ROMANIA : 3 NOVEMBER 2007
Our only day of visits in Hunedoara-Timişana began with three neighbors whose hearts were open to the Good News of Jesus Christ. This village has two Christian families among the 300 families who reside here, and the rest are of Orthodox belief. By now we have learned the questions to ask to determine whether a person knows how to be assured of heaven, and God has been quick to lead us in the right directions for discussions. It is awesome to feel His Spirit impress upon me with the exact right conversations, and I can feel His power working within me. There are moments when I wonder if it’s too easy or if a person is answering the questions as she believes I expect her to answer them, and there are moments when I am not certain the prayers are as heartfelt as they are recitative like so many have been taught to do. But I also know that I can never be certain and that God will take everyone at the place they are and is faithful to work in their hearts. I believe He is changing the people of Timişana, and I believe He will continue to open hearts.
We next met with Îleana, who was already excited at our coming and quick to respond to the Message. I almost entertained the thought of “this seems too easy” but dismissed it immediately as I recalled just how much prayer this village has been bathed in these past months. God is faithful, and I cannot deny His power.
We returned to Arad before lunch to pick up Laurenţiu for the weekend, and it was such a joy to spend more time with him. Our conversations are lively and full of banter, and I am energized when in his presence. I felt almost urgent in wanting to talk with him before I have to leave everyone tomorrow, so I spent every minute soaking in the camaraderie. We stopped by the bakery on the way back to the village to pick up David’s birthday cake, and I held it in my lap all the way home to ensure that it made it safe and sound. Half my challenge was keeping Laurenţiu’s hands off the cake! This guy can eat like no one I’ve ever known, and chocolate is a weakness. I’ve never laughed so much as I did balancing that cake on my lap during the speeding/weaving/high traffic/rocky/muddy drive home while simultaneously protecting it from Laurenţiu’s “help” to smooth out mistakes in the icing. I am so thankful that God has placed these moments in our days to balance the emotional aspect of His work through us.
Our afternoon took a late start after the Bālāceanu family celebrated David’s 7th birthday. The party was much like any American birthday party with cake and song (in English); David received one unwrapped gift from the family (computer game) and a special handmade gift from sister Ema. It was a sweet moment that I am so thankful to have been a part of. I only wish Robert and Rebecca, the other Bālāceanu children, could have joined us. It is these moments that personalize everything we are accomplishing in Romania.
For the afternoon, we broke into two teams to make more visits during the time before the evening church service. John, Florin and Janet Hill (who joined us that morning) went one direction, while Laurenţiu and I were joined by Vasile, a 22-year-old man who fills in at the church when Pastor Florin is in Agrişu-Mare. Vasile and his mother are the only other Christians in Hunedoara-Timişana besides the Bālāceanu family, and many of our visits from the day were of personal interest to Vasile. We visited three homes before we ran out of time and left for the evening church service, and at two of these homes we saw professions of faith. One of these salvations was Vasile’s aunt. I felt a sense of responsibility knowing this, and God used me to comfort her regarding a wayward son. Even after praying a prayer for salvation, she was not certain God could forgive her anger and emotional outbursts at her son. I was led to share in two ways: (1) how my own mother prayed so faithfully for me during my prodigal years and then was required by God to give me up to whatever lowest point He needed me to sink, and (2) how our sins were buried with Christ and remained in the grave after He rose to new life. By the end of our time there I felt certain that God had broken through to her fragile heart. Unfortunately, Laurenţiu was not convinced of her sincerity, believing she was more concerned over her son than assured of her salvation. I have to let the Lord decide, but I hope that Vasile will follow up with Florin to ensure that his aunt begins to grow in Christ.
One of the most joyous visits of my week came with Mārioara, a 66-year-old woman who was simply ecstatic upon our arrival. She was brimming with pure joy and heartfelt interest in talking with me. She knew why we were visiting, and I believe she had already determined to give her life to the Lord before one word was spoken. There was nothing but openness and excitement in her entire demeanor, and even after praying and accepting the Lord’s invitation, she wanted to speak further about how to bring extended family to a place of acceptance. I was enveloped with love and joy during my time with Mārioara, and she was so thankful for the time we had given to her. She also came to the church services that night, although she had previously mentioned not coming anymore. Her newfound commitment was evident in her eyes, and I am moved by her desire to immediately grow in the faith.
We did have one more visit this afternoon, and there was a prayer for salvation. However, I have learned to ask, after this prayer, if the person now believes they are saved and forever secure of their place in heaven. With Ana Magdalena, the answer was no, she couldn’t be sure. Sometimes it’s obvious when the Lord is planting seeds and when He wants to bring the harvest, and this time it was seeds. The road to salvation has been presented, and this woman has belief in the ideas, but she has not yet reached the point of fully trusting in faith. This will come in God’s time. The fact that she is willing to have Florin and Vasile continue visits with her, that she is open to more discussion, is a huge win for God. In this Orthodox village, there is much to celebrate when one soul says they are open to hearing. And so we celebrate Ana Magdalena and the future God has for her.
On our way to church tonight I asked Vasile to share his thoughts on the afternoon. I could see in his eyes that he was moved by God’s work, but I wanted to hear his thoughts, just the same. He said simply, “I’ve never been part of anything like this. I love what I’ve seen.” I took the opportunity to encourage him to continue by sharing his own story with other people in the village. I hope he knows how important he can be in his own hometown.
Our evening services were sweet and a few of the new believers were present. The visiting pastor from Arad preached a straightforward gospel message that held nothing back, and I was grateful that Laurenţiu translated for me to hear it. The sermon ended with the only “invitation” given the entire week, and it resulted in another salvation. God has truly blessed this week!
We stayed at the church past the end of the service to speak with the visiting pastor, and he told us a story about God instructing him to stop preaching for “a time”, and that time turned into eight years. The Lord wanted him to be still and to understand that he was no longer to preach “the law” but to begin preaching the grace of Christ. This has now become his primary focus and he does not hold back. I was encouraged to know that this Message would be preached all around Arad.
Our last evening together seemed to extend for many hours, none of us wanting our time together to end. By the end of the night we were all just sitting around the Bālāceanu family room, jumping from one topic to another, Florin choosing DVD after DVD to play on the computer, Laurenţiu monopolizing the Internet connection, and Gabriela talking 90 miles a minute, as she is apt to do. I soaked it up, not wanting to forget one detail. As the night crept into the very late hours and people drifted off to bed, I finally had the opportunity to ask Laurenţiu his story. Though he resisted at first, we eventually reached a place of trust and he shared a portion of his life that he has shared with only two other people. I was touched by the connection we had made, and it cemented the feelings I had regarding God’s answer to my personal prayer to make such a connection and be useful for encouragement. By the time we wound down for the night, my heart was so welled up with emotion that I could only cry for the next half hour. God has blessed me beyond my dreams during this week of missional living.
continue reading: Day Eleven