Monday, July 9, 2012

Sunday Service Comparison

On Sunday morning in Houston we got up early had a cup of coffee drove to church and sat in comfortable chair in an air conditioned hall singing praise and worship songs and listening to great teaching.  In Romania the only difference is that it is a small church and no airconditioning.  Another difference is that in general we dress a little less formally in Houston (unless you are the Pastor's son :-) ).  The other obvious difference is that the songs, prayers and the preaching is in Romanian.  That is except for when the team from Houston either do the music or preach with an interpreter.  For me I always wanted to try singing in Romanian but I am sure if they actually recorded me and played it back I would probably sound like a Romanian speaking gibberish.  I also found that because I had an interpreter I tried to keep the words I used fairly simple but I also found that I started to speak in stilted English.  I am sure that if you recorded my sermon and cut out the interpretation it would sound as though I was a novice in speaking English.

I was excited to see that VBS was now underway.  I always looked forward to seeing the faces that have been there year after year.  In general they are so excited to be there and are great at joining in the activities.  What is even more exciting is to see some of the kids grow older and start to attend church voluntarily and hopefully to stay strong in their faith in a society that frowns upon everyone outside of the orthodox church.

The VBS days are long but every day you are more excited to be there.  The only problem with VBS starting is that it means you are that much closer to coming home (sorry to bring that up for the team out in Romania).

I am waiting to hear about how many kids Don nails with his blow dart gun.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Catching Up - Romania 2012 (from Houston)

After a 4th of July break (which is obviously a big occasion for an English person) and then a short business trip I am getting back in the saddle for writing a complementary blog for the Romanian Missions trip.  I was able to read the blogs over the last few days and it was amazing to have flashbacks of memories from my visits over the last 3 years.


There is something about Romanian hotels.  In general they are acceptable but there always seems to be some kind of quirk that you have to get used to.  We have had rooms where the shower was a hand held shower that squirted everywhere and no shower curtain, no AC in hot temperatures, dodgy lights, mosquitos galore (which also allowed me to create a new design on the walls), keys that opened everything including all of the other rooms, doors that didn't lock, small beds, tiny pillows.  The list goes on.  It seems as though this year is no difference and now we can add doors that wouldn't unlock. 


Every year we have had some kind of construction project but last year it was a little weak with Don and Russ managing to hammer up one board to the roof.  This year Russ has taken it to a new low as he now is just acting as a ladder.

Street Evangelism:

Romanians are not always predictable when it comes to their reaction to street evangelism.  Sometimes they just look on bemused with what is happening. Other times they hustle away not wanting to get trapped by any "repenters" as evangelical christians are called.  This year the street evangelism seemed to take on new look with guitar playing.  I hate to burst the bubble for Daniel and the other newbies to Romania but getting 15 leu may not be everything it seemed to be.  The main reason I say this is you have to compare what other entertainment they have in Romania.  The local TV consists of two kinds of shows.  First there is the music shows where a few men in extremely baggy trousers dance around and sing songs supposedly in tune.  Second there are a slew of soap operas where the acting is so bad that General Hospital over here would be classified as Oscar winning performances from all the cast.  My guess is that the 15 leu was from a couple of people who were on the way to pay their TV licenses and decided that our team was more entertaining and gave the money to them.

On a serious note it is probably one of the most frustrating things to not be able to speak Romanian and just rattle of the Way of the Master but somehow God works through those situations to reach the hearts of the lost.

I am eager to hear how the youth retreat went as usually it is a great time and creates some great bonds between the youth.  Our prayers are with you all.  (BTW - my AC is working fine over here).

Monday, July 2, 2012

I Stand Corrected

Well I guess the blog from Romania finally hit. Obviously another late night in Romania. Mind you it is a long way for the blog to travel. I wasn't going to blog but when I read about shorting out the whole room I was pretty impressed. Most times it only results in the piece of equipment being destroyed. I think first time we lost a fan. I am sure one year Damien broke his plasma screen TV and blue ray disc player (BTW - for those that don't know that is a joke especially as Damien is the only person I know who go on a Missions trip with everything packed in a backpack and without a carry-on). Well another typical day in Romania.

Romania 2012 - Day One No Blog

 I am not sure how many people who follow the official Romania blog will also read this one but today there was no blog from Romania.  This may be for a few reasons.

First, the internet access in Romania can be patchy at best.  There were many a day I was sitting in the street at midnight or walking through a town with my computer on trying to find an open wifi.  It can be done but can be a frustrating proposition.

Second, after a hard day and dinner, there is the time you want to spend with the team to unwind and then writing a blog may be just too much to do.  Every so often I would fall asleep writing the blog or posting it.  There were a couple of days where I really just had to post a blog saying we were all still alive because I was too tired.  Most nights I was completing the blog at about 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. especially when trying to upload photos as well.

Third, oops they forgot.

The good news is that I did get an email from Don and so we know that at least he is alive.  He was able to confirm that they were taking a lot of "scenic" routes. 

Tomorrow they are heading out to teach a bunch of people English laced with the bible.  I am sure this really means they are going to teach them American but that is okay.  Apparently the phrase they are teaching was provided by Lance "I am a wretched sinner" and from there they move on to "I have been predestined".  I did suggest "I want to live My Best Life Now" but that was shot down.

Hopefully we will get an update tomorrow.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Romania 2012 - The Perspective from Houston

This year the tough decision not to go to Romania had to be made due to other commitments throughout the year.  Yesterday the team left for Romania and have begun the blogging.  As they were in London I received an email asking if I could blog while they were there as well.  Now there is one obvious flaw in this theory.  I am not there and cannot see what is going on and so what I thought I could do is provide the interpretation to the official blog.  Now I might not do this every day but will try to provide color commentary when needed.

Romania - An Ordinary Travel Experience?

As the title would imply there is never an ordinary travel experience when going on Missions.  As a large group all travelling in the same color T-Shirts you always draw attention which is great when you can then talk about Jesus but not so great when you are going through security and something goes wrong.  I was convinced Don was going to try an take his blow dart gun in his carry-on so that he could keep the team in line on the plane.  Actually I thought he would put it in DJ's bag so that he could claim innocence. 

The flight is always long and uncomfortable but Russ going to sleep is a constant as well.  Somehow Russ sleeping and the word peaceful never seem to go together in the same sentence.  Unless it is something like "Everything was peaceful until Russ went to sleep".

It is good to learn lessons early in a trip so that you can avoid them later especially when you may be in a hurry.  So following Gretchen was the first mistake and Gretchen following DJ well ... let's say that's why it's a mistake to follow Gretchen.  I think the perfect storm would be Don driving with Gretchen telling Don the way to go from DJ's directions while in a van race with Stuart Holland being egged on by Michelle Ayoubi and Holly Cannon.  OK - that last bit about Stuart, Michelle and Holly cannot happen this year but you get the picture.

At this point the team will be fast asleep in bed.  Either that or lying in bed wondering why they cannot sleep.  Our prayers are with them as they are a couple of hours away from beginning the Missions trip for real.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

South Africa 2012 - Day Eighteen

Day 18 - The journey home and final thoughts

Besides the first couple of days I had rarely been awake in time to see the sunrise but this morning I awoke and it seemed as though God had organized an amazing sunrise just to punctuate our last morning in Cape Town. As I lay in bed looking out of the open window I could see the growing light of dawn. A layer of orange sky lay sandwiched between a dark blue sky and the silhouette of the Stellenbosch mountains. There was the thin sliver of the Indian Ocean covered in a mist that separated the mountains from the sparkling lights of suburbs of Cape Town. As the sun rose the orange became more vibrant and the mountains became clearer before finally the sun broke over the mountains.

Before long we were all up and packed ready to go. Julian and Guy and their families were already long gone. And Dad had come over to help get us to the airport. One of the other great advantages of our Chevy Spark was that it was tiny with no trunk (boot) space. I think it was designed to only be used to pick up one bag of groceries. I still find it humorous that it actually had 180 km/h on the speedometer. There is absolutely no way that car could do 180 km/h even if you drove it off the edge of a cliff. But I digress ... We got to the airport in plenty of time to return the car, check in and then go through passport control and security. In general the security overseas is much more lax than in the States and so it seemed a breeze to go through. We did check in all of our suitcases and for the first time we didn’t have to move items around to make the weight restrictions. We were close with our large case weighing 22.6 kg with the restriction being 23 kg. We also did have our 4 ft long giraffe which we were told to carry on.

The first flight was our short one only lasting about 2 hours. We were all still a little tired and all tried to sleep. Hunter decided to lay his head down on the table to sleep and then did a massive head twitch throwing his head back. It was so violent he woke up and then told us he was dreaming about doing a back flip. The flight to Johannesburg was fairly short and was followed by a 5 hour layover in Johannesburg. We then boarded the flight to Washington via Dakar, Senegal. As we got on the plane the Bursar refused to let us carry on the giraffe. As much as I pleaded with him and explained that we had been told to carry it on he refused ti budge claiming it was policy. He also said that it would be treated like any other bag and they were not liable for any damage. I told him that this was ridiculous that he was the only person who was claiming it was policy, that he said they wouldn’t pay for any damage and that he wouldn’t give me any other option. The most infuriating part was that about 10 minutes later another passenger carried on a very similar package that contained a wooden statue and was probably 6-9 inches shorter than our giraffe. When I pointed this out to Moses, the Bursar, he checked out the statue and just allowed it. I think this was one of those cases which would have been called reverse racism in America.

Unfortunately Savannah had woken up with a tummy bug this morning and she struggled through the first couple of flights. The second and third flights were the long ones lasting 8 hours to Johannesburg and another 9 to Washington with an hour layover in Senegal. The majority of these flights were at night and so sleep seemed to be the natural thing to do but sleep was the hardest thing to get comfortable to do. When we arrived in Washington we were the first international flight of the day which meant we really had no wait. We cleared customs and immigration and then managed to get on an earlier flight which got us back to Houston at about the same time we would have been taking off from Washington and so we were all very happy.


This trip was a once in a life time experience for us as a family. There were so many firsts:

  • First time to Africa
  • Sky diving
  • Sand boarding
  • Cliff diving
  • Horseback riding on a beach for Savannah
  • Going on Safari
  • Swimming with penguins
  • Wine tasting
  • Visiting a Township
  • Taking over a school for the morning
  • Surfing

But amongst those firsts there was the familiarity of having my family with us. Every time I get together with them it never feels like

I have been away from them. I must admit Africa was a lot different than I was expecting with the exception of the Townships. The towns in general were much nicer than I was expecting, the countryside was much more spectacular and the people were just incredible. David and Kath at Constantia Lodge were much more like friends or family than proprietors of a bed and breakfast. The people every where you went seemed to have a smile on their face and were much more content with what they didn’t have versus us with all that we do have. I hope one day I will be able to return and if the right opportunity came up and would have no problem living there.

This brings to a close another trip for me.

Numbers 6:24-26 - The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.

South Africa 2012 - Day Seventeen

Day 17 - Final day in South Africa - a day of rest (supposedly)

It was Sunday again in Cape Town (probably was everywhere else in the world as well because Sunday always seems to follow Saturday) and this was our last day before returning home. For Mark, Janine, Sam, Max, Matt and Emily it was actually there last day as they were going to fly out that night.

Being the spiritual son in the family I went off to church with Pop Pop and Liz. Actually the church had asked me to come back to run their children’s Sunday School again and I promised to do my fire eating for them. There were about 20 kids there again and a few adults I made sure to look out for the teacher who seem to like giving out snacks half way through my stories but he wasn’t there this week. Once again we had some fun as I shared some stories with the kids, did some tricks, did my fire eating using South African gas (petrol) which I have to say tastes a lot better than Romanian gas (somehow I am sure this is not healthy for me) and through it all shared biblical lessons.

After church I returned to the Lodge to find that mark and family had gone to the beach for some more surfing and everyone else was just relaxing by the pool. Through out the day we started packing to return home, watched some football on TV, ate and relaxed. As we got later into the day the one family who really needed to be there i.e. Mark’s, were no where to be found. They were going to have to leave at 6 p.m. and it was getting later and later, Finally about 4:30 p.m. they turned up having spent some time at a South African hospital because Max had been stung by a Bluebottle Jellyfish while surfing. Apparently the sting won’t kill you but does cause your heart to race and induces a lot of pain at the point you are stung. Luckily he was fine and they all quickly finished their packing. At 6 p.m. they all left for the airport after the goodbyes and some tears. The rest of settled into watch Liverpool versus Cardiff in the Carling Cup Final and to have our final dinner in Cape Town. That night we did all of our other goodbyes as well because Julian and family and Guy and family were all leaving at 5 a.m. for their flight. Again there were some more tears and then off to bed.

Every time I travel with the family i always never seem to sleep well the night before. This is mainly because i am the one who knows all the traveling details and want to make sure we all get home safely. This night would be no different as I walk up on a few occasions and kept checking to make sure I had turned on the alarm. I also woke up early in the morning doubting the time of our flight from Cape Town. For some reason I thought the 11:50 a.m. flight was from Johannesburg which would have meant our flight to Johannesburg would have been at 6 a.m. But I then remembered we had a 5 hour layover on Johannesburg and so knew the flight from Cape Town had to be the one at 11:50 a.m. - back to sleep for a few more hours.

Hebrews 4:9 - So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God