In many villages in Moldova we saw American evangelicals building their churches and centres (yes that American guy in the orange t-shirt has "God at work" on it). Some of them even volunteered with us with excellent results.
Most people in Moldova are already religious, especially in the villages. Moreover, they are almost uniformly Christian and have been for over a thousand years. And religion, unlike in the US is also currently on the rise there. Even decades of incredible brutality of the Soviet regime could not extinguish it there completely and it kept on going secretly (giving Moldovans a bunch of new martyrs who died at the hands of the Soviets for their faith). The Christian Orthodox religious philosophy, which is so popular there includes some amazing works by top notch philosophers like Berdyaev and Soloviev among many others, which I found incredible even though I am not religious.
But apparently those poor Moldovans have been doing it all wrong. And herds of American evangelicals are coming to open their eyes. They are incredibly aggressive in trying to convert the locals away from Orthodox Christianity and are not shy to use a little "bribery" to do it. They build modern and shiny centres in the villages and start off by giving away presents in shiny colourful packaging and helping the villagers with food supplies if they come over for a chat, just a friendly chat nothing else. And once those poor simple folk are through the doors, the well-oiled machine of manipulation and propaganda switches on and they are made to realise that the quiet dignity of Byzantine Orthodox service is rubbish and that the prayers where you do not ask for anything are just a waste of time. Don't believe us? You are poor, right? Here is a nice and shiny colourful box full of stuff from the U.S. Take it, don't be afraid. Has your Orthodox Christ ever given such a nice box full of cheap tat to you? No? Thought so. So remember, all that heysichasm stuff of "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray" that you hold in such a high esteem is rubbish (well it is just Christ's injunction in the Gospel of Matthew after all). You need huge venues and TV channels and a pastor on stage with a microphone and dentures so white, they will shine in the darkness that your soul has been led into by those Orthodox priests. And his wife in a bright colour suit and pearls and with big hair perfectly done daily will tell you that you are poor because you are a sinner, stop sinning and God will give you money. And we will cheer and dance. Also, we will give you a book and you have to go out there and bring in more people (the Orthodox do not proselytise). And if you happen to be a school principal, then you are in luck because we will give you a bigger present and you will let us into the school to talk to those teenagers (and give them presents), don't worry, it is just a chat (and here is another "present" btw).
It is strange to me that these guys would put so much effort into converting someone on the other side of the world who is already Christian and culturally so different from them when there seems to be so much work on this and so many people to convert in the US, especially these days.
I told you before about how I bought two houses in the Moldovan village our project was based in. One of them we made into a community centre for the village (see here)
and another one we bought for ourselves, in case we wanted to visit (I cannot find the the post about that one now to link to it). But that's not all, I bought a third house there not long before we left and I did it not to let the evangelicals buy it. It is just on the way to the monastery, they always try to buy houses just next to monasteries where many Orthodox usually visit to "intercept" them. So there are no evangelicals in our village yet. They have a house in the village next to ours and they do not like me very much there (even though we help each other when needed). And it does undermine them a bit because the locals quickly realised that even though the evangelicals did not like me (meaning I was a sinner), God still gave me money. So something must be not quite right with their message.
We do have an Orthodox church in the village though. It has been there for centuries. And the service is beautiful. C.S. Lewis described how impressed he was by the freedom of the Orthodox worship experience (he was a big fan of the Orthodox service) in a passage in Letters to Malcolm: "Some stood, some knelt, some sat, some walked. . . . And the beauty of it was that nobody took the slightest notice of what anyone else was doing because their attention was properly focused, towards God."