Friday, March 17, 2017

Much to Learn

The students left this morning!  Last year when the team left, I ate dinner alone and slept alone in a big empty house.  I was getting to know the people here, but didn't know them well, and felt shy about spending time with them.  This year is so different!  I'm currently relaxing in bed in an apartment filled with people I know and love after an evening filled with delicious homemade food and sweet fellowship.  But I get ahead of myself.  First...yesterday.

my ministry group on Thursday 
Even though we missed Women's Day this
year, we still managed to receive flowers from a stranger!
I love Romania!
Raluca with the friendliest cat
in the world
Yesterday was the last day of ministry with the students, and it was lovely.  I went with 3 of the students to a nearby town called Coteana, with two of the missionaries working in the area, Danut and Mark. Mark is British, and his two boys David and Ruben were with us also, and I was instantly jealous of their bilingualism.  When we arrived in Coteana, the men went with one of the students into a nearby town to buy a stove, while we girls stayed back with Raluca, a missionary living in Coteana with her husband Beni.  We got to see their house, which was a pretty amazing place.  They moved there in November but it isn't yet renovated, so they have no running water, no bathroom, and only a very limited kitchen.  The church also meets in the same building, in the room next to their bedroom.  So the reason that I say it's amazing is because of how hospitable they are able to be with so few resources, and the big hopes they have for this property.  This weekend another team of missionaries is coming, and 11 people will sleep there!  This is why they need a stove...

Anyway, after a quick tour, Raluca, the students, and I went to do house visits.  We brought along David and Ruben, and we walked through the village to visit women who have attended the church.  The first was a woman filled with sorrow because her children never come to visit and left one of their grandchildren with her 11 years ago and never came back.  The girls and I each shared our testimonies about God's work in our lives, and we prayed with her.  At the next house, we spoke with a woman and her adult daughter.  These women were tremendously hospitable and so generous with their limited means - they gave us duck eggs and sausages and coffee and candy.  We talked with them for a long time before heading back to the house to meet the men. 

Jared and the much-too-big cupboard
Back at the house, they weren't able to get a cupboard out of the kitchen - this project took a long time until they finally chopped it into pieces.  While we waited, Raluca cooked up the eggs and sausage and we had a mini feast in their bedroom before heading back to the church to eat a second dinner with the team.  I was blown away once again by the sweet hospitality that seems to be so central to the Romanian culture - I have much to learn from them in this regard!

enjoying our feast in Raluca's bedroom

 This morning, the students on our team surprised us chaperones by informing us that they'd divided into teams to get the cleaning done at the missions house while we went out for coffee. They'd even collected money so we wouldn't have to pay!  Instead of the typical vending machine coffee we often get here, we splurged and went to the "Art Café," where we sat and enjoyed coffee and conversation, then grabbed some treats from the bakery next door before heading to our final debrief with the students and Pastor Raul.

Sorry, this entry is so long!  When the students left this morning for Bucharest,
the men from the church helped me to bring my suitcase to the pastor's apartment, where I am staying now with he and his wife and 3 kids.  I spent much of the afternoon at the church, doing some administrative work for Raul and talking with people passing through. 
the view from my room at the Costea apartment
Friday nights are small group nights at Hope Church.  There are 4 small groups in this town, and Raul arranged for me to go to 2 of them!  At the first, one part of the group worked on an assignment, while the leader, George, worked through a lesson with the rest of us.  I was encouraged that I understood what he was saying and could follow along and take notes, and even more encouraged by the fervor and passion that he has for the gospel.

When this group was over, I walked down the street to the next group, which had just started. It was in a building I'd never been to, and I was nervous to enter, but it was a very special moment when they opened the door for me.  There were many familiar faces, many excited exclamations that I'd arrived, and a sweet little girl I'd spent time with on Sunday, who ran up and immediately gave me a hug. They offered homemade donuts (gogosi) and soda, and then we worked on a test for discerning your spiritual gifts.  There were 105 questions, and I was able to answer most of them without translation!  It was such fun to spend the evening with this group.  Another of the men from the church, Marcel, came to pick me up afterwards, and he drove me back to Raul and Ana's house, where I ate dinner with him and Raul and Ana's kids and a couple of other guys from the church.

Sometimes I just pause and remember the 9 years between trips to Romania, and how much I longed to come back, and how excited I would get at any reference to the country or its people or its language.  And tonight I got to sit at a dinner table, immersed in the language and the food and enjoying the people and the culture and the community here so much. And I remember also how I asked for prayers that relationships would be central to this trip to Romania, and they certainly are.  Thank you for praying.  I'm thankful to be here.


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