Sunday, July 4, 2010

Day 10 – A Day for the Tough, the Journey Home and Final Thoughts

Day 10 – A Day for the Tough, the Journey Home and Final Thoughts

The alarm clock goes off at 5 a.m. (although I think for some of the others it was earlier) and 45 mins later we have the bags packed in the vans and say a prayer before leaving the hotel for the airport. Because of a recon trip to the airport the night before, we got to the airport without event on Saturday morning. The only hard part was actually trying to return the rental vans. The guard opened the gate but when I asked him where to
park he looked at me like I was foreign. Okay so he didn’t speak English but if you say “Hertz” at a rental car return area you
would expect some kind of understanding. I am sure we were not the first people to return Hertz rental cars to the airport. After a shrug of his shoulders we just pulled into three empty spaces and dropped off the keys in the drop box.
This year we got to the airport just when the BA counter opened, not an hour or so before hand. We still had the same problem as last year which was despite there being an obvious line some people just walked up to the front of the line to check in. This also happened at the security check point so it must just be a cultural thing. It just happens to be an extremely annoying cultural tradition. Despite very careful packing one of my bags was 2 kilograms too heavy, about 4.5 pounds heavy. One thing I do remember from last year is that the airport personnel are stickler for rules (except for enforcing the “no-butting-in-line” norm) and so I had to frantically rearrange a couple of bags to make them weight appropriate. From check in it was through to security. Now having travelled extensively and internationally I am pretty careful about what I pack in my carry-on luggage and so was surprised when my bag got pulled aside. Now the way they have the screens set up at the security, once you have walked through the
body scan, you can see the bag x-ray screens. So when my bag was pulled I looked at the screen and could see that by computer battery and by flashlight were circled. In most countries the procedure is to locate the suspicious object and verify it is okay or remove it and re-scan the bag. Not in Romania. He went through my bag and randomly emptied pockets into a tray and then emptied bags of my computer cords etc. And so my bag was almost empty and the contents haphazardly strewn in a tray. He then rescanned everything and gave me my bag and tray of contents to repack.
A three hour flight to London followed by a 3 hour layover, led to our boarding the 747 that would take us from London to Houston. As we boarded the plane I struck up a conversation with one of the flight attendants and having found out that in Coach there was no power outlets for computers, I asked him whether it was okay if I ran an extension cord from row 50 (5 rows from the back of the plane) down to business class. After thinking about it for about 3 seconds he just laughed. During the flight I tried to work on my computer but realized that the balancing act on my table and belly made it so hard to use a computer hence the lack of power outlets.
The flight westward is longer than the eastward journey and with it not being an overnight you find ways to keep entertained for nine hours. With the new Video On Demand system entertainment was not the issue. However the problem we faced was the temperature. In our section it was like an oven. When you are cramped up with your knees touching the seat in front, body touching the person next to you and sitting on a leather seat the last thing you need is for the cabin to be hot. I write this so graphically so Stuart can get an understanding how us common folk travel. Anyway for about 8 hours of the nine hour journey we were unbareably hot and sweaty. As you watch the screen that shows the flight path and it tells you that the outside temperature is -52˚ you’d think that a 10 second blast from outside would cool things down pretty quickly but no we just sat and suffered. When you walked the plane you would find pockets of cold air and so the crew’s rationale for it being hot where we were was that some other people were cold. Now call me stupid but if you are cold you can put blankets on and stay warm. I don’t think the alternative of me taking clothes off is an acceptable or desirable option. Anyway about an hour before we landed it finally cooled down.
So now we are back home and I have had a day to reflect on our trip here are some final thoughts. As we drove home last night the sun was setting and that is the same sun that was setting on our Romanian friends about 8 hours earlier. I don’t know why but God has ordained that I should be living in America and those friends are to live in Romania but I cannot take for granted the blessings I have. Simple things like a good and reliable shower, a comfy mattress, a pillow that has some constituency to it and is bigger than your head so when you roll over you don’t have to keep your head in one spot. However, more important things like food on a table or housing or religious freedom are also things we take for granted. Now in Romania they have food but they grow a lot of it themselves including raising chickens on rabbits for meat. They have housing but that might be a family of four in a one bedroom apartment. They are free to go to church where they want but if they don’t go to the orthodox church they may be shunned by family and friends and definitely will be by society. We saw kids whose source of entertainment was a cardboard box that had been pulled from the trash not a TV or a computer or a video game. But no matter what the circumstance, no matter what they had or didn’t have, these people at the churches in Puciosa and Fieni had a love for Jesus and a smile on their face. I just wish I had half of the fortitude these people had to deal with what card they had been dealt. Once a year Puciosa gets invaded by a group of Americans and believe me they remember us (especially when Russ with a little help from me drink two restaurants dry of Mountain Dew and I, with a little help from everyone else, can get a restaurant to sell out of Papanosi). So how we act and what we say are so important not only in representing God but also representing ourselves, the churches there and also Harvest Bible Church.
One of the biggest frustrations I have is the language barrier. I have learned some
of the language but there is only so much you can talk about when you know how to say hello and good bye, right and left, and count from 0 – 99 (actually I learned 100 this year as well). In one store we went to, the man asked Alex which cult we belonged to. I didn’t understand what he said but if I had known I would have loved to talk to him. There are people we meet at VBS who I would love to talk to but cannot. I got myself in trouble a couple of times when I said “Good morning” to someone in Romanian and then when they made the next comment saying “Da” as though I had understood but then with they came with another comment, asking me a question which I did not understand also and that seemed to require something more than another “Da”. The people looked bewildered when I tried to explain that I didn’t speak Romanian. My goal for next year is to continue to grow my vocabulary.
I did want to clear up one small point that had been floating around since arriving in
Romania. Certain comments had been made as to my navigational abilities and implications that I had to stop and get directions. There were also some photos that tried to prove these baseless accusations. It was obvious that I was trying to evangelize and the pointing done was in response to where the person was going after they died which then opened up the opportunity to tell them it wasn’t left or right they were going but probably down. I feel better knowing that everyone knows the truth now.
Some of the Romanian practices still leave me confused. The allowing of dogs to rule the streets seems strange. I guess that versus euthanizing them is a better option but you’d have thought something would be done. In a restaurant if the bill comes to 23.42 lei and you give them 50 lei to pay, you don’t get back 26.58 lei as one would expect but you get 25 lei back. I am not sure if this is self-decided tip they take or just the fact that they have no clue what to give back because their math is so bad.
Each member of the team gave of their time and their talents and it was a joy to spend time and serve with them. Whether it was their musical talents (Lindsey, Sue, Emily, Chrissie, Tiffany, Savannah, Holly, Katie, Michelle), their cooking talents (Chrissie, Tiffany), their VBS leadership talents (Dani, Kelley, Tiffany, Stuart, Russ, Barbara), their shopping talents (Chrissie, Dani), their preaching and teaching talents (Russ, Stuart, Damien), their sporting talents (Damien, Hunter, Barbara), their drawing and creativity talents (Hannah), their construction talents (Russ, Damien, Hunter, Stuart, Sue), their blogging talents (Katie, Holly, Michelle),
their driving talents (Russ, Stuart), their leadership talents (Russ, Stuart), their sitting at home talents (Nate and Sara Krupke, Steve and Kelly Zettlemoyer, Don Owens, Isabelle St Clair) and their “Bushy Bear” talents (Hunter), all was done with passion. Next year we already have direction about what can be done but we will have to see what God has in store for us.
God bless you all or as they say in Romania “Pace” (peace). Thank you for your prayers and for sharing this journey with us.
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Day 9 - The Toughest Day

Day 9 – The Toughest Day

I know yesterday’s blog wasn’t really a blog but for the first time in the two years of coming to Romania I really was too tired to function. And so tonight I will try to cover the last two days in a little more detail.
Yesterday was the wrapping up of VBS. Both Puciosa and Fieni had about the same number of children (40-50 at both locations). From what I could tell the children had a great time. Some of the children really touch your hearts. One of the boys at Puciosa has been a royal pain for the last two years and nothing changed this year. After about 30 minutes of his acting up you are ready to beat him. But this year for the first time I heard more of his story. He comes from a gypsy family and is one of 8 children (I think – it may be 14 children but that seems way too many). And his 14 year old sister is in charge of looking after all of the young ones including a young toddler. When you start to realize that this boy has essentially no guidance it is not difficult to understand why he constantly acts up. This year Russ decided to show some tough love and discipline him but do it with some guidance. Today as we said our goodbyes he was there with his elder sister and he wanted his picture taken with us and loved the picture he had with Russ.
For the roving Brittoners we began and finished up in Vulcana Bai. VBS was in a field, on a hill, in wet grass – the program had to be cut down from 4 hours to 2 hours and so essentially we used the accounts of Moses and Jesus to give the gospel message. Talk about difficult conditions to do crafts and even act out some of the scenes but I am proud of my family and the job they did to pull off another great VBS. Here we had 27 kids and again this was after handing out flyers one day before. The toughest thing for me was the fire eating. In Varfur the wind posed a problem with fire eating and having learned from that when I faced the same windy conditions in Vulcana Bai I remembered to face so that the wind was blowing away from my face. But now I had a new problem – when I faced with the wind blowing in the right direction and put my head back the sun was shining straight in my eyes. As I lowered the fire into my mouth I had to shut my eyes for the last few inches. When I came to the part where I light my tongue on fire I literally shut my eyes and hoped I pressed down on my tongue and then was able to find the flame with the other stick. This was by far and away the most difficult fire eating I have ever done and frankly makes think twice of whether I will ever eat fire if there is even the slightest breeze.
Niku and I spoke and he was so happy that at the 3 locations we reached almost 70 kids. One of the goals of this year’s trip was to expand our outreach and that was done. There are already ideas afoot of expanding the time in Magura, Varfur and Vulcana Bai and even sending a team to Rimnicu Sarat.
Today was the toughest day of the whole trip. The goodbyes. After breakfast we headed to the church where we began the painful process of saying goodbye to both the Puciosa and Fieni churches. Dani won the prize for most time spent crying but frankly everyone pailed in comparison to the deluge Izzy produced last year. In fact I am sure Izzy has shed several tears this year and she wasn’t even on the trip. Again the tears shed between the youth were very touching but for me the most touching was the 14 year old girl who came to the church with the trouble boy and the toddler so they could say goodbye. She had spent 4 days at VBS where she had been able to actually act like a kid, singing songs and doing crafts, and had help looking after the toddler. She was walking up and down the street by our vans bawling her eyes out.
The drive back to Bucharest was uneventful except for Stuart, who was leading, once again having a desire to make a right turn from the left lane of a roundabout (traffic circle). After a traditional meal at Hard Rock some decided to visit a Museum of Houses, some took a water ferry to the hotel and Russ and I drove to the hotel. One of the biggest changes this year has been the police presence wherever we have been and today in Bucharest it was even more the case. We had road stops, police cars and ambulances flying up and down roads and at one point Russ almost had a head on collision with a police car. I do have to say that this was not Russ’ fault at all. He made his way on to a roundabout going the right way and suddenly a police car appeared out of nowhere going in the wrong direction. Both Russ and the police car completed diversionary maneuvers and I put my money I was going to use to bail Russ out back in my wallet.
We rounded out today with a devotion and then dinner at the hotel. Just like last year there was a group singing in the restaurant and just like last year the lead male singer blew us away with his 1970’s look. I am not sure any photo could do justice to this guy’s outfit.
Well just to finish off this blog here are some random stories or thoughts from the trip.
Food has been a main topic of conversation and controversy this trip. From the first meal here with Hannah unable to order anything she liked, to the wonderful food we had at people’s houses, to the joy of being able to turn up at breakfast, lunch or dinner and have it prepared for you by Chrissie, Tiffany or Daniella. Stuart finally changed from only praying for the hands of the person who prepared the meal to praying for their whole body. Dani had a saccharin disaster. With Hannah needing a sugar substitute Dani picked up a saccharin dispenser for her. The one-by-one dispensing didn’t work and so Dani prized the top off the dispenser sending hundreds of tiny saccharin tablets all over the table including over the Papanosi.
Last year we were all surprised by the listing of Crap on the menu. Now this is a fish and the only debate is whether it is Carp mis-spelled or actually a fish by that name. Hunter finally couldn’t take it anymore and ordered Crap to share with Michelle. They really didn’t like it and so Russ and I tried it and both agreed it lived up to its name and that it left a horrible after taste in your mouth. Depsite this proclamation Holly and Savannah seemed to determined to disprove us. I am not sure why you would run the risk of the proclamation being right but they didn’t find it quite as bad until the after taste set in. So take note if you make next year’s trip, do not order Crap or Mushroom soup at the hotel restaurant.
Some people make lasting impressions. When I turned up at Fieni to do my fire eating Marian asked the children if they could remember a special person from last year’s VBS. The answer was not George Bush but “Miss Isabelle”. This year it was Hunter who made an impression. Before VBS on the last day a little girl named Maria cam running up and gave Hunter a picture of herself and had written her address on the back. As she walked away she professed her love for him. What these 8 year olds will do for a boyfriend. I must admit it was not hard to be attracted to her especially with her Mickey Mouse slippers on.
Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Tomorrow we head home and so have an early morning leaving the hotel at 5:45 a.m.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 8 – VBS Ends

It’s currently 1 a.m. and I am just sitting down to write the blog so you may have to forgive me if this is short. The reason for the lateness of the blog is that today is the last day in Puciosa and we crammed in as much as possible and I am just getting back to my room. The quick rundown of the schedule was as follows.
• Devotion and Breakfast
• VBS in Puciosa, Fieni and Vulcana Bai
• Lunch
• Last minute shopping in Targoviste and Puciosa
• Construction in Puciosa and Fieni
• Fellowship dinner in Fieni
• Volleyball in Puciosa
• Final evening wind down at CafĂ© Vienna
• Packing for the trip back home

I will write a lot more tomorrow but for now I need sleep.