We’ve been having a difficult time lately in Romania. We finally got to go visit family and friends back home in America after 4 years away. It was wonderful, refreshing, and all you would expect from a 4-year reunion with those you love.
And then we got back to Romania and it felt like all hell broke loose on us. We all got stomach flu, the car died, we got bed bugs and our daughter broke out with blisters all over her body, our one church (Biserica Sion) was kicked out of its building, our other church (Biserica Piatra Vie) was losing its meeting place because the landlord was lying, stealing, and threatening us, eventually physically assaulting me… and then today.
What happened today? Well, we just started to see some victories in all the aforementioned areas. Our stomachs recovered, we found a mechanic to fix the car, we started a chemical war against the bed bugs, we found a new location for Biserica Sion, and we found a new, much better location for Biserica Piatra Vie.
It looked like we had started to overcome again, like we were gonna win the battle.
But then today happened. We had invested a lot of time, energy, money, and hard work into repairing Piatra Vie’s new location the past few days… and then today we found out that the building the rental unit is in… is condemned due to seismic risks! It’s illegal for us to use it, and it’s illegal for the landlord to rent it to us. If any police catch us, we’ll get in big trouble and either us or the landlord will have to pay a $13,000 fine. And the police station is right next door. Not to mention the fact that if there is an earthquake the building could collapse and we might all die.
So we’re back to square one, looking for a new meeting location. With our small budget, the immensity of the city, and the problems of operating in a culture and language that are still foreign to us, this is a lot harder than it sounds.
After losing our amazing meeting location, again, for the second time, all I felt like doing today was getting away with God. So I grabbed my Bible, my camera, and the car keys, and I decided to take a drive to sort some things through.
I had heard about a certain quiet place along the Danube River, just south of the small town of Prundu, that there were some beautiful and remote beaches there. I was interested in bringing my family there sometime, so I thought, “Hey, I want to go for a drive, so I’ll check out the route to one of those remote beaches and see if it’s worth bringing the whole family sometime.”
And off I went.
As I drove, I prayed and thought and prayed some more. What are we doing? This is ridiculous. How could we not have known the building was condemned? Why didn’t we look before committing to rent it? How could we be so foolish? Why didn’t the landlord tell us? Why did God seem to confirm we should rent it when He knew it was unsafe and we’d leave in a couple days? Why did he let us work so hard, waste so much money, only to walk away from it?
And then I was in the town of Prundu.
And then the road diverged, so I took the one less traveled by.
This road left the small town behind and went off into the woods and fields far into the distance. It was constructed of a lot of dirt, a little bit of gravel, but mostly holes as far as I could tell. Looks good, I thought, and ventured forth in my faithful Opel Zafira.
The road was really rough, the roughest road I’ve ever driven on. There were deep muddy tire ruts gutted by tractors, giant rocks that threatened to crack important metal things on my car that I’m sure have names but I’ll be darned if I know what they are. The wheels spun a few times in the dirt and mud, but I kept chugging forward.
Then I saw clouds coming.
It’s going to rain, I thought, and when it rains, this road will be a real mess.
Turn around or keep going? I kept going. I needed to see where this road went. Worst case scenario, I calculated in my mind, I get stuck somewhere in the mud, can’t find help, and have to spend a night or two sleeping in the van and waiting for the mud to dry. I can survive that.
Eventually, it started to rain. Just little drops, but by the look of the sky, I could tell they were heralds of something much more menacing.
The smart thing to do at this point would have been to turn around. Admit defeat. Play it safe. Walk away. Come back and try again some other time.
But I could see the end of the road up ahead… so close. And I had come so far already. How could I give up now?
So I kept going, despite the steadily increasing rain.
Once I reached the end of the road, I had a great time reading my Bible and just talking to Jesus.
Unfortunately, the clouds also had a great time sending down more and more rain, and so eventually I realized it was time to go. And thus I began the long, sloppy trek back. The car slid, bounced, crashed, and rammed its way through the ever-muddier path. Finally I understood the appeal of ATVs and dune buggies.
But I was not in an ATV or dune buggie. I was in a minivan. And pretty soon, about halfway through the minefield of mud and rocks, that minivan got stuck. Real stuck. Hopelessly, unmistakably stuck.
So after I had exhausted all my methods to unstick stuck cars, I got out in the pouring rain, walked through the mud and muck, searching for any signs of life. Up ahead I saw a farm, and as I neared, I approached some men on break. When I asked for some help, they directed me to talk to Calin, the boss.
With my dirty jeans and shoes weighing heavy from the caked-on mud, I must have looked helpless enough so that Calin drafted one of his men to hop in the tractor and pull me out. And that he did. He fearlessly pulled me for about 15 minutes through the quicksand-like mud. A couple miles from the end of the road, two farm workers approached and after he explained what he was doing, they asked if I could drop them off at their homes.
“Sure,” I said. “I’m going that way anyway.”
“Do you want me to drive?” asked the older one, whose name was Dumitru. “I grew up on these muddy roads. I know how to drive this stuff as well as asphalt roads.”
So I surrendered the keys and we drove together, the three of us, to their homes in the neighboring villages. When we arrived at Dumitru’s home, he told me to follow him as he grabbed a bucket of water, soap, and a brush. As I washed my hands, he knelt down and scrubbed my shoes clean, telling me it wouldn’t be good to drive all the way to Bucharest looking like I went swimming in a swamp.
As we went back to the car, he said he noticed there was something wrong with the radiator and wanted to take a look at it. So he popped the hood, looked around, banged a few things, cleaned off some mud, and got everything working to his satisfaction again.
“Here’s my phone number. If the engine doesn’t get any cooler as you drive to Bucharest, give me a call and I’ll come see what’s wrong.”
I shook his hand, thanked him profusely, asked if I could get his photo, and then drove off, one more adventure under my belt.
As I drove away, God began speaking to me. “Just keep going forward. If the road is dirty and full of holes, I’ll get you through it. If it starts to rain, don’t turn back – I’ll take care of you. If the road turns to mud, just keep going. If you get stuck in mud a couple times, I’ll pull you out. Just keep going forward.”
I like what the famous missionary William Carey said regarding to what he owed his success in India – “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
I think most of success revolves around the simple idea of just not giving up. Just keep going forward. Sure, you can play it safe and stay where you’re at, but if you wanna win, you gotta keep going, through all the mud, rocks, and puddles life throws at you.
Here’s some pictures from the day: