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Te[am] Iubesc: Vacation Bible School of Hard Knocks

Monday, May 23rd, 2011 : Tinca,  Romania.  11:30pm

“First day of VBS! FIRST DAY OF VBS!!!”

Today has not been the only day in my life that I have woken up and thought those exact words, but it is the first time I’ve been able to do so in another country.

This morning was an interesting one as we all woke up to our first “Americanized” breakfast: scrambled eggs with ham and milk and cereal. The feeling of home was quickly to be worn off however as we headed to the town’s farmers’ market.

It really felt like the entire village was there, and they had brought their kids, their car, their horses, their chickens, and pigs. My best description of the marketplace is that it seemed that I was within arms reach of a sickle, a collapsible fishing pole, a rug, some sort of block of fat, or a piece of soccer merchandise at any point during my visit. I didn’t have any Lei (the local money) so I didn’t end up getting anything except an extreme culture shock.

After the market we did a little bit of work on both the swing set extension and the new wood shed for the Isaiah Center before heading to the village. After lunch we briefly went through the plans for our drama performance that we were going to perform towards the end of our VBS program, and then we packed up into the vans and headed for the village.

Talk about a paradigm shift.

Toddlers running around with no pants on, sewage in the ditches, children smoking, adults throwing rocks at kids as punishment, and too many other surprises had been awaiting us. And we were eager to share the love of Jesus among all of that brokenness.

While the girls painted nails with the children and women, the guys focused on throwing frisbees and kicking soccer balls. I quickly made friends with a little boy named David and we began to play a form of soccer tennis that is apparently popular in the village. We were having a great time playing and then the adults started to mix into the game. It wasn’t that the adults weren’t entertaining or involving David and me in the game, but it seemed as if once they showed up, the kids seemed to vanish. It seemed odd at first, but when I began to see how they tended to bully the children, it all made sense.

We then headed over to do the drama that I had planned out for our first day and my jaw was once again dropped. None of what I had expected our “stage” and narration to be was correct. We had about 20 feet of room to recreate Pharoah chasing Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. Despite the setbacks, the kids behaved and seemed to enjoy the performance. Everything was going alright until the candy came out.

Imagine Black Friday sales for children because that’s what giving out free candy is like in the village. We actually ended up packing up and leaving early because we didn’t want things to get hostile, which kind of bummed out our team a bit.

Although I spent the rest of my day at the Isaiah Center and continued my role as “Calu” (the Romanian word for horse) for the children, I couldn’t help but reminisce on what I had just experienced in the village. Even though I was physically carrying little Mariana on my shoulders around the entire property, my mind was in another place completely.

It wasn’t until the end of the night that I finally realized how to best describe what I thought the village was like…it was like being in middle school again.

The parents and adults didn’t act like they were adults really; it was more like they were the 8th graders that nobody messed with. All those younger feared them, but yet still tried to be with them. Everyone else, kids included just fit the roles of the younger classmen who didn’t really stand a chance against any upper classmen bullies. It’s just too bad that the bullying in the village isn’t just verbal abuse or teasing, but instead is often physical or sexual abuse.

I’m just hoping and praying that what we do this week, that what Rachael does everyday, that what the Lord presses on their hearts, will graduate them from this middle school of hard knocks.

-JP

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