Every week we visit the drug addicts at Vasilica’s, we never know who’s gonna be there or what they’re gonna say. A few weeks ago, we walked in and were surprised to see a young, well-dressed, bright-eyed man in his 20s. He stood out from the normal wild-eyed street junkies that we normally find there.
And then he spoke in fluent English, something that threw us for even more of a surprise.
Stefan (not his real name) introduced himself and explained his history with heroin addiction. He had been on heroin since he was a teenager, and though he had tried to quit a number of times, he kept returning to it and just couldn’t break free. He then launched into a tirade about how things are hard in Romania, that life is better everywhere else, that if it weren’t for the government or his parents or his friends or his bosses, his life would be good. “God is unjust and doesn’t care,” he concluded. “God has made these problems for us.”
“Well,” I stopped him, “the problem is not God’s fault, it’s ours, it’s the sin we give ourselves to. Until you take responsibility for your own rebellion against God, nothing is going to change. God didn’t create the world with evil, but we continue to allow evil to win, first in our own hearts and then in our families, our cities, and our world. You’re so busy pointing at everyone who’s wronged you, but meanwhile you’ve taken the life God gave you, and you’ve given it to drugs and selfishness. You’re the one to blame for the problems in our world, not God.”
“Me?” he gasped. “What have I done? I’ve done nothing!”
“Yes, you,” I continued. “God created you to bring peace and love and healing to this world, but you’ve abandoned Him and instead given yourself to selfishness and rebellion.”
“Oh, because I’m a junkie, huh?” he asked.
“No, I’m not just talking about the drugs, but everything. For you, it’s drugs. For me, it was hatred and lust in my heart.” Then I shared my testimony with him, about how God convicted me of sin, forgave me, and set me free from anger, lust, and addiction to pornography. “We’ve all rebelled against God. Though He intended for us to bring good to the world, we bring evil. So if you see evil, it’s your fault for not repenting and turning away from it.”
Then he asked me more about what God was like, and I explained to him that, unlike the picture we often have of a stern father ready to pounce on us, God is loving and kind, merciful and compassionate, waiting for us to repent and run to Him to be forgiven.
“Is your father alive?” I asked him.
“Yeah, and he’s a great father. He doesn’t like what I do, but he understands. He lets me do the drugs and doesn’t say much.”
“Well, God is the best father ever,” I explained. “He’s a father who understands us perfectly and constantly gives us everything we need. He’s got the best in store for us. Yet we’ve taken a look at what He has for us and told Him, ‘I don’t want that. I want to do my own thing.’ Time and again, we disrespect our father, even though He’s so good, way better than any earthly father.”
“You would never dishonor your own father, right?”
“No,” he answered, listening intently.
“But you’ve dishonored God. You’d never tell your own father, ‘Get lost, Dad. I don’t care what you want,’ yet that’s exactly what you do to God. He died for you, but you don’t even care.”
In all, we talked for about 45 minutes, most of the time focusing on how God is a good father we’d never want to dishonor. Then we prayed together, that God would reveal Himself to Stefan as the good, loving Father He really is.
After he left, Vasilica, who didn’t understand anything Stefan and I were talking about, told us some of his background. She knows all the junkies in her “parish” very well, and prays for them constantly.
Listening to Vasilica, it became clear that God had set up this encounter on purpose. “His parents are politicians,” she explained, “high up in the government.” She told us what offices they held, but I won’t put it here out of respect for confidentiality. “He comes here often, but they’re embarrassed by him. There’s a clinic where he can go to break the heroin addiction, and he really wants to go because he’s tired of the drugs, but they won’t let him register because they’re too ashamed. They don’t want anyone to know they’re son is a heroin junky. He could get help, he could get medication to make withdrawals easier, but they’re just too concerned with their own reputations.” Essentially, his parents were willing to sacrifice their son to maintain their images.
“But he loves them so much,” Vasilica went on. “He would never dishonor his father, so he respects their desires and stays away from the clinics.” Like a good son who wouldn’t dream of bringing hurt or dishonor to his earthly father, Stefan stayed away from those who could help him kick the heroin, so he wouldn’t shame his family.
The reality is that Stefan doesn’t really want to be free yet. I don’t doubt that his parents are resisting his attempts to get help, but if he really wanted to be free, he would be. He’s not at Vasilica’s every time we visit, but when he is, he doesn’t looked good. Pray that God stirs a holy hunger for freedom inside him, a fire that won’t let up until he’s completely freed from the addiction, a fire that’ll burn even without access to clinics, medications, or programs. And pray his parents wake up and get their son some help.
Friday nights, we head over to Vasilica’s house to share the Gospel with the drug addicts and junkies who gather there. You never know what’s going to happen, but it always ends up good.
Sometimes, all we do is get to encourage Vasilica, who is the only Christian in the drug house. She refuses to eat the food they steal, sometimes going days without eating. The junkies mock her, criticize her, and sometimes even beat her physically. We’ve attempted to get her out of the house and into a better living situation, for her own comfort and safety, but she refuses to leave, telling us that this is her ministry, to shine as a light to these people who have no other way of seeing Jesus
Other nights, we get invited into the midst of the drugs, cheap beer, and cigarettes, addicts asking us to pray for them, asking us about Jesus and Heaven and Hell. It’s dirty, messy, and uncomfortable, and we always leave smelling like an old biker bar, but the whole experience makes you feel a little more like Jesus hanging around with the prostitutes and tax-collectors, telling them about the Kingdom of God.
Vasilica is committed to shining for Jesus in the midst of this darkness. Rather than leave for more apparent safety or comfort, she feels the presence and power of God on her to minister, and she doesn’t wanna leave that safety. She’s planted her feet here, and she’s not going to leave until the light vanquishes the darkness.
One night, we met a young man who asked us to pray for him to receive more of God’s power in his life. We prayed and then he shared his story. Some time ago, he was addicted to ethnobotanicals, legalized narcotics that used to be sold at neighborhood “spice shops.” The government closed the spice shops to clean up the city a little bit, but they never did anything about the drug dealers or their stores of drugs they were selling. So while the shops were closed, the deals went underground. And now free from taxes and regulations, sales increased. Thank you, government.
So this young man was addicted to drugs, frequenting the drug house that Vasilica’s husband runs, and one day he had a really bad trip. He dramatically explained how he felt snakes start to crawl up from Hell and enter his body, he felt the ground opening up and begin to swallow him, he felt flames start to devour him. As most of us would do, he freaked out, running around the streets screaming and writhing in pain until Vasilica found him.
As he describes it, Vasilica walked up to him and put her hands on his shoulders. Instantly, the hallucinations stopped and he had no more desire for drugs. From that moment, he was free, and he’s never gone back.
Amazingly, this young man has somehow been able to resist surrendering to Jesus. Even though he was dramatically delivered from drug addiction and probably death, he treats Vasilica and religion with a huge amount of respect and awe, but he hasn’t surrendered to Jesus Himself yet.
Pray for Vasilica to keep shining as a light. Pray for the drug addicts who come to her house to encounter Jesus and be changed forever.
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.