The missionary adventures of the Stimpson family

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3 Years and Counting…

April 30th is a significant day in our family. Most importantly, it is the day our Isaac was born, the first son after three daughters. When his arrival into the world came, we already knew we would be heading to Romania in the near future for an indefinite length of time. One year exactly after Isaac’s birth, we boarded a plane in Chicago with our sights set on Bucharest, Romania.

I really cannot believe it has been three years since we said goodbye to family, friends, and familiarity. Goodbye to good burgers, cheddar cheese, and road trips without potholes! In some ways, these have been the most difficult years of our lives, but in so many ways these years have stretched my faith, taught me what “dying to yourself” means, and forced me to be more adaptable. On the difficult side, I’ve cried more, gotten angry more, felt more burnt out and lonely, and been ready so many times to say “heck with ministry life, let’s go live on a farm far away from cities.” But, on the good side, I rejoice at being in God’s will, seeing our family be used by God to bring light into a very dark city, being a part of God’s transforming work in others’ lives, learning what self-sacrificing love really is (being a mother and wife has taught me much in that area, too), knowing more what deep-rooted, unwavering, unshakable faith, hope, and joy truly is, and being a part of discipleship like Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 2:2.

During our short time here–to those who are missing us it may seem not so short, but it has sped by for us–we have gone through so many ups and downs, excitements and disappointments. We started a small meeting with a gypsy community that lived near us, and it grew to where many families joined in. A few surrendered their lives to Jesus, and one man in particular was ready to be baptized and learn to live for God. But, a couple of families had some domestic problems relating to alcohol and domestic abuse. We helped the best we could, but some just wanted sin more than God. After this, the other families we focused on trying to leave the city and find work, and a year after we began, that little church meeting ended.

We had meetings in our home for a while and tried to start up a church that way. Many pledged to help us to the end. This lasted a few months, grew for a while, then shrunk to just our family and one friend.

Finally, we decided to get more official, rent a room for weekly church meetings, and kickoff our official church: Biserica Piatra Vie, Living Stone Church. It started bigger than we’d hoped, but after a month, our meetings shrunk to just our family and a friend or two. We lost friends, gained friends, and we toiled on. One year after our official start, we had a decent church start: three people joined as official members, besides us American missionaries, and other families and visitors came around regularly. Now we have monthly healing and deliverance meetings that bring in extra visitors, opportunities to pray for the sick and oppressed, and see God move! We’ve seen people surrender their lives to Jesus, baptized one of them, prayed for many to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and seen God heal many of physical ailments.

But, there are still ups and downs. We don’t know how long God will have us here, but we’re ready for whatever He says. We feel honored to be used by God, whether we’re just part of sowing something that others will reap or whether we get to reap what others or we have sown. Sometimes we wonder why God chose us, when there are others with more time and fewer responsibilities (We have five children now, are homeschooling, and have one very active 15 month old–yes, we even had a baby while here!), but God knows what this city needs more than we do.

Planting a church is tough (bravo to Cornerstone Pastors Michael and Annie Fisher and Derek and Deb Miller for doing it before!)! Planting a church with a big family is tougher. Planting a church with a big homeschooled family in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language so well in a culture that is quite different than what you’re used to and not getting to see your family and friends in three years is toughest. But God is our strength and our portion! He is our Rock! He is the One who builds His church against which the gates of hell cannot prevail! He is good, loving, comforting, joyful, merciful, just, giving! He provides for us, heals us, empowers us, and guides us! All our hope, life, love, joy, peace, and faith is in Him alone! We are happy to serve and follow Him!


Daniel and Maria’s Home

Wow, it has been a really long time since we’ve made any posts here, but it’s about time we get back to it. Today’s post is mostly a collection of videos. Our church, Biserica Piatra Vie (Living Stone Church), supports a missionary to the city of Bucharest, who shares the gospel, passes out gospel tracts, and simply spreads the good news about Jesus and the gospel around town. His name is Daniel, and just a few months ago, he married Maria. They’ve been living in a tiny room in his mother’s home, but there is not hot water or a kitchen, and the bathroom is outside (it gets cold here in winter in Romania).

God put it on our hearts to help them, but we weren’t sure how. Not being able to find an affordable place for them to live, Jake got the idea to use one of the popular online fundraising websites to raise money for Daniel and Maria to build themselves a home. Daniel used to work in construction in Finland, so he had plans all ready and only needed money to buy materials and hire his brother to help him.

Well, after only a few weeks of the fundraiser going live, the money was raised, and immediately Daniel and his brother Marian got to work. Jake has helped a bit, and he’s gotten some great clips of the work being done so far. Check them out below. While you’re at it, pray for Daniel. Pray that God would continue to bless his evangelism in Bucharest. He’s gotten to talk to so many people about Jesus and been able to follow up with several who want to know more, and we want to see God multiply this fruit and see a big harvest reaped for His glory right here in Bucharest!

Here’s the link to the Crowdrise page about Daniel and Maria’s home: A Home for Daniel and Maria


Random Things I’ve Learned on the (Urban) Mission Field

I think a lot of Christians have a “glamorized” view of missionary life, because missionaries share the grand trials, great victories, and emotional stories of their work on the mission field. But, in reality, a lot of missionary work is very mundane, sometimes to the point of being inane. At least, it feels that way in the midst of whatever is occurring at the time. However, when you look back after 6 months, a year, two years, you can see God’s hand in so much of what has happened, even if you were left wondering where that hand was in the midst of the seemingly monotonous activity.

All that aside, here are some things I’ve learned in our 27 months on the mission field of Bucharest, Romania. More precisely, what I’ve learned despite the “inanity” and feelings of “monotony.”

1. You must never let down your guard against cockroaches. Yeah, you may clean out your entire kitchen and spray it top to bottom with poisonous insecticides, and you may go a couple of months without seeing a single one afterwards. But be forewarned, they will return. And when you kill that one you see, you will open a cabinet door and find 5-10 more scurrying for the darkness. Always maintain vigilance.

2. Your marriage and your children must still remain a high priority. You don’t want to gain a million converts at the cost of your marriage or your children. They are gifts from God, no matter where you live

3. Even more important is your relationship to Jesus. It must always be first place. Jesus said, “For you have the poor with you always” in the context of disciples complaining that Mary of Bethany “wasted” an expensive perfume on Jesus when it could have been sold and the money used for the poor. But He didn’t agree–He honored Mary because she honored and worshiped Him extravagantly, above all else. There are people everywhere with a multitude of needs, poor, sick, disfigured, trapped in sin, lost in darkness, spiritually immature, etc. And we could work ourselves to burnout and death if we forsake our relationship with God to constantly work for Him.

4. Learning a language is one of the most humbling tasks I’ve ever done. When you’re in public with a decent, but very limited knowledge of the language of the place you’re in, you will look stupid, appear aloof or ignorant, and be annoying to natives who are in a hurry; you will not necessarily know how to ask for what you need; you will struggle through conversations with your neighbors with your horrid grammar and painfully slow speech; you will need help from friends to master the post office, doctor’s office, hair salon, pharmacy, anything related to the police or government, apartment hunting, etc. You might have old ladies yell at you (several within a 24 hour period) about how your kid will get sick if his ears aren’t completely covered or that one gets wet feet from splashing about in rain puddles, and you won’t know how to answer them. You might just have to stand there and take it…at least until you learn how to say, “Leave us in peace! He/she is fine. I have five kids and know what I’m doing.” 😉

5. No matter how much “just like America” a country may seem on the surface during a short visit, every culture is different, but you won’t see that until you’re completely immersed in it. Even over two years in, I find myself every so often thinking, “What the heck is that all about?!” And usually, I never find out.

6. I am so American. Yes, of course I should be since I was born and lived there nearly 33 years, but there are some things ingrained in me because of my Americanness that are just really hard to change. For example, in America, it’s considered rude to tell everybody what you think all the time and give frequent, unsolicited advice. While I like constructive criticism and advice to help me, I still have not succumbed to the constant flow of advice that comes my way, especially related to child-rearing. I don’t get offended too easily, and can usually just ignore it (unless it’s good advice), but sometimes I long for an ever-so-small touch of American politeness and un-nosiness. I’m still very American in that respect.

7. If I can be a missionary, anybody can! I like a schedule and I like plans to be made and stuck to; if things go too random or sporadic, I start to get a little freaked out. On the mission field, even in a big European city one, nothing is set. Pretty much ever. I’ve learned to adapt and trust God and keep a good attitude even when I feel like Milton from Office Space, haha! God’s in control and I just grab on for the wild ride! Right before we moved here, one of our pastors prophesied over me that I might feel like I don’t quite cut it, but that God said His grace is sufficient. I think I grab onto those words every single day, as those are the prophetic words that spoke loudest to me…and still do.

8. A home is more than just a place to eat and sleep. My whole family loves having people here, whether for Bible studies, movie nights, parties, game nights, discipleship, fellowship, etc. I pray almost every day that our home be used for God’s glory and that His peace and life and presence would fill it so much that others coming here would sense it. And many have told us they do.

9. Communism is just a bad idea. Even 25 years after it ended here, there’s still repercussions of it on daily life and the mentality of the nation. I pray that it will fall in countries like North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba. I pray for the nations of the world heading further and further into socialism. The government is no substitute for God and God-given families.

10. Lastly (this is not an exhaustive list by any means…I’m continually learning), if or when God calls us back to the U.S. or to another country, we will leave so many dear, dear friends behind. But I look forward to visiting with many hugs and much joy as we have made some lifelong friendships here. I am so thankful to God for these people.


Getting Sick and Getting Well in Bucharest

It’s been nearly a year since I’ve posted anything on here, so I’m a little out of practice, but here ya go…

Easter is the biggest holiday season here in Orthodox Romania. Seriously, it’s a bigger deal than Christmas, with offices and businesses shutting down from Good Friday through at least the Monday after Easter. Offices including doctors’ offices. Which means, it’s not a good time to get sick and need to see a doctor.

The Wednesday before Easter, I came down with a bad bacterial infection, not something terribly uncommon, but a worse case than I’ve ever had before. I fought through it with sleep, water, and Tylenol that whole day, started feeling better the next day enough to take Paul in for his doctor visit. When there I asked about getting antibiotics, but she said I’d have to see a different doctor. However, all the offices were going to be closed after that day for four days and only one appointment was left. When I tried to make the appointment, the computerized scheduling system wasn’t working, so I went back home (a one hour trek via public transport) with only a slight fever and no meds. I thought, “Hey, our prayers are working; I’m getting better, so I won’t try to snatch that last appointment and just sleep it off.”

An hour later, I arrived home and within fifteen minutes my fever jumped to its highest yet, I started shivering uncontrollably, and felt disoriented from the sickness. Now too late to make that last appointment, I weighed my options: try to see if I could get the antibiotics without a prescription, find an emergency room and fumble through with my poor Romanian and fever delirium, or wait it out. Feeling worse by the minute, I nixed the last option and started messaging friends.

I sent a Facebook message to a good friend of mine who I knew frequently checked her messages asking for advice. And I prayed. Within five minutes she called me back saying she would go with me to an emergency room, translate for me, and do whatever she could for me. She wanted to ask her mother the best place to go, and she happened to be right in front of her apartment when she got my message. She called me back saying she could get me an evening appointment for an hour from then at her hospital, that she would come with me and translate, and everything. Praise God! I fed Paul quickly, grabbed a taxi, and started the long trek through Bucharest rush hour traffic, sweating profusely in the back seat and eyes burning with fever. I prayed we’d make it in time.

As we got near to where I thought the hospital was, the driver turned the opposite direction I thought we should be going, so I called him on it. He argued with me, and I argued back, and he made motions with his hands telling me I was disoriented and sick and didn’t know what I was talking about. Sure enough, he was right and dropped me off exactly at 5:00 for my appointment in front of the correct place. Thankfully, he didn’t listed to the sick, American girl.

After having our baby Paul here in Bucharest, I had an idea of what the private hospitals and doctors were like. But the doctor I saw was so nice, very helpful, and genuinely concerned that I get better. She gave me very clear instructions through my friend and translator, gave me all the prescriptions I needed with very good instructions, and instructed me to return in six days for a free follow up appointment. Then, my very dear friend, purchased all the drugs for me, walked me to the metro stop (I wasn’t risking a delirious taxi ride in rush hour again), and agreed to meet me the following week at the hospital.

Fast forward to today, the doctor checked me again, offered some extra services even though it was a free visit, and had her colleague perform some ultrasound therapy on me. I was amazed at how pleasant and nice everyone was and how I wasn’t even charged for the visit. And she wants to see me again, also for free, to make sure that I am completely better!

Maybe it’s not such a cool story for everyone, but for me it was a blessing! I love how generous and helpful my friend was to take her evening on such short notice to help me find a doctor on a busy holiday break when I wasn’t sure what to do. I love the concern the doctor showed when often doctors (not just here but also in America) generally just try to get you in and out, especially if you aren’t paying. I love that God answers prayers. And I learned, never argue with a taxi driver in a foreign language when you’re deliriously feverish and don’t know where you’re going. Driver knows best.


They’re Just People…

Today was my oldest daughter’s birthday, so we spent a good part of the day at one of the parks here in Bucharest, eating lunch, getting ice cream pops, and playing. While at one of the playground areas, I was pushing one of my girls in a swing when a high school-aged boy sits in the swing next to hers with a couple of his buddies by him. He must have heard us speaking in English, so he asks, in fairly good English, where we are from. (Always every new person’s question to us.) When I tell him that we’re from America, expecting to hear the usual “Wow, America,” I am not disappointed. (After you get asked that question and receive that same response so many times, you come to anticipate it, not in pride, but just in a this-is-how-nearly-every-conversation-I-have-with-a-new-person-goes kind of way.)

Then all three boys started saying with this dreamy, far-off kind of voice, “America. It’s so beautiful there.” (I doubt they had actually ever been there. I mean, have you driven hours upon hours through cornfields of Indiana?)

Always amazed at how people put America on this pedestal of being the ultimate paradise while being totally ignorant to the multitude of problems there–there are problems everywhere, and America is not excluded–I reminded them of beautiful places in their own country, how America has several big, ugly cities just like Romania has Bucharest (I’ve grown to like Bucharest, but it does have a sort of depressing architectural theme to it.), and how America is not perfect and has its own problems, that Romania is not unique in that.

Dumbfounded, they asked, “Like what?” Clearly, they don’t watch CNN International and BBC News like I do to keep up with what’s happening back in the States. When I mentioned that where we used to live in Milwaukee, we could hear gun shots when our windows were open, that there were lots of problems with drugs and gangs in that city, they were shocked!

But then they went back to bewailing how terrible Romania is, especially Bucharest with all the “gypsies” here. Every time I hear someone rant or complain about the gypsies, it strikes a nerve in me and hurts. I think of our gypsy church near our house and of how generous and loving those women are to me and my children, how they give things to our kids when they themselves have so little, how they really want to live good lives. They’re like family to me; well, really, we are all in the family of God together, and those women are my sisters in faith. So, hearing someone throw out brash comments like that, generalizing and stereotyping a whole group of people based on racism and prejudices, is really bothersome.

Before I go further, I will note that the main speaker of the group of boys held a two liter plastic bottle of cheap beer in his hand and was obviously not sober. When I commented once on how good his English was, he said only when he’s drunk can he speak it well. I tried not to press the conversation too much, because of the awkwardness of the situation: a mother of four at the park with her kids, talking to an intoxicated high school guy is just a little weird, but I digress.

Later on, the boys asked about there being many black people in America, only they used the “n” word! (Ok, I must interject a side note here. These kids obviously didn’t use the “n” word in a derogatory sense, and it’s not the first time one of us has heard a Romanian refer to a black person with that word, and it’s never been used in a mean way. We always correct them and urge them never to use that term, for it is extremely derogatory in American culture.) They went on about how they have no problem with black people and wonder why others do, because, “They’re just people, like you and me.”

“Yeah, kind of like the gypsies. They’re just people, too,” I said. They tried to make excuses but failed, and I had to leave to go rescue my toddler boy from some high up place he’d climbed up to. But when they left later, the main guy admitted, among other things, that he is, in fact, half-gypsy. Sometimes, I really have no explanation.

But, I’ll leave you with some wise words from Naomi. “Why do some people not like the Gypsies? They’re just people with different color skin. That’s stupid to not like someone because of that.”


30 Reflections on April 30th of One Year in Bucharest

family-couch

One year ago today, on our son Isaac’s first birthday, we flew out of Chicago and became Bucharest, Romania bound. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on all the things I’ve learned, all the trials we’ve faced, all the discouragements and joys, the friends gained and the friends and family left behind. This blog post is a list of such reflections and observations and interesting things learned, some very random, some deep. And these are my thoughts…Jake and the kids undoubtedly have their own unique takes on this past year. But, here I go.

  1. It’s been a year since I’ve driven a vehicle! And I’m perfectly content with that. I do miss the American phenomenon of road-tripping, but it’s an adventurous change that I don’t even really think about much anymore.
  2. Bucharest is not Romania. Sure, it’s in Romania. But the real Romania, the heart of the people, culture, beauty, food…it’s in the countryside and smaller towns and villages. To say Bucharest represents all of Romania, would be like saying Los Angeles represented America. If ever I am discouraged, a little train trip out of the city renews my love for this nation and its people.
  3. In America there seems to be this “fad” interest in home gardening, home food preservation, eating organic foods, living simply, line-drying clothes, eating local and in-season produce, etc. But, here in Romania, this is what people have done for years, out of necessity and wisdom. Which brings me to something I will do differently this next year: buy lots more summer and fall fruits and veggies when they are tasty and cheap, make tons of jams, pickles, fermented cabbages, and freeze as much as I can. Because prices shoot up in winter.
  4. I miss black people. Milwaukee was so diverse, and we lived in a neighborhood where whites were the minority.
  5. I think it is funny that we were so happy when spring arrived because our clothes dried on the balcony in one day instead of in one week during winter. During winter, our clothes would freeze on the line, so we brought them in and draped them all over the chairs, doors, radiators, and chairs to finish drying at night.
  6. I have decided that I am not a dog lover. Many Bucharestians would be apalled at what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it. The thousands of stray dogs, including the one who tried to chase my husband up a tree and the one who came after me with my kids, should be put out of their misery…and out of ours. They are mean, ugly, pitiful, a nuissance, and a terrible blemish to the city. I’ve seen them shivering in the cold, passed out half-alive in summer heat, limping with broken or missing limbs, itching themselves like crazy, missing chunks of fur, eating garbage. Their lives are miserable, and I think they should be rounded up and “put to sleep.” The end.
  7. The giant concrete bloc apartment building soak up the intense summer heat and radiate it like an oven on the streets. Everyone sweats, everyone smells, and everyone crams like sardines into the trams and buses with their armpits in your face because it’s too hot to walk. But, I love the longer summers here and how dry they are rather than muggy. And, I like how all the apartment blocs block a lot of the cold winter winds.
  8. Ok, speaking of summer…the mosquitoes here in summer are of the demonic nature. They start in April and will not die until late into November. They bite over and over and over, and they are sneaky about getting in. Couple that with the lack of screens on windows, and you learn how to tolerate stuffy, hot apartments quickly.
  9. I love Romanian food, from sarmale to ciorba, from cozonac to cremșnit, from șaorma to musaca, from the sausages to the tomatoes and strawberries that will blow your mind. The honey here is poetic and the kilograms and kilograms of apricots we eat in the summer are sweet and addictive. There are only a couple of things I haven’t liked and several more I haven’t tried, but I’ve found myself making mămăligă for my family and serving food with a bowl of smântână.
  10. On the topic of food. There are dessert shops on practically every block selling the tastiest treats, but I find myself hesitant to order the chocolate ones because, almost always, they have rum essence in them for flavoring. I must be too American, but I still have not acquired the taste for this, and neither has anyone else in my family.
  11. I really miss my mom and dad. And sometimes I get sad that it would cost our family around $6000 to get round trip plane tickets to visit them. I wish flying were cheaper.
  12. We have made some wonderful friends here, and I love having brothers and sisters in the family of God here praying for me and loving me!
  13. Romanian is hard. The grammar is hard. Speaking it is hard. And sometimes I get really discouraged and feel like I’ll never learn it or I get discouraged that I don’t know it already and feel bad that people whose natural language is Romanian have to use English with me. But our friends are very patient and encouraging with me.
  14. One of my favorite Romanian words is “Bada!” There is no direct translation into English for it, but you use it to contradict someone…not in a mean way, necessarily. Like if I try to say something in Romanian and then apologize for it sounding bad, someone might say, “Bada! It was perfect.” It’s just a cool word.
  15. If your kid is under two years old…he or she must have a hat on. In the summer, put on a sun hat. Any other time, the hat must cover their ears and be tied under the chin to keep out the curent. Otherwise, you risk old ladies coming up and rebuking you without reserve.
  16. Big cities can suck the life out of you. It’s busy, people are always rushing somewhere, and getting around takes a long time. You can feel like your day is absobed with a hundred menial things that shouldn’t take long, but they do, and it’s easy to get drained and discouraged. I always have to remember that the Bible says to do everything as unto the Lord. Heidi Baker says that even sweeping the floor can be holy, holy, holy and a form of worship if done in the right attitude.
  17. I’ve gained an appreciation for passionate worship like we experienced in the church we came from. At the charismatic and pentecostal churches we’ve visited here, the worship has often been good, powerful, with a sense of God’s presence, but no one really expresses the joy and freedom of Jesus. I miss dancing, clapping, rejoicing, spinning in worship with “all my strength.” Maybe that’s part of my American background as well.
  18. Romanian kids are really cute. And the way they roll their “r”s when speaking is great!
  19. A lot of sources and people say that Romania is one of the most “evangelized” nations in the world. After the fall of Communism, missionaries poured in. But to see the society now: the abundant sexual immorality, the party attitude of most young people, the high rate of abortion, the rate of domestic violence, the racism, the materialism, the legalism in the churches–you would not know it. A lot of people here say, “We are Orthodox, leave us alone.” But most Orthodox have no idea if they are “good enough” to go to heaven; they do not believe that their faith in Jesus alone is what saves them and reconciles them to God. They abhor “pocaiți,” literally “repenters,” and mock them because they think it’s ridiculous that a person should repent of their sins. A lot of people like hearing about Jesus, because they’ve never met Him personally and have never heard the simple gospel of truth.
  20. Communism is bad. This could be a whole blog post in itself. But, communism is one of the worst things in the world, I’m convinced. Unchecked capitalism is pretty bad too.
  21. When I feel lonely or discouraged, this verse is a comfort to me: “So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
  22. One of the most encouraging things someone can say to me is, “I’m praying for you.” They don’t have to say anything else, because I know if they are praying, God hears and will answer. When people say, “You’re awesome or you guys rock or God is going to do amazing things through you” or anything like that, it doesn’t mean as much as knowing that the fervent prayer of a righteous person does much.
  23. I’d never been out of the country before moving here. Heck, I’d never even been on a short-term mission trip. Not because I didn’t want to, but I got married shortly after I started following Jesus and then I started making babies right away! I had no idea what to expect. One thing, though, missions work, well at least long-term missions work, is not glamorous. For me, I do similar things as I did in America: change diapers, discipline kids, teach home school, help with ministry, clean, cook, and try to build relationships.
  24. Meeting with God, alone, every day, undistracted is the most crucial and important part of ministry.
  25. Going grocery shopping without a car for a household of seven people gets heavy!
  26. Bucharest has really nice parks to get the kids outside releasing wiggles, and it is the place where I most easily meet new people.
  27. I am thankful for those who helped us when we had no idea what we were doing. Our friend Filip picked us up from the airport, got us a place to stay while we searched for apartments, got us a real estate agent to help us find a place to live, took us shopping, made us feel welcome, and helped us get settled. Our friends Irina and AndreEa and others planned a birthday party for Naomi during our first week here, to help the kids feel loved and welcomed in a new place. Our pastor friend Peter and his wife Geta helped us with all the crazy paperwork and running around to get our visas. And so many others. What a blessing! I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
  28. I often think about some of Oswald Chambers’ teachings from My Utmost for His Highest, and how he talks about the drudgery of everyday life and letting God build character in you through boredom, loneliness, discouragement, frustration, etc. Wisdom from wise, older fathers and mothers in the faith like that means so much more to me now than the zeal-without-wisdom untested faith. Discouraging and frustrating things happen, but they are temporary and the word and love of God reigns true and supreme forever.
  29. I like when people visit us. I like letters and care packages. 🙂
  30. Jesus is with me always. Even to the end of the earth.

Mama și Copilul: Iubește-i pe amândoi!

Stimpson family in Bucharest March for Life 2013

A few weeks ago, our family participated in Marșul Pentrul Viață here in Bucharest. It was the third annual march for life in this city, and it was an honor to be a part of it, joining with about 500 others to declare, “România pentru viața!, or “Romania for life!” For a slide show of pictures from the event, go here; you’ll even see some shots of us in the mix! If you’re wondering what some of the signs say, here are a few translations:
–I regret the abortion I had.
–We are the generation for life.
–Real doctors don’t kill babies.
–Adoption, not abortion
–Mother and child: love them both
–50 years = 22 million abortions
–A person is a person no matter how small

There were women carrying baskets filled with replicas of tiny babies that said 500 babies a day are aborted in Romania. Five hundred a day! There are about 22 million people in Romania, so if America, which has a population of about 314 million, had the same abortion rate, that would be 7136 babies a day murdered! The current number of abortions per day in the U.S. is somewhere around 3,200. Romania’s abortion rate is more than twice that of the U.S., and the equivalent of the current population of Romania has been killed off by abortion in just 50 years. Romania is a lovely country with beautiful people, but it is a nation that has killed half it’s people through abortion in 50 years, according to these statistics.

Here are some more statistics about abortion in Romania:
–According to this website, Romania has the highest abortion rate in Europe, more than twice the EU average, with 480 abortion performed for every 1000 live births. That’s almost a third of all pregnancies ending in abortion. However, not all abortion facilities report, so the rate could be even higher.
–According to this site, Romania has the second highest rate of abortion in the world, second only to Vietnam (which, if you do some research on this problem in that nation, it will disturb you and move you to intercession like nobody’s business), with a rate of 78 abortions per 1000 women ages 15-44.

The abortion situation in Romania has changed a lot over the past 60 years in Romania. In 1957, abortion procedures became legal. When that happened, about 80% of pregnancies ended in abortion. Romania was a very poor nation, there was little to no availability of contraceptives, and people thought they couldn’t afford to have children, so they they flocked to abortion centers. Because of this, the birthrate started to fall drastically, which would eventually lead to poor demographic growth.

In reaction to this, in 1966 communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu declared abortion and contraceptives illegal, and practically overnight, everything changed. This law was called Decree 770, and it stated that abortion was illegal for any woman under 45 or who had less than four children to have an abortion. This was and is definitely out of the norm for communist nations. However, Ceaușescu did not make these laws because he regarded human life as sacred and unborn children worthy of life; he simply wanted to make more workers and see his country become more powerful. He promised government childcare centers, adequate medical care, and jobs, but he failed to deliver, and many children were abandoned, left on the streets or in horrendous conditions in state orphanages.

The birthrate shot up quickly for about a year or so, and then started to go back down as many women sought illegal abortions. Some sources say that as many as 9000 women died from complications from illegal abortions. Now, a lot of people use Romania to show what would happen if abortion was outlawed, arguing that abortion should be widely accessible, safe, and legal. It’s a difficult subject to tackle, a very emotional one. But just because women will seek out abortions whether they are legal or not, even at the risk of their own lives and health, does not make it right.

Anyway, after Ceaușescu was violently overthrown and executed at the end of 1989, virtually overnight, abortions again became legal, and, according to this site, the rates shot up and nearly 1 million babies were killed in 1990, compared to only about 315,000 live births. People began the killing without even questioning whether or not it was right. Now, granted, the dictator was harsh and communism destroyed much of the hope and joy of the people. It crushed religion and indoctrinated people with the humanistic atheism that communism is generally notorious for. Without hope of a rescuer and seeing the evil that can come out of people who have no fear of God and having no value for human life other than cogs in an industrial machine, what else could be expected? Who would want to bring children into such a life?

The rate of abortion has been gradually falling in Romania, but it is still very high. There is no easy answer to this, but one thing is for sure: Paul exhorts the church in Philippians 2:14-16 to, “Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], that you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life (AMP).”

The church is to be set apart and separate from the world and the world’s way of doing things. We are to be blameless and uncontaminated from the things of the world, including all of it’s lies and propoganda. The world is crooked, wicked, and perverse, and all of its trappings lead women into thinking that they must abort the babies inside of them. But the church is to hold out the word of hope–real hope is something that the world cannot offer–as it shines like bright stars in this dark, dark world.

Sure, we must speak the truth in love, that abortion is wrong. But we must provide hope! We cannot just point fingers and condemn the women. Are we willing to open our homes to an unmarried, pregnant woman who has no place to go? Are we willing to adopt the children that would otherwise be aborted? Are we willing to sacrifice some of our comfort to give so that other families can eat and feed the children that they do have? Are we willing to provide for their babies’ needs? To befriend those women who have no other hope? Are we willing to demonstrate that children are a blessing, to raise our children to be godly, to show that we really are “pro-life,” pro-children, pro-family? And then those children will grow up to be blessings and change things in our society, to continue to rescue those in the dark by being bright lights who hold out the word of hope themselves. And we must pray, pray, pray. God has put such a strong burden on my heart for this issue, for the women and families who are considering abortion or who have had one (or many), and for the children.

I loved the theme of this year’s Marșul Pentru Viață, Mother and Child: Love Them Both. Assume, Help, Adopt. It implies that we cannot just change the law; we have to see hearts, lives, societies changed. This can only happen through the power and hope of the gospel.

On the cool, hopeful side, check out what these folks are doing here in Romania! We’ve met some of the fruit of their ministry and it’s so great to see what God has been doing through them. They’re even from our neck of the woods in Wisconsin! Here’s a pro-life video from their website.