So things have been going kinda’ nuts meeting with Vasilica, an older Gypsy woman who recently became a Christian. Our friend Jason shared the Gospel with her and baptized her last year, and we all started meeting together just recently. She’s the only Christian in her little Gypsy community, and you can read more about her here and here.
Recently, things have been nuts because her husband, Mircea, who dropped heroin cold turkey for a few months and let us use their house as a base for a church meeting, is now back into the drugs, which means he doesn’t want us to meet in his house anymore. So while he and his friends smoke heroine inside, “chasing the dragon” as they say, we meet outside in the alleyway, talk about the Bible, and pray for Mircea and his friends to wake up and cry out to Jesus for help. It’s cold out in the alley, it’s dark, not that many people want to join us, but it’s all for Jesus and Vasilica relishes the encouragement.
Last week, while we were talking with Vasilica, a young man of maybe 20 or 25 ran over rubbing his red eyes and angrily yelling about something. When we asked him his name, I couldn’t make out what he said, but it was something like an Italian form of Jeremy. I’ve been calling him Geronimo whenever I pray for him or tell people about him, so that’s what I’m naming him here.
“Are you OK,” Vasilica asked.
“No, my eyes are burning. Some police just pepper-sprayed me,” Geronimo told her.
Geronimo is homeless. He showed us his couch in the alley that he’s been sleeping on. He’s got no blanket, no pillow, no protection from the cold. Just a couch to sleep on.
We prayed for his eyes, explained the Gospel to him, and asked God to free him from the drugs he’s become addicted to recently. They’re mild “natural” drugs that used to be legal in Bucharest but now are simply sold black market.
When we asked him why he was pepper-sprayed by the police, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of teeth. Then he reached into another pocket and pulled out a lower jaw with some teeth still in it, more teeth from another pocket, and finally he pulled out a small tube, opened the top, and poured out another handful of teeth to show us.
Aaaah, I thought to myself, so he must be a dentist. Not.
He held the teeth up to us proudly, so we could see the specks of metal glittering in the dim glow of moonlight. “I had to dig up four bodies to get these.”
Yes, clearly a dentist, I thought. Not.
Then he laughed and smiled at us. “No, I’m joking,” he said. “I was digging in the garbage behind a dentist’s office when they came and just started spraying me in the face. But at least I got these. Do you think I can sell the metal? It might be silver.”
Please pray for Vasilica to remain steadfast in her faith. Pray for Mircea and his friends to get fed-up with the drugs. Pray for Vasilica’s kids and grandkids living in the drug house. And pray for Geronimo the dentist. We headed back to his couch a few days later with a sleeping bag, some food, and winter clothes, but he wasn’t there, so pray we’d be able to find him again.
I’m working on getting my personal testimony made into a tract in Romanian, so I can hand it out to people who ask us why we came. I’ve already written a few in English for use in Milwaukee and Oconomowoc, but the language I used won’t translate quite the same, and I want to gear my message specifically for the Romanian people.
Anyway, today, I worked on it for much of the day, because I’m itching to be able to get it produced and handed out to people. Rather than do a regular blog post, because all we did today was practice Romanian, meet with God, get groceries, clean the apartment, and work on my tract, I want to put up what I’ve got so far, so you can all give me your feedback.
I’ve got to make it quite a bit shorter, but here it is, my testimony of how I came to find Jesus…
Hi. I’m Jake Stimpson. You’ve probably never heard of me before and don’t know anything about me (other than my name, of course), but that’s OK because hopefully you’ll read this pamphlet and by the end of it you’ll know at least a little bit more about me.
I moved here to Bucharest, Romania, recently, with my wife and children, but I’m originally from the United States. I was raised in a different world than you, speaking a different language, eating different food, but chances are, we’re pretty similar on the inside, and our stories are probably more alike than different.
I was born in a medium-sized town in Wisconsin, Green Bay, where football is king, dads work hard in factories, and everyone goes to church on Sunday. Some are Catholics, some Lutherans, some Baptists, but whatever type of family you were born into, that’s the church you go to. You don’t ask questions about it or really try to deviate too much from the norm – you just go. Because that’s what “good” Americans do.
And that’s what we did.
Whenever anyone asked me what religion I belonged to or what I thought about God, I would think, “Well, duh, I’m a Christian. I live in America. We’re all Christians here.”
The reality, though, was that, like most people in America, I wore the Christian mask on the outside, but inside, my life was messed up, and honestly, I knew more about church than real Christianity. I attended church almost every week most of my life, but I didn’t really believe there was a God. Every week, I’d hear sermons about how God was real, but evolution and science made more sense to me.
If God was real, it didn’t seem to me like He had any real power to do anything or help anyone. My life was a mess (more on that later), and everyone I knew who said they loved God was at least as messed up. I remember sitting in church and looking out across the chairs, seeing one person after another stuck in sin. That guy was addicted to drugs, that one got drunk at parties every weekend, that girl was having sex with her boyfriend, that one was gossiping and spreading lies around the school… People who went to church and claimed to believe in God weren’t any more holy or happy or loving than those who didn’t.
And my life? On the outside, it looked really good. I was a straight-A student, at the top of my class, had good friends and a good job, and I went to church a couple times a month. Inside, I was trapped in sin.
I had a lot of hatred and anger in my heart. I was picked on as a kid, so I secretly hated my classmates. I used to get into a lot of fights, but then I got too scared I’d get into serious trouble and just plotted revenge in my head instead. My parents went through a divorce when I was 13, and so I hated them for tearing our family apart. My bosses seemed to ignore me at work and pass me by for promotions and pay raises, so I hated them too. On the outside, I could joke, smile, and laugh, but inside, I was mad at a lot of people most of the time. I never murdered anyone, but the Bible says hatred is just about the same thing (Matthew 5:22), so I wasn’t in a good place with God.
Besides the anger in my heart, I was completely addicted to pornography and lust. Most guys are nowadays, all over the world, though few will admit it. I was pretty smug and self-righteous about the fact that I had never done drugs or had sex before marriage, but my mind was filled with anger and criticism, and my heart was consumed with lust. I got into online pornography when I was about 12, and it began to control my life. The Bible says anger is the same as murder, and it also says that lust is the same as adultery (Matthew 5:28), and since I couldn’t go a day without looking at porn, in God’s eyes, I had committed adultery with a lot of women.
I tried to ignore the guilt I felt for living so selfishly, but deep down inside, I knew the hatred and the lust were wrong, and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried going to church, I tried memorizing Scripture, I tried punishing myself and giving up movies or video games every time I looked at porn, I tried listing all my sins before God and telling Him I was sorry, but nothing seemed to help.
But I had it all backwards. It’s not about trying to do all the right things or say all the right words, so you feel better and look good to others. Christianity is about recognizing what Jesus already did for you, and then living for Him out of the power He provides.
When I got to college, I wandered into a church that met in a former bar. It didn’t look like any church I’d ever seen before, and it was filled with people unlike any Christians I had known before. These people really loved God, they talked about Him like He really existed, they were living holy lives, and they were honest and real with each other, even open about their failings.
It was enough to pique my curiosity and honestly come to God again, complete with all my faults.
Within a period of months, I had turned from my sin and decided to trust Jesus for my salvation, not trying to earn His favor or work my way into Heaven anymore, but trusting in what He had already done for me years ago on the cross. And I started to change. The bitterness and anger left. I could forgive my parents, old bosses, classmates, anyone who had hurt me, and I really loved people now. And God was setting me free from my addiction to pornography. I didn’t instantly become perfect, but I didn’t NEED it like I used to. I was free, really free. And I knew I was forgiven.
What I couldn’t earn or work my way toward, Jesus gave me. The Bible says, “Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could be right with God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). It’s not by your works that you can be forgiven and made clean but only through the power of Jesus, who died on the cross and rose again, being glorified high above every power and authority.
If you’ve never trusted in Jesus for your salvation, you can have that peace of mind right now. You don’t have to be tormented by guilt any longer. Just agree with God that you’ve been living selfishly and in rebellion toward him, turn away from everything He calls sin, trust in His death on the cross for your forgiveness, and then receive Him into your life by praying and asking Him to come.