ROMANIA : 30 OCTOBER 2007
Today was filled with encouragement. Most of our visits today were to church members in need of special attention, and the first visit of the day truly set the tone. An elderly woman in declining bone health proved to be God’s way of helping me learn how to relate to elderly adults in a way I had not been able to do before. Lucreţia lived alone in an expansive home that was now only a fraction of its original size. It had once been a mansion filled with generations of family heirlooms, but when the Communists arrived in Agrişu-Mare they seized everything of value and proceeded to tear down over half the home. When you view the walls at the back of the house you can see where doors had once been located but were now filled with plaster. And yet there is no spirit of defeat in this home. Lucreţia still speaks about those Communist times with great sadness – and an occasional bitter thought – but she is also able to see the blessings of today. I could have listened to her all day speaking about her family and her life, and I took many pictures to document our time there. My prayer for her, then and now, is that she is able to praise God for all of the hardship and to see specific ways that He has turned bad into good. Should I ever be allowed to return to Agrişu-Mare I want to be comfortable enough with the language so I can visit with her again.
Our day took us on a journey of extremes. We next found ourselves along the road at the edge of the village, their largest hill (Cioaca) on the right and a series of farms on the left. We spoke with Vasile, a man we found standing on the edge of the road raking trash into a deep pit at the base of the hill – one version of a landfill – and John was again able to connect with him to the point of faith profession. We have noticed that John’s sermons on one day are the perfect witnessing tools for the next day’s opportunities. The Lord is so good in that way. We had much time with Vasile, standing beside the road at the most picturesque part of the village, and his response was heartfelt and sincere, his eyes full of tears as we prayed for him and his estranged wife. I believe Vasile will be found in heaven one day, and we rejoice at being part of his journey.
Many more opportunities arose throughout the morning, many of whom were open to receive more visits from the church. One young man in particular was intently reading the plan of salvation and steps for new believers printed with our testimonies. I believe he is nearest to entering the Kingdom of God, and I pray that Brother Avram and Pastor Florin have opportunity soon to follow up with him. The Lord is at work here in Agrişu-Mare, and I am so grateful to be witness.
As wonderful as it is to be God’s Hands and words, it is equally special to see His handiwork. The hill at the edge of the village has been given the name Cioaca, and it is an astounding creation. When we first arrived in the village and drove past it, Laurenţiu suggested we climb the hill because it provides a view of the entire village. Pastor Florin allowed us the opportunity today. It is steep and required several rest moments before the summit, but I was determined to scale it and take the photos back home with me. It is a breathtaking view from the top. The village is laid out in full panorama, and with its trees sporting autumn colors it appeared as a slice of Americana right in the heart of Romania. The experience will last a lifetime, and the photos will be placed on my walls at home as a constant reminder to pray for the people and village of Agrişu-Mare.
The remainder of our day was filled with words of encouragement to the church members and their loved ones. The Lord was gracious to allow us an extended visit with an older man and his daughter and grandson, giving all of us a chance to be still and watch Him work while also recovering from the upward hike on Cioaca. For a full twenty minutes or more, our host Titi scurried to and fro supplying us with platters of fresh grapes, whole pears, and large walnuts with accompanying hammer to crack them. He also brought a bottle of homemade grape juice made from his own fruits. Almost all of the homes we visit have grapevines growing freely up and around their courtyards, and most homeowners will prepare bottles of juice to keep on hand. This visit with Titi left us physically refreshed as well as filled with the Holy Spirit as we watched Him work our surroundings and the gracious hospitality into the conversation. John made a real connection with Titi, and before our visit ended he was able to use a large walnut to demonstrate how God sometimes has to work very hard on us to break through to the soft center. John picked up the hammer and began to tap on the shell of the walnut while speaking of God’s attempts to crack our hard human shells, and then, in a method so like God, John had to tap the hammer a bit harder before getting the nut to crack its shell. When John opened the shell and spoke of God reaching the human heart, we were all overjoyed to see the meat of the walnut still perfectly intact. Only God could have made that happen in just this way, and it was lost on none of us. We left Titi and his family with smiles in their hearts and a renewed hope for what God will be doing in their lives.
We have many stories from this afternoon: from Sylvia’s concern over a niece living in Austria and children living in America who are not able to visit like she wishes nor living the life she prays for them, to Sânziana (called Jana) who is cousin to my host mother Cornelia and who is fervently praying for her neighbors. We met Florica, who was in the midst of removing corn from their cobs, and were able to pray for family who no longer lives close enough to visit. The hearts and minds of the church members are always on family and friends, and it was a blessing for me to be able to pray with each of them in a very specific way. The Lord used our time to encourage them to be on mission in their own neighborhoods, in their village, and with their families by simply sharing how He is working in their own lives. For the first time in my life I understand how important this type of visitation can be.
Our evening church service featured a group from Arad – pastor and musical quintet of university students. Laurenţiu had introduced me to the fact that Bill Gaither’s music is very popular in this part of Romania, and the quintet proved just how much. They sang in the exact same style as any Gaither vocal band, and the presentation was flawless. In speaking with them afterward we learned that this style is favored above all others. So interesting! Who knew that Romanian students would be so fond of old-time gospel music made famous twenty years ago?
The visiting pastor spoke from his heart about the need for discipleship and continuing the work that we have begun this week. I appreciated Pastor Florin’s translation of the message, but I have to admit I have enjoyed hearing the Romanian sermons without understanding the words. The language is so beautiful to my ears, and God has burrowed deep into my heart the intent of the words. Without grasping even a single sentence, I am truly blessed by these sermons and the hymns sung before. I have determined to study the language on my own if only to be able to participate when I am allowed to return to Romania in the future. And God is placing that desire so deep within me that I feel certain it will happen one day.
continue reading: Day Seven