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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I miss black people. Milwaukee was so diverse, and we lived in a neighborhood where whites were the minority.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Romanian kids are really cute. And the way they roll their “r”s when speaking is great!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Meeting with God, alone, every day, undistracted is the most crucial and important part of ministry.
- Going grocery shopping without a car for a household of seven people gets heavy!
- Bucharest has really nice parks to get the kids outside releasing wiggles, and it is the place where I most easily meet new people.
- 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.
- 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.
- I like when people visit us. I like letters and care packages. 🙂
- Jesus is with me always. Even to the end of the earth.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting and being a mother, what it means to raise children and what does that look like practically. I guess I’ve thought about it a lot since moving here to Bucharest, because, well, it keeps popping up in conversation nearly everywhere we go. Our family is not huge by any means; we have four children so far, but we’ve seen way bigger families in the States. Years ago, we would have just been an average-sized family there, or perhaps on the small side of average…back when people really believed when the Bible said that children are a blessing from the Lord.
But here in Romania, and Bucharest in specific, we are a big family, o familie mare. On the subway, on the tram, on the bus, walking down the street, shopping at the grocery store, ordering șase covrigi (six pretzels), taking a train ride to get out of the city for a day or two. We get stares. And everyone asking, “Are they all yours?” Sometimes my mind thinks about some of the clever responses I read in this article, but I always smile and say, “Da!” proudly. Because I am proud of my children. They are blessings from the Lord, precious gifts He’s given us to raise up as lights in the world to bring glory to Him! And most people usually respond with, “Să vă trăiască!” Something along the lines of, “May they live long!” However, I’ve gotten a few funny looks from people as they say, “Patru!?” (Four?!) And one or two older ladies would look solemn and talk about how difficult it must be.
Sometimes it gets old being stared at or always being asked if ALL the kids are mine, but it doesn’t really bother me. What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is how much emphasis there is on external things. Are the kids’ ears covered so as to let no wind get in? No baby should be allowed to suck his thumb for any reason or it may get deformed. Girl babies should not be allowed to cry, and if they do, then the mother must not be a very good mother. Kids are bundled up in snow suits throughout fall and and winter (think of the little brother in “A Christmas Story”) with hats tied tightly under the chin. Etc.
I’m not picking on Romania either. Though the concerns about external things are different than in America, American mothers have their share of external worries: how organic or non-GMO is the food their kids are eating, how stylish are their kids clothes, are they involved in enough extra-curricular social activities? And so on. We want our kids to be physically healthy, for sure, but there’s more to life than physical health.
I feel like there is so much focus on external things when in comes to parenting. Dirty fingernails, messy hair, a McDonald’s meal on occasion is fine. The important things are the internal matters of the heart. Will your child obey the first time you tell him it’s time to go home from the park or will he sneak off and hide on the slide? Does your daughter whine every time you tell her no, so that you give in just to make her stop whining? The Bible says folly is bound up in the heart of a child. Kids are selfish, rebellious, stubborn, defiant, and whiny by nature. But we as parents are to train them up in the way they should go, so that, when they are older, they will not depart from the good way of love, submission, self-control, joy, peace, and life.
The tough thing is that you may not see the fruit of this labor of love for a while, or it may take others commenting on how loving, sharing, obedient, happy, and creative your kids are. My kids don’t always wear hats when it’s chilly outside. I let them dig in the dirt with their hands at the park, and I don’t always carry hand sanitizer with me to clean them off right away. Sometimes I forget to brush their hair. And I give them chocolate, white bread, and imported apples sometimes (Fresh Romanian apples really are superior, though). But when I’m sick, they pray for me. When one of them gets candy, they will share with another who did not get any. They love to read their Bibles and listen to worship music. They like visiting the gypsies with us to pray, worship, and share about Jesus–and then they pray for them and their family during their quiet times that they would know His love for them.
These things don’t just happen; it’s called work. Childbirth is easy compared to the lifetime of childtraining that follows. If you are a parent, you are responsible for a living soul made in the image of God. Man is interested in external things, but God looks at the heart. That’s what parenting is all about. My kids aren’t perfect (neither is their mother); they will argue, tattle, ask a zillion questions in the span of five minutes, interrupt, and whine sometimes. They’re kids. But they’re little gifts from heaven that we invest tons of time, energy, patience, and love into so that they can experience the abudant and eternal life set before them.
Jesus criticized the Pharisees for being whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside but full of death and darkness on the inside. I don’t want to be like that or have kids like that.
I have a lot more to say about motherhood, but I think it may just have to come in a series of posts.
We often catch the 123 or 124 bus at the bus stop across the street from our apartment bloc. Last week, we caught it almost every morning at 7am because our whole family went to Universitate to pray in the morning for the university students that were returning to classes this week. One afternoon following one of those mornings, my oldest daughter Naomi pulled me aside and said, “Mama, I saw this yucky picture at the bus stop this morning. A woman had almost no clothes on.” My heart sank. I’d noticed all sorts of those posters and flyers all over the place, anytime I went out, anywhere I walked, but I was hoping they would escape the eyes of my three young daughters who never saw much of that kind of stuff back in Milwaukee, or at all in Oconomowoc before that.
My response was a question, “Have you seen lots of those kinds of pictures around?” She had. I told her to make sure she looks away from them, because they are not good and shouldn’t be up, especially all over the place where kids can even see them. The rest of the day, I had this kind of angst rise up in me against all the strip clubs, night clubs, erotic massage parlors, and bars that post these kinds of signs up all over the place, in plain sight of everyone. I remembered a day recently where we were on a bus stopped at a light, and right out the window I saw a wall, about a hundred feet long and seven feet high, completely covered with posters of a woman, suggestively posed with very little clothing on. It was an ad for some club, I’m sure. I didn’t look long, because I began praying that my family wouldn’t turn their heads and see it.
Now, I know most of the “western” world sees America as prudish and puritanical (in stark contrast to the Muslim world which sometimes teaches that we are the great satan–see Jake’s post here), but I think there is something valuable in that. I was thinking how, if one such poster showed up in Anytown, America, the moms of that town would band together, form a coalition, sign a petition, protest whoever put it up, and crowd town meetings until it came down. But in Bucharest (the only city in which I’ve seen such signs here in Romania), it’s ubiquitous and everyone has learned to just deal with it.
I think of the age-old debate of whether or not pornography should be censored and how pro-pornography folks just say, “Well, don’t look at it if you don’t like it;” but kids don’t really get a fair chance with that kind of reasoning. They shouldn’t have to avert their eyes all the time. Once, my youngest daughter Illiana, who’s three, was walking to the store with Jake and kept looking down in an odd way, saying, “I don’t want to look at that sign; it’s bad.” She saw a big sign at the bus stop of a woman in a bikini posed seductively. Curious about what she was thinking, Jake asked her, “Why is that bad?” She didn’t know why; she just knew. Kids are innocent and their consciences are hard at work until they just get desensitized to stuff like that. No one had to tell Illiana that sign was immodest; she just knew.
Girls are learning at a young age from these posters that men only want women who look like those on the signs, whether or not it’s the truth. And when we pass the multitude of magazine stands, many of them display their porn magazines, uncovered, at about kid level. and when the kids grow up and go to university here in Bucharest, the area where much of the student housing lies is inundated with the kinds of places that post up all these posters and flyers. And one woman’s magazine encouraged young women students to take up part time work in the sex industry in order to pay the bills. What kind of message does this send to women about what they are worth? That they are mere eye candy, easily disposable and replaceable, valued only for their sex appeal and appearance? What about the women who are trying to live godly, feminine lifestyles or the guys who are trying to stay pure and holy?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love Bucharest and the people here, because God loves them and created each of them in His own image for His glory…even the women on those posters, even those who put those posters up, and even those who visit those places. The day before yesterday, I wrote about something I love about Bucharest and Romania. Today’s post is about something that breaks my heart for this city. However, the Bible says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2). In the greatest darkness, God’s light shines brightest. And I can’t wait to see it shine here ever brighter and God be glorified more and more.
In the meantime, Jake and I have joked about creating stickers that say, “bubonic” and sticking them over top of “erotic” on all the erotic massage flyers. Somehow, I think bubonic massages seem a little less enticing. 🙂
As I’ve been here in Romania for about 2 1/2 months now, there are some things that I’ve learned about the situation of the people in this nation that disturb me greatly. And my post today is not to tear apart Romania, but to show the desperate need for prayer for the nation and people of Romania. Today, especially, this is weighing heavily on my heart as I pondered this morning during my prayer time just how big some of the problems are here. Of course, every nation and people has its own problems, but Romania is where I am, and it is the country that God has burdened our hearts for, so that is why it is heavy on my heart.
I’ve heard a lot about how corrupt the politicians are. They live in the nicest, most exclusive parts of town, with lots of cars and the best homes, pocketing money from the outrageous taxes levied on the citizens here, but not doing anything they promise. Every time we buy anything, there is a 24% sales tax rate. That’s almost a 1/4 of the price added on! Not to mention the money taken out of people’s incomes. But the roads here are terrible, the state hospitals are a nightmare (and we’ve been strongly recommended by many people not to use them), the buildings are crumbling, there is trash and graffiti everywhere, and many of the Gypsy community are living in squalor. Even the refugees from Myanmar we’ve met with here in Bucharest were promised money to help them get settled here, but that money never made it to them because the politicians pocketed it and left them to fend for themselves.
We’ve also heard about the corruption in both the medical field and within the police. Like I mentioned, most people have strongly cautioned us against using the state hospitals, because doctors will not treat you without a bribe, and even if you bribe them, they won’t be nice to you, and you won’t receive quality treatment. The state doctors make so little money that they only way they can survive is through accepting bribes, and they all look out for each other. Plus the court system is so agonizingly slow that you may never get your case heard if you try to take it to court. I’ve heard from several other friends that the police can easily be bribed out of giving you a ticket.
This system of bribery and corruption is completely unjust. Deuteronomy 16:19 says, “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” God hates bribery and injustice, especially because it causes further oppression to the poor, keeping them in bondage, hungry, sick, and not taken care of. Another friend told us that the highest paying job available to students at the university (who cannot work full time because of school) is prostitution via webcams. They can earn up to 1000 Euros a month this way, whereas they may not find work elsewhere. Many of them are turning to this and other forms of prostitution in order to survive. And without a degree they are unlikely to find work, as one person told us, even many McDonald’s employees are required to have a college degree to even work there!
This corruption and injustice and bribery is feeding the sex industry, because it’s the only way many people can find work and survive! If not by choice, many Romanian women have been trafficked out of the country with promises of better lives only to find themselves enslaved as prostitutes across Europe. Two friends of ours working against human trafficking here in Bucharest went to a conference on Italy where they walked the streets talking to some of these women and found out that 9 out of 10 of those they spoke to were from Romania. In Bucharest, there are explicit posters, sex shops, indecent advertising, and way under-dressed women everywhere. And no one thinks anything of it. We took our family to the park the other day, and right by the playgrounds were tons of women out sunbathing topless in full sight of everyone. The sex industry and culture of oppression has made women feel that they are nothing here if they do not dress sexy and flaunt it. Even the mayor of the port city Constanța said that to increase tourism and profits, they should market their women in all their advertising. One tourism advertisement claimed that people should vacation in Romania, because unlike other places, they don’t have laws against nude sunbathing on the beaches. All the advertising, clothing styles, sex shops, and rampant sexual immorality breaks my heart for these women. I’ve cried many prayers because I don’t even know how to begin to act or even pray for this situation.
And this gross immorality has led Romania to have one of the highest abortion rates in the world. I won’t elaborate on it now, as that is enough for a whole post in and of itself, but this too brings aching in my heart to see God move powerfully in this nation.
Most statistics claim that over 90% of the nation is Christian, but most of these (about 87%) are Romanian Orthodox in name, meaning they are baptized as infants and get married in a church later in life. Most people rarely go to church, know a only little about Jesus because they are taught Orthodoxy in school, and have never had a real encounter with the living, powerful God of the Universe. Many taxi drivers and people we’ve spoken with while out and about claim that the priests are only in it for the money. Others who grew up Orthodox said they can’t even understand the services because the priests sing the entire service in a hard to understand voice while people walk around talking to each other and gossiping because there are often no seats and no way of understanding the priests anyway. How are they to hear the gospel?! How are they to know Jesus?! If they kiss a statue or cross themselves over and over again many times a day, will that make them right with God? It seems absurd, but this is what is taught here, and it has nothing to do with what Jesus or the Bible teaches us.
Add to these the ubiquitous racism, drunkenness, domestic violence, and a church that does not preach the gospel or holiness, and you have a people plagued with sin, depression, guilt, and hopelessness. Only God can shake this nation. Only God can bring healing and revival. Only God can make right all the injustice and corruption. Only God can, and my prayer is that He will bring a great revival here. The verses that keep coming to my mind as I ponder all this come from the end of Ezekiel 22:
23 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 24 “Son of man, say to her: ‘You are a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation.’ 25 The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured people; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. 26 Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain. 28 Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the LordGod,’ when the Lord had not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 30 So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. 31 Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.
This word was given to Ezekiel by God for Israel, but I believe the spirit of it still applies today. God is so merciful; He wants all to repent and return to Him and be transformed, but if they continue in pride, oppressing people, spreading wickedness and lies and exalting sinful lifestyles and injustice, then, as a just God, He must act. I want to be one who doesn’t get hopeless and discouraged when I look at all the problems here; I want to be one who, in faith, makes a wall in prayer, standing in the gap before God on behalf of Romania. I love the people here with the love of God, and I want more of that love. I also want to see God come and right all the wrongs here.
This is a long post, and mostly just me pouring out my heart for this nation. Like I said, my purpose in writing it is to inspire me and everyone else to pray, stand in the gap before the Lord on behalf of Romania. God can do it! He can bring revival and healing and restoration to this nation!
A lot of folks think that Romanians are Gypsies. Maybe because the proper name for the ethnic group many call Gypsies is Roma. But, really, Roma are maybe 2 or so million of Romania’s 22 million inhabitants, and, unfortunately, they have a poor reputation among Romanians. Well, among Europeans in general. Nobody wants them and everybody hates them. Reminds me of that old Cher song…”they called us gypsies, tramps, and thieves.” There, now it’s in your head, too.
I started reading up on the Roma people, because I have been reading through The Rough Guide to Romania, and there is a section in there where the author recommends a day trip to a small commune called Clejani about 20 miles SW of Bucharest. Now, before you think hippies and free love, commune is the term used for the smallest governmental administrative unit in Romania. It is usually a collection of villages (which have no official government themselves) with a mayor in charge.
Clejani is known as the home of some of the best Gypsy musicians. A very well known band to have arisen from this town is called Taraf de Haidouks, which literally means “band of thieves.” Thieves in the Robin Hood sense. Jake and I saw this band perform in the movie, “Gypsy Caravan,” and they were amazing. YouTube Taraf de Haidouks. You’ll see what I mean. You might just start snapping your fingers and kicking up your feet along to the music.
But this great musical artform with a joyful sound has risen out of a town that looks straight out of a Third World nation. 20 miles from bustling, chaotic, modern Bucharest is this village of tiny, one room homes, run down and dirty. Now, I’m not saying this with an attitude of, “Let us Americans go help those poor Gypsies,” but just with a sadness that one group of people could be so hated and thought of as nothing more that second-class humans who happen to make good music by everyone else around them. The Romanian Roma have in recent years tried migrating to France and Spain, but, if you keep up with international news at all, you’ll remember that in 2010, France departed hundreds of them back to Romania. Nobody wants them.
They have no place to call home. But they’re people. They left India way back in somewhere between 800-1000 A.D., and ever since, they have been enslaved, reviled, mistreated, and neglected. But everyone loves their music. Yeah, they get hired to play for weddings and other events, but it stops there.
I want to visit Clejani while we’re in Romania. And I don’t want to just hear great music, leave a great tip, and leave, but I’d love to get to know the people. I’m sure there are some great stories to hear. One of my biggest prayers for Romania is to really, truly know the love of God. That love that breaks through barriers of ethnicity, economic status, and even long-held prejudices. I guess, really, that’s my prayer for every nation. Maybe I’m an idealist and have a romantic view of missions, or maybe I just believe in the power and love of God and the wonders of revival.
Sunday, our car broke down. It didn’t become completely undriveable, like a dead battery or bad alternator, it’s just that it would overheat every 2 miles, and it had no power steering, and the battery was slowly losing its charge, and the engine belt had fallen off, and smoke was billowing out the back. The end result was that I found myself stuck at a McDonald’s in Pewaukee, still about 20 miles from my home, on my way from one church service to another, wondering what God was gonna do to get me out of this one.
My pastor was shortly behind me, so I wasn’t worried about a ride, and rightly so because he picked me up a few minutes later. What was on my mind was that we’d put a lot of money into the van already just to keep it running, we couldn’t afford any more repairs, and I had to somehow figure out how to get my family around without a vehicle.
And we’re leaving for Romania in 3 months!
Thanks to my pastor, I got back home safe and sound, and thanks to a good friend, I limped my car into a garage the next day to let the mechanics have a look. Their grand total on the repairs needed? $2497.90.
Well, we’d survived a day without a car, so we could handle some more. We planned on scrapping it and just using the bus and praying for God to provide a loaner vehicle for a few months before leaving.
God had better plans. 🙂
After we got home, Jessie and I put out a quick Facebook notice about needing prayers for our van situation and sent an email to the 200+ people on our email list.
A few hours later, I was on the phone with a man I’ve never met, explaining our situation.
“If you can get your van towed here, I’ll fix it for you for free,” he told me.
“Well, you might have to pay $100-$150 in parts, but I’ll see what I can cover.”
Meet Dan. He fixes cars. And when people can’t pay, he does it for free. Dan is a professional mechanic, so he fixes cars for a living. In his spare time (pun intended), he tends to do one of two things – he either fixes more cars, or he helps his wife raise the 14 children they’ve adopted. Yeah, 14. Let it sink in a bit.
Well, Dan’s bid of “free” seemed a lot better than the garage’s $2497.90, so I got the van towed and let him do the rest. A day later, I picked up the van, completely fixed and running great, still never having met Dan in person. And, to top it all off, Dan paid for all the parts too, so all I had to pay was the towing fee.
Thank you, Jesus! I am continually in awe of how good He is, and how awesome His church can be. When all was said and done, we had 2 people offer to loan us cars for 3 months, one of which I’ve never met in person, we had 2 others loan us cars to use for the day, and we had over $600 of donations come in for repairs which we’ll now be able to use to get passports. God is good, and, man, I love His people too!
As we’re gearing up for Romania, God keeps reminding me over and over again that we can trust Him, that He’s got everything under control, and that, if everything falls apart on us, He can come in with a mechanic to fix it all up for free.