ROMANIA : 4 NOVEMBER 2007
Our last day in Romania was again full of emotion for me. By now I know that my heart is missions-oriented, and I’m leaving a quarter of my heart in Romania. I may never be able to express the fullness of my time here, and I yearn to return soon.
Early in the week, Pastor Florin said, “If you come back to Romania, I have a job for you.” He was referring to his need for someone to minister to the children in Hunedoara-Timişana, to oversee a recreation center that would serve as a gathering place for the students in the village. He believes, as I do, that reaching the children for Christ will bring in the families, as well, and he seeks someone to stand in that position of ministry. I’ve been mulling this over all week, knowing that this “job” is not for pay but for ministry, and today I believe I can make a life here if the Lord will open the doors and provide the financial support necessary to sustain it. The new worship center Florin is having built includes bedrooms for visiting missionaries, and one of those rooms would be my home. I was actually somewhat anxious all week in wanting to immediately get started on a long-term mission. But when Florin showed me the architectural plans for the worship center, I finally had a clear understanding of what God wants from me. The construction of the church is not even “scheduled” for completion until July 2008, and if I know anything about Romania from this past week it’s that a schedule or timeline is really just the first suggestion of a date. July is likely to come and go with much of the church incomplete. And that’s how God settled me: for the next year I need to focus on the daily but continue to look toward Timişana. This realization grounded my emotions so that I can see more objectively. I have at least one year to investigate support and commission, and this helps me contain my feelings about leaving Romania. I hope it will be only a short-term separation.
Our last church service was packed with substance for both John and me. He preached his last sermon for the week, and he was pointed in his message. Before even beginning, John asked everyone to open their Bibles to a specific scripture, saying, “Whenever someone reads a scripture verse to you, always open your own Bible and read along with them. If you don’t see it for yourself, how can you know that what is being read to you is true? Be sure to read it for yourself.” And then he waited until everyone in the room had located the scripture for themselves before proceeding with the message. It was inspired, and I was very proud of the transformation I have seen in John this week. I think he’s proud of it, too. John’s sermon lasted 45 minutes and he could have continued for half an hour more. What a difference a week makes! He spoke a direct salvation message, as well as one of discipleship and growth through personal relationship. Everything we have learned this week, everything we have shared and taught and encouraged throughout this week, culminated in today’s sermon, and John drew the congregation in to answer questions and make comments. By the end of our time there was a feeling of community in the room. I pray this only deepens and grows in the months to come.
Earlier that morning I told Florin that I simply wanted to pray for the church rather than speak about experiences and testimony regarding the work. All of that had been said the night before, and there was simply nothing more I could add other than my personal prayers for the village. It took Florin much convincing before he relented to just letting me pray, and he actually chose to have me close our morning service. We stood in a circle and clasped hands while I committed the church and its members to the Lord’s purposes, encouraging them to continue in their faith and to share their experiences with all of their friends and family. I shared my personal life verse with them, Psalm 91:1-2, and reminded them that the Lord shelters those who rest in Him. And I thanked God for allowing us the opportunity to bring Him glory through our time among His people. The Spirit of God filled the room as we lifted our hearts to Him this day, and He blessed us all by His presence. I am excited about His work here.
The afternoon was mostly a blur as we packed up and shuttled everyone back to Arad for a closing rally of all churches who participated in the week’s evangelistic activities. I convinced Florin to make two trips instead of trying to stuff five people and six large suitcases into his tiny little car, though I had to work harder to convince him than I should have. The car situation is one aspect of Romanian life that I may never get used to. But Florin did make two trips this afternoon, leaving me at home with his family and Laurenţiu during the first shuttle. I needed this bit of downtime to think through all of the professions of faith we had experienced during the week, to write summaries for our project journals, and simply to enjoy the company of Gabriela, Ema and David. I enjoy listening to their conversations of which I understand very few words, and Gabriela is always a pleasure to observe. Her words are fast and animated, often punctuated with the phrase “Range Rover”, which delights me every time. (She is convinced that a Range Rover would solve all of their vehicle issues, although I think the cool factor plays a big part.) I long for the day when she and I can communicate freely for I know that we can be great friends. And I love her children as if they were my own family. I thank God for the hour He gave me today to simply sit in their presence and enjoy their company.
When Florin and I finally returned to Arad, after dropping Laurenţiu on the side of the highway to cross over to his girlfriend’s home for the afternoon (a more abrupt “goodbye” than I hoped for), we crept into the closing rally half an hour late. But as I understand it, this is simply “on time” for Romanians, so I did not fret. We were treated to a mini-concert featuring an incredible mandolin orchestra punctuated by occasional vocalist performances. My heart soared at this fitting end to our cultural experiences. Several of our team members had the opportunity to share a couple of personal moments from the week, and I quickly realized how different all of our stories will be. Though some of the attitudes encountered were similar to those we met, not everyone saw salvation again and again. And while our villages were populated with many senior adults, others were surrounded by children or older students. One of our team spent his time in a gypsy village, and by far his experience is most removed from mine and John’s. I was excited for the opportunity that lay ahead this evening to share some of our stories amongst only our team.
Leaving the church this afternoon put the cap on the week’s mission. It has yet to sink in, though I did shed a few more tears on the way to the church earlier in the day. My heart just isn’t ready to let go of all I saw here and all that remains to be accomplished. But go home I must, and so I tried to gather all that I’ve been holding dear and let it seep into my bones. My mind is full of images, of people and experiences, of love for new friends and surrogate families. I’m a little anxious about what awaits me at home, uncertain as to what could possibly measure up to this week, but I must continue. Leaving here is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.
Later that night, after our team came back together in Arad, Jon Glidden said something that really helped me wrap up this week. He and Joey were discussing how they wanted FMNorth to be the kind of church that continues to return to the regions of mission work and commit to investing in these communities. This is how I’ve been feeling all week. I want to invest in the lives of these villagers, to raise up Godly people among them and help them grow in their walks with Jesus. But I want the daily investment; I want to be part of their community. I truly feel God will honor this desire of my heart, and I’m so excited to see His Hands move the obstacles that Satan will attempt to throw in my path. Romania beckons and God’s Spirit is there. I am content now to wait for His plan.
continue reading: Day Twelve