Well, I was going to post today during my layover in Amsterdam, but after I typed everything up I found out that I didn’t have internet. 🙂 So, enjoy!
I am posting this blog from an airport terminal in Amsterdam. I’m on my way back home, and I’m fixing to board a plane to timewarp back to Dallas. I leave here at 10:30 in the morning and I’ll land in Dallas at about 2 in the afternoon. How is it possible that my flight over the Atlantic Ocean will take only as long as my drive home from the airport? I’ll tell you how… I’ll lose 7 hours (crossing time zones) during my 10 hour flight. I like to think that I’ll be traveling at the speed of time. Maybe that will make it easier for me to leave behind my friends and family in Romania.
Seriously though, I want to thank you all for praying for me while I’ve been gone. It has been a wonderfully blessed experience, and I am certainly not the same as when I sat in this airport waiting on the plane that would take me to Romania. In my last week God strengthened the bonds He has given me with my sisters and brothers in Romania, and leaving comes very hard. I am ready to be home, and I miss my family and friends dearly, but my chest is still tight from the grief of leaving behind my home here. God blessed me beyond my wildest imagination with the family I lived with, and I feel like I’m leaving behind a mother and father and some brothers and two little sisters. I will also miss my church family here and the beautiful children I got to work with every day. I almost want to be mad at God for the unity he gave me with the Body of Christ here for the fact that I have to leave, but I know that it is His timing, and I feel very strongly that He will bring me back. So, don’t stop praying now. Re-adjustment will be hard and I will be seeking God’s will about how and when to return and who to come with.
I left letters with the church and my foster family and my translators explaining how grateful I was for their help and for their time spent with me as we served the Lord together. I couldn’t bear to say most of the things I could write, nor could I take the frustration of imprecise translation, so I just left the letters. I know that someone (probably Florin) will end up translating them later, and so long as I’m not there, it’ll be alright. I wrote most of them Monday and I almost cried then, even though I still had a few days left.
Sunday morning we had communion at the church and I really understood for the first time the communal aspect of that meal. I have broken bread with my brothers and sisters here almost at every meal, and I thought nothing of it, just like the disciples probably thought when Jesus began to break the bread at the Last Supper. But, as we were all eating from the same loaf of bread and drinking from the same (incredibly strong!!) wine, I felt the connectedness of the community of the Kingdom wash over me like a tangible wave. It was a really odd/exciting experience. I wanted to grab the hands of the people sitting next to me and squeeze them and kiss them on the cheeks. While that is the appropriate way to express friendship or kinship here, I didn’t think it was quite appropriate for communion, so I restrained myself. It’s just become second nature now to greet people and tell them goodbye with the cheek kisses. Anyhow, after reading a bit and studying, I learned that Paul is so mad with the Corinthians (1 Cor 11) about the way they celebrate communion not only because they did so irreverently. Verses 17 to 22 indicate that Paul was fuming because the Lord’s Supper was not practiced in a way to unify, as it should have been. Instead of uniting the body, they were eating in such a way as to tear it apart into factions. It is a symbolic act to help us remember what Jesus did for us, but also to remind us that we all share in the same grace (Phil 1:7) and salvation, no matter where we are or how we are serving God. The same Body was broken for all of us, and the same blood spilt. Communion unites the Body of Christ in the same mystical way that the physicality of marriage unites a couple and makes them “one.” Paul describes this a little when he talks about the Body of Christ (the church), Christ himself, the individual believer, and married people (1 Cor 6:16-17, Eph 5:28-33). This view of communion makes sense, especially when taken in the larger context of the 1 Corinthians. Paul is talking about creating and keeping unity in the Body from chapter 10 to chapter 14. He speaks of things that divide and things that unite and he instructs on the way things should be done so as to promote unity and cooperation. I say all of that to say that I experienced communion in a completely different way Sunday, and I became even more attached to my church family here.
Sunday afternoon things just got worse (I’m getting ready to leave, people! Quit being so nice to me and inclusive; you’re making it even harder!!!). Gaby and Gigi took me and the family camping for the rest of the day. We were on a tributary of the Danube (so it was wide and shallow and great for playing in – even if no one brought a swimsuit) in a beautiful forest. Florin still couldn’t walk, so he stayed home, but Alex and Catalin (cousins) and Gaby and Gigi and I all went. We dug a fire pit and grilled some pork and toasted bread to eat, and we had dinner under the trees. Alex and Catalin caught some small fish and I took them off the hooks, and then we all played in the water. Afterwards Gigi fished with the boys and Gaby and I walked through the woods and talked. We went back and the boys finished fishing and we started to pack up. With my impeccable balance I managed to slip into the mud by the banks twice at this point, and the second time I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t get up again. Catalin and Gaby came over to pull me out and then Gaby gave me a thorough washing before we left. She made me stand on one foot so she could wash the other (or one of my shoes) and I was afraid I was going to slip again, but I didn’t. 🙂
Of course, on my last full day here (Thursday) things got even worse. Gaby and Gigi and the FARM team and I went to Dobrogei to see and play in some mountains with caves. Florin is, thankfully, on the mend. He’s had an infection but he is getting better. Dobrogei was a lot of fun, and I got closer to the FARM team. We may or may not have illegally fed the şobolani (fieldmice) our croissants. They were just so cute that we couldn’t help it. The FARM team members are from Bucareşti and they got here about the same time I did. They only have part of next week left before they go home. Ana translated for me again at Barǎci that morning and she did an excellent job. We both prayed for her to do well. She can’t speak probably about the same amount of English that I can Romanian, but she understands well. I can’t translate, of course, but I know enough words to be able to tell if I’ve gotten a true translation. After Barǎci we went straight to Dobrogei, and then we picked up Monica and dropped off FARM and headed to Peştera for my last day there. Those kids are wonderful. I’m really going to miss them. After that we went to Bible study at the church in Medgidia and then all the young people had a going-away party for me. I cried at church because of the church family I was leaving, and Ana (the FARM girl) almost made me cry at the party.
I finished up my story sets at Barǎci and Peştera this week. I did a chronological set at Peştera because the kids had enough background to the stories that I could skip a few in order to have enough time to make the historical connections and explain the order of events. They have never heard the stories that way before, so they didn’t realize the Nebuchadnezzer’s dream of the statue explained the changing empires all the way up to and through the 400 years of silence, and they didn’t realize that the mountain was Christ’s first coming and the growth of the kingdom. The story quilt Olivia made for me was a WONDERFUL help to connect the stories for the kids. I could point to Jesus and his blood on the cross and move my finger just a few inches to the picture of the Passover lamb’s blood on the doorpost to make the connection for them. I could point to the picture of Isaac carrying the wood for his own sacrifice up Mount Moriah and remind the kids how Jesus carried his cross up to Golgotha. Tuesday I did the story of Jesus (birth, twelve-year-old, baptism, miracles, teachings, healings, parables, crucifixion, tomb, resurrection, ascension… *gasping for air*), and Wednesday I started Acts and explained how the rock that fell on Nebuchadnezzar’s statue became the kingdom of God and began to fill the whole earth. At Barǎci I told a cultural set because the kids had almost no background. This last week they learned about every human’s sinfulness, the punishment we deserve, and that someone was beaten for us from the story of Balaam and his donkey; about God’s power of forgiveness and cleansing from the Gaderene Demoniac; and about His overwhelming love for us and His gift of life from the resurrection of Lazarus. I’ll probably write another blog after I’ve gotten home and processed a few more things. I’ll try to give you a recap of the trip and point out the important parts, but until then, la revedere (goodbye). Thanks for the prayers, and I’ll see you soon. Thanks, guys! You were a blessing!