Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 7 – Church on Wednesday (like most normal churches)

Day 7 – Church on Wednesday (like most normal churches)

I am not sure whether we had another mosquito in the room last night or whether the mosquito bites that had been inflicted on me the night before were just coming out. At the latest count I have 36 on one arm and 11 on the other. As least I know I will be leaving a part of me here when I go home.
Today the roving team headed back out to Varfur. There were 31 kids and a couple more mums. In speaking to Niku this is a village that is ready for an evangelical. He was so uplifted to see the response from the village towards the VBS and not only that, the mayor of the town seems to be open to having Niku start a church there.
Again in typical fashion the plans change on the fly. Our time in Vulcana Bai on Thursday is only supposed to be from 10 a.m. to noon, not 2:30 p.m. and so Niku me if we could go back out to Varfur on Thursday afternoon. I let Niku know that the VBS material would be finished today but I could go out and do a series of object lessons for them. In the end as I started to prepare a 2 hour program Niku changed his mind. In a way I would love to have gone back out because the instant interest from this area is something that needs to be grasped to.
In the afternoon we had some free time except for the fact that nothing had been communicated to the people in Vulcana Bai about the VBS tomorrow and so a team of people went there to hand out flyers. Barbara and I got to accompany Alex to Targoviste and while there he took the time to take us to a couple of places. First, we went to the old fortress which was in ruins but was being rebuilt. The only thing open to the public was the tower and in that we learned some of the history of Romania and of Targoviste. Romania used to be a country made up of three regions all ruled by a prince. Then about 400 years ago it was united under some man named Mihai who has his head buried in Targoviste. I am not sure what happened to the rest of the body but they only seem to care about where his head was buried. The capital was moved from Targoviste to Bucharest and remained a monarchy until the end of World War II. Sometime during this period is when Vlad Tepes ruled as one of the regional leaders in Targoviste. His name Tepes means “stake” and because of his father being called Dracul, Vlad Tepes became known as Count Dracula. He lived upto his name by putting a stake through people. At the end of World War ii the Russians came in and installed a new ruler who was a communist. They took the wealth from the rich and gave it out. Despite everyone having a job and being able to have the essentials in life they could not handle the lack of freedom that existed under the communists. Eventually in 1989 the communist leader of Romania was killed in Targoviste.
The strange thing about the ruins was that the wall had been built up and then inside these walls a number of ruins had been uncovered and the buildings were being rebuilt. However, the tower was rebuilt but on top of the site where the church used to be. The church was being built somewhere else. So essentially they were building a series of new buildings to cover up the ruins.
Second, we went to visit an area in old Targoviste which has been re-done to create a shopping/restaurant area only open to pedestrians. I was actually very nice so we sat down to have a coffee. And then the rains came in. So we jumped into another café and had another coffee. I told Alex if we kept doing that we would be wired for church. It did stop and we returned to Puciosa for evening Church.
At church I started to get some of the emotions of this trip as I realized we only had one more day in Puciosa. This trip again has been a blessing to me and it is hard to think it almost done for another year. Niku had asked all of the VBS kids to bring their parents to the church for the service and had promised I would do fire eating (not inside during the service but afterwards outside. This was going to be the 3nd time for me to eat fire. In Varfur I did the fire eating and was rather challenged with the wind. I only singed one side of my beard. Then in Puciosa after the service I did the fire eating. At one point I push one of the burning rods on to my tongue which lights my tongue on fire so I can light the other rod. Unfortunately I did not have enough liquid on it and I had to push down very hard to have the flame burn on my tongue. It never is a good feeling when you take a fire and push it onto your tongue but I got through it.
Tonight Barbara and I and Russ and Tiffany went over to Solomon’s house and met his family. It is very strange to see a family over here all with strong Christian values and all getting along together . Solomon is one of 11 children of which one died at birth and the eldest died from leukemia 10 years ago. As Solomon talked about this brother who was about to die when Solomon asked him to teach him music, you could see the tears in his eyes. This was how Solomon got the passion for music but also the heart for Jesus. After eating, Solomon introduced his mother. With Solomon on the accordion and the mother either singing or playing the harmonica and the rest of the family singing, we were serenaded by them. Folks, I think we have found the Romanian equivalent of the Parkin family.
Philippians 3:13-14 – “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 7 – The Egypt Files Continue

Getting back to my room last night I checked for mosquitos and did see one but could not catch him or her but that was it. Feeling at ease I went to sleep and slept well. Apparently that mosquito ate well. It seems as though she (because only the female bites) walked up my right arm where I have 21 bites, she then jumped over to my left arm and got in 8 bites before she was either full or I woke up.
This morning we headed over to Varfur for VBS while the Puciosa and Fieni teams did their things. On Monday some of the team had headed over to Varfur to hand out flyers for VBS but we had no idea how many kids would turn up. How many kids would turn up ended up being the least of our problems. At first the vice-mayor wanted to put us in a derelict run down building. Now call me a sissy but I wasn’t going to step into a building that should have been condemned. The fact that the building was falling down was probably reason enough that it was derelict and for those who have seen Romanian construction know how solid their foundations are. Option 2 – we were going to be given a scythe to go and cut the grass in a field. I was starting to get the feeling the vice-mayor was looking for some cheap labor. Option 3 – at the end of the government building there was a patch of grass we could use. We didn’t have any electricity which wasn’t the end of the world but we didn’t have any furniture at all. Now the kids were able to find a dry spot on the pavement but we had do everything on the wet grass. Worse than that I was supposed to do my egg trick today. I thought for a few minutes how I could balance the glasses and eggs on Hunter’s back but I am not sure he would take the broom being whacked into his rear end. With some improvisation we found some construction concrete molds that looked like they were going to be used to build a drainage ditch. We had the bottom one just like it would be in the ditch and then the second was turned upside down and balanced on top. Next we had to do our best to even it out. I will come back to what happened.
By the time we had set up in Varfur we had 21 kids and 1 mum. This was a great turn out for only having one day of notice. It was also good to see some faces from the Church in Puciosa. The churches in Puciosa, Fieni and Magura are starting to grow their outreach. The one good thing of being outside was we could do some games where we could run around. We played a game called sticky tag which involves one person chasing another and then having the ability to switch places with someone else. Hunter did his best impression of a baseball slide on the wet grass and ended up on his back side. Then as he was chasing I tried to get him to take it easy on the little kids. Well they were a bit better than I thought and Hunter was running for about 5 minutes straight. At one point I heard him run past me saying “I can’t breathe”.
Back to the egg trick. I had set up everything as usual but noticed the pan the eggs were balanced on was not even. I tried to compensate but I was not sure how it would turn out. Well as you can see in the photo the eggs didn’t work exactly to plan but it’s still quite impressive how it ended up – two of the eggs were split but balanced on top of their glass.
Everyone met back up at church and had lunch. It seems as though Puciosa had the same number of kids and Fieni had grown to about 50. After lunch we all split up – some went to Fieni for some street evangelism, some stayed in Puciosa to help lay the concrete which was only 3 days late and my roving team headed back to finish VBS in Magura. Today we had over doubled to 10 kids which was great.
Tonight the church had once again arranged for us to go to dinner at someone’s house. We went to Daniella’s house who lived in Magura. We spent a while with Daniella as we ate and she shared about her husband and 2 sons all of which do not go to church. The stories we hear over here about people’s lives rally make me appreciate what I have but more importantly convict me to be a better husband and a better father.
Philippians 3: 7-9 - “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 6 - VBS begins

Day 6 – No I didn’t skip Day 5

No I did not skip Day 5 – yesterday’s should have been Day 5 and so we are now back on schedule.
Last night we moved into the new hotel which was a huge blessing. We have sheets and blankets, the pillows do actually support, no rooster to wake me up, no train and no dying dog and the shower is fully functioning. We did get the dog battle outside but that brought back good memories of last year. The only issue we had was not really with what the room didn’t have but what it did have. All night I would be buzzed by a mosquito and it just never seemed to leave me alone. When I got up there was a mosquito on the wall by the door. So grabbing a paper pad I whacked that mosquito. The only two problems were that when I hit the mosquito it left a rather large blood spot on the newly painted bright yellow walls. Second, when I looked up I realized that it was not a mosquito that was buzzing me but about 30 or so spread out across the ceiling and walls. In the bathroom they had installed a small window to allow for the moisture to escape and they had left it open. That was the entrance way for all of the mosquitos. Re-arming myself with the note pad I systematically killed each of the mosquitos. Now as I sit in my room it looks as though we had slaughtered something in here because blood spots are all over the walls and ceiling.
One of the most important logistical aspects of the trip is the food and Chrissie and Daniella, Niku’s wife, along with Tiffany have been sweating over hot stoves to feed us. The food has always been delicious. Okay I hope that is enough praise because Chrissie said she wasn’t going to cook anymore until the cooks got a mention in the blog.
We are now over half way through our missions trip and today marked the first day of VBS. Both Puciosa and Fieni started at 10 a.m. and had about 40 kids come along. As usual there were the few kids who were there first thing in the morning but both got under way on time. The roving team otherwise known as the Brittoners, finalized preparations for the first half of their VBS program. Because we did not begin until 3 p.m. and this was the only day in which we could be at the two main VBS locations, I did a trick/object lesson for Puciosa and then headed off to Fieni to eat fire. Romanian gas still tastes disgusting.
The roving team’s VBS really had to be created from scratch and so the changes in locations and time create changes to the program. Sometimes when you get familiar with something and you are trying to think ahead of what is to come you can get your words all mixed up. I had Hunter and Savannah asking the kids who created the first “God” instead of “man” and Barbara told them to really get into the role they were playing i.e. when they entered the stage as monkeys they needed to make monkey noises “Oink, oink.” I think we laughed for about 5 minutes flat with these mistakes.
The VBS in Magura only had 4 kids but when the village only has 20 kids in total itvwasn’t too bad. The main observation about these kids was their appreciation. They sat and listened and when we did a craft they just sat down and did it. One of the crafts was to color in a piece of card which folded into a pyramid. Each kid sat down and did their best effort and after each marker pen they used they put the top back on and put it away. And this was without a single word from us. In most Sunday School classes the boys would have scribbled across the card so they could get up and play. And all of the kids would have just left the markers out mostly without the caps on. As my family debriefed we discussed this and felt as though there were two main reasons: 1. There is a high level of discipline sometimes instilled by the parents and always enforced by the Church; 2. These kids have very little and so when they get to use a marker pen, which kids in America take for granted, it is a special occasion for them. Also the responsibilities on these kids are so much greater than American kids. Emma, who is 16 and whom we had lunch with on Sunday, has to look after a sick grandmother during the summer while her Mum works. Cassandra, who was the girl we bumped into outside the grocery store, had been so excited about going to VBS but she did not turn up today. We later found out a little more about her life. She is not homeless but both parents sit at home and do not work but have their two kids beg for money so they can survive. Apparently Casandra had not “earned” enough begging money and had to make more. My heart breaks for these kids especially when I consider the blessings that youth in America have been given.
Big Alex invited us to his house for dinner this evening. For Hunter and I, it was great to see everything again and for Barbara and Savannah it was amazing for them to see how they grow all their own vegetables and fruit and also raise their own meat. Unfortunately Breakfast, the rabbit, lived up to his name not too long ago but lunch and dinner were still alive. The pig which Alex had last year has grown huge and he has only a few months left before he becomes the meat supply. At the end of the meal Alex’s , Mum came out to say goodbye having spent our whole visit there cooking food for us. She said a lot of things in Romania which I couldn’t understand, until she came to Hunter and then the only 2 English words came out “Bushy Bear”. We all died laughing.
Philippians 2: 14-15 - Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world
Our goal over here is to shine as light and bring the gospel to villages and people who would not hear otherwise. But when it says to “Do all things without grumbling or questioning” it is so convicting because I do not always do all things with a happy disposition. Tomorrow we get back on the VBS trail.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Church All Day

Day 4 – Church All Day
The nights are getting shorter. I finished the blog at 1 a.m. which took me through the nightly dog fight. When I went to bed I realized that the hotel had actually changed the bed sheets but had only put one blanket in the bedroom which Hunter was using. I started to fall asleep but an hour or so later I started to freeze. Like a good father I went over to take the blanket off Hunter and realized he had both blankets. So I took mine and went to sleep. At 4:30 a.m. I woke up cold again because Hunter had kicked his blanket on the floor and taken mine. Now I couldn’t go back to sleep. And so I got up and packed my suitcase because we were moving hotels today. I then went to shower only to discover that when they cleaned the bathroom they completely broke the shower and so now all I had was a faucet about 2 feet off the ground. I must admit I thought about 5 minutes how easy it would be to get on my knees and take a shower that way. Realizing that the lack of sleep was blurring my logic I decided just to wait until I heard my wife or daughter taking a shower in the next room and then go in after that. Having spoken to Russ I am not sure it is much better at the new hotel. There the shower is just an attachment on the bath tub and there are no shower curtains. Russ did try sitting down in the bath tub to shower but had forgotten that everything in Romania is smaller and got kind of wedged in the bath tub.
Chrissie observed the Sabbath this morning and didn’t have breakfast for us and we ate at the old faithful Café Vienna. From here we split up into our three teams. The Parkin’s and the Hedner’s heading to Magura, The Canon’s, The Ayoubi’s and Stuart Holland heading to Fieni and The Britton’s, Emily, Damien and Katie stayed in Puciosa. There was kind of a plan about who was going to preach, who was going to give their testimony and who was going to sing. I think the preaching went on track but the singing and testimonies seemed to get added or changed on the fly.
After church we were invited to lunch at the Romanians’ homes. That too seemed to be a constantly changing plan but Damien joined the Britton’s to go to Emma’s house with her Mum (that is the Romanian spelling as well) and her cousin, Betty. Just like last year I am always blown away by the self-sufficiency and joy of the Romanian people. We had an absolutely delicious turkey soup which was made with all home grown ingredients (including the turkey). Then we had turkey, sausage, mashed potatoes and bell peppers in a special sauce. I think everything except the sausage was also homemade. It truly was delicious. As we got to know this family we met the grandmother who had had a stroke 13 years ago and had been bed-ridden since. Despite the mother working and Emma going to school they find a way to take care of the grandmother. I do think the highlight of the visit was the baby cat they had which found a way to climb up the table and into Hunter’s lap.
From here was back to Church for evening service which believe it or not was even more “on the fly” than the morning. Both Sue and Dani gave their testimonies. As much as we miss having last year’s team here it was probably very good we did not have Izzy here. When Dani started to cry during her testimony she would have never been able to finish if Izzy had been there with all the crying.
By the way at this point the Britton’s still did not have a hotel room for the rest of the stay. Some jockeying for position was beginning with Barbara staking her claim for the back seat of the van. Eventually we did get our rooms at a completely different hotel from everyone else. With us being the roving VBS team I am starting to get a complex about the obvious attempts to separate us from the group.
Before I go any longer let me give another example of flexibility. Way back in the planning stages the idea was for us to do 4days of VBS in both Puciosa and Fieni and then a roving team doing a day in Magura, a day in Vulcana Bai and a day in Varfur. Varfur was then dropped and instead it was only a day in Magura and Vulcana Bai. When we got Romania we were told it would different but no-one seemed to know what the plan was. Last night we had the first inkling of a final schedule and now we are pretty much back to the first plan. We do two half days in Magura and 2 half days in Varfur and a full extended day in Vulcana Bai. Now tomorrow morning the roving team has to redo their VBS plan to match the schedule.
After church it was the first real time when all the youth from Romania and all the youth from the US played volleyball. Barbara got an urge to relive her college days of playing volley ball and joined the US team. After going up 2 games to nothing and the dinner the Romanians finally won a game.
Philippians 4:6-7 - “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In the midst of all of the “flexibility” it is always good to remember God is in control.
I apologize now for the short blog today but I have to get some sleep after the 3 ½ last night. Tomorrow we begin VBS.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Hills Are Alive

Day 4 – The Hills Are Alive

After getting back to the hotel last night I was able once again to show my mastery of language skills. We had just found out that our new hotel could give us 4 rooms a night earlier. When I got to the hotel/dance club I needed to go and let the four groups in the main hotel to pack so we could check out in the morning. I asked the first employee if he could let me know which rooms they were in but he had no clue what I was saying and then one after one the employees came out to talk to me. I first found out there were no Americans in the hotel. I assumed they didn’t understand versus they had kicked them out. Then I was told I couldn’t have a room because they were full. I now have a greater appreciation of Holly’s game of charades with them the night before. Well I think the end result was that I am the new DJ for the hotel and I start tomorrow. They were also impressed with my hand movements (i.e. charades) and want me to perform my break dance for the club as well. I think the worst part was actually going up to tell the team. I knocked on the Cannon’s door and they refused to answer the door (not hearing them clearly I later found out it was because they were not decent). While I stood at their door the Hedners, hearing the commotion outside and seeing the silhouette of a large man (glass in doors must distort the view and like a camera put 20 pounds on a person), got scared and Sue threw Lindsey to the floor to hide her. Finally order was restored when Stuart came out to check on things having mopped up his bathroom after another incident with the shower.
Last night was a more typical Romanian night. At about midnight the dog fight began. It only went for about 30 mins. Then at 4:30 a.m. the rooster started up. This was followed up by a train passing through and for whatever reason wanting to blow his whistle every 10 seconds. Needless to say my 4 hours of sleep set me up well for a long drive to Bran and Sinai. I think my sleep deprivation also affected my family. At 7:50 a.m. I ran into their bedrooms and told them they needed to be ready in 10 minutes for us to leave for breakfast. They all looked rather surprised but did a great job of being ready. I then checked my watch and realized it was only 6:50 a.m.
Today was a day to take the Romanian youth to two castles. The first in Bran which was the castle belonging to Count Dracula. The second was the royal palace in Sinaia. Russ prepped us for the trip by cooking pancakes which I don’t think the Romanians fully understand but do like. We then all jumped in the vans for the three-hour drive. About an hour into the drive one of the Romanian girls decided eating pancakes before a long drive wasn’t such a good idea and left them on the side of the road. Then about an hour later the internal bladder pressure had reached breaking point and we had to stop at a petrol station (gas station for the American readers). It was kind of interesting to see a quiet gas station suddenly get stormed by 33 people trampling over each other to get to the toilets. My wife won the race which I think was relative to the amount of internal pressure.
We finally made it to Bran castle which was fairly interesting but we didn’t see any dead bodies or heads or anything. Similar to a lot of us who may have lived in New York but never been to the Statue of Liberty or London and not visited the Tower of London or Houston and not visited … um … that famous place you would go to in Houston, several of the Romanians had never been to Bran Castle.
From there it was on to Sinaia. Half way back to Sinaia we pulled off the road to have sandwiches which Chrissie and Tiff had prepared for us. In the field next to us were a flock of sheep and a few dogs, supposedly sheep dogs. Well being the animal loving people we are, everyone started throwing their leftovers to the dogs. Suddenly pandemonium reigned as the shepherd tried to move the sheep along but now his dogs were more interested in free food and the sheep lost formation and were spreading out. No matter what he did he had lost control of his dogs. I think what brought back a sense of order was when Tiffany started throwing orange peel to the dogs. They were not interested and gave us that look that said “You’ve got to be kidding me”
Last year we had seen the outside of the castle in Sinaia but this year we had a tour inside. As we entered the castle we asked to put slippers over our shoes. When you have size 12 feet and are wearing hiking boots there aren’t many slippers that would fit. So I careful positioned a slipper over the tips of my boots making me look kind of like an elf but it had to be done. Then our tour guide took us around. I think there should be a rule that a tour guide needs to be over 5 foot tall. With a large group of people all I could make out was a voice coming from the midst of the crowd. I am not sure what he looked like.
Immediately after the castle visit we went down into Sinaia. On the way down we came across a Black Bear that Russ managed to wrestle to the ground and Katie stabbed to death with a pen. We took the bear to the restaurant where we had it hung on the wall and then decided to eat (see photos for proof). That's our story and we are sticking to it.
After a relaxing dinner we headed back to Puciosa and Stuart finally let Russ and I know that he had been racing us all day and that was why he was always in the lead following Alex who was in his car. Russ and I had just thought he really wanted to be first and so had let him go. Now if you are in a race it is usually good to let the other people know and now armed with the actual knowledge there was a race the gauntlet was down. On the way back home Stuart drove like a maniac to make sure he was in the lead. I then had to drop a Romanian youth off in Fieni and so fell to the back. Then Stuart had to drop someone off and both Russ and I passed him and he was in last place by a long way. Of course his van started making up rules as to why Russ and I were disqualified but again it usually is better to share rules with the other teams before the contest starts.
Well tonight most people have turned in for the night except for the bloggers and Damien who is getting some blogging tips for next year. Coffee and Papernosi (donuts covered with cream and a fruit sauce i.e. a sugar rush) are the key essentials for late night blogging. The tiredness is setting in even with our fearless leader. Russ is now falling up stairs in restaurants and has changed my family’s name to the Brittoners. Tomorrow is Church day – a long day in which you spend a lot of time having no clue what Niku is saying.
Philippians 2:4-7 - Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.
I am constantly reminded here that my life is not for me but for Christ and if Jesus can come and take on the form of a servant how much more I should be able to serve others.
Until tomorrow night.

P.S. We received a message from Nate to post more pictures. I can only give you 5 per blog but my real answer is "next year buy a ticket" :-)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fieni Visited and The Big Clean Up

Day 3 – Fieni Visited The Big Clean Up

As I got up this morning I realized I may sound as though I am constantly complaining but it is just that I try to see the light side of life and with my mind almost everything is funny. For instance, last night I was looking at all the bad things that could ruin my sleep - the mattress that is so firm it doubles up as a ping pong table; the pillow that is so fluffy that I had to roll it up to give some cushion to my head; the rooster that lives right behind our hut; the dying dog (or so it seems). And so when I woke up I realized that the mattress and pillow had not been an issue; the rooster crowing at 6:40 a.m. was actually a blessing because I had turned my alarm off and fallen back to sleep; and the dog did not make a sound. So feeling much better I jumped in the shower and the fun started again. The soap bars were so old they just disintegrated when you opened them. The shower was a stand up shower with a broken faucet so you had to hold the shower, the protection was a curtain that you had to put inside the shower “dish” (not quite sure what you call the thing you stand in), and so when the water is on the curtain blocks the plug. It really makes for an interesting shower.
As I walked up to the van I realized that my night had been absolute bliss as compared to the group sleeping in the main building. Starting about 10:30 p.m. the hotel had become a dance club. But luckily for them the noise only went on until about 3 a.m. Holly took it upon herself to go down and share the gospel at about 2:30 a.m. – well actually she walked downstairs to ask them to turn the music down. I can only imagine the bemused look on their faces as a teenager walks in and tells them to turn the music down because she wants to sleep and worse still she has to do it by playing charades because they didn’t understand English.
At breakfast this morning Russ created a Romanian Oreo - Nutella (a kind of chocolate peanut butter) in between two pieces of breakfast sausage - hey don't knock it until you try it which is why I will never knock it. After the morning ritual of devotion and breakfast we headed over to Fieni. For those that have been there you would be amazed at how much work Florin and Marian have done to the church. There is now a third floor and stairs up to the second floor. If there is any discussion as to whether there is a need for a construction team, discuss no more. There is so much we could help with.
From here we decided to work up a sweat by clearing the land at the church at Puciosa. They too have been hard at work and they now have the shell of a new building. As we cleared the land the neighbour, who is about 70 years old, decided to pick cherries except for the fact that his way of picking cherries was to cut the whole branch off. I tried to explain that you can just pick the cherry off by itself and then the branch can produce more cherries. But he would have any part of it. I tell you these old-timers are all about instant gratification. Part of our work today was to prepare the porch for the cement. This involved evening out all of the junk in the frame and then laying rebar on top so that the cement could be poured. Yesterday Damien had asked why he had not been in the blog. Since then he has made it a mission to be included. As he was carrying the rebar over to the porch he cut himself on one of the edges. After realizing that it was rusty metal and a few people joking about needing a Tetanus shot and my telling him that I would make sure he got back to the hotel room if he passed out, he decided to pay a visit to the local hospital. We may now have our Don Owens understudy. Luckily all was okay and no shot was needed. Just to make sure we do not have any more Don Owens incidents we have banned Damien from even thinking about driving over here but the extent Damien will go to, to get in the blog, is ridiculous.
If that wasn’t enough Damien is becoming the local target of photographers. As he and I were leaving a restaurant a teenager stopped and asked for a photo with him. Now obviously I thought they wanted me in the photo as well but the gentle shove away cleared that misunderstanding up. I think he may be okay now except for the fact that I told them he was Kobe Bryant.
On Friday night there was an outreach to the local youth for the church in Puciosa. In typical Romanian fashion the evening was very flexible. A few songs by the Romanians, an introduction of the team by Russ, a gospel presentation by Stuart and then Emily and Damien (third time he has been mentioned in the blog – is that enough??) gave their testimonies. And then Niku gave Sue the guitar to lead us in songs. Only problem was that when he played the guitar he had broken one of the strings. So in front of a large group Sue played a 5-string guitar while we sang. Then Niku advised that he had forgotten to order the pizza and so we had find things to do to keep the youth entertained. I personally liked the challenge of trying to play a guitar with 5 strings and so I got Sue to play another song.
We have just finished up our winding down time where we share some of our memories from this trip and from other trips. It seems as though Stuart has the same shower problem as me however he hasn’t quite figured out all of the ins and outs of managing the shower. He decided to try and balance the shower head on the tap while he shampooed his hair. The shower subsequently fell out of the shower and was spraying the bathroom while he happily worked up a strong lather.
Philippians 1:29 – “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
This was a verse from our devotion this morning (that our leader didn’t do last year) that I think Damien (fourth time today) took a little too seriously.
God bless you all. Tomorrow we head to the mountains.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 2 – From Bucharest to Puciosa

Day 2 – From Bucharest to Puciosa

Aaah – the joys of jet lag. Now admittedly I don’t sleep a lot back at home but waking up at 3 a.m. local time raring to go is not the ideal start to a day. Not sure whether it was the large fluffy pillow (photo included and yes, that is my iPhone next to it not an iPad) or the fact that Hunter’s and my room was literally 2 meters from the front desk and I could hear everything that happened in the lobby or the background thumping of dance music that punctuated the air until about 3:30 a.m. that gave me a relaxing night but by tonight I should be falling on my face as I try to post the blog. But I am thankful for the additional quiet time which allowed me to work on the devotions for the trip as well as my potential sermon for Sunday.
This year we have taken a more spiritual approach than last year’s leader and are doing a devotional every day and following a wonderful buffet breakfast we spent about 30 mins looking at the start of Philippians. This was also when I found out that Savannah had also left her bible in the US. Next time I need to explain that packing light doesn’t mean just bring clothes and an iTouch. After this it was a quick check out and on the road to Puciosa. Following our somewhat troubled directions from the airport to the hotel we put Stuart in charge of getting us to Puciosa. We only had one major problem getting out of Bucharest which was Stuart making a left turn from the right lane which both Russ and I had to follow. I am not sure the man Russ almost had to run off the road was too happy and it was probably one of those times we were glad we didn’t speak Romanian.
Getting to Targovista was easy but then trying to find the Romanian version of Walmart there was another story. We did an obstacle course in the vans through a parking lot with a very low hanging tree. We again asked directions from a taxi driver who made it about as clear as mud where to go. Finally we found a Penny Max XXL which was in fact a grocery store but never the clothes store. We actually found out that the clothes store was right across the road but I think we had faced enough shopping for one day (at least from a man’s point of view).
Arriving in Puciosa was great. We were met by Chrissie, Tiff, Solomon, Oana and Daniella. It was amazing how quickly we had the old relationships rekindled. This year we have a different hotel to start out in. The rooms are nice but I have a feeling tomorrow morning will be different. Right behind our “hut” there is a field of chickens and a rooster. Next door is a large apartment block where there is a dog that sounds like it is dying and then somewhere in our wall or roof there is a bird that might as well be in our room it chirps so loud. We shall see how sleep goes.
The photo of Savannah is for Izzy – please meet Oscar our newly found puppy.
Our activities for the rest of the day were lunch, exchanging money, volleyball, a devotional, singing, more volleyball, dinner, a debrief and the traditional wind down in a local restaurant. When we got to the restaurant they kindly set up a large table for us and then cranked up the dance music for us. Kind of took away from our time to talk but we did get them to turn it off despite Holly trying to break out a few moves.
So if you are wondering what kind of things we do and what kind of impact is made let me share two stories. In Puciosa they are building a new building for classrooms. Russ went out today to buy tools so that we can help lay concrete on Saturday. Not only will they get a concrete porch that could be built out as a new room but they get new tools. Second, Chrissie, Tiff and I went down to buy some groceries as we entered a child was outside who we are not sure is homeless but came to the VBS last year. She actually is dressed as a boy, we think to help protect her. Anyway when we recognized her, her face lit up. She grabbed for her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper on which were the details about the VBS this year. She treasured that paper because that was her ticket to come to VBS. She hugged us incessantly and asked me whether I was going to eat fire. It is truly a blessing to see these kids with a smile on their faces.
Okay to finish up let me make just one more observation. The grocery has a nice variety of food and household liquids but you can also get a moped, a TV and a chainsaw. I am not sure about the floor management but some sales rep has done a wonderful job persuading the store that a chainsaw next to the meat section makes complete sense.
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day One and a Half - The Journey There

Day 1 and ½ – The Journey There
We’re off. Sixteen of the 18-person team jumped on a flight from Houston to London Heathrow. Chrissie and Tiff were the advance recon team who had left on Sunday and had already arrived safely in Romania. The first part of the trip seems to have had no major mishaps except for the Ayoubi’s turning up to the airport late, the driver from the Parking Spot giving me a tour of the airport grounds because he forgot which terminal I was going to and my daughter forgetting to bring any, yes any, toiletries. I am not sure how she will smell or look at the end of the 10 days but I’ll try to get most of her pictures in early on in the trip while people will still stand next to her.
Just like last year all but one of the team is suffering for the cause crunched up in World Traveller class (i.e. coach) for the 8 ½ hour flight. Stuart once again is in business class. Mind you it’s not all luxury up there. If he drops his pen and it rolls under the seat in front of him he has to unbuckle and get up and walk to pick it up. All I have to do is contort my head and neck down towards my knees which subsequently blocks my view of the floor. Then, in sweeping motions across the floor (which I’ am sure is very clean) reach out my hand until it bumps into the pen, but I don’t have to get up or even unbuckle.
As much as I travel I still never get used to the oddities of being locked up with a couple of hundred people in a container that feels like it should only have 30 people in it. There was the baby crying incessantly but it did eventually stop. Then there was the man watching the movie who seemed to have forgotten he had headphones on and was laughing out overly loudly. The one saving grace was that he drowned out the crying baby. Finally, because of the lack of space it is hard to do much. My eyesight is getting worse nowadays and it seemed too hard to get my bible far enough away from my eyes so I could read my Bible. Using the PC was an even greater challenge as it has to rest somewhat on the table, somewhat on my belly and with the screen tilted at an awkward angle so that the seat in front doesn’t break the screen. Somehow I don’t think Stuart had the same issue. Mind you because he was lying down flat I don’t think he used a PC. Luckily for me my in-flight entertainment system was broken so I couldn’t even watch a movie to pass the time. Sleep was the answer if I could just get my knees unwedged from the seat in front.
We arrived in Heathrow on time and went through the connecting security check. Well that was after I had lost my boarding pass and had to queue up to get a re-print. With typical British efficiency they directed me to a counter which had no-one behind it. I went back out to inform the lady that no-one was there. Her response “There should be.”
Well thank you for that help. As more and more people came along for their boarding passes they all asked me whether there was anyone at the desk. Being first in line I passed on the message “There should be”. I finally decided it would be quicker to empty my bag and find the original boarding pass which is what I did.
We all made it through for our flight to Bucharest and in the terminal we bumped into Sorin’s new wife, Trisha, who was on our flight. Actually she recognized us, not sure how she did except for 16 people in red shirts. I think most people from our team slept on this flight and once again the flight was on time.
We finally arrived in Romania 16 hours after leaving the US and now our final travel was a short drive to our hotel in Bucharest. This year we have rented three vans which are actually very nice. However, the directions were a little more challenging but after 3 stops and asking directions twice we made it to the hotel. The first guy who gave us directions was telling us to go right and right and for a while I was able to follow him but then when he started to use his hands as well as give the direction and I realized he didn’t know his right from his left. Somehow we made it a little closer to the hotel. The second guy was French and I am convinced he purposely gave us the wrong directions which took us down a dead end. As I told my van load of people “Never trust a French person!”
The hotel in Bucharest is the same one as last year and is very nice. In fact Dani is in the same room as last year which she shared with Izzy (who isn’t here this year). Just like last year we had dinner at the hotel – it was the restaurant with “crap” on the menu which I think is either carp or is in fact a fish called crap. Everyone enjoyed the food except for Hannah who ordered a mushroom soup that was really orange soup with mushrooms in it. Then she saw our Caprese Salad – tomatoes with mozzarella cheese - and ordered that but got tomatoes with shredded cheese on top. After that she found it easier to eat from her Mom’s plate. To finish up we had our first Papanosh and it did not disappoint.
If you followed last year you will have seen dogs being a regular topic on the blog and it has started all ready. Savannah found a dog who found some attraction to her, maybe because of that “no toiletries” issue, and it followed her around. I think we have our new Izzy (who isn’t here this year).
Well the fatigue is setting in. Time to shut down.
Isaiah 6:8 – And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me.” As we begin our Missions we pray that God will remove the uncleanliness from our lips so that all we say will bring glory to him.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Romania 2010 - Pre-trip

Departure Day minus 2

Well it has almost been a year since I was last blogging and now with another Romanian missions trip only 2 days away, it is time to start getting back into the blogging frame of mind. This year a group of 18 people will make the trip to Puciosa. Of that group 8 are returning members but 10 are first-time Romanian missionaries including my wife and daughter.

Last year the travel to Romania was relatively uneventful except for the Swine Flu epidemic that had us scrambling in Romania to fill out documents to say we did not have swine flu. At first they didn't have English versions which may have proven to be a little difficult to complete accurately but finally they did produce some English versions. It always amazes me how trusting Security can be at times. How many people who thought they might be sick would actually tell Immigration knowing full well they would end up in quarantine or sent back home? This year we currently have two obstacles in our path already - Volcanic Ash and a British Airways Cabin Crew Strike. Personally it might be better if some of the grumpy older BA Flight Attendants didn't make the trip with us.

The biggest dilemma I have this year is my name. Last year being George Bush seemed to work. I know I don't want to be Barrack Obama because it needs to be someone who has at least a semblance of being Christian and so I may just stay with the name they all know me by. Also with my wife going she wouldn't even have to change her name - George and Barbara Bush.

My last few days before leaving will be spent deep in fasting and prayer as soon as I get through announcing for the Divisional swim meet, teaching at church on Sunday, finishing a project deliverable for work and packing. I'm kind of looking forward to a 10 flight so I can sleep.

Well as I sit here in my dark bedroom typing this blog by the light of the screen just as I did most nights last year in Romania, I thank God for the privilege of being part of this missions trip and cannot wait to see our friends in Puciosa and Fieni. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel again to Romania.

God bless.