My heart overflows with encouragement and love from the kind people here whom I'm thankful to call friends. I should probably be organizing my suitcase and prepping for tomorrow's journey to Timisoara, but there's so much to say. I'll try to be brief, but brevity has never been my strong point!
Yesterday I spent time with Ana, the pastor's wife, for much of the morning. We worked on some projects at the church, and also went to the market that happens on Saturdays. It's sweet to see how easily Ana makes and maintains relationships with the people in her town, and we were able to pray with a woman named Mari, who is hoping she sells a lot of her eggs and produce to help pay for her daughter's upcoming wedding.
Tavi and Dave picked me up from the church around noon to head to Tavi and Nico's house. I'd connected with Tavi and his wife Nicoleta last year, and they'd invited me for lunch this year, and they are also hosting Dave, a visiting missionary from Canada. We all ate lunch together at their house, then headed to Maruntei to do a kids club. I was able to use a lesson we used in our small group at church to teach the kids about things that only Jesus can do.
The next part of the plan for me (it's been kind of fun that everyone is mostly making plans on my behalf!) was for me to head to another village, Stoenesti, to see the ministry that pastor George and his wife Dana have there and to spend the night in the missions house above the church there, connected to their home. There was some confusion about how I would get to Stoenesti, and eventually they sent a man named Ilie to come pick me up. Ilie is an older Romanian evangelist who comes for one week each month from the wealthier north of Romania. He told me that he tried to escape Romania in the 80s, just before communism fell, but that he couldn't get out, and he knows this was God's will because he was meant to serve southern Romania. Turns out he plays the accordion quite well, but I didn't learn that until this morning!
I arrived in Stoenesti and got to spend the evening with George, Dana, their two kids, and a few of the teens from the town. Every Saturday night, they host these teens for dinner and a sort of "slumber party" in the missions house. The dinner table was filled with delicious food, lots of laughter, and stories of God's faithfulness that a few of us shared. I slept in a cozy room upstairs, and it was such fun to just have to walk downstairs to breakfast...and to church! I shared my testimony in the church, and was able to understand most of the service, and was so encouraged by this family's involvement in their community.
After a lovely afternoon nap, we all piled in the van, picked up some others from the village, and headed back to Draganesti for evening church. It's kind of surreal how many relationships I already have there - it almost felt like showing up to my church at home! George preached on the humility of Christ and how we ought to live in light of it (I turned down several offers for translation and really feel like I understood most of it!), and the whole church prayed for me after I got up and said a few words. I said many goodbyes and took some pictures with these sweet friends (on my camera though, not my phone, so can't share here), and then headed out to dinner with Dorothy. I was able to spend time doing ministry with Dorothy earlier this week, but when she found out I was staying longer, she went out of her way to find a time to take me out for a meal. What a joy! We went to a nice restaurant in a nearby town and enjoyed pizza and great conversation. Then she brought me "home" back to Raul and Ana's house in Draganesti.
Tomorrow I catch the train, and I'm not ready. These people here are now so dear to me, and it will be hard to leave. I hope that I can somehow express, when I'm back at home, just how sweet the ministries here are, just how encouraging the friendships are, just how hospitable the people are. But what I can't express is known by the Lord, and I know that if I find joy in these things, He finds infinitely more joy. These things please me...but I'm not the one they are aiming to please! Truly this is a special place.