10 months have passed since I left the icy terrain of Romania. Since then I’ve traveled to 3 continents, served in 6 countries and have enjoyed 4 months with my family at home, but lately, I haven’t been able to get Romania off my mind.
Romania wasn’t my favorite month on the race, but I daresay the people there touched me more than any other month, and I think that’s why it leaves such a mark on my heart.
Our time in Romania was a month filled with contrasts. We lived in the nicest home I lived in on the entire race, yet we worked with some of the poorest people I encountered.
It was a month filled with carbo-loading thanks to an extremely slashed food budget (due to the cost of living in said nice house). A month full of prayer and walking, of songs and smiles. It was beyond freezing, but somehow we made it through, and the people we met, will never leave me.
After a few months of creative dryness I entered Romania declaring that I would try harder and take more pictures. As a result I ended the month with thousands of pictures to sift through. Pictures of frosty fields, crumbling shacks and gypsy smiles. I caught it all. But with that renewed photographic creativity came a literary dry spell for me. My photographers block had turned into a writers block and I feel like my blogs from that month reflect that. While I posted plenty of pictures the accompanying stories were glaringly absent.
So now, while Romania is on my heart and mind I want to complete the story. I want to share with you the incredible people I met, the lives that were changed and the tales of amazing things God did.
10 months later, I am finally finishing the story. So, here we go…
To start off since the surrounding circumstances and details are no longer fresh within my blog I’ll give a little background on our ministry for that month.
For the first time in our race so far, my team found ourselves hours and hours from any other team, smack in the middle of the country outside of the Transylvanian city of Targu Mures. Our home for the month was in a small Hungarian village a 30 minute bus ride from town. Our primary ministry was traveling from village to village in the valley, praying and evangelizing to the underclass of Romanian society, the Gypsy’s. Other days we would find ourself in the city, visiting and praying for patients in a Cancer Hospital.
This entire ministry was the heart of our incredible contact, Pastor Zsombor.
I admire this man so much, he lives on sheer trust, faithfully following Gods leading although sometimes it can seem so hopeless. Pastor had been raised in one of the villages in the valley (or walley as he called it 🙂 ), and his father had been the minister of the primarily Hungarian towns church. When Pastor grew up he realized that his fathers denomination had traveled down a wrong path, so instead Pastor went in search of a church who truly followed God, eventually establishing his own. But pastors heart still hurts for his people who are lost, and hurts for the people he grew up around, the Gypsies, so he devotes every day and every dollar to spreading Gods word. Many times only 1 or 2 people will show up to his church service, held in an old government building, but still he presses on, and I applaud him for that.
Everyday that we did village ministry we would bundle ourselves up, pilling on layers and layers of clothes, and then we would walk a mile to the next village over, where the bus stop was. On our very first day ministry Pastor decided to stay and evangelize in that village instead of paying for a bus. We walked down a dirt road to the house of an elderly Hungarian couple Pastor knew. They were standing outside so we stopped to have a chat with them near their gate. A few minutes later I noticed a man had come up behind me. As soon as he caught my eye he began jabbering away in a language I did not know. Speaking no Romanian, Hungarian or Romani (the gypsy language) I futily mimed to him that I did understand. Finally we caught Pastors attention. He talked to the man and learned that he wanted us to come to his house and pray, that he was taking care of his 2 young grand children, his daughter was in the hospital with a 3rd and their father was in prison.
We followed the man, Victor, across the street into the ramshackle Gypsy compound he lived in.
He led us to his home, which was truly a shack. Inside were very few possessions. Only a Bible, and a bed, where his two grandchildren slept. We spent thirty minutes in Victors house praying and listening to his story. Soon, his curious family member from surrounding shacks had entered the conversation as well.
Looking around we could see this was a place of pure sadness and desperation. A place of poverty and where hopelessness abounded. When our team debriefed later that night there was a common feeling between all of us. One of sadness but one of persistence, we knew we had to go back there.
Over the remainder of the month we visited the family 2-3 times a week. Each time they warmed up to us more and more.
On Thanksgiving day, we opted to forgo our daily food budget and instead use that money toward bringing the family a hot meal. The weather was freezing, but we trekked the mile, armed with bread, hot chili and a guitar. When we arrived they initially didn’t understand our intentions, and Pastor wasn’t there to translate, but eventually communication came through, chili was passed out and we spent a good 30 minutes singing Christmas carols. Smiles plastered on everyones faces.
At the end of the month leaving this family was difficult, for them and for us. As we looked back, waving goodbye, I looked into Teeny’s aqua blue eyes for the last time and prayed that she would grow to have a relationship with Jesus.
A thirty minute bus ride down the road was another, larger Gypsy community that we came to really love. It was a place where jealousy and violence was rampant, and because of that our heart cried out to them even more.
On our first day, as I stood utterly lost in translation I felt a little hand reach up and grab mine. It was a little girl, with dirty clothes, tousled hair and something smeared all over her face. A little girl with the most infections smile I had ever seen and who gave the greatest hugs, and her name was Corina.
On the second day we visited the village, when Corina saw me from her window she rushed outside and flew into my arms. A precious memory that will stay in my mind forever.
Each time we visited the village we were immediately surrounded by a hoard of children. Like the Pied Piper with his loyal following they would follow us around from house to house.
We would lead them in songs…
And play games…
And take a lot of pictures…
In this group of children one boy stood out as the leader. After 10 months I can’t for the life of me remember his name, but I do remember his story, or moreover, his father Josephs story.
Four years ago Joseph was hit by a train. He suffered several debilitating injuries including a split skull. Through the fervent prayers of Pastor Zsombor and a YWAM team Joseph was eventualy healed, but instead of surrendering the the God that had healed him, he choose to continue living life for himself. Fast forward 3 years to August 2011. Joseph was hit again, this time by a car, and he suffered a fractured femur. Because the family was so incredibly poor they couldn’t afford the necessary healthcare. Once again prayers were lifted on his behalf and once again he began to improve. This time Joseph could not deny Christ and instead fell into his arms.
Although Josephs family of 7 still lived in a small 6 by 6 hut (literally neighbored by a pig pen), marking them incredibly poor on any scale, they had finally gained a wealth through Christ.
And the final story I’m going to share today is a story of Gods incredible provision through the least likely source.
Every Thursday we would travel into the city to pray for patients at Targu Mures’ Cancer Hospital. While half of our team would go out into the rooms to pray for patients, the other half stayed back in the dining room to cover the hospital in prayer and to worship.
On our first visit to the Hospital I went out to pray over patients while Lauren, Ashley and Annee stayed back in the dining room. While they were there a family came in and sat down. After a few minutes Lauren felt like they should try to communicate so they could pray over them. After typical miming and hand motions that come with our lack of language skills, the man lifted up his shirt to reveal a large cut that ran across his stomach, up across the back of his arm and up to his neck. When Pastor and I came back into the room Pastor was able to translate a bit. He said that the man was in a lot of pain, and he could feel that the Holy Spirit was on Lauren and wanted her to pray for him, so she did. And in return he wanted to give us something. He sent his son away, and soon he returned with a literal smorgasbord of meat and bread and soda. We couldn’t beleive our eyes! Our food budget was so restricted for the month, that we could rarely afford meat. This family had blessed us in such away that they couldn’t even imagine.
Romania was an amazing month, one filled with so many stories, places and faces that it would take me a dozen blogs to even share it all. But I finally feel like I’ve done the month justice. In my recording Romania is no longer just a month of pictures, it’s a month of stories, and I hope you’ve been encouraged through it all!
And, in case you missed it, I’ll leave you with a little video recap of our month in Romania as well.