“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
look full in his wonderful face;
and the things of earth
will grow strangely dim
in the light of his glory and grace.”
– Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus, hymn lyrics by Helen Lemmel
I’m a sucker for a good hymn, and I love this chorus. I’ve cried and prayed and sang myself to sleep a couple of nights—at home and in Romania—with these words of comfort. I think the most encouraging idea contained in them is that, when our focus is on Christ and His glory, all of the lesser priorities become periphery. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if I’m working alongside American or Romanian brothers and sisters. It doesn’t matter if I’m working with Gypsy babies or with spoiled American ones. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating ciorbe or mac-n-cheese. It doesn’t matter because the important thing is that the cross and the face of my savior are before me. With my eyes set on that goal I am given the vision to see that whatever else is around me doesn’t hold nearly as much importance.
I would like to thank you all for praying and reading to watch how God was working in and around me in Romania. You were all a great encouragement to me, and your prayers were felt. I continue to ask for your prayers as I readjust to life here in America and hurry off to school again. The reverse culture shock has hit me harder than it ever has before. I blame that mostly on the fact that I didn’t take anyone with me to Romania that shared those experiences with me — someone who can relate to what I’m feeling and thinking and someone who shares many of the memories with me. I have been wonderfully blessed, though. God has given me a loving and understanding family, and they’ve given me plenty of hugs and prayers. I will also soon be moving into my apartment on campus with three other girls whose hearts and minds God has also claimed for missions, and each one has spent her summer in service to God as well. We’ll have plenty to talk about, and I know that the four of us will be an encouragement to each other. So, while I feel somewhat like a water sprinkler because of the inordinate amount of times that I’ve cried since I got back, I know that God is showering me with comfort and encouragement. Last night I served my family Romanian tomato salad and clatite (kind of like crepes or pancakes). That was an enormous comfort, not only to my suddenly picky tummy, but also to my Romania-sick heart.
So, as promised, I’d like to give you a recap of my trip, hitting the highlights and summarizing some of the things I saw and learned. The overwhelming sentiment the trip has left me with is that God is beautiful and faithful: beautiful because during my month in Romania I saw many parts of His character displayed as He worked in His children to glorify His name, and faithful because I saw over and over again how He keeps His promises and fulfills His plans. I don’t know how many of you have been blessed to see an orchestra perform, but I have always found that to be an interesting experience. My favorite part is watching the conductor. He isn’t the composer of the music being played, but he still seems responsible for the symphony of sound that meets my ears. The tempo, volume, intensity, and layering of the music all seem to depend on the movements of his hands. While the pieces of the orchestra all have to play their parts well, it isn’t hard for me to imagine the sound flowing from the tips of the conductors fingers and baton. The beauty and layering I saw in my last month came directly from our Conductor’s hands. He led each one of His children’s hearts as they served and worshipped Him, and after I backed away and looked at what He had led us in, I saw how beautifully He had layered our efforts and led us in an intricate dance. I worked with one missionary couple, two pastors, a dedicated children’s worker, a 3-person team of Gypsies, two translators, a team from Norway, a Pentecostal congregation, and an American from Missouri. God led us in a beautifully coordinated dance of ministry — not without a few trips on our part, of course. I was amazed at how He worked all around me and continued the work He had started with teaching and discipling and seed planting. Almost every morning when I woke up I was confronted with the joy of being hand in hand with my savior, serving in a new and exciting place. It has been a long journey for me, and I cannot tell you the number of doors God has opened for me to bring me safely to and from a month of His service in Romania.
I certainly learned a lot during my Romanian month. I am truly not the same. I will forever hold a different understanding of the unity God wishes for those in His kingdom. He taught me in many different ways how He has planned to unite us and executed those plans. I gained practical experience in working in an oral culture, working with the Roma people, and storying the Bible. I learned a bit of the language, too, and of the history and current conditions of a few people groups in Romania. I learned about myself as well. I learned that within me rests a bit of my savior’s heart for His glory among the Roma. I also learned how beautiful God’s strength is when displayed next to my weaknesses. I didn’t know the language, but God proved that His love knows no language barrier. I was an outsider to the Roma and Romanian cultures, but God formed strong friendships between me and my brothers and sisters. I was little better than an orphan in a strange country but God in His providence showed me that He has given me family all over the world within His kingdom. I have no special talents, but God has made my willing heart a beautiful and honorable sacrifice.
I was blessed to see God’s hands working around me to build and heal and invite. Isaiah 55 details the winsome invitation I saw offered again and again.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”
We fed bellies and souls. We watered gardens and gospel seeds. I saw children learn of God’s character and they learned more of their own nature as well. I watched adults begin to seek and children who found answers to their questions. I saw the need for human affection met alongside the need for affection from our Heavenly Father. I saw God working in Romania like crazy, and I will continue to pray for His work and His workers there. I miss it, and I can’t wait to go back, but for now, I will watch and pray.
I want to leave you with a few prayer requests until you hear from me again. Firstly, there is an overwhelming need for workers in Romania. It took me, a translator, and the three FARM team members to conduct the program for fifty kids in the slums, and all the while the children’s families were left in the dark. My heart burns for those Gypsy parents. They know nothing of the gospel, nor of the life that it gives and the joy it contains. The parents need to know as much as anyone else that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and will give their lives meaning. The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Secondly, please pray for discipleship. There are new Christians in each of the places I served in Romania. Their hearts are full of passion to serve, but they have been given no training or discipleship. Pray for God to burden the hearts of His children to spend time with their younger brothers and sisters in fellowship and training. The Gypsies are an unreached people group, and because of that most of the believers are first generation Christians and many lack maturity. I saw Gypsy believers whose hearts yearned for service among their own people, but on their own and without a mentor they were not sufficient. Pray for our Father to glorify His Name among the Gypsies and for Him to become a beacon in their isolated worlds.