This week has been so amazing, I can’t even begin to put it into words. It’s been long and complicated and busy and hard and exhausting in every possible way one can be exhausted. But the seeds were sown in faith and God was faithful to bless our time spent ministering here. We brought 22 children from various areas of Transylvania to this camp in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains – kids from Oradea, Beius, and Cabesti. Out of twenty-two campers, raging in age from 4-14, nineteen accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. I got to lead a seven year old little boy to Christ. His name is Sebi, he’s from the kindergarten. I am praying that the Lord will keep them from the evil one and from apathy. I pray that He will not allow these kids to be just another name on a decision card in the basement of somebody’s church, but that He will so gloriously and radically change their hearts and lives that all would see and stand in awe and know that only He could’ve done it. Oh my awesome, gracious, powerful, merciful God – be glorified!
The American Team came on Monday morning as a result of Heathrow airport being shut down, thanks to our Commander in Chief. They’re from Cornerstone Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. There were 20 of them in all – mostly youth. I really appreciated their attitude. They were so humble and eager to learn and interested in Romanian life and culture and language. It was such a breath of fresh air. Thank you, Lord. I really needed that.
Of course it was wonderful to spend a week serving the Lord alongside my brother Cristi. He is such a dear friend. I am constantly blessed by his servant’s heart and awesome attitude. He’s always right in the middle of whatever task is underway. He has the ability to look at a situation and in about a second figure out what needs to be accomplished, what’s important, what’s not, and what he needs to do. I wish I had that. He’s just so refreshing to be around. That kind of positive attitude, humility, and eagerness to be used for the kingdom is just so contagious. I’ll be sorry not to be exposed to it on a daily basis when I’m back in Oradea.
Sierra left on Friday with the American team for Oradea. They went to tour the city and brace yourself- go to Batar. I know, how is it possible that I had a way to go to Batar, maybe even twice in one weekend, and didn’t go? Well, a number of reasons. I could say because I felt so strongly that it was important for me to not abandon the ministry I started here. I could say it’s because I love these kids so dearly that I couldn’t bear to leave them before I absolutely had to. I could say it was because I wanted to be able to learn and experience more of real Romanian life and culture than I can in an environment that’s influenced by the presence of an American team who may or may not be interested in experiencing it. I could say all of those things and they would all be true. But I think for the first time since I’ve been here, I just felt like I was home. Happy and comfortable and exhausted – not comfortable because there were comforts here, it’s been rough, there’s no doubt about that. Days without a hot shower, nights without sleep due to fear of animal attack, constant changing of schedule, teen drama amongst the youth from Cornerstone, illness among leadership, drama among the replacement leadership, personal struggles with loneliness and finding appropriate ways to deal with it. But the Romanian counselors – and a few of the Americans – just made me feel so at home, so comfortable. Romanians are just so open, real, and so genuine that I often feel that I have a deeper and more intimate relationship with them than I do with some people I’ve known my whole life. They made me feel so at home. They kept telling me “You are one of us now. You are Romanian.” and how I’m not like any of the other American missionaries and how well I speak their language. Cristi says I’m 15% Romanian and when I get back to the States, I’ll be 20%. I don’t know what that means, but I like the way it sounds.
God has answered my prayers for someone to relate to and connect with in Corina. She is the teacher here at the kindergarten. She’s 27 and brilliant and not married and I adore her. She lives in Oradea and she’s been helping me with my language and culture studies for Nurture. I’m so thankful for her. What an encouragement she’s been to me. I feel like I’ve known her for years.
We’ve been staying in a cabin with eight bedrooms in the middle of nowhere in the Carpathian Mountains. We had to drive up this rocky little podunk “road” (which was really just a nice hiking path) to get here. There’s a small river that runs from Beius all the way up the mountains and it runs right behind the cabin where we’re staying. It’s so beautiful up here. The other day I went with Corina, Cristi, and his cousin Panda (I don’t know his real name) for a walk in it. The water was FREEZING!!! But it was very hot outside, so it was a nice way to cool off. It’s absolutely gorgeous up here and has been such a wonderful experience. One day this week I was really struggling with keeping Christ first in my heart, so after some time in prayer, I went for a walk up into the mountains and listened to some worship music and just spent some time meditating on how infinite the Lord is and how He’s revealed himself to us in His creation. It really brings a whole new perspective to consider “I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?” when you’re looking up at one. How small I am, how fickle and fleeting… and how immovable, steadfast, and great my God is!
“For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” – Psalm 18:31-35
Pray that God will continue to grant me grace in ecumenical ministry. Teams come from all kinds of Southern Baptist churches to serve here and I know that’s an issue I’ll have to face with grace as I further pursue working on the mission field. No doubt I’m a Grace Church girl – I’ll admit I was rather vexed when the leadership and team on this project gave me a hard time because I use the ESV and not the KJV. Nevermind the fact that we were making kids memorize a bible verse in a language they don’t speak or understand. Check out Romans 10:13 parallel – was it really necessary to force them to struggle to say “whosoever” instead of “everyone”? I don’t know, I’m not a greek scholar. Maybe there is a big difference that would lead these kids astray. I’ll leave that up to those of you with M Div’s to decide. But as for me and my house…
Of course, I just submitted to leadership and gave it to God. But I have to confess, my jaw hit the floor when the Pastor openly spoke of God’s sovereignty and predestination and then said “God didn’t decide who’s going to be saved and who’s not.” I’m not sure how much it even matters on the mission field. We’re talking about issues of doctrine and spiritual maturity vs. gospel presentation to a lost world. Where is the line drawn? I don’t have any answers here – I’m praying that’s something that I’ll be able to learn at Bethlehem. But until the Lord tells me otherwise, I’m just going to hold fast to the Truth the Lord has revealed to me in His word and to the standard of teaching my pastor and elders have given me; teach the lost about Christ and his power to save; and as always, try to be gracious with other believers who may not hold to the same doctrine as me. I pray that God will grant me both wisdom and humility to know when to speak up and when to shut up.
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:15-21
This week we’ll be working on the kindergarten, cleaning, painting, refurbishing, redecorating, etc. Thursday, church in Beius. Elijah has all but threatened my life if I don’t sing with the choir in Romanian in church. Saturday we’ll go to Batar and help John teach the kids English through lessons about Christ. Corina, Sierra, and I will probably spend a day in Beius. We have plans to go shopping at some point. She’s going to show us the inexpensive places to shop. So far, we’ve only found chocolate. We’ve been to a couple wholesale places, the gypsy market (AMAZING!), and the three malls in Oradea. We need food and I need some warm clothes, vegetables, healthy food, etc. I had to cut back a lot on what I was originally planning to bring. I also have to get things for people at home and the prices at the tourist traps are outrageous.
I have a lot to accomplish around the house. I haven’t unpacked from the camp yet, I have to wash some clothes in the sink before sundown or they’ll get moldy from being wet inside here. I have to figure out what Sierra and I are having for dinner as Elijah and Clau are in Budapest with the American team. There’s a little diner somewhere downtown that I went to with Paula and Justin in November. Sierra would probably like it there. She’s terribly homesick. She’s going to leave early. I won’t be alone though. She’s leaving the day the next American team is coming. That’s another three weeks from now though and she’s just a wreck. Pray for her. I want so badly to be able to encourage her – but it seems like there’s a wall there. Pray that God will tear it down and equip me to minister to her. He’s brought her here for a reason. Please pray that He’ll open her eyes to see what that reason is and that He’ll keep me focused in the same way.
I got to see some of the kids from the church in Cabesti we visited in November. They all remembered me. It was cool to see Pastor Oleg and his wife and the baby. She’s so BIG! Two girls from Cabesti were in my room. I got really attached to one in particular, her name is Adriana. I recognized her right away. She asked Jesus to come into her heart this weekend. I was sorry to say goodbye to her. The Pastor, his wife, and one of the counselors (Ramona) asked me to come visit them in Cabesti before I leave. I’d love to, but I’m really at the mercy of Elijah and Clau and the Lord as far as what my plans are though. I’ll be happy to spend a day in Beius this week. I feel like I haven’t seen Alina at all, although her mother and sister have been with us all week. Alina’s mother invited me to come with her family to her sister’s home for a few days after Alina’s done with her finals. Alina’s aunt lives in a cabin way up in the mountains. That will be a nice little retreat for me to wind down on. I came to be poured out as a drink offering for my Savior and that’s just what I’ve been doing. I haven’t had more than three hours sleep in the last two weeks. I have no intention of setting my alarm tonight. I think I’ll probably spend my first week back in Pittsburgh just sleeping.
I got to use the gospel presentation tool God gave me about the “Race for Eternal Life” again. Under the most stressful conditions humanly possible, and yet I know my God was with me and that you were all praying for me, because somehow I had complete peace and composure through it all. First, I didn’t have any of my resources with me, no tools, no notes, no script, NOTHING. I left it with the team in Codru so they could use it again before they left and Pastor Mihai was supposed to drop it off in Oradea, but never did. Then I didn’t find out I had to do the presentation until 10:30 the night before I was supposed to do it. Then I wrote my own cliffs notes to teach from and made a makeshift “crown of righteousness” and asked for counselors to volunteer for the skit – pretty much zero interest. Then three out of the seven counselors left camp early to make room for the kids on the bus back to Beius, two of them being the key players in the skit. Then one of the kids (my favorite from the kindergarten, Patrick) got horribly sick and two of the remaining four counselors felt they needed to stay with him. Then my runner “Christian” didn’t speak English and didn’t understand my directions and kept unexplainably walking away in the middle of the presentation. It ended up working out in the end and God gave me so much peace about it, I couldn’t even believe it was me. Hmm.. imagine that. ;) He’s so good.
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” – Psalm 9:1-2