ROMANIA : 1 NOVEMBER 2007
Our last day in Agrişu-Mare showed me the might of our God. From the first moment of our first visit I felt God lift my shoulders and straighten my back to face these Orthodox beliefs straight on. This was a day of battle, and God was ordained the victor. The words from my mouth were assured, the tone of my voice definitive. When I asked what a person believed about Jesus and received the trained answer of “I like Jesus. I believe in Him,” God boldly responded through me of Jesus being the one and only way to assuredness of heaven. When I asked, “Do you believe you will go to heaven if you were to die today?” and I received the now-familiar answer of “Only God knows for sure,” the Lord used my voice to tell them that God made a way for all of us to be certain, too. In home after home after home God spoke boldly and loudly that He had a place reserved for each person if they only (and simply) believed. During the day, with each new profession of faith, I saw increasing brokenness among the people we spoke with. This is the emotional response I expected at the beginning of the week but had to push from my mind as a cultural difference. But today God allowed me to see from my own perspective, to see that the people here are genuine and that He is changing their lives.
God set the tone early in the morning through a visit to Elena, a woman who has been experiencing “visitations” of her dead husband. Pastor Florin told us that she had been abused in her marriage and is now experiencing all-encompassing fear that has manifested in her seeing her husband’s image during the night hours. In speaking with Elena we heard her great distress over the visions and the fact that her entire family is using the word “crazy” to refer to her. My heart was filled with the Spirit of God to the point where I simply wanted to begin praying over her immediately. I felt His power within me, and I spoke directly to Satan in my prayers for Elena, claiming the power of Jesus to overcome her fears and release her from the evil that surrounds her. I will continue to pray for Elena, for I know how fear cripples a person. I hope that the boldness experienced in those moments will embolden Florin and Avram as they continue to minister to Elena in the days to come.
I was energized on this morning, all sickness in the past and God’s Spirit before us, and God used that energy in the visits to come. We next met Norica, her 22-year-old daughter Adela, and her 76-year-old mother. My first glimpse of Adela told me that this was a home in which my personal story was to be told. I saw a lot of myself in Adela’s demeanor, and I spoke mostly to her directly in sharing my testimony. Everyone in the room was attentive, and though I was focused on Adela, the Lord was working intently on her mother Norica. When I asked if they believed they would be forgiven, once for all, by praying to Jesus and accepting God’s free gift of eternal life, Adela looked to her mother for assurance. When Norica responded that she believed and that she would like to pray for salvation, I realized that God had been using me to speak to Norica most of all. The prayer revealed a brokenness in Norica, a sincere prayer of repentance and commitment to Christ. Adela prayed this, as well, but she was more guarded emotionally, while Norica could not contain her joy in the next minutes as we celebrated her salvation. I could almost hear heaven rejoicing as we left their home that morning. And I was further energized by the work of my God.
Our morning continued with what may be the most memorable visit of the week and the most obvious attempt by Satan to interfere with what God was doing. We entered the home of Gheorghe, and John quickly began telling his story. Several minutes into the visit I noticed activity on the floor and saw a couple of little field mice scurrying straight toward John’s feet. These little guys were none too shy, but I was determined not to disturb the conversation between John and Gheorghe. My face registered the sight, and I believe my mouth may have opened involuntarily, but I kept quiet. John, however, saw my face and expected that I would soon be bolting out the door. To redirect the path of those little mice, John began stomping his foot toward them, which simply put everyone’s attention on the activity below. Those mice never changed course, and Gheorghe told us that they were not only present at that moment but had also been present in his bed the night before. That completely disrupted the visit as everyone now began reacting to the thought of mice in the bed. I decided to zip my open backpack and move it to the highest point in the room, the stove, so as not to bring any of these little friends home with me, and Brother Avram decided to help rid the room of one by disabling him and then picking it up and placing it near my bag. We all made a big scene until Avram took the little guy outside instead. Regaining control of the visit was foremost on my mind at this point, although I did sit a little on edge for the remainder of the time and kept my feet in ready position to move. Still, I used the situation to redirect the conversation back to John by speaking of how Satan will use even little mice to keep us from hearing God’s Word to us. John was able to bring the salvation message home that day, despite all of Satan’s tactics, and we celebrate Gheorghe’s profession of faith. I love that we now have this incredible story to tell of our time working for the Lord.
I had another opportunity this day to share just how much God loves each of us and how He is always working to bring us home to Him when we met Tatiana, an open-hearted woman who was so attentive to our words. This was another example of God’s perfect timing and of His answering the prayers of His people. Tatiana had only to hear that God desires to be in relationship with each of us, that He desires nothing more than to fellowship with her, spend time with her, and that He has opened the gates of heaven to those who simply believe and trust in Jesus. The heart of this woman was immediately open to the invitation of Christ. To witness such readiness, such perfect God-timing, is far greater than anything I can ever say or do, and I will carry this with me for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine how anyone could not want to carry His message after witnessing what we have seen this week.
John found another opportunity this day to share his many stories with a 73-year-old man named Gheorghe, and God again used these stories to bring Gheorghe to faith. We continue to marvel at the simplicity of this method and how faithful God is to use these simple thoughts for His glory. I continued to feel His power throughout the day, and when we started toward what became our last visit in Agrişu-Mare, Florin said to me, “Plant a seed here. That’s all we will be able to do.” I guess my spirit rejected that idea because I spoke freely of my personal struggles with faith and my eventual understanding of God’s love and His desire to be close to me, and the Lord used that to bring 45-year-old Doinita and her 86-year-old mother to a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Despite Florin’s anxiety about running late for church services that night, I continued to speak from my heart the words the Lord was directing, and He honored that boldness by piercing the hearts of this daughter and mother. The tears in Doinita’s eyes told of her great delight at having met God and being accepted by Him. When we left their home, Doinita cut some roses from her beautiful garden entrance and placed them in my hands with a sincere love for me and appreciation for the message of freedom we had brought to her. As we were walking away, I said to Florin, “You expected only seeds, but God had other ideas.” And when we returned home and shared the story with Cornelia, she was shocked to learn that it was Doinita who had experienced this transformation. From Cornelia we learned that Doinita had been repeatedly closing everyone off when the subject of faith was broached. My entire spirit welled up from the power of our mighty God.
My thoughts now turn to the members of the church. I lack the confidence that they understand the depth of their roles in follow-up. I am not certain that they have embraced their roles in the discipleship process. Both John and I used our time in the evening church service to stress the importance of welcoming new believers into their fellowship and teaching them how to grow in Christ. I feel such an urgency for them and want them to feel the same. I hope to speak with our team leaders about discipleship books/studies and whether they are available for the churches to use and give to members. I believe many hearts are willing; I’m just not certain they know how to proceed on their own.
This last day in Agrişu-Mare was full of fellowship. We had lunch with Avram’s sweet family, eventually seeing all four children arrive and enter into conversation with us. I questioned Emi about his future school thoughts, whether he had ideas about his interests or was just going to pursue the basics for the time being. Emi is in his 8th year at school, and after this year he will probably move to a high school in Arad since Agrişu-Mare has no schools beyond his current level. It is my understanding that the city high schools offer specialized programs for students who choose to pursue a specific course of study, so I wondered if Emi had something in mind. He mentioned an interest in mathematics, then talked a bit about wanting to be an animal doctor. John told him that he should come to Texas to attend the very best school for animal science, and Emi agreed that that would be very exciting for him. I cannot help but wonder how different Emi’s life will be in just another year from now. He has known nothing more than a farm life in the same village with most all of his family surrounding him, yet he will likely be moving to the city to live with an uncle full-time and attend high school. I cannot imagine such a life change at fourteen years, and I pray that it does not change the genuinely joyful heart of this amazing young man. He has great potential to be a phenomenal man of God, and I cannot wait to hear just how God will use him in these next several years.
Lunch also brought an accomplished goal for me. Since Sunday morning, Avram’s youngest son, Julian, three-years-old, had been incredibly curious about me but unwilling to draw near. I had barely been able to get a picture of him all week, instead seeing him dive behind furniture and avoid me when my camera came out. Julian wanted to know me, but he was very uncertain. Today’s lunch provided him a safe environment, and by the end of our time I was on the floor with him, laughing and rolling around in play. I made a mental note to tell Laurenţiu of this development as soon as I spoke with him; he had little faith that I would ever make friends with Julian, and I knew that it would be my goal for the week and I would certainly make it happen. I cherish the time with this family and the friendships that have been made.
In the evening, John and I had an extended time of fellowship with Gligor and Cornelia. We presented them with gifts of towels, FBC choir CDs, a Texas Rangers baseball cap for Gligor, a Texas flag bandana for Cornelia. Both were thankful and appreciative, with Gligor highly animated as usual, and my heart is filled with such love for the both of them. Even in our limited communications I know that they genuinely care for us. Gligor asked what stories I will be taking home from Romania and my mind raced with scenes from the week, but my heart is full of emotion for the two of them. God provided me second parents in this village in western Romania, and they are so much like my own parents that I felt no amount of homesickness whatsoever. At every turn I saw a member of my family mirrored in the people around me: my parents in Cornelia and Gligor, my niece Kailey in Florin’s daughter Ema, my nephew Kolby in both Emi and Florin’s son Robert, and my nephews Wade and Dylan in Florin’s other son David and little Julian. God’s care has been astounding, and I hear His call loudly this night. It would surprise me none at all if I returned to Arad very soon for long-term ministry. And I am praying that God will open the doors to allow me to do this very thing.
continue reading: Day Nine