Going Home

I’m really sorry that almost all of my titles have been related to the amount of time I have spent in Romania or the time I have left. Talk to God about the portion of creativity He gave me. I think all of mine went to Olivia or something… Anyhow, I have come to the sad realization that I have less than a full week left here in Romania. Things have been sad and things have been encouraging. I have cried and laughed (mostly at myself) and scratched my head (quite a lot—the little Gypsy kids have lice. Just kidding – they do have lice, but I’ve scratched my head because I have no idea what’s going on), but Wednesday driving back from Peştera a contentedness just washed over me. I became aware of how fond I was of the uneven sidewalks with sunflower seeds all over them, and of Gigi’s Nascar driving, and of holding grimy little Gypsy babies. I began to realize how much I would miss all of it when I go home. Don’t get me wrong—I miss people and things at home too, but I think re-adjusting will be hard. A picture came into my head of me cutting cabbage at home to make salata and crying because I wouldn’t eat it at Gaby’s little table with enough bread to insulate a small house. As ridiculous as that sounds, I had to fight back the tears because I know I’ll miss it here more than I have missed anywhere else God has taken me on mission. I’m sure some of you know the story of David Livingstone. He was a very famous missionary to Africa. He made some big mistakes, but he had a huge piece of God’s heart for the lost people there. When he died he asked for his body to be sent back to his family at home in Scotland(?) and for his heart to be buried in Africa. I think I’ll feel a little like that when I leave—well, except for the being dead part.

Things have been good this week. I’ve been blessed to watch God work in different ways. Most of the time I can see it in the lightbulbs that light up behind a child’s eyes when they get the Bible story. Wednesday at Peştera little Florin’s face just broke open with a huge grin after I told the story of Daniel’s life (from the exile to his service under Darius) and he understood that God would do wonderful things with his own life if he was faithful like Daniel. Thursday at Barǎci I was asking questions after I told the story of Joshua when the sun stood still and one of the boys raised his two fingers in the cute way all the kids raise their hands here, and he said “Eu, eu, eu! (me, me, me!)” because he had the answer to the question. He understood that God really is on our side when we do what He asks. He understood that God made the hail fall and the sun stop for Joshua because Joshua was following His orders. The little boy answered my questions with something like ‘God will fight for me when I’m obeying Him.’ He understood that he could be just like Joshua—that there was no difference between himself and the great hero in the Bible.

This week has also been a little painful. Vagard is still in a coma, in a hospital in Norway, of course, but we’ve had a few problems a bit closer to home too. Florin and I went to the beach again Monday with the FARM team, and we had a wonderful time of fellowship and bonding. Cerasela’s 10-year-old sister, Andreea, came with us, and I spent a lot of time with her catching the dead jellyfish. Of course I couldn’t understand everything she said, but she was patient with me and I had occasion to thank God again for the understanding of the language He has given me. It’s obviously not complete, but I could understand almost everything she said. We also played chicken (where someone sits on someone else’s shoulders who is standing in the water and the person on top tries to knock down someone else on someone’s shoulders), and for some reason the hardest part for everyone else was getting on the shoulders. One time during all of the hullaballoo of three people clambering onto three other people’s shoulders, Florin got hurt and ended up in the hospital that evening. He is now on some really strong pain-killers and some antibiotics and he can barely walk. He’s been house-bound all week, so while we’ve been praying for healing, Monica has been my translator. It’s been a blessing to spend time with her, but please be praying for Florin with us. We went to a bigger hospital (in Constanţa) Saturday morning and he has an infection so he has to have shots daily, along with his other medicine.

Thursday morning I managed to twist my ankle trying to keep up with Gigi, so I’ve been hobbling around for a few days. It’s barely swollen, but it still hurts. On top of all that, Gigi’s father had to go to the hospital Thursday afternoon. He had a stroke a few years ago, and he is paralyzed, but he can still talk. We still don’t know exactly what is wrong with him, but he can’t keep food down and he has a lot of pain in his trunk. Please pray for him, as he is not a believer. Pray for brother Gigi as well. I talked to him late Thursday night when he came back from the hospital and he told me the same information again, but he stopped fidgeting about partway through the conversation when I cut off some of his stammered English with “God is still in control.” He was apologizing again for not being able to drive me to Peştera that day. He felt very responsible for anything that happened that day that could be seen as going wrong. I had been praying for God to give him peace and I think the prayer was answered. 🙂 His father is doing better now, but he’s still not out of the woods yet.

The story of the Tower of Babel has been more or less of a recurring theme for my time here. I’ve told it at least twice to different groups, and one time I laughed at the irony of the double translation we needed (from English to Romanian to Turkish) and a second time at the irony of the pantomime being too far ahead of my words in an attempt to anticipate the delay of translation. I personally love the story, because it makes me feel a little bit better when I can’t speak Romanian or Ţiganesc or Turkish or Spanish. I know there is a reason that the languages were separated and that eventually, when all things are set right, all of God’s children will be able to understand each other. But, Paul talks about things being imperfect now – not completely broken. God has been teaching me that we can see a glimpse of that perfection (in which we can all communicate perfectly) now, within His kingdom. You’ve heard how music is the universal language, or of the love languages, or the language of touch or of body language. I think those are all real things. The little gypsy kids love it when I hug and kiss them or tickle them. I’m communicating affection without words and they understand it (I had a really happy moment Friday when “the kid from the grass” came over and held his arms up for a hug. I don’t know his name because the little gypsy kids only speak Ţiganesc, but he will never come join the rest of the kids. He always listens and watches from the grass. He’s been afraid and run away every other time I approached him, but today he watched me love on his sister a lot and he finally came over and I got to hug him several times).

But anyhow, I’ve been learning about the language of praise; body language and the language of touch don’t even compare. Wednesday Gigi and I were looking ahead to the passage for Thursday evening Bible study and we were reading and stammering back and forth in choppy English and a few of my stammered Romanian words. I pointed out a part that I had never really understood before and we both got a fire in our eyes and started flipping through concordances and commentaries and turning the pages of each other’s Bibles to a verse we wanted to show the other. We both came to a new understanding of the passage after cross-referencing elsewhere in Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 2 Corinthians, and several places in Isaiah. It was a beautiful experience because we were both a brother or a sister in Christ and He had given us the common language of His word and His praise. Gigi mentioned the Tower of Babel after we were done and said something about how wonderful it was that even though our languages were different, we could communicate to each other because we were both part of the same împǎrǎţia (kingdom). I was thinking and praying about the Tower of Babel story later and my mind came to rest on a part of the story that has always confused me just a tiny bit. We know from other stories that God confused the languages because the people had congregated at Babel and refused to fill the earth, The actual story of the Tower says that God says something like, ‘If they can do this with one language, nothing they attempt will be impossible for them.’ We know from science that there is no possible way they could actually build a tower to reach heaven. God’s heaven is outside of the universe. I’ve always wondered what God was talking about. What great work would the people be able to do with their single language? That work was glorification. The people at Babel could all communicate as one people and they could glorify. Instead of using this beautiful gift of sound and meaning and communication to glorify God, they used it for themselves. They wanted to glorify themselves with the tower. And they would have done, if God had not confused their languages. As members of God’s kingdom here on earth, and eventually one day in heaven, we all desire to glorify God with our words and our actions. Thing sounds and meanings we communicate with all glorify God (or, they are supposed to, anyway). When we praise God it doesn’t matter if we sing “Ce mare eşti Tu” or “How great Thou art.” We all mean the same thing. It really is a beautiful thing.

Along with this theme I thought I’d tell you about a couple of gifts I have received while I’ve been here. The first one is a memory. Last Sunday morning Frate Gigi and Sorǎ Gaby and I went to Peştera for the service. The church plant there has no pastor, so the more mature men of the church here in Medgidia take turns leading. The services here last as long as the congregation feels like. We sing a few hymns corporately and a few people pray, but before the message there is almost always a time when anyone can (and most everyone does) read some poetry or sing a favorite hymn or read a scripture passage and share a testimony. After that is a long serial prayer, starting with a short prayer from the pastor, filling up the middle with almost everyone else in the building, and a closing prayer from the pastor. Afterwards the pastor or fill-in reads a passage and gives more or less of a sermon (less exegetical and more narrative focused). During the singing time I asked Gaby to sing Come Thou Fount with me. It is one of my favorite hymns, and it has been adapted into Romanian and it’s in their song books. It is one of her favorite songs too. I knew she liked it because during the day whenever both of us are at home we almost always sing together (she in Romanian and a little in English and me in the reverse). She has a beautiful and strong soprano voice and God has given me a strong alto voice and I love to harmonize. Together we sang the first two verses in our own language and then I looked at her songbook and we sang the last verse in Romanian together. It was the most beautiful song I have ever sung, and pretty close to the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I say that not out of even a smidgen of pride—but because God has given us both voices to praise Him with and because we both sang out of the depths of our souls. It was beautiful sounding, but all the more because of the souls behind the sounds. The second gift was a Romanian Bible. I’ve been trying to think of something I want to bring back to remember my time here by, and I kept coming back to a Bible in Romanian. Because of what God has been teaching me about languages and words and the universal language of praise used by His kingdom, I felt like a Bible in Romanian was the perfect thing. Thursday when Gaby and I were just talking in my room she stopped and got up and walked over to the bookcase and took down a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs and study notes and gave it to me. I hadn’t said anything to anyone about wanting a Bible, and she gave me that one with seemingly no prompting. It was a heartfelt gift and a heartfelt blessing to me. I’ve memorized a couple of verses so far, but I’ll write my favorite for you here. Again, I’m seeing a repeated theme from my trip. 😉 Ioan unu cu unu (1:1): „La început era Cuvântul şi Cuvântul era cu Dumnezeu, şi Cuvântul era Dumnezeu.” That’s John 1:1, if you want/need to look it up. 🙂

Well, I’m sure you have to get back to your lives, but in case you want any more advice on dealing with food in Romania, read on.

  1.         If anyone offers you cletita or cozonac, heartily accept them. You might even tell them that you have a rare stomach condition that allows you only to eat cletita and cozonac. Cletita are like sweet crepes, and you put jam or nutella on the inside and roll it up to eat it. Cozonac is a sweetbread with raisins, walnuts, and chocolate swirls. It has the puffiness of wedding cake and the perfect amount of sweetness.
  2. Make sure you have an accountability partner with you if you think you are likely to run into a corcoduş tree. Those little fruits are so good that you may not realize how many you’ve eaten in one sitting. They are as soft and juicy as the best plum you’ve ever eaten, but in the center around the pit they are satisfyingly tart. They are about the circumference of a quarter, and the trees are loaded with them.

Until next time, keep my in your prayers!