Tonight, we spent the evening making friends with a community of Gypsies who live near our house. At any given moment, you’ll find anywhere between 5 and 25 people hanging around this plot of land. A friend of ours we met in Bucharest, Jason, has a pretty good relationship with them, so we decided to head over there with some mutual friends, a gypsy family from another part of town, and have an impromptu church service.
Most of the Gypsies in this particular community are Christians, some only recently making the change, but they need way more solid Bible teaching.
So me and Jessie and our four kids, Tiberiu and Sorina and their three kids, Ben, and Jason, all made the 10-minute walk to the corner of Calea Vitan and Mihai Bravu, to build some friendships, share the word of God, spend some time in prayer, and just enjoy the common bond we have as Believers. Tiberiu and Jason both preached in Romanian, Ben and I shared some short messages via translators, and we all prayed and sang some worship songs (in English, Tsiganeasca, and Romanian).
We had a really great time, and, as usually happens when I hang out with Christians in Romania (Gypsy or otherwise), I was once again blown away by their generosity. One of the men, who finally found a job after being without work for a long time, saw our four kids and tried to give me his day’s pay because, as he put it, it’s hard to feed so many mouths, especially when you’re in a new country where you don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone. At first I thought he was asking me for money, but when I finally understood what he was trying to do, I was embarrassed for my misunderstanding and humbled by his generosity.
We’ve had so many people show us so much generosity in this city, and sometimes it really humbles you. It’s sometimes been simple things, like some Gypsies who make almost no money pouring glasses of soda for us. Sometimes, it’s bigger things, like friends we’ve known for less than a week invading our house to make a surprise birthday party for Naomi, complete with balloons, cake, fancy snacks, and gifts.
I think generosity is one of God’s greatest gifts. When you give, it forces you to trust God instead of yourself, and God blesses you incredibly. When you freely receive, if forces you to humble yourself, get rid of your pride that says, “I don’t need others to help me,” and God, again, blesses you for it.
Well, here’s some photos from the evening with the Gypsies along Mihai Bravu:
One of the coolest, and most humbling, things about doing missions work is the fundraising. When people talk about sacrificing their cable TV plans or surrendering their dreams for a big family vacation just so we can reach people in Romania, it really causes you to humble yourself.
We’re working our butts off raising funds, learning the language, packing stuff, selling stuff, building up connections, etc, but other people are working hard in factories or schools or office buildings or used car lots, making money so we can go. Really makes me want to be extra careful with how we spend the money people donate.
Almost two months ago, I was up in the soundbooth at church, getting ready for the worship to begin, when I heard the tell-tale clump, clump clump of a tweener boy bounding up the stairs. Oh man, I thought, here comes the Sunday morning routine, as I got ready to disappoint another mischievous kid and kick him out of the soundbooth.
Instead, though, an 11-year-old boy popped his head around the corner, holding a crisp $10 bill.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“It’s for Romania.” He handed me the $10 bill and ran back down the stairs.
“Thanks,” I told his quickly retreating back.
The next week, he clomped up the steps again right before worship would start and this time handed me three crumpled one-dollar bills. “For Romania,” he proudly told me and, again, ran back downstairs.
The next week, it was $2, then $3 again, another $2, and finally today he handed me two neatly-folded $10 bills. Every time, he jumps up the stairs, I start smiling, he hands me a wad of cash, announces, “For Romania,” I laugh and say, “You’re awesome! Thank you,” and he runs back down the stairs.
Now I know this kid’s family, and they’re not crazy rich or anything, so assuming this 11-year-old isn’t selling drugs, stealing money from his parents, or engaged in the illegal sale of weapons of mass destruction, I’m completely in awe of his generosity. Sure, he doesn’t have bills to pay or kids to feed, but he’s given me $40 total over the past 2 months, which is $40 more than a lot of people I’ve met with to raise funds. Where is he getting this money? And how can he just give it so freely?
Seeing his generosity amazes me.
It also causes me to think very carefully about what I’ll do with his donations. If I don’t use it for Romania, I’ll feel like some high school student stealing candy from middle-schoolers at the homecoming parade.