The missionary adventures of the Stimpson family

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That Agape Kind of Love

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Last week, I had a meeting with a good friend of mine, Camil. He’s one of my favorite people in Romania, because he looks at life differently and has a unique way of thinking about God. I guess we all have our own unique way of thinking about God, but I like Camil regardless.

While we were thinking and talking and discussing, Camil brought up three words for “love” in Greek thinking – eros, philios, and agape. “Eros is the base, sexual, physical kind of love… Philios is the comforting, friendship kind of love… But agape is the epitome of love, the most advanced form of love, the love that Christianity brought to the world, God’s kind of love.”

Agape, this is the love you’re trying to bring,” he said, looking at me. “This is the love you’re talking about, the self-sacrificing love like Jesus showed.”

That is the goal, yes, and sometimes I achieve it.

On my way home after our meeting, I got a call from my friend Daniel: “Jake, we will build your shelves tomorrow.”

Weeks ago, I had told Daniel I wanted to buy some shelves for our kids’ clothes, to replace the suitcases we’ve been using. “No, don’t buy shelves,” he had told me. “I know how to build furniture. Let me build them for you.”

“OK,” I had told him, “when we have some extra money, I’ll let you know and you can help me build the shelves.”

Flash forward a couple weeks. I had some extra money, so Daniel came over early in the morning, drew up the plans for the shelves, and then we both walked to the hardware store to buy everything. Well, the hardware storeS. We visited five different places to get everything we needed. By the time we were done, we had walked through freezing rain and wind carrying piles of wood, tape, screws, and tools. And we were beat. I joked with Daniel that he owed me money for letting him help, considering all the free exercise coaching I was providing him.

He left and I told him, “Let’s leave the wood here for now, and maybe in a few days we can build the shelves. When you have the time.”

So he called me a couple days later, because his Saturday was suddenly free, informing me, “Tomorrow we will build your shelves.”

We planned to meet at 3pm. Daniel got there at 2:40pm. I got there at 3:30pm. By the time I got home, he was already well on his way toward finishing, and together we built four brand-new shelves.

Now that’s agape love.

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How to Return a Hamburger at Carrefour

Did you know you can return sub-par hamburgers and french fries at the department store Carrefour? Yes, say you buy a hamburger in their cafe, you take a bite and it seems a little dry, so you take a few more just to make sure, and then, nearly done with the sandwich, you realize that, yes, your original estimation was indeed correct and this sandwich, contrary to what you had been led to believe, was not so delicious and juicy after all, you can, if you find yourself in said predicament, go to the customer service department and demand a refund. And, if it happens to you like it did to me, you might get offered double the money back, only to tell them that they made a math error and you really only need the original amount back, not twice as much, but you appreciate the gesture.

Today, I treated a bunch of friends to dinner at Carrefour. You can get hot dogs for 30 cents and a sandwich for 60 cents, so if you need to treat a bunch of friends to dinner, it’s a good place to go.

It’s also a good place to go when the pizza restaurant you originally plan to eat at tells you, “I’m sorry, but your pizzas won’t be ready for at least five hours. We have a lot to do tonight. What? You already paid for the pizzas? Oh, yay for us.”

So we found ourselves at Carrefour eating hamburgers and hot dogs instead, licking our wounds and glad that the disappearing pizzas had at least been really cheap. As far as disappearing pizzas go and all.

When my soda came, I took a drink and realized that their soda machine was running out of syrup (the soda tasted like water). I like water, so I contemplated just drinking it and walking away content, but then I realized that if I didn’t say something and let them know their machine needed more syrup, other customers would get the same nasty soda-water combo that I got. Everyone would get bad service, nothing would change, and the restaurant would never improve.

I went to the counter and explained that I had ordered a soda, but what they gave me was mineral water, without the flavoring. In hindsight, I would like to have said, “I think your machine needs the syrup refilled, because the soda came out watery,” but I don’t know how to say that in Romanian yet.

Thankfully, the workers connected the dots. Halfway. They told me, “It’s not our fault. We got the soda from the machine.”

“It’s your machine,” I told them. “And I’d like the soda I paid for, not water please.”

After pouring me two more test cups, calling me stubborn, complaining that I was trying to get free soda, and simply ignoring me, I asked if they’d give me a can of the soda that I had ordered, since their machine wasn’t working. They said no. I asked for my money back, because I didn’t want to pay for a soda that was more water than soda.

“You can go to reception and talk to someone,” the woman told me.

OK. So I did. Me and my friend Daniel walked to reception and told them, “I ordered this hamburger, french fries, and soda, but when they gave me the soda, it didn’t have any flavoring. I just want to have the soda like I ordered.”

“It doesn’t have flavoring? Why not?”

I wanted to throw up my arms and sarcastically yell out, “It’s the machine’s fault! No one can do anything about it!”

She asked me if I had the receipt.

“No, they never gave me one.”

“You need the receipt if you want to return this purchase.” Well, I didn’t want to return this purchase. I wanted to eat it. I just wanted someone to put syrup in the soda machine so me and other people could get the sodas they were paying for instead of mineral water. I hadn’t even tried my burger or fries. They looked good, so why would I return them? And who returns a meal bought at a cafe anyway? This whole thing is ridiculous.

So I walked back to the cafe, told her politely that I needed a receipt so I could return the burger and fries and soda. She pulled out the garbage can and dug around until she found it.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

“With much pleasure,” she smiled back, as if our whole Soda War had never happened.

So I gave the customer service woman the receipt, she took the burger and fries and soda and set them by all the returned shoes, pants, and books, and returned my money. She counted wrong and accidentally handed me 14 lei instead of 7. Since I’m not into cheating stores out of their money (I just do freaky things like returning meals at department stores) I pointed out the mistake and gave back the extra 7 lei. With the returned money, I bought a couple slices of pizza somewhere else instead.

I didn’t get soda this time. I was too scared to risk it.

Lesson of the story: if your soda comes out watery at Carrefour, it’s no one’s fault. Just return your meal at reception and buy a pizza.

Epilogue… (Can you do that in a blog post?)

As I’m writing this down, I realize that the whole scenario still really bothers me. Not because I didn’t get my orange soda. I don’t care about soda. I can drink watered down soda. But I love Romania. And it’s the all-too-frequent stories like this that make people not love it here. Romanians, you’re some of the most amazingly awesome people I’ve ever met. You’ve got hearts bigger than the world even deserves. Stop giving in to mediocrity and complacency. Stop blaming everyone else and dodging responsibility and looking for the easy way out. There’s greatness in you.

Our Ten Favorite Things About Life in Romania

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In case you didn’t see it already, Jessie and I were both asked by the blog Will Travel With Kids to list our five favorite things about living in Romania.

Check out Jessie’s top five here, and then mine here.

And in case you missed it the first time around, read our interview responses from last year about moving and transitioning to life in this part of the world over here.

That’s about all I’m gonna say about that I guess. You’ll just hafta check the links out.

And stay tuned for more posts coming from us. So much has been happening in our lives and the ministry that we let the blog take a back seat for a while (I say that as if it were an intentional adjustment to hopefully fool everyone into thinking as much). But we’re still alive and kicking (not always kicking, sometimes just walking or sitting or talking to people).

So, yeah, we hope to get some posts up here again soon for ya’ll.

The Most Racist Institution on the Planet

Living for almost two years away from the US, I can tell my perspective on things is changing. Broadening, I think; maturing, I hope. Regardless, my view of the US and the world is different than it used to be. So let me rant a little.

Yesterday, I had the most recent of many conversations that went something like this:

Non-American: “I like to watch American movies.”

Me: “Yeah, you and most of the world.”

Non-American: “I like it because it shows me what American life is like.”

Me: “Well, not everything in the movies is very close to reality.” For instance, Will Smith didn’t actually ever save us from an alien invasion (Independence Day). Everyone knows it was actually giant sea monsters.

Non-American, refusing to believe that movies aren’t reality: “Is it true about black people in America?”

Me: “What?”

Non-American: “They’re so dangerous.” That’s always the word – “dangerous.”

Me: “What?! No… Maybe that’s how it looks in the movies, but they’re just people like everyone else. Some are dangerous and some aren’t.”

Non-American: “But they all do drugs and carry guns and hurt people. Why do they kill so many people? Why are they all so bad?”

I’ve had conversations like this dozens of times in Romania. Because of the influence of American TV, movies, and music, people seem to have this idea that every black person in America is a gangster carrying guns, selling drugs, and waiting to beat you up if you come to their neighborhood.

Somewhat of a side note… I’ve also been told by a handful of people, “I feel God calling me to go to the Indians (Native Americans) as a missionary.” I say, “That’s great!” and then they ask something about if I think it would be difficult to live in a teepee and ride on horseback to get everywhere. “Oh, yes,” I reply, “but at least you’ll learn many useful things about hunting buffalo and scalping white men.”

I’ve done (and do) the same with other cultures. Like my aforementioned friends, I feel God calling me as a missionary to the samurai of Japan or possibly the ancient Egyptians.

But back to the topic at hand. Now, if it were only Romanians asking me about blacks in America being so dangerous, it could admittedly be a problem with Romanians, but it’s not just Romanians – Gypsies, Africans, Middle-easterners, Asians, and Western Europeans have all asked me why “all” black people in America are so dangerous. “I’ve seen it in the movies,” they always say.

To all my black friends in Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay, I’m so glad I made it out of your houses alive. I didn’t realize you were so dangerous. I thought you were just normal people. I didn’t realize all the drugs, violence, and crime you were involved in. You covered it up so well with your jobs at Time Warner Cable, your happy families, your college degrees, insurance businesses, and hair salons. You had me so fooled. I didn’t realize you were all dangerous gangsters.

Yeah, truth is, some of my black friends came from rough lives of drugs, violence, and crime, but Jesus rescued them out of all that and now they’re different. Same for some of my white friends.

So, who’s to blame? Where are these ideas of American blacks coming from? Who’s giving all these Romanians, Turks, Iraqis, Swedes, Saudis, Somalis, and Cameroonians this idea that “all” American blacks are “dangerous.”

Hollywood. The media. Movies and TV. Music. This is anecdotal evidence of course, but across the board, everyone who’s asked me about the “dangerous blacks” in America has referenced American media as the source of their information.

So I ask you, “What’s the most racist institution on the planet?”

Obviously, none of my friends are stupid enough to believe everything just because it’s in a movie. They’re my friends, after all, so that’s gotta say something about their intelligence, right? Or not. 😐 The truth is that some black Americans are criminals and some aren’t. Some Jews are rich bankers and some aren’t. Some Muslims are terrorists and some aren’t.

Someone once said, “If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth.” If Hollywood keeps portraying black Americans as dangerous, does it really matter that not every black person is, in fact, dangerous? Eventually, you just start to believe it.

I used to dismiss the people claiming American media was filled with racist stereotypes, but now I’m seeing the very real (and disturbing) effects of it in shaping world perception of black Americans. And, though I’m as white and middle class as possible, I feel cheated.

If I were a black American, I’d be ticked. I’d stop buying the degrading rap albums, I’d stop watching the movies that monetize black stereotypes, I’d stop dressing and talking and acting like Hollywood wants and expects.

I’m a middle-class white American living in Romania, so who am I to talk… but for the sake of my black friends in America, Hollywood, find a new story. We’re tired of listening to this one.

And to all my Romanian friends who are nervous about blacks in America, I know at least 12 who are nice people. There might be even more.

The Undeniable Influence of a Man

Last time I wrote on the blog, I talked about needing our eyes opened to the reality of who Jesus is. We take him for granted, we look at him like an interesting teacher, a good, moral person, a wise scholar… but we owe everything to him.

And not just us Christians. Whatever faith you are (or aren’t), I think the reality is that more of your worldview, more of your life, has been shaped by Jesus and his followers than you realize. No one, in all of history, has been as influential as Jesus.

I’m not a fan of plagiarism, so before going further, I want you to know that most of what I’m about to share comes from the books Who Is This Man? by John Ortberg and The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. I highly recommend those two books if you’re interested in learning about the influence Jesus has had through the ages.

Say what you will about Jesus, the life of this one Jew from a small town in Israel has impacted yours. Probably way more than you realize. Streets, cities, and even nations (El Salvador) are named after Jesus and his followers. One-third of the world’s population claims to worship him as their God. Children are named Paul, Peter, Mary, Elizabeth, even Jesus… because of the impact of this one man. Dates are set according to his birth. In most of the world, whether we choose to follow Jesus or not, we acknowledge his birth every time we write a check, add an event to our Google Calendar, date a government form, or refer to a historical event. Today is 22 November in the year 2013, 2013 years after Jesus’ supposed date of birth.

The life of this one man, who lived in a small town on the edge of the Roman Empire and died almost 2000 years ago, has impacted our lives more than seems appropriate.

The legacy of Pharoah Tutankhamun has vanished. Alexander the Great is barely a shadow. The great caesars of Rome, emperors of China, and tsars of Russia live on only in history books and Hollywood films. Yet the life of this one man, who never conquered a nation, never built an empire, never led an army, persists to this day.

Our whole idea of human dignity can be traced to Jesus. Before him, dignity came from position, strength, power. Greeks competed in the Olympics to highlight the strong and worthy, Pharoah and other kings were said to be the image of God. And then Jesus came along and said that we all bear the image of God, rich or poor, young or old, strong or weak. He said we must become like little children (weak, dependent) if we’re to see the Kingdom of God. If you see all people as being worthy, if you’ve seen value where there is no strength or power, you’ve been influenced by the thinking of Jesus.

Our idea of compassion on the weak comes from Jesus. Again, Jesus came into a world where it was recommended parents kill their own children if they were born malformed or disfigured or sickly. In philosophy and social thinking, only the strong and powerful were valued. The first orphanages and hospitals were started by Christians, followers of Jesus who saw in their Master a devotion to help the helpless, care for the weak, and heal the sick. If you’ve ever been to a hospital, you can thank Jesus for that one. Prisons have been reformed from hell-holes without hope to places where even the bad can become good. Why? Because one man, Jesus, told his followers to show compassion on prisoners. Slavery, once a completely normal institution in the time of Jesus, is almost universally condemned (though not wiped out), because one man’s followers took it seriously that it’s written, “There is neither slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

The concept of equality between the sexes isn’t something invented by progressive 1960s feminists but by Jesus himself. The world Jesus entered was grotesquely anti-female. Roman citizens would usually care for their male babies, but if a girl was conceived, more often than not, the baby was either aborted before birth or killed shortly after. Infant girls were “exposed,” a nice word that means the babies were left outside to die of starvation or be eaten by wild animals. Archaeologists investigating sewers in ancient Roman cities have found pipes clogged with the bodies of baby girls. If a girl made it into life, she was usually denied education, and her legal status was much closer to that of property than a human. In this world, Jesus came along and allowed women to follow him in ministry, to sit at his feet and learn among his disciples. He entrusted to women the details of his resurrection before he appeared to the men. And so the early church, in Jesus’ footsteps, valued and cherished women instead of treating them as inferior like the surrounding society. Equality between men and women? That was Jesus’ introduction to your thinking.

The value of education was something Jesus and his followers introduced to the world. Maybe you hate school, so you’d be happier without Jesus’ influence here, but for the rest of us, we have Jesus to thank for our educations. Jesus told his followers to “Love the Lord your God with all your mind,” and to that end, his disciples have gone all over the world establishing schools, developing written languages, creating alphabets (Cyrillic was invented by a monk), teaching people to read, and encouraging educational advancement. The first universities were all started by Christians, followers of Jesus. The early scientists were mostly Christians who were studying the world to know more of their orderly God – Johannes Kepler, William of Ockham, Francis Bacon, Galileo, Copernicus, Blaise Pascal, Joseph Priestley, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton…

Our idea of humility comes from Jesus. If you’ve ever cringed at someone boasting in their own greatness, that’s Jesus’ influence in your worldview. Before Jesus, philosophers and social thinkers viewed humility as weakness. Men like Aristotle and Plutarch taught their disciples how to do great things and effectively boast in them. Roman literature is filled with the self-exalting writings of men who thought they deserved praise but could find no other voice to praise themselves but their own. Then Jesus came on the scene and said things like, “Blessed are the meek” and “If you want to be great, become like a servant.” His early followers went on to say similar things, Paul telling his churches, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.” Why did Paul have to write that? Because it was so contrary to the normal thinking of his day. And ours, really.

The whole idea of forgiveness comes from Jesus. In the ancient world, forgiveness was weakness. To forgive an enemy would be a sign that he defeated you. Yet Jesus came along and said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Scholars have suggested that Jesus was really, truly, the first thinker / philosopher to put forgiveness in a positive light. Before him, it just wasn’t an idea in the world.

Our ideas of hypocrisy, our hatred for it, the sick feeling we get when we see someone acting hypocritical all come from Jesus. Before Jesus, a hypocrite was simply a Greek term for an actor. Then Jesus came around and talked more about hypocrisy than anyone else. He literally re-invented the term, creating in it the negative associations it carries today. He was the first person to condemn hypocrisy, acting one way for some people and another way for others – before him, it wasn’t a bad thing, just something you had to do to get by in life. Scholar Eva Kittay noted, “It is clear from the literary records that it was Jesus alone who brought this term hypocrisy and the corresponding character into the moral record of the Western world.” If you can’t stand when people are acting like hypocrites (even Jesus’ own followers!) that’s a mark of His influence in your thinking. Without his thinking on hypocrisy, you wouldn’t care about it. You’d call it wisdom, just like everyone else before Jesus called it.

Most of our ideas of sex and marriage come from Jesus. It’s funny to me that people call Christianity’s ideas of marriage without divorce and sexual purity “traditional” and “old-fashioned.” The reality is that these ideas were new things to the Western world when Jesus introduced them. In the ancient world, marriage was flexible. Men had multiple wives, concubines, and mistresses. It was considered normal for men to visit prostitutes and commit adultery, as long as it wasn’t with a married woman. Homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and sex with children wasn’t just accepted but in many ways held up as the ideal. The emperor Comodus had over 200 young boys and girls kept as sex slaves, doctors prescribed orgasms to children to help with certain sicknesses. Even the gods of ancient Persia, Greece, and Rome lived lives of sexual promiscuity and misconduct. If you’ve ever felt disgusted by pornography, if something inside you cringes at the thought of adults having sex with children, if it seems somehow wrong to engage in sex with animals, that’s Jesus’ influence in your life. If you want your marriage to last for life, if you’ve dreamed of that perfect man romantically sweeping you off your feet in devoted love, if you’ve watched Pride and Prejudice and found yourself wanting a romance like that of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy… you have Jesus to thank for showing you a better way of sex and marriage.

Say what you will about him, the fact remains that Jesus has shaped everything in our world today for the better, often in spite of the foolishness and stubbornness of those of us who call him our leader.

Jesus is the reason you think the way you do. He’s the reason our world looks the way it does. Say what you will about him, his influence is undeniable.

Who Is This Man?

I haven’t written here in a long time… Life has been crazy busy, and I plan on putting up some new testimonies and ministry / life updates soon, but in the meantime, I’ve begun writing for my friend Camil’s blog ARPS, which stands for “Art Religion Philosophy Science.” I’m supplying the religion part in the midst of a bunch of philosophers and scientists, though I’ve never been a fan of “religion,” per se. I love Jesus, but all the trappings of “religion” kinda’ just freak me out.

Anyway, since I’m writing about Jesus for the ARPS blog, until I get my act together and write other stuff here again, I figured I’ll at least post here what I’m posting there. Hope you enjoy some of my thoughts on Jesus…

I meet a lot of people every week, and usually concepts of religion and spirituality come up in one form or another. Most people in Romania (and America) know the name of Jesus, they’ve been to a church service, they can tell you the story of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and died on a cross and rose again.  They’ll tell you stories of how he healed the sick, how he walked on water, how he understood the Father better than most.

Our heads are filled with lots of information about Jesus, but we don’t really know Him and we’re not really letting His life change ours.

I forgot where the quote originates from, but someone once said, “We’re way too familiar with a God we barely know.”

At the end of chapter four in the book of Mark, there’s a story of Jesus calming a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Of course, you already knew that, because we all know all sorts of facts about Jesus, right?

Anyway, Jesus is in the boat with his disciples when a big rainstorm appears. The rainstorm turns into a thunderstorm that’s so fierce that Jesus’ disciples, fishermen who make their living on the sea and aren’t scared by little rainstorms, start to freak out.

They look for Jesus, only to find him sleeping, completely unaware of the storm. You can’t blame him. Jesus just got done with a full day of ministry, it was late, and he was tired. So he took a nap while he trusted his disciples to get him where he needed to go.

So the disciples, scared and a little offended that Jesus doesn’t seem to be concerned, wake him up and yell, “Don’t you care that we’re going to die!?” So he wakes up, takes a look at the fierce storm, and simply commands it to stop. And here’s the crazy thing – it actually stops.

After this, no doubt Jesus went back to sleep, but the disciples, the account records, are terrified even more than before. The story tells us they’re “filled with great fear” and begin to ask each other, “Who is this man?”

“What just happened? Did you see that? Who is this guy? What kind of power does this guy have? What kind of person is this? Who does this sort of thing? I thought we were just hanging out with a really godly carpenter who loved God and knew the Scriptures really well… but this is, this is something different…”

Earlier, when the wind and waves start rising up, the Bible records that the disciples are afraid. The word Mark uses is a word that’s only ever used negatively in the Bible. It’s a word that means the disciples were weak, wimpy, cowardly, frightened like little girls seeing a big spider (I have 3 little girls, so I can say this). It’s like Mark is telling us, “The storm was so bad that everyone was acting like wusses, scared out of their minds and whining like babies.”

But at the end of the story, after they see Jesus calm the storm, the word Mark uses for fear is an entirely different Greek word. It’s usually used in the positive sense, like having a fear of God. It’s a word that means the disciples were so filled with terror that they’d rather run away if they could. It means intense and fearful awe, terrifying reverence like we’d feel if God himself stepped into the room and we saw him in all his glory.

Suddenly, it’s like the disciples’ eyes were opened and they realized that something more powerful and more terrifying than a storm at sea was in the boat with them.

“Who is this man? I thought he was just a carpenter, a really good rabbi, probably a prophet… but this? Who is this man?”

I think we all need our eyes opened like the disciples. Instead of being terrified by the wind and waves around us, instead of treating Jesus like a character in a child’s bedtime story, instead of getting annoyed that he doesn’t seem to be helping you, I think we need to let him open our eyes, bringing us to the place where we look around and ask each other, “Who is this man? I thought he was just a religious figure, I thought he was just someone grandma talked about, but this… what is this? Who is this man?”

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.”