Day 14 – Meet Our Butler
Today, we had coffee and desert with Daniel Boldea and his wife Alexandra (Alex for us Americani). Alex is getting her law degree and is currently interning as a lawyer in the city of Bucharest. Listening to them describe a typical day in court makes it sound like a fun event to attend, as long as you’re not expecting anything important to get accomplished. Just the other day, the judge had to have police escort a woman out of the courtroom because she kept yelling and interrupting while her husband was giving testimony. Insults fly, words are harsh and loud, facial expressions are explosive, and gestures are demonstrative with arms swinging dangerously through the air like trapeze artists in a circus. Romanians have a very Latin temperament. They’re passionate people. They may not smile a lot, but they are far from stoic.
It’s sometimes scary to hear Romanians passionately yelling at each other. Their voices are loud, their arms fly all over the place, and you’d swear they were defending the honor of their dear old mum or something, but really they’re just upset that you slammed the door of the elevator.
OK, to follow that rabbit trail with another… elevators. I think there is a law in Romania that elevators are not allowed to be bigger than 4 square feet. That’s not entirely true. Otopeni airport has an elevator that’s much larger – at least 9 square feet. When our whole family gets on our elevator, it goes something like this. Jessie props the door open while I give directions to the kids: “Naomi, open the inside door. Mae scoot in that corner. Watch your foot, Illiana. Don’t get it stuck in that crack. OK, everybody squeeze in. Hey, Naomi, duck under me here, would you? OK, no one breathe on anyone or touch anyone. Now squeeze closer so I can close the inside doors. OK, good job, got ’em closed. Someone push floor five. I know you can’t reach it. Neither can I. Use your elbow or your chin or something.” Someone reaches the button, there’s a “wump” noise, the elevator starts up, you make sure your hands are inside so they don’t get torn off as you pass by old wiring and jagged bricks (the doors don’t close all the way), and then it stops halfway between floor 4 and floor 5. So we push the button for floor 4, it goes back down, then we push floor 5, and it makes it all the way up to floor 5. Then everyone squeezes together, we open the inside doors, and someone manages to squeeze out and open the outside door so we can all spill out into the hallway and get to our apartment. It’s rather quite fun and is a good way to overcome a fear of small places. I’ve grown used to it now so it doesn’t seem weird, and when we went to the airport to drop Susie off the other day, it actually felt like the elevators there were obnoxiously spacious.
Our elevator accelerates and decelerates really quickly, which causes Illiana to grab anything nearby with a death-grip. One day, I thought I’d take advantage of the quick deceleration, so me and the girls all jumped really high right as the elevator was stopping at the bottom of the building – you know, so you feel a really intense impact. It’s kinda’ fun in normal American elevators, so I thought it’d be even better in the cool Romanian ones. Not so. The elevator was about to stop, we jumped really high, we landed just as it was decelerating, and then “BAM” it stopped with a loud noise and the lights went out and the doors wouldn’t open. Thankfully we got it going again, so we didn’t have to cannibalize anyone, but I felt pretty embarrassed when we finally made it to the ground floor (floor P in Romania) and there was a group of older Romanians waiting for the elevator. I hung my head in shame and quickly walked past them, not making eye contact. That was the end of our elevator-jumping adventures.
Anyway, back to the story at hand…
Daniel and Alex brought some amazing desserts by, from a Greek restaurant that just opened up near where they live. The desserts were phenomenal. I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the food here. Everything we’ve eaten has been amazing (well, the slanina was a little too salty), and I don’t even know how to describe it all anymore.
So we ate desserts, talked about Romania, and learned about Daniel’s ministry in a small city in the north of Romania. Daniel helps run Hand of Help Ministries, with their world headquarters in Watertown. Yeah, Watertown, can you believe it? So we’d met on Facebook a while back through an odd set of circumstances, then last week when I was in the mall buying a fan, Daniel came in, saw me, and asked, “You’re not Jake Stimpson, are you?” Do I look that much like an American? I was Jake Stimpson, so I told him that, and then next thing you know, he and his wife are in our living room watching us eat amazing desserts (they were on a diet unfortunately).
Hand of Help Ministries started when Daniel’s grandfather, Dumitru Duduman, saw the awful state of Romanian orphanages after the fall of Communism. Dumitru, a Romanian pastor, had spent years working with both Richard Wurmbrand and Brother Andrew during Romania’s Communist years, smuggling hundreds of thousands of Bibles into the Soviet Union, having death threats put out on him, getting beat up, getting thrown in prison, getting kicked out of the country, stuff like that, so after the revolution, Dumitru came back to Romania, saw the need for an orphanage that didn’t just leave the kids to fend for themselves, and got to work.
Today, Hand of Help Ministries houses almost 100 kids in their orphanage in northern Romania, they distribute blankets, food, and clothing to those who need it, they fund the building of churches, they help with emergency rescue and relief, they preach the Gospel, and they help orphans find housing and jobs once they’re on their own. It’s a really awesome ministry, and we’re excited to head up there one of these days soon to check out all they’re doing.
Besides the ministry that Hand of Help is doing, we were completely blessed by Daniel and his wife. They were so fun to talk to and we really enjoyed getting to know them a little. They gave us a ton of good advice about Romania, Daniel’s going to informally help us learn the Romanian language (he speaks fluent English and Romanian), and Daniel became our butler for the day.
Filip has been driving us places and helping us with everything, but he’s a busy guy who drives a lot of people places and helps a lot of people with everything, so it was nice to have another person to depend on today.
Daniel took us to his favorite park in Bucharest. I forgot its real name, but Google Maps calls it Titan Park. There’s a couple zip lines for kids, playgrounds everywhere, walking paths, a lake, an island, and a zillion places to just sit and enjoy God. Going to the park, it didn’t even feel like we were in a big city. It was beautiful!
Then he took us grocery shopping at one of Bucharest’s hypermarkets – Cora, in the giant Sun Plaza mall, built just two years ago. Cora is basically like a giant Super-Walmart, but there’s not as much variety, everything’s a little dirtier, things are laid out a little odd, and most things are more expensive than Walmart but cheaper than anywhere else in the city. It’s really nice and amazing, and it was quite a change from the peaceful park we had just been in.
While driving around with Daniel, he taught us some more Romanian phrases (like “Cum ești?” – “How are you?”) and we got to pick his brain on everything Romania – the culture, the state of the church, the food, where to shop, how to get around, etc. We learned a lot, and we were extremely blessed to spend some time with someone who obviously loves this country a lot and wants to see Jesus glorified in his life.