Wednesday, August 2nd, 2011, Bolingbrook, IL.
I just keep thinking, “what is there that I could possibly say that could ever adequately describe and satisfactorily conclude a trip that, for so many of us, changed everything?” I am convinced that not even the most talented wordsmith around (let alone me) would be able to write something beautiful enough, deep enough, or complex enough to communicate the impact Tinca has had on the lives of Te[am] Iubesc’s members. And yet…
We have been home for nine weeks now; we’ve gone through the hundreds of pictures dozens of times; we’ve told stories to anyone and everyone who’s been kind enough to listen; and we’ve thought about and prayed for Rachel, Dave, Michelle, Urb, Abel, Samuel, David, Naomi, Alex, Simona, Calina, Maria, Florica, and Mariana each and every day. We’ve been home for nine whole weeks, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’re all still a bit heartbroken. I know am.
I’m heartbroken that I’m not currently spending my days digging holes and raking rocks and chopping wood and building showers and twirling kids and dancing with toddlers and holding babies in the sunshine and pushing kids on the swing as they shout “mai tare!” and learning firsthand from the amazing missionaries at the Isaiah Center.
I am still heartbroken, and I have a feeling I always will be. And that’s OK.
You see, I left a part of my heart in Tinca… I couldn’t bring Abel and Samuel home with me; I couldn’t promise Iza that I would definitely see her again; I couldn’t stay and protect Davina from her bubble-stealing peers in the gypsy village forever… on May 29th, I had to leave Romania and begin my journey home along with the rest of my team. (At one point, Dave “the Man” Truss joked about ‘misplacing’ our passports so that we could stay a little longer; he was kidding, but I am not ashamed to say that I seriously thought about it.)
I learned so much about myself, and about God in the two weeks I was abroad. I learned that I, too, am indeed an incredibly selfish human being capable of thinking entirely of myself even when surrounded by the glory of the Lord. I learned that as hard as it is to put on an attitude of humility here in the states, it’s even harder to not judge the young woman who removes her shoe and hits her child over the head with it just because he wouldn’t leave her alone. I learned that kids are kids no matter where they come from or how they were raised: little boys like bugs and dirt and little girls like twirling and painting nails. I learned that I can in fact sleep in the same bed I just saw a bug crawl out of, much in the same way that I can get used to the smell of trash and human waste. I learned that I do not like eating sausage for breakfast, especially cold liver sausage; no thank you. I learned that language is not nearly the barrier to clear communication that it’s cracked up to be.
I came to understand more fully that true love is a commitment that has nearly nothing to do with emotion. More importantly, it is not just a commitment to the person you’re loving, but to the Lord; one that says, “God, I love You, and I trust You, and that is why I am choosing to act this way towards this person.” I came to understand more fully just how big our world is, and was subsequently confronted by the thought of just how big our God must be. I came to understand more fully that people matter, regardless of who they are, what they’ve done, or how they treat you. And, since I’ve been home, I’ve come to understand more fully what it means to be restless – I have been convicted to live out Christ’s love in an active, rather than a passive, way; I don’t want to sit and just love the people around me – those within arms reach – but I also want to get up and go out and love those who are hard to find, and even harder to hold on to.
I think I will always be a little heartbroken thanks to my time in Tinca, but the way I see it, heartbreak goes hand in hand with loving and serving the Lord. When Jesus looks at His church here on earth and sees the hurt and the brokenness and the depth of sin, I imagine His magnificent heart breaks. Therefore, if we, as Christ followers, are really called to live our lives in pursuit of a life that is more and more Christ-like – then our hearts must truly be broken for the things that break His. I am, and forever will be, so thankful for my broken heart, just as I will be eternally grateful for my time spent in Tinca.
To Te[am] Iubesc: Ben, Conner, Emily, Heather, Val, Kelly, Jonathan, Sarah, JP, J.D., Robbie, Justin, Steph, Alina, and Tyler, I love you all so much! I am so blessed to know each and every one of you, and I am so thankful to have shared this with you.
To all of our supporters: You were just as much a part of this trip as we were! You, be it through prayer or donation, joined us in being Christ’s hands and feet, and loving on people in desperate need of hope. We love you all!
Update: Upon leaving Romania, we were able to give Rachel and her team about $8,000 (see, told you our supporters were a HUGE part of our trip!!), which was used to place a down payment on a new, large, piece of property where Rachel plans to drastically expand her ministry! Once stateside again, Ben sifted through our receipts, and the team collected a few more donations, and, together, were able to send even more mula to Tinca! Since then, thanks to God’s divine love, power, and grace, Rachel has been able to purchase the new property outright!! That means that, in addition to the current Isaiah Center, she now owns a house large enough to accommodate teams our size and even a bit bigger, and the land on which to build a brand new Isaiah Center where she can take care of even more kiddos! AND, the current Isaiah Center can now eventually be transformed into a community center where young adults can go to learn productive vocational skills and further chip away at the cycle of abuse and oppression within the gypsy community! Rachel is truly a visionary, and it is obvious that God is not done with her, her ministry, or the Roma of Tinca! He has not, and will not forget or abandon His children!
I’m sitting here in a flying machine thousands of feet above you typing away on an iPad….crazy much? Well, I think so. (the idea of airplanes still freak me out, but that’s a story for another day). A couple things I found note worthy so far today…
1) Airplane food isn’t actually that bad. In fact, it’s pretty dang tasty and I really enjoyed my vegetarian option of spinach and cheese pasta. Do let not those trickster comedians tell you otherwise.
2) Airplane seats aren’t meant for 8 hour rides. Like, this is borderline torture, they should really look into getting the seats some better lumbar support, and not making me feel like I have the back of a fifty year old…( which may or may not be the case…still determining that possibility)
3) Heather brought along a HUGE kit of string for friendship bracelets, which occupied the majority of our two hour extended layover in Brussels. I’ve currently made 3 bracelets while heather has made 5 and is currently working on a twisted hair wrap that most 4th grade girls would sport for myself. We’ve gotten a few funny looks along side a very excited airline attendant asking us “girls” what we were doing to our hair…yes we are twenty and yes we are proud.
With five hours still left on the plane, I have a far amount of time to process the past two weeks of my life. It’s weird to say that in five hours I’ll be at the airport meeting my family. I’m excited to go home for the familiarity of it and for the much needed rest (not to mention seeing whole family again which hasn’t happened since Christmas). But it was hard to go. It’s hard to leave all the people and relationships behind. It’s hard to think about another team coming in to work with Rachel and Dave at the center and not have that team be mine. But it’s amazing that there are other teams going to share the workload. To share their love and their God given passions and to spur the ministry on. It’s amazing to think what all these other people can do to further Gods plan for Tinca. I’m sad to leave, but i know God did His work with us there and has a wonderful plan for the groups to follow.
So what so we do know? Where does that leave us? To me, there are a few things we can still do….We can remember. Remember the faces and the names of the forgotten people of Tinca. We can reflect. Reflect on their stories and how that has affected and shaped our own. We can pray. Pray for God’s will to be done and that He continues to work in and bless the people of Tinca. And we can share. We can share our story and our passion for this ministry and how it’s changed us, whether we really planned for that to happen or not.
I want to thank all of you for supporting and partnering us on this life changing journey. God has done some amazing, breathtaking, life changing things on this trip and we’re all so happy we could share this experience with you.
So much love,
Sunday morning, we woke up prepared to leave our hotel in Tinca for the last time. We ate breakfast, took one last look around for loose belongings, and piled into the van for church. It’s hard to believe that our time in Tinca is over. We have accomplished so much in our time there; we have improved Rachel’s facility, played with kids in the village who may not get the chance to play everyday. We worked on fixing up the house of two very special little boys. And yet, our feelings leaving Tinca are bittersweet. We are proud to have accomplished so many wonderful things, but also know that there is still so much work to be done. Rachels vision is so big…we just hope we can continue to be a part of that vision and the bigger vision God has for Tinca.
We attended the same church that we went to last week, and then hit up McDonalds afterwards! After eating we had to say a difficult goodbye to Rachel, Dave, Iza, Michelle, Herb, Abel, and Samuel. For spending such a short amount of time in Tinca, we have come to see these people as our friends, and as people we care deeply for.
We loaded into the van and drove to Budapest. After a brief stop at the hotel to unload our bags, we headed out to see as much of Budapest that we could in our short time there. Our tour guide, Tibor, knew more about his city than anyone I have ever seen! We traipsed around Budapest and saw some beautiful sites. Budapest is a gorgeous city with a rich history. the weather was perfect, and we got to see the sun set over one of my new favorite cities. I will never forget standing on the bridge between Buda and Pest and looking over the Danube run through the city under a skyline and sunset that could take your breath away. What a fantastic reward for all the hard work we have put in on this trip.
Our day ended by returning to the hotel after dinner and packing up for our early morning flight to Brussels. This trip has been an amazing experience, with moments I will not soon forget. I feel blessed to have been a part of it. Thank you for supporting us, praying for us, thinking of us, and following us as we go. Bon voyage!
Saturday, May 28th, 2011 : Tinca, Romania. 11:45pm
We made it. Our last full day in Romania has come to an end, and what a day it was. Saturday brought with it naps, synagogues, markets, cats, and WWII, just to name a few. Our team ventured to the great city of Oradea today, and let me tell you, what an adventure it was. The day started off as any other day. I was awakened by church bells (an alarm set on JD’s iPad) and hopped in the shower. Breakfast was eggs and ham with toast and blueberry jelly. We headed over to the Isaiah Center to get Dave and then headed to Oradea. I enjoy long car rides because it leaves plenty of time for good conversations. The first stop of the day was at Selgros, a local grocery store comparable to a Sam’s Club. We were there for over an hour going around the store and trying to decipher Romanian products. A bunch of us bought candy and Frutti Fresh. After Selgros we packed all our goodies and drove into the city of Oradea. We were able to shop at the local market there. What an experience that was! It was essentially an open air market, with everything from shirts to food. I am always amazed at how cheap everything is here. Things that would normally be $40-$50 dollars in The States are $20-$30 dollars here. I think my favorite purchase made by our team at the market was Conner. He bought some euro-undies and sported them for us later that day. What happened next no one could have expected. So generally, when we all travel together, we take a mini bus so that we can all ride together. The driver drops us off and then usually parks somewhere and takes a nap while we do our thing. Well, this time, while the driver was napping, a cat snuck in and pooped ALL over the bus. It got on backpacks, on Frutti Fresh, on clothes, everywhere. The driver cleaned it up, but our bus still smelled like used diapers doused in cleaning products. It really wasn’t a big deal to us but our driver felt so bad and kept on apologizing. That is one memory most of us will always remember from the trip.
Next on our agenda was to walk around the city and do some shopping and sight seeing. This was my favorite part of the day because we got to learn a bit about the history of Oradea. The thing that got me the most, though, was how big of a presence WWII has in Eastern Europe. Talk about culture shock. That is one thing that has been one of the biggest obstacles to overcome. Most people that go on mission trips go through a culture shock, as most places are different then America. But we had to experience 3 different cultures, that of Tinca, Romania, which is a modest town, the gypsy village, which is below the poverty line, and Oradea, which is pretty nice, but has so much history behind it. With Oradea, most of the places we went to talked about the Holocaust and the Jewish people that lived (and died) there. We went by buildings that had been bombed or burned by Nazis. One building in particular that we went to was a Jewish Synagogue where hundreds of Jews met their end when Nazis stormed in and killed them. There were monuments all over the city to people (mainly Jews) that had died there. You just don’t get to see history like that in The States. I feel like a lot of times Americans take sympathy on situations for a little bit, but then forget about the travesties that happen over seas (Haiti and Japan to name a few). Having a thing like WWI being so present and alive in Oradea was jaw dropping. The influence WWII had on Oradea literally shaped the city. The city had 30,000 Jews living in it, but now it only has 300. The trip we took made me realize that things that happen around the world don’t just last as long as the media portrays it, but that these events shape cultures, shape cities, shape nations. We need to break out of the American bubble and stay connected with things happening around the world. We Christians should never stop praying for things. It is my hope that the lessons learned here in Romania stick with the team and I, and that we do not forgot about the things, good and bad, that go on here.
(photos coming soon)
Friday, May 27th, 2011 : Tinca, Romania. 11:45pm
This morning started off different than the others. Instead of heading straight to work, we began by giving some toys to the kids at the center. The etch-e-sketches were a big hit. The only thing that pulled them away from them was the candy. We had lots of fun blowing bubbles and dancing with all the kids. Those kids can really shake it!
Then it was time to go to the village to work on Abel and Samuel’s house. Right before leaving, Ben asked for a couple volunteers to do something. Sarah and I volunteered and it turns out that something was clearing a quite large patch of weeds, small trees, vines, and roots. We hacked and axed and pulled our way through. We flattened it! I was really glad I got to do this last task with Sarah since we had been paired up on other odd tasks on the trip. It turned out that the space that we cleared will become the space for the new addition onto the Isaiah Center! Meanwhile at Abel and Samu’s house, their hut was painted, the attic cleaned out, and a drainage pipe laid. We were both a little sad that we didn’t get to go to the village, but I just kept reminding myself that all of this is not about me, or what I want. All of this work is for God and for His glory.
Everyone came back to us for lunch, and after that we left to see the new building FMN is buying. It was awesome to hear Rachel talk about her plans for the place and the work that needs done. I just want to stay another two weeks and start building! Then we got to go see the elderly home that Mehai runs. It was great to see him in a different setting. He can be a little disgruntled at times, and all we’ve done is work, so I loved seeing him smiling and proud of the place and his new pigs.
Then came the rope swing. Everyone had fun, and the cold water felt great! I kind of failed on 2 out of three jumps, but even they were fun. I’m going to have to practice for when I come back! Then back at the center, our clothes stayed soaked as we played with the kids in the sprinkler, and the kids wore the new swimsuits we brought them. Simona was shivering with cold from playing so long but would not stop! The newly finished outdoor shower was tested, and it worked great.
Saying goodbye to all of the kids was sad, we have all learned their individual personalities and were just beginning to really bond with them and then it was time to take them back to the village for the last time. Since Sarah and I hadn’t seen Abel and Samu’s house yet, we got to go to take them home; but so many people wanted to go back we almost didn’t get to go again! Everyone loves these kids so much, and wants to see them to the last moment.
Back at the center, we got to relax, eat dinner, have team time, and watch a movie. We were able to enjoy a little bit of the work we’ve done these couple weeks. We all sat on the patio that was a pigsty, literally, at the beginning. We sat around a fire pit we dug, fueled by all the wood we cut and carried to the woodshed we built. There was a peace I felt there, knowing that more teams this summer are going to be worshipping there. I can’t wait to see pictures of this place at the end of the summer. If every team makes as many changes as we did, this whole town could look completely different! I can’t wait to keep up with the changes, and when I return sometime in the future, I don’t doubt Rachel and the whole FMN team will still be adding on and expanding this great ministry in Tinca, Romania.
Thursday, May 26th, 2011 : Tinca, Romania. 11:45pm
A strong Roma man picks kicks through the endless trash heap that fills the near useless space between collections of mud-brick huts. his smile flashes beneath a sweep of black hair flecked with grey as he comes up from the garbage with a small treasure. he swings the jaw bone of a horse in great arcs before the dome of his belly and laughs, crying, ‘sampson! sampson!’ they all have a good laugh and, the joke over, he tosses the bone farther into the field of garbage.
Justin and Robbie have had the opportunity in the last several days to be in the gypsy village working alongside an incredibly good man, father of two kids who frequent the Isaiah Center. they have helped gather the remnants of broken buildings (one being the Isaiah Center pig sty torn down earlier in the week) and are piecing the bricks together around pits to make new outhouses for the area. spending most of their time under a relentless sun in the heart of the village sloping mud and stone together has given them a cultural experience beyond what they had ever really imagined when signing up for this trip. they have learned some Romanian and taught some English (again the man points and says haltingly, ‘give me…..brick’). They have seen beautiful things and terrible things both. they have seen a man love his children dearly and some ridiculous moments in awful parenting. they have seen a community come together to take part in a project and have looked on helplessly as fights broke out across the garbage land. they have become some kind of presence there in the village, and that is something wonderful. but Robbie wonders much as he scans again the mass of trash heaped and scattered across the grassy gulch. there is endless pain crouched in every corner and screaming from the rooftops. and why? and what comes to help, to fix? but there is hope right? in all forget me not ministries is and hopes to accomplish and dreams, there is hope. in all the movements of the Holy Spirit. and this field of filth that someday will become a place for outreach programs and a playground and so much more. and in the brick in his hand, torn out of an ancient crumbling wall by the swing of his own arm and now being put to a new use, to help meet a need. in the strangest and worst places some form of redemption is still possible.
but this is sometimes hard to see when only here for two weeks, or beating a hasty retreat after a botched distribution of candy, or in a sea of a thousand needy eyes begging for attention and affection and love and there are only sixteen of us here now and only for a little while and with all sorts of our own projects to do and you all not actually being our first priority, you who are living people with minds and hearts and souls behind those tired eyes.
more mud, more bricks cracked and broken, more work. and the redemption of a million billion things and faces and people waiting, just waiting, and he looks up into a brilliant night sky and tries to make sense of much, far too much, and sometimes he thinks of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for him. Abraham was a stranger in this land, and he is that, no less than he, and there was so much work left to do, but so much He has already done. and so much left to do. and sometimes the night was beautiful…..
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 Tinca, Romania 11:30pm
After an incredible Tuesday that saw Te(am) Iubesc really hit our stride, there was a lot of excitement going into today. It started with another punctual breakfast meeting followed by an encouraging devotional from Taylor and JD. The day continued with one of my favorite team building opportunities, the “buddy walk” to the Isaiah Center. The one-mile trek to and from the Center has come to be a great opportunity to get to learn more about, encourage, and uplift a teammate.
Once we arrived, some got right back to work on the previous day’s projects while others loaded up our donated shoes and headed into the village. Being able to give shoes to the families of the Isaiah Center’s children was an awesome experience. In total there were roughly 250 pairs distributed. They seemed to be very appreciative and for people who often walk on rock and glass filled ground without shoes, it was a much-needed gift. As Dave and the rest of the crew drove off, they said they could see a little girl holding up a large pair of men’s shoes that consumed her entire arms as she joyfully waved goodbye. A little confused about her size, but still grinning from cheek to cheek.
Robbie and I stayed behind in the village. The two of us have been working there alongside the father of two of Rachel’s children at the Center for the past few days now. His name is Adrian (pronounced Ah-dree-on) and he is actually a Christian man who shares a passion for building God’s Kingdom in the village. Our project has been creating brick outhouses.These will eventually be a great asset in an area set to be fenced off and used specifically for ministry purposes such as bible schools. Adrian also hopes to create a house of prayer in the village for people to safely gather for prayer and fellowship. It has been wonderful getting to know him better, coming to understand that a number of these parents do truly love their children, and being able to joke with him while at the same time helping to teach him some English.
After finishing the outhouses, we came back to an awesome lunch (complete with homemade doughnuts – a personal favorite of the team) and then headed out for our last day of bible school in the village. As always, we ran around with the children, tossed them in the air, spun them around, painted fingernails, kicked the soccer ball, and told them a bible story – all activities that the kids have come to know and love these past three days. However, as time went on, I could sense a feeling of uneasiness in some of them. One young boy in particular, Samuel, a child I’ve come to know well through both our bible schools and my time working in the village, began to hold on to me and was unwilling to let go. He’d always wanted to be by my side, but today, as he continually latched on to my leg, it was as if I could sense the fear in his heart in his knowing that our time was almost over. All that many of these children have ever come to know is neglect and abandonment. We as a team, have given our all in trying to show them the love of Christ, a love that does not abandon, but our time here is only temporary. That is why the ministry of Forget Me Not is so important. Teams may come and go, but it’s these incredible people who remain as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in Tinca, Romania. Their selfless work in helping to build long lasting relationships with these children and their families is such an integral part of vision God has given Rachel for His people, those cast aside by the rest of society. It’s such a privilege to be a part of that vision and to be able to share the love of Christ with these people, reminding them that they are never alone.
It was back to work once we arrived at the Center. Some painted the garden and playground while others began work on finishing the fire pit. This area will most likely be the site for some amazing fellowship as relationships continue to be built with the Roma (gypsy) families. The hope was to have the project finished by today, but in looking at our remaining materials it appeared that goal would be near impossible to reach. Still, the group pressed on hoping the get as much finished as possible with what we had. What transpired was nothing short of a God-given miracle. The entire patio was cemented and project completed using literally our very last ounce of cement. Thus putting an encouraging cap on a great day.
It was certainly a day full of emotion, yet rich in God’s goodness. All glory to Him.
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 Tinca, Romania 11:30pm
PART ONE: RECAP and Jungle adventure
I’m not really sure where to begin…so here we go! We’ve been here in Tinca for 7 days and have gotten a tremendous amount of work done. Today we’re finishing up (roofing) the wood shed, totally reconstructed the garden fence, put together patio benches, finished assembling a swing set (no more fighting for swings! woohoo!!) conquered the wooded jungle to paint silly trees so silly ants wouldn’t eat them up (more on that in a minute) and filled a couple hundred water balloons.
The jungle: So here in Romania they paint the trunk of the tree with this white acidic paint to keep ants and bugs from eating away the tree (makes sense, seems like a great idea…and it is). The only problem is getting to the trees. Ya see, I was assigned the task and recruited Alina(the first time around) and Val(for round two) to help to paint these suckers. I thought it’d be easy enough to slab some weird cottage cheese looking paint a couple(more like 25) trees…Little did we know these trees rested snuggly amongst some of the biggest and scratchiest weeds I have ever encountered. The weedy boogers came up to my face and if either of us fell down and died…well, we weren’t really sure if our bodies would be found again. When we went to the very back of the property we saw the leafy beasts. So with the awkwardly small trashcan of pesticide-paint and a garden hoe I fashioned to act as a machete; we trucked our way up the hill to where the naked trees awaited us. Ripping through the weeds with the handle of the hoe I felt like Moses parting the red sea (me folding over the green sea of jungle weeds) to free the Israelites (trees) from the harmful Egyptians (tree eating ants). It may sound silly, but we needed all the strength we could muster for this gig. Needless to say we survived the jungle and painted all the trees. We learned that shorts are a HORRIBLE idea and that charging recklessly through was the most effective way to create a path, yet the most painful. All in all, we’re rocked it and proved victorious.
PART TWO: Underdog
I’ve always been one for the underdog in life, and I feel confident saying that most of you reading this blog are probably in the same boat as me…why else do we love movies like Little Miss Sunshine, Good Will Hunting,…or every single sports movie ever made (Remember the Titans, Rudy, Rocky, Blind Side, Miracle…just to name a few). We have this sympathy, this heartache for the characters that have it the hardest and realistically no real hope at exceeding or even succeeding in their life.
Today I was introduced to a new underdog: Loomy. (I’m not really sure how to spell her name, but I doubt she’s all that sure either to tell you the truth). Her skin is one of the darkest in her village. In America we would be totally cool with being dark and probably really excited if we were darker than our friends and brag about tan or whatever. Yet here, in the Gypsy village it’s all-apart of the village hierarchy and being the darkest kid in the group is never, ever a good thing. Val and I were attempting to play a silly lighthearted circle game with the girls and had them all grab hands, but none of the girls would touch her. I tried to help by putting the others girls’ hand’s around Loomy’s to show them what to do, but they would let go, or move away from her to the other side of the circle. And it kept happening over and over again…and I started to get really fired up about this and upset for her. This was in no way fair, everyone else was accepted into the game but her…So obviously we had to put her in the most valued spot in the circle….holding hands with BOTH Val and myself. For the rest of the day Loomy and I clung to each other. Two other girls had been hanging on me the past day and today, but I wanted to make sure Loomy knew she was just as good as them, and she was loved. A few times she got lost in the shuffle and let go of me. Once I realized she was gone, I went to find her, calling out her name. It only took a couple seconds for her to come running to me, greeting me with one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve honestly ever seen in my life. I cared enough to go after her. I included her and made her a crucial role in all our games because this is was she deserved and because she was the underdog. I wanted to fight for her because she couldn’t. I wanted the other girls to see the beauty I saw in her, and the beauty God saw in her. This is how God feels about us. He comes after us, he fights for us, and he sees our beauty when we or others don’t. Tomorrow will be our last day at the village for VBS, and after that I may never see Loomy again…but I’ll pray for her and for her future. I’ll pray she learns that’s she just as good, if not better than the other girls. Ill pray that she becomes another one of those underdog stories and she learns God loves her, and I love her from a half a world away.
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.
Sunday, May 22th, 2011 : Tinca, Romania. 11:30pm
Sunday. A day of rest.
Never has this concept felt so real to me.
Over our three days here in Tinca, we have put in a great deal of hours doing work projects and playing with kids. I could do the math, but it’s late. Since we arrived and started working, I’ve seen the yard of the Isaiah Center transform. Where there was a pigsty with crumbling roof and dusty cement walls, there is now a freshly paved patio area surrounding a fire pit. Where there once was an empty corner, there now stands the skeleton of a woodshed to house the enormous pile of firewood stacked up against the fence. The swing set that held three swings now stands extended waiting for five brand new additions. I haven’t seen the progress made on the outhouses in the gypsy village, but I am told the work that Robbie, Justin, JP, Tyler and Ben have done has left the buildings ready for the construction of walls and roofs.
Besides all of this, I have seen my friends become attached to the children at the Isaiah Center. Each morning, as we are setting up for our projects, I watch out the corner of my eye for those little ones to begin their ascent on the yard in search of someone to play with. And we have played! We’ve got lots of sore shoulders and backs from piggy-back rides. We’ve all gotten used to hearing the children say “hai tare!” as we push them on the swings. We’re pushing as hard as we can! We’ve seen it proved true that no matter the culture, little boys love bugs, dirt and beating stuff with hammers. I’ve enjoyed playing house with Simona and Calina as we baked bread made of sand and prematurely picked apples. We’ve worked hard and we’ve played hard. And today, we were thankful for it.
Even being in the know about all this as the missions intern, I was still caught off guard by the amount of projects we would take on or the energy involved in playing with adorable little kids. But without all the time, energy, muscle power and cooperation we are spending on all these projects, this day – this Sunday – would not have meant so much.
We woke up at the usual time for breakfast (oddly bright red sausage with mustard) before packing in a van to drive 45 minutes to church in Oradea. Though the service was not in English, we were blessed by the passion and the familiarity of being among fellow believers. Some of the coolest moments happened as we sang How Great Is Our God and Majesty in English amidst the resounding Romanian chorus. Our translator worked hard to help us understand the message. It truly was encouraging to learn about God’s love even in the midst of the deserts in our lives. We were reminded that when we are in the desert, thirsty and unable to see God, sometimes we have to begin to dig deep in order to find the water that is his blessing and provision in our lives.
After church, we enjoyed a delicious and filling meal at the Capitoleum before exchanging our money and heading back to Tinca for some rest time. The few hours we had at the hotel were so good for sleep and fellowship that has been missing during our weeks of hard work.
Around eight, we went to Rachel’s for burgers and smores. During team time, we talked about what this day has meant to us. I think the general feeling was thankfulness for the opportunity to refocus. While we are hard at work during the week, it is tough to see past finding a rhythm while mixing cement or frustration with not knowing the language. But this time to spend with God and each other was a clear reminder of why we are here and what is most important. After one more good sleep, I think we’ll be ready to dig more holes and love on more kids, this time in the gypsy village during VBS. It’s no wonder that God commands us to take a Sabbath. I can’t wait for the next one to be able to see the blessings that come from this week!
Until then, keep praying, for Rachel and all the Isaiah Center kids, the three VBS days and all the work projects to come. God’s gonna do some cool stuff.