heat and cold afforded the believers, but a barrier was dismantled in the minds of Orthodox neighbours who stoutly resisted the idea that one could worship God in a place where people also ate and slept. To have a ‘House of Prayer’ dedicated solely for worship was an immense help in evangelism. The early portable halls were simple and relatively inexpensive, and quite durable – several are still in use today in some villages. However, it became increasingly difficult to procure suitable sites for these, and even more difficult in some cases to get planning permission to locate them, and the minds of Moldovan leaders and SGA staff were moved in another direction. Why not purchase and renovate an existing building in a village to serve as a House of Prayer? This would avoid the need to search for increasingly difficult-to-find sites, and also ease some of the complications of obtaining planning permission.

As this change of strategy was being investigated, another advantage came to light. The cost of purchasing and refurbishing existing buildings was no more, and in some cases, less than the cost of purchasing and placing a portable hall. This was true particularly in the early days of the project, although with the more recent rise in costs it may not be as advantageous today.

Nevertheless, it is still possible to purchase and renovate a property in many villages for around £8,000 – £10,000, and to end up with a very smart and suitable church meeting-place. Much of the refurbishing work is carried out by believers themselves, and is often a means of cementing friendships and deepening fellowship among them.

The burden of the Moldovan believers is to reach into every village with the Gospel. Existing churches are continually reaching out to other communities. Evangelists and pastors are always trying to gain new ground, and so there is an ongoing need for this great project – ‘Houses of Prayer’.

To date around twenty-seven buildings have been financed by SGA supporters, and praise God, the demand is not slowing, for new ground is being taken, new converts are being made, and new churches are being formed! The“Building for Christ’s Glory Project” is not merely a story of ‘bricks and mortar’, but of dead sinners being brought to life through the Gospel, and built into the spiritual house of the Lord.