Sunday, July 5, 2009

Romania 2009: The Final Day

After an evening spent with the family, Hunter and I crashed out and got up fairly early so we could do a little shopping before leaving. Didn’t find what I was looking for and so we decided to have a traditional English breakfast of a sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin, hashbrown and OJ followed by a Starbucks Frapuccino.
Heathrow terminal 5 is actually really nice as airports go and we had no incident getting through all of the formalities before boarding our plane. I decided to still wear my Houston Dynamo shirt to travel in and not one person asked me if I played for them. Maybe it wasn't the shirt and my athletic physique that made people think we were the team but the fact that there was a group of us wearing the shirts. I’m going to stick with my original premise until proven otherwise. As we boarded I tried to convince the flight attendants that there was a mistake on my ticket and instead of row 37 it should have been row 3 or 7. No-one seemed to buy it.
We arrived early into Houston and had no real wait at immigration or customs and on the other side were the beaming faces of my wife and daughter. It was good to be home.
As I end out this series I wanted to share some final thoughts. First, I hope in some way you got to share in the amazing experience we had in Romania through this blog and through the photos. Second, missions work is something, I believe, every Christian needs to be involved in. It may not be travelling overseas but there are so many people who are in need not just physically and materially but most importantly spiritually. There are a lot of groups who do great works to help meet the material needs of those less fortunate but at the same time are leading people down a spiritual path that will not lead them to eternal life in heaven but an eternity separated from God.
Third, with a group of 27 people travelling together, thousands of miles away, to a country that doesn’t speak much English, there were so many things that could have gone wrong – travel delays or lost baggage, sickness or health issues, weather problems, personal disputes – but essentially the trip went off without any major issue. All of that is not luck but the power of prayer and a God that blessed this trip.
Fourth, in Romania there are a number of challenges that Christian (biblical) churches face and for the youth the pressures are even greater. Romania is developing and money is coming into the country but at the same time a lot of the worldly influences are coming in which are trying to suck the youth away from their faith. Not only are they under attack from the influences of the world but even the Orthodox churches are not shy in their condemnation of anything non-Orthodox. The majority of the elderly people go to an Orthodox church if they go to church at all and the public dislike for bible-based churches is very evident.
Fifth, I have never met any of these people before as it was the majority of our group but it was almost instantaneous that two groups separated by a language (America and England are separated by the same language J) had a unbreakable bond through the love of Christ as Christians. In the first few moments together on a coach they were singing songs together.
Finally, never take the blessings you have for granted. No matter what you are going through now for a time, there is someone else who is going through a tougher situation. The answer to many of our issues is not a focus on our own problems but a serving of others and a seeking for the Kingdom of God.
Until next year – May God bless you, and keep you and may His face shine upon you.2 Corinthians 2: 1-9 – “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Romania 2009: Day 10

The journey home. As always the travel day brings a mix of emotions; the sadness of leaving a country and friends that have been a part of your life for a short time; the excitement of returning home to see family; the anxiousness of having to spend several hours in airports trying to check in, get through immigration and customs; the rush of finishing the packing; the knowledge that you will be spending several hours on a plane in a space big enough for a four foot tall, 120 pound person; “where did I put the passports?”; “why did we have to get the earliest flight out meaning we have to get up at 4 a.m.?”
Before you know it you are in the midst of that whirlwind and when you have a group of 27 people travelling it is more like a tornado. I guess one of the advantages of wearing the bright orange Houston Dynamo shirts is that the glow keeps you awake as you fight off the lack of sleep. That is for everyone except Holly who “accidentally” misplaced her orange shirt.
Check in and security went without issue except for the Romanian who cut the line in front of me. I wasn’t go to question it but a few people in our group were willing to question him. In the end he was lucky it was a group of Christians travelling together as a group wearing football shirts and not a group of English football fans wearing Christian shirts. Everything in Romania has been very reasonably priced but suddenly in the airport the prices seem to quadruple but both Hunter and I were too thirsty to wait. We were bused over to the plane and I entered first with Hunter about 5 people behind me. We had to show the boarding pass as we entered the plane and I had both. Being the good father I am, I let the flight attendant know I was travelling with my son who was wearing a white hat, had curly hair and the same color shirt as me, and most importantly she could have as much fun with him as she wanted letting him know he could not board without his boarding pass. As I proceeded down the plane I heard the shout from Hunter, “Dad” which I, of course, ignored. When I looked back Hunter was looking at me with that “I know you stitched me up, Dad” look.
We arrived in England and pretty quickly got through immigration and had our bags waiting for us. My Dad picked us up and we had a short car ride back to Beaconsfield. The town continues to change little by little but it is still the same Beaconsfield I grew up in. As always the first port of call in England was the Fish & Chip shop and after 3 years away it was worth the wait. Both Hunter and I polished off a large portion of chips and fish. There really is nothing served anywhere else that rivals the English Fish & Chips.
In the afternoon we decided to relax and watch Wimbledon. I think I saw the start of both matches and the ends but not much in between. I think both Hunter and I were snoozing for a while. In the evening we surprised the rest of the family at dinner. My Dad had organized a meal but did not tell anyone we would be there. As they all sat down at the dinner table I don’t think anyone was surprised as Hunter and I walked in wearing chef’s outfits except for my Mum. The part that always amazes me is how fast we settle into a conversation together and it feels like we have never been away. It is good to see that we all still have the same sense of humour and the same practical joke nature. All in all we had a great time. The most humorous part of the meal was at the end when the bill came. My Dad was going to pick up the tab and Mark, Guy and I all grabbed for our wallets to help pay for the meal. My Mum grabbed for her pen so that my Dad could sign the receipt.
Again I am not sure how the day will be but my final blog might not make until Sunday.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Romania 2009: Day 9

Well here it is! Our last day in Pucioasa. The first order of the day was to finish packing and move the bags out of the rooms and into one room. It is amazing how fast you can fill up a room with just luggage but I guess with 27 people and then the extra luggage for VBS and food it doesn’t take long to add up. After this it was time to head over for the last day of VBS. Again both VBS’s had great turn outs – over 60 in Pucioasa and 46 in Fieni. The sweet part of this VBS was at the end when all the kids were leaving. For some you could tell they had had a great time and they wanted to hug everyone. Just to look on their faces was all the reward we could ever ask for. Our prayer is that in some way the last four days gave them a desire for Jesus and a desire for God’s word.
Everyone was starting to come to grips with the fact that very soon the really hard goodbyes would start. The adults we fellowshipped with: Nicu and Daniella, Florin and Mariana, Marian and Simona, Sorin, Danny, Alex, Avi, Didi, Iuliana, Dani, Jenny, Anna, Iulika, Sorin (the vet). The youth who we spent so much time with from the retreat in Sinaia to all the time in Pucioasa and Fieni: Raluka, Oana, Elizabeth, Anda, Emma, Laura, David, Filip, Little Alex (who is now Alex the tall), Solomon, Alina, Magda. As the goodbyes started so did the tears. Even Hunter was in tears (I think that’s Barbara’s genes). One piece of joy that Harvest Bible Church can share in is that we were able to buy one family a washing machine. The wife and children are in a very difficult situation with the father/husband and the mother is working two jobs to try and make ends meet and at the same time trying to keep a family together with very few resources.
As we drove back to Bucharest (on an extremely hot coach) I looked back on our time in Pucioasa but I also looked ahead to the hope that someday I would be able to return. In Bucharest it was a time to relax down and have one more meal together at the Hard Rock Café.
A couple of quick stories that came to mind that I had not shared. When in Romania do not order a Pepperoni pizza unless you like Jalapenos. Pepperoni sounds like the word for jalapeno and JP was a little surprised when his pizza turned up with no meat but just jalapenos. At some point we need to hold a burping contest between Don and DJ who seemed to be able to burp at will. The third contestant would have to be Isabelle who is not a frequent burper but has the volume to be a true contender.
This will be a little shorter than other days but given the need to get up at 4 a.m. local time I need to turn in early. Not sure what tomorrow will allow me to do on the blog front but I will update if I can.

Acts 21:6 – “When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Romania 2009: Day 8

Well today was an interesting day. On the way over to the church Alanah shared with us that Jesse had had quite a lively night. Apparently half way through the night Jesse sat up in bed from a dead sleep, started a running motion sitting down on the edge of the bed. When Alanah asked if Jesse was okay Jesse said yes but then asked where the “Machina” was, not the machine but the “machina”. Jese then got up and went to the bathroom but she remembers nothing about it. We have now gone from Hunter to Jesse with the talking in the sleep but Jesse was definitely more active. I headed over to the church for breakfast and sat and read the newspaper as always. After breakfast we went to Fieni for VBS. For the games and the tricks (i.e. me) we went to a small playground area. I did one balloon trick for them and then they played a game with the 40 kids who turned up. During the game the local police came over to ask if we had a permit for having the kids in a group outside?! Not sure about this one - a permit to have the kids play a game outside as a group. Apparently there is still a lot of hold over from the communist days. Also the Orthodox Church has a lot of influence and so the police I think were just creating a presence.
As the game wrapped up and the police were walking off the kids sat on a wall and started shouting for “George Bush, George Bush”. I was waiting for the police to come back over to see why George Bush was in Fieni. All week the kids had been waiting for me to eat fire and today was the day. I really don’t mind doing the fire eating but there is still something weird about putting car gas in your mouth. Well today I had a little problem in that when I pushed the burning stick onto my tongue to light my tongue on fire, the liquid ran down my face. In about 2 seconds flat I had the fastest beard trim I had ever had as the front of my beard caught fire. Luckily no serious damage was done. One more time to do this before we leave.
During VBS Mark played the part of Goldilocks a part he played very well I might say. So from a butterfly last year to Goldilocks this year. I don’t even want to guest what he will be next year. After VBS in Fieni we went back to Pucioasa where they had had 70 kids. Again both teams had a great time working with these kids. Tomorrow is our last day.
Almost as soon as we were back a small group of us went to the Crisis Center where a group of orphaned young adults spend their days. Some of the people also struggle with a mental disorder and I think these are the ones that live at the center. One of the men there, obviously taking me for the linguist in the group, started to explain to me in Romanian about something with the building. I wasn’t sure what I agreed to do (“Da” being the standard response) but I think it entailed painting and fixing up a dilapidated 2 storey building. Hopefully he was satisfied with the balloon animal I gave him instead. At the end of the visit the team loaded up in the van and voted to leave me there. Apparently they felt I would fit in better.
After a trip to the Crisis Center we were invited to lunch in different houses again. This time Hunter and I split up and he went with a group of youths to Sister Avi’s house. I joined the Holland’s at Niku and Daniella’s house. It was interesting to hear from him about some of the challenges he faces as a Pastor in Romania. Each time you sit down with the Romanian people you learn more about them and how they came to Christ and how they live there life. To live outside of the hotel environment could definitely be a challenge for someone used to American standards but as a whole there is nothing that is not bearable.
In Pucioasa Church is on Wednesday night like 99.99% of Churches in America (Harvest being the 0.01%) and it is about 2 hours long. We did get some English bits but at times it was completely in Romanian. In Church “Da” is not really appropriate but “Amen” (pronounced Amin) seems to work as well.
Tonight being the last night in Pucioasa the tears were flowing and my guess is that tomorrow will not be much better. A fire was built for Samores and a few were made before a massive storm blew in. At that point everyone retired to Vienna, the restaurant on the street level of our hotel building. I have a feeling that restaurant is going to go into withdrawal tomorrow night after 4 or 5 straight nights of a large crowd sitting there for a few hours.
Just some random thoughts for the last night – the food has been good but I do miss the moist, chicken breasts and cinnamon apples. The crevice between living in America and Romania is not as wide as I thought.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Romania: Day 7

I have decided that tonight I will write the blog a little earlier. For the last two nights I finished the blog at 1:30 a.m. (ish) and after a long day of VBS, building, ministry in the park, dinner, basketball and volleyball and then a late night, I think I need to get a little more sleep. Today I stayed in Pucioasa while the other team went off to Fieni. The builders left earlier in the morning to get a head start on their project. Pucioasa had about 64 kids today which is at the point where we have to start changing things up because we don’t have enough crafts. We omitted the games and instead I did about 30 minutes of tricks for them. As always I have a Christian message behind the trick and for one of them I tell the story of Jonah. When I asked them if they could tell me about Jonah there was not one kid who could tell me anything. It struck me how little bible teaching is done outside of the few bible churches. Another interesting issue was when we did the crafts we asked them to write their name on the craft and there were a few kids who were old enough to do so but could not. (By the way – we have a new guard dog at Pucioasa. See the photo – his name is “Noa” which means 9 but sounds just like the biblical Noah).
After VBS in Pucioasa we headed over to Fieni. They had had 39 kids and had an equally good day. On the first day Dani started the crying during the opening prayer followed quickly by Isabelle. Apparently today they made it through the opening prayer but some time later it was Kathy Murdoch who started the crying followed by Dani followed by Isabelle. If we get Kelli, Sarah and Chrissie in that crowd as well we might have to start building an ark not a building.
When we got to Pucioasa the builders had finished both side walls and were working on the first end wall. If you ever want to believe in the power of prayer know that all afternoon it threatened to rain but it held off until evening which was long enough for a lot to get done. I will be back over in Fieni tomorrow morning and am excited to see how well it has all gone.
After we arrived in Fieni we broke into teams and went out to do some street ministry, handing out books and trying to share the gospel via the Way of the Master approach. In a country where Orthodox is the main Church it is interesting to see how many different views there are out there. A lot of the old people refuse to talk or take a book but see anything but their church as a heresy. For the middle aged adults a lot have rejected the church or believe that it is all about what they have done that determines whether they go to heaven or hell. One man we spoke to knew he was a sinner but as long as he had confessed his sin he was still going to heaven. Nate tried to explain about the difference between confession and repentance but I am not sure he really got it. For a real challenge we approached a group of “men’s men” outside a men’s social club. At the start it was all jokes about how bad they were and how stupid they were. One man started out admitting he was going to hell and said it didn’t really bother him because he didn’t know what hell was really like. As we tagged team back and forth to bring some recognition to the fact that hell was not a place you really wanted to go and that if they wanted there was a way to be forgiven (it was not too late), and that we wanted to share this gospel with them out of love because we were just like them, there were a few men whose facial expressions changed and I pray that tonight as they are away from the other men they think more deeply about what was shared. Overall it was a pretty cool experience.
For dinner we were invited to different people’s houses and Hunter and I headed to big Alex’s house where we met his elder brother, his younger sister, his dad and his mum. His mum cooked up a wonderful meal although I think the cheese ball (corn bread (kind of) stuffed with cheese made from sheep’s milk) was a little too much for Hunter but he did a good job of eating about a third of it before passing. Alex is a wonderful human being who is finishing up seminary and teaches at a church in a nearby town. He wanted to share so much with us about his family, his travels and his coin collection and we shared with our stories. Somehow his whole family had a hard time believing I was 35 years old and that I was a brain surgeon but caught on pretty quick that I like to kid around. Amazingly his mum caught on pretty quick and gave it back to me just as fast. The hospitality of these people is truly amazing. They grow most of their own produce and we got to walk through and see all of the food growing. Alex also has a collection of chickens, rabbits, a pig and a dog. When we first went through his garden Nate, Sarah and Isabelle were with us and the question was asked why he has rabbits and a pig and the answer was “to eat”. We decided to name the rabbits for him and the best we could come up with was “Breakfast”, “Lunch” and “Dinner”. Before we left Alex’s mum gave us a hand-made wooden fork and spoon.
Today was a break through for me as I had two people comment on how good my Romanian was and I continue to add phrases such as “How are you?” to my repertoire. I have found this to be important because it is hard to have a conversation when you only know the numbers. My constant saying of “Da” during conversations seems to be paying off especially with the kids. I am not quite sure what I am agreeing to but they always seemed to be happy with my answer. If a few of the kids turn up at VBS with their bags packed ready to go home with me I might have to do some back tracking. The only slip up so far was at Alex’s house when I wanted to say the name of a fruit we ate and unfortunately by pronunciation was off a little and apparently I said “I go to the toilet” (number 2) in their colloquial language. I did note that down as a fruit not to order at a restaurant in case I get it wrong again. It was said before we came that trying to speak in their own language will make a difference and it definitely does create a closer bond with the Romanians.
Tomorrow is my next venture into fire eating at the VBS in Fieni. Hopefully it will be as painless as the first time I did it. Have a great rest of your day and I will be back tomorrow.
Hebrews 13: 15-16 – “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Romania 2009: Night of Day 6 (supplemental)

Apparently Monday night in Pucioasa is "dog wars night". I have never heard such a racket in all my life. You could actually hear dogs chasing each other and there was at least one fight. It all makes for a good night's rest before another busy day!! Waking up this morning it is partly cloudy so please keep praying for a dry day.

Romania 2009: Day 6

I have to make another round of apologies. Apparently Nate is not 40, nor is he 36 but in fact 31. Also I received a comment on the blog from Tiffany Parkins to let me know that Russ is not 40 either. So if you really want a great reason to come on next year’s trip you seem to get younger and younger as the trip goes along. All I know is that Stuart and I are definitely over 40. If I have gotten anyone else’s age wrong I apologize now. (By the way – my wife is older than me).
Over the last couple of days I have also noticed some stray cats. There are definitely not as many as there are dogs and with the number of dogs I am not surprised. Now the cats aren’t as smart as the dogs and don’t come over to you with those big puppy eyes that seem to say “please give me something to eat” but run away from you. As such the cats don’t have people like Isabelle who make sure that there is not a scrap of meat left at the table after a meal so that she can literally take a doggy bag to them. By the way the dogs are much fatter than the cats. We have also had the debate whether Romanian dogs actually understand Americans but Kelli definitely seems to have Romanian puppy language down.
The cultural site of the day behind another cow being taken for a walk was from this morning. As I walked over to VBS an old car pulled up in front of me which had an elderly couple in it, probably somewhere in their 70’s. The man was driving and had pulled up to let his wife out. When she opened the door the music from their radio was fairly loud and some pretty hardcore techno dance music was being played. Either this couple were the coolest 70 year olds around or they had not figured out how to change the channel on their radio.
Today VBS began in Pucioasa and Fieni and the building project began in Fieni. I went to Fieni where we had 34 kids, 15 of whom typically did stuff with the church but the others were new. I was amazed at how fast they all got involved especially with the singing. After some lessons from the bible, some games and a craft the kids went back home and really seemed to have a great time. I did a few tricks for them and set the stage for me to eat fire on Wednesday. It is amazing how many kids think they know the answer to the trick but they rarely do. The cool thing is that every trick I do has some Christian message to it and it seems to keep them entertained while learning something from the bible.
Back when we first introduced ourselves to the churches here I introduced myself as George Bush (well he does have the same initials as me). Ever since then I have been called George Bush. Luckily it does not seem that he had such a bad name down here so I can get away with it. I have also tried David Beckham but I guess he just isn’t as believable and so it looks like it will be George Bush for now.
In Pucioasa they had 54 kids and from what I have heard it went down just as well as Fieni did. I did come back over to hear about some story of how Jessie Matthews had been caught on tap slapping Hunter on the face knocking him over. My guess is by the end of the week the size of these groups will have grown. After VBS we had lunch and a short break before we headed over to the park for an evangelism outreach. We had decided that I could start to draw a crowd by making balloon animals while some of the others handed at tracks and spoke to some of the adults and teenagers. I do not know what happened but within seconds it was like ants to sugar but I had people blowing up balloons while I made the animals (thankfully most of the kids wanted a sword which is the easiest thing to make). With the youths helping in blowing up balloons and Hunter as my back up sword maker I think we probably made about 100 balloon animals. As I soon as I stopped they all seemed to disappear. Any way tomorrow we will try to do something similar in Fieni if we can get past the local government restrictions.
After the outreach I went over with Nate to the building project. It was amazing how fast the wall was completed once I turned up. These guys are working under some pretty tough conditions – the original walls aren’t straight, the wood delivered is all over the place as far as standard size and length. A 4 by 4 can range anywhere from a 3 by 3 to a 5 by 5. I don’t think they have one piece of wood that is not bowed. On top of that they have limited tools and the rain keeps coming in. It truly will be an amazing feat for them to complete the project before we leave.
Basketball and volleyball seem to be the staple activity that is done every day for as many free hours as Nate will let us have. The good news is that we as a group are upholding the honor of America (and England) with our performance on the court. Mark, Steve, Hunter and I split two games of basketball against 4 Romanians. When it comes to this standard you can just call me backpack. I know I have been travelling too long when I finally get to play basketball with my son and he is better than I am. We almost did have a crowd invasion as Stuart tried to provide his vocal refereeing opinions which seemed to favor us more than to be unbiased. He did tell me after that he has had many a run in with referees at sporting events for Mark. Somehow I didn’t have a hard time believing it. Volley ball is a different situation in that I still have the edge on Hunter. Partly because of my amazing standing jump which has been measured at about 2, inches that is, not feet.
After a couple of hours of sport I think I can officially say that my athletic career is over. During basketball I tweaked my thigh muscle again and by the end of volleyball my whole body seemed to ache.
I am now back in the hotel room. Hunter came in shortly after I got back and just like last night stated, “Dad, I am not tired at all.” Within about 20 seconds he was asleep. I also know now that he has been getting involved with VBS. One of the songs the kids sing goes something like “Tica taca, tica taca, tica taca ta, Cu Cu” which is supposed to sound like a Cuckoo clock. Hunter just rolled over and sang “Cu Cu” in his sleep.
Psalm 108:3-5 – “I will praise You, O LORD, among the peoples, And I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your mercy is great above the heavens, And Your truth reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, And Your glory above all the earth;”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Romania 2009: Day 5

Sunday – time for church. Our expectations of having the church service be extremely long, 3-4 hours, in a hot building with no AC, mainly in a foreign language have been set and played on my mind. We all met up for breakfast and for those that know me you will be pleased to know that my messing around with the waiters or waitresses is international and works even when they don’t speak a word of English. Our waitress was a little gruff to start off but after a couple of quick jokes she had a smile on her face. I think her favorite was when I asked if they would cook one of the fish in their fish tank for me. Anyway I am now ready to take on any server, in any restaurant, in any country.
We split into three groups to go to the three churches we support. I was in the group that went to Fieni. This is the church we are going to help build next week and as such is in pretty poor condition. I think with the 15 of us we doubled the congregation. We sang some songs in Romanian and English (at the same time) and then Stuart gave the sermon. Given the need for translation he did a great job of using simple phrases to get a great message across. Then I was able to give my testimony. Half way through a lady ran out. Now this could have been for a few reasons:
1. She was so overcome with emotion with my story it really touched her heart
2. There was a problem outside with the children
3. She thought the building was going to collapse and made a dash for the door.
I’d like to think it was #1, it probably was #2 but I couldn’t risk it be #3 and so I started running after her.
After the service we had a great lunch with them and started to find out more about them as people. The one story that touched me was of an eleven year-old girl called Lavinia. About 4 months ago her father died and she and her 4 siblings live with her mother is suffering from a mental illness. This girl was adorable and I would have no problem adopting. My heart just goes out to her.
The other eye opening story was about Pastor Lance. Marian, the assistant pastor, asked if we had gone to the castle in Sinaia and whether we had the “beer”. We questioned him again to make sure we heard correctly and he said yes the “beer”. We wanted to not be a stumbling block and so obviously said no. But he said that when Pastor Lance had visited and gone up into Sinaia he had the “beer” and they had a picture of it. Now somebody tried to persuade me that it was a “bear” and even showed us the picture of a “bear” but a few of the team are staying with the “beer” part and are going to have the “beer” tonight. (Just kidding).
For evening Church we headed over to Pucioasa and ended up with an overflowing church. The seats in the church were full, the balcony was full and even outside the windows was full. Most people from our group got up to either sing or play an instrument or share a word or just have Happy Birthday sung to them. I have noticed that I am usually skipped over for this. Even this morning as Stuart asked for someone to volunteer to share their testimony and I offered he had a pained look on his face and pleaded with the others for someone else to share. When he started to ask the Romanian children and even dogs and they said no or did not step up to the plate, I realized I was a last resort. After a longish but good service we shared a meal with the Church. This to them is fellowship. They love to share a meal with others and I tend to agree with this philosophy.
Don does have a little issue with barbeque lighter fluid – I am sure you are only supposed to put a few squirts on, not the whole bottle. The flames were quite impressive and seemed to do a great job of taking the paint off of the church’s brand new grill. I think this could be one of the reasons for the “Americans” prayer, i.e. “please deliver us from these Americans”.
As a wind down to the evening we all went to the restaurant where we have breakfast as well. The waitress seemed to remember me for some reason and I spent the whole time refining my almost fluent Romanian. One of the tricks I have learned over the years is to just say “Yes” in the local language (“Da” in Romanian) after they have said something to you. In Romania the people are very demonstrative speakers and what seems to be fun is to say “Da” in a loud voice after they have said something to someone else as though you are agreeing with them. They seem to first look at you totally surprised that you can’t order something simple but suddenly seem to be able to understand a full blown conversation.
As I close down for another day I try to reflect on some of the reasons for being here. The youth from the Church are truly wonderful people. To see how they have welcomed us with open arms, to see them interact with each other and genuinely seem to enjoy spending time together is in stark contrast to the majority of the youth who spend their evenings sitting around town. These teenagers can be the light the other youths need but they are under so much pressure to conform to the world.
Romans 12: 2, 9 – “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God … Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Romania 2009: Day 4

I have made the mistake of going by Day 1, Day 2 etc. So now I have no clue as to what day it is. Luckily there are other adults who seem to have kept better track of what day it is and they tell me what we are doing and where to go. Last night we decided to have a talent show. The Parkin sisters started with a couple of songs and a superb home-made rap about Chick Fil-A. Essentially that was the end of the talent show as no-one else really wanted to step up to claim they were talented after the Parkin sisters sang. Next time we need to start with some other people before the really talented people get up.
The days seem to fall into the same pattern. The Romanian youth want to stay up all night and the Americans at least go to bed at some reasonable time. In the morning the US contingent is up early followed by the Romanians.
After a quick clean up at the house in Sinaia we loaded up onto the coach back down to Pucioasa but even that wasn’t without incident. Before the coach arrived Niku asked everyone to get all of the bags outside the house. Literally as the last bags were coming out it started to rain: “All the bags back in the house”. We finished getting them back in and then the coach turned up: “Load the coach up”. Before we had really begun the day we had shifted about 50 suitcases three times. Unfortunately because of my pulled muscle I had to step up and take the role of foreman.
Nate has taken on the mission of trying to catch everyone on camera as they sleep which makes everyone sleep with one eye open. However, even on this trip people are willing to take the risk of the camera just to catch up on sleep.
The new hotel in Pucioasa is actually quite acceptable. There is no AC which could be problematic but we shall see how the temperature goes. The room is kind of small but the really weird thing is the size of the eating table which is about 2 foot off the floor and the stools are about a foot off the floor (see the photo). If I sat down on that stool it would be demolished. We had lunch at the church which also suffers from small-itus. The youth went up onto the balcony and most had to bend over to get up there.
Pucioasa is a fairly small town. A visit to the local market took all of 2 minutes and they are obviously looking forward to my fire eating here and have posters up all over but I am not sure why they have a picture of a clown!

I have to go back to the dogs. In my earlier blog when I said they are everywhere I was under-exaggerating. They are absolutely every single place possible. If you actually pet them or even worse give them food they seem to have a secret calling system and others just turn up to get a piece of the action. You have to check out the dog searching the trash can. All of the travel sites say to stay clear of the dogs but that is impossible. At camp we had our own dog called Lily who was the smallest dog of the strays but kept them all under control. There was the dog who though he was King of the
Hill and just watched over everything. There has already been talk of bringing one home but I think my wife would kill me.
As we spend more time together as a team we get to bond closer and closer and learn more about each other and our backgrounds. Most people want to know where I got my athletic prowess from and I tell them about my days in high-level sports. My middle school football team was pretty good. Also there is a comfort level between the youth and the adults as well. Today DJ, Don and Chrissie’s eight-year-old son, ran down stairs and the hotel and just ran into Nate and Sarah’s room to say hi, obviously just feeling at home with the Krupke’s. Unfortunately, Sarah was in the bathroom at the time and DJ just blasted his way in. When Nate told him he needed to close the door DJ closed the door but stayed in the room. It wasn’t until Nate told him to leave the room completely that DJ left, somewhat confused about what the issue was.
On another front I did want to make one apology. In one of my earlier blogs I had said that the men were all over 40 and it was pointed out that Nate was only 36. So my apologies to Nate – when a body has aged as badly as that it really is hard to judge a person’s age accurately.

Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”